TG Audio Lab SLVR Power Inlet Cords
Review by Bob Neill
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If we assume for the purpose of this review, that moving left
on The Great Sonic Spectrum takes us toward the more "Lovely" and moving right takes toward the more Real," I have been moving
slowly from left to right over the past ten years: from far left (lugubrious) to mid-left
(delicious) to just left of the invisible center-line (lovely); then a step or two across the line to
Real - they are not all that far apart. I have stopped well short of Rigorous and far short of
ruthless. Forget whether where I say I am is really real - "real" is simply the name we give to where we are at the time we stop hearing our gear. Real, AKA "natural," is a moving point!
Where Real is situated on the spectrum for each of us depends on a great many things including, among others: (1) real
what? A real copy of what's on the disc? Or a realistic imitation of what live music sounds like, a recreation that includes the bit that escapes the recording process? What Iris Dement, Wayne Shorter, or
Peter Wispelway sound like when we've had a few and everyone else in the house has gone to bed? (2) where one likes to sit relative to the stage, since most recordings are
mic'ed up too close for those who prefer to sit back a bit. It's the spectrum that matters here and which direction the reviewer is moving, not fixed points, about which we can argue forever.
My latest move, grudgingly, has been from Electraglide power cords, which until recently have been the very best cords I've heard, to Bob Crump's TG
SLVR's. Grudging because I
really like the tasteful (lovely) degree of suavity, air, and ambience that Electraglides are rightly admired for. EG cords are very nice to listen to but alas, they are also, especially the big amplifier cords - Fat Boys (and
also the Fat Men), a trifle soft overall and notably in the upper bass and lower midrange. This is a characteristic
that had not been noticed until the SLVR's arrived. Experience changes experience. When Mr. Crump's first set of cords replaced the Fat Boy Golds on my Blue Circle AG 8000 mono-blocks,
it was noticed immediately. The SLVR's are especially firm in precisely the range where the Fat Boy's are soft; and switching back and forth between them dramatized the
difference... well dramatically. So three weeks ago whereas I would have called my EG Fat Boy Golds "real," I now call them "lovely." And the
SLVR's, which EG lovers might call "rigorous," I call "real."
Have moved to the right, taking "real" with me. Got it? After all, one needs to
be the "transparent reviewer" here.
What TG SLVR's Sound Like
TG Audio SLVR's are dynamic, robust, firm, clear, and, so far as I can hear, utterly uncolored from bottom to top. In contrast, the Fat Boys are airy, a tad sweet, atmospheric, ambient, and, as I say, comparatively soft. Not absolutely soft,
comparatively soft. With the SLVR's in the system, there is more 'relief' (texture, detail, if you prefer) in a string ensemble or chorus. The EG blends a bit more, softens, smoothes the edges a little. If you've read my Spendor and Harbeth reviews, EG's sound more like
Spendors, SLVR's more like Harbeths. This is another way of saying that where you end up here will likely be a matter of taste. The firmness and softness of these cords are relative to each other, not to any Absolute Sound - though, of course, to my particular (evolving) set of ears, at this point in space and time on the Sonic Spectrum, the TG sounds more real, closer to what live music sounds like.
The Electraglides tend to make you more aware of air, nuance, beauty. The TG's tend to make the music more interesting. There is plenty of beauty with the TG's but it is specific to instruments. Again, the distinguishing strength of the TG is its robustness and firmness in the upper bass and lower midrange, the area where the EG is pleasantly soft. You hear this on cellos and bass viols, but even violins on their lower notes appear to have more body and definition. Does the TG overstate this? Or does the EG understate it? Which sounds more real? More natural?
A chorus (Koopman's Bach Cantata series on ERATO) is initially more affecting through the
EG's. With the TG's, individual voices have a little more character. Character does not make for maximum beauty. It makes for relief, interest. The SLVR's can perk up what on a lovelier cord seems like a slightly bland recording. The recent Hyperion recording of Boccherini string quintets
 was going back to the shop for being too grey; now, having heard it with the TG cords in the system, I'm not so sure. There may have been more there than the EG's allowed.
