August 2, 2009

Talking Torque Again - An Open Letter to Lil'kc and Ken

This is an old post of ours in the blog we previously contributed to.

Dear Lil'kc and Ken,

Thanks for the time you spent at my place the Sunday before last. I found it both interesting and educational when you demonstrated your approach, or probably more appropriately called your 'philosophy' to sound, in the span of 4 hours or so.

I have taken the last couple of weeks to get a better handle on the sound changes in my system from the 'torquing' you have done on my equipment. I have also been thinking through this experience. I like to share with you my understanding, and please give me your feedback, especially if I have missed out something or have not been correct.

I understand that you aim for a number of key sound characteristics. I identified these as openness & clarity, extended frequency response at both ends, dynamism, and liveliness. This seems to be taken as an 'absolute' reference. I got this when on a couple of occasions lil'kc mentioned about his 'C', which is what he used to call his sound quality target. He used 'C' in contrast with 'A-B', that is that you are not evaluating sound quality through relative comparison (i.e., A-B'ing equipment's performance) but against a fixed standard instead. Am I right? (lil'kc talked about 'C' quite regularly on his blog, I could not understand it till now!) :-)

Since you have this clear target, everything done is aimed directly at its achievement. This was demonstrated in your visit session. The tightening of the screws on the equipment using a torque driver seems to 'liberate' the sound (well, 'tightening' is a misnomer, in fact, the torqued screws are looser than the original tightness that the equipment came with, but now every screw has the same tightness). As the 'torquing' exercise moved upstream, first the loudspeakers, then the amp, then the cdp, openness and dynamism of the sound improved. Then, step by step, a Telos powercord was added to the cdp, existing tweaks were taken off one by one, and tweaks from Telos were added, such as XLR caps, RCA caps and the loudspeakers banana caps. At each step, listening is conducted and the step will be reversed if the change was deemed to have gone overboard from the sound target.

Telos XLR male caps. Female version also available

Slowly but surely, the sound quality edged towards those sound targets mentioned earlier. The volume control edged up too, music was played louder and louder, adding greater dynamics, clarity and excitement to the listening experience.

Honestly, I have never listened to music on my system at such loudness level. Usually I would have found it a little painful aurally at levels like this, but now, the sound was composed and smooth.

The character, dynamic swing and the volume of the sound reminded me a lot about 'Live Sound'. I think I am not wrong to say that your 'C' is actually about that - LIVE.
Telos RCA caps

Swapping tweaks with those from Telos showed that they are pulling in different directions. My existing tweaks seems to work by 'covering up flaws', such as improving smoothness by turn down slightly the upper mids and the highs. However, Telos' pulled the other way, they aim to take the sound already liberated by torquing and expand it even further.

Am I right to say that torquing is the pre-requisite for the use of Telos' tweaks? I could imagine that without torquing, the addition of Telos' caps would not have given the users the full benefits, if at all. If so, then Telos dealers must educate their customers accordingly and probably even perform such a service for them.

Telos' products also seem to give the max effect when they are used as a total solution, as was heard as more and more Telos products were added. Mixing it with other brands again may restrict their full potential. So I think prospective users should be ready to go the whole length eventually.

Telos banana caps for speaker terminals

Ken has been advocating that all tweaks should be re-evaluated after torquing, he is right. I like to bring this one step further - every time a change is made in your system (e.g., adding a new piece of equipment), all tweaks should in fact be re-evaluated. Because if the tweaks do the 'cover-up flaws' thing, as I understand that some do from this experience, and the new change takes away the flaw, leaving the tweak in actually would restrict your system's performance. Not sure if you agree with this tweak novice. :-)

Anyway, I am interested to check out further the efficacy of Telos' tweaks, starting with the caps, as they aren't really expensive. I really must go and get some review samples. :-)

After you left and took away with you all the Telos items, I listened to my system for a few more days. The effects from the torquing were still there, but the performance was different from that during your visit session. I now look forward to do a longer term evaluation of Telos' products.

As it is, the system still sounds pretty good, with just the torquing effects left - 'Live-like', not your full 'C', but a few steps closer. :-)


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