New Shunyata Power Cables Are Not Always Better
When it comes to high-end power cables, Shunyata is the king.
So every time Shunyata replaces their top of the line cable with a new model, “attention must be paid.”
In 2009, the King Cobra CX by Shunyata was their flagship power cable. Priced at $3500, it was the reference cable most often used to compare everything else. In 2015, even though the Sigma HC has replaced the King Cobra CX as the Shunyata flagship cable, the King Cobra is still the King.
The King Cobra CX replaced Shunyata’s original 1998 design experiment that kicked off the debate about whether expensive power cables were worth the price for the difference they brought to sound quality. Like its predecessor, the King Cobra CX was a five gauge cable that had to be individually hand made.
The King Cobra CX uses 780 conductors that are pulled from solid billets of CDA-101 copper. It is insulated to prevent outside noise contamination and the IEC connectors are specially designed. Each King Cobra CX was signed by the person who made it.
Today there are many options at the high end of the power cable food chain. The Audience au24 SE, the new Synergistic Research Atmosphere UEF Level 3, the XLO Purple Rush, the Nordost Valhalla 2, the Audioquest NRG WEL Signature and the PS Audio AC12 are a few of the high-end power cables that many audiophiles consider as reference cables.
The allure of something new appeals to people. There is a general idea that new technology is always an improvement and that if a company discontinues a product because it chooses to replace it with a newer model that the newer model must be better.
Unfortunately, like everything else in high-end audio, conventional thinking is practically never correct thinking. New is not always better even if a company chooses to discontinue an older model product to replace it with something they suggest is “better.”
When Shunyata replaced the King Cobra CX with the Anaconda Zitron as its top of the line, many people felt that it did not measure up. I tested the Anaconda Zitron for use between the wall outlet and my PS Audio PS10 power plant and not only was it not an improvement; but it was also a step backwards. In discussions with my representative from the Cable Company, we reasoned together that the “problem” was probably either with the Anaconda Zitron shielding or the combination of the Anaconda Zitron with the other cables in the system.
Power cables, interconnect cables and speaker cables can produce a different sound, not always better sound, in combination with different components and different speakers. The lending library at the Cable Company makes it possible to test cables in different combinations with your system before you commit to buying.
The Anaconda Zitron did not provide the deep dynamic range or special “blackness” that the King Cobra CX provided in my system. Since my system has a lot going on behind the rack, especially when the back is closed, the noise bouncing around back there probably revealed the weakness of the Anaconda Zitron’s shielding.
Shunyata’ s Sigma high current cable was released this year to replace the Anaconda Zitron as the company’s current flagship. The early reviews are very good and Absolute Sound gave it their “Editors’ Choice” award. The company says that the Sigma works like a power conditioner and intercepts noise at its source preventing component-to-component interference.
Tested against the King Cobra CX, the King is still King. There was no noticeable improvement in the sound through my system when I replaced the King Cobra CX with the Sigma. However, unlike the Anaconda Zitron, there was no noticeable downgrade in sound quality either.
In the end, the King Cobra CX is one of the only, maybe even the only 5 gauge power cable on the market. Each cable is handmade and, therefore, unique. Since people have an “upgrade” mentality, when a King Cobra CX becomes available for sale it is usually priced at under $2,000. When you see one, buy it! The King is likely to remain the King for a long time.