Do power cords make an audible difference?


I recently discovered the inexpensive Pangea AC-9 power cord. It was so inexpensive I decided, just for kicks, to buy one for my sacd player and my integrated amp. I was extremely doubtful I would hear any difference at all. I plugged them in, turned on the system and I was surprised. I immediately invited a non-audiophile over for a listen. She had only heard my system for maybe 30 minutes with the old cords and I asked her if she could hear a difference. After listening to only two tracks she said "it sounds more clear". This is exactly what I had thought. I also noticed the sound stage seemed bigger. Now, it's not A huge difference but it is noticeable to the casual observer, so it is significant, which is more than I hoped for.
esmith3671
Yes. No. Maybe.

There are a zillion threads about this, and each degrades rapidly into a lowbrow slugfest.

I've never said this before to someone on a thread, but here goes:

Search the archives.
In my case, no. I don't hear any difference at all but some people think my system is mid-fi at best so it is possible that my system isn't resolve enough to show the difference or my old ears aren't sharp enough to hear it. Well, it is probably both so I only use stocked power cords now and have sold and given away all my fancy cables to my friends.
Simple answer is it is system and person dependant. Get you dealer to let you do an in home demo. I have had a positive result. Others will say not. In the end please your ears as much as your budget will permit. As Danib1 states this subject brings all the (blank) out of the woodwork. Cables in general cables IC's PC's etc are really a "must try" item.
Auditory memory is not reliable. You really have to A-B to have any basis for comparison.
Yes I have noticed a difference, I found that with my xlo reference pc on my amp it made an audible difference the background noise was quiter, but on my cd player it didn't seem to make any difference at all. I then put a locally made Cawsey pc on my cd player and I did hear a difference. The sound seem to open up a bit more, it was a bit more airy. Sorry for my discriptions, not very good at discribing what I hear, hope this is of use, cheers
The ability of a system to resolve information is key for decerning cabling changes as they do or do not influence or alter the audio product when put in place of the orig power cords.

I feel it depends on which power cord as well. I’ve a Bedroom system which is undeniably mid fi or lower. Sony ES receiver, Oppo DVD, HD cable box, Phase Tech & Canton speakers, Velodyne sub, Panasonic 50 in. plasma. PS Audio Duet.

I put a Voodoo Black Dragon III on the feed for both the HD CABLE BOX & OPPO DVD player via a double IEC to NEMA plug.

The diff is easily noticeable when the Black Dragon is installed…. And when it is not. The audio becomes smoother, clearer, and the sound stage expands a bit, providing a more enveloping sound field in the multi ch array. Bass too is improved upon… albeit it becomes a bit more bloated and warmish sounding than precise and defined. In the confines of that room… with some adjusting of the x over on the receiver, it’s more than acceptable now, following those tweaks.

So yeah… they make a diff… but the value of the noticed change does correlate with the cord itself. If I use my Elrod, Voodoo Tesla II, or Shunyata Python VX or some other more upscale cord I own, the diff is still more noticeable…. As they are still more expensive than the Black Dragon cable too.

I’ve been there and done that add a power cord of great expense on a high end piece of gear, and at times the cabling on it simply can not be justified as to it’s cost vs. performance levels. At times I’ve had $2K worth of PC on a $6K amp…. Very nice. But that’s as far as this guy is going to go with pcs on amps. I’ve also got a $1K pc on my $2.5K DAC. A $1.5K pc feeding my $1.3K power filter.

Those wires are as far as I’m going.

Albeit performance was substantially increased as the price per wire moved upwards, I no longer will take that tact as a general rule of thumb. Expensive cables reside on expensive gear… ONLY… around here anymore… despite the noticed improvements. I can’t justify the costs anymore, personally. Those days are gone. Some others might be able to add cables of likewise value or cost onto a thing and reap greater benefits still by so doing. Hooray for them! I’ve had to make sense of it all and act accordingly and sanely as of late.
I think I am Pangea's number one fangrrl.
I have replaced all my cords with Pangea and am very happy.
The first one I tried back in December of 2009 was put on my amp and I could hear an immediate increse in clarity and improved low frequency response. The biggest bang for the dollar around. Other companies are trying to market lower priced cords.. but Pangea, dollar for dollar is the very best deal around. And for the folks crying about thier kilobuck power cords.. sell them while you can!
From searching the archives to find out how others have handled glare in their systems I found that members years ago heard audible improvements when they swapped stock power cords out of their CDPs for aftermarket ones. Some of these threads though were 4-7 years old.

