Driade Flow Link Reference 808 XLR and RCA – Follow-up Review
Regular readers will know of my unwavering enthusiasm for Driade Flow Link Reference 808 interlinks ever since reviewing them in the summer of 2021. In the review, I indicated to like them so much that I would likely keep them in place for permanent use in the analog section of my system. As time went by, the interlinks never did leave the system, but what’s more, I started using them everywhere!
At the time of the initial review, the system was divided into two parts: the analog section with the Aqua Formula xHD DAC and Audio-GD Master 1 preamp that also served to review other DACs with a fixed output level, and the digital section with the CH Precision C1 DAC connected directly to the CH Precision A1.5 power amp.
The system at the time of the initial review in 2021
Not only did the Flow Link Reference 808 cables continue to serve the Aqua Formula xHD DAC ever so well, but I also used the cables in countless reviews that followed. And not even once did they stick out by calling attention to themselves. Rather the contrary: these interlinks behave so selflessly that they simply allow the connected component to do the talking. In my view, that is exactly how it is supposed to be, provided that the system is neutrally balanced and of uniform quality.
While completing review after review, irrespective of the product class, whether entry-level, high-end, or stratospherically-priced, the Flow Link Reference 808 cables simply refused to misbehave. Such utter neutrality is a great achievement in and of itself but what further sets these cables apart is how they also never inhibit the true quality of a component to shine through.
At the time of the Driade review, the core of my system was connected using AudioQuest Fire interlinks and I have continued to use these cables in the digital part of my system until recently. Price-wise, it doesn’t seem to make sense to compare the Fire to the Flow Link Reference 808, and in terms of their position on the sonic landscape, we’re also talking about two rather different cables. But improved system synergy is not necessarily achieved by spending more. In terms of quality, the differences between the two cables are actually not as large as one might expect, given the enormous disparity in price. In a nutshell, the Fire mainly deviates from the Flow Link Reference 808 with a more characterful sound. It has a more saturated tonality with a more physical delivery and a subjectively more 3D presentation. In terms of precision and resolution, however, there’s very little between the two. If anything, the more I compared the two, the more I felt that I preferred the Flow Link Reference 808’s unadulterated, decidedly non-editorialized rendition.
Above is the current Secondary Xavian System where I use the Driade Flow Link Reference 808 RCA cable between the Accuphase DP-430 CD player/DAC (with an Auralic Aries G1 streamer source) and the Accuphase E-270 amplifier. The speaker cables, incidentally, are Driade Flow Reference 808.
As time went by and I reviewed component after component using the Driade cables, at a certain point, I needed to do a DAC comparison in the main system. I connected both my CH C1.2 DAC and the review DAC with a set of Driade Flow Link Reference 808 cables and carried on with the review. During this process, it really struck me how much I liked the sound, or perhaps I should say non-sound of my system. Oh dear, did I now actually prefer the Driades over the Fires? I guess I did!
Now, I really wanted to get to the bottom of it. So, I left the Driade 808 cable between the DAC and preamp and connected a second pair between the preamp and power amp, and sure enough, the level of transparency was further increased. As I sat there almost in disbelief, I had no choice but to admit to myself that I now preferred the Driades over the Fires.
The CH components possess multiple inputs and outputs which makes it easy to directly switch between two cables right from the listening position. Just to be absolutely certain, I kept both the Fire and the Flow Link Reference 808 connected while switching between them for a period of 2 weeks. Now, I should add that this is not the best method to compare cables as their ground planes are all connected which can skew the true nature of cables. But after having done the comparisons by plugging and unplugging the cables, understanding the differences, and basically already having reached a consensus, this last test period was just a bonus. Nevertheless, each and every time that I switched between the cables, I still preferred the Driades. How about that?!
So, are the relatively affordable Driade Flow Link Reference 808 cables actually better than the rather costly AudioQuest Fires? Well, in my system, and at this point in my audio journey where I have come to value linearity, resolution, and transparency over beefiness and tonal saturation, I guess they do indeed provide a better match. But this is a very personal matter as well as something that is hugely system-dependent. Some listeners may prefer bigger bass or a fuller tonality, which the Driades simply do not provide. If I’m really honest, having also heard them in friends’ systems, I think it’s fair to say that the Driade interlinks veer ever so slightly to the lean and clean side. But that happens to be what works ideally for me and my system. And although they are a little lean, they are most definitely not clinical or otherwise lacking in soul or musicality, and they definitely do not stand in the way of making an emotional connection with the music. If that were the case, I would have ultimately not been happy with them after all.
XLR versus RCA
As mentioned in the original review, there’s very little distinction between the RCA and XLR versions of the Flow Link Reference 808 cables in varying circumstances. The only repeatable difference I hear is that the XLR cables sound a little bit more controlled, or conversely, the RCA cables sound a little bit more free-flowing. I should note that this kind of relative difference is not limited to these Driade cables but is an often-heard aspect of Balanced versus Unbalanced connections in general.
For CH Precision, I ultimately found that XLR works better, especially if you use that connection method exclusively for components in a linked chain. For the Accuphase components, I tend to prefer the RCA cables. Brand preferences and interface-induced differences aside, I regard the Driade RCA and XLR cables as fully interchangeable, meaning that one can simply select the version that is required for any given circumstance.
So there we have it: my current main system (shown above) is now fully wired with Driade Flow Link Reference 808 and it looks like they are going to stay for the long haul.
In my 2021 review, I already liked them a lot. Since then, my appreciation has only grown, and I now have these cables connected permanently in both of my systems. For listeners who, like me, prefer to enjoy their music in a neutral, natural, transparent, and un-editorialized manner, I just can’t recommend them enough. Neutrality is one thing, but amazingly, these cables also manage to combine their utter selflessness while totally avoiding ever tipping over into sounding clinical or dissecting. These cables are about delivering music, they do not turn the music listener into a testing apparatus. What they achieve is the hardest thing in audio: to fully satisfy my relentless brain while allowing the heart to connect emotionally.
The Flow Link Reference 808 RCA and XLR cables have proven to be an enduring HFA Favorite!