Upgrade Power Cords for Better Sound Quality (Part 1)
Want better sound quality? Throw away any power cord that comes in the box with your audio components and invest in a quality power cord!
A good power cord used on a music component improves the sound quality dramatically. To my ear there is no question about it and this test of power cords on my headphone micro system proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. The two questions that emerge from this study are how good the power cord needs to be in order to get the most dramatic improvement in sound from your system, and which power cord pairs best with the component you are powering.
In the test of power cords for my headphone micro system I tried six power cords in two price categories. I tried a high end, but not top of the line, cord priced around $600 to $900—the Audience Power Cord E, the Audioquest NRG 10, and the PS Audio AC 10. After I compared these cords with each other and picked the one that worked best with my HiFiMan EF5 headphone amplifier, I tried some top of the line power cords. The cords I compared were the PS Audio AC 12 at $1400, the Shunyata King Cobra CX retailing at $3500 but buyable used for about $2000, and the new Shunyata Python ZITRON priced at $2000.
This test proved two important points. First, components and power cords can be paired or matched to get the best sound because power cords can impact the characteristics of the sound. Second, an expensive power cord on a mid priced component has a dimishing return in the audible quality of the sound.
All of the power cords I tested created greater transparency and depth in the musical presentation. I describe transparency as the ability to hear detail like the hit of a pick against a string or the sound of spit from the singer’s mouth and crack in the singer’s voice. The degree of transparency of course depends on the level of compression and the bit rate of the music. Nothing you buy from the Apple iTunes store will have this information because of the compression.
I describe “depth” in music as a blackness of sound. In video, a deep black with no patchy fuzz that you might only see if you look at the screen from a 12 inch distance makes the picture quality appear more defined and colorful. It is the same with sound. When you remove noise and allow the component to easily get the power it needs for your music, the notes seem to have more space around them, a blacker background. The music sounds better because it is presented with more purity.
The first three power cords I tested against each other were the three under $1000 cords. Immediately, the difference between the Audience Power Cord E and the Audioquest NRG 10 was obvious and I discarded the Audioquest NRG 10. The choice between the PS Audio AC-10 and the Audience Power Cord E was a bit closer. My choice of power conditioner, which will be discussed in the next article, may have affected my preference, but I went with the Audience Power Cord E as the better match for the HiFiMan EF5.
Check out Upgrade Power Cords for Better Sound (Part 2) where I examine the top of the line power cords and compare them with the high end power cords discussed here.