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February 2009
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere
Telos Golden Reference Cables
Music in its full, intended splendor.
Review By Wong Kok Chieat
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Telos Golden Reference CablesThe First Generation
I have known Jeff Lin of Telos Audio Design (here off referred to as Telos) for slightly more than two years now. After communicating over instant messaging for all these days, I can tell you that Jeff was really dedicated in bringing great music to us the audiophile community. But this realization only came after receiving the full fledged Telos cables from Taiwan and hooking them up in my own setup. As a user of the first generation Telos Golden Reference interconnects, I could not, and dared not recommend it to any audiophiles. How I ended up as a first generation Telos interconnects was just by chance. I had just upgraded to a setup with fully balanced circuitry design. As I had always believed in having a consistent brand of cables throughout the setup to maintain conformity and consistency in sound characteristics, I started looking into my reference brand's product lines.

Having upgraded to a new setup, most if not all, of my savings were spent on the rigs. As my existing reference cables were already of certain quality, I could only limit my look at the upper range offerings. That had put me under tremendous financial pressure as forking again a huge amount of money was next to impossible. With that, I had to look for alternatives, while using my existing RCA cable as a compromise.

As a new age net-izen, I seldom relied on traditional printed media to acquire information. With massive amount of information fighting over my shortening attention span, I was hooked to the design of Telos's massive golden ring. With that curiosity, I started off doing research over Telos's origin and products. I was surprised that I could not find much information about Telos on printed media. On the contrary, Telos was discussed extensively in the internet forums. When I met Jeff in Singapore 's audio exhibition more than a year ago, I quickly grabbed the opportunity to find out more about Telos products. Jeff quickly impressed me with his massive power plug and IEC connector, and how he demonstrated his “metal feedback” theory convincingly. Those, however, were meant for his power cord products. And Jeff's interconnect and speaker cable designs, by that time, were still at their infancy. But Jeff's charismatic personality convinced me in giving his Golden Reference balanced interconnects a try. I bought the pair without even trying.

Jeff's Golden Reference balanced interconnects did not make it to see the light in Enjoy the Music.com review. It was not a bad product, but neither was it astounding. It was just ordinary, nothing to grab your attention. The first generation interconnects remained in my setup as Jeff promised to proof his belief in cable designs. And so he did, and he did it with aplomb!

 

The New Generation.. And A Convincing One
As I was caught up in my day job, I was not able to meet up with Jeff on a few of his visits to Singapore . But Jeff was committed in convincing me and proving his newly redesigned products range. Before I knew it, I have had a full range of Telos Golden Reference cables with me. If you think three power cords, a pair of interconnects and a pair of speaker cables would not add up much in weight, wait until you have seen Telos's substantial gold plated pure copper rings and plugs. Yes, many other cables do have huge rings added, but they do not weigh any heavier than regular cables. Jeff went the extra miles in using pure copper blocks for the outer shells of the power plug and IEC connector. They were actually CNC milled. The ring, though less heavy, was also heavier than others' ring implementations. These heavy rings and shells, as explained by Jeff, had got some practical design principles and contributed greatly to the sound.

Prior to assembling the cables, the raw cables had to go through a series of cryogenic treatments. This was nothing special as many of today's cables did feature this and gained Telos products no extra points. What set them apart was how the raw cables went through three different stages of cryogenic treatments. During the first stage, the temperature was brought down gradually and consistently to -196 Celsius in a span of six hours. The temperature would remain constantly at -196 Celsius for another six hours in the second stage before bringing them to the third stage. For another six hours, the temperature was progressively brought back to the room temperature before the third stage was completed.

The treated raw cables were then covered with mesh jacket for insulation and fitted with those said copper rings. The rings were said to be the essence in Telos's design principles. Jeff strongly believes that today's cable designs neglected a crucial part, which was resonance control. Though many understood the ill effects of resonance on equipments, no serious control was applied on cable designs. Today, most cable designs stressed on materials superiority, insulation techniques and termination methods. Almost none has taken resonance control as seriously as the other aspects mentioned.

The rings were not just merely screw-on for aesthetic purpose. Pure copper was chosen because of its good insulation property, but also how it contributed to the sound through resonance, of course. Copper was full and warm sounding. With the application of 24K gold plating, the sound became more poised and fuller in tonal textures; at the same time, with improved micro details and that added elegance in tonal quality. Furthermore, every single screw point was closely monitored when applied with tightening force. Every single screw was applied with the same torque using industrial standard tool, this was said to have tremendous impact on the final sound!