For me when I had an Emotiva ERC-1 CDP and put in a My Audio Cables (MAC) HC Power Cord I heard a quieter background. It made me get off my chair and notice.

Again like Theo said above it is system and person dependent. Part of me believes it is component dependent as well. When I had a decent Sony receiver and put a thick Tributaries power cord on it I heard no difference.
Do trees falling in a forest make a sound?

Same answer to both questions...Yes, only if there's a person to hear it.
For my ears, in my room, with my system ... YES !!
I replaced the stock power cords of both my Rogue Audio Cronus amplifier and my Rotel RCD-1072 deck with Signal Cable upgraded power cords (less than $ 100 each), and have noticed an improvement.
PS Audio Statement Extreme on my CD player produced a blacker background ..... PS Audio power cords had no effect on other components ie amp, pre-amp and now integrated amp .......
I'm with Drdennis on this one.
I don't think that someone who heard your system for 30 minutes could tell the difference with new cords. Which kinda proves the point - People believe they hear things and arrive at certain conclusions.
Tuesday night I was wearing blue jeans and my system sounded very good to me. Wednesday night I was wearing slacks and it sounded just a little better. I do not conclude that slacks make my system sound better. Many people on these forums would (OK, slight exaggeration , but not by much).
Were they low-fi, hi-fi, audiophile, or reference level slacks?

Very important to the discussion.

Thanks in advance
09-22-10: Sebrof
I'm with Drdennis on this one.
I don't think that someone who heard your system for 30 minutes could tell the difference with new cords. Which kinda proves the point - People believe they hear things and arrive at certain conclusions.
It doesn't "kinda prove the point." You're pitting your long distance pre-formed opinion against a reported experience.
While I agree with what DrDennis says, I think that it applies to more subtle differences. You have to remember that when you power down your components and then power them back up, some components take some time to get back to their optimum internal temperatures.

When it's the case of subtle differences, I find it easier to allow the 'A' power cords to remain in place for about a week. Then I put the 'B' set in and do the same thing. Then I'll do it again until I find that I can tell which I ultimately prefer.

Other times it's pretty obvious after 12 hours as the components warm back up. For instance, my Silent Source Music Reference power cords versus my new CH Acoustic (formally CH Technologies) X15 power cords. With the Silent Source my system sounds quiet and very detailed with the soundstage at the speakers and back. When the CH Acoustic are introduced, the soundstage expands out and back with the soundstage itself set behind the speakers with a quieter background and more resulting detail.

Chuck
Sidssp, You're either pulling our leg about the "mid-fi" system or you know some folks with rarefied tastes in audio.
A third rail topic that's destined to result in someone getting zinged.

Move away from the tracks.
09-22-10: Johnnyb53
It doesn't "kinda prove the point." You're pitting your long distance pre-formed opinion against a reported experience."

My long distance pre-formed opinion is about as reliable as someone hitting play and saying "Whaddaya think?" I never said the PC did not make a diff, I did say that many people completely disregard everything we know about how people perceive the world around us, that's all.
You started at the right place with the right product, my man. If I would have known this from the get go, I would have saved a lot of money on interconnect and speaker swaps.
Sebrof: Tuesday night I was wearing blue jeans and my system sounded very good to me. Wednesday night I was wearing slacks and it sounded just a little better. I do not conclude that slacks make my system sound better.
For a specific example that supports Sebrof's comment, see the posts by Atmasphere and me in this thread, which illustrate how easy it can be to attribute a perceived sonic attribute to the wrong variable. For easy reference, following are the relevant paragraphs:
Atmasphere: Power cords: a 2V drop across a power cord can rob a tube amplifier of as much as 40% of its output power! Cripes! You're trying to say you can't hear that?? So this is very measurable and audible as well. On lesser transistor amps, a power cord will be less audible as the drop across the cable is reduced, but a class A transistor amp will easily bring out cable weaknesses.

