Which Cable Makes the Biggest Impact?

To all the audiophiles that have tried different power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables, which do you believe makes the biggest impact in your system in order of ranking? If you don't believe that cables/interconnects/pc's make any difference at all, and is all marketing hype and snake oil, you can vote accordingly, but my ONLY request is that you've tried different cables first!

Ok..My ranking:
1. Power cables - most important
2. Interconnects
3. Speaker cable
I think, in general, cables can have an impact on a systems sound. However, I believe that it's relatively small compared to everything else you can replace in a system and, that goes for tubes, components, media, etc.

With that, I believe that Interconnects could make the largest difference then, speaker and then PC.

PC could make a large difference in a system where bad electricity is a problem to begin with.
To prioritize is not to appreciate that cabling and the system itself are part of a whole. One thing that my latest system building exercise has taught me (going on 9+ months now) is that it all matters; you can't properly appreciate any cable without the rest of the cables being up to the same level, not to mention the components and isolation.
There is no definitive answer as every system is different.

Too many variables such as quality of ac power, quality of component power supply, speaker/amplifier compatibility, the cables themselves, ad nauseum.

Reading the responses should be fun though.
Well Tony, I for one, agree with you. As much as it irritates me to admit it, I now believe that the power cord has the most influence on the sound, by a large margin. I fought the power cord concept for years, but after 5 years of experimenting, this is now the conclusion that I hold. Second is the interconnects, though followed more closely by the speaker cables.

So I'll also say:

1) Power cords
2) Interconnects
3) Speaker cables

I think it's where you use the cables first that matters.

1. Treat the source first with the best power cable and interconnect that suits it.
2. Then the power conditioner with the best power cable. 3. Than the preamp with the best interconnect and power cord that suits it.
4. Speaker cables are next.
5. Amplifier last with interconnect and power cord.

This is what I experienced in my system.
In my experiences with two separate systems (one analog-one digital HT), I found that power cords had the most sonic characteristics from cord to cord. In an effort to get close to neutrality, dedicated circuits & quality outlets made the most substantial improvement where I no longer use exotic P/C's as tone controls. Given this, I then give the nod of importance to I/C's and speaker. My belief is that the quality of the wire itself and the end connections are far more important than exotic cable geometries. YMMV as mine has.
My house and associated electrical wiring are new and I have a dedicated line for the equipment with a separate dedicated line for the amp. I use a Running Springs Jaco conditioner.

Guess what?

The power cords still have the greatest impact on the sound.

I use all Virtual Dynamics Nite cords 'n cables with great success and the order that makes the biggest gains in performance are:

1) Power Cords
2) Interconnects
3) Speaker Cables
Interesting. Re power cords, how is it that after that electricity is generated at the plant it goes through numerous wires, transformers, taps, circuit breakers, cables, wires, meters, protections devices, etc. before it gets to your house and then somehow a power cord cleans all this up and upgrades the sound?

I'm not denying a power cord makes a difference just trying to understand the rationale. I would believe a power conditioner of some sort would have an effect but a power cord, I just don't see the logic.

regards, David
I don't know why so many people think that there is bad electricity in some areas. It's all AC and it's ALL dirty and noisy. It's the nature of the AC beast. Yes, it may be a tad worse in some areas but it's BAD everywhere.

Sorry Pawlowski, I don't mean to single you out because it seems the vast majority think the same way.

Since my line conditioners have built-in power cables I cannot respond with the exact same experience as the others.

Between ics and scs, the ics make far more impact in my experience.

But the big question is, which run of ics make the biggest impact? Between the source and pre or the pre and amp?

Again, in my experience the run between the source and pre is far more significant than the ics running between the pre and amp. I know a few others who have had the same experience.

I've only been in this hobby for about 4 years but in reading Jmcgrogan2's earlier thread today on "Am I Wrong To Be Satisfied", I tend to believe he knows the answer about cable priority. He's been in the hobby for 30 years and has built the "ultimately satisfying system." He said, "I fought the power cord concept for years, but after 5 years of experimenting, this is now the conclusion that I hold." He even says it irritates him to conclude that power cords are dominant. With 30 years in the hobby, spending 5 years experimenting with power cords, resisting the idea of their dominance of the sonics, that says it for me. That was my conclusion too. Power cords top the list in cable priority in my opinion.
1. Room
2. Gear
3. Speakers
4. Icing on the cake....
The topic of the thread is "Which Cable Makes the Biggest Impact?"
The best speaker cables in the world and best IC's cannot atone for sins made upstream. i.e. If the source's signal is ruined for lack of serious power cables, then one is fighting a mighty battle trying recoup what's been lost.

