Help Me Explain Power Cables to my Guitar Friends

Guys, I need some help!

I have suggested to some of my guitar geek buddies that they could improve the performance of their tube guitar amps by replacing the power cords. Now, I know that many here already believe in the qualities of upgraded power cords. But I can't convince my guitar buddies; they won't even try it because they say, "You need to show me some scope measuresments before I believe this 'snake oil' stuff about power cords."

Does anybody know of some way you can "measure" power cords that would "demonstrate" that they can improve performance? Help me out here!
Best way I can think of would be to open up your component and hook a scope up to the DC buss immediatly downstream of it's internal power supply, and then compare noise level and nominal voltage on the buss while playing a constant frequency test disc (or album). A local electronics shop with a recording scope can do it without much hassle.
Power cord manufacturers don't provide this kind of proof because . . . . . .
Happy Listening!
Equipment does exist that can measure distortion, rf, emi but you can't find any test results because no manufacturer of after market high end cables will perform one, much less publish it, because the cables make no difference.
if all audiophiles had guitar buddies to protect us from that which is audiophile b.s., the world would be a better place. until someone makes a power cord with inlayed pearl stars, i'll just use what the labs and studios use...a stock cord.
Ask your buddies if they bought their guitars and strings based on scope measurements! Certainly, before I bought my drums, I had to have them measured with an accelerometer on a scope in an anechoic chamber!

If your friends refuse to simply give a comparitive listen, let 'em be skin off your nose.

Cheers Friend!

Ridge Street Audio Designs
I don't know if I can offer anything other than moral support. As you well know, many audiophiles have great difficulty with judging performance by "measurements". If we bought according to "measurements", nobody would buy tube amps. People would all have Pioneer receivers with distortion measurements of .00001. No offence intended to the owners of Pioneer's fine products. It is the lack of standardization in measurement methodology which is one of the reasons for this of course. As somebody once said: "Standards are a good thing, that's why we have so many of them".

I would make further efforts to encourage them to actually try it. Do you have a guitar that you can demonstrate with if they won't try it themselves? You can maybe needle them a bit to cajole them into trying. Ask them why they trust measurements more than their own ears. Ask them why they want to be told what is better rather than seeing and hearing for themselves. Ask them why they're so closed minded...suggest that as they get older, they're becoming more like their parents! Middle age is that time in life when one's broad mind and narrow waist change places. Most guitar geeks are a bit of a rebel. These type of sarcastic comments might arouse them to their natural non-comformist state and they might try something just to be defiant. Ask them why they use crappy tube amps when solid state amps "measure" so much better.

And of course, if it does work and they try it, you'd better make sure that you have a power cord that actually does sound better.
Changing power cords might actually hurt the performance of a guitar amp, Unlike hifi, guitar amps are all about coloring the signal, and they are prized for the ways in which they distort.

Many classic sounds are based on undersized power and output transformers, carbon composition resistors, underfiltered sagging power supplies and overdriven speakers and tubes. It's a whole different country.

Guitar playing is my other hobby, and I use a completely different set of criteria for judging guitar amps. As a player it's as much about feel as about sound. "Improving" the amp with a power cord may destroy the qualities cherished by the player.
Interesting thread.
Ghostrider is correct that the desired sound out of guitar amps is antithetical at times to what we try to achieve in audiophile land.

I would generally suggest just trying a 14ga Volex (6$) in place of whatever 16ga or 18ga stock thing they are using.
If they are using an amp that is a solid state or digital modeler design-they should notice a lowered noise floor which allows their tone/sound to be heard better. They will be convinced as it is all about sound in the end.

If they are using a tube amp or SS/tube hybrid they should still hear some difference. Whether they like it or not is up to them.

I use a LINE 6 combo amp and POD XT modeler and and use the simple 14ga Crump DIY power cord on my combo amp with good results.

Very simply-just bring a cord over and let them try it.

I also use a custom Evidence Audio guitar cord from my guitar to the amp.
My belief is that better cords/cables allow me to hear the guitar/amp or modeler created sound better.
Ghostrider, you make a good point. However, I once used an acoustic zen tsunamic pc on a Marshall in a very dirty ac environment, and it took really helped get rid of a lot of EMI that was messing up that amp's performance.

There's no doubt that there is A LOT of audiophile BS (Bovine Scatology) out there, but somethings do make sense. I was a skeptic about power cords, but I've found that, depending on your environment and specific componensts, PCs make a bigger difference than any other type of cable. Sure, not ALL applications yeild desirable results, but, hey, it's fun just to try it out.

Anyway, thank you, all, for your responses. I'm out of the audiophile hobby for the moment (unless you count my ipod), but I have some nice guitar amps (Dr. Z Maz 18 Jr. and a '70 Fender Princeton), and I have the same passion for guitar gear as I do for stereo gear. It's very interesting to me how much some guitar guys really disrespect audiophiles, no matter what the issue is . . .
"Unlike hifi, guitar amps are all about coloring the signal"


To me, audio IS all about coloring the signal in a way I like.

