In the Whoverse (the Universe in which Dr Who exists) one of the Doctor’s most deadly foes, the Cybermen have their home on the planet Telos. The Cybermen who originally come from Mondas, the tenth planet of our solar system, a kind of parallel version of the Earth have to seek a new home world when the Dr destroys Mondas. They find it in the form of the planet Telos, a world they conquer and in doing so drive its original inhabitants the Cyrons underground and thus make this barren, cold world their new base of operations.
You may well wonder what any of that has to do with audio related products from Taipei, well not a lot but I just could not resist mentioning the connection the CyberMen have to the name Telos. In this case though I suspect that the Telos in the company’s name is actually derived from the Greek word, which relates to an End, a Purpose or a Goal . Wikipedia puts it this way ” It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions.” or “Philosophy of action also makes essential use of teleological vocabulary: onDavidson‘s account, an action is just something an agent does with an intention–that is, looking forward to some end to be achieved by the action.”
A company that has developed a broad range of products to deal with many of the fundamental issues that can affect audio systems and components would very much have had to use teleology. Telos Audio Design’s range includes cabling, connectors, acoustic treatments, cable stands, and various RFI/EMI blocking caps for speaker terminals, BNC connectors and the topic of this review RCA and XLR caps.
Now I have been aware of the potential effects radio frequency interference (RFI) can have on an audio system whereupon the cables connecting various items of equipment can behave like aerials. This is especially a problem with the cables connecting a turntable to a phono stage were the weak signals being transmitted between the two can be polluted by noise picked up along the length of the connecting cable. The cure for this is to use a shielded cable and or a RF Ferrite ring clamp.
I have been using these types of clamps for twenty +years, ever since TDK launched their NC-C09 noise absorber and even though the stronger audio signals transmitted between CD players, tuners, pre and power amplifiers should be less susceptible to RFI the benefits of using ferrite cable clamps on those types of cables can be heard too; though the benefit is often more cumulative. However despite that I had not really given much thought to the fact that RCA and XLR inputs and outputs on equipment might also be acting as portals for RFI/EMI to get into the sensitive interiors of audio electronics.
Before looking at Telos Audio Designs solution to this potential problem, we will first have a look at the company and the man behind it….
Telos Audio Designs owner and designer Jeff Lin has spent years trying out numerous pieces of audio equipment, both as an audio enthusiast, dealer and DIYer and during that time has pushed the boundaries of his understanding of the relationships between components and how to get the most out of them. It was this aspect of his pursuit for excellence that led him into designing his own cables, acoustic treatment devices until he eventually moved from gifted amateur into producing his designs full time as a business.
I had not heard of Telos Audio Design until I was contacted by Santosh of Concerto Audio (High End Audio distributors) and asked if I would like to formally review some of the Telos Caps. I said yes and Santosh sent me 4 simple but nicely made black card boxes, containing platinum plated male and female XLR Caps, two per box and two boxes containing 10 platinum plated RCA Caps and 10 gold plated RCA Caps.
These are beautifully made items with a fit and surface finish of amazing quality, good enough to grace fine jewelery and as someone who studied jewelery design I know quality metal work and plating when I see it. However as pretty as these are, do they do anything other than just keep the dust out of unused sockets ?….lets see.
Firstly both sets of designs, XLR and RCA are made from high purity copper as a base material which are then either plated, with gold or platinum; the platinum plating is said to give better shielding than the gold plating. I have no way of testing that claim other than to have a listen. All of the Caps are lined with Pure Teflon (as are all the RFI/EMI Telos products) in order to prevent shorting, which could be a serious problem in some applications.
One thing about these products that does bother me is the claim made by Telos that they need running in.Apparently according to the Telos web site a 100 hours for the platinum Caps and 50 hours for the gold Caps is required. I have to say here and it is only fair of me to do so, that this statement did put me off these products ever so slightly. How can a Cap that sits over an RCA socket or into an XLR socket need running in? I don’t know but I followed the instructions and have been using my system with the various Caps in place for weeks now (3 in total), so if they do need run-in as claimed they are now well and truly run-in. You may ask “if I heard any change in the sound of my system in that time ?” and the truth is no, but I suspect I would not have, as unlike electronic components running-in which seem to go through audibly obvious changes during use, these may well have just subtly and gently run-in and thus have slowly altered the sound/performance without me being aware of it.
Next question you will ask and the crux of this review is “can you hear an effect now ?” Interesting question, lets have a look at the answer.
The system being used for the review was my main set up downstairs. Moon Andromeda CD player, Meridian G02 pre-amplifier, Meridian G56 power-amplifier and Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1 speakers. Cabling was Atlas Mavros XLR to XLR between the CD player to pre-amplifier, Mark Grant G1000 Hd RCA to RCA cables and Atlas Mavros speaker cable. Mains cabling was Audience AU24 to the pre and power amplifiers, Analysis Plus Power Oval2 to the Moon Andromeda CD player. No mains filters or re-conditioners were used during this test. All the equipment was housed on Clear Light Audio Aspect racks with String Suspension Concept isolation platforms under the Pre-amplifier and power-amplifier.
I would have used a Mark Grant G1000 HD RCA to RCA cable to hook the CD player to the pre-amplifier, except that I did not have an extra set of XLR Caps to fill the unused XLR outputs on the CD player but as I did have extra RCA Caps I chose to use the Atlas Mavros XLR cable instead.