Almarg: Ralph, could you provide a technical explanation of why that would be so? I don't doubt your statement, but I'm interested in understanding why that would occur.... Re your other points, all of which strike me as excellent, I think that it should be stated that none of those points NECESSARILY mean, to cite an example, that a $2,000 power cord will outperform a $200 power cord in any given system.

Atmasphere: Al, the reason a power cord can have this effect is simple. If there is a 2 volt drop in a power cord, the filaments of the tubes will run cooler and the B+ will be reduced. Since this is a voltage, the result is we get less voltage output out of the amp. Less voltage=less power. Depending on the amp this can be pretty profound. and I have seen it with my own eyes. I do agree though that that does not justify a $2000 power cord, but it **does** justify one that has decent connectors and conductors that will not heat up at all. That has to cost something, probably not $2000 though. One thing about audio is that if there is a phenomena, there is also snake oil for it.

Almarg: Thanks, Ralph. That would also seem to say that the value of the ac line voltage at each listener's location can be a very significant variable in the performance of a tube amp (assuming it does not have regulated filament and B+ supplies). Which in turn emphasizes how easy it can sometimes be for extraneous variables to lead to incorrect sonic assessments.

Atmasphere: No doubt! But it extends to anything that can draw significant power- and bigger transistor amps can! Imagine the peaks just... not... making it.

This taught us a lesson... when we set up an amplifier for test, we test the AC line voltage from the IEC connector. The meter on the variac (a bit of test instrumentation) cannot be trusted.
Regards,
-- Al
@Photon46, I was not pulling your leg. A friend of mine told me that if I could not hear the difference of a power cord he loaned me, my system could not be high end. Maybe he was right. I didn't hear any difference.
A friend of mine told me that if I could not hear the difference of a power cord he loaned me, my system could not be high end. Maybe he was right. I didn't hear any difference.
IMO it is a common fallacy to assume that system quality and musical resolution necessarily correlate with the ability to resolve differences in components, cables, or power.

Certainly that CAN be the case. However, consider some examples where it is not.

A speaker having impedance characteristics that fluctuate widely over the frequency range, drop to low values at some frequencies, and have difficult phase angles, will be much more revealing of amplifier and speaker cable differences than one that presents an easy load.

A source component or preamplifier with a high output impedance will be more revealing of differences in interconnect cables than one with a low output impedance.

An electronic component that has unbalanced interfaces will be more sensitive to differences in interconnect cable shield resistance if it has higher stray capacitance and ac leakage paths in its power transformer (which increase sensitivity to ground loop issues).

And, addressing specifically the subject matter of this thread, increased sensitivity of an amplifier to power cord differences can be the result of looser regulation in the amp's power supply. Or it can be the result of greater amounts of high frequency noise being produced by that power supply, which increases the need for effective shielding in the power cord, to prevent that noise from coupling to other parts of the system. Or it can be the result of poor shielding or greater sensitivity to that noise elsewhere in the system. Or it can be the result of poor rejection by the amp's power supply of noise or distortion on the incoming ac.

None of those kinds of factors mean that the system that is more resolving of cable or component or power differences will be more resolving of musical detail, or capable of higher quality music reproduction. They just mean that it may be more difficult to attain optimal results with that system.

Regards,
-- Al
Just because someone else can't hear it on their kit and/or we can't find the scientific explanation to satisfy our intellect, does not mean a thing can't exist.

Power cords have made a worth while improvement in my rig. A twenty or so amp dedicated line is a worth while improvement as well.
I added a $1,500 retail DAC in my system with another $600 retail worth of cables (but using stock PC) and saw very little improvement. It was more resolving in one way but wasn't great to listen to. As a matter of fact I walked away from it for about a week and didn't listen at all. Thought I lost my interest. But then I added a good PC and made my $2,000 purchase worth every penny.. and then some.

