Are $200- $300 power cords worth it - I don't think so

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I am curious to see what other people think of these $200 - $300 power cords on the market and whether they improved the sound.

While I hate to think that properly designed equipment requires power cords that are as expensive as these, I have looked at enough poorly designed equipment [even some esoteric expensive stuff] to see how they can help. I also have to admit, I have noticed a difference, sometimes significant, when they are employed, so........

I was bored about a month ago and looking at my stereo. I proceeded to go out to my garage, grab my 4 guage booster cables, started cutting, and made several 4 foot lengths of 4 guage cable. To the ends of these cables, I attached eyelets. I removed a screw from all my audio equipments cases and attached the cables being careful to ensure I made a good electrical connection to the case. I took the other ends, soldered them together. I butchered a plug and soldered this mass to the ground plug. I plugged the whole thing into the remaining outlet on the power bar for my stereo. Low and behold, it made a difference. The power cords on most of my equipment are 14 guage shielded cords I picked up for about $3-$5, hence the rest of the equipment was not that esoteric. I think the booster cables were around $15 and well that plug had to be at least $3!

I proceeded to call my friend who runs a local high end audio store and told him about my test and told him I would like to try it out with some other "gear". After promising many times to pay for anything I destroyed, he agreed.

So, my Audio Octopus (don't even think of stealing that name!), and $15,000 of Arcam, Classe and Musical Fidelity later, we had a test on our hands.

We initially ran with his expensive power cords and got a feel for the sound. Then we put on my $5 power cords. There was a noticable difference in the sound. Female vocals were just not as crisp and sound-stage did not seem as "open". We did the old A/B thing with one of us switching the cords and the other guessing which was which. I was amazed that we could reliably tell the difference. Not in the first 30 seconds of listening, but after about 5 minutes things just did not seem right with the cheap cords.

We then installed (I did actually), the Audio Octopus (TM - well maybe one day!) and started swapping in and out the cheap and expensive power cords. After about an hour of this, it was obvious that if the expensive power cords were having any effect, it was minimal.

I should not that in all cases, I was careful to ensure that power cords did not run parallel to interconnects for any length.

I am curious if anyone else has tried this?? I think you still need okay quality power cords and shielded is definately a good thing. I hope that other people try this and tell me how it goes.

From simple minds come great products........

Ok, here's my take. If someone is willing (and able) to spend $300 on a power cord they are most likely willing (and able) to spend $3,000 on a piece of audio gear to connect it to. At this point it means you are buying some pretty high-end stuff. Definately not Bose or shelf systems!!

Let us suppose that a power cord can make a difference. Now let me pose this question: How in the world can some one build a piece of gear (say a power amp) that sells for $3,000 and NOT attend to the basics of RF filters, PS design etc that would make it it unneccessary for their customers to incurr the added expense of a $300 power cord?

Looked at another way: IF a power cord can make a difference in sound, it seems more likely that the component that needs it most is a mass market (Sony, Pioneer ...) AVR not a Krell or CJ monoblock!
One of my favorites...

You have thousands (literally) of feet of crappy cable running from where the power is generated (hydro dam, nuclear power plant, etc.) to your house. Even if you could use a "perfect" cable for the last 6 feet, you are only changing 0.0001% of it's path. Even a $1000 cable is not perfect. Is a 0.0001% improvement worth 300 bucks? Not in my opinion. That $300 is better spent elsewhere.
My advice to you, young man, is to start

drinking early.

I love this, they will soon be weaving power cables with teflon insulation for the "node" on that pole outside to your switchbox, then there will be Allen Bradley gold-plated, vacuum enclosed circuit breakers in the distribution box. I can see that illustrious firm Harvey Hubbell (yes, it does exist and makes all the power connectors used in hospitals, you don't want someone frying you when your on the O2 -- these are the guys who make the spark resistant receptacles) making gold-plated AC receptaclesand plugs. Given the crummy performance of the stock, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't start taking out ads in Stereophile, etc.

Sometime you should walk around the property with a spectrum analyzer and see the crap that's on power lines.

Sometime I am going to go around and determine all the EMI lurking in my personal domicile, it is, in fact, the source of all grunge.

