Power Cord Challenge

I've got a couple of weeks off before starting a new job. As I clearly fall into the camp of those who suspect no purely audible differences exist (except in pathologic cases of too-small cords or RFI interference), here's a challenge:

If you live in the San Jose, CA area, let's get together and put this to the test. Your system, your choice of music, I supply a stock power cord to test against your exotic. We play both cords blind (identified as A and B) for a reasonable amout of time; I then play one of the two (randomly chosen through a coin flip) for a reasonable amount of time and you identify it as either A or B. We'll do 10 trials for some statistical significance.

Given that some claim drastic and easily heard differences ("blacker background", "music is more alive", etc., etc., etc.), it should be trivial to get right and shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes per trial. The kicker: you get 9 or 10 right and I'll give you $500! The downside: 8 or less correct and you donate $250 to the Red Cross. Hey, I'm even giving you 2 for 1 odds!

Regardless of the outcome, we post the results to this site. Any takers?

Great idea. Let us know if anyone takes you up on this.

I tried a much simpler quick and dirty test on my system once. I had the stock cord plugged into my preamp and I cranked the volume all the way up, with no music on. Hiss from background noise and a buzzing sound were rather loud. I then switched to an Electra Glide FatBoy and the hiss and buzz were much quieter. Maybe I'll get a soundmeter and measure the difference in background noise and post results. Perhaps it was a fluke?
I admire that you are willing to back up your opinions with dollars. Hopefully, someone from the other side is equally willing. Be sure to post the results.
Sounds kind of freaky. Need more info-but let's play. By the sound of it, you want to get together, in my house and I am to be blindfolded. Are you a woman? That could make a difference. If you are a dude, I'll pass. HOWEVER, should there be any takers (someone really into freaky) I will throw in on the Red Cross side. At least some cash in any case, and more if I can talk to the superfreak, and trust he (or she) has attached, anything approaching a decent ear.
Hi Jhunter, I can't make it to San Jose but if you are willing to drive south to Ventura county I will pay your gas, put you up for the night and dinner will be on me.
Because of my PCs and set up 10 times may not be practical. I am sure we can come up with something agreeable for the two of us. I like your post and I believe you are sincere. I will not take your money when I win but I will pay you $250 if you cannot hear the difference in PCs. If this is possible for you, please let me know and I will take whatever day off that is convenient for you. Even if this challenge proves nothing, we will have a good day of music and the chance to talk some audio. I have a lot of respect for people like you.
I could probably make it to Brulee's for a day trip (I am an hour South). If not I can lend a BMI Whale for the audition if it is held at Bruce's. If you get takers in your area though you could call it "The Grapes of Wrath Shootout".
Damnit, JHunter, if you're not my kinda man then you're my kinda woman! i can't wait to read the outcome! Good job!
Wow! This is a great thread!

I recently bought a new power cord for my CDP, and thought that I heard more ambient detail, esp with stringed instruments. I even made my better half listen on a blind A/B comparison with the stock power cord; she said the aftermarket cord sounded better! BTW, she thinks I'm crazy thanks to this new hobby I've found :)

I eagerly await the results. I hope more people will join you, as statisticians will point out errors due to small sample size, blah, blah, blah.
All you will prove is that some people hear more than others, some people hear less. Ever hear of the bell curve, statistical distributions?... super-tasters?... thresholds of pain? Everyone's different.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Quit pooping the party. This is a gag for fun. Noone cares if it proves anything or even works. Though I would like to hear more of your ideas on tasting and thresholds of pain, maybe even a little on distributions too. That all sorta seems to fit right in here. :-)
Sounds like fun to me! Let me know the date, if its at a convenient time I'll fly or drive there from Ohio!
The test should be all stock power cords at the same time versus all custom cords at the same time, as I've found the positive effects to be cumulative. I'm not in the vicinity, but I hope someone can take you up on this offer. Cheers. Craig
Brulee -

As it turns out, my new company is HQ'd in El Segundo so I'll be down in SoCal on occasion. I'm a bit geographically challenged (some would argue hearing challenged as well . . .) - how close is Ventura county to LAX? Maybe we could set something up on one of my trips down. I agree - it'd be fun and an education regardless of how things turn out.

