Why I care about cables (or listening to low priced Power Cords & Interconnects)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Calvin_and_Hobbes, Apr 22, 2022.

  1. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    I got a 'new-to-me' Lehmann Black Cube SE phono preamp which has sparked the need to get a power cord and another interconnect. The goal of my comparisons is to try out some of the usual suspects in low priced power cords and interconnects to see if I can get sound that is just as good while spending even less money than I did on the Shunyata Venom power cord ($145) and DH Labs White Lightning interconnect ($65) that I have been using and with which I've been really happy. I also had previously bought a $14 Tripp-Lite Heavy Duty power cord as a good generic non-audiophile power cord to use as a point of reference.

    My listening has once again reminded me that some power cords and interconnects can enhance (or perhaps not detract from) the sound of even good sounding equipment to an extent that far outweighs their cost. Also, cost doesn't necessarily correlate with better sound. Notably the Audience Forte F3 Powerchord ($160) loaned to me by a friend sounded absolutely terrible on my DAC.

    This is what I've been testing out:

    Power cords:
    Tripp-Lite Heavy Duty: $14
    WAudio 10AWG HiFi Power Cord: $40
    Pangea Audio AC-14: $45

    Audioquest Evergreen: $50
    Audioquest Golden Gate: $75

    All cables were burned in for 72 hours.

    Power Cord Listening Impressions:
    I started with the power cords and kept the DH Labs White Lightning interconnect in place as a constant.
    WAudio: The WAudio power cord had a nicely warm tonal quality but the sound is a bit veiled and becomes increasingly muddled especially as the complexity of music increases.
    Pangea AC-14: The Pangea cord had a more balance sound than that from the WAudio cord, but my impression was that it produced sound that was less transparent than with the Shunyata cord in place. After swapping in the Shunyata cord, it wasn't even a question that the Jennifer Warnes' voice on Ballad of the Runaway Horse had a bloom, fullness, and presence that wasn't there with the Pangea AC-14 cord in place. The string bass was clearer and better defined yielding a sense of faster pace and more effortless flow.
    Tripp-Lite Heavy Duty: The Tripp-Lite cord sounds quite decent and provides about 75% of what the Shunyata Venom can do. The sound is nicely balanced with no overemphasis of any part of the frequency band. Music sounds nicely controlled. The main shortcomings of the Tripp-lite cord are that it is not as transparent as the more expensive Shunyata cord (but on par with the Pangea Audio cord) and that lacks the "presence" that the Shunyata cord can provide. If budget is tight, I wouldn't hesitate to start off with a Tripp-Lite power cord.

    Interconnect Listening Impressions:
    This is where I was once again reminded of the impact that cords can make. What difference can interconnects that all fall into the same general low price range make? As it turns out, quite a lot.

    I listened to the Shunyata Venom power cord in place for all interconnects.
    AQ Evergreen: The Evergreen had a forward sound that might work well with less expensive components with a focus on the main components of music. However, that focus on the main components of the music tended to obscure the rest of the music. The sound lacked transparency, resolution and synergy of the different parts of the music.
    AQ Golden Gate: The Golden Gate was better than the Evergreen in terms of providing a more balanced presentation of different elements of music. While listening via the Golden Gate, I kept thinking that I've heard better when the DH Labs White Lighting interconnect was originally in place.

    Overall, the Golden Gate sounded good in isolation, BUT swapping the similarly priced DH Labs White Lightning interconnect back in was truly a revelation. Swapping in the DH Labs White Lightning interconnect greatly increased the sonic "presence" of voices and instruments. My equipment had the same general personality with any of the interconnects in place, but the expansiveness of the sound increased to an astounding extent with the DH Labs interconnect in the system. I guess I would point to improved transparency, greater resolution, and better control of bass response for what I'm hearing. Also, music sounded "faster" which I attribute to better definition of note and tonal resolution.

    In any case, I can highly recommend doing some experimentation with power cords and interconnects to see what your existing equipment is capable of doing. Of course, I would concur that there is probably the right balance between spending on cables and spending on equipment, but these differences I'm hearing are due to spending about 10% of what my Pontus DAC cost. Will I ever spend more than $500 on cables? Maybe if I truly have money to spare, but for now, I'm happy knowing that I've made my equipment sound undeniably better with $200 in cables.
    head_unit, KeninDC, Gizmo90 and 15 others like this.
  2. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    I have gone into both types I find signal interconnects and plugs allow me to shape the sound a bit better and cheaper than power cables. By the way you've opened a can of....:-popcorn:
  3. Art K

    Art K I bite you!