Wireless200, I have been saying for quite some time that the configuration, gauge, and materials of cabling (including PC's) have a profound influence on the sound of systems. Many here would agree.

It really does seem counter-intuitive, but I wholeheartedly subscribe to the "Front End Influence" theory that high quality power cords must be used if one is going to have a fighting chance at reaching Hi Fi.

From the experiments with fine cables I have reviewed in the past couple years, If hard pressed to chose superior power cord or superior speaker cable, at this point, I would likely chose the power cord!

Now, Imagine, if a PC on a source is so important, what of the pre? the amp(s)? Truly, when one finds a superior wire, the benefits of outfitting the entire rig seem to be almost exponential.

Over the many years I've been doing audio, I also have come in the "back door" to seeing the significance of quality power cabling. I used to seek serious speaker cables and didn't appreciate the need to feed the source, then amp(s) with just as high quality power cabling. Now, it would be inconceivable for me to put together a rig without it. BTW, my virtual system here is quite old and I haven't updated it with the equipment I'm currently using.

So, allow me to break this down further:
Primary: Power on Source
Power on Pre/Amp(s)
Secondary: IC's
Tertiary: Speaker

Again, ALL are critical to a superb system. However, you pollute a river upstream and you'll be working multiples harder to clean it up downstream. Similarly, pollute the source, and you've made a problem for yourself by the time you reach the speaker cables.

Similar in concept to: Engine, Transmission, suspension. Without a fine engine, the rest hardly matters. Similarly, without a pristine source, the rest suffers.
The most important is the interconnect for your source like a CD player then pre to power,then speaker cables then Ac cord...
Power Cords.
1. DAC and Transport
2. Pre Amp
3. Power Amp

For interconnects.
1. Source to pre
2. Pre to power

In my opinion speaker wires are every bit as important as interconnects so if you need to make a significant change with just one pair of interconnect or one pair of speaker wire I'd go for the speaker wires first since this represents a complete change in one section of the signal path, assuming all other factors are equal. Conversely I see changing just one pair of interconnects in a standard two pair interconnect system (source to pre, and pre to power) as effecting a change to only half of the interconnect chain. As to which cable is of utmost importance, I think it really depends more on the state of your systems current cables with an eye for it’s weakest link, not an absolute standard. At the end of the day every cable in the chain is equally important and no cable can be ignored when synergy is your goal.

Hope this helps,
Stumbled on this article and thought I’d share it with this thread.

An excerpt from the article is below.


"Ordinary 60-Hz power travels miles from the nearest power station over ordinary, oxygen-rich, noncryogenically frozen wires laden with bird poop. It goes through a local distribution transformer (gobs more regular wire in there) and then travels hundreds of feet more through your house wiring to a local outlet. Do you think the last 6 ft of cryogenically altered, helically wound, hand-braided, eight-gauge wire makes any sensible difference?

You could probably solder together old, rusty coat hangers and do just as well, provided you don’t have any young children or pets in the house.

So what do you really need in a power cable? Insulation is a good idea. Stranding is good, too. Stranded wire is flexible enough to bend many times without breaking. That’s all the technology you need.

Ernie: How about shielding? A lot of high-end audio-power cables are shielded.

Howard: It’s a nice idea, but because all the other wires in the house lurking behind the dry wall remain unshielded, it doesn’t help to shield the last little 6-ft chunk."
which makes the biggest difference? the worst one in the worst application that you upgrade.

i've had it be the amp PC, the IC off the source, the PC off the source, the speaker cable.

but never the digital cable! so there!