The logic behind this was when the tightening torque was matched for all the screws, it was easier for the resonance to be under control. From countless tests and experiments, Jeff found that there were always sweet spots for every subjects being tested. When that sweet spot was reached, the sound would be balanced in frequency response and less harmful vibrations were induced to affect the final sound reproduction. I did not have enough scientific knowledge to digest this, I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating then.

 

Please Impress Me
Frankly, looking at the price of Telos Golden Reference range of cables, I was not expecting anything out of this world. After dabbling in cables for so many years, I was sort of conditioned to the price-to-performance ratio expectations. At this price point, I was prepared to be greeted with some compromises here and there. As a lazy audiophile, the easiest to replace was the four pieces of speaker jumper cables. And so I did. Removed my existing jumper cables and replaced them with Telos. Were you expecting me to be bowled over by Telos products? Nope, I noticed something amiss; the sound became hard and metallic. Piano pieces did not sound right at all! Although I had never come across any cables that sounded metallic prior to running-in, simple logic just prompted me to do so. And since I was just about to start running-in the cables, replacing the old Telos interconnects with the new ones might save me some time. As replacing speaker cables was more time and energy consuming, I left my reference speaker cables as is.

I switched on the rigs and listen if everything was connected properly. Yes, there was sound, but there was a big NO! The sound became worse with more lower mids went missing. Hi-hat sounded edgy and truncated, there was no “air” to it at all. With reduced lower mids, bass lines became less pronounced and music lost their rhythm and pace. I started to get panic! Desperate situations call for desperate measures, what else could I try other than replacing the reference speaker cables with Telos Golden Reference speaker cables as well?

And I was never prepared for such shock of my life!

I had always thought that my ATC was never going to satisfy me with its high and low extensions. At times, I felt that my SCM20T floorstanders were too mid-centric that without changing to a much newer floorstanders, my craving for wider bandwidth would never be able to be satisfied. The moment I popped a CD and started listening, I could not believe my ears. CD after CD, I was awed by the openness and extensions of the sound I heard. Even more so when I replaced another three Telos Golden Reference power cords, which brought with them elevated sense of composure, weight and scale!

 

And I Was Impressed
The highs were so mesmerizing that I could not help myself in relating the Telos cables with top notch silver cables. Did I tell you that there was no silver involved in making the Telos cables? Yet the highs had got that litheness, effortless extension and smoothness. I could never believe that my setup could reproduce cymbals in such substantial body yet never compromising on the air around it. Maracas and shakers could sound so finely grained and yet neither harsh nor rough. They just lingered in the air and gracefully dithered in thin air, never abruptly and hastily curtailed like they used to be.

The bass was never well developed in my setup and many speculations had been running through my head. Might it be my reference cables that were the bottleneck? Might it be my integrated amplifier that was running out of guts pushing the hard-to-please ATC? Might it be the floorstanders' acoustically suspended design that restricted lower extension? The hefty, rich and textured lower registers cleared my doubts when I hit the play button. Bass reproduced was never the single-note and muffled type. They carried weight, surrounded by bloom and very well developed, but never slow, sluggish nor lethargic.

In many other setups, I had heard greater highs reproduced previously, but the lower range could never support such graceful top ends. I had also heard heftier lower registers, but at the expense of having recessed mids and curtailed highs. What set the Telos apart and above the rest was how it could package the elegant highs and blossoming lows with such balance and poise. Music sounded transparent, direct and open. Everything just sounded perfectly RIGHT!

If there was only one CD I could use to bring you to my ecstatic state after listening to the Telos Golden Reference range of cables, I would play you Tamaki Koji's Wine Red no Kokoro [Dreamusic MUCD-1064]. This was a Japanese CD and the great test lied in how deeply you could recount to the sorrow and sadness of the singer. The CD comprised of slow ballads with simple arrangements. Guitars, drums and keyboard were used while Tamaki Koji performed all the vocals.

With just the first track, it was enough to convince me that Telos Golden Reference range of cables was a tough act to follow, let alone to beat it. With lesser resolving cables, the pool of violins would sound diffused. Although I had no idea on the exact number of violins involved, the Telos Golden Reference was able to dissect and resolve, giving the impression that many individual violins were playing at the same time. Yet, they were able to form a cohesive acoustical canvas, forming a wide and expansive soundstage behind.

The guitar sounded rich with tangible and textured strings. The bass drum kicked in with authority and slowly developed in shape and size. However, it was never too overpowering to clutter up the openness of the upper registers. The hi-hat and cymbal were lightly used and struck delicately. With my previous reference cables, there we as always a wanting for more highs and extension as they sounded cluttered and trapped within the speaker boxes. The Telos Golden Reference cables just emancipated the highs!

