Do IC and Power Cables Really Make a Difference?

If you had asked me a few months ago I would have said either "very little" or "not really" not from experience but from a generally cynical attitude regarding all the hype that often infects this hobby. However, I have come to a new opinion based upon my recent experiences with cable substitution that imparted such positive benefits that I had to share.

My system includes:

VPI Scout/JMW9/Dyna 20XH
Rotel RCD-971
Audio Research SP16
Audio Research 100.2
Harbeth Compact 7ES

I've had the system wired for several years as follows:

VPI Cable from the Scout to the SP16
Wireworld Eclipse from the SP16 to the 100.2
Wireworld Equinox III from the Rotel to the SP16
Naim NACA5 from the 100.2 to the Harbeth's
Stock Powercords for the SP16 and 100.2

And achieved very good results. However, after reading numerous posts extolling the virtues of Audience cables I decided to outfit the whole rig (except the VPI cable which I had custom made) with Audience wire. I began by replacing the IC's between amp and pre (Au24) and CD and pre (Conductor) and the speaker wires (Au24). I fired everything up and heard VERY slight differences in the sound--some of which I figured were in my head! As I listened further I began to feel that the new cables were slightly more musical, coherent and tonally correct than the previous set up. This was not a huge difference, rather very subtle. I doubt the casual listener would have heard it and I'm not even sure that I would have been able to tell the difference with a blind test. I attribute the small degree of change to the fact that the Wireworld cables were very good to begin with and that the Naim wire was no real slouch despite their inexpensive price tag. After about a month I took the next step of replacing the stock power cords with Audience Powercords. Holy Crap!! The system was markedly improved. The music emerges from a dead silent (blackness). Dynamics and speed are enhanced. Pace and timing are improved. Transparancy increased. This was not a minor change but rather a mindblowing one--akin to upgrading from an inexpensive integrated amp to full blown high end separates. And remember--I came into this very skeptical and fearful that I would be wasting my money. Bottom line: the Audience products and very good indeed and seem designed to work synergistically (in other words I don't think I enjoyed the full benefits of the IC's until I also put the powercords into the system). The powercords in particular were transformative. I don't know why or how they improve the sound but if you are on the fence about making the investment in aftermarket cords, are skeptical of their value or are looking for another excuse to upgrade your system (like you really need another excuse!) I cannot recommend these cables more highly. My system, which sounded good before, has reached another level altogether. I am particularly pleased with the additional openness, naturalness and dynamics that the cables provide. I just wish I had seen the light earlier.
Someone here cut opened an Audience power cord...
Someone here cut opened an Audience power cord...

You first. :)
Sound too much like a plug for Audience? Not really the point--which is that I was surprised at the benefits aftermarket cords provide. Perhaps I misinterpreted--or the misspelling threw me.
Dodgealum, I agree with you about the benefits of upgraded wire, and I'm glad to see another converted skeptic.

I believe Psychicanimal may be inferring that Audience power cords are repackaging of considerably less expensive wire, but that's just conjecture on my part. There have been many challenges by some Audiogon members to cut open high end wire, yet none ever seem willing to do it themselves.

Anyway, welcome to the enlightenment!
I think that the manufacturers are too smart ,way smarter than the average Joe.When they sell their cords at these prices who in his right mind will pay that premium only to buy and then cut open.Even if somebody actually do it,nobody will accept his "findings".So it's pointless ,as others have said it noumerous times before ,you are either a believer of premium PC or not.For the record I too got some aftermarket PC ,what the heck everybody else does mind as well.
Kindly regards
"I think that the manufacturers are too smart ,way smarter than the average Joe..."

Uh, would Electraglide Audio be included?
No to next to none.
I upgraded from Audioquest Viper interconnects and Bedrock speaker cables to Audioquest Anaconda interconnects and Volcano speaker cables and heard a substantial improvement through out the audio spectrum; deeper better defined bass and cleaner more detailed high end extension. As far as power cords go I heard a difference with upgrading the cord on my cd player (blacker background) and not much difference on my amp and pre-amp.