But as with everything audio, it is all based on your perception of good sound and everything is subjective. No test tool, no meter, and no one person with a "good ear" could ever convince me of what is supposed to sound good. When I find it, I keep it. Maybe I'll try other things but at least I'll know what will always work for me.
My take( having spent way to much time doing comparsions )is yes they do make a difference and sound different. As many have pointed out it is system and taste dependent. Notice I did not say better sounding. On my integrated I think the stock power cord sounds more open and smoother then my $200 very nice power cord. It makes the system sound more aggressive and the stage has more depth and images are tighter but it is a smaller stage
It makes me wonder about three things.
1) One would think most gear voiced with the stock power cord??
2) In an amp or CD player (or whatever) we have very small wires going to the amps outlet and then we put a garden hose on it for 4 feet that goes into a power condtioner to a smaller garden hose that leads to the wall outlet with 14 or 12GA wire. This make no sense to me.
3) If one has an amp that has a captive cord and one likes the amp is it a good idea to get an EIC installed on the amp to take other power cords??? As mentioned above wasn't the amp voiced with the stock power cord???
keith
Yes, power cords make a huge difference. Without them you won't have any sound at all.
Geph0007, You have to always remember that audio gear is built to a price point. The fact that a component was voiced with a given power cord, tube, output connector, op amp, wiring, or whatever only seems relevant from the standpoint of a designer doing the best they can with the available budget. Plus, if a designer knows that their product is affected by power cord choices, I doubt they'd want to gamble on inflating the price point of the product knowing the vast majority of compulsive audiophiles are just going to start experimenting with alternatives. Not to say that more expensive parts always improve performance though. Al spells it out very well in his earlier post.
I'll add my two cents to this story. I was very skeptical over the effect a power cord could have on my equipment (Ayre) but I ordered three aftermarket cords just to see. I put all in at once. The system sounded worse (one dimensional). I was astounded that it could have any effect on the sound, but it was clearly worse. I repeated the experiment the next day with my wife and we both thought we heard a difference and it was worse. So I packed up the power cords and sent them back. Then I faced the dilemma- do I go on an endless quest to see which if any of the many power cords on the market would make my stereo (pre, amp and disc player) sound better or do I just leave well enough alone and go back to listening to music. I chose the latter and am happier for it.
Not sure about that as a rule. 10 years ago $5-$600 integrateds did not have sockets for aftermarket cords Now they all do. We are talking about the same pricthe ability to accept aftermarket cords.e points but now they suddenly have What does that say??
Hi there,Iam finding the plug on the end of the powercord makes a huge difference to the sounds aswell.Silver,copper,gold plus a few others.
I was very skeptical over the effect a power cord could have on my equipment (Ayre) but I ordered three aftermarket cords just to see. I put all in at once. The system sounded worse (one dimensional). I was astounded that it could have any effect on the sound, but it was clearly worse. I repeated the experiment the next day with my wife and we both thought we heard a difference and it was worse. So I packed up the power cords and sent them back.
09-24-10: Mitchell
New out of the box? Not precooked? If that is the case I am not surprised they sounded awful.... You have to burn in the PCs before you seriously listen to them.
In my case, no. I don't hear any difference at all....
09-22-10: Sidssp

Sidssp,

Just curious, did you try an aftermarket PC on the
Sony SCD-XA9000ES? Shielded PC? Make and Model?
Jea48- Could be. But the second time I listened I had left the system on for a full day. Anyway, not worth it for me.
for my ears its more important than the interconnect
Let's see your electrical current travels X number of hundreds of miles from the generating plant and you are asking if a thicker cord will make a difference the last 4 to 6 feet????No it doesn't.
See? Yes, no, and maybe!

My advice is to try a cable and find out for yourself...you'll never learn the answer via debate.

