A Tale Of Two. . . Anacondas Helix

Tomorrow at lunchtime, if The Muses, The Force, and several other imponderables are still with us, Babybear and I will get together once again to discuss, audition and compare, well you guessed it, power chords of course. More specifically, we will examine the relative merits and impact of the Shunyata Anaconda Helix VX versus its close twin -- the Shunyata Anaconda helix Alpha -- on Babybear's own Teac Esoteric X-01 Limited. I do confess that I am going into the session with a personal hypothesis, or perhaps simply a hunch. In other words, I suspect that at least on the X-01, the noise absorbing pellets in the VX may be unnecessarily dampening some transient response, micro dynamics such as the amplitude of string vibrato, and some low level detail such as is found in the noise of Rosen on bowed strings.
My suspicions were recently heightened by Marc Mickelson's fine article on Python Helix, posted at:
In his review Mr. Mickelson suggest that "in [his] system VX is right only for digital transports, like the Esoteric P-03, and the Alpha for [single box] CD players."
In our tesst the VX chord will be equipped with a 15 Amp IEC connector, while the Alpha has a 20 Amp IEC connector, which will be converted to 15 Amp format through a Voodoo converter. Stay tuned!
My apologies to all. The session came and went. . . and it was extremely interesting. Fifteen minutes ago I just finished writing the review article. Then my word processing system glitched and nuked most of it. Now I am just furious. It will take me a couple of hours to rewrite it. I will. . . just not tonight though! Sorry for the delay!!!!
Again, somewhat off point, but related. The X0-1 LE has 5 internal fuses, four on the left back, one on the left front. Two friends have each experimented with removing the fuses and then cleaning the fuses and the fuse holders with the three stage Audiotop system. This resulted in an audible improvement. Next they replaced the original fuses with those marketed by Isoclean, which had also been treated with Audiotop. Much larger improvement in this case and well worth doing.
Let us give this another try! The session came and went and it was. . . interesting. . . and I should say well beyond our expectations.
Now let's get started: the test system was fully differentially balanced and
consisted of X-01 Limited, ARC Ref 3, Theta Citadel mono blocks, Vandersteen 5As. ICs were Purist Anniversary XLR from CDp to line stage, AQ Sky XLR from line stage to amps. Speaker wires were AQ Everests. Exact Power EP15A conditioners were applied to all components. Power to the X-01 was further regulated by an Exact Power BP15A fed with an original (non Helix) Anaconda Alpha from the EP15A. PCs were Ridge Street Poema Signature (hope I got this one correctly) on the Ref 3, and Elrod Statements on Citadels monos.

Both Anaconda chords used in the test -- Helix VX and Helix Alpha -- are fully broken in with many hundreds of hrs on the VX and perhaps 150 hrs of operation on the Alpha.
The Anaconda Helix VX had been left plugged into the PB15 balanced power unit and connected to the X-01 for at least 1 week to ensure the noise absorbing pellets were fully stabilized.
During the entire test both chords were left plugged into the BP15 to minimize disturbance to VX noise absorbing compound. Only IECs were connected/disconnected to the X-01 at each swap.

We concentrated on several tracks of chamber music from my own collection and some amazing Jazz tracks from Arnie's. I'll leave it to Arnie to post his album details, in the meantime, here are mine:
A. Ludwig Van Beethoven -- Sonata No. 3 in A Major for Piano & Cello Op. 69: 1. Allegro Ma Non Tanto, 2. Scherzo: Molto Vivace, 3. Adagio Cantabile - Allegro Vivace
, Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Emmanuel Ax (piano), CBS Masterworks M2K 42446
, 1987. The CD was selected to gage low level detail such as vibrato in soft passages and rasping of the rosened bow on strings, as well as overall harmonic richness, top to bottom extension, clarity of piano transients and staging.
B. J. S. Bach – Suite No. 5 in C Minor for Solo Cello, BWV 1011: 1. Prelude, 2. Allemande, 3. Courante, 4. Sarabande, 5. Gavotte I & Gavotte II, 6. Gigue
, Edgar Meyer (double bass), Sony Classical SK 89183
, 2000. Similar criteria as in the previous selection, but also a test for good bass definition. C. J. S. Bach -- Sonata For Violin No. 3 in C Major BWV 1005: 1. Adagio - Fuga, 2. Largo, 3. Allegro Assai
, Lara St. John (violin). The only HDCD in the test lot. A CD with an enormous sound stage and impressive imaging. Truly powerful playing, but with the sonic tendency of sounding harsh in some passages in the mid-high treble.