The SLVR's could not save the recent recording by Fretwork on Harmonia Mundi, however - whose number I'll omit so as not to embarrass them. It is one of the flattest, dullest recordings I've heard in recent years: you really have to work hard to make viols sound dull, but the HM engineer clearly worked overtime and achieved consummate dullness. SLVR won't lie. EG may, a little. On some music, it's an engaging, solicitous (white) lie. On others, it just buries everything a little deeper.
Had a similar experience this past spring with the Rubbra symphonies on Chandos, which the Audiomat Solfege integrated
amplifier in combination with the Reynaud Offrandes brought to life. The SLVR's are definitely, like the
Solfege, a natural cane rather than refined component. But, as I said above, they are very smooth
within the character of individual instruments, which the Solfege/Offrandes were not. And which the Electraglides are not entirely. The TG cords do not rough up smooth surfaces but rather cut through them a little. Or, put differently: they let a little more of what is there come through. All power cords are to some extent filters. The TG's seem to filter less than any I've heard. Is the EG Fat Boy Gold a euphonic cord? Perhaps slightly, but it is not something I ever noticed before. Compared with the TG, yes, it now seems so.
Sitkovetksy's orchestrated version of Bach's Goldberg Variations
79341] is a good test for distinguishing between these two cords. With the Electraglides in the system, there is a somewhat lighter and airier presentation, a bit sweeter and less textured. With the
SLVR's, a more substantial and the greater string texture makes it all feel more urgent and emotional. Closer to the bone. The comparison reminds me a little of what it feels like to move from the orchestral version of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" to the original version written for thirteen instruments. The latter has more of a chamber than orchestral sound. I like it a lot.
Are Four Better Than Two?
"Wanna try another pair?" asks Mr. Crump. Well, not really. Everything sounds just right now. But I am
a reviewer, so of course I say, "Sure, why not?" Already know that four SLVRS -
with two now on the AG8000's and an additional pair on my Naim CDS2 and AG3000
pre-amplifier - will be too much of a good thing. It will take away the remaining trace of ambience and air (that
are being clinged to) that the last two Electraglides in the system (Reference
Triglides) are providing. Yin will overcome yang; and in tasteful quantities, yin is a quality that I treasure as much as the SET crowd do. And, of course, you know how this story ends. With four SLVR's in the system, everything gets just a little bit more firm and dynamic and real sounding, the issue of yin and yang seems not an issue at all, and when I switch back to the
Triglides, everything sounds aerie-faerie, as Edmund Spenser might have said. Damn, damn, damn. What can't things stand still. No, Neill, why can't you stand still! You're the thing that's moving. True. To the right. (My old man was a Presbyterian Republican, so what hope is there for me?!)
I really do admire what Scott Hall and David Elrod (back when he worked with Scott) at
Electraglide, were after with the Electraglides. But thanks (or no thanks!) to Bob Crump, it no longer seems quite real, to me. It is lovely, especially in the
it is not real. And the real if it truly is real (rather than rigorous or ruthless) will beat the lovely every time. By exposing it for what it is. It will change you, make you move. The sound of a cello or an oboe does not improve by having its leading edge transients softened. Believe it.
Andras Schiff's recent Schumann recital [ECM New Series 1806/1807]. With the EG's in the system, Schiff's Schumann is
Schubertian, especially the left hand. The piano as a whole sounds like a smaller instrument. It is all just a bit precious, the bass notes warm and a bit fluffy. The music is more lyrical, less dynamic and lacks contrast. With the
all-SLVR system, force and dynamics enter the performance and the piano seems larger. Actually, there's just more piano, and the lyricism is more interesting and engaging, not just relaxing and beguiling. Schumann is relieved.
The Auryn Quartet have recorded a beautiful, un-Emerson (and I like the Emersons) complete set of Schubert's string quartets
[CPO 999-409/410]. With the SLVR's, they lose none of their beauty and gain dynamics and energy: the cello is more authoritative in particular. With the
Electraglides, everything is a bit airier, solicitous - but once you've tasted the full palette and range the TG's provide, it's very hard to go back.
