Impact of Power Cables on your DACs

After spending considerable money on my Bartok and with a Rossini clock on order; upgrades to network switch and ethernet cable, i was wondering what people’s experience has been with upgrading their power cables?

So couple of questions for the forum:

  1. What power cable are you using into you DAC?
  2. Did it make a sonic difference from your previous cable

I have been looking at Furutech, Chord and Shunyata cables so far and may go for a home demo at some point in the next few months once i have the clock and its burned in.

All views welcome.
Cheers
Jon

As far as audiophilia is concerned I am an iconoclast on this subject as after years of experimentation and many thousands of pounds of expenditure I have concluded that the power cable supplied with the product is musically normally the best even if aftermarket cables can produce an initially more exciting sound. However a change is not always a real improvement.

So yes, aftermarket cables usually do make a sonic difference from the previous cable. I would also venture that it may impress you. However before spending the money I would suggest leaving the aftermarket cable in situ for a few days until the novelty has worn off. Then put back the original cable and let it play for an hour before making any judgement. Try not to listen for hi-fi artefacts but how the music connects with you. BTW, this may be difficult to arrange with your dealer as he may expect you to just pay the money and wave goodbye ( often the case with what are regarded as accessories) or, if you do manage to get a loan, it will be for too short a period to carry out this type of audition. Likewise a dem at a dealer will not tell you a great deal IMO.

If you read the technical justifications for such cables there is an implication that dCS ( or any other high end manufacturer) does not know how to design a decent power supply and that spending on an expensive cable will somehow improve on it. Hmmmm…

I’ll bet that nobody agrees with me :grinning:

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There are a few places in the UK that have a 60 day money back scheme. As long as you order a standard length of cable and not a custom spec one, then you can get a refund if returned in that period. This is a great way to try out a cable for a decent period of time, get it burned in and compare to what you already have.

Agree that spending more money will not always lead to a better result and sometimes its just different.

I don’t think buying a better cable is necessarily linked to the quality of the power circuit in the dCS product. Also there is a school of thought that manufacturers don’t bother spending money on a power cable because people so often replace them with high end cable. I know of at least one manufacturer that doesn’t even include power cables with their components.

Well…as others said money does not rule everything…I use mainly Isotek cables…but when recently I tried an Audioquest Niagara 5000…what a change…was it better ? I think so…you must try…

I just got done replacing power cables in my system—including the Vivaldi Upsampler, DAC, Clock, and a reference clock—costing hundreds and thousands of dollars with power cables of substantially lower cost, but with documented engineering behind them. I have stated elsewhere that I am a big fan of Iconoclast audio cables, designed by Galen Gaeris, built with Belden wire, and manufactured by Blue Jeans Cable. They’ve been asked for some time to make, and have recently began producing, their first line of power cables. The evolution is documented in this lengthy thread over at the PS Audio Community Forum, in which both the engineer and the manufacturer participate heavily.

My experiences are documented here and here. Their cost is one of the great bargains in audio IMHO. You can check them out here; that page is specific to the power cables, and is not linked elsewhere on either the BJC or Iconoclast site. If you want the Techflex option or 20A connectors, you need to reach out to Bob Howard directly at bhoward@iconoclastcable.com. It’s not yet available on the website.

Thanks Greg, I will take a look. I have a BJC ethernet cable that is really good. Better than the cheap Chord one i was using.

I would like to try a Niagara, but i would need to demo one, its too much to gamble on i think

Jon, you should definitely demo it. And your dealer should be more than willing. I have found that most legitimate manufacturers, even those without a convenient dealer network, have anywhere from a 14-60 day return privilege. If you can afford the capital lockup, I highly recommend it. Whether you start with a Niagara or something else, it’s worth hearing whether it makes a difference in your system.

In the case of BAV power cords, it’s a no-brainer. Unlike a 45kg transformer, it’s pretty trivial to return power cords to the manufacturer.

Thank you Greg (PaleRider). I have just gone ahead and ordered 2 sets of BAV power cables. Eager to receive and judge them for myself.

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That’s the only real way to find out. Good luck, and please share your impressions.

What you have to remember is that every product, including the Vivaldi stack, is designed to a price point.

dCS could, say, include a power cable that retails for $1000, but then they’d need to obtain them and raise the price of their products commensurately.

But as with all things audio, the ultimate deciding factor is what it sounds like in your system. Don’t buy because of a brand name or because it’s what a magazine or your dealer recommends, but based upon what you hear:

  • If it improves the sound, buy it.
  • If not, don’t.

Interestingly the Bartok manual says:

The cables supplied with the unit are “commercial grade”, because most owners will have their own “audiophile grade” cables or will prefer to make their own cable choices.

I’d like to know whether they have data on this.

