Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tributaries Series 8 HDMI Cable Review

Tributaries®Cable is the parent company of Claris Sound of Orlando, FL. While the Clarus line of cables is undoubtedly the company’s high-end interconnect cable line, the Tributaries line is quite good many regards, well suited for those audiophiles and videophiles on a modest budget. The Tributaries cables are priced to compete in the mid-fi to hi-fi range.  This review compares the following two HDMI cables: my older Monster 1000 series HDMI cable (MSRP of about $100) and the Tributaries Series 8 High Speed HEC HDMI cable (MSRP of about $130). Both cables were allowed to “burn in” for at least 120 hours before final evaluation.

Tributaries Series 8 HDMI Cable

The video evaluation system consists of an OPPO BDP-105 Blu-Ray player (firmware version 58-0719) and a 65” Samsung F8000 LED HDTV (firmware version 1110). Both devices are connected directly to a modified PowerVar ABC1200-11 Line Conditioner (ground loops removed, all terminal lugs soldered). All evaluations were done in the evening after the sun had set for at least one hour, all window shades drawn and all furniture in the same position, and all room illumination was constant.  Everything that could have influenced change from external sources was eliminated so that “apples were consistently compared to apples.”

My 2-speaker audio system currently consists of hand-made1-meter RCA interconnect cables, a McIntosh MC-2100 highly modified power amplifier, and highly modified Bozak B-302A speakers that are bi-wired to the McIntosh amp via my own hand-made Litz speaker wires. For those of you who have been following my 19 months of tweaking these speakers and crossover network, I am finally happy with them and have no plans to change them in the near future.


The OPPO came with its own 1-meter HDMI cable that performed adequately. Changing the OPPO cable out to a 1-meter Better Cables Silver Serpent HDMI was the first step to improving the audio and video quality. While the OPPO cable “worked,” the Silver Serpent cable had much better audio but the video favored the red and for this reason I searched for a suitable replacement.  The only cable I could find at local retailers here in the small town of Brooksville, FL, was the Monster and it is for this reason I purchased that particular cable.

When I initially plugged in the Monster HDMI cable, the picture detail, resolution, and clarity greatly improved along with colors returning to neutral (did no longer favored the reds). I believed at this time that the picture was performing as good as designed and felt quite comfortable watching most video sources. 3-D images were excellent and the colors reasonably accurate even before television calibration. But after calibrating the television and allowing the cable to burn in (it took about 20 hours), the colors were spot on. In the audio arena, the bass was significantly better than the Silver Serpent or the OPPO cable and the inner detailing more resolved again reassuring me that the upgrade to this cable was the right thing to do. Plus the tight-locking feature of the improved HDMI connector made positive and lasting connections with each piece of equipment. No buyers remorse here…at least for a while.

After about 100 hours of playing time, I began to notice that details with the Monster HDMI cable were just fading and the images seemed to get flat and dull. The sharpness that I once remembered now was gone and the sparkle had somehow left this cable. Returning the cable and exchanging it for another proved to have the identical results: initially good but after another 100 hours, the cable just lost its luster. While the audio quality was unchanged, the video quality faded like the memory of a golden sunset. Pictures still looked “good” but the edge resolution had somehow disappeared and images that should have been sharp and crisp were just uninteresting. Passing by video salons with similar televisions showed better quality than my home theater produced. And it is from this subjective point I searched for a replacement HDMI cable. A friend pointed me to the Tributaries Cable Company and after some interesting emails I obtained one of their Series 8 High Speed with Ethernet HDMI Cables (#8HEC-020).


I am a person who is interested in results rather than sales or marketing hype. Statistics, while useful in eliminating some mediocre gear, does not always tell the entire story and I rely a lot on my own subjective evaluations accompanied whenever possible with my own measurement data. There is nothing that compares to hearing or seeing something change and being able to substantiate it with real data. However, such subjective observations cannot always be objectively confirmed and must be described with etheric and inconsistent words. Whenever possible I attempt to correlate these subjective and objective details and hopefully from this approach you can judge for yourself if you wish to consider this reviewed piece of gear as a viable option to your own system.


