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A Power Cable Reality Check


PKay

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I always find the good Drs commentary interesting so I thought I would post his latest for discussion.  Power cables being able to somehow clean the power that comes from your street in good old fashioned copper with insulation - then into an expensive cable - then back into a basic plug - and then internal wiring in the amp or source.

 

Dr. AIX

I know, I know. Talking about cables is a sure fire way to start a protracted — and unruly — discussion among audiophiles. The subjectivists write flowery prosaic descriptions while those of use who prefer to trust facts and science report the science and move on. That regular posts about cables continue to appear on various Facebook audiophile group pages shows just how unsettled the topic remains among the uninformed. Yet here I am writing another blog on cables — power cables — to be exact. Is there really anything left to be said?

 

The catalyst in this instance is a recent review I read over at Positive Feedback, a site that features the motto "A Creative Forum for the Audio Arts" — creativity being the key word in that phrase. My reaction to many of the articles/reviews I've found on this site confirms their tilt towards the creative with a total disregard for the facts. But it was the review of the Cardas Audio Clear Beyond Power XLcable that eclipsed anything I've read for quiet a while. And guess who authored the review? The same gentleman that booted me from the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society last year because I dared challenge his unwavering support for the myth of power cables with documentary proof during a meeting here in SoCal! Click here if you would like to read that very popular post. More about his ridiculous review in a moment...

 

A few days ago I had to remove my Oppo BDP-203 from the rack and I happened to notice that it had a couple of screws bouncing around inside. As a former electronics technician and builder of more than my share of HeathKit products (receivers, guitar and amplifier, test equipment etc.), I've always enjoyed peeking inside audio gear. I've done a few mods on another Oppo player and a power amplifier in the past, so simply removing a few screws would be a piece of cake. However, inspired as I was from reading Bob Levi's effusive prose in the PF review ("A liquid elegance and fleshy musical beauty emerged from a previous coolness and thinness."), I decided to take a look — and some photographs — at the cabling inside the IEC power connector on the rear panel of the Oppo. See below:

 

190217_power_cord.jpg The IEC power connector and three cables connecting to the power supply of the Oppo 203

 

I've been through this exercise before but let me restate the facts once again. The power reaching your duplex outlets comes through your home wiring through 12 or 14 gauge copper Romex wire depending on the amperage required (usually 20 or 15 amps) and costs about $2 per foot. And inside your equipment is more 12 or 14 gauge stranded wire — generic wire that probably costs about the same. Designers of expensive IEC power cords would like you to believe that the 6 foot piece of cable they sell you which may contain "hundreds of the purest copper strands, each and every strand is coated with single poly nylon and only touch each other electrically at the final connection point" is going to magically transform the analog — or digital — signals passing between your components. For someone to claim that power cords "often make extraordinary differences " in the fidelity of your system is like saying that delivering that cord in a velvet bag inside of custom crafted box with dovetail joints has an impact on the sound! It's just crazy! And anyone that would write such a thing and any website that would publish it should have their "bona fides" revoked. I know I wouldn't trust anyone that would write something so ridiculous — and easy to prove incorrect.

 

That's what I did with a very expensive power cord that a gentleman sent me some years ago. I used the regular IEC power cord recommended by my friends at Benchmark with their DAC 2 HGC and then swapped it out for the $3000 cord, which did come in a velvet bag inside a wooden box. I captured the analog output when using both cables and did a null comparison. To the utter amazement of the vendor in Atlanta, they both produced exactly the same output. Now some high-end audio manufacturers would have you believe that if two signals are identical that they could produce different sonic signatures — but that's also utter nonsense!

 

I guess if you've got an extra $3000 dollars that's burning whole in your pocket then throwing it away on a single 6-foot power cord is up to you. But if improving the fidelity of your system is among your priorities, then save your money and ignore the recommendations of people like Bob H. Levi and websites like Positive Feedback.

 

190217_cardas_power_cord.jpg The Cardas Audio Clear Beyond Power XL - Photo courtesy of PF

 

Feel free to read the review yourself. Every paragraph contains prime examples of why audiophile "experts" are not always the best sources of information and why audiophiles as reviewers is also not a good idea. Here's a few gems from the review:

 

"Top-tier power cords are the best way to tweak a state-of-the-art system for maximum realism and definition. After tube rolling, cable selection and matching, suspension tuning, final equipment selections, speaker adjustments, and room acoustics, you may not quite have that timbral naturalness and background blackness that brings the system to life. For that final adjustment, try different power cords to bring out those important nuances".

 

It's actually hard to read paragraphs like the above without laughing out loud — yet many audiophiles accept these fantasies as facts.

 

"The Cardas Audio Clear Beyond Power XL in combination with the V12 Amplifier yielded one of those unforgettable, you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me moments an audiophile never forgets! The XL was easily 25% more detailed, produced a blacker background, was smoother than my already smooth reference, and captured timbral realism beyond my ability to describe in English. Like the fictional Red Violin, maybe George has captured DNA and infused it into this power cord such that it reveals not just a great recording, but a great performance just a few feet in front of you. I had to remind myself, this was just a power cord change, not an additional super widget component. The resulting system improvement in realism and mellifluousness with just one Cardas Audio Clear Beyond Power XL was fantastic and unassailable".

