I have used Tributaries cables in my systems in the past, so I jumped at the opportunity to visit the place where they’re all made. I first asked Joe about the history of his company, here’s the story in his own words.
“During the early 1980s, the idea of using high quality audio interconnect cables to improve the sound of a stereo system started to gain momentum. Many of the manufacturers during that time were designing cable systems with unusual wiring configurations. Some of these designs would cause certain power amplifiers to become unstable and fail, often catastrophically. It seems that each company was trying to outdo the others in an attempt to produce the “best sounding” cable. Of course, that was an impossible goal to achieve. The “sound” of any cable system is totally dependent on the equipment it is interconnecting as well as the room’s acoustics and the subjective judgement of the individual listener. As a result, many claims were made that defied the laws of physics; claims from minds unburdened with knowledge. In my opinion, it was a clear case of attempting to create an alternative to basic physics.”
During this time, Joe Perfito was the National Sales Manager for McIntosh Labs in Binghamton, New York. Travelling throughout the U.S. and Canada, he would hear, mostly from McIntosh customers, some of the outlandish claims made by cable companies of the time. While visiting with the McIntosh distributor for Japan, he was introduced to McIntosh Audio Cables that were being made for them by a company in Switzerland. Those cables were very successful and were sold only in Japan. There was no “hype” involved in the marketing of these cables. They were made using the finest materials, excellent
assembly, and were beautifully packaged. The overall effect was stunning. They were not inexpensive but the customers who were buying McIntosh Audio Products demanded the best in cabling and therefore purchased these high-end cables. Joe thought “why couldn’t this be done in the U.S.?” It was brought up to senior McIntosh management but was not accepted mainly because of the “smoke and mirrors” marketing that the other wire companies in the U.S. were employing. The possibility of “spill-over” was too risky for the conservative management at McIntosh.
A few years later the longtime President of McIntosh and Joe’s mentor, Gordon Gow, passed away unexpectedly. The following year McIntosh was sold to the Clarion Company of Japan. In January of 1990, Joe left McIntosh. With his sister, long-time friend Jeff Boccaccio, and Gordon’s widow Pam, Joe started a new company, naming it Gordon J. Gow Technologies, Inc. (GJGT). The goal was to produce products for the specialty audio/video and burgeoning custom installation markets. After his experiences with interconnect cables, Joe felt confident there was a place for a company that could produce products made from designs and engineering based on science. From the company’s startup in April of 1991, Tributaries has grown into a worldwide network of dealers and distributors. In 2013, a new high-end brand, Clarus was added to the product line-up. Clarus Cable Technology is licensed from Orbital Development LLC, owned by Jay Victor, who holds patents for the technology on which the design of Clarus Cable is based. In 2018, as GJGT completes 27 years of serving the independent audio/video specialist market, a range of new and exciting, high-performance products in new categories will soon be introduced.
After telling me the history of his company, I got to see the entire factory, which is neither small nor massive. First up on the tour was the demo room, where new cables and designs are tested on high end gear.
Here we have a set of Paradigm floor-standing speakers driven by McIntosh separates with the latest Tributaries Clarus Interconnects and speaker cable. I was told this is where some of the speaker cable testing is done.
Moving on to the next testing site, this was where HDMI cables are tested. I was informed that every single HDMI cable that leaves Tributaries is tested at every setting to ensure it will function perfectly when it arrives in the client’s hands.
At this point in the tour, I got to see a Clarus speaker cable being made by hand. It’s quite a precise job that ensures the cable will have the best performance possible for many years of use. I also learned that Tributaries will build most cables to any size you need, something not seen by many cable manufacturers today.
Here is another testing station for power products. On it, we see the McIntosh P486A Power Controller. It’s quite a rare unit to see in person, as it was only sold to McIntosh repair shops and testing facilities.
Q – Do you have a favorite piece of high-end audio gear, if so, what is it? McIntosh MC275 Power Amplifier
Q – For someone just getting into high end audio, what’s the best cable to upgrade first? First upgrade should be Series 8 Power Cable. It will produce sonic improvement for any quality system.
Q – What’s your take on cable “break-in” periods, real or fake? REAL! New cables require time to produce their best sound. Clarus cables can take 100 hours to “open up”.
Q – Where did the name Tributaries come from? It was suggested by Ken Zelin in 1990, then the owner of House of Music, San Francisco, as an alternative to “Tribute” cables.
Q – What makes your Clarus cable so special? Clarus dramatically improves clarity, soundstage, tonal balance, instrument location, and the 3-D effect of live music.
Q – What does the future hold for Tributaries? Looking at improvements in copper, dielectrics, and connectors. This year we’ll be introducing high performance headphone replacement cables and products for digital streaming and downloading.
I had a great time visiting the Tributaries Cable factory and I would like to personally thank Joe for taking the time to give me the full tour. Getting to see the cables being made and learning the history of not just Tributaries but also a little bit about McIntosh was amazing! If you have any questions for either me or Joe, leave it in the comments below. Thanks for reading!