Let's see your electrical current travels X number of hundreds of miles from the generating plant and you are asking if a thicker cord will make a difference the last 4 to 6 feet????No it doesn't.
09-24-10: Vernneal

No actually it is an extension of the primary winding leads of the power transformer.

Depending on the make-up of the power cord it can do more than just deliver AC power to equipment. It can also filter EMI/RFI from not only entering a piece of equipment but also from exiting and getting back on the mains and contaminating other equipment. Example EMI/RFI hash from a CDP going back out on the PC on the mains only to re-enter a preamp or amp. Switching power supplies are notorious for putting hash back out on the mains.

Another thing a power cord can do is prevent EMI/RFI from transferring to ICs near the power cord.

And lets not forget the electrical connectors used, the plug and the IEC connector. They alone can make a difference on the delivery of the power.

And one other thing the utility transformer that feeds your home and maybe four other homes is a step down isolation transformer Two separate windings....

Most of the EMI/RFI, and harmonics that affect our audio equipment is created right there in our homes,.... though the power company gets blamed for it. One of the worst devices is that computer you are using....
Elizabeth,

Did you see this?
http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/cables/messages/14/149737.html
.
Bigbucks

"..tree in the forrest...." Ridiculous.

What if there was a person there but he/she was deaf?

Absolutely there would be a noise. It doesn't matter if the noise or sound is noticed or not.... there's going to be a sound when trees fall in a forest.

Ancillary recognition and/or documentation are not required for some events to produce audible occurrences’.

Go ask the displaced squirrels whose former high rise is now little more than a duplex.
09-25-10: Blindjim
Bigbucks

"..tree in the forrest...." Ridiculous.

What if there was a person there but he/she was deaf?

Absolutely there would be a noise. It doesn't matter if the noise or sound is noticed or not.... there's going to be a sound when trees fall in a forest.
--------------------------

Sound is not the same as a pressure wave. Sound is a perception of the pressure wave. Without perception, there is no sound. If there are no living things in a forest, then a falling tree makes no sound. It may be old, but...

The magazine Scientific American corroborated the technical aspect of this question, while leaving out the philosophic side, a year later on Apr 5, 1884, on page 218 of their magazine when they asked the question slightly reworded, "If a tree were to fall on an uninhabited island, would there be any sound?" And gave a more technical answer, "Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound."
Some background on this age-old philosophical question can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_a_tree_falls_in_a_forest
Go ask the displaced squirrels whose former high rise is now little more than a duplex.
Before Jim provided this characteristically witty comment, I was thinking of responding that there are usually a few squirrels around in the woods, so chances are the sounds of the falling tree will be heard :-)

Best regards,
-- Al
So you are saying because we do not/may not exist on another planet that there can be no other life out there because we aren't there to witness it. Nice.

I still think the question was originally asked by a drunken, ignorant, blithering idiot in a bar at 9am.

Sound is a definition we give to "vibrations" that stimulate our aural pathways. So the debate that really is a mind-numbing joke is really a joke on those who ask the question.

And what's worse is you are now are no longer debating the tree making the noise. You are debating the very definition of noise. Awesome.
The question of whether a tree falling in the forest makes any sound is really a way of asking: Are the characteristics of sound features of the WORLD or features of human MINDS. Philosophers have asked similar questions about colors, word meanings, morality, and a host of other subjects. It one way or another, these kinds of questions form the basis of philosophical debates between Realism and Idealism, Objectivism and Subjectivism, and Internalism and Externalism, among others. In the most rudimentary possible form…

…Realism vs. Idealism…

Realism = X is a characteristic of the WORLD
Idealism = X is a characteristic of the MIND

…Objectivism vs. Subjectivism…

Objectivism = X’s characteristics are INDEPENDENT OF THE MIND
Subjectivism = X’s characteristics are DEPENDENT UPON THE MIND

…Externalism vs. Internalism…

Externalism = X’s characteristics are EXTERNAL TO THE MIND
Internalism = X’s characteristics are INTERNAL TO THE MIND

All of these philosophical views are about the nature of REALITY – what a philosopher would call metaphysics. What does all this have to do with power cords? Not much, actually, but it’s a slow day here at the Cunningham household. I do have a point though, which is…