(in all seriousness, there are no hard & fast rules; i thought if a component had a well designed power supply it would be immune; the Esoteric XO1-D2, which is built like no other player, disproved my theory with its sensitivity to power cords).
This whole discussion of power cables brings me to another un-answered question I wrote back in the spring of 2006...If we have literally hundreds of miles of so-so electrical cable running through our lives...why not just use the same Romex cable that runs through our walls for our audio systems? It seems like this would be the best we could do to keep the flow the same.

I don't mean to hi-jack this thread so if anyone has an idea let me know.

For me the order is:
Speaker cable,
Power cables (have never even tried any ones other than what came in the boxes with my equipment.)

(Note: I am not attacking Zippyy in this diatribe, but rather Dr. Howard Johnson!)Zippyy coyly lays out the link and sits back to watch...

The above link, that of the interview with Howard Johnson, PhD, I see as weakly pertinent to our discussion. His primary point is that OFC copper is not superior to oxygenated copper. So? That is only one small facet of the design and implementation of power cords, IC's and Speaker cables. It certainly does not convince me in any way that "all cords are essentially the same."

Regarding his assertion that oxidation doesn't effect sonics, I would tend to agree. I have had cables which have oxidized, and cleaning them has produced one of the most imperceptible (i.e. non-existent) "improvements" of any supposed tweak I have tried.

I suspect Dr. Howard Johnson has not spent much time with high end audio, having dismissed the efficacy of high end cables in principle, my guess is that he would be quite content with a mid-fi stereo (I would be very surprised if he had high end components with low end cabling). Then, his pontifical stance regarding cables would be fairly worthless. It would be a perfect example of how the decrees of academia don't mesh with real world experience. I see his comments as betraying the fact that he's had no experience in the matter. He can huff and puff all he wants, but his proclamation doesn't change the fact that not all cables are the same.

This is a good example of why I do not simply take someone's advice as truth simply because they have a degree attached to their name. A person must think for themselves or else suffer the consequences. (If you think that I'm "suffering" unnecessary expenses due to my belief that cables make a difference, that's ok, you can feel sorry for me!) I'll gladly "suffer" the consequences of upgraded cables.

An aside: I assert that every person who posts to a cable forum should list their system. The fact is that many rigs are simply ineffectual at revealing cable nuances. Endless debate circulates unnecessarily as "phantom stereos" lurk in the background, and posters say, "I have never heard a difference..." Sorry, it's just not a level playing field to debate the issue when I don't know what equipment you run.

I will automatically weight your comment less if you can't show me the equipment you're using to make your judgment. That's reality. And the reality is also that if you show me your system and I deem it not worthy to make your assertion, I will conclude you do not know what you're talking about. That's reality, too.
99% of Audiophiles will think this way silently to themselves, but very few will actually say it. Well, I said it, and it's the truth.

My rig; well, mine is quite a bit different in a good way from what's shown here on my virtual system, but what's shown here is plentious enough to hear changes in cables. (I will not disclose all the equipment I'm using for reviewing purposes, but suffice to say that there are components which make distinguishing between cables even easier than those listed).
Speaker cables 10%
Interconnects 9%
Power cords 0.1%

I've placed order on some VD Nite II power cords and this will be the last time I'll be spending on cords if I don't hear a *fairly* noticeable difference. For the record, I've tried a few fairly cheap cords which include the Kimber, Supra Lorad 2.5 and NBS Dragonfly. I do hope I will find revelation with the new cords or otherwise it would yet be another fruitless but surely final attempt in trying out power cords.
It depends on the system's resolution and the owner's hearing/perception.

Power delivery means a great deal to system "blackness" and ultimate resolution. For this reason, I suggest power cords can have a greater impact than other cords initially. However, every situation is different.

One has to read many opinions and come to a conclusion that makes sense for himself. There is no one right answer.
I have to agree with Douglas and Tvad that the quality of your system can make evaluating the effect of cables possible or impossible. My own system does a fairly good job but I have heard others do much better.

I have little patience with the skeptical search for a "logical" explanation for the differences cables make, especially power cords. All the jawing in the world won't change reality a bit, it is acrobatics for an audience of one. I remain interested in reading about experiments that start from the position that there is an audible difference rather than the opposite.