    Corvallis, Oregon
    Nice write up. I’ve owned some (most) of those cables and totally agree with your conclusions. The White Lightning is a stunning value. Warm and well balanced without sounding rolled off.
    fish and Calvin_and_Hobbes like this.
  4. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    Yeah, when listening back-to-back with the Audioquest interconnects, the DH Labs White Lightning is unbelievably so much better sounding for the essentially the same price. My experience with other inexpensive interconnects was limited and I thought it might be useful to do some comparison with similarly priced products. Also a shout-out to John, owner of Audio Connection in Seattle who recommended the DH Labs cables and who seems to have a great ability to discern what does and does not sound good.

    The other thought that's come into my mind is whether it makes any sense to try more expensive cables from companies whose low priced cables don't measure up, i.e., Audioquest. If Audioquest cared about putting out a good product, I'd have to imagine that their far higher selling volumes would allow them to do so with far lower materials costs than a small outfit like DH Labs.
    Art K likes this.
  5. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    Just sharing my enthusiasm for what I'm hearing and how even some inexpensive cables can make a decent system sound so much better. What might seem ironic is that my objective was to see if cheaper cables could sound just as good. Because why would I want to spend more just to buy "snake oil"?

    Well, I now have my answer...if only for myself.

    I also get why others may not hear sonic differences between cables. I grew up playing an acoustic instrument and listened to others doing so as well so the tone quality of what I hear either sounds right or it doesn't. Also, I listen to a lot of music with vocals and acoustic instruments. I can see how differences in the sound quality of reproduction might not be as easily revealed when listening to some other genres of music.
    Art K, Uglyversal and shakesomeaction like this.
  6. ayrehead

    ayrehead It was like that when I found it...

    Mid South
    I've got my entire system outfitted with Supra LoRad 2.5 cords. They sound great for little $$$. Here comes the Audio Police :cop:.
  7. GyroSE

    GyroSE Forum Resident

    Great high quality and affordable power cables! I also use them in my sound system with great results. :righton:
    Tim 2 and ayrehead like this.
  8. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
  9. Old Zorki II

    Old Zorki II Storm Watcher

    near Tampa, FL
    Why not 80% of whatever it is?
  10. izeek

    izeek Drums, pulleeez!

    my system is biamped. would splitters after the ic make any difference in the possible benefits of say using the dh?
  11. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl.

    Columbus, Ohio
    "Also, cost doesn't necessarily correlate with better sound. Notably the Audience Forte F3 Powerchord ($160) loaned to me by a friend sounded absolutely terrible on my DAC.".

    Works for Meadowlark Digispeakers.

    Scroll up to #264 to see the infrasonic (5 Hz-20 Hz) Pelican.
    head_unit likes this.
  12. TheVU

    TheVU Forum Resident

    Wait til you try the Revelation!
  13. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    Thanks for sharing that. It's great to hear about high value audio products as there is just so much hype in the industry. I have a $60 Supra Cat 8 Ethernet cable which also provided a distinct improvement in transparency and resolution over a generic AmazonBasics Ethernet cable. I'll have to check out Supra's other products.

    [Update] I just checked out the Supra LoRad power cords. $91 for a 1 meter cord!!! I'm in! I'll report back with a comparison to the Shunyata Venom power cord.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2022
    timind, ayrehead, 33na3rd and 2 others like this.
  14. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    I couldn't tell you. What I've learned about audio is that there are many factors that can possibly make a difference (and some claimed factors that are just "snake oil").

    As an example, this was a crazy sounding (but no-cost) idea along the same general lines as your question that made an immediately noticeable improvement in how my speakers sounded: The choice of which set of binding posts you use on a speaker matters (for speakers with two sets of binding posts). Options for connecting speaker cable are:
    1. Both cables connected to the top binding posts (supposedly sounds better most of the time)
    2. Both cables connected to the bottom binding posts
    3. One cable connected to the top binding post & One cable connected to the bottom binding post
  15. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
    Try Wall Outlets next. Ive listened to about 6 or so of them and they all sound different.

    I switched to AQ Cinnamon Ethernet cables and yes, its unexplainable but certainly makes an audible difference for the better.

