interconnects vs speaker cables vs power cords - which make the biggest difference?

Like the subject line says, I am curious what others think in terms of whether interconnects, speaker cable or power cords make the biggest difference when it comes to noticeable sound improvements, or are they all equally important?  I am thinking of upgrading them all and am trying to decide how to allocate spending.  Thanks in advance.
My experience has been that, the speaker cable upgrade made the biggest difference.
Since interconnects are the earliest in the chain they should make the most difference but it is really system dependent and also cable dependent
I tried using Harmonic Technology Pro-9 speaker cables on an Almarro tube integrated (20 wpc). The sound was thick, slow and no treble. I changed to some Nordost Blue Heaven I had on hand and the sound was transformed! Literally night-and-day. Interconnects are designed for a (relatively) stable environment (line-level voltage).
Power cords? I've  never had an "ah ha!" moment. All-in-all I'd go with speaker wire makes the biggest difference (note: The Harmonic Technology is wonderful with high-power SS amps).
IME power cables made the most difference

 It really depends on the system. But in general, power cords and conditioners make the biggest difference. Then speaker cables and lastly interconnects. But again it depends on the system. I have found mixing brands of speaker cables and interconnects can deter the performance of both. Synergy is the most important thing. There is no perfect or best  cable for everyone.

Like your entire system, it's a chain. Changing any one thing will change the system. So you might hear the most difference with any one of these depending on your system.
While speakers (most people think) will change your sound the most, I have always felt that the preamp is the heart of the system. Everything goes through it and if it has faults, they will be passed on to the speakers no matter how good they are.
So, if everything in your system is equal (and this is seldom the case), power cords and power conditioners could make the biggest difference as long as they are of equal to or of higher performance as the rest of the system. Then I would upgrade the speaker cables, so that I know the best signal from my amp is getting to the speakers. And finally, I would upgrade the interconnects to make sure all my source components are sending the best they can through the system.
Some people have good luck with mix and match, but my best results have come from using all of one brand of cables in my system (YMMV).
Just as with everything else in this hobby, you will find no consensus answer to this question. There are many variables, such as system synergy and personal tastes.

That said, personally I have found them to generally work in this priority:
1) Power cords
2) Interconnects
3) Speaker cables

Obviously, YMMV.
Me personally have found power cords will make the biggest improvement (they are the foundation for your entire system) followed by speaker cables and last interconnects. A lot will depend on the level of your system and what level of cables you're looking at.
Yes, it much depends upon the particular system, but in my system(s) I have consistently heard what several others have:

1)  Power Cords + conditioners make the greatest difference.
2)  Speaker Cables next (by a fair bit).
3)  Interconnects last (but not by that much).

I think that there is a case to be made for "mixing and matching" different brands to balance out at the right sound for you, just like one might in tube rolling an amp.  That said, I have virtually all one brand in my system currently...  Different systems call for different solutions.
IMO. Speaker cable followed by power cable, interconnects. Your results may vary.
OP,  Lots of good feedback here, based on my experience and feedback from cable manufacturers, 

1) Power cords
2) Speaker Cables
3) IC's
Equally important. You cannot get any sound unless you have connected power and speakers and source to amp.
I’m surprised by the number of responses that place power cords first. Let’s further define that by asking with our without power conditioning of some type?
the position in the chain is unimportant

what matters is whether the thing behind the cable can be affected by a cable with complex impedance, the current and voltage level of the signal, etc.

all of those point to speaker cables (kudos to the wag who pointed out that speaker placement was more important than any of the 3 choices)

speaker cables can especially affect the sound of certain speakers

Here is what to do re all cabling (and if you do not understand electronics or science, then it is my special magical secret advice):

rund digital as far as possible, then run balanced as far as possible, then use monoblock amps set as close to the speaker as possible and do not worry about the brand of the wire

speaker cables should be short and fairly thick (usually 16 AWG); use gold-plated interconnects and coat all connections with Caig products

make and break the connections every couple of years and if you are tempted to spend more than $200 on all cables combined (for a normal sized home) then just hit yourself in the head with a hammer
Hi falconquest,

I also agree that power cords make the most sonic difference, with or without a power conditioner. For the record, I use a SR Powercell 10UEF/FEQ and the power cord between it and the wall makes the most difference IME. Digital sources would be next.