 

One final anecdote before I post this blog. Before I was kicked out of the LA & OC Audiophile Society (for telling the truth about cables!), I attended one of their regular monthly events. Bob was always very kind to allow me to sell my book (Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound ) during meetings. He even gave it a very positive review but I'm guessing he didn't read the chapter on cables. Anyway, a local vendor was doing an A|B comparison. He was elevating the hard drive attached to his laptop with an isolation pad ($250) between playing back the same digital music selection. He went back and forth a couple of times to make sure everyone could hear the difference (there was none!). I was sitting close to Bob along one side of the ballroom and heard him announce to a couple other members of the society what a huge improvement he experienced with the isolation pad in place. Only he made that pronouncement when the pad was removed NOT in place — he got it exactly reversed.

 

My father once taught me that integrity is something that is very difficult to establish — but very easy to lose. How much integrity is present in audiophile reviews? From my perspective — not very much.

 

http://secure.campaigner.com/csb/Public/show/566i-y6tsa--jj2lp-seyvl35

 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, rocky500 said:

You needed the IEC wire upgrade for your Oppo to hear a difference a better Power cable would make. :)

 

oppo_iec_upgrade.jpg

I would imagine its not just the Oppo that requires the better internal wire upgrade.  I wonder if you could measure the difference?

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You mention $3000 Power cables but what about the ones around $100.

 

They are shielded and put together a lot better than the mass produced cheapy chinese ones.

I have them in my system and just prefer to have them for not too much expense compared to the total expense of my system.

Edited by rocky500
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1 hour ago, rocky500 said:

You mention $3000 Power cables but what about the ones around $100.

 

It was the good Dr who mentioned Power Cables.  I don't know whether your $100 cables are better or worse than the cheap Chinese cables.

 

I also know that with my Lavardin IT the manual states to use their generic cable and that the expensive after market alternatives were not recommended.

Edited by PKay
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Positive Feedback describing their website as a "Creative" place for the audio arts brings to mind Fox News claims that it is an entertainment programme, thereby absolving themselves of being culpable for the dissemination of alternative facts.

 

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37 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

I love the $20 power cables I have going to my $60k power amplifiers, and would still use the same cables if they were $600k of power amps. Same goes with the $0.40 fuses in each of them.

Link to the $20 Cables?

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15 minutes ago, Muon N' said:

is the cable rated for 20amps also?

No, only 15, but I have 20A lines and wanted the maximum contact area used. The C19 connector at the other end is only rated at 16A anyway.

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2 hours ago, Ittaku said:

No, only 15, but I have 20A lines and wanted the maximum contact area used. The C19 connector at the other end is only rated at 16A anyway.

My power amp recommendation is for 20amps, where can I get a cheap 20 amp cable?

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4 minutes ago, Sime V2 said:

I use isotek simply because they look better and built better. 

 

With respect, why would you pay several hundred dollars for a cord which has no sonic benefit?  Even allowing for the fact that it might look better, it would be hidden behind your rack/cupboard etc and you might be lucky to see it a couple of times per year.

 

Anyway, it's your money and your life so I wish you well and no offence.?

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39 minutes ago, Musician said:

My power amp recommendation is for 20amps, where can I get a cheap 20 amp cable?

Firstly, the only reason amps recommend 20A is because of the pissweak 110V US market. That actually translates to only needing 10A with our voltage. Second, you won't have 20A sockets normally in a home (I had mine specially installed). Finally, I doubt your amp even has a socket compatible with 20A. Likely it's C20 which takes the C19 I mentioned earlier which is only 16A. Actual 20A cables you get from trade electrical suppliers if you still want to look for them.

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3 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

Firstly, the only reason amps recommend 20A is because of the pissweak 110V US market. That actually translates to only needing 10A with our voltage. Second, you won't have 20A sockets normally in a home (I had mine specially installed). Finally, I doubt your amp even has a socket compatible with 20A. Likely it's C20 which takes the C19 I mentioned earlier which is only 16A. Actual 20A cables you get from trade electrical suppliers if you still want to look for them.

That was very helpful, make sense as it’s an American Amp.

And you’re right the socket is standard iec unlike the 20 amp ones found on medical grade equipment.

 

 

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..... well, there you go.

 

Still haven't read Waldreps book (from the kickstarter) yet .....  but I hadn't seen this:

 

Quote

As you know, I’m a strong advocate for high-resolution digital recordings made with no processing or mastering. I’ve won numerous awards for my work. It’s indisputable that a high-resolution PCM recording offers more potential fidelity than another other audio format. Whether the “sound” rivals vinyl LPs or analog tape is preferred is a matter of personal taste. The results of the HD Challenge have been inconclusive. It turns out the audiophiles — even those with fabulous, highly resolving systems — have done no better than chance in determining the difference between CD spec and real high-resolution. So I may have to change my position on the merits of high-resolution audio. I can accept that. When a rigorous study is ultimately performed using double blind ABX testing AND real high-resolution content, the truth may show that I’ve been wrong.

I hope there is more published on the testing, that I can find to read....

Edited by davewantsmoore
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1 hour ago, rantan said:

 

With respect, why would you pay several hundred dollars for a cord which has no sonic benefit?  Even allowing for the fact that it might look better, it would be hidden behind your rack/cupboard etc and you might be lucky to see it a couple of times per year.

 

Anyway, it's your money and your life so I wish you well and no offence.?

It also is a sort of physiological thing, each component in the system is not cheap, so I just simply like to round the system off. 

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