What good there was if the mids could not deliver? It was indeed the mids that got me so hooked up with the Telos Golden Reference cables. Many cables fared tremendously well in impressing the audiences upon initial listening by accentuating excessively in tonal textures within the mid band region. Since human were more sensitive in the mid range, I did not blame as I was once a victim myself. Over the past, qualities like the room reverberations after each violin stroke, the overly rich tonal textures of guitar strings, and the exceedingly exaggerated drum impact were all treated as top traits reflecting great resolutions.

But all these so called “tangible” textures were still within the mid band, and to get all these said “wow” traits, minute details from the top and bottom were either curtailed or masked to reproduce such impressions. We were too fooled into believing that we were getting more details. The fact was, we were getting more mid emphasis for that false impression of improved resolutions. Upon prolonged listening, I came to realise that albeit the sensational room reverberations after violin brushes, the violin sounded simply too fat and saturated. The guitar strings, though giving colorful textural qualities, lacked the transients of the initial plucking and died prematurely. Finally, the impactful kick drum just refused to flourish into full bloom and regretfully sounded flat.

The Telos Golden Reference cables were just marvelous in preserving the equal balance in resolving across the frequency range. There was just no perceived peak or dip, everything was just and even. Back to the first track of Tamaki Koji, the truthful and honest Telos Golden Reference just lacked the summation effect in resolving vocal details. Some other cables would just smooth out the varying changes in singing strength. Tamaki Koji's vocal carried frail breath that greatly helped in expressing his sadness. When the emotional explosions set in, that was the time many other cables failed miserably in preserving that dynamic contrast and emotional swing. The Telos Golden Reference was so effortless in this department that I felt no hindrance in grasping Tamaki Koji's sorrow, in FULL!

Speaking of FULL, the Telos Golden Reference projected image size that was life-sized. They preserved macro and micro dynamics so well that music came through effortlessly, giving unrestrained impact when asked for. On the other hand, they never compromised on natural harmonics and rich tonal textures. Transients emerged with ease and bite; while decays trailed in full glory with refined edge. Orchestral work, especially, emerged with more “action” and listening at high volume had brought about greater sensations, minus any traces of strain.

 

But Are They Perfect?
Just when you are about to flail your arms in discovery of the greatest cables, it is imperative that you try them at the guidance of someone with great knowledge of the products. I learnt that the hard way, as you would have discovered from above, that I introduced them into my setup in the wrong sequence. If you have no access to the full range of cables, I strongly suggest you to try them nearest to the source first. To cut the hassle of meeting failures and disappointment, I would strongly suggest you to try to have the full suite before testing them. Sometimes, Telos cables remained stubborn to work with other cables within the setup. They would simply show any imbalance and shortcomings with no reservation.

With the full Telos Golden Reference cables running through my setup, I was able to get music in their full, intended splendor. I was also lucky enough to be able to witness the consistent and unwavering results of Telos Golden Reference cable in many different and bigger setups. Those setups were many times more expensive than mine and the Telos Golden Reference cables were able to stand shoulder to shoulder, if not above, amongst the pricier contenders. I am now a happy user and the Telos simply kept me grounded on cable cost. I recommend them wholeheartedly and without reserve share my experience if approached!

 

Associated Equipment
Source: BladeliusFrejaMKII SE multi-format player
Amplification: Bladelius Thor MKII integrated amplifier
Loudspeakers: ATC SCM20T floorstanders
Loudspeaker cables: Telos Golden Reference speaker cables and jumper cables
Interconnect: Telos Golden Reference balanced interconnects
Power Cords: Telos Golden Reference power cords
Power Treatment/distributor: 
     CSE RK-100 Isolation Regulator for source
     Oyaide MTB-6 power distributor
Rack/Support/Misc:
     TAOC AS-3S 3-tier rack
     Telos titanium resonance cones
     Telos titanium resonance discs
     Telos pure copper platinum-plated RCA and XLR caps

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Audio and power cables
Extremely high purity OFC copper conductors
Optimized Metal Crystal by Telos, which are Cryo'ed
Pure 24-karat gold plated plugs
WBT connectors for loudspeaker cable

Price
Golden Reference Power Cable $975
Golden Reference Interconnects Cable $975
Golden Reference Interconnects Cable $1290
Golden Reference XLR Interconnects Cable $875
Golden Reference XLR Interconnects Cable $1290
Golden Reference Speaker Cables $1435

 

Company Information
Sheng-Kai Co., Ltd
No. 33, Ren-Ai St., Danshui Township
Taipei Country 251
Taiwan (R.O.C)

Voice: +886 2 26215880
E-mail: info@sk-audio.net
Website: www.sk-audio.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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