While the connector is quite good and well made, this cable does not connect as tight as my old Monster 1000 series cable.


When I first plugged in this cable, I immediately noticed one thing: the picture was considerably brighter. I am presently working on a way to measure the actual illumination differences but unfortunately this hard data is not available for this review. I can tell you that my first impression is that this cable has a much wider dynamic range than my old Monster 1000 series cable. The difference is so striking that you may first believe that the calibration of your set has somehow changed, but indeed it has not. I presume that this change is due to the 2.5% silver plating used over the LC-OFC #26 wires and heavy copper-foil shielding. For whatever reason, this is a good thing.

With an apparently wider dynamic range, one would expect enhanced characteristics like more colors, blacker blacks, whiter whites, and richer saturation and indeed this cable provides all of these and then some. What this does to the picture is more than change its dynamics, the edge resolution lost with the Monster is regained with the Tributaries and while colors were very good with the Monster, they are even more accurate with the Tributaries. The most notable change is the interesting shades of gold and brown.

The first time I saw the color gold accurately reproduced with an LED TV was with the Pioneer Elite Pro-70X5FD. I still vividly recall the looping image of a dragon statue spinning slowly on a turntable capturing the unique character of such a piece. Many things are required for such accuracy to appear, most notably faithful color representation but also linear shading subtleties. This means that color accuracy is maintained through all levels of brightness; quite a feat. Until the addition of the Tributaries HDMI cable, this phenomenon was absent in my Samsung F8000. But with the Tributaries cable this TV now resolves similar detail that this Pioneer does.

As mentioned, the depth of brown colors is another revealing test for any television or cable. The Monster did a decent job pulling out variations in fur coats and the grain in wood paneling but once you see how well the Tributaries resolves these subtleties, you will understand why I am in love with it. Over the years, video programming has swung from uniform well-lit scenes with no shadows like those of the Today show to a new generation of interesting high-contrast scenes at the opposite end of the illumination scale such as with the series Elementary. In this latter show, Sherlock lives in a multi-story home with a lot of old wood and the cinematographer leverages subject matter against these high-contrast opportunities. The Monster cable was able to resolve variations in grain color but the Tributaries cable was not only able to resolve this same grain variation but also the color of the varnish and texture of the wood. Deep honey shades indicating aged wood and flatter shades of picture frames were easily distinguished with the Tributaries while only color variations noted with the Monster.

Lastly, the edge resolution was greatly improved over the Monster HDMI. Watching any movie is like watching it again for the first time since you notice things with familiar movies that were just not there before. For example, the movie UP has striking simulated 3-D depth in 2-D mode and colors of the bird Kevin are absolutely stunning. Not only due the hues of blue, red, and yellow catch your eye but also the blending of one color shade to the next is seamless as opposed to abrupt or edgy. The edge resolution of Kevin’s beak is distinct and clear as opposed to the Monster’s more smeary and blurry representation. The head feathers show distinct patterns as opposed to color smears with the Monster.

Full 3-D viewing is equally as striking. For example, in the movie Legend of the Guardians, the flowing texture of the feathers combined with the superb shading brings the otherwise obscured thin wisps of downy details forward in the image. Most notable are the fluffy breast feathers and their carefully crafted movements coordinated between air flow and bodily contortions. Also impressive are the facial features such as the eyelashes and radial texture of their irises both of which convincingly convey the 3-D space in which they occupy. Flights through trees and around obstacles are literally a hoot as are the high-contrast gradients in cavernous shadows.

 To my eye, video enjoyment is enhanced by this additional range of resolution provided by changing out the HDMI cable to the Tributaries Series 8 just as one would expect similar and striking enhancements in sound by changing out speakers. And that leads us to the next subject: changes in audio.


Moving from the standard OPPO HDMI cable to the Better Cables Silver Serpent showed improvements in the top octave of sound. Moving to the Monster from the Silver Serpent added a smoothness and uniformity bringing life and dynamics to an otherwise mediocre sound track. Bass with the Monsters was far more dynamic and overall very pleasant to listen to.