Do those suffering audiophilia ever go to live classical concerts?
seangoesbonk said:
You have thousands (literally) of feet of crappy cable running from where the power is generated (hydro dam, nuclear power plant, etc.) to your house. Even if you could use a "perfect" cable for the last 6 feet, you are only changing 0.0001% of it's path. Even a $1000 cable is not perfect. Is a 0.0001% improvement worth 300 bucks? Not in my opinion. That $300 is better spent elsewhere.

yeah, that is the logical answer. but as all of us know very well now, the logical answer isn't always the right one.

i hate to admit it, but power cords do matter. i can change the sound of an amp, even a whole system, by changing the power cords around. it shouldn't make such a huge difference but it can. of course, you need a system with very good resolving powers to really hear it, but once you get to that level, everything makes a difference.

if you doubt me, try it yourself. you will find that in a great system, the power cords can make or break the sound. i never thought much of cords until i tried it myself, and i was shocked. i told this to my friend, who then told me i was full of $%!*, but then i swapped cords on him in system and all he could do was drop his jaw and say "what the heck... that makes no sense at all." he heard the difference to say the least. whether you will depends on a lot of factors but some people definitely can.

whether or not a $300 cord is worth it or not is a different question. the price has nothing to do with it, and there is no formula for the "perfect" cord. some cords sound better with one amp but worse with another. it's all about synergy. the reason they cost $300 is that most of them are hand made in very small quantities, the volume of sales is very small, and in order to make any money at all they have to charge a lot. the actual materials don't cost a whole lot, everyone knows that. you are basically paying the person for the time they took selecting the materials/design and putting it together for you (at least in the case of the honest small manufacturers - can't say the same for a lot of big "audiophile" companies). it is very possible that a $5 cord will sound better than a $300 cord, but i doubt they will sound the same, or if one will always sound better than the other in every system. for some, the $300 cord will sound best, and to them that is enough to justify a purchase. oftentimes you need that $300 cord to get the best out of a particular component or system.

the other day that same friend of mine came over; he enjoys my system for for its fast, forward, and direct presentation. i originally was using a Home Depot power strip to supply my entire system, along with a TG Audio cord on the amp. since then i had switched to a very expensive set of power strip and cords i had received for review. he listened to my system, and seemed a little disappointed, but did not know quite what it was. i told him i mellowed out my system a little since last time, and he said, "yeah, but i miss the bright in-your-face sound." so i switched back to the Home Depot and TG Audio cord and voila, back was the sound he liked so much. he could not believe the difference. but it was clearly audible, and he was back to grooving to the tunes the way he remembered them on my setup. this from a person who told me just a few weeks before that i was full of $%!* ;)
thanks bill. i'm assumming you don't care to try different power cords, or you have and didn't hear a difference. if it's the latter, you are lucky, as it obviously saves you a lot of time and trouble (and often money). if it's the former than there's no point arguing anyway.

i should add that many components do not seem to be affected by the type of power cord. if this is the case, then you are lucky as well.

HPotter: thanks for the vote of confidence. :)

sam9: power cord selection often has nothing to do with RF filtering or anything of the sort. i can't explain the mechanisms involved (i don't know if anyone can) but it is not as simple as some single electrical property. the reason it may not help as much with a Sony or Pioneer is that those components are simply not as high in resolution, and won't reveal subtle differences. this was the case for me when my system was more modest, and i could not hear much difference at all between cords. as i improved my system more and more, it became more important. that said, in a good system, even a cheap Sony CD player can have its sound altered by changing the cord.

If the power cord makes an audible difference then either the original power cord was unable to statisfactorily supply the voltage/current you require (shouldnt be the case assuming you use a cord rated for the same output as the socket you plug it into) or far more likely the power supply is not well designed. Everyone who talks about directionality in cables ... I might concede that it could make a difference in interconnects etc but forget about it in the power cord you've got miles of wire going back to the power station and i'm sure they didnt take any notice of the 'directionality' of this wire when laying it down.

