Upgrade Power Cords for Better Sound (Part 2)
A good power cord makes a big difference in sound quality, but how good is good enough?
Once I picked the Audience Power Cord E for my HiFiMan EF5 amplifier and my HiFiman HE-500 headphone microsystem, I was ready to see whether a more expensive power cord means better improvement in the sound quality. I went straight for the Shunyata King Cobra CX, the undisputed King of power cords, a 5 gauge, handmade cord that is signed by the person who builds it. At four times the price of the Audience Power Cord E, the improvement in sound quality from my headphone setup was nominal and possibly psychological. The result was the same for the PS Audio AC-12.
The Shunyata Python ZITRON was a different story. I could hear a difference in the sound, but I am not sure the difference was positive. The Python ZITRON created a slight tin sound or fine quality that made the sound a bit unmusical. This power cord with top of the line Audioquest Diamond connectors and Cardas Clear speaker cable created too much transparency with the HiFiman EF5 amplifier and the HiFiMan HE-500 headphones for me. Too much transparency makes music sound more clinical than musical.
Since the Python ZITRON has a three week burn in period, I was running against the 30 day return period and I could not try different combinations of connecting cables with it. It is quite possible that the ZITRON technology might compensate for lower quality connecting cables. However, this remains just a theory for now.
The lesson of this experiment for me is that pairing cables to equipment is an art whose day is dawning. There is not much written on this subject yet, but similar to how components sound better together when they are paired correctly with other components, the same can be said about cables—power cables and connecting cables.
The second thing I learned from this is that some power cords and cables have sound characteristics of their own. Additionally, while it is a no brainer to replace the power cord that comes in the box with the components you buy, using ultra high end (over $1000) cables on mid range equipment is like using high end (over $5000) components on mid priced (under $5000) speakers. The sound from the mid priced speakers will be better with better components but only incrementally better.
OK, yes, good power cords are expensive and in most cases more expensive than the component you are using it with. However, if you look at the purchase of power cords and connecting cables as a lifetime investment in something that you will own and use in every future iteration of your home audio system then you might be able to overcome the sticker shock. Power cords and connecting cables are like good lenses in photography. As technology improves you will always need to upgrade your camera, but I can still use the lenses I bought in the 1980’s. Some of them are even better than the ones that have since replaced them. Power cords and connecting cables are like this. They actually get better with use and you will own them forever.
For more information, check out my article: Upgrade Power Cords for Better Sound Part 1.