Finally, this one is not in the OP's list, but I use a digital interconnect and I have found this cable's length and quality to make a great difference.
"Interesting. Re power cords, how is it that after that electricity is generated at the plant it goes through numerous wires, transformers, taps, circuit breakers, cables, wires, meters, protections devices, etc. before it gets to your house and then somehow a power cord cleans all this up and upgrades the sound?

I'm not denying a power cord makes a difference just trying to understand the rationale. I would believe a power conditioner of some sort would have an effect but a power cord, I just don't see the logic.

regards, David"


I share your logic, or "logic-gap" on this. My answer is that I think there is something going on in the back of the average stereo system with EMFs set up around our cables and the circuits in our equipment that makes delivery of clean power from the wall or power conditioner, and a clean signal from one box to the other a much bigger challenge than we might at first appreciate.

The better the equipment (larger power supplies, greater current delivery, larger capacitors, higher sampling rates, etc.), the greater the potential EMF "pollution" in the vicinity of our rigs. So it is a catch 22, more powerful and sophisticated gear makes for a more challenging environment for signals to pass into and out of our gear undisturbed, while at the same time providing much greater ability to resolve and detect line hash and other electrical interference in the signal path that can ultimately affect what we hear out of our speakers. Perhaps why the folks with the best equipment report the largest improvements from different power cords.

So after market power cords don't "upgrade the sound", really good ones prevent it from being degraded further in a very challenging EMF environment.

From your post: (and not to get into a pissing match)

"It really does seem counter-intuitive, but I wholeheartedly subscribe to the "Front End Influence" theory that high quality power cords must be used if one is going to have a fighting chance at reaching Hi-Fi."

So, based on that thought, all the tens of thousands of dollars that (we) spend on equipment isn't "reaching Hi-Fi" because we didn't invest money in a 6 foot power cord?

Without good PC's, our equipment isn't much better then Circuit City type of equipment.

That doesn't seem logical to me.

Without good PC's, our equipment isn't much better then Circuit City type of equipment.

That doesn't seem logical to me.
Zippyy (Threads | Answers)

I hope you and Douglas won't mind if I comment. Zippyy, I agree that it doesn't seem logical. However, I am certain that if your system is capable, and if your listening perception is acute, then you will hear the benefits of good after market power cords. Because of the ever elusive system synergy concept, some experimentation by you will be required, and I would not expect the first, second, or even third cord to produce the "Ah-Ha!" moment. But, the right cord will do it for you.

Debating the concept here will only result in hundreds of keystrokes.

Only by trying for yourself will you be convinced.
Zippyy, Yes, we can be cordial. No skin off our backs, eh?

I agree w. Tvad that we could spend thousands of keystrokes. I'll add about 100.
Your comment:
So, based on that thought, all the tens of thousands of dollars that (we) spend on equipment isn't "reaching Hi-Fi" because we didn't invest money in a 6 foot power cord?

My response: It's entirely possible. That is, the entire chain might be held back by a bottleneck at the source. Once that bottleneck is cleared, I would assert that you or anyone else who hears the difference would think that they've attained a much closer result to "Hi Fi" than ever before.

You said:
Without good PC's, our equipment isn't much better then Circuit City type of equipment.

I reply: That depends. You haven't listed your system. ;)
Seriously, I'm not trying to spit on people's rigs. I just find it incredible that people would spend thousands on components and use a stock cord, or a Home Depot cord!

You're not talking to someone who has not tested these things. Years ago, I went and made my own Home Depot cords. Straight up, a waste of time. They made a very marginal contribution, not even close enough to merit the time and money. Almost any manufactured PC I used sounded better, and I tried four or five different ones against it. My philosophy regarding upgrades is very simple: If it doesn't make an IMMEDIATELY perceptible, large difference, then it's a waste of time. For me, there must be a sizable change or else I'm not wasting my time on it, because later I'll grow dissatisfied again. If it's a huge difference, then I'm moving ever more speedily toward my personal vision of what Hi Fi should sound like.

Who among the naysayers have gone out and made cords? Who's bought five or six used cords and set them up to critically assess them? If you've never done it, how can you comment definitively as though you have? Are you simply relying on heresay? Why not go and DO IT, then come back and report what you've found.

