Today, I felt like taking my life into my own hands, so I undertook to swap out some power cords. I say that this is life-threatening only because those Joule-Electra monoblocks (reviewed here) are, well, temperamental. The do not like having their power cords jiggled, twitched or molested and will likely reward the unlucky with a puff of smoke and some smoldering something-or-other. In other words, be careful when fiddling near these amps.
Anyway, I powered down and moved some stuff around. I was curious because I’ve been spending too much time talking to Bobby P about his VSM-MXR speakers. The speakers are sounding fine and dandy, but Bobby is very concerned that I’m giving his babies the fairest shake possible. He’s a huge fan of Cardas cabling and fully believes that rewiring my entire system will not only dramatically improve the performance of his speakers, they’ll do the same for all the Joule-Electra gear I have here too. Moreover, that until I do this rewiring, I’m pretty much wasting my time asking questions — the answer is, “it’s your cables, stupid”.
Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe.
As you may or may not recall, I have a love-hate relationship to the Cable Hypothesis. Essentially, I believe cables might have a contribution to make to the overall sound quality of the system that showcases them, but I’m by no means convinced that the change will be for the better. Case in point is my current infatuation with Blue Jeans Cables. Not only are they cheap, they really perform — with specs on par with cables that add two zeros to the end of the price of the BJCs. So, before you mock the link between specs and performance, know that I’ve already done the due diligence — BJC has handily blown out Audience AU24e, Cardas Golden Reference, Purist Aqueous, and a dozen other “uber” cables. So, whatever might be the reason for their heavy-weight performance, whether it’s specs or fairy dust, the BJC cables are doing quite well for themselves. And for a fraction of the coin.
Anyway, Bobby tells me that the new Cardas Clear cabling is probably the best thing on the market — at least for his speakers and the Joule-Electra stuff, too. Fine. But at $2k for a pair of interconnects, and more than double that for speaker cables, lets just say that I’m in no rush. At some point, I’m going to have to borrow a suite of cables just to shut him up, but until then, he keeps pointing out how much better his speaker’d sound if my cables didn’t suck. He says “he’s familiar” with BJC, and feels that “they’re okay, BUT …” they’re strangling my Merlins. I think he’s full of shit. But for the sake of argument, I’m humoring him today. I guess I’m just in that kind of mood.
But today is all about power … And when it comes to power delivery, I’ve pretty much turned over all critical thinking to Alan Maher. It’s an odd sort of sin for me to commit, but for whatever reason, his shit really seems to work. And quite frankly, that scares the shit out of me. Crystals? Really?!? Well, yes.
The effects of all these little rocks rattling around in free-floating little boxes, plug ins, and power cord headshells is completely beyond my understanding. All I know is that there is a positive difference in my system’s overall sound quality with all these things scattered throughout my house. So, it seemed natural enough to try out a couple of his power cords to see if mo’ is betta’.
Enter the Scorpion power cords (~$150 each) this past summer. The Scorpions (now apparently replaced by his current run of Black Widow components which a different blend of crystals — Alan is forever tweaking his tweaks) are all hand made, using high purity copper in large gauge wire mated to high end Furutech connectors — have the look of a really nice DIY job. No, they’re not up to something I’ve found from Cardas or Purist, but they look audiophile, if you know what I mean — but who gives a flying f**k if they work, especially if they’re 1/4 the price, you know what I’m saying? Are you picking up what I’m layin’ down?
Anyway, I pulled all three of them. I also had an Alan Maher special cord in there, too, driving the amps, a Scorpion Active power cable w/ ebony stabilizers (~$800). This monster is a cable with a giant plastic box right in the middle of it’s length that is filled with all kinds of Alan Maher goodness. Honestly, I forget what the big deal with this cable, other than I think there is an active power filter sitting in that box instead of just some crystals rattling around. I bought it for my music server in a vain effort to try and sort out the old Power Mac G5’s power supply, but I’ve since moved to a MacBook Pro for a server, and since then the cable hasn’t been doing anything useful, so I put it on my amp. Bobby said to take it out, so I did.
I replaced the amp cord with a PS Audio AC-5 power cord and put a Cardas Golden Reference power cord on my preamp. I replaced all the other cords with their stock cords. I repowered everything, let everything warm up, and ….
Well, it sucked. It was like the soundstage took a giant leap away. And draped a wet blanket over itself. In other words, the difference was stark. And unpleasant. But I let it settle in for a few hours, just to be sure, and over that time I listened to the character of the sound. Bass was better, maybe. Fuller? Yes, I think so. But the mids and treble were still veiled, at least with respect to my memory of how the system used to sound. Ok, enough of this crap — I powered everything down and pulled the stock cords, replacing them with the AMD Scorpions, and put the Scorpion Active on my preamp this time, leaving the PS Audio AC-5 on my amp. I powered everything up, and …
The soundstage was suddenly licking my face like an over-eager puppy that had been left outside in the cold a bit too long. Bass was still full and robust but now everything seemed to snap into place again. It’s crazy, but there you have it. The AMD power cords do something better than heavy-gauge stock power cords. And the AMD Scorpion Active sounds way better on my preamp than my amp — and sounds better than a Golden Reference on my preamp, but not as good as a PS Audio AC-5 on my amp.
Are AMD power cords the last word in audiophile power delivery? How they hell should I know? But I will tell you this — I’m keeping them in there, and Bobby P can suck it (no offense, Bobby — loveya, big guy!).
[insert big shit eating grin here]
BTW, if you’re interested in checking out products from Alan Maher Designs, you’re gonna need to find him on Facebook. Apparently, social media is how he’s driving the bus. If you’re interested, you’re gonna have to go for a ride. No exceptions!