I would suggest you start with the power cords. A good budget to work with is 10% of your investment in each piece of equipment. You must spend the time tring a few, and be sure to listen for over an hour to see if the initial WOW is not something you'll grow to hate. Cords like any wiring require a break-in (allowing the electrons to align) so if you can try used ones that is perfect! Also I would suggest you purchase used cords. They tend to loose 50% of there value right out of the box, but then retain the remaining value for years. Once you've found good cords you'll be in a far better position to evaluate conditioners (if you need one)
I think most would agree that a decent power conditioner does more to improve sound (especially in areas of dirty AC) than any power cord by itself. For example, reduction in noise floor is major with a Power Wedge, and huge with a Cinepro Line Balancer, and for uncontroversial theoretical reasons. It's amazing that power cords can help as much as they do, and that, I believe, is less well understood. But I'd certainly start with the power conditioner. Does anyone disagree? I'd be interested to hear.
Oops, I see that Jadem6 DOES disagree. I've only done it one way myself, but having both good power cords on hand (Stealth HAC) and an excellent power conditioner (Cinepro 20 Line Balancer) as well, I suppose I could experiment. But I won't, since I'm 99.9% sure already that if I remove the Cinepro from my system, the plunge in quality will make me not want to listen, even for the period of an experiment.
Break-in "allow(s) the electrons to align"? Would someone explain this in terms of known physcal laws, please?
For the best value, I would start with the power conditioner. Years ago I brought home a Tice Power Block, and it took months to get my jaw back off the floor. Since then I have experimented with power cords from Shunyata, JPS and Synergistic. The only cord I kept was the JPS Power AC, which I use on my amp, plugged straight into the wall (on a separate circuit, too). The front end is plugged into the Tice with stock cords. The after market cords were usually an improvement over the same component plugged into the wall with stock cords, but no where near the improvement of the conditioner with stock cords. The after market cords plugged into the Tice generally make very little difference, and not always for the better. My experience is also that the after market cords that are affordable don't work nearly as well as the more expensive ones. But if you buy, say, 5 Black Mambas, you've spent much more than the cost of a good conditioner. With a good conditioner you treat the whole system (or front end at least) for about $1m. I like Tice (I bought Tice Solos for my theater and multiroom systems, too), but I would love to check out the PS Audio gear that everyone talks about. Good luck, be patient and try before you buy.
Hi Tom: I use both though neither the conditioner or PC are expensive ones (Monster HTS 2000 and HT Pro 11 PC). I have made a fairly thorough assessment (with my ears and brain, not electronic test equipment) of their impact on my system and have come to the conclusion that after 11:30pm until 3-3:30am (not all nights as sometimes the power never cleans up) it is difficult to tell whether the power conditioner makes an improvement or change at all (I have tried it with and without), so I use it all the time as it does not seem to, on the other hand, deteriorate the sound either. Outside of this narrow window of time the improvement that it offers is very noticeable. The power cord (was on my CD player previously and has now been switched to my new DAC) however makes a very noticeable improvement at all times of the day and night. I have two standard manufacturer's generic cords that I have tried in place of the HT Pro 11 for this test. The results of the tests were the same when done to my CD player only, and most recently to the player/DAC combo. Because of this I will be picking up and upgraded power cord to use on my player (now used as a transport) as well. I assume that the sound will improve when using upgraded PC's on both of my digital front end components. That said, I also assume that if you have a very clean AC source, then a power conditioner (reasonably priced) would offer little improvement, if any. I would not expect this to necessarily hold true with state of the art conditioners such as the PS Audio and others that really do a number on the AC current. Other than being curious, I am also very cheap and do not wish to spend money on items that do not improve the sound quality of my system. I would also like to point out that the differeces that I noted may not be considered to be an actual improvement by others (as this must be left up to personal taste and there are also general trade offs to be considered with any improvement made). In other words, different is not always better on a whole, it is just a balancing act.