Again, look at my MIT review in Dagogo.com; it's very telling that I was able to ascertain the impedance of the component without looking at the manual, but based solely on listening to the changes wrought by the settings on the IC's! You'll understand when you read it. I have not seen too many better tests to demonstrate positively the benefit of cabling. You won't find a more honest critique of efficacy of IC's and speaker cables in toto than that review.

ok, 400 keystrokes
Thanks for everyone's comments. I was hoping that this thread would not turn into one of those battles about how the last six feet of a power cord to a component can possibly make a difference. I'm sure everyone is tired of those threads. Frankly, I don't care about the technical aspects of how a power cable is supposed to make such a big difference, but in my system it does!

I've been at this audio hobby for over 30 years. During that time period, I have had three Ah-ha moments as Tvad suggested; these are those times when you discover something in your system that takes your listening experience to the next level of performance. I was never a believer in interconnects, power cords, or speaker cables. I always upgraded components first. Sure, my system sounded better; with each progressive upgrade in components, I got better sound....tighter bass....cleaner sounding treble...more coherent midrange. I thought my system was sounding pretty darn good. I didn't think that my system could be improved much more without revamping it entirely (and winning the lottery to pay for it!). I was wrong.

My first Ah-ha moment! Upgrading from a Denon transport/Meridian DAC to an Arcam CD92.

My second Ah-ha was buying my first power cord for my Arcam CD92. This one simple step of buying my first used power cord (a Harmonic Technology Pro AC11 for $120) made my speakers disappear.

My third and most recent ah-ha: Upgrading my last power cord to the Purist Audio Dominus Ferrox for the analogue portion of my power conditioner. Wow! More of everything...period!

I agree that one may not hear the improvements that cables can bring about if their components are not at a certain level of performance. All I can say is that if you have not tried an upgraded power cord before, try it. Circuit City to true Hi Fi might be a stretch, but you can move forward one big step in my opinion!

The reason I posted the article was less about OFC and more about the fact that the last 6 feet shouldn't make a difference considering how far power has actually traveled and through its various mediums, i.e. different wiring to get to your home. I guess it's just the skepticism in me. My current system consists of Magnepan 3.6R's with two Vandersteen 2Wq subs and two M5 crossovers. They replaced my Dali MS5's. A pair of Electrocompaniet Nemo monoblocks and a Pass Labs X1 preamp, in the process of being replaced by Aesthetix Calypso preamp. I am currently looking for a replacement front end for my Pioneer PD-65 with a Pass Labs DAC1. Suggestion would be helpful. Truthfully, I have not tried any PC's in my system, I guess I've always figured I'd never be able to tell the difference , so why bother.
Perhaps I will give it a try. After I read your review.
Wow Foster_9, not even my wife listens to what I have to say. 8-) I must say that I am honored. Thank you for your vote of confidence. Yes, I do begrudingly admit now that the power cord has the most affect on the sound, IMHO, IMS.....though I'll be damned if I can explain why....

I do hate to admit when I'm wrong, but after all of the 'experiments', I do now have to admit I was wrong. I'd previously held the fact that the interconnect from source to preamp was most important......live and learn (hopefully).

I once used Pass Labs X-600 amps to power my 1 ohm speakers. A friend of mine had much easier to power speakers. When he started getting into digital amplification, he began experimenting with power cords. He found they made a big difference on his sound.

I held an audio party, and he showed up with these new power cords. To his amazement the cords made no difference. The reason was my system was not as revealing as his.

That was a long time ago. Now I am powering my Scintillas to astounding success using ever more fluoride glass quality power gear, I have found my friend was right.

Like Tvad says, your system has to reach a point of realism before wire's real strengths and weaknesses come into play.

There is not a commercial speaker cable that suits my needs. That's all right, I make my own. For ICs, there is no doubt, the simpler the better. One thing I can say for sure, nothing has made more impact than speaker cable substitutions.

I know that the power cables have to be shielded on my system. What I haven't understood, is why some of the expensive ones are better. I want to know, so I can make my own.

In my case, there is no getting around the most important piece in my system is the speaker. Very fortunately the maker of my power duo owns the same speaker. I am in good hands. Being that very few amps survive an encounter with 1 ohm, my needs are unique.