Cheers -
Estrnad -

I'm pretty familiar with stats and probability, although didn't spend any time formulating a null hypothesis, etc. for this case. I did a quick back of the napkin calculation and figured out that there's roughly a 1% probability of getting 9 or 10 right if just guessing. The napkin was pretty messy, though, and I might be off. I did figure that whomsoever took me up on the deal would be somebody who felt that they could hear the differences, though, so qualified (ITHO) as a "super-hearer".
BTW - I am a he/dude/male/whatever. Just ask my wife . . .

And the deal is serious for anyone in the area who wants to try it.

It is too far for me from Vermont, but I would love to do it. Not because I am so positive about my hearing ( I'm not), but because if I lost I would not feel bad about the donation to the Red Cross. Good post, you got us!
I second this challange and say up the ante and challange a cable designer to this test. Id drop some cash into the pot ($100) if he or she prevails. So we are at $600 to the winner.
Hi Jhunter, to my place from LAX is about a 45 minute drive depending on traffic. You are welcome anytime. Just give me a few days notice. You can pick up Dekay on your way down from the airport. We'll have a good old time.
Jhunter, Ventura is 1 1/2 hours from El Segundo on a good day. And picking up Dekay would take another 2 hours with traffic.
Great idea... this topic is never ending on this forum. :) I like the fact that there is money riding on it. I'd love to send a cable for the test. I will say this...9/10 is a pretty tough goal. My audio memory is like 3 seconds at best so I wouldn't put my money up. I think if you could do 7/10 on several different occasions on some kind of regular basis it would say more about the validity.
jhunter - I like this. I will contribute another $500 to the first person that can pick an exotic line cord from a stock one. This brings the odds to 4 to 1. It would be worth 500 bucks to find out that people can really do this. It's only the taste of crow that would be unpleasant.
Brulee, and Jhunter too; I admire you guys style-- and best of luck to both. Cheers. Craig
Brukowski....what are you talking about? Are you reading this thread or just babbling?
Bbab bb ba bbb ba ba bb ba ab ba b ab ba bbabba bb bb ba ba ba ba bb ab ab baabb ba ba bb ab b bbaaabbab bb b bb ba bbbbb ba aab ba bbabb bbaab ba bb ba ba bb abb ba bb baba aba ab abbabba aaabbabaab.
OK, here you go: Beat me, whip me, make me listen to mid-fi! How's that for thresholds (nice amps!) of pain??
Bravo! Another fine member with a sense of humor. Even better, able to multitask.
Awesome! I'd be willing to drive up from San Diego to be an observer, if it weren't for the house remodel. What an educational opportunity. Well-done! -Sam
Hey! What's goin on in here. Where do I send the money. Who's doin what? We need to pick teams. We need some action and some details. Is this because of those power problems out there?
Hey, again! Pls, don't forget to post results! I'm ~25.000 transatlantic miles away and impatiently awaiting...
Jhunter: This reminds me of the James Randi Educational Foundation's $1 million challenge to psychics and such to prove a paranormal occurrence. There have been several who accepted the challenge when put on the spot (like on a TV show) but never followed through afterward. A true test would be refreshing.
I'm close to San Jose and very interested in the results of this experiment, but I don't like the idea of putting money on the line. Why is that necessary? Dan
An interesting thought. I have an idea on how to improve the test, and maybe a helpful analogy to explain my reasoning.
First off, I admit to believing in ICs, PCs, etc. That said, I think it would be hard to say "that is cord A or B" after listening to the PCs separately. There was an article a few yrs back in one of the Mid-fi mags re this with a similar experimental setup using ICs and pretty much everyone failed at achieving 9/10. Anyway, sorry for the detour... back to my analogy...

