Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Power Cables: An Informal Comparison

I just thought I would throw up a comparison of some AC cables I have been listening to recently. Clean power and quality AC cables can make or break an audio system. Cables are not the last six feet of wire coming from your AC outlet, rather I believe they are the first six feet of wire your audio equipment sees, and therefore are critically important to the overall performance of your audio system.

My gear:

Kaplan H.E. - The Kaplan H.E. Retails for $479. Tonally I would say it leans to the warm side, but it is very agreeable with solid state and digital gear. It seems to eliminate glare, and the highs are oh so slightly laid back. The presentation is relaxed, and you are able to listen to music for long periods of time without the fatiguing effects of brighter cords, which impress one initially, but then end up hurting your ears after long periods of listening. Initially, the H.E. sounds rolled off, but keep listening. What you will soon realize is many other cords have grainy or exxagerated highs, which many listeners mistake for "air".

Compared to similar cords, the Kaplan excels in tonal balance, and long term listenability. A great value

Kaplan G.S. - The G.S. improves upon the H.E. mostly in the midrange and bass. The warm tonal balance and long term listenability are there in spades, but all of the sudden there is much more transparency in the midrange. The increased low level detail resolution adds to soundstage width and depth. I love the GS with copper termination, and so does my Modwright gear. There is just such a rightness to the sound, like a live performance. The GS is not a cable that immediately grabs you. Its only when you start listening at length do you realize just how great this cable is, and how much longer you have been able to listen to your system without getting tired. If your system is on the cool side, or you just love great midrange, this is a terrifict cable.

Silent Source Music Reference - The Music Reference from Silent source has received much critical acclaim, and it deserves it. It is super transparent and dynamic with extension at both extremes. In my opinion, it works best with tube gear, or when blended with a Kaplan G.S. The warmth of the kaplan with its transparency blends very well with the speed, transparency, and yes a little bit of coolness from the Silent Source. The soundstage and low level resolution of this cable is excellent. If you love a wide and deep stage, this is a good cable for you.

Wireworld Gold Electra - The Wireworld Gold Electra falls in the dead neutral category tonally. This cable is quiet, balanced and very easy on the ears. Top to bottom, the balance and dynamics are spot on. I use this cable on my Bybee Power Conditioner, it seems to synergize very well with it. The soundstage is slightly smaller than the Music Reference and G.S., image placement is superb, and bass performance and dynamics are outstanding. This is another one of those cords that allows you to relax and enjoy the music for hours on end.

Acoustic Revive Power Reference In all fairness, this cable was not completely broken in when I first auditioned it, I will report back later if any major changes in tonality or other performance factors have changed. this cord lies somewhere between the Kaplan GS and the Silent source. It does well on solid state or tube gear. Tonally, it is slightly more forward in the upper frequencies than the Kaplan, and has an amazing relaxed musicality to it. This would also be a great cable to blend with the others, providing a little more extension in the treble, and placing the midrange a little more forward in the stage than the Kaplan, but not as much as the Silent source.

As a general rule, the source component will reveal the most differences between AC cables, but in my case, the KWA 150 was also able to resolve subtle differences in tonality and performance as well.

Before you run out and buy new AC cords

Before you go spending your hard earned money on power cables, I would recommend investing in a dedicated circuit for your system, then a good power conditioner. Good, clean AC is the foundation of your system. The AC signal that feeds your components is turned into music by them. If your AC is dirty, noisy and has distortion in it, that all gets passed through your audio equipment, and rides along with the musical signal that is played through your loudspeakers. Garbage in, Garbage out.

Happy Listening!