Changing out to the Tributaries HDMI cable at first was disappointing where the sound was about equally as good as the Monster, something I was not expecting. However, after about 20 hours of play, I noticed that the sonic contour began to slowly change. Inner details and fluidity of content began to appear from my speakers at which the Monster HDMI could only infer. With more than 30 hours of play time, the sound became very dynamic and full achieving deeper bass and more natural sounding highs. With the Tributaries, cymbal crashes contain that low-level fading hollow resonance unique to large brass objects where the Monster sounded tinnier and thin. Midrange presence and timbre also greatly improved making sounds of clarinets round and mellow as opposed to flat and electronic. Dynamics also improved with the Tributaries where thunderous explosions took on a clean punch where the Monster HDMI sounded muddy approaching mild distortion.


Swapping HDMI cables is a simple way to improve the video and audio quality of your home entertainment system. While some persist in believing that wire is wire, let those folks be happy with what they believe. For those of you who want more, try changing your cables. If you have spent thousands on your Bluray player and TV, it only makes sense to match quality components with a quality interconnect. Moving up the HDMI ladder to the right cable for your system can yield countless hours of enjoyment for a relatively modest investment.

If you are astute listener, you may also notice gains in sonic reproduction with better HDMI cables. The Tributaries Series 8 does an excellent job at creating a uniform sound field with highly accurate details. As compared to my old Monster 1000 series cable, the Tributaries Series 8 offers a step up in video and audio enjoyment. Putting it another way, if you like your old Monster 1000 series cable, you will probably love the Tributaries Series 8 HDMI cable. At a similar price point the Tributaries Series 8 cable offers a great improvement in video dynamics and a surprising improvement in audio fidelity. The downside of the Tributaries is its less-positive HDMI lock than the Monster but the upside far outweighs this minor shortcoming. The Tributaries cable is the new reference HDMI cable in my personal video system.

As an interesting side note, swapping out my other Monster 1000 series HDMI cable from my DirecTV™ receiver showed similar positive results when changing to the Tributaries Series 8 HDMI. While not as drastic as the video and audio differences noted from a Bluray disc, the 720p bandwidth of DirecTV showed similar visual and audible improvements. Watching the NASCAR National series on ESPN-HD showed improvements in resolution to decals, dents, and dirt. For example, the vibrant paint scheme on the eye-catching number 60 car of driver Travis Pastrana is something to behold. Resolving the correct shade of magenta on this car is a challenge that the Tributaries Series 8 HDMI cable does very well.

 I can’t wait for the NFL to kick off its regular season and see helmet scratches on Payton Manning’s good old number 18. Last week’s Patriots pre-season game routinely resolved the sparkling silver diamond-flake base coat on Tom Brady’s helmet. Sweet!

Is the Tributaries Series 8 HDMI cable the absolute best HDMI cable you can buy? Probably not. Is it a really good HDMI cable for the money? Yes, it definitely is. To many folks on a limited budget (myself included), getting the best bang for the buck is really important. If you are currently unhappy with your present HDMI cable, I believe you will be very happy with the addition of the Tributaries Series 8 HDMI cable in your personal home theater system. Give this cable adequate time to properly break in and you may notice more than just a refreshing improvement in video dynamics. 

If the Tributaries Series 8 HDMI cables are not available from your local dealer, you can find a dealer near you on their dealer search page.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

My other titles include:

·  Extreme Audio 1: House Wiring ·  Build an Extreme Green Hot Water Solar Collector
·  Extreme Audio 2: Line Filtering ·  The Extreme Green Guide to Wind Turbines
·  Extreme Audio 3: Chassis Leakage ·  The Extreme Green Guide to Solar Electricity
·  Extreme Audio 4: Interconnect Cables ·  Meditation for Geeks (and other left-brained people)
·  Extreme Audio 5: Speaker Wires ·  Althea: A Story of Love
·  Extreme Green Guide to Improving Mileage ·  Build an Extreme Green Raised Bed Garden
·  Extreme Green Organic Gardening ·  Build an Extreme Green Rain Barrel
·  Extreme Green Organic Gardening 2012 ·  Build an Extreme Green Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder
·  Build an Extreme Green Composter ·  Extreme Green Appliance Buying Guide

Copyright © 2015 by Philip Rastocny. All rights reserved.

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