BIS is bravely issuing a ground-breaking series of the complete keyboard concertos of CPE Bach, recorded in a somewhat resonant venue which sometimes induces a plumy bass that lovers of the series, like me, have learned to forgive. It is still plumy with the TG cords - again this TG's do not change recordings from what I can hear - actually, it sounds even more resonant. The Electraglides were letting it off a bit?
The Takacs Quartet, justly famous for a great set of Bartok quartets, have just released the first of three volumes of what will be a complete set of the Beethoven quartets
[Decca 470-847]. With the Electraglide cords, they (middle quartets) are very fine if a bit on light and lively side. With the TG's, there is more body and dynamics, which really does change the character of the performance, for the better to my ears.
Okay, you get the point.
Other Matters and a Judgment
The SLVR cords by TG Audio are the best all-around power cords I've heard to date, provided you favor the real over the lovely and are willing to give up a little suavity. Considering how good they sound, they are also shockingly cheap - $500 for a five footer, and there is no extra charge for additional footage up to ten feet! That is less than a third of what an Electraglide Fat Boy Gold retails for, less than half of what my Triglides cost, and even a hundred or two (I think) less than Nordost's El Dorado, which it clearly outperforms. I doubt there is a better ac cord for twice the price - though at twice the price, there might be.
What would a "better" cord sound like? What's wrong with the SLVR? There's nothing wrong with the SLVR that I can hear. But. But I'm an American: I want everything. I want a cord that has everything the TG has and some of the nuance, air, ambience, and suavity of the
Electraglides. Which of course may not be possible, very likely isn't. You can't be both full-bodied and a sylph, Ariel and Wonder Woman, a Spendor and a Harbeth. And I do not want to give up
any of the SLVR's dynamics, firmness, and clarity to get Ariel back in the room. Lovely as she is and love her though I do, Ariel is not real right?
(G-d, I'm beginning to sound like a poetic version of Robert Greene!)
Okay, a few technical matters. The TG SLVER's are not silver, they are 12 gauge high capacitance/lower inductance copper wire with silver plated brass connectors. In contrast to Electraglide cords (and the new Elrod cords made by David Elrod, who is now Elrod Power Systems - more on Elrod next month), the SLVRS's are not ribbons. "I have no special reason for not doing a ribbon cord," says Crump, "other than that they all (interconnects, speaker wire, and power cords) get funny sounding and lose definition in the area 80-120
hz." That said, other than his own cords, Crump finds Electraglides the most satisfying he's heard, except for the softness we have both noted in the upper bass.
There is a feeling that the Electraglides and TG's more different from each other than Crump does. I pushed him a little on David Elrod's cords but
he has not heard them yet. He did say that he does not know how David could get around the ribbon cord's basic weakness. We'll see about that.
One final practical word: not only are the TG's the best all-around cord I've heard
and a screaming bargain, they are also entirely flexible!!! Do not underestimate this virtue. I love their
flexibility and suspect you could tie them in knot, but I will not try.
I've never put numbers on a power cord before and
invented a compromise rating system for line conditioners a month or so ago. Would a version of that work for power cords?
Let us try one. I will rate the TG SILVER's on a degree of improvement factor over a stock cord. A stock power cord
will get a rating of 50, granting that a decent one will probably get us only about half-way to perfection. This is probably a controversial thing to say, but
just wanted to make sure you were still listening. I have no idea, after listening to the TG's for a month or so now, how the improvement they've brought to my system breaks down into
Enjoy the Music.com's traditional categories.
Have told you what I think their basic difference is from the Electraglide cords. Assuming for the moment that you agree with my preference for the Real over the Lovely, I'm going to say that in all areas that I can hear in any meaningful way - tonal accuracy, overall balance, sense of space, dynamics, clarity, individual instrumental definition - the SILVR's are nearly twice as good as a stock cord. So we'll give them a 90. For reference,
I would give the Blue Circle BC 62 a 70, the basic Electraglide a 72, the Nordost El Dorado a 75, the Electraglide Fat Boy Golds an 80, and the Reference Triglides an 85 and. Hope that will satisfy the rules.
TG Audio Lab
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