AVS Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 44 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,352 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First, let me say that I really dislike vitriolic threads regarding blind testing, and this is not an attempt to start one. But we're all trying to make our way through the crazy world of high-end audio/home theater, and most of us have to decide at some point what we're going to spend on cables/power conditioners/ac cables.


I come from a skeptical mindset ("prove it"), but I also keep an open mind because, like any other HT/Audio nut, I want to improve my system any way I can. So, I have a few "boutique" cables in my system (some on "open" loan from audio pals). I love my tube amps. I have some isolation devices under my CD player etc. I've also performed quite a few blind and double blind tests on some cables/speakers/amps/cd players. I have no problem whatsoever with blind tests, as I enjoy learning and even having my pre-conceptions over-turned.


To that end, here's one experience I had a while back with some pricey, well-regarded Power cables. I'm curious what others on this forum would have done in my place. The power cables will go un-named for reasons I'll get to.


I receive three levels of power cable, made by a very highly touted company that specializes in such devices. They were (are) truly the cable de jour. Raves were posted on the audio forums about the amazing transformations rendered by these AC cables.


1st cable was around $100. 2nd cost about $250. Third over $500.


I demoed the cables sighted, against a $15 military-grade AC cord. Cable 1 and 2 did not produce any audible difference that I could discern (and, as a picky audiophile, I am very used to finding tiny audible differences). The expensive cable #3, which had never failed to produce "Wows" from anyone who wrote about it, was more elaborated in design.


When I put #3 into the system, I felt I heard a change in the sound. The system sounded a bit darker, more lush, but also a bit more transparent, and the soundstage "expanded" a bit. The most obvious trait, to my perception, was the change or darkening of the upper frequencies (maybe it's just taken away some of the hash up there, I wondered).


I left Cable #3 in my system for a couple weeks. After one week, I realized that I wasn't sure my system actually sounded any different than what I've always heard. The system didn't really sound rolled off to me anymore.

Was I just used to the new sound now? Or had the cable finally changed it's sound by breaking in, as the manufacturer suggested? Or, did the cable never change the sound to begin with?


I call an audio buddy. We blind test the big cable #3 against that $15 cable. In sited tests before my friend showed up, I still thought I might be hearing a difference between the cheap and the expensive cable, but not as decisively as I'd originally perceived. In the blind test, my friend swapped the cables instead of me, without letting me know which he'd used (we did a pre-test to see if I could determine which AC cord he'd swapped simply by listening to his actions, and I could not).


Result: Utterly random. As hard as I tried, I could not tell the expensive cable from the cheap cable. Sometimes when I heard the cheap cable I thought it was the expensive one, and visa versa. My guesses were completely random, and I could find no sonic signature to identify one from the other.


So, dear forum members, I'm curious: What would you do, given this experience? Would you rely on the previous subjective experience, saying "Screw the blind test, I think this cable improves my system and 'm buying it!" Or, would you look at the blind test results as an indicator that it was not really worth your money, and you were probably mistaken in your subjective evaluation?



To let you know what I did: I sent the cords back. I could not justify spending big money on something that I could not reliably tell apart from what I already owned. (Whereas, I HAVE identified my high-end CD player against cheaper ones in double blind tests).


What do you think?


Rich H.


BTW, I won't name the product because I don't want to thank those who lent me the cables by publicly slagging them in any way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
78 Posts
Interesting. After using Cable #3 for a week I would have put the $15 cable back in my system. If I couldn't tell a difference I would have sent back #1, 2 and 3. I would ask if you think a week with Cable #3 was sufficient to hear what it had to offer?


People don't and can't purchase equipment or cables based on the results of a scientific DBT. Purchasing decisions should be based on what is heard. That is exactly what you have done.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,352 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
"People don't and can't purchase equipment or cables based on the results of a scientific DBT."


Actually, I disagree. I can't see any reason at all why someone can't base their purchase decisions on a DBT, if it suits them.


Rich H.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
78 Posts
A person can make a purchase decision based on scientific DBT. I might even prefer it if I could do it. I just don't believe it's possible for very many people to use the scientific DBT method in their home using their equipment. The logistical problems are way too difficult to over come. That's why I believe the massive discussions regarding DBT are purely an intellectual exercise.


You did it right and the only practical way it can be done.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,247 Posts
well i guess the Crumps of the world are just going to tell you they needed to get broken in longer. nice work :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
21,720 Posts
Quote:
Originally posted by Chu Gai
well i guess the Crumps of the world are just going to tell you they needed to get broken in longer. nice work :)
Power cable burn-in can be a real phenomena as I've experienced it!!!

