Disclaimer: CypherLabs sent me the Trio amp for the review on loan, I had to pay for the import fees my government loves so much. CypherLabs supplied the Fedex return envelope for its journey back home to the US.
CypherLabs always gets the sound right. Their Theorem for use with iDevices sounds exceptionally good, the Duet -their stand-alone portable- sounds superb with IEMs and full sized headphones and the Picollo is one of the best IEM amplifiers on the market. I still need to listen to the Prautes desktop amp but I have a feeling it will be just as good if not better. So yes, the brand new Trio has a lot to live up to, and even more so as this is CypherLabs’ first “tubes for on the go” unit. Price of the new unit is $599
The Algorhythm Trio is a portable tube amp using a single 6111 miniature tube in its design. The 6111 tubes are popular lately and the new Continental Dual Mono from ALO Audio is also using the same type. Trio’s 6111 is a French made Thomson tube and it isn’t user replaceable like the 6111s in the CDM are. The stock 6111 Thomson subminiature has an average lifespan of tens of thousands of hours of regular use, so there’s no need to panic about your Trio not working anymore.
Trio is carved out of one block of solid aluminum and the build quality is great. The finish of the top plate however isn’t the very best on my review sample: where the ventilation holes are drilled you can see traces of the machine. I’ve spoken to other Trio owners and their units didn’t show this trace of drilling the tubes, mine’s probably a pre-production unit. Besides that the Trio looks like every other CypherLabs product: stylish and cool. These things can take a serious beating, not that I am planning on trying that out. Size wise the Trio fits perfectly stacked on top of the AK240 (see pic) and with just one strap you have a top quality portable setup. CL probably didn’t build it with the AK in mind but it’s a nice extra to have. Don’t count on putting the stack in your pocket however: L x W x H is 105mm x 69mm x 24mm (4.125”x2.7”x0.875”) and its weight is 243g (8.6oz).
Lay-out wise the Cypherlabs Trio is as good as perfect, the 3.5mm in and output are far enough away from each other and the volume dial and gain selector (-8 & +12dB) are right in between. I always love the feel of the CypherLabs’ volume dial and I’m glad they continued to use it in the Trio. Also, there’s more than enough room to use a 3.6 to 6.3mm adapter for those full sized headphones and cables that don’t use a 3.5mm plug. Actually there is one thing that bothers me a little; the Trio still uses those old style mini USB ports to charge the battery. In a world where practically all devices use the micro USB for charging etc, CypherLabs stuck to the mini USB. That means I always have to look for that “old” mini usb cable to charge it and that’s a little annoying. Luckily charging it isn’t something you need to do a lot as the built in Lithium-ion battery (Sanyo UF103450P*2 4000mAH/3.7V) delivers over 8 hours of playtime. It fully recharges in less than 4 hours. Trio uses high quality AVX tantalum capacitors, with very low internal resistance to keep output impedance <1 Ω. Power specs are as follows:
220mW into 32Ω
140mW into 50Ω
80mW into 300Ω
40mW into 600Ω
The Trio gets a bit warm when using it but that’s only normal with the 6111 tube inside. Compared to the CDM, the Trio however feels cold. Don’t worry about it.
“The AlgoRhythm Trio is designed to deliver a rich warm tone. The Trio has a superb black background and a clean, clear, spacious full sound, with the pure midrange you can only get from a tube amplifier. The result is a warm and smooth dark tonality and overall large soundstage and dynamic response”. That’s what CypherLabs says and I agree on most things.
Looking at the specs the Trio, power wise, isn’t immediately impressive but we all know the numbers don’t mean everything. Overall Trio serves a fast and tight sound with just a hint of the tube smoothness (CDM has more tube flavor). Depending on the source I even dare call it a slightly bit forward sounding in the mid-vocals section actually but the mids do have that touch of tube warmth.
Trio has a good sound stage and a good depth but it isn’t CL’s widest or deepest sounding unit. Detail retrieval is good and is correct for this level of amp. General presentation is smooth but not really warm sounding like my OTL desktop amps. The best part of the Trio is the rich mid-section that has a lot of timbre and good depth. Bass, as in all CL products is articulate ant tight with just the amount of body I like. The black background indeed is there and there only is some floor noise with the more sensitive gear. I’m very hiss and noise sensitive for that matter and lots of listeners don’t even notice it. Besides that there’s a small cracking sound when turning the volume knob but that’s only audible when no music is playing. The amp is quite fast, certainly for a tube amp and it has good attack. I wouldn’t really call the Trio a dark sounding amp however, that’s a word that doesn’t come to mind when listening to it, at least to me it doesn’t. Treble is soft but has enough detail, it won’t bother you in any way and it will give you everything you need without ever going to the offensive side.
Trio seems a bit like a mix up of the Theorem and the Duet with added tube warmth & smoothness. It’s keeping CL’s house sound, that’s for sure. The tube adds richness to the sound but you loose some of the detail and precision the Duet has.
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