Maybe, I'm in the wrong hobby.
Markphd wrote - I think you are right, but I think where audiophiles can fall off the turnip truck is to equate difficulty in interpreting measurable differences (tubes vs solid state)to lack of measureable difference ($1000 pc versus WalMart). In the case of tubes vs transistors, the measurable differences are obvious, and learning to understand the relationship between listening pleasure and the two different characteristic distortion signatures has advanced the state of the art. Data is good!
Happy Listening!
Forget it. My musician friends dismiss high-end audio as bunk. Wire is wire in their opinion. Good luck.
I have been a guitar player for 30+ years and into audio since the 1970's. Yes, I can still hear the subtle differences! I have even had my hearing tested over the years. I upgraded the power cord for my Marshall JCM900 50 watt reverb top, running through a Mesa 4 x 12 slant cabinet (guitar lingo) and I can hear the difference in dynamics, sustain, and "chunk" in the sound. That is true whether I am playing my American Reissue '62 Stratocaster, Buck Owens Tele, 1989 White Les Paul Custom, or Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. Many companies are making "high end" guitar to amp cables now, including Monster and Tara Labs and DiMarzio. To me the differences are the same as audio applications in terms of improved frequency response and harmonic content. Show them my reply and they can tell by the gear that I take the guitar stuff seriously. You might need to point them in the right direction as to what to listen for. One thing about most guitar players, whether the guitar sound is distorted or not, they know when a type of guitar's sound is being accurately captured on a recording. Good luck!
While I absolutely agree that the vast majority of claims for power cords are absolute nonsense, when I brought home my Marchall amp for the first time there was a loud oscillating hum. Back to Guitar Center it went, where we couldn't duplicate the problem. They gave me another one anyway, and it had the same problem.
Ultimately we found that I had a wall wart power supply in close proximity to the power cord, and moving them far away cured the problem.
Just be sure your cord has good EMI/RFI (anything reasonably well shielded) and your good to go.
Or get one of those $4,500 "soundstaging champs" for a real guitar amp epiphany. Sure
Lkdog, you might have a point about the modeling amp. I use an Hughes and Kettner Zentera modeler around the house for practice (decent tones and flexability at low volume). I'll have to swap on a good power cord just for grins.

For playing out (rare these days) it's either a Soldano Decatone or a Groove Tubes Soul-o 75. I don't know that I'd want to bring an expensive cord to the places I go to play...

Daveyguitar, you're right about the higher quality guitar cords on the market. They beat the cheapo microphonic cords of years past (think Hendrix with that silly coiled cord going to his Marshall). The metal guys I know don't care about cords, but the jazz guys I play with do.

As a lot, guitar players tend to be very conservative on gear and its hard to convince them to incorporate new technology of any kind. Even cutting edge technology such as digital modeling amps is largely employed to emulate the sounds of classic 50's and 60's amplifiers.

I remeber reading something written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan about the guitar player as the noble savage holding a vintage Les Paul. The comment is not far from the truth (and I resemble that remark)!
I spent the better part of my ‘first life’ working in sound reinforcement and the recording sciences and can somewhat understand a musician or even sound engineers’ reluctance to sample a higher quality power cable.

Our company is beginning to expose wire technologies along with our versions of resonance control to the professional music markets and also find it more difficult to describe the benefits thereof. Even suggesting the placement of our resonance control Platforms beneath guitar amplifiers was more challenging than first getting an audiophile to listen to one.

One of the coolest results that I have experienced is the look on the face of a guitar player when he first hears and feels the results of resonance control. I believe the look would be somewhat similar when they employ a higher grade power cable as well.

There is an excellent designer/manufacturer of valve amplifiers here in the States that also has a Degree in sound and vibration along with Quantum Physics. He originally hails from Great Britain and is definitely one of the most knowledgeable persons that I have encountered in all my years of touring and including high end audio.

His name is Robert Wakeling of Palette Amplifiers.

In my honest opinion and throughout my experience listening to many a guitar amplifier, his designs are simply the finest sound I have encountered. I also know that he is currently experimenting with various power cords that are sold within our High-Fi community so you may wish to contact him as he might offer up some hands on information in order to help with your situation.

As Always - Good Listening !

Robert C. Maicks

Star Sound Technologies, LLC

1-877-668-4332 Toll Free
ghostrider, you are way off on the association of clean power and distortion. There's good distortion and then ther's bad distortion. I play a Dr Z (Prescription) amp. All his designs are based on power tube distortion rather than preamp driven distortion both of which are hugely different from bad power distortion. Clean power, high dollar propriatary caps, matched tubes, NOS tubes, point to point wiring all add to these amps not take away. They have massive transformers to keep the bottom end tight and they are among the most touch responsive amps and dynamic out there. The notes are very articulate and defined. A players dream amp. Victoria, Matchless, Swart all the same deal.