IMO The source is always number one in a successful system hierarchy. Next you want a very agile and seamless speaker. If you get the power needs adequately satisfied, the wires can be written into the plan as called for.

Meaning, if I were to be using some nasty AB amp, I would look into getting MIT cables to cure what ales such a sour beast. In my system, I just need the ICs and SCs to get out of the way as physically possible.

In your instance, Zippyy, I think your system would benefit from a devalued speaker cable, meaning costs less money. Your Mangepans are capable of articulating minuteness and musicality. Just for kicks try the Anti-Cable. It is so frightfully cheap, there is no reason not to. I don't use it any more, but that is another story.

I am a non-oversampling zealot, Get a used AN CD player. If you like the freedom, later you can reach for the stars.
Zippyy, You have a very fine rig! You really owe it to yourself to experiment with some decent cabling! Especially power cords, since they can be had for far less than many speaker cables. With your set up I'm sure you'd hear a difference!

I agree with much of what Muralman1 says, except this:
"In your instance, Zippyy, I think your system would benefit from a devalued speaker cable, meaning costs less money."

Huh?! Maybe it would benefit a bit, but more likely it would benefit little. Zippyy has a decent rig, and he should not skimp on cabling. If he did, he'd likely conclude it's not worth it and make the WRONG conclusion for the wrong reason. I would urge people NOT to go too cheap on power cords! You want too much of something for nothing, and you'll often get nothing for something! You're not going to get "sky's the limit" performance from a $100 cord. If you have a good rig, you'll likely be able to tell a slight improvement. But if your rig is mediocre you may not (not referring to Zippy here!). The more invested in your system, the more you should invest in serious PC/IC/SC. As I reviewed the MIT cabling, I found a significant difference in upper echelon PC's versus entry level ones. Just like speaker cables, the technology and performance really can ramp up as one moves up the line.

At one time, I was a complete cable atheist. I did not believe in them. It was only when I dared to test it that I heard for myself, and that was only effective when my rig was at the point of revealing the changes. Zippyy, you're rig could do that.

Please understand that I am not dissing economical rigs! For much of my life I was the guy with the very economical system. For well over ten years with various equipment I would have had a difficult time assessing a change with $100 PC's! As a rough rule of thumb, if your rig is under $5k, then maybe cords under $100@ could help. If your rig is above $10-12k, you should put some decent money into the cabling and you SHOULD hear the difference. If you don't hear the difference, then move on quickly and try another cable. There should be an immediate, easily perceived change - on the order of taking at most a few minutes to hear/notice. (Caution: Only with time, however, can one determine if the long term enjoyment of the change has merit) On a system below $1-2K look for a component change first before blowing lots on cables.

Many may not believe this, but I can hear the difference that one PC makes on my rig, and with very high end cables it is quite a noticeable difference. Or the distinction that changing the setting on the MIT selectable impedance switch makes. When a system gets refined enough, even miniscule changes are detectable. I think those with extremely high degree of synergy in their rigs will agree.
Thanks for your encouragement. Once my new preamp and CDP are in place, I will begin to experiment with power cables. Sans the skepticism, of course. And BTW, you know we live in the same neighborhood.
You're suggesting Audio Note? And not sure what you mean by "freedom".
Any my apologies go to to Calgarian5355 for what may seem like a hijacked thread.
Zippy, the signal is far more lively unconstrained. Borrow one if you can, and see if it suits your liking.
D_schroeder, please read any of the long list of testimonials at the Anti-Cable site. Some cables replaced are legendary. One guy who took my suggestion to try the Anti-Cable ended up with rewiring his speakers with magnet wire.

I'm in touch with other folks over the world who are whipping caps and cables around. The kind of folks who listen for things like a dog barking outside the studio. They too were very impressed with the Anti-Cable. They had something else that bettered it, a very short naked ribbon instead of the wire.

As Speltz notes at his site, dielectrics do effect the sound. When you get into that realm of electron microscope detail hunting, you find cable insulation, and mystery boxes flood the signal with varying amounts of audible trash.

I can demonstrate this at my place. Recently someone brought over Jena cables and Cardas Golden reference.
Since I helped hijack the thread, I try to return to the original point, sort of...