My prescription has been IC, SC, and then PC.  YRMV. 
if you are tempted to spend more than $200 on all cables combined (for a normal sized home) then just hit yourself in the head with a hammer

Are you applying that to budget systems or any system?
My own experience and I believe the audio mags support power cord first then interconnect, then speaker cable.
As others have mentioned, it's system dependent.
With that said I'm going to answer your specific question and not get into other areas that you didn't ask about but others alluded to.
Power cords, interconnects and speaker cables in my opinion carry a signal or current of some type and can be used to tune your system (sound wise) to your liking. I find all three equally important.
If pressed to rank them in order, I'd agree with others that said:
1) Power cords
2) Interconnects
3) Speaker cables
Yep, Good quality Power Cables through some sort of Power conditioning 1st, then good quality interconnects 2nd. I just havn't been able to get big improvements with Speaker Cables so far, so a distant 3rd for me at this stage.
Factors that tend to increase the criticality of speaker cables:

-- Low speaker impedance.
-- Long cable length.

Factors that tend to increase the criticality of line-level analog interconnect cables:

-- High output impedance of the component driving the cable.
-- Use of unbalanced interconnections.
-- Long cable length.

Factors that tend to increase the criticality of power cords:

-- The component being powered has an unregulated power supply and draws large amounts of current that fluctuate widely. Namely most power amplifiers and integrated amplifiers.
-- The component being powered tends to generate significant amounts of electrical noise, that may couple via the power cord to other components. Namely power amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, and digital sources.
-- AC line voltage at the particular location that is lower than nominal.  ("Nominal" being 120 volts in the USA).

Phono cables and digital interconnect cables involve complex issues that I won’t address in this post, but their criticality will vary widely depending on the specific equipment that is involved.

-- Al

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IMHO the speaker cables are the most critical.  I'll throw in a plug for the brand I use, Jena  Cable which are simply insulated braided copper. Then ICs, I have yet to hear a meaningful difference between power cords.
impossible to answer imo but you may get some good pointers along the way!
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WRT to Power cables - I have observed  that the components in my system with the "lowest quality" power supplies tend to benefit more from a power cable upgrade than components having a higher quality power supply

- my Bifrost DAC performed noticeably better with a good power cord.
- whereas my NAIM amp, although it improved, the improvements were more subtle.
- my Simaudio Moon Phono stage was somewhere between the two.

Also, If you have components with Wall-wart power supplies - find a quality replacement. with a quality power cable - It makes a huge difference

If I had to start again, I would start by upgrading the power cables first, because these allow the components to operate to their best abilities. Then followed by IC's and then speaker cables.


Here is what LFD offers:

LFD AUDIO: Phono stage; upgrade the power cord first or the interconnect?

Posted on 29th November 2016 by Howard Popeck

Hi Howard I just received the Power Cord as ordered plugged in to wall outlet already definite improvement over shunyata cord ,I was wondering if another Power Cord would benefit my lfd phonostage ? or should I look to upgrade my Interconnect from the Spirolink to the grainless first thanks again for your help.

You pose an interesting question. It depends in which direction you want to travel next.

In superficial terms, if there is a desire for greater bass 'heft' and 'slam' then the Power Cord is your next move.

If more detail, less sibilance on female vocals and a greater sense of 'sweetness' then the Grainless is the way to go.
Before you mess with all that, make sure you’ve sorted out room treatment and speaker placement. I’ve had a-ha! moments with power cords, interconnects and speaker cables. But the biggest a-ha! was better speaker placement and decent room treatment. For me, it was more significant than any of the cable changes.

Also, before you dick around with power cables, do you have a dedicated line for your listening room? That can make more of a difference than any power cable..
I must say however that the cable with the most impact on my system was the insertion of a pair Cardas Golden Reference, interconnects.  The change was immediate and very profound so I agree in principle with speaker cable, but in practice the ICs made the biggest difference...
Perhaps/Maybe, depending on system components...
1) Power cords (NO conditioner and/or station)
2) Interconnects
3) Speaker cables
1) Power cords (NO conditioner and/or station )
2) Speaker cables
3) Interconnects

but they all make differences even when done individually and in varying order...
I agree all make differences.good cables design to make the system to perform at its best potential, bad cables tend to change/ manipulate the sound.synergy betweens cables is very important and have to be choose carefully. Not always the expensive cables are better than the cheaper ones , demo is a must!
Happened to come across what I believe to be the best power cord I've ever experienced...and it was free!  It beat my $4k plus PC's I have on hand.  Any guesses what it is??
@dave_b Sure, it's the stock cord that came with your Krell. 

