Cable Influences: IC SpeakerCables Power Cord?

I recently upgraded my speaker cables from Audioquest Slate biwire to Acoustic Zen Hologram II biwire. (one of the audiogoner's favorites) in search of hugh increase in transpareny. ($200 cable to $1100 cable). The improvements are mainly in the following area: speed, tiny details and a more extended treble. I started hearing nuances in the background and instrument that I have not noticed before. Each individual instrument is more distinct and the treble has more snap. Remarkably, the overall presentation & tonal balance of the music did not change at all. I feel that this is a small step forward but probably not worth $600 (used). Does interconnects exert a bigger influence generally and power cables are even less significant? I know this is system dependent but I am asking this if this is generally true?
Ayre CX-7 CDP
Kimber Silver Streak IC
Cary SLP 308 Pre-amp
Nordost Red Dawn IC
Audio Research VS 110
B&W Signature 805s
Rule number 1 in audio: No component or cable downstream from the signal can make up for any problems that are in the signal.

Basically a general system signal path is the following:

Source + AC cord
IC from source to preamp
Preamplifier + AC cord
IC from preamp to amp
Amplifier + AC cord
Speaker cable

I use Component + AC cord because in reality, a component's sound has the sonic signature of it in addition to the cord you plug it in with.

Thus, if you have bad power, this will not be able to be fixed by any component down the signal path.

If your Source + AC cord has problems, you cannot correct them downstream.

Etc... etc...

In general the more transparent a system is, the more it will be affected by any one degradation in the signal path. I can make my system sound absolutely horrible changing out just one AC cord.

Some people claim that cables make little to no difference in audio. I respond to them, you have not heard your system entirely hooked up with excellent cables and AC cords. Then try changing out one of the cords or cables.

These rules being laid out, I would consider (if you have good power) to upgrade you power cables 1st. You probably will not believe the sonics one can obtain from great AC cords. Next upgrade IC. And lastly upgrade speaker cables. This is effectively starting upgrading upstream then working your way down.

Cables and cords are notoriously the most neglected components in many systems. I personally would rather have a $30k system that had great cables in it than a $200k system that used awful cabling.


Good perspective. If I want to start with a good power cord for my source, do you have any recommendations? Say, $150 range? Per your logic, I'm sure Glai would be interested too.

KF- I couldn't have said it better myself!

BTW nice to see a few posts from you in the last few days :^)
Good post KF. I would agree with that and also add that effective vibration control will let you hear things that you will not even with the most expensive cables. I am playing with the Ceraball isolation devices and the improvement is the type where you say "after hearing it this clear I could never go back to the old sound". The Ceraballs even work well under my speakers. Some people tried the Aurios under speakers but that sure seemed unstable to me. Give them a try, music direct has them for $100 30 day home trial. I also plan to try SRA and Neuance shelves to see how much of an improvement they provide.
After toying with over 100 cables in the past few years, I'm done with cabling.
Think of it this way: from source to preamp to amp to speakers
your signal gets amplify to a greater degree prior to amp. Therefore, any small flaw will show up 1000 times greater when it pass through the amp.
Based on the above, you then ask yourself if IC is more critical or speaker wires?
As far as power cord goes, clean power and larger bandwidth is always more desireable. Too much filtering might also trim off some signals and reduces speed.

The "bigger" difference is all depends on how well your component match with each other.

i.e. If you have a $50 apex dvd player as your source then a $5000 IC will not do the magic.
or If you have a $10000 cd player with $300 integrated amp, the $10000 cabling will not do much good either.

There is no definite answer of what will make a bigger difference.
S234chang is dead on right about component matching.

If your components do not match, no matter what cables you use, you are not going to get good performance from a poorly matched system.

Because I am in the industry, I do not make specific product recommendations in open public forums.

My best advice is try before you buy (AC cords or anything else for that matter). Do as much research as you can. Money does not always translate into sonics. However, this does not mean the best sonics can be obtained with a $50 AC cord. The cheapest reference level AC cord I have found runs around about $600 retail. And frankly, I think that it performs generally as good or better than anything I have tried at any price point.

$600 may sound like a lot for an AC cord, but some companies are trying to get upwards of $2k-3k retail for their cords. Tireguy knows what I am talking about.

There are AC cords under $600 retail that are good. I have not tried them all. There could be one out there that is reference level. I have looked hard, but have yet to find it.

Since my first cables upgrades I've known that good ICs will usually produce graeter improvement in a system than good SCs. More recently, I found that PCs are even more important and produce a greater improvement than ICs. No component will perform to its potential with dirty power. A reasonablely priced? PC that I like is the Audience powerChord; $379 for six feet, $321 for three feet. But, consider using a digital PC on any digital component.
NBS Omega 4 PC can be had for around 300 USD.
I would recommend you audition Chris VenHaus' PC's. Excellent cables and sound at a very reasonable price. HIs Flavor 4 cyro'ed's are stunning.
Thanks for the feedback. So like everything else in the system, I guess a budget of $150 is not going to cut it, huh. Man, "just when I thought I was out...they pull me right back in..."

Seriously, how about the Blue Circle BC 61/62, Kimber PK 10, Audience, or AC Master coupler? I've heard good things about them. Anyone?... Anyone?...

Stevenkc, it all depends on what you want. You should try before you buy or at least buy at such a good price point that you can sell without loosing too much $$$.

Truthfully, if I had not heard better AC cords in my system, I probably would still be using stock cords. I went for many (too MANY) years oblivious to the affect of power cords on sound.

The best advice I can give is never insert a component or cable or cable in your system you CANNOT afford. This especially goes for AC cords! Because once you hear it, you might not want to give it up... And if you are forced to give it up, your system sound will cause pains in your gut everytime you hear it.

One good rule of thumb is if you put good AC cords on all of your components, that sound will probably exceed one stellar cord on a single component. OFC mileage may vary.

In my own system I would rank improvements from cable upgrades in the following order

1) power cords
2) speaker cables
3) interconnects

A couple of power cords to add to your list of possibilities are

1) Zcable Gold Lightning - $200
2) Cryo treated Acme - $??, but less than $100

The Zcable has a trial policy and treated Acme's do not. I have heard neither of these suggestions, but am making an educated guess based on having heard the original Lightning and untreated Acme's. I really liked both of these, but they did not increase the resolution of my system in the way some more expensive power cords were able to do.

As for speaker cables at $600, you might get better results using a product called the Zero Autoformer that allows a user to get a better impedance match between amp and loudspeaker. I don't actually know what this means technically, but in practical terms they can potentially provide really signifigant performance gains. Zero Autoformer Website

I just noticed a previous Audiogon thread on this same subject and there is a poster there that owns a system very similar to my own and he essentially recommends the opposite to my ranking. One thing to note, he has a world class power conditioner and I use none. This could explain alot. Previous Audiogon Thread
Well, the first thing is that you need the best power supply you can get, so power cables would be very important. Then if you follow the signal path, the order of importance will follow it. That is the way I've attacked it.

I've used the Sonoran Plateau cables throughout my system to very good effect. They are not only great audio cables, but they have a design that eliminates the effects of vibrations on the cables, so that the sound is additionally improved. This improvement is alot like the sonic benefits you get when you put good Audiopoints under your equipment. With the Sonoran cables, you get both benefits at the same time. I found these to be a very worthwhile investment.