Thanks, Tvad. I wasn't aware of controversey over what was being used in some of the aftermarket cables. The issue in my mind was whether different materials and cable design/construction could have an impact (good or ill) on the sound of audio components. My skepticism was grounded in the idea that "wire is wire" and that if the appropriate thickness for the current load was being used then issues of materials, design, etc. would be irrelevant (sonically). I have to say that I am really surprised by what I am hearing. I just finished listening to string quartets by Mozart (Quartetto Italiano on Phillips), a record I have owned for many years and played often. I gained completely new insight into the music. In one passage where the strings are plucked I was stunned by the difference in sound. Instead of an amorphous, dull "plunk" which was barely audible through the haze I heard a clear and snappy "plink" that had realistic tone and decay. The leading and trailing edges of the sound were much more focused and the sound emerged from a three dimensional space with focus and realism. This is the kind of improvement I'm hearing across the spectrum. I can also play the piece louder without straining my ears since there is less grundge and grit. I'm really enjoying this--much more that I thought I would when I made the initial purchase. Anyway, again, my post wasn't necessarily intended to rave about the Audience products per se but rather to point out that in my experience replacement of the stock power cords really did improve things dramatically. I do feel, however, that there may be a cumulative and synergistic benefit to using the Audience products across the board--though I have no way of knowing for sure and am not about to experiment with other brands to find out.
I do feel, however, that there may be a cumulative and synergistic benefit to using the Audience products across the board--though I have no way of knowing for sure and am not about to experiment with other brands to find out.
The insidious nature of your cable discovery is that you WILL experiment further, despite your firm stance at present. Trust me, you will. Everyone I know who has discovered the benefits of upgraded wire has followed the same path. It's part of the adventure.

I will say that one day, when you get the itch, you should audition some Purist Audio Dominus power cords, and Venustas and/or Aqueous Anniversary interconnects. I have no connection with Purist Audio other than complete satisfaction as a customer. As good as the wire was that I used previously (I have used Audience, BTW, and really liked it), the Purist wire is in another league. IMO, of course...the usual audio hobby disclosure.

Have fun. let us know if you cut open that Audience PC. :)
yes they can make a difference.
They also cost way too much in proportion to the benefit they create.
I say spend the cash wasted on $2,000 cables on better electronics and use cheaper cords. (in the $100 to $300 range at most)
Tres dólares-noventa y nueve centavos el pie lineal...
The cords can make all the difference.As you go through different qualities of cords it's like upgrading your system with each move. I've upgraded my system several times while still keeping the same electronics. I just kept getting better(not necessarily more expensive) cables.
That being said the Audience cables and cords are pretty good.
I noticed a difference when I replaced my basic monster speaker cable with some VooDoo Refernece speaker cable.

The real difference came when I upgraded the crossover networks in my Klipsch speakers. I replaced every capacitor and resistor with high quality capacitors and resistors. A fraction of the cost of buying a new IC, PC or SC.

This has led me to the conclusion that equipment upgrades make more of a difference than cabling upgrades. Just my humble opinion.
I did both upgrade my crossovers in my speakers and upgrade my cabling. I found that both moves were equally important and both moves nade as nuch as an improvement with maybe the cabling making a bit more of a difference if anything. The speaker crossover move was an improvement in the sound of the speaker and was a good move but the cabling upgrades blew me away each step of the way.The speaker upgrade made much better speakers but the cable upgrades made much better the entire system. I think the cable moves made as much at least as the crossover mods a positive difference

I quickly looked over your system to include your listening environment. Your environment and system will allow for audible improvements to be heard more than my environment and system. If I can quote from your system thread -

"After 90 hours or so I realize that my Hales are in a completely different league than they used to be. They are now a much better cleaner bigger sounding speaker.The sound is so clean that I can play music loud without getting fatigued. At low levels the sound is bigger sounding than it was before at the same volume. The sound stage is wider from side to side and from front to back. What comes to mind is "like a tricycle to a Harley"
The vocals have opened up in such a way as voices take on a much larger space in my room being more realistic sounding. The bass is deeper and more pronounced without boominess. The highs are sweet and the midrange is smooth. This is only after 90 hours. It will improve more over time. I can only imagine but I will hear in time what the final results will be. I've heard horror stories of peoples faillures with crossover mods so I consider myself very lucky to have done it with good results.

With a little over 300 hours on my speakers with the crossover mods the sound is really beginning to open up. The sound is also becoming sweeter and sweeter.Ic do not regret modding the crossovers. I have a much better speaker in return."

What you describe is exactly what I heard from upgrading my speaker crossover networks. I would add that the cost, at least for me since I do all my own work, was a very small fraction of just a single pair of IC's. Also important to note is that upgrading the capacitors and resistors doesn't impact system synergy. Some people prefer certain cabling to use with certain equipment. Caps and resistors don't care, they just improve the sonics.

Price/Performance is clearly in favor of upgrading the electronics vs. the cabling. The cabling does improve things, I agree, but dollar-for-dollar the simple swapping of capacitors and resistors is a winner.

I'm now in the process of upgrading all the capacitors in my EAD CD-1000 mkIII and can't wait to hear the results.
As much as the speaker crossover mods wowed me so did the cable upgrades. The main difference is that I upgraded the cables in steps being impressed each time. If you were able to mod your speakers at a reasonable cost then that's a really good thing, better than cables, as the cables can be quite costly. Price to performance ratio you are definately right. Enen at the cost of having a tech do my ctossovers and even though I got relatively expensive parts it was still less than the price of one cable.