    Enjoy and keep listening :righton:
    izeek and Calvin_and_Hobbes like this.
  16. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    My understanding with the impact of cables and power on digital is the reduction of RFI/EMI. I don't try to overthink it though. If I hear a fairly clear difference especially after switching back-and-forth, a cable stays. If not, it goes.
  17. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    Always something else that can be done in audio! Which wall outlet(s) provided better sound in your experience?
  18. guestuser

    guestuser Forum Resident

    Along the lines of good value, I recently got a new preamp from Benchmark and decided to get their Studio&Stage XLR interconnects as well. They sound great, cost less than $100 per pair, construction is solid, Neutrik connectors have very nice locking mechanisms, and the Canare StarQuad cable is very flexible too.
    timind likes this.
  19. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
    Hubbell is warmer and fatter than most and its good for $50 or less and easy to buy.
    PS Audio outlets are similar to the Hubble and both are better overall than standard outlets.
    The biggest bang for the buck is the $99 TESLA outlet from Synergistic Research which im using. It just sounds more focused and correct than the untreated Hospital Grade consumer outlets. I dont know why but they do.
    Im using the Audioquest NRG outlet which I find is better across the board than the above mentioned. Warm, full bodied, focused and has a nice soundstage.
    Im also using an Audience HT outlet which is less warm, bit more detail and air than the AQ and I think its better for digital gear.
    Ive also heard but don't own the Synergistic Research Orange and Blue outlets which are just unique sounding.

    I hate the word "better" although I use it. It's a matter of synergy and taste. They're all different thats for sure.

    HIRES_FAN Forum Resident

    Oh my god man....A power cable needs some competent shielding so it doesn't screw with everything else in your setup. That is all you need from a damn power cable. But, as far as these "subtle" or "not so subtle" sonic differences go, experiment with a few power line filters (made by the likes of Schurter, Schaeffner, whatever, etc). It would be a whole lot cheaper than buying a 4000 dollar dumb piece of snake wire/connectors. I can guarantee you that the great improvements you all heard with a 4000 dollar snake could get trounced by a 20 dollar filter.

    I get in a "trance-like" state at times and get "visions" of the Shunyata, Synergistic, etc clowns laughing all the way to Chinatown as they cash their checks from technologically challenged unsuspecting old men who're busy draining their retirement funds.
  21. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
    I just want to ask where $4000 came from and who spends that on a cable? I know crazy Audiophiles and I dont know ANYONE that has a $4000 power cord or interconnect. Not a one. Not even close. And I dont think anyone here ever talks or recommends $4000 cords or cables. Thats just silly talk.

    Ive tried those power filters and conditions and ive never heard a single one that made any improvement, in fact they all degrade the sound to me.

    Calvin, the TESLA outlet from Synergistic Research starts off as a $10 consumer outlet. He treats them with high voltage (thus the name TESLA) and applies some treatment. Its silly but for $99 it really sounds great! And if asked if the overall improvement to my system was worth the $99 the answer is very much YES!
    The AQ and Audience outlets were $200 each or so. Considering I have a $30K+ investment in my gear and even more in music the cost for better sounding power cords, outlets and interconnects is small and appropriate.

    Still and for unknown reasons, they all sound Different. And that is all that matters, at any price. If you like the difference and feel the cost is justified then that is all that matters.
    macster, mreeter, MGW and 2 others like this.
  22. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    Thank for the feedback. It's good to get feedback from others on some of this stuff especially the stuff that is based on claims that seem esoteric. I've heard the same SR cables both work and not work when paired with different equipment so I'm open to potential improvements that SR equipment can provide.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2022
    fish likes this.
  23. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Music Lover Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA
    Note the following that I stated in my original post:

    1. All of the products that I mentioned cost no more the 3.6% of the $4000 dollar figure that you mention.
    2. My stated goal was to find out if I could spend less money & get something that sounded as good as a $145 Shunyata Venom power cord and a $70 DH Labs White Lightning interconnect that I currently have on my DAC.
    3. Before buying any "audiophile" power cords including the Shunyata Venom that I've had for a year, I bought a $15 Tripp-Lite Heavy Duty power cord as a reference point to know how a well-built but otherwise generic power cord sounds.

    Note also that in the grand scheme of things, there are many people that can drop $4000 in the blink of an eye. A $5/day Starbucks habit to get a cup of not-great coffee would end up costing someone $1,825 over 365 days in a year & plenty of people do that.

    For myself, I prefer that spend that kind of energy on listening to music. But hey, to each their own!
    head_unit, hifisoup, MGW and 2 others like this.
  24. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Time to get some treatment.
    macster likes this.

    HIRES_FAN Forum Resident

    The filters i was referring to don't typically come prepackaged in a box for you ready to plug in. So, maybe you tried some other crap? Did you even open it up to see what it had?

    Anyways, so, i guess this thread's consensus is that you will all keep at it with the power cable upgrades...Shunyata's understanding of "quantum mechanics" (bwaaahahahaha) may keep providing miracles, i suppose. I saw an interview not too long ago with Shunyata's doodle clown trying to talk out of his hiny about stuff that most physicists struggle to understand (trying to look happening around the poor gullible old men, facepalm).

Share This Page