1) The cable that makes the biggest impact is... the last one you changed. Before you completely dismiss this dopey statement, here is my point: your system as a whole is only as good as its weakest point. Assuming you have a system that is not currently in relative balance in terms of the absolute capability or resolution of each piece, replacing the weakest link should provide you with the greatest benefit. I think this is how most of us operate, moving piece by piece through upgrade cycles. So if you have capable electronics, great speaker wires and interconnects, but are using an unshielded sixteen gauge power cord. changing the PC should make a huge difference. If the reverse is true, and your speaker wire is not supporting the signal it is receiving, replacing it may provide the greatest PERCEIVED change in performance. This doesn't mean that the speaker wire is the most IMPORTANT piece in the chain, just the one that was holding your system back in this instance.

2) I have spit a lot of martini in vigorous discussions with audio enthusiast friends about whether the world is source centric or speaker centric (and I find that the speak-o-philes in my circles tend to laugh at my affection for vinyl - so what does that tell ya?). The source centered argument was leveled earlier in this thread at cables, start building your system from the wall out, with speaker wire and speakers being the last pieces in the chain. I buy into this logic in theory, but in practice my investments in ICs and long runs of decent speaker wire far exceed my investment in power cords. I am coming to the party and will purchase a better PC for my system next.

So, "Which Cable Makes the Biggest Impact?" The next one you buy that works better in your system than the weakest link it replaced. In a generally level system, I would have to say the the most important parts are the ones closest to the AC outlet, because you can't add something that has been lost, or correct something later in the chain that has been messed up along the way (except perhaps, a good power conditioner, but occurs very early on in the chain).

PS - I have a modest system that is "creatively" and economically tweaked to milk the greatest performance out of it. I have noticed changes from nearly every major addition of electronics and cable. I found that modest PC, IC and isolation upgrades offered immediate and startling improvements in sound quality, while long runs of speaker wire took longer to show their value (literally months of break in). Most professional reviewers make apologies for using their $2K power cords for the review of $500 gear, but then go onto acknowledge that it makes a big difference in the performance of even entry level HiFi gear. From my experience, what I read and what I think (oh oh), cable upgrades can benefit all systems and should provide noticeable improvements in well set up budget to mid Fi systems, and that the better your system, the more the subtleties and inherent values of different cables will be expressed.

Finally, I have to agree with whoever said earlier in the thread that the most important component in your system is your room, but that is off topic...
Knownothing said, “your system as a whole is only as good as its weakest point.”

IMO, the only way that theory could hold water is if every element of a given system performed the same functions, addressed the same shortcomings, and provided the same benefit characteristics when rectified. In other words if all of a system’s components were playing in the same silo then perhaps.

But they don’t. Rather, each component has its own part of the vineyard with very little overlap into other parts of the vineyard. Perhaps it is better to look at a system like a human body. Every part of the human body is created to perform certain functions. Obviously when a certain body part fails or breaks away there can be some limited support and compensation from other parts but there are most always serious limitations inherent with the substitute. For example, a blind person using his fingertips to read Braille will never get his fingertips to see the color red.

High priest--you're back!
Hey, Psychic!! But if you really were you would have known that I never left. :)
"For example, a blind person using his fingertips to read Braille will never get his fingertips to see the color red"

Touche Stenho! You either missed the sixties or were very, very focused...;o)

My system has a long way to go before it approaches the elegance of the human body.
For those here that spin vinyl.Two years ago I experienced an incredible leap forward in musical performance with a purchase of V.P.I.s Signature tonearm wired with Nordost Valhalla along with a Nordost Frey interconnect from the junction box to my phonostage. This particular wire used in this cridical application simply allowed this tiny fragile signal of my cartridge to get to my phonostage unmolested. After a lengthy burnin time.One solid week on a cable cooker before use and another 250 plus hours logged on in my system, this wire disappeared out of the system allowing me to hear what my turntable and phonostage really had to offer for the first time.Nordost Valhalla and the Frey line are silver coated copper mono filiment.My preamp and phonostage are factory wired with silver coated copper wire also,the brand I don't know.Whatever the brand of wire used in my preamp I believe lends to this significate leap forward in musical performance.I have two sets of speakers that I switch depending on what type of music I'm in the mood for.In the 25 years that I have owned a pair of Quad electrostats since overhauled in the 1990s....I have never heard them sing like they do now,it really is a stunning revelation....This experience has left me with a firm belief that finding the right wires for your system is as important as anything else.
>>finding the right wires for your system is as important as anything else<<

Disagree. Finding the proper components is more important.

