Introduction This series, written by contributing editor Howard Popeck is designed to, in jargon-free terms, explain, introduce, educate and otherwise assist anyone who is interested in learning more about how music in the home is produced. It’s a growing archive and can be accessed by clicking HERE.
Thank you. Neil McCauley / OLC editor
“Blown away” for a 3.27% investment:
A cursory look at some audio forums will show that a great number of contributors don’t buy the idea that power cables make a difference in a high end audio system. Some of them claim to be engineers and a proportion of them might be. Some write with what seems a decent grasp of basic physics. Some might be charlatans, many are sincere, some might be misguided while others might have a point.
My take on this is that many bona-fide engineers probably don’t feel that power conditioning of any kind makes much of a difference, despite the technical and empirical evidence to the contrary.
Those of us who have discovered that pretty much everything has an effect on our systems and their enjoyment and emotional impact just shake our heads and hope someday they too will see the light. I mean, it’s for those that haven’t thought about this to grasp the idea that:
- everything we hear and see in our systems starts at the wall socket as raw mains power and eventually gets modulated into music and that
- the quality of that mains power has a direct relationship with performance.
However, there are rays of hope that shine through the darkness once in a while. Here’s an email from my archives as a retailer (Stereonow) for a power cord (Cassiel) that has long ago completed its production run. I mention this just in case you doubted if my motives here were anything other than educational. It reads as follows:
Mr. P. I just wanted to tell you about an experience I had with the Cassiel power cord into my STAX Omega system
I always take manufacturers glowing praise for their products with a grain of salt. Having said this, the maker has no online presence which, as you explained, is because they want to be anonymous. So be it. I am pleased to say that as the exclusive retailer your text was pleasingly devoid of hype. The 28-day sale or return encouraged me.
If you believe all the hype out there you could spend a fortune on products that over-promise and under-deliver. In fact, I have. However as a retired electrical engineer I recognise the advantage of a high quality power cord. Candidly, I think to some extent that vendors of aftermarket power cords are pushing against a partly open door inasmuch as the free (stock) power cords seem to be less substantial then ever.
After waiting what seemed like forever for the energiser, the valve 007t to get up to operating temperature, I was ready to listen for subtle improvements in the sound with the new cable. I used FM BBC Radio 3 as the source from the variable output of my tuner – and then the fixed output using the STAX volume control.
I was immediately blown away! The improvement was anything but subtle!
The bass was deeper, cleaner, and tighter. More ‘heft’ – if you get my meaning. The sound across the frequency range was much more detailed. I couldn’t believe a £130 power cord made so much difference.
So yes, now I’m a believer. Thanks, and keep up the good work
So, all well and good. However there are considerations that go beyond this encouraging letter. First, let’s consider the situation from an ‘outsider’s perspective shall we? £2,700 for headphone and energiser? The buyer must be ‘nuts’ – right? Well, not quite. When I owned simply STAX these headphones, always on 28-day sale or return were my biggest sellers. The owners loved the sound they made. Simple as that.
Mr. RB purchased a Cassiel power cord for £130 and was “was immediately blown away! Not my words but his. His risk-free investment was 4.81% of the total cost of his headphone. In terms of his signal source (signal straight into the STAX 717 energiser) his investment was just 3.27%
Frankly even today, years later, I cannot envisage how such a step change in satisfaction could be achieved for such a tiny financial percentage of the whole.
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