Look at two color cards of similar shades of a color (or shades of white/off white that the dentist shows you before offering a tooth whitening service). Pick ones that are a shade or two off from each other- easily discernable when put alongside each other. Now close your eyes and remove one of the cards. Look at the remaining card (you can open your eyes now). I would be very surprised if you could tell which color is which, unless you could see them next to each other.

I think the way to run this test is to listen to both cables each time you choose and pick which one is which after hearing them quickly back to back, rather than one cable isolated each time.

The audible difference using non-stock PCs in my system is a subtle but noticeable change. It is easiest to appreciate when I have listened to my system for a while, and then notice a haze is lifted (or added) with a new PC change, or IC change, whatever. Most of my system's components remain in my system for a good time (or at least as long as the next audiophile's) and I think that PCs are a fine tuning tweak, and at the risk of pising someone off, they don't make a huge difference, but it is a real one.

I think your idea is a great one, but I have no need to prove to anyone what I believe, much less put money on it. However, I would be interested in your session in Ventura if it happens. It would cerainly be a fun learning experience, as well as a good music session. I live around 45 minutes from there and would bring a few good CD's and PCs, and some better imbibitions. Thanks for the thread,

Tsquared, I live in Camarillo (Ventura County) and you are certainly welcome to visit. As you say it would be fun and a learning experience as well. Maybe we can get a few Audiogon members together for a day such as Dekay, Jcbtubes, Jhunter and myself. It would have to be at the end of June or a sometime after. Could be a lot of fun. 702, I don't know where you live but you especially are invited. I do not believe anyone will need a blindfold but if ya gotta ya gotta.
Drubin -

This is definitely a "win-win" proposition. If people find out that they can reliably HEAR the differences in power cords, they pocket at least $500 and can shop for an even better cord. If they cannot hear the difference, then the give the Red Cross $250 (a good idea for us all, regardless of the amount) but should save much more than that in PC expenses and possibly recoup the donation by selling their current PCs.

That being said, education is a higher incentive. I just thought that it was a good way to entice folks to do some serious testing, regardless of which way the test comes out.

I'd be happy to do some informal testing if we can find a mutually agreeable time.

Yes, Late June sounds like a good time for me and by then I will have additional PC's which we may use in the tests. I should also have my system (which will include new goodies such as the Neuance shelving and hopefully the 47 Labs cabling) up and running by that time and would like to have a few people over that are interested in these products as well as PC's. PC's will include the BMI Whale, a new silver PC by Vantage Audio, the Stealth HAC and Absolute cords for lower price comparisons and in addition I will ask Bruce to supply one of his FIM PC's. This will be kind of a duplication of the first shootout (as these PC's will be available for it as well) but will also include other interesting and reasonably priced (I think) products.
Tsquared -

Your comments re: fast switching are right on. This is the only proven way to hear subtle differences. Hard to do with power cords, though it might be possible to rig up a rapid switch box.

Looks like no takers for now, and I'm back at work next week. Tomorrow is golf, with no audio except for the "woosh" as I wiff. The offer stands for those in the San Jose area, though we may need to do some work setting up a time.

Brulee and others in SoCal - let's try to figure a date in late June/early July for some listening, as formal or informal as we like. It'll be fun in any case.

OOps: Forgot that Bruce is also using the Neuance and may be using the 47 Labs cable as well. Anyway, we have a lot of art and old plastic souviner snowdomes to look at.
Jhunter, I hope you are able to pull off this "PC Challenge". Sounds like it may be fun no matter what the outcome.