The statement "Breakin allow(s) the electrons to align" is technically false. Electrons have no memory. However, Molecules may indeed have dipole moments and may align theselves relative to the EM field. I think the "breakin" period is especially noticeable for cables clad with teflon dielectric material.
I would also start with the conditioner. I good conditioner would improve all the components, even the ones without a replaceable power cord. PS Audio makes some of the best power centers. They are also mucho $$$$$. For a more reasonable price try Vansevers or Chang Lightspeed. I use Vansevers reference grade conditioner and power chords. Very pleased with performance. Cheap power conditioners may limit dynamics.
Yea, I knew is was something small. Molecules are cool, thanks for helping, and also for allowing me feal like a fool! I still would go power cords first.
Martice- Your question is a quite dependent on the quality of your A/C. I've lived with the PS 300 and great power cords. Ultimately in my system, the PS300 was replaced in favor of great power cords straight to the FIM duplex outlets (dedicated circuits, of course). You'll have to try both and use your own listening experiences. FIM cords are expensive, but don't underestimate their effect. Goodluck.
Tried to experiment using line conditioners ie.Power Wedge/Changs...yes they do make that noticeable improvement! However upon moving on to exceptionaly designed electronics they stopped doing what their role was supposed to be. Using power cords like the shunyatas had a more profound effect with the conditioning elimenated. The test was done without a preamplifier,a CD with variable output was directly connected to the Power Amplifier to high light the effect on the system. Some surprising results with simpler configuration i guess.
I would start with the power line conditioner. I've had great results with the Chang Lightspeed CLS6400 ISO then later I upgraded cords with Kimber PK 330 with wattagate plug to my Genesis Digital Lens (great improvement), then used MIT Z-Chord II H to CD transport, DAC and McCormack TLC-1 Deluxe passive preamp (great improvement). I also upgraded to a Chang CLS9600ISO and used 6400 for tv & dss. I would not use conditioner for power amp as my local dealer explained and I tried plugging my McCormack DNA-2 into conditioner and noticed loss of dynamics & pace (Audioquest AC-12 power cord (20amp iec) works great with amp) Good luck
Check into Exact Power at www.exactpower.com it is new and very reasonable.
Tgraffair, have you tried this product and if so what did you think and were you able to compare to other type products. Thanks Tgraffair.
If you are familiar with the Accuphase power conditioner it is better for less money (thousands). It is also better than the PS Audio unit comparing it at a friends home. They will give you 30 days to try it in your system. You will be suprised how much power it can handle!
My sugestion: I just got the Custom Power Cord & Power Block,+ a Top Gun cord for the amp .The Power Block is a 4 outlet affair,for front end only. This is TAS's Golden Ears award winner.No matter what the review says; It is better than that.
Gmorris -- interesting point. Your comments got me thinking: An electret capacitor is made by charging a capacitor and subjecting the dielectric to a high enough temperature to allow the molecules to align with the static EM field. After cooling the dielectric, a residual voltage appears across the capacitor terminals due to a net alignment of electric dipoles (net field = nonzero voltage). In the case of interconnects there is no net EM field (we're dealing with AC signals), however, one would expect that an alternating EM field would cause the molecules to vibrate in sympathy, resulting in dissipative losses. Many plastics under mechanical stress exhibit "creep", which is nothing more than the gradual shifting of molecules to minimize and distribute stresses through the bulk material. Perhaps the vibratory stresses allow the molecules to shift slightly, so that they settle into alignments least responsive to the imposed AC field(this is consistent with the idea that systems tend to settle towards their lowest-energy state). As a result of this settling in, there would be reduction in dissipative losses in the cable. This is all speculative, of course. While I'm not yet convinced that break-in is a real, physical effect (as Scrooge said of Marley's ghost, "The mind is easily fooled. You could be a splot of mustard or a bit of underdone beef. Why there's more gravy than grave about you!"), neither am I willing to dismiss it out of hand -- where there's persistent anecdotal evidence, there may be fire. Relative to the physical processes I describe above, I have no idea of the magnitudes of losses involved or the connection between such losses and possible sonic effects. Anyone have further thoughts on the matter?