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Optimization - An AC outstanding power cord
OPTIMIZATION : THE POWER CORDS


Warning: Do not try to do what is explained in this article unless you are an expert in electricity. If you try what is described in this article, it is at your own risk only ! In addition, voltage can vary from a country to another, and the parts used in this article may be dangerous in some countries.

Welcome to a well known discussion in the audiophile community: the cables !... Audio cables have already been a hot topic for years, but when it comes to power cords, then the polemic is even bigger... Almost everybody knows that the audio cables do make a huge difference.

Most of the people believes that a power cord cannot make a difference, simply because there are dozens of kilometers of electric cable before the AC outlet feeding your equipment ! these kilometers belong to your electricity supplier... so how can a 1.5 meter of power cord make any difference ??? this is not a stupid question !...

To be honest, I have always believed that the "audio grade power cord" or "improved power cord" is a new concept invented by audio manufacturers/distributors to make (even more) money ! and when I see some power cords costing 1.500$­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­, I still believe it ...

But as an engineer and because, when it comes to the sonic performance I have learnt to believe *only* in what I ear, I decided 2 years ago during a particularly cold winter season..., to spend some time on the subject.
And the first thing I did was to replace the original power cord of my THRESHOLD SA/3.9e by a beautiful, white and big power cord containing a RF filter and costing around 250$­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­.

The conclusion was very simple: if I had to pay for it, I would have lost 250$­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­... because the sound was more "compressed", with less dynamic than with the original Threshold supplied power cord.
So, was it time to stop the experience ?
I briefly thought about it, but there was a huge "but": if this particular power cord generated a loss in sound quality, then there is an obvious conclusion: all the power cords are *not* equal !
This was surprising to me because I believed that the mission of a power cord was simply to carry 110V (or 230V depending on the country) to the equipment.
So I immediately thought: if a power cord can be worse than another, then it should be possible to find one that would be better than the original ... pure evidence...

So I started to learn and read some litterature on the subject, and I decided to manufacture my own power cords. The goal was to evaluate if an improvement could be reached with a reasonnable budget.

My study concluded that the important parameters were (from the most to the least important):
  • the gauge of the cable (particularly when the "power hungry" devices are concerned, eq amps)
  • the quality of the dielectric
  • the ground connection and the cable topology
  • the ground loops management (this will be explained in a dedicated coming article)

Over the pasts years, I have learnt how the manage the last point, but also how to optimize some major components, mainly the CD converters/drives, preamplifier and amplifiers (particularly the Thresholds).

The most difficult caracteristic to fnd when I searched for the raw cable, was to find a cable with a good dielectric. As you may know, the best dielectric is Teflon, but it is hard to find cables with a Teflon dielectric, particularly if you are not ready to order 500 meters, and if you are looking for a relatively big gauge.
Provided that this power cord is supposed to feed power hungry devices (our Threshold amps), I wanted a bigger gauge than the original cable, so I searched for an AWG-12 cable.
Provided that I already knew how to optimize the ground connections of an entire system, I searched for a cable with only 2 wires, as I did not need (and did not want) a ground connection at the device (amp) side.

The best cable I found was the BELDEN reference 83802.


It is an AWG-12 cable, with Teflon insulation, only 2 wires, available in a cryogenically treated version, and having a shield around the cable (this is important when you plan to use cable without connecting the Ground). It is not easy to find at retail, but it is possible (supplier is proposed later on in this article).
The BELDEN 83802 looks like a red and very rigid cable:
Belden-83802_global.jpg
The Belden 83802 is an extremely rigid cable...

Its rigidity is not a pleasant point, but provided its other qualities, it not a major problem.
Nevertheless, you have to be aware ot this, because you should try to evaluate the right length of your cable, because it is not flexible enough to stay in a position you would like it to adopt...

Here is a view of the external jacket:


Belden_external.jpg


The Belden 83802 is an AWG-12 cable. This means that the gauge of this cable is big. You will se later on that this an advantage regarding the dynamics, but this has an immediate consequence: the connectors chosen on the AC side and on the component side must be able to accept the AWG-12 wires; and this is not so common...

But before talking about connectors, let's talk about the cable topology. I do not say that this topology is the best one (I know it does not), but I strongly believe that you will have (very) hard time trying to find a better power cord at a comparable price !...
If you find one, let us know what it is !

The cable presented herebelow is primarily used for our THRESHOLD amplifiers which prefer to not have a ground connected. Remember the warning at the begining of this article: your HiFi equipment should be connected to the Ground...
I am not going to explain why this topology is chosen, but this is the one that has provided us with the best results on our power amplifiers.
Here is the diagram of the power cords:

Schema_cable-secteur-Amplis.jpg

In addition to the raw BELDEN 83802 cable; you will need a few additional parts:
  • a cable sleeve, with an approximate internal diameter of 1 cm; a cable sleeve can be found almost everywhere... This cable sleeve gives a professional look and finish to your cable. Although it is not mandatory with this non grounded cable, it does for the grounded cables (more to come in another coming article).
  • a few centimeter of shrink tube, let us say 10 cm per cable; this shrink tube will be use at both ends of the cable to fix the cable sleeve and the cable together.

Finally, you need an AC connector and an IEC connector. Provided that most of you will not change the original IEC male connector of your equipment (*), you have a lot of choice for these connectors, from the supermarket low cost lodels, to the "audio grade" ones.

(*): 99.9% of the devices use a 15A IEC connector, but be aware that it does exist IECs able to handle more than 15A. However, you have to change the male IEC in your device for a bigger model, and this may be a little complex. When it comes to the THRESHOLD amps, it is amost impossible because of a lack of space. In addition, you would have to make a bigger hole at the IEC emplacement: it is not easy to access it, and... making a hole in a THRESHOLD amp (thick) plate is not a piece of cake !