D. J.S. Bach -- Sonata in E-Flat Major for Flute, BWV1031: 1. Allegro moderato, 2. Siciliana, 3. Allegro, Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute), Trevor Pinnock (cembalo), CBS 1985. This is a remaster of an analog recording made in the early 60s. Depending on the setup, it can sound hazy and lifeless, thin an reedy, hot and almost trumpety and barking, or absolutely glorious. In some sense, this is the recording I often use to separate ‘the men from the boys’.

To start things up, we listened for about 10 minutes to Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax playing Beethoven with the Helix VX connected to the X-01 Limited. The system had been warming up for several hours. The sound was the excellent one we were accustomed to: spatially very well defined, very musical, perfectly controlled, dynamic but not to excess. Harmonic richness was good and satiny, if just slightly polite, almost as if someone were applying an extremely fine Emery paper to the music, to smooth out the little harmonic ‘bristles’. Vibrato in the cello—a form of low level amplitude modulation—was present in moderately to dynamic passages, but absent in soft and very soft passages, giving the impression of a somewhat non-committal, or matter-of-fact performance. The piano was clean, precise and pleasing, if not exactly emotional.

Out came the VX, and in came the Alpha. . . and things changed. . . oh yes did they ever! Something subtle happened to the soundscape: the virtual hall came into audible ‘view’, with a sense of space that was earlier only hinted at. The virtual soundprint of the instrument became – for lack of better words – broader and more concrete, with an increased physical presence, frequency extension, and a sense of being anchored there, in front of us. No more sense of instruments having undergone a ‘polishing’ process. It was as if the cello and the piano had grown ‘bristle’, tiny little tendrils of sonic detail that added texture and more reality to the music. The piano acquired a slight shimmer at the top, body in the middle and authority in the lower strings, while its transients became even clearer and more defined. And most of all, the vibrato of dynamic passages was now greatly emotionally charged, while the very subtle vibrato in pianissimos was now clearly evident even on the softest cello notes, giving some passages a wistful quality. We could now hear even the slight hesitations in the attack when the bow was hitting the string at the beginning of musical phrases. The result of all of these changes was an overall more emotionally involving, more gripping, more virtually real musical experience, which however was not at all becoming the least fatiguing.

A comparison of Edgar meyer on bass playing Bach on VX and Alpha confirmed these findings. Controlled and polite on VX with the slightest apparent loss of detail. Grander, broader, deeper, grittier, more extended, more dramatic, more passionate with the Alpha. I could now finally hear Meyer making the instrument growl with passion in the lowest register, whilst maintaining and exceeding the tonal integrity of the VX. It is interesting to note that in none of the selections we played during the afternoon we observed any tonal ‘hot spots’ or surprising glare appearing through the Helix Alpha.

And in fact it was this very glare that we were seeking, patiently through the Alpha, on Lara st. John passionate and almost dionysiac performance of Bach Sonata no. 3 for solo violin. And yes after hunting and poking about in the recording, we finally found It, right where St. John is stressing the strings almost to breaking point. I was disappointed though, in a sense, I was secretly hoping to find more of this elusive glare. Interesting what happened with this recording on the VX. The performance change from Dyonisiac to Apollinean, predictably St. John’s Stradivari lost some of its concrete image. . . . but the shrill and harsh notes emerged in spades and large numbers, like glaring toad-stool mushrooms after a summer rain. It was almost as if the washing down of Alpha’s subtle tonal richness performed by the VX, was letting these relatively glaring defects surface in the recording.

I do not think I can even start to render justice to the amazing Jazz tracks we played from Arnie’s fine collection. Their superlative quality served to amplify the audible differences between VX and Alpha. I recall a radiantly mellow fluegelhorn on the Alpha which became autumnal and almost wintry on the VX. I remember a Steinway grand piano on the Alpha that had all the majestic power, authority, speed and extension typical of its brand, while having acquired a harmonic subtlety more often heard on a boesendorfer. And I remember a tenor SAX awash in a glorious sound stage, talking to us in in power and beauty, while Arnie and I were hopelessly hunting down those evanescent strident notes. I just know Arnie will have lots more to say about these selections.

And in the end we let Jean-Pierre Rampal perform for us on the Alpha. His flute travelled with all its magic to us from over 4 decades ago, from a distant time when I was just a lad of 10. . . and we were in awe with what he was telling us!

