I’ve written about this coincidence before, yet I still find it fascinating that the vocabulary I use in my day job as a fine-wine merchant is notably similar to the concepts and descriptors employed in the observational audio reviewing we do here at TAS and in similar publications. On the surface this may not appear a likely scenario. Especially if one is used to the standard 100-point scale of wine criticism that emphasizes wines’ more hedonistic side. The so-called “fruit bombs” oozing plum and cherry and peach, or redolent of chocolate and vanilla notes, making it seem as if a wine’s highest calling might be to emulate the ice cream section of your local grocer.
To be sure, the world is awash in wines that strive for just such over-the-top comparisons, and it’s also true that a large portion of both wine consumers and the wine press are enamored of such come-hither qualities. But there’s another school of thought—and granted, it’s a more Euro-centric one—that is drawn to wines that express a sense of place: the not particularly elusive—but still derided, in some circles—concept of terroir that’s a no-brainer to anyone who’s tasted, say, the wines of Chablis, which are grown in limestone-rich soils interwoven with the fossils of critters that once inhabited what were ancient sea beds. It may not be scientifically provable that the resulting wines’ expression of white rock and salty sea air notes—along with their fruit elements—is derived from the soil. But it’s also easily demonstrated that these very qualities are what makes Chardonnay grown in Chablis smell and taste unlike that planted any other place in the world.
In other words, people like me are looking for wines of transparency, the first descriptor of similarity I note between the worlds of wine and audio. Applied to the former you already get what I mean—wines that convey a sense of the place they originate from. When talking audio it’s a component’s/system’s ability to bring us a close as possible to the recorded event.
Without pushing the idea too far, here are some other shared words that spring to mind: Focus, precision, depth, warmth, texture, open, tight, expansive, and, uh, frequently, expensive. Which brings me to the products under review here: a complete “loom,” as its maker likes to call it, of Nordost’s Tyr 2 cable.
My history with Tyr 2 started when VTL’s Luke Manley recommended updating my decade-plus-old Tara Labs Zero and Omega cables with something from Nordost; this, while preparing to review his company’s S-200 Signature stereo amplifier (see Issue 291).
For those unfamiliar with Nordost’s approach to cable design, or perhaps in need of a brief refresher, the Massachusetts-based company began making its original flatline cables in 1992. Nordost’s initial goal was to create a flat FEP (fluorinated ethylene propylene) cable, originally used in aerospace componentry, for audio use—most especially for “custom-install” applications, where invisibly threading cables underneath carpets or behind walls generally outweighs sonic considerations.
But as things turned out, once R&D was underway, measurements showed that Nordost’s FEP cable designs were generally five times lower in capacitance than many of the day’s best standard cables. In other words, they sounded pretty damn good, too. Once production and sales began people took notice, and the company quickly took off.
As CEO Joe Reynolds explained in an interview with the British publication HiFi+, “Nordost cables stress the importance of both mechanical construction and wiring geometry.” And as time evolved, Nordost developed proprietary technologies such as micro mono-filament construction, which, by creating a separation between the insulation and conductor, allows 80% of the conductor to be suspended in air, bringing “our cables far greater bandwidth and speed. This, along with precise manufacturing techniques, which can be seen just by looking at our power cords and speaker cables, is the key to great cable performance.”