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The Dark Art Of Power Cords - December 2022

This month I am going to venture into one of the dark arts of audio and video: Power Cords. Like interconnects and speaker cables, there are as many naysayers as there are believers. But, power cords remain the most mysterious of them all. For the record, I do believe cords, power, speaker, and interconnects do make a difference. The question is does it make it better?

Over my 50 years of playing with audio and video, only power cords continue to remain the difficult one to predict. Two of my friends in the industry, Frank Culmoni and Mike Moffat of both California Audio Labs and Theta Digital (Mike now does Schitt Audio), have played with power cords. Frank has a double engineering degree from MIT so most likely to understand what they do. His conclusion was, ultimately, yes they do make a difference and he has no understanding why they have such a sonic impact in musicality, spatial, or otherwise. Some were, at the other end of the spectrum, completely undesirable on all counts. This has lead many manufacturers to use some basic power cord (for both cost and political reasons) as well as controversy with customers.

One of my early experiences in trying to understand them came from Bryston Electronics. They chose a heavy cord but one that was also shielded as designated on the cable with the letters SJT. It was their thought that if there was any sonic difference, it was not the power cord itself causing it but rather the leakage of RF from the power cord into nearby interconnects. It made a lot of sense and remains the most logically accurate answer.

However, as years went on, I began to play with power cords from all sorts of manufacturers and some even home brewed. Like Frank and Mike, I began to experience that each cable was capable of having all sorts of effects, some very desirable, some not so much. In addition, there were cases where the stock power cord supplied by the manufacturer was, in fact, the best of all. Likewise, the price of the power cord provided no practical guide into the results. Thus, cheap ones could perform as well or better than expensive ones and visa versa.

Likewise, what may deliver desired results on a preamp failed miserably on a power amplifier, what worked on a power amplifier was a disaster on a subwoofer and the list goes on and on. Even more confusing was the influence of a combination of them within a system and, again, I really don’t know why. So, where does this leave this mysterious subject?

Simple: Experimentation within your own system. To that end, Audible Elegance has loaner power cords for you to try, if you so wish. We have a limited number of them so be patient if you need to wait your turn. Straight Wire has two versions, actually. One more stranded than the other. The less stranded one is targeted towards items that draw a heavy amount of current. Wireworld and Cardas also produce a range of power chords as well and we have a few of them about. We do require a pre-authorization on your credit card for both our protection and that the borrower is encouraged to do the testing promptly and not become a forgotten item on a shelf. Others are waiting to try them too.

In a nutshell, no, I don’t promote one brand over another. No, I don’t believe one company holds the magic answer either which are words they don’t like to hear but, it’s the truth. Can power cords make a difference? Absolutely. In some cases through experience, we can be pretty accurate in a recommendation if we have had the chance to play with the product combination multiple times with the same results. But across the industry? No way. Even then, there can be cases where what you receive as electric for your house could affect the results. Maddening, isn’t it?

So, if you want to see what they can do for you (or to you) it is best to borrow them first from whoever or wherever you live. If they make the effort to loan you some, then please reward them with the purchase if you like them. These are the people who care about you and the results. Mail order houses are nothing more than McDonalds in that regard. Give me your card, here’s your stuff, and you have so many days to return it. After that, we don’t care.

Happy Listening as always.


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