The controversy about power cords isn’t really a metaphysical question, the way that the controversy about trees falling in forests is a metaphysical question. The controversy about power cords, as typically debated by audiophiles, is an epistemic question. That is, it’s a question about what we know, how we know it, and how we resolve disputes when people have conflicting beliefs. In my view, the controversy about power cords can be understood in terms of different attitudes toward Verificationism. A Verificationist believes that…

A statement about audio is valid ONLY IF it can be verified, and it can be verified ONLY IF there is some finite, repeatable, public procedure for determining whether it is true or false.

It seems to me that Verificationists tend to be skeptical about the putative characteristics of power cords (among other things), while non-Verificationists tend to accept what their ears tell them without worrying too much about what other people hear.

None of this is to say that there are not genuine questions about the physical characteristics of power cords and their audible effects on components and systems. There certainly are such questions, and many of them have yet to be answered, and some probably haven’t even been formulated yet. But these are not metaphysical questions, like trees falling in forests. They are scientific questions, like electrons spinning around nucleons. But audiophile discussions about power cords, and cables more generally, often ignore those kinds of questions, which is why Tvad advised the OP to “move away from the tracks.” There are, of course, exceptions to this generalization. Al’s post on 9/23 is a notable one.

As for my own anecdotal, unverified, unscientific view on power cords, I have heard differences among them, but nothing miraculous. I own some quite expensive power cords, but I sometimes find myself wondering why.
Byroncunningham- I so enjoyed your post that I've dusted off my ragged old copy of Swineburne's "The Justification of Induction"!

I'll unstick this wicket in no time :)
Danlib - The Justification of Induction...yikes! You are a braver man than I.
You heard a difference because they DO make an audible difference. Just because it's not easily explainable and because the logic of it seems so inconceivable does not mean it is not true. In 99.9% of the time a decent after-market power cable such as the Pangea, Signal Cable, VH Audio (just to name a few modestly priced brands, not to mention the pricier ones) will consistently improve the sound of your component and hence your system in positive, unambiguous ways.
Your experience of improved clarity is a very common one...other benefits often include better dynamics, improved bass extension, improved soundstage, "blacker" silences, and more stable imaging....None of this is voodoo, it's simply true. The differences are more readily apparent as your system's resolving power becomes more developed but even a very modest one will note worthwhile improvements.
I am not a dealer of any audio products of any kind. I did NOT want to believe what I am saying was true because quite frankly, I didn't want to have to start purchasing another product that I never thought had to be replaced! But,I did something that apparently too many readers of these forums simply refuse to do: I tried one and experienced it for myself and at that point, there was obviously no possible turning back.
Doubters: You'll have many arguments against why it can't be true, as we've all heard so often but if you try it in your system you'll believe. Last week I borrowed a new cable from a friend, put it on my dac and immediately heard an increase in richness, texture and 3D imaging and body.
Yes, it's scientifically prove-able: I'm 100% positive I can tell 10 out of 10 times (or more if necessary) which of the 2 cords are playing each time (all else remaining equal).
This is really no longer a debate. Try it and see, or, at the risk of sounding rude or disrespectful (which I never want to do on any forum), your opinions "Fall on deaf ears".
I was at an audio boutique a while ago auditioning an integrated amp and the owner was in high sales mode trying to get me to hear the "huge" difference swapping out the stock power cord with an Analysis Plus pc would make to the overall presentation.

I repeatedly picked the stock pc in the A/B listening test.

I think see said I was not "ready" yet or some such remark... most certainly not at the inflated prices you see them for at (north of one thousand dollars)!

I haven't perceived an audible improvement to my system sound by replacing stock pc's. Just another subjective element to this fabulous hobby.
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Albert Einstein.

Audible differences in power cords are apparently one of those things that can't be counted, yet they count. I guess that settles it.

I call this debate officially over! Thank you all for your participation, and thank you Mr. Einstein for clearing that up.

I'm going to listen to some music, I suggest you all do the same.