But that's because Granite Audio has subjectively tested and therefore pre-burns-in its power cord for 9 days on its own cooker device. But I had Don of Granite Audio back in early 2001, after our successful demo, let me have some power cords only burnt-in two days, figuring heck, they're so good they must be as good as what I've got and can burn-in in my system. Sorry - they sucked audiowise and visually. Put back in old cords and system was up to par. Granite Audio did full burn-in on the cords, I put them in my system again, and PRESTO, system sounded and looked its best ever.


But Granite Audio makes no more exceptions - its power cords are provided to customers only after factory burn-in. If burn-in is significant, let the manufacturer do it in advance.


You did the right thing. Your system didn't sound appreciably better so don't buy the product. That's the whole point of tweaking a system - rely on your senses.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
48 Posts
I love your blind tests. Reminds me of the Coca-cola/Pepsi shootouts. How about getting the subjective folks to do the same?


The military entrance test for hearing that I remembered had these sounds pumped through your headphone while you frantically tried to push a button so the operator knew you had better hearing than a dog. My guess is that only very few people actually have super hearing or sensitive eardrums which can hear changes in sound character at very low level. Especially in this date and age of noise pollution, loud concerts, screaming kids (oops), loud home theaters, etc.


From my acoustic guitar experience, I can hear a guitar music and pretty much tell what chords are being played without having put a single finger on the guitar. It isn't always 100% accurate but extremely close. However, I couldn't make a difference to tell you whether I was listening to an Alvarez, Gibson, Dave Maize or what have you.


Just some food for thoughts...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
78 Posts
Cables do break-in. Harkness gave them a week. That's fine. It doesn’t matter how long anybody else would have given them. It is his money. He should make his decision based on his judgment.


I agree with Johnny. Very few people have exceptional hearing. What is often forgotten in all of the discussion about equipment is the diversity of human hearing. Hearing is no different than sight. There is just as much diversity. Many people claim they can't hear the difference between cables, CDP's, or amps. I believe them. What I don't assume is that nobody can hear the difference. They may need a hearing aid to hear what somebody else hears. People seem to assume that everybody hears the same. They do not. Not even close. If people with bad ears had some kind of visual sign many of the discussions about cables and other equipment would not occur.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,801 Posts
Guys!


I am a believer in quality cables and equipment, but I tend to avoid anything resembling fads. A power cord delivers 117 volts rms to the device at the receiving end; perhaps one of the physicists in the crowd would care to explain to me how it would do that differently after a few hundred hours of use? If the power cord has a unique design or ferrite filtering then perhaps some RF or other noise, if present, might be reduced. Ferrite filters to clamp on any power cord are worth perhaps a few dollars each; ferrite is a form of common iron, not a rare commodity by any stretch. High quality equipment incorporates filtering in the power supply anyway; why do it twice? Do I use exotic power cords? No, because most of the equipment I own has captive power cords or two-pin cords or Euro-design cords or we tried exotic cords and saw/heard no improvement. If there was benefit, why not buy ac outlet strips with exotic cords and plug six devices into that, rather than buy six costly power cords???
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,247 Posts
according to emeril, you must be careful not to overcook your cables.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,352 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Pete Hul,


I appreciate and understand your comments.


Just for the record, although it might not have seemed that way from what I'd written, I got around to performing the blind test after *two* weeks of using the cable. (I started to wonder about it at the one week point though).


Regarding people's hearing - very good point. Again, for the record, I happened to have had my hearing tested within the last year by a special new device/software system being developed by some acquaintances. The test is far more wide-ranging and comprehensive than a typical hearing test (one market they are targeting are people like professional piano tuners). They told me that, in terms of flatness of frequency response and extension to the upper frequencies, my hearing easily exceeded the norm for my age (36).


As far as break-in. I've been in high-end audio for quite a while, and have always heard about it, yet never encountered it. I once had a pair of new, expensive speakers at my house. I felt the sound was sub-par, but the manufacturer said they simply needed break-in. Indeed, the speakers had a rep for changing their sound with break-in. I used a control set of speakers to compare as I broke the speakers in over a month and a half - music and white noise playing constantly on them.


The sound never changed at all, that I could determine.


I've listened to many speakers new at a dealer. The dealer tells me to come back when they are broken in - they'll sound "much better."

They always sound the same to me. And, again, I'm a picky listener!


Break-in may occur. I just find it odd that, given a lot of experience with a lot of gear, I can't seem to encounter the phenomenon myself.


Rich H.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
425 Posts
Burning in cables is very important, a minimum of 150 hr is required for most cables including Power Cords. On what equipment did you try the cable on? Some parts in the systems are more responsive then others to Power Cords. I just installed a Ultralink Platinum MkII power cord on my RCA F38310 HDTV set with stunning improvement in colors and less dot crawl.


