As usual, I normally spend my days in audio shops over the weekends. Just when I thought I could sit back, relax and enjoy my newly arrived CD player, I got to listen to an analogue setup spinning some vinyl records. When playing the Katie Melua Piece by Piece LP, I was shocked! Have had the United States pressing CD of the same title for a long while, but it has never dawned on me that Katie was such a great singer. Was literally moved by her delicately sweet and emotional voice.
I got home, eagerly switched on my setup and got it to warm up for a while. The Katie Melua Piece by Piece CD [DRAMATICO B0006868-02] could not have been that bad! Hey, I have a US pressing and it should not be that bad as they seldom let me down! I could not recall when the last time a US pressing had let me down before. I impatiently opened the jewel case and popped the CD into the tray, as I devotedly pressed the play button I was shocked! Her voice was grainy with a whitish overcast. She sounded cold and flat. It was unlike what I have heard in the shop earlier!
Heck, thought I got myself pretty much covered and no stone was left unturned! I even changed the flimsy UK plug on the power cord from the wall to Furutech's gold plated UK plug. Pardon me in this part of the world, the room was a rented one and I could not go the extra mile in changing the wall outlet to US type. Changing to Furutech might just have been the best available salvation to me.
An Audio Magic Mini Reference power conditioner was just added to keep me safe from RFI and EMI polluted power supply. Even the CDP was fed with nothing but the purest 60 Hz, 230 Volt of clean power. What else could have gone wrong when such care was given to have my setup perform optimally? Then I realized that I had removed two XLR caps from my integrated amplifier. Removed them to try them out in different setups to confirm my findings. In fact, my setup was in a mess as terrible mistakes were made due to putting in too many new things at the same time. I was practically lost until more than three hundred hours were given to let everything settles.
OK, so what if the XLR caps were removed? They were so small and lightweight that I did not even believe they could bring substantial improvements to the overall sound! The reason I changed to a better UK plug was because I suffered dearly previously and spent almost two months scratching my head before pinning it down on oxidized poor contacts for the deteriorated sound quality. But then, how bad could it be if I had just left two unused balanced inputs uncovered? How wrong it was to think so! I took the Telos XLR caps out and plugged them into the pair of unused balanced inputs of my integrated amplifier and the next thing I realized was my jaw fell on the floor.
How I Got Them
I had always read about Telos products in Taiwanese magazines. However, their origin still remained a mystery to me as nothing had been revealed on the company. Well, not until I saw some Telos products on display in the recent Singapore International Sight and Sound Exhibition. I started to get animated and excited, before long, Jeff Lin came by and introduced himself as the inventor of Telos products and owner of the company in Taiwan.
I was passed a small box measuring 7cm by 7cm by 3cm, housing 2 small golden XLR caps with one pin protruding in each of them. The caps were made of pure copper, which according to Jeff, is the best material to curb EMI and RFI interferences. 24 carat gold plating was then applied to the caps. The protruding pin was meant to be plugged into pin 1 of any standard balanced input.
The Sound, Or Rather, What Does It Do To The Sound
As I plugged in the XLR caps and hit the play button, I was shocked! Katie Melua's voice emerged with such delicacy and refinement. Her voice was free from grain and I could depict her better emotionally. Without the XLR caps, her voice was masked with a layer of whitish hash. This greatly impacted the nuances inherent in Katie's voice. Not only this, there was such incisiveness that was infused into the overall presentation. Everything seemed to be energized with better presence, higher density and more solidly portrayed within the acoustical space. Without the XLR caps, things seemed flat and lethargic, making listening to music a chores rather than an enjoyment.
Many a time, when we mentioned pitch black background, do we really mean dead quietness from the total absence of sound? I had a surreal experience during an ear infection years ago. Was sent into a "silent chamber" the size of slightly larger than a public telephone booth. The medical attendant was there pressing buttons, which in turn would produce single note tones prefixed at different frequency points. Would then have to press a button to respond if I had heard the notes clearly.
This was to determine if the infection had actually affected my "frequency response". Ha, funny as it may sound, but realized that we could actually listen into pitch black silence. It was surely a strange experience, but my understanding towards silence has never been the same ever. It was a pressurized sense of dark and thick "presence" rather than a total absence of sound. This experience was very easily recreated when I got to visit some recording studios with very well acoustics design. And that brought us to the second disk, Virgin Press Le-Mon [ES-014 Vili Ex-seed]. Le-Mon is a singer from Hong Kong covering heaps of golden oldies. What set her apart was her CDs were produced and mastered in a very raw and unprocessed manner.
With the XLR caps snugly plugged in, I could actually listen into this pitch black "silence" again. The thick "presence" actually gave the musical instruments a sense of space and separation, rendering vividly the dimension of the recording venue, where ever it may be.
With the added incisiveness, musical notes emerged better delineated. This gave an eerie effect of time slowing down, allowing you to peer clearly onto the musical "action" in proper sequence. What do I mean by that? Without the XLR caps, the vocal and reverb seemed jumbled up together; with the XLR caps, you could clearly depict that it was the vocal that excite the surrounding air, hence, the reverb emerged undoubtedly after the singing. Not only this, kick drum did not come in a blob of thump. A "thud" clearly portrayed the hit impact and blooming gracefully into proper shape and air reverberation.
Just as I think the pitch black darkness would impact on the highs reproduction, I was dead wrong again. When playing track 2 in Diabolus in Musica LPCD 45 [449 858-4 GH], the bell seemed to be able to pierce through with greater strength, and effortlessly trailing with immense delicacy. Although the highs carried better strength, it was never over bearing. The highs was certainly smooth and delicate, it was never detached and remained cohesively coupled.
Not forgetting to mention one of the great effects of the XLR caps, spatial presentations were conveyed in high regards. With the XLR caps, the works in Accardo's Diabolus in Musica were presented with great depth, height and width! The soundstage emerged greatly layered rather than in flat discreet steps. Micro details were free from opacity, thus giving great tangible sense of realism and lifelikeness!
What I did was just to cover two unused balanced inputs. Just imagine this, what would happen if the rest of the 14 unused RCA jacks were covered with Telos Audio products? Yes, it might be worse with over saturation, rendering the sound dead; but otherwise just proves as mind boggling!Go get them!
Source: Bladelius Freja SE multi-format player
Type: Electrical isolation transformer
Sheng-Kai Co., Ltd