Who knows but as it seems that I am the only contributor to the community forum who recommends sticking with the supplied power cords ( for all components and whether in this thread or others), then this at least seems to lend support to their assertion. That is in addition to the seemingly endless number of cable vendors ( low barrier to market entry?) who appear to be making a living out of selling them so there must be plenty of buyers.

BTW , that quotation from the manual is not unique to Bartok. It has appeared in every dCS user manual back to the original Elgar nearly 30 years ago. So there has been plenty of opportunity to dispute it :slight_smile:.

Perhaps one day someone will demonstrate a power cable to me that provides an unequivocal improvement rather than just a change or a gain in one aspect that is offset by a loss in another. Then ( if I can afford the cable) I will happily eat my words by buying it. It isn’t as if I am a hardcore objectivist who denies that cables can make changes.

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Well put, Pete. For me, the mains cables [tip of the hat to @Simon_C] issue has been resolved with two steps: (1) a method for assuring clean, safe, and stable power; there are many ways to do this, but I settled on the Torus approach; and (2) well-engineered/designed/produced cables [Iconoclast BAV] that satisfy my aural, flexibility, and visual aesthetic requirements, and that happen to be reasonably priced [though of course more expensive than what dCS already provides to me]. Personally, behind the Torus, I think any “commercial grade” mains cable would probably be satisfactory. It so happens that the engineering of my mains cables makes sense to me. Sonically, this combo sounds equal to or better than the mish-mash of expensive cables I had in before the Torus.

I was reminded by these exchanges of the experience of “Pete_w”, recounted on the Hi-Fi Critic Forum. He seems to be an experienced listener, with a healthy scepticism of the outer reaches of audiophoolery and a bias towards good engineering. He bought himself a pair of Benchmark AHB-2 power amps (@ermos of this forum and I both have their pre-amp), and wrote:
I found - very disappointingly, and I wrote about it on here at the time - that they were incredibly sensitive to mains cables. And this is despite having a SMPS on board to drive them (they’re a linear amp, but with a SMPS). Thin mains cables can make them sound like they have their feet mired in treacle, which I think is more or less what CRITIC said about them. Mine have got thick shielded cables into the back of the PS Audio Power Plant, and they’re as fast and upbeat as you’d wish - no treacle at all.
I suppose that the perceived effect of mains cables depends quality of supply, the design of the units they are plugged into, the quality of the audio system, and finally the ears on the receiving end. I agree with the general advice given in this thread and others: listen with an open mind (but a degree of scepticism and with snake oil detector switched on). I suspect my next adventure will be with Iconclast cables. I’m interested for some of the same reasons as Greg.

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Add me in agreement.

I run a full Naim 500 series stack fronted by a Rossini+Clock (which replaced a Linn Klimax DS) and LP12. Most Naimees in the UK use the included power cable or a Naim PowerLine at 600gbp. Here in the States our choices are the same Naim Powerline made for the US market (which substitutes a Watt Gate plug at the power end) or, like Greg PaleRider said - a reasonably priced well engineered power cable manufactured by AV Options. AVO is made up of several partners one of which is Chris West, the long time USA importer and former Naim UK Service manager. Their top of the line cable is a 12 gauge “Tibia” terminated with the same Watt Gate end. It prices out at $249. They also make a power distribution block which is reasonably priced and was highly reviewed by Stereophile Magazine.

Of course the FIRST THING anyone should do before purchasing any aftermarket power cable is to run a dedicated home run electrical line from the panel back to their stereo system. This is the one thing I am sure most would be in agreement with

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Definitely agree with this. And I also like the AVO guys. Solid engineering, no BS. I had their SuperWireMold Strip for a while. Well made.

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Good guys and good friends.
I highly recommend anything they do.

Chris West is a treasure to have here in the States as he helped build out Naim’s UK service center in the early days. Just like with dCS’s software upgrades which render a product useful for an extended life cycle, AVO and Chris can recap Naim components at the 10 or 15 year point and extend their longevity for an additional 10/15 years.

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I asked for peoples experiences Stefanizzi not for someone to come on and start being disrespectful of opposing views.

What set up have you used to test out power cables, what were those cables and what did your listening experience tell you?

My experience with Ethernet has shown it does make a difference in my setup but I didnt need to throw lots of money at the problem to get a good result…

I’m sorry, I thought it was fun.

I answer your question:

  1. blind tests conducted under controlled conditions and repeated over time;
  2. 35 years of personal and professional experience in the field of music and listening:I am a conservatory professor in Vienna and with classical music I earn my bread. Most of the audiophiles I have known are people who cannot tell the difference between an English horn from an oboe, or worse, a bassoon from a clarinet. Not even with open eyes. I don’t want to generalize, let alone offend anyone!
    Best regards,
    Massimo
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