try it yourself. like i said, if you can't hear any differences, then you are lucky. :) you don't even need too much of an open mind to hear a difference if it exists though, just look at my friend. he still says he doesn't see why it should make any difference but he admits it is there. he said the same thing about digital cables too, then i showed him how i could "ruin" the sound of my system with the wrong SPDIF cable, and he again was flabbergasted. incidentally, we preferred my $20 Belden 1505A coax w/Canare RCAs over the $500 "audiophile" brand. :p
Like i said above dorkus... design the power supply properly and the power cord really wont matter so long as it is the correct rating for the socket... trouble is very few people know how to design a power supply correctly. I'll just about guarantee that the power supplies in said equipment are not well designed. Most SPDIF outputs these days are not well designed either earth loops are all too common and as always given the square nature of the signal the reactance can have a massive effect by rounding edges and causing ringing both of which are likely to be audible to some degree.
I have a ME Sound 550 II amp with the high capacitance option (i think about 150,000uF total). you should be familiar with the ME, you Aussie. :p the power cord DOES make a difference here, this is where my friend heard it. i think Peter Stein's supplies are very well designed though, wouldn't you agree? oh, my friend has a Krell KAV300i integrated, and while i don't like the way it sounds at all we could hear the difference there too. i don't think the Krell's supply is that great but it is at least ok. on the other hand, i've seen amps with mediocre supplies that are not affected by the cord. weird eh?
I know about ME and yes they are not bad for what they are but I wouldnt say they are anything worth writing home about. They use the right types of components in the power supply c-core transformers multiple values of caps both electrolytic and pp but they are still just a standard transformer + bridge + caps power supply and ultimately this is still a long way from a well engineered power supply unless PSRR of the amp is very high some residual effects will still get thru ... also these are class AB amps where the effective power supply resistance on peaks can severely effect the sound the power cord is part of that resistance/impedance granted the higher capacitance will help but I still stop short of calling this good engineering it's simply better than some other designs out there. ME also pride themselves on using a protection circuit that uses more devices than most amps now i dont know about you but I wouldnt say that is something to be proud of. As for Krell well lets just say they dont rate very highly in my book. Try a SE amp with truly constant power draw with a well designed power supply and see how much difference the power cord makes then. As I've said before if the power cord makes a difference it just highlights a weakness elsewhere in the equipment.
Enchanted power cords?

Personally I wouldn't buy one because I don't believe they would make a measurable difference, and here's the reason why they wouldn't in *my* case.

The Placebo Effect is a well documented phenomena, not a hoax or a fraud, whereby for example if a person thinks they are getting some wonderful medicine they will often show signs of improvement even though what they swallowed was coloured water. Some not completely understood action occurs in or body and the expected result occurs. This is documented scientific fact, not feeble nonsense.

As far as these enchanted power cords are concerned, who's to say that if someone plonks down their money and plugs in one of these things, and because they are *expecting* something good to happen then something pretty amazing happens to the ear-brain combination (hands up who knows absolutely everything about this, huh?) and the listener really does hear things better, even though the sound coming out the speakers is unchanged?

If there is room for improvement in the way we *perceive* sound, maybe these power cords provide the *expectation*, therefore the *means* to achieve this. As I said, I don't think they would improve the measured sound quality.

audiofreak you may be right about it not making a difference w/SE amps, but a lot of us don't use SE amps. =p i for one can't deal with the inefficiency, my electric bill is high enough as it is here in the city.

i'm not arguing with you that a "perfect" supply would make the cord irrelevant. but most amps don't have a perfect supply, partly because it is very expensive to make and partly because some people don't know how to make them. the reality is that most of us are stuck with only "good" supplies, and in that case a cord is a worthwhile factor in sound quality. even if you think you have what you think is the perfect supply, you may still hear a difference. have you even tried it? so far everyone who has debunked cords has theorized but no one has stepped forward to say they can not hear the difference after trying it. try first, then decide for yourself!

the ME is not a perfect amp by any means but i think it is very good and better than 90% of the amps out there, and nothing to scoff at. and yes, the Krell sucks. :p
placebo effect has been discounted.

my friend heard something "wrong" w/my system even w/o me telling him i switched out all my cords. we listened to track after track, i didn't say anything, but he kept saying, what happened to the sound? it was the power cords. he refused to believe it but what can i say, the sound changed.

try it before you debunk it! that's all i ask. if you try some cords and don't hear a thing, then there is no argument!
Again, as has been said, if you have components that are senstive to power line garbage, cables with noise supression capabilities might help. So would a handful of capacitors and inductors installed at the power line inputs of the offending equipment. Isn't this DIY? Get out those soldering irons and install those $1 items. With the money you save, you could take me out to dinner.
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