Everyone, I heard an interesting presentation recently from Josh Clark -Lead Product Designer at Transparent Cable. An attendee asked "If I can't afford to add your cables to all my system at once, where is the first place in my system to invest?" The reply was the interconnect between source and preamp. I thought that was notable advice from an articulate and well informed source. Cheers,
it is notable advice from a guy who sells cables

if a double blind test shows significant differences from interconnects then somebody really effed up the design of your components

if a double blind test shows significant improvements from speaker cables then you most likely have a speaker with unusual impedance match requirements ("not that there is anything wrong with that")

if you like your speaker cables then you can keep your speaker cables

if a manf. went to a lot of trouble to design a high cost component then it makes perfect sense that they would eff up the sound with a crummy cheap power cable, .... right???
The PC was from a Sony high end TV...does everything right and doesn't screw up the frequency balance or roll anything off!!  Had lots of Transparent including Gen 5 Reference.  Results were, how do I put this nicely...lackluster.  Their best stuff was the XL and spacious with crazy detail and liquidity.
It makes no sense to me, but power cables have made the most difference in my system. Easily.  Inner connects next, then speaker cables. This is the exact opposite of what I would expect, but there you are. And, power cables made much more difference I n my sources and preamp than in my amps themselves.  This could be because I have class d mono blocks (bel canto). When I had other solid state amps, I never changed power cables because I couldn't imagine it would make any difference.  Wrong. 
I normally do not reply to such topics, but I’ll live on the wild side a little.

I have never had any major improvements from power cords, but I still buy aftermarket PC’s because I want my gear supported properly due to all the money invested. My Dude preamp (up for sale) never responds to power cables. It does not care.

I agree with the Transparent designer - the most critical cable is from source to the preamp. I’ll get back to that.

With speaker cables I have experienced very nice results and today truly enjoy my Cerious SC’s that I cannot fathom ever taking them out.

So a little real-time info for you, since my Dude is for sale I have been bringing in other preamps of the passive style and have found one that is highly rated but the sound became bright and edgy immediately upon inserting it into the system. My present IC’s are Audio Magic Trinniums which are a hybrid ribbon cable and with the Dude were pretty darn good even though I knew from past experience that something a little more full-bodied should eventually be tested.

So I grabbed a pair of older Audioquest copper IC’s and changed out the preamp to source cable with this low priced parts-bin cable and immediately lost the brightness and added some bass because the cable shifted the frequency range by rolling off the top end, etc. which a non-silver content ribbon can do. So I proved to myself that I could perhaps live with this preamp but that really means I need to find a compatible IC. Is this tone control? Don’t really care cuz I trust my ears.

So I have a pair of Cerious graphene IC’s and a pair of Morrow MA-5’s coming to see how they do since that are about as far from a silver-infused ribbon cable you can get. I have owned Morrows before so have some familiarity. So stayed tuned.

This is the first time where I have deliberately selected cables to change the sound in order to keep a piece of electronics - or to put it another way, the preamp may be so revealing a "bright" cable is the wrong choice. In about a week I will know.
Everything is a tone control. Cables, capacitors, plugs, preamps, amps, speakers, sources, etc., etc., etc.

I have noted many times in the last couple of decades that a system component change may very well require some cable/cord changes.

No one seems to deny that cables/cords are system synergy and personal taste related. However, many talk about not using cables as tone controls. LOL!
These same folks have no idea that their speakers are tone controls. They pick the  ________ that sounds best to them, hence, it is a tone control.

Some choose to tune their system using cables, some choose to tune their system using components. Whatever floats your boat.
I agree that ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL (ie all wires being of the same basic design/quality) the ic between the source and preamp is the one most likely to make the greatest impact on the sound of a system. EVERY cable (I've used top of the line Kimber, AQ, Stealth,Shunyata, M.I.T.,Tara and Nordost and mid level High Fidelity cables--off the top of my head) has different qualities which may or may not shine in a particular system. Oh yes, and what may shine for one listener, may not for another.
Jmcgrogan2 nails it...results will vary and all expectations are different.  It's audio alchemy and everyone is cooking a different recipe!
An advice from my heart:
If you take the chance to audition the following, then you know.

Physic Harmonic "eco" power cables & speaker cables
handmade by Andreas Pollakis

He gives 30 day money back unconditionally if you don’t like them.
You can reach him on Facebook, 
or by his email : 
[email protected]

The price is a joke!
Tell him George Charopoulos sent you.

Happy Listening
I'm an expert on the subject..

I've done a complete system change " once"
and I'm at lest 30 miles away from person with

so: my "absolute" answer
1) power cables & outlets
2) interconnects
3) speaker cables

there seems to be a relative agreement?

My experience lately : power cords,speaker cable, interconnects.
My current system weighs a total of 12 ounces. Battery power, so no power cords, no AC power, no AC ground, no interconnects, no digital cable, no speaker cables. Also, no transformers and no fuses. But very low distortion and gobs of air.
System?  Or Bluetooth speaker!
Sony Walkman CD player and Radio Shack Pro 35 Titanium headphones.

Very low distortion and gobs of air. Read my lips.