Of course depending on the brand of power cord also makes a world of difference. I have tested $1500.00 PC with very little improvement and also tested $90.00 PC's that just blew me away. Trust your ears and eyes not reviews just use them as a reference and get your own opinion
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,352 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
pederb,


Thanks for the comments. I have extensive experience in high-end audio, so rest assured I tried the power cords on each link of the chain, and, despite my skepticism about burn-in, I gave ample burn-in time too.


To counterbalance my AC cord test, I just had a very positive experience in borrowing a high-end Nordost Optix S-Video cable. It definitely improved the picture over my Ultra-link S-Video cable (especially obvious gains in sharpness with text).


I'd enjoy trying out some high-end AC cables on my Plasma, to see if I note a change in PQ. Unfortunately, the socket on my plasma is definitely not built with after-market AC cords in mind, as it is too slim, and the Cardass and Blue Circle power cords I've tried do not fit. :-(


Any suggestions?


Rich H.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,100 Posts
I really wish there was much more of a mind-set towards more objective testing by the reviewers, I would love to have that information to help me evaluate a product. Yes, I'd want to try it out but there seems to be way to much reliance on the subjective. And the pseudo-science cracks me up, Like the electrons need to align better and the dielectrics in the insulation have to fall into 60hz resonance to properly shape the hysteresis envelope. Maybe crystals help? Isotope-free copper? Gee maybe being a product manager at one of these companies could be a lot of fun.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
277 Posts
When you open a good preamp and see what effort is put into the power supply, chokes, filters, duel chokes and filters, I just can't buy that the power cord can make any substantial difference in the audio quality. Audio Research makes pretty good pre amps and they don't have a removeable power cord, much to the distress of many a audiophile. Why? Because they know that there is nothing a power cord is going to do that is going to improve what comes out of the power supply. I would question the quality of my pre amp or av processor if a power cord improved it.

Now when it comes to speaker cables or interconnects, that's a different story. But, that doesn't mean more money better audio. I have heard the difference between interconnects between my turntable and preamp but, have never noticed any difference when I have tried various brands with my digital stuff or my tuner.

However, sometimes just the fact that the afftermarket power cords look better or give you peace of mind is a good enough reason to add them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
337 Posts
I find it slightly odd that the objectivists are quick to poke fun at the subjectivists "reliance" on pseudo-science and yet will believe anything in print...

And I might suggest that the reason some high end companies use fixed power cords is because (1) they have supplied a good quality cord themselves, and (2) they know that the use of a plug and socket to attach a removable cord may well bring about too much of a degradation of the signal.

I still say that it IS scientific to listen to results and comment on them, every bit as much as it is scientific to read results from lab equipment.

Observation can take many forms and the explanations for phenomena do not negate the results if they are or seem to be a bit weird.

Maybe molecules align and maybe they don't, but if these explanations are wrong, it does not invalidate the observations.

Perhaps I could suggest that too much reliance on equipment readouts is just superstitious as the use of crystals......

Not much in this world is really black and/or white. I doubt audio performance is any different.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
277 Posts
I try to put information that I learn from sound men on movie sets to work for me in my system. If you have ever put a pair of their earphones on you know that they can hear grass growing in the next county. If any of my cables cross over theirs they know immediatly and let me know. Their ears are so tuned in that they hear and comment on the slightest varience in background noise, someone is breathing to loud on the set, a coffee machine has cycled on at the craftservice table, etc.

They usually have to relie on power from my generators which are a long ways from being the clean power source we are used to getting in our homes. For one thing the power doesn't go through transformers let alone power conditioners. I have asked more than one sound mixer why they don't employ better power cables and conditioners, the answer is always the same, the power supply in their recorders "clean up" the electricity.

Like I said before look at your power supply in your preamp and ask yourself, "What is a power cord going to do that isn't being done at the power supply?" Not that there isn't different grades of power cords, plug, etc., and not that they don't have their place but, with audio gear it shouldn't matter because of what takes place immediatly after the power cord.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
48 Posts
My research into this subject is leading me into the effects of power line harmonics. Has anyone ever experimented or written extensively on it. I'd like to look deeper into this phenomenon and what are their effects. My first instinct is to dig up some resources from power supply designers and engineers to find out whether they are taking this into account or why not.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,247 Posts
i don't think 'objectivist's believe everything in print, although there's a few that are still plugging away at cold fusion.

i'm surprised that skin effect talk hasn't disappeared yet with regards to audio though. with regard to your comment concerning harmonics, it's not an unknown phenomena with regards to large installations of say computers. it typically manifests itself in sporadic glitches and inefficient use of power by a facility.

you can read more about it here: http://www.harmonicslimited.com/


as to how much you want to make of this regarding potential a/v ramifications, knock yourself out.
 
1 - 20 of 44 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top