The Platinum Telos XLR Caps where used in the Meridian G02 pre-amplifier’s unused XLR outputs and the Meridian G55 power-amplifier’s XLR inputs. A pair of RCA platinum Caps were used to cover the unused RCA outputs on the Moon Andromeda CD Player.
As I wanted to be absolutely sure that I did not miss anything and not knowing before hand if the sound with and without Caps in place would be dramatic or subtle, I picked a piece of music that would not allow for any ambiguity. So I picked Stimela (The Coal train) by Hugh Masekela off the Dali Demo CD, a track I know intimately.
This magical track tell the miserable story of the suffering of south African workers who have to travel via train to work and despite the grim subject matter it is a wonderfully open and detailed live recording. Having been recorded in a relatively small venue, this is a rather intimate performance with the audience very much part of the overall ambience.
With all the Caps in place I listened to the track and sat in the venue with the band all the elements I know and love and look out for when doing reviews, where in place as they should be. The bite of the brass playing, strikes on cymbals, a cow bell, delicate underlying keyboards and the deft articulate bass playing.
The soundstage was wide and deep (as deep as solid state is compared to valves) with all the instruments solid and three dimensional. The levels of detail were also very good, though I have heard this track sound better with other more highend gear but not by a massive amount more.
Since reviewing these Meridian items first, awhile ago, I have grown to respect and love them more and more (I was also sad to learn that Meridian has recently abandoned analogue and removed all such components from their product list) and indeed while I stand by my original comments about them, that their sins are those of omission rather than commission I now feel that they are even better than I originally stated and are somewhat of a bargain; even considering their collective price of £4500.
I decided after the track had finished to remove the RCA Caps from the Andromeda CD player and have another listen. I was surprised to hear a slight and I mean slight drop in transparency and loss of air in the treble. It wasn’t a huge loss but the shimmer and decay of cymbals was reduced a little and the ambience of the venue felt slightly shrunk. I was not really expecting to hear anything by removing the RCA Caps from the CD player but had instead expected to only hear any change once I had removed all the XLR Caps from the amplification.
After removing the Caps from the Meridian pre and power-amplifiers (both powered down to standbye mode and volume levels kept the same, as they were at all times during the review) and sitting down to listen once again, I was aware of a slight shrinking of the soundstage and there was less space around the instruments with a distinct loss of air in the upper treble.
There is an oft used and in my opinion over used phrase about “windows being cleaned to let more light in”, when an improvement is heard in an audio review. Without the Telos Caps being in place this was more akin to someone applying a thin layer of clear film across a pane of glass. The image can still be seen and even though the film is clear the once sharp image has become slightly diffuse and soft. With the Telos Caps in place, the image is once again crystal sharp and clear.
To be totally sure of what I was hearing I replaced all the Caps, something which only takes a few moments and I listened to Stimela again. The film was gone. This effect was obvious within seconds, the music was clearer, more open, more detailed and airy. Now it is here than language fails to fully convey what sound is like and what I have just written makes this effect sound more dramatic than it was. I am not talking about a massive improvement in sound quality but it was audible, repeatable and significant.
It may be that that in a more richly RFI/EMI contaminated environment that the improvement would be greater or in a less polluted area much less and it should also be kept in mind that perhaps the high quality engineering of the components I used for the review are less susceptable to RFI or EMI effects, than poorer quality items might be. However in saying that, the benefits of using the Telos Audio Design’s Caps in my system would be enough for me to offer a recommendation and suggestion, that even if you are unaware of RFI/EMI issues in your environment that you may still have them and simply not be aware of the effect they are having on your system, until that is you rob them of the paths of ingress into your components and hear an improvement in sound as I did.
In regard to the difference between the Gold Caps and the Titanium ones I was unable to conduct a full test here as I did not have any Gold male and female XLR caps to compare. As the benefits seem to be cumulative by not having the same items to hand I felt I could not determine the exact nature of the difference between both types of cap. However just by trying the the Gold and Titanium RCA Caps there did seem to be a slight benefit in using the titanium ones over the gold. Whether this difference is worth the extra money is something you will need to decide for yourself. However I do hope in the future to be able to address this question more fully and that will appear as an additional thoughts article.
These products are beautifully made with excellent fit and finish but these Telos Caps are definately not just audio jewelery or dust covers ! If they were just that, then plastic ones would suffice just as well but does plastic keep out RFI/EMI ? The answer is no and based on my experience here, it would seem that the unused sockets in your system can allow a creeping poison to get inside. This poison can rob your system of greater openess, air and musical enjoyment. So by using the Caps in your system you are “looking forward to some end to be achieved by the action.” which is to keep RFI/EMI outside where it belongs.
Attention to detail, is in my opinion vital in being able to wring that last few percent out of your system and by leaving unused sockets open to the elements I had robbed myself of that last few percent, well no more -I bought the review samples.
Source of Review Product Loan….. Concerto Audio (Distributor)
Gold RCA Caps set of 10 £30
A pair of Male or female Gold XLR Caps £30
Platinum RCA Caps set of 10 £60
A pair of Male or female Platinum XLR Caps £60
Telos Audio Design http://telos-audio.com.tw/
Information on EMI/RFI issues http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_interference
© Text and Photos Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio…..except for Telos Audio Design product photos and album cover; Copyright belongs with their original publishers.
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