"Great" components with "average" cables will outperform "average" components with "great cables" all day long.

Cables are system (and listener) dependent but the source, electronics, and speakers must be chosen first.

IMO of course.
Audiofeel,If thats what you think,thats what you think...
The egg, or the hen?
Tbe rooster!
Sorry for the typo...

the rooster!
It's easy to get hyper focused on cables in general and start to think that they are more important than your components, but it isn't true. It's also easy to get caught up in an obsession with the importance of power cords. This happens for two reasons:

1. Your expectations of what a power cord can do are so low, that when you actually hear a difference you are blown away and become obsessed.

2. The speakers and electronics in your system becomes more entrenched and you begin to "tune" the character of the whole system with the last area you play with- power cords.

The truth is what Audiofeil said. You can get much better results with great components and average cables than you ever can with average components and great cables. Many of the best sounding systems I have ever heard used stock power cords.

Speaker cables and interconnects make a bigger difference than power cords, but the experiment that is required to properly demonstrate this is one that most will never engage in. Most of us use very competent signal cables already and then are surprised by going from freebie power cords to exotic ones. If you wanted to do the experiment to see which is more important, go to radio shack and get some 16 or 18 awg zip cord and freebie (red & white) interconnects and replace all of your high end signal cables with those. Then you can compare that difference to your high end power cords vs. the ones that came with your gear. It won't even be close.
Sorry Davemitchell, I dont agree and I dont know what system you have heard. I have experimented with cheapo speaker, I/C's and power cables on average equipment and found the expensives ones from certain manufacturers are WAY better. I have also learned that average equipment can sound better that reference equipment with expensive cables in certain situations. That is my experience and to each their own. I'm happy with my findings and my system and that is all that matters to me. I find the most natural and transparent cables sound the best. i.e. Synergistic Tesla.
Ask your dealer to help you perform blind tests. See if they can keep quiet.
Davemitchell, good post. The Rat Shack cable test is a neat idea, I will try it when I can find a pal who wants to do it with me. I refuse to endure radical downgrades without company.
i agree completely with dave mitchell. although i have not done the radio shack wire test, i have done similar in concept.

using TA ultra SC and ICs as the basic SC+IC wire with esoteric ux-3se+vtl pre 6.5 + wilson w/p8 , i compared the following 2 setups for hours:

combo A-- excellent quality ICs in various combos -nordost valhalla, TA MM, TA XL with the TA ultra cables

combo B. replaced the TA ultra cables with all TA ref cables (the next level up) + all stock PCs!

the upshot :

combo A created an overall complete presentation, nicely polished, well balanced from top to bottom. very low floor noise and black background so stage placement was excellent

combo B has a very slightly less overall polished/finished wholeness to the presentaion and a less black background, a bit raw in direct compariso to combo A BUT combo B had greater timbral distinction, better micro dynamics even with the lesser black floor, deeper bass and extended highs, more openness, somewhat clearer transients and a greater sense of performance hall presence.

combo B allowed much greater presentaion of the pianist's nuanced performance; overall a more dynamic and engaging experience even though combo A presented a more self contained / "finished" presentation.

i liken A and B , oddly enough, to live performance experience .

combo A is like hearing an excellently performed piano recital with very few people in the audience ... but with the piano lid propped on the short stick.

combo B is hearing the same excellent piano recital with full audience and all the ambient noise that comes with the situation, however, for this recital, the piano lid is fully open (the long prop).

which situation has the greatest potential to communicate the full range of the performance?

PCs are surely critical to a complete any system presentation, but a banana split is still a recognizable "banana split" without the cherry (PCs) on top. however, without the whipped cream (SC) and fudge (ICs) its just and odd shaped bowl with 3 scoops and some fruit. now, isnt that a much better analogy than those car comparisons many like to do with speaker a/b's ? LOL.