Some guitar players are getting into the high end patch chords (George Ls for ex) and good speaker cables but as a player with 30+ years of gigging i have to say patch cords are questionable unless you are recording and get real about the power cord thing. The idea of trashing an $80 cord on a $50 dollar gig isn't all that appealing. Half of the time you are playing a bar with out-of-date-ground-loop-from-hell electrical, beer lights that send more signal through your single coils than your playing does, shoved into a corner of a no acoustics dive playing to loud patrons who think you are a live jutebox. If you want a real difference for the real world a player should get something to keep line voltages where they should be. Resonance control as mentioned above is a benifit as well.

All the potential improvements from cords assumes the guy has spent money on a high quality responsive amp in the first place. A lot of guys think it's nuts to spend $1500 or better on an amp. Spending money upgrading a mass production fender blues Jr is nothing but a waste (nothing particularly bad about a blues Jr but it is what it is).
Piezo, I think you missed my point. Like it or not, many classic guitar amp sounds are the result of imperfection and happy accidents. Consider the classic Marshall, Fender, and Vox amps as examples.

That doesn't mean that you can't build a premium amp that also sounds very good. I didn't mention it above, but I also have a mid 90's Matchless HC-30. It's a cathode biased EL84 amp, based of the Vox AC30 design and tuned for great power amp distortion. It has hand wound transformers and point to point wiring. I love it for rhythm work - it has a greasy, buttery distortion that really augments your playing. However I also like preamp distortion for solo work - there's something magic about having tons of controlled, well articulated sustain at your fingertips.

The Groove Tubes Solo 75 is a compromise - it can do nice preamp distortion and wicked power amp distortion. You can select Class AB, grid biased Class A or Cathode biased Class A for the output stage from rear panel switches.

For awhile I had a rack mount processor from ADA called the Ampulator. The purpose of this thing was to simulate big amp power tube distortion using a 12AX7. It gave the user front panel control over bias, amp class (A, AB), feedback, tube balance, and power supply hum leakage. Playing with these controls was very instructive - for example the sounds of some classic amps depend on some hum leakage for the rough, false note tones they can generate. I came to appreciate how much imperfection, cheap parts, and design limitations influenced the classic amp tones.

Let's not forget speaker distortion. A Celestion 30 sounds very different from an EV-12M at 100 watts.

My Matchless simply doesn't get some of those really raunchy early rock tones, though it's a wonderful amp on its own terms. THere's more than one approach to interesting guitar tone.
Hey Crazy4blues An interesting situation that you have. My suggestion when one of these musicians says that they must see scope measurements, I'd throw them a fast ball smack damb directly back at them. Ask them why the "H" do they use a TUBE based amp when a SOLID STATE amp likely measures better.

Furthermore, most well-built solid state and tube amps will measure quite well in terms of the standard measurements used to rate amplifiers. As that is the case, why would a musician 99 times out of 100 use the tube amp over the solid state amp? Hell, with the solid stater there are no tubes to fail, they cost less, etc.

As an aside, I've nerver heard of a musician with much understanding of an oscilliscope. Given that a musician wants to use a 'scope to verify that one cord cannot be better than another, I'd be very curious what specifically they wish to observe on a 'scope that provides a definitive answer.
Tubes108 - If you ask the question and the guitar guys are on the ball, they will probably note (pun intended) that high magnitude second order harmonics are similar to reverb, and probably similar to room reflections in indoor listening environments.
If the power supply and power cord in your friends guitar amplifier is appropriately designed and sized then I am afraid your friends are most probably right.
Cool thread. It is pretty funny as I would think your friends would be open to to this. I play the guitar (or at least I try to) but I have two friends in a band who are very serious about their "tone" as it makes them unique sounding.

They have actually re-wired a lot of their gear with Audience and Audioquest wire, and done other improvments. They also insist on running choice NOS tubes in their amps.

I recently saw DADA live in Falls Church, VA and I have never heard a Fender Strat sound like Mike Gurley's.It was absolutely amazing! I talked to a friend of mine who has actually played with him and he as gone to great extremes (Nos Tubes, Re-Wiring, Effects) to get that sound. Not to mention, he will not share his setup with anyone.

Even Audience now offers guitar cables which I have yet to try but they are now on their website. I guess it depends on being open minded and willing to experiment..

Thanks for the responses, all! Here's the rub with the guitar guys: Many of them are just plain prejudice when it comes to audiphilia. Unfortuantely, it's just an attitude problem. What's surprising is how vitriolic the responses are to a suggestion of, say, a power cord for an amp. They just dismiss it as nonsense! It's sad, but more than just a few guitar guys can really be a bunch of flat-earthers. Oh well . . . For the record, I'm playing a Dr Z Maz 18 Jr, which is basically the audiophile version of a guitar amp. I play G&L ASATs mostly.
Crazy4Blues, I'd have to agree with the_kid - guitarists are all over the map when it comes to this stuff. Since you play guitar, I am sure you have heard of Eric Johnson. He is known for going to extremes that would make even the tweakiest audiophiles blush - spending days trying to hear which battery sounds best in an effects pedal, etc... I have to admit I fell for the whole cryo'd string thing back in the early 90's.
you can't explain, just demonstrate