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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have sold everything and am starting over with all new equipment.

I'm trying to really do it right this time in my 2-Channel listening room. My new equipment is pretty good....not what others would call "high end", but on my budget it's pretty great to me.

Should I invest in better quality power cables and do they make a noticable difference? Thx, Mark

New Equip:
Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated (250w 8ohms)
Musical Fidelity A5 CD Player (24/192 with tube output stage)
Monster HTPS 7000 Power Center
Monster AVS2000 Voltage Stabalizer
Tannoy S10 Towers, with Tannoy ST-50 SuperTweeters
Rel Q108e sub
 

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Elite Shackster , HTS Moderator Emeritus
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Hello Marks57.

You have opened the door to a famous tweeker vs. geeker debate that has raged since Tesla invented the radio. :)

The short answer: yes it will make a difference
Justification: High end power cables have better connectors, shielded wire, and better wire (higher conductivity and flexibility).

But is the effect audible: --> Ah, there's core of the argument.

If you have the absolute worst case scenario, you may hear a difference. This would be one with lots of powerline noise picked up by the system and a voltage drop due to poor connections (wire to wall, wire to equipment, internal solders/crimps in the power cable).

Some people have bought the boutique power cables and SWEAR they heard a difference. Maybe they did, maybe they just really, really wanted to hear a difference because they spent $100 on the thing. Or maybe their old cable wasn't making a good connection at the wall and was losing some voltage due to increased resistance.

But if the equipment you bought came with a good quality cord that appears to be snug at both ends, you are probably fine.

I like making custom power cords for one reason: I can get the exact length I want. That's all, I don't expect a sonic difference. Less clutter, neater runs, less chance to send noise through a signal wire.

Hope this helps,
Anthony
 

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Friend of the Shack
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But if the equipment you bought came with a good quality cord that appears to be snug at both ends, you are probably fine.
I think that's Anthony's right on target here.

A boutique cable may have better construction, etc., but will it make an audible difference? The relatively mundane task of getting AC power from the wall to your components' transformers can be done just as well by the supplied power cords, in my opinion.

If you want, try them out. But do some double blind testing, if you can. I've not done it myself, but I think it would be pretty eye-opening to do those tests if you believe you can hear a difference when you are listening to them sighted.

I'd say spend your money on more tangible items -- room treatments, more music, or a nice bottle of wine. You'll get a lot more out of those things!
 

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Some people have bought the boutique power cables and SWEAR they heard a difference. Maybe they did, maybe they just really, really wanted to hear a difference because they spent $100 on the thing. Or maybe their old cable wasn't making a good connection at the wall and was losing some voltage due to increased resistance.
I think the biggest benefit would be in the shielding and 60hz noise that could bleed through to the audio cables. I try to run my power separately than my audio cables, but when you get to the actual piece of gear they do all come together in somewhat close proximity to each other. Each piece of equipment has it's own power supply, and part of that PS is a filtering system with rectifiers, transformers and other components. There is a tolerable input range that a piece of electronics can accept and still operate completely within it's specifications because the power supply is taking the input voltage, conditioning it and converting it to the numerous DC voltages that the electronics require. So unless the power cable was just so bad that it wasn't providing the correct input voltage, I personally think it's the shielding to prevent noise bleed that's more important.

maybe they just really, really wanted to hear a difference because they spent $100 on the thing.
Interesting story/analogy (at least I thought so ;)). Years ago I was back home visiting and I went with my dad to pick up some auto parts. The new split fire plugs had just come out. I asked the guy at our local small town auto parts store if they really made a difference and this is what he said:
"Ya know... at $8 a plug I think people see a difference because they spent that much money. Personally, I don't see any major difference."

I think that applies with cables too. There is a point where cost vs perfomance no longer matters and it starts to become a brand name image factor. I see this all the time with HDMI cables.

Here is what I do... when I get a new piece of gear, I throw out whatever cables that came in the box except for the power cord. I go with better quality/build cables, but not necessarily the big name brands like Monster (Sorry about that Monster Cable). Unlike the split fire scenario, I do think going with better cables than what came in the box does make a difference, and the biggest differnce is to go with a good quality speaker cable, but again- don't pay just for a name.

So in a long winded way I guess I just said I agree with Anthony and Otto ;)
 

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Roger Russell (worked as an engineer at McIntosh Labs for years) has some interesting things to say about speaker wire and power cords here.
 

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Btw... Mark, when you state "power cables" are you specifically talking about "power cords" or any kind of cables, wire, etc.? When I think of power cables, I'm thinking 115 volts.

I remember back when I first purchased my Velodyne HGS-15 I called up the Velodyne techs and spoke with one of the scientists who design their subs. I was asking about whether or not I needed spikes. I also asked if he thought the XYZ power cord would be worth an upgrade for that sub. He laughed and said something to the effect of, "If a higher end power cord would improve the sub in any way at all, we would have included it with the sub." Which is the same thing he said about the spikes. FWIW.
 

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I find the cables situation both amusing, and distressing. It's amusing because the claims are so transparent. They never make any claims that can be measured or checked. It's distressing because people still buy the stuff, and the whole industry loses credibility, IMHO.
 

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Well actually, the shielding on high end power cables, is attempting to stop the power cord from transmitting EM fields to other cords that may be laying beside the power cord. Interconnects are a high impedance circuit and can pick up energy fairly easily (that's why they're shielded). This is a fairly small possibility in my opinion - but still can't be discounted.

I certainly replace all my standard 18 gauge power cords with heavier variety. Home-made is quite inexpensive to do - and I get to at least match the gauge in the wall and use connectors that mate very positively with the equipment and the wall receptacle. I use the a better than average wall receptacle also. Rather than the standard $1.00 type, I use $15.00 type. The connection is much more positive.

brucek
 

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I guess what I'm trying to say that if you are buying a > $500 power cord, you should be keeping interconnects away from it anyway -- and to reap the full benefit then going to the expense of using solid conduit for the AC mains supply is just another natural step along with the other expenses.
 

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Elite Shackster , HTS Moderator Emeritus
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you are right, Fred. But the debate centers around what is a quality cable and what is a colossal waste of money that is more based on marketing hype than actual facts.

Our goal is to find the middle point. Obviously tight connections and shielding are important and not gimmicks. Batteries, cryo-freeze, etc are probably gimmicks. Audioholics.com has some great writeups and actual test data on different cable designs. My favorite is extension cord beating out Monster Cable speaker wire for resistance, capacitance, and inductance specs. :)
 

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My opinion:

Measureable difference? Yes
Noticeable difference? No (unless you are using seriously cheap crud to begin with)

I've built my own high end cables and really didn't notice much difference between those and the dreaded Monster cable. I still have my high end interconnects but that is it. My other cables are just run of the mill and I can't tell the difference.
 

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I agree with most here, the big thing to remember is the longer the run the larger the gauge should be if your just running 3 or 6 ft then using most decent quality interconnects and speaker wire will do just fine. The standard "rca" cables shipped with most consumer end equipment will do the job if run short distances.
Speaker wire should be as high a gauge as you can easily fit into the holes made on the binding posts. Dont use 16 awg wire if your powering your speakers with a 200watt amp for example. I personally use 12 awg wire for my surounds and 10 for my mains.
Just my two cents
 

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Actually, for a short distance 16awg is just fine for even 200w. There may be differences in how speaker wires sound in some systems, but they are far far less than most proponents would want you to believe, and not all of the differences are improvements. As for power cords, I have never seen any evidence nor even a reasonable nor rational case made for any differences at all, other than possible need for shielding. Even that is rather unlikely in a well designed system.
 

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