And now some cautionary notes. Not only I must invoke the usual YMMV, but I must also declare YMSV -- or in other words – Your Mileage SHALL Vary! It is fair to remember that the VX variant was designed by Shunyata to offset digital hash traveling on noisy power lines that may create havoc with sensitive digital equipment. In the test system we were using not one, but two stages of AC power conditioning on the X-01, with the Exact Power EP15A and BP15 connected serially. Furthermore, one of the side effects of the VX is to tame the excessive high frequencies produced by players with less than optimum jitter control. The X-01 Limited and other players in the same class do not appear to be suffering from jitter and therefore do not need the additional high frequency filtration afforded by some PCs. Ultimately, do yourselves a favor: do not give to much credence to my opinions. Try both the Anaconda Helix Alpha and the VX PCs on your own player and decide for yourself what is right for you and your system. And ensure the chords are well broken in before you pass final judgement. . . or your very own findings will be meaningless.

The jazz tracks that Guido is referring to above were:
1. Eric Marienthal - Got You Covered - track #5 - I've got the world on a string
2. Boney James - Pure - Track #2 - Better with time
3. Ramsey Lewis - With One Voice - Track #4 - Thoughts and Reflections (Ramsey is playing the Steinway piano that Guido refers to above)
4. Dave Brubeck - Young Lions and Old Tigers - track #11 - this features Ronnie Buttacavoli on flugelhorn that Guido refers to in his post.

Just to clarify a few couple minor points. The power cord on the ARC Ref 3 is the RSA Poiema !!! Signature and the balanced power unit is the Exactpower SP15a.

I agree with Guido's review above. Both cords are very, very good on the X-01 limited in my system, but it appeared that with the Alpha version, it was even better as Guido describes. Arnie

Thanks for the review.

Now I am confused. I was considering using the Python Helix cords on my emmlabs CDSD transport and DCC2 DAC. I don't have a local dealer, so I can't demo them first. I was going to get an alpha cord for the DCC2, and a VX for the CDSD transport. Now your observations make me wonder whether an alpha may also be better for the CDSD. Do you or others have any thoughts to help me ???
Thom_y, it is difficult to give you a definite opinion not having personally heard the EMM gear. However, Marc Mickelson in his article suggests that VX chords are appropriate for purely-transport devices. The CDSD is purely a transport. If you purchased two Python Helix chords-- one VX and one Alpha, you will be able to experiment with both on the transport, leaving initially the original stock power chord on DCC2. If you found the VX preferable on the CDSD, you have it made. . . just move the Alpha on the DCC2. If Alpha were more of your liking on CDSD as well, you may decide to sell the VX and source a second Alpha. In either case, you may want to give both chords a couple of hundred hrs of break-in before making a final decision.
To Guido:

Why do you not use the Anaconda Helix Alpha on the REF 3?
HI Soundoc,

The system we used for the power cord comparison is mine, so I will answer your question. I have compared the Helix Alpha on the Ref 3 in my system to the RidgeStreet Audio Poiema 3 Signature and I prefer the RSA power cord. Again, while the Shunyata Helix Alpha works very well on the Ref 3, I have found that in my system, the sound is a little more authoritative with a little more of the "you are there" sound with the RSA cord. And, this is the sound that I prefer. Arnie
Soundoc, I do use the Anaconda Helix Alpha on my Ref 3.
Guido and Arnie,

Drop me line if you guy's are up for some more PC listening. I would be intersted in hearing this Argento I have compared to the Anaconda's.


I have compared the Anaconda Helix Alpha with my Argento SMR power cord in my system for 3 days. The size of SMR is enormous and I can not use it on any other equipment on the rack, so I used the SMR on the Furutech power distributor. Hence the comparsion is based on the overall sound of my system.

To me, the Anaconda soundstage is slightly bigger with deeper bass, and the color of the sound is brighter than SMR, it is like looking out of the window on a sunny day. The SMR is also excellent cable with elegant sound and smooth music transition.

I think both cables are excellent performer, it is up to the listener's taste to decide the preference.
Much appreciated Vin_wei. Have you had both the Argento and the Anaconda in the same position on your system, that is on the power distributor?
Yes, I did the comparsion only on my power distributor. I also tried the Anaconda on different gears (X01 CD and Nagra Pre) but no head to head comparsion with SMR.