Forget the "supermarket low cost" connectors, at least because your amp needs power, and these connectors are most of time too crap...
I have tested the same cable with a "robust but not audio grade connector" as well as with 2 audio grade connectors: the FURUTECH FI-E11 AC connector and a WATTGATE IEC connector.
Here they are:

Furutech_FI-E11_Wattgate.jpg

Here is the FURUTECH FI-E11:

Furutech-FI-E11.jpg

and here the WATTGATE:

Wattgate_IEC.jpg


Here is the global view of the finished cable equipped with the FURUTECH and WATTGATE connectors:


cable_global-1.jpg

And here is the view of the AC termination with a FURUTECH FI-E11 plug:


cable_end.jpg


Now, it is time to talk about the most important:


How does this cable sound ?

The review of this cable has been done by comparing this cable to the original manufacturer cable (Threshold, Counterpoint, Jadis).
The following devices have lessoned with their original cable and then with this cable:
in the configurations described in our reference system #1 and system #2.

So what are the differences ??

In everycase, the improvement over the original manufacturer cable was huge. Not a small difference, but a big one !

How can a 1-2 meter of AC cable make a so big improvement whereas there are dozens of kilometers of energy provider's cable before the AC outlet ??? I simply do not know ! but the difference is so big, that even your wife will ear the difference ! ...(sorry for our female members !)

More dynamic, less noise, more air, more definition, etc.... It is much better in every domain.

Another point to know is that the impact of the improvement is not the same on all the devices:
  • very big improvement on power amplifiers
  • big improvement on preamplifiers
  • mid improvemenr (but improvement anyway) on DAC / Transport.
So we recommand you to proceed first with your power amp(s) and preamp.

And what about the connectors ?

Well: the look is obviously much more pleasant with the FURUTECH-WATTGATE combo. In addition, having these connectors in your listening room is obviously a way to be seen as "an expert"...
But when it comes to the sound, honestly the difference is so small, that we do not know if is better with or without them !
So given the high price of these connectors, you should consider them as an option, but nevertheless, do not use very cheap connectors (try mid priced ones).

All the stuff used in this article can be ordered online from
www.takefiveaudio.com


Article written by
Nounours. Your comments are welcome on the Forum !.

Creation date : 16/09/2007 @ 13:56
Last update : 08/11/2014 @ 16:50
Category : Optimization
Page read 375 times


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Reactions to this article


Reaction #4 

by Nounours18200 09/05/2009 @ 00:06

Merci pour vos commentaires à tous. Mais n'hésitez surtout pas à lancer des discussions sur le Forum, c'est bien plus pratique lorsqu'on veut approfondir les sujets!
Merci et à bientôt,
Nounours

Reaction #3 

by silvio 31/01/2009 @ 18:09

(ma reponse c'est un copier/coller que j'ai déjà écrit sur d'autres forums...)
Bonjour.
Mes reponsens concernent la fabrication du câble et l'utilité ou non de ce tipe de câble.
Je me permet de repondre car je fabrique moi même de câbles secteur avec les prises shoucko et IEC.
J'utilise des câbles secteur W&M Audio tornado Blindé 3x4mm2 avec une gaine nylon exterieur plus la gaine thermoretractable pour fixer le tout.
Alors: dans la prise IEC vu du haut le Neutre est a droite (autrement vu de face le trou est a gauche...)
et forcement dans la shoucko le neutre est a gauche de la terre(vu de face c'est la tige droite si on position le trou de la terre en haut)
Même si c'est monté a l'invers, les prises shoucko donne la possibilité de la tourner et retrouver la position que on désire, a condition que la femelle soit une shoucko aussi.
La tresse de blindage est connecté avec la masse et protegé par une gaine thermoretractable.

Il faut dire en premier que si on utilise ce tipe de cable (ou autre haut de gamme) il faudra que, a partir de la prise femelle du mur, tout soit bien conçu: si on utilise une multiprise quelconque pour alimenter le cd l'ampli etc,sa ne vaut pas la peine d'acheter un super cable...
Donc un filtre tipe BADA a 6 sorties a 120€ max fait l'affaire.(sur ebay il est a 138€)
A partir du filtre on peut alimenter 6 appareil avec filtrage ou non.

Seulement dans cette condition on pourra voir si l'utilisation du cable est utile ou non !!!!
Ce que je voudrai dire est que effectivement par foi ce n'est pas la peine de dépenser pour avoir le même son que avant !!!!
Il faut essayer et ecouter....
Moi je trouve, dans mon installation que sa change beaucoup, des basses profondes et aigues cristallins.
Raison pour laquelle je me suis mis a faire moi même mes câbles avec un max de resultat et un min de dépense.
Ceux qui m'ont acheté mes câbles sur mesure sont bien satisfait aussi.
Mon but ce n'est pas de vendre mes câbles mais de dire que un bon câble ce n'est pas forcement mieux que le câble fourni...Il faut essayer et décider soi même.
Les photos et plus d'explications son sur ebay: taper dans la recherche CABLE NEUF W&M TORNADO.
Merci. Silvio

Reaction #2 

by Nico 04/05/2008 @ 11:07

Salut Droopy!
Merci de bien vouloir nous expliquer ta méthode de fabrication. Tcho

Reaction #1 

by droopy 11/04/2008 @ 21:56

Salut a tuuti!

Et bien,j'ai fait la meme chose que toi ,je me suis fabriqué mon propre cable à partir de cable de 2,5 mm2  que j'ai tressé avec quadruple blindage puis recouvert de quartz désoxygéné avec du furuteck,et bien je suis tout betement resté sur le cul,j'ai ressenti comme si on avait augmenté le volume,donc sur que cela marche !!!!!!

Droopy

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