From the non-technical side of the aisle, about a month ago I installed two well worth the cost Black Sand Statement PCs, and after hearing the gigantic improvement between them and the pretty good PCs they replaced, I could care less what gauge they are, or what makes them sound so good. My point is that you too will hear a difference when you invest in good PC's.
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Get yourself a dedicated 20 amp circuit for your amps and sources with good ac receptacles. The dediacted circuits will make more of a difference than the pc`s at least they did in my system. I use all Mcintosh amps, preamps, sources and McIntosh recommends to use the stock power cords. My sources, preamp are plugged into a Sound Applications line condtioner. And for what it`s worth I too have alot of expensive pc`s lying around and prefer the stock.
I guess I need a refresher course in electricity, why would these 16 gauges be better than the 12 gauges wires i presently have?In this case gauge is not the whole story. Yes heavier gauge will allow more current to pass. How much current do you need? In the Nordost line they do use silver plated 99.99999% copper wires that are solid core but all separated unlike a stranded. Silver is a better conductor than copper. Those pc's are constructed using the micro mono filement technology which per Nordost makes each individual wire 80% suspended in air which is one of the best dielectrics. I'd be willing to guess your other pcs copper is not that pure. I do not understand Nordosts statement regarding the percentage of the speed of light. I will say as a nordost speaker cable owner that they are 'fast' cables. In fact yesterday I replaced my stock Rel sub cable with a nordost baseline cable and WOW what a difference. I know that has nothing to do with your questions but I am very impressed with its speed and most important I can hear decay in the deep bass notes that I never heard before.
That being said I personally was not very impressed with the pcs. I will admit I only gave them about an hour in my system. In time I will listen a little more critically for a longer time frame.
Last I agree with Raks and let your ears decide whether or not something sounds better to you. Specs are only part of the story provided by the manufacturer.
I guess I need a refresher course in electricity, why would these 16 gauges be better than the 12 gauges wires i presently have? Would the stranded 12 gauge present a lower resistance and capacitance?
Make sure you are clear about what the manufacturer means when they write "16 gauge" and "12 gauge." Is it the cross section of the sum of all of the wires in the cable or is it the cross section of each of the individual wires used, or possibly even the cross section of only the wire(s) used for the power legs? If you don't differentiate here, none of these number will really mean anything.
I recommend this AWG chart to make the math easier, and to fully grasp that the AWG (American Wire Gauge) numbers go backwards in order of the size of the conductors.
Next, add up the sums from the chart to see where you're at in terms of the real availability for power transfer. For example, the Shiva is advertised as "3 x 18 AWG Micro-Monofilament". This means that one of the three is for the ground connection, and no power goes through it. The power circuit is made up of the other two conductors, each 0.823 mm^2 in cross-sectional area (which means the wires are each 1.024 mm in diameter). In the cables you tried earlier, you said they were '12 gauge.' If by chance the TOTAL of the cross-section all three wires is 12 gauge, you are dealing with 3.31 mm^2 divided by three, which is 1.103 mm^2 each. If so, here you see the first of several reasons why you may hear a different sound between the two cables (1.103 is greater than 1.024).
However, since you said that they are fat and unflexible cables, it is likely that their individual conductors are indeed 3.31 mm^2 each (that's three multi-stranded wires, 2 mm in diameter each which is double the published 1 mm in diameter for the three individual conductors of the Shiva).
Therefore, you must look further for reasons of sound quality difference.
If you look around on the audiophile forums you will find a large agreement as to the fact that, in general, mono wires (that is, electrical conductors which are made of individually insulated single wires) sound better than multi-stranded wires (that is, electrical conductors which are made of many very small and flexible strands of conductors). It is possible that, given the mono wires of the Shiva, this very difference gives you a large part of the sound difference. That is why many people prefer laquered magnet wire (the stuff that they wind transformers with, which is always a mono wire) to multi-stranded wire when making DIY speaker cables. It is an audible difference there; why shouldn't it be audible in the power cable, too, then?
Not counting the plugs, there are basically three facets to cable design. Geometry, dielectric materials, and metal type. In geometry, I would count the amount of metal used. Before experimenting with many different power cables, people tend to get tied to the conductor rating as if that were the only parameter, but in fact, after some experience, you will see that, indeed, this parameter is more a quantitative measure and not as much a purely qualitative measure. "Shiny metal" does not yet tell you anything about how the thing's going to sound. In this respect, eyes deceive.
What is this argument that a wire has 90% transmitting at speed of light?
Well, according to the other specs they publish for the other cables, it appears to mean that the more metal you are buying, the closer you are to the speed of light. Until you get to the Odin. The Valhalla, they write, has 91% the speed of light. The Odin has only 86% and costs a lot more money. Apparantly the shield may have something to do with this. But I don't know, and Nordost doesn't appear to publish the methodology of how they come up with these numbers. In fact it is strange to publish numbers and to keep quiet about how they were determined.
>What is this argument that a wire has 90% transmitting at >speed of light?
"Speed of light" or "Nominal Velocity of Propagation (NVP)" (The delay is the time it takes for the signal to travel the entire length of the cable. This delay is a percentage of the speed of light called the NVP) is like you see normal cable specification used in UTP technology (absolutely not a woodo specification "invented" by Nordost).
Typical UTP cable has a speed of 60-70 % of speed of light. As we see Nordost probably reaches here a scientifically possible maximum of ~90 percent.
>Would buying a UPS with true sinusoidal wave output be >better than buying a power conditioner? Would this >purchase be better than buying power cables?
there are many poor components in those "true sinusoidal units" , and they bring so much noise in to the sound system, that I doubt anyone reached any truly positive results..
as for me.. I have a couple of brand name cables right now laying arround my system from kimber pk10,pk14, nordost shiva, and others.. not the most expensive cords, though.. they do bring some changes to the sound, BUT I still keep those ugly, thin stock cords pluged in. Believe it or not, they also have "own signature sound" and it fits my system better. I notice more natural inner details of voices and better dynamics with stock marantz 2x16 AWG cord than with any other cable mentioned. But its ugly compared to well made "brand name" cords, I admit !
Your results mirror those of mine. I know that my equipment was voiced using the stock pc`s not the `high end` power cord. I have spoke with the manufacturers of my system and they recommended the stock pc. The `own signature sound` is how the equipment was voiced. Like you, my Marantz sounds sounds great with it`s stock pc.