Platinum Series Cables from Telos Audio
Telos Audio Design has created a major buzz since officially launching their Black Reference series cables in 2007. This Taiwan-based company is owned by Jeff Lin whose design goal was obviously aesthetic as well as auditory. One look at these handsome cables and you knew this stuff isn't made in someone's garage. It is quite obvious Lin means business. Since 2007, Lin created three different series of Telos cables: the more affordable Black Reference, the former top-of-the-line Gold Reference, and the current state-of-the-art Platinum which is the subject of this review.
I was impressed by the weight and girth of the Platinum cables. The shiny and massive platinum-plated Ring Resonators and connectors, and the contrasting white mesh, give this cable an undeniable look and feel of high-performance, though I'd be the first to admit I am a different breed: I see beauty primarily in a product's performance. For example, my Sunny Supreme loudspeakers (which also hail from Taiwan) are considered ugly by many people, too ugly to be placed anywhere outside of a dedicated listening room. I beg to differ. I find them absolutely gorgeous—because they sonically take my breath away. For me, that's what really matters. But high-end audio thrives on creating aesthetically appealing products and the Telos Audio Designs Platinum series cables are among the most attractive I’ve seen. If these cables can perform half as well as they look, (I thought upon first gaze), then they'll prove outstanding.
And indeed there is far more to these cables than just their looks. The Platinum series cable is made with high-purity continuous cast, single crystal (Ohno) silver wire that then receives a series of cryogenic treatments. Each Platinum cable is hand-built then sent through a process Jeff Lin calls "resonance controls." This involves the adjustment of the heavily damped Ring Resonators placed along each cable. The result is a lowered noise floor and hence a theoretical increase in dynamic range.
I received the cables from Telos’s Toronto-based North American distributor, Yat Hang Wong of Wynn Audio. My downstairs system is quite simple, so minimal cables and AC cords were required. The Behold Gentile integrated still serves as its centerpiece along with Tidal Piano Cera loudspeakers. (I might also mention that the sound of valves has had me swooning and swaying—compliments of the Von Gaylord Starlet integrated.) Completing this digital-only system is the North Star Design 192 DAC and transport of Italy. Hence, three power cords, two pairs of RCA interconnects and 8 foot speaker cable were all that were required. My reference cables for this system are Ramses-II from Germany. The Ramses-II is a flat-geometry design that I find utterly neutral, a quality sometimes lacking in similar (and even more costly) designs. The Telos Platinum cables retail for $3450 and the Ramses-II for $4500.
I should caution any potential buyer that the overall, out-of-the-box performance of the Telos was thick, cloudy and closed-in - until approximately around the 150-200 hour mark of constant play. It never ceases to amaze me how some cables require almost no burn-in while others require hundreds of hours.
But once burn-in was achieved, I could hear that the Telos Platinum cables bore no sonic similarities to my Ramses-II cables. The soundstage was quieter and the images seemed more solid and stable. Cymbals were one of the first things to grab my attention. All Blues from The Mike Longo Trio's newly released and excellent sounding live recording "A Celebration of Diz and Miles" had an unusual sense of heft and density I had not noticed with the Ramses-II, as if each instrument was somehow placed under closer scrutiny. Almost like the microphones had been moved closer to the musicians. This made listening both easier and more intense. I marveled at how different the perspective of each musician was with the Platinum cables.
Bass was far better realized, more detailed and more into the room—not just on the side of the room where the speakers are located. Longo's piano play also took on a more intense and feverish pitch, especially in Milestones. Milestones is an up-tempo track that has always been among my favorites from Miles Davis. Here it features each performer, but particularly the talented pianist in Longo, who lets it rip right from the get-go. The contrasts between Longo and his band mates was in some ways startling because the Ramses-II cables did not call attention to the actual space between the musicians as well. Ray Mosca’s ride cymbal, for example, was rhythmically tantalizing on this track and seemed to want to climb the walls directly behind the left speaker.
The overall sense of a dead-quiet space is what I feel really allowed me to hear so much more into the music. Everything sounded more expressive and livelier although I did find myself missing that little bit of ambient “light” I was used to with the Ramses-II, which was perhaps a “euphonic” product of its higher noise floor.
By the way, "A Celebration of Diz and Miles" represents jazz as it is meant to be heard: spontaneous and live with no rehearsals. Talk about having a wonderful time with great music! Here are great compositions from two legendary musicians with interpretations from an accomplished pianist and his band mates Paul West (bass) and Ray Mosca (drums). I found myself returning to this disc mainly for the wonderful performances and less so for of its audiophile delights.
Another disc that has captured my attention again of late is the groovy collaborative works of George Benson and Al Jarrau on “God Bless the Child, from their Givin' it Up” CD. This 2006 disc from Monster Cable (did you even know they had a label?) boasts both great musicians features Jill Scott on God Bless the Child. Scott's angelic vocal ability and the outstanding recording quality of this entire disc keeps it in constant rotation. Since, I've been listening to this disc for over five-years, I am very accustomed to what "Givin it Up" sounds like through a variety of systems but especially my own using the Ramses-II cables. But listening to the funky and bass-heavy track Tutu (another Miles Davis composition) through the Telos Platinum cables proved quite a different experience. The TIDAL Piano Cera's demonstrated a low-end I hadn't heard before. The Telos Platinum cables seemed to excel in the lowering of noise and the unleashing new levels of clean and detailed low-end energy. Ditto the kick and the snare drums, as their dynamic prowess seemed to increase regardless of the low to medium volume settings at which I was listening.
What I also enjoyed was the sense of location and image specificity the Telos Platinum offered up. The sense of depth seemed a tad foreshortened compared to the Ramses-II, while the width and height seemed a tad larger. The Ramses-II is definitely more laid back and not nearly as dynamic in presentation, but with lots of air and ambient detail. I can honestly say I had never felt any lack of dynamic detail…till I swapped in the Telos Platinum!
On the other hand, I never got that sense of air and ambient detail, what I sometimes refer to as the “halo over the musicians”, from the Telos Platinum. The level of dynamics and the sense of quiet these cables create may be their selling point. But, unfortunately, in my system, I just never got the same level of openness and airiness that the Ramses-II unapologetically offers up.
In the end, having a reference with which to compare the Telos Platinum cables proved to be quite an experience. Ultimately, I think the up-clicks in bass and dynamics, not to mention the overall sense of quietude, justifies the cost of these fabulous cables. On the other hand, I also found the Telos Platinum's strength at keeping things dead quiet to also be their weakness as I missed certain aspects of the high frequencies I had come to expect and enjoy.
Contrarily, the Ramses-II were not nearly as fierce and dynamic as the Telos Platinum series cables when the music called for it. In addition, the Ramses-II had a “light-hearted” approach to how they relay the music — as if made especially for those who prefer single-ended triodes amplifiers. The Telos Platinum sound like they enjoy being driven long and hard, if necessary, due to their incredibly low noise floor and sense of poise when played at loud levels. And they cost far less than many cables I've heard that do not come close to possessing the same level of dynamics. That this virtually unknown brand would compete in a in a jungle against top-tier cable says a lot. That I think they're better than most cables I've heard at two to three times the price speaks volumes. Highly recommended!