A U D I O... P A P E R
The whole deal
with power cords
by Steve Deckert
I read in our support forum a thread called: "Decware power cords... you've got to be
kidding." I realized I would have to write this paper.
have for a long time been a realist when it comes to system tweaks.
I've heard dozens of $1000 power cords over the years, most
were courtesy of local audiophiles who like to drop
by and see me from time to time. What
happens is this: They buy one, take it home, are amazed
and have to show somebody. "You've got to hear this..."
and so it goes. They bring their new prize cord over and demo it
on my own
gear until I falsely agree, "yea it's
amazing" just to get them to finally leave and still
shaking my head after I've closed the door. Why? Because
I can usually find at least several ways to spend a grand in a given
system that far exceed the benefit of that cord. Oh did I
forget to mention most of the cords that make it over
here cost $1000 for a 6 foot cable?
of my favorites is a guy who's been on a power cord roll for about
6 months and every time he comes over his new cables
have gotten thicker. Last visit he had interconnects that were 1.5 inches
in diameter to match with the 2 inch diameter power cords! He
actually said "I've noticed that the bigger diameter my cables
get, the bigger my sound stage becomes!" (He listens
in an untreated room with speakers only a foot or two from the wall
and has no sound stage)
gentlemen was into making his own D.I.Y. cords because he acquired
a secret recipe from some audio designer and now was "in
the know about how to
make them", as he put it. He actually came over one day
with power cords that he had made into extension cords. He actually connected these onto the ends of
stock power cords and amazed himself for at least an hour at my
you can see why my room treatment section of the site starts with
the following cartoon:
am I saying power cords don't make a difference? Absolutely
not. I've heard some actually make the sound worse for whatever
the stress of knowing there is a power cord in the system that cost
more than some of the components is what does it. Or it might
be the fact that the designers have come up with the most complicated
way in the world to do such a simple thing in an effort to justify
the stupid high prices they charge. Perhaps it's knowing that the stress on my amplifiers IEC connector is so
great from the stiff and heavy power cord that it's going to eventually
got that off my chest, is there ever a time when I thought a power
cord made things sound better? Yes. In fact most of
the time - provided it's the right cord and the
cord it's replacing is a typical stock power cord. And all of these times I realized that
if you could get the price down to a couple hundred bucks or less
it would be more than a very justifiable tweak to many systems.
can a power cord make any difference? I mean after all, even
when plugged into a wall outlet with 70 feet of Romex going to your
breaker box, they can make an improvement. We've all wondered
how this can be, myself included. I've pondered it for many
years and read manufactures explanations. Many of them should
have just come out and said "We have no idea why it works,
but it does"... Instead you read about electrons, skin
effects, strand interactions and on and on. Something you
can almost digest when applied to speaker wires or interconnects,
but a power cord?
have come to the following conclusions that I think many people
overlook. My first one is that a single 10 AWG solid copper
conductor that is not repeatablely bent into different shapes is simply a lot better than we all think.
That's what Romex (house wiring) is.
this perspective it is easy to see the flexible power cord (and
sometimes the wall outlet) being the weak link in that chain. Connections
are of utmost important's. The blades of the cord and contact
with the receptacle are just a couple examples and so it goes, lots of possibilities for less
than perfect connections.
good power cord makes things sound better not by some magical topology
of wire that improves midrange, but by simply working to eliminate
itself. In other words, If you could eliminate the power cord
altogether, you've corrected another weak link and consequently
your going to hear better sound.
articles on power, starting with the Magic
Hour are a discovery process of just how important clean power
is to good audio gear. To really make a big difference you
should consider the following approach with regards to power cords:
plug them directly into the wall outlet if the amplifier draws massive
amounts of current. In all other cases purchase an isolation
transformer with good hospital grade receptacles and plug that into
your wall outlet. Then plug your gear into that using good after
power cords. This way you have killed two birds with one stone
in that you have isolated yourself from the harmonics and noise
in your local power grid and eliminated the weak link between your
amp and that clean power source. Beware of power conditioner's,
they are usually not isolation transformers and can often make
your system sound worse.
can recommend even a simple isolation transformer by Tripp Lite
such as their IS-1000. Available for less than $250.00 with
a 10 amp capacity. Smaller units are available for near half
that price. Use that in combination with a great power cord
such as ours and you have something that actually makes a very noticeable
improvement across the board. Something you can easily hear
and won't want to loose once you've had it.
you have really great electronics and haven't done this yet because
you're still wondering how a power cord can make a difference then
I would suggest the difference will be similar to what you experienced
when you purchased your first pair of great interconnects.
myself, I have always made my own (go figure) out of
10 AWG Silver/Teflon stranded wire in a simple braid
with good quality IEC connectors. I had often
thought of marketing them for the same reason we make
interconnects for our customers... to help eliminate
weak links in the chain so that they could hear how
good our amplifiers really are. Problem is, just
not enough hours in a day to hand make so many products
and I'm not willing to resell machine built mass produced
"high end" cords just to say we offer them.
enough I crossed paths
with the owner of MAC (My Audio Cables) who turned out to be a customer
of ours. We talked and I discovered that here was a man who
has specifically focused his energies on making sense of the whole
hi-end cable mess and has taken the time and money to systematically
listen to even more than I have and for at least as long. His
findings were similar to mine to the degree that we were clearly
on the same page. Someone with real experience
who's just as annoyed with over priced cables as we are - a man
after my own heart. What a great opportunity to help each
other out. He sent me a power cord to try one day and to my
surprise, no delight... it was almost exactly like the
ones I make for myself.
thought... well, he is already making the cord I would sell if I
were selling one so why not contract MAC to build ours! This
cable design is getting rave reviews against over priced competitors,
some by as much as 10 times the price. It clearly fits into
the Decware value for the dollar theme that has made our business
grow to what it is.
here there is two places to listen to music, one is
the reference listening room for serious listening,
the other is in the build room where we make our amplifiers.
In the build room, the noise floor is relatively
high, the speakers are set up for testing amps, and
mounted on the ceilings and walls. It makes for
listenable background music while we work and serves
to test amplifiers rather well. However, if you
plan on hearing the difference between one brand part
vs. another, it almost always requires a trip into the
reference room. With this in mind, you can understand
what a great test bed the build room becomes, because
if you can hear a obvious difference in components and
parts out there, the difference is for real. I
didn't even have to take the power cord MAC sent me
into the reference room, it was clearly noticed right
on the bench.
can find our new power cord here.