You state that you are from the "BAD" camp, in that you don't suspect that there should be an audible difference between stock (or what have you) PCs and aftermarket "exotics," but have you ever listened to any? Your writing implies that you haven't given one a test drive. I find it interesting that you would put up $500 in cold, hard cash for a 2 for 1 offer (which given 0 return to you, and the tax write-off to the loser if you are right isn't really accurate either) if you hadn't tried one of those "exotics." The same applies to Stevemj who is willing to up the ante to 4 to 1; have you ever tried one? 500 clams can buy an awfully nice PC on the used market.

Let the games begin!

Good point, but maybe one person could run back and forth really quickly switchin cords for the others (at least until he has too much ale). Peace,

My experience has always been that rapid switching obscures differences and should be avoided. For example, I can switch rapidly back and forth between the CD playback of my Sony 777 and the same playback using a Dodson outboard DAC. Hard to hear a difference. But if I pause and start the selection over again, the differences are quite obvious and repeatable. Perhaps I am violating rules of experimental design or psychoacoustics, but this has been my experience time and again over the many years,. Maybe this is a topic for a new thread.
I have used rapid switching in audio shops with good results but since I do not have this feature at home (nor would I want it) I just use "key" notes and pieces of music. When I went to Kublakan's AR/BAT audition in late April we used the finger snaps on a cut that I brought along ("Duke of Earl" by Last Forever) which clearly sounded different on the various preamps auditioned. The rest of the music did as well, but this was a small thing that we could all focus and communicate effectively on. Since the testing requested for the PC shootout is based on simple yes/no information, something such as this should work fine. If we have a get together at my place the cords can be tested as they normally would in regard to how they effect the music on a whole. After all this is the main objective of most of us here. I promise not to play Johnny Rivers.
Dekay: I'm willing to supply you with one of our cords for the test. Let me know and I'll put one in the mail as I would like to see how it stacks up against all these "big dogs".

Hi Kevin: Thanks for the offer and I will definately take you up on it if either of these sessions come together. If you have a personal cord that is already broken in that would be great, and I will burn it an additional 100+ hours after it arrives, just to get rid of the travel blues. Best regards, David.
I had a broken-in one around here for awhile but I shipped it. I'll put another one on my amp and let it run. I have a MOBIE for the interconnects but the power cables are useless to break-in before shipping. All that agitation during shipping does something to them. Keep them off the ground for listening and it helps to run them on the equipment you want to test for awhile before getting into listening mode. If all of this isn't unscientific enough for you then try some yoga and meditation before listening. :)
Kevin: I have been having good luck running extra PC's in on the computer for 2-3 weeks. They sound smooth enough to listen to anyway and then I use them on the systems.
JHunter, My first time reading these threads, but this hits my questionong right on. I've been out of the hi fi cicuit for some time,( a good 15 yrs. ). Back when I was really into it, the only 'wire' upgrades were Monster cable speaker wire, & Kimber cable had just hit the market,( we're talking 20 yrs, ago),& I wasn't overly impressed with Kimber back then.I ended up on e-bay from another site, & decided to search audio. I saw a power cord advertised,& was floored by a 1000.00 price tag, then I saw another 2995.00 cord on 'sale' for 1500.00. All I can say is that a fool & their money are soon parted. I can't see spending 1000.00 for a power cord, much less 500.00 for a pr of interconnects. For crying out loud, that's the price of a decent pre-amp, or amp! When you consider the amout of 'material' in any component, even a cheap cd player compared to whats in a 'pig-tail', come on. I don't doubt thay it makes 'a' difference, but the dollars just don't seem to add up. That's my 2 cents worth
JHunter, I live 10 minutes southwest of San Jose and will bring the wine in exchange for a ducat to sit in on the event, if you ever find a taker. Of course, the wine will have to wait until AFTER the ballots are cast so as not to unduly influence the outcome!! :-)
Jhunter, about two months ago I was in your camp. I thought power cords were pure snake oil. A friend of mine kept telling me what a difference they made so I decided to buy a Virtual Dynamics Power 2 Cryo. I knew I could sell it and not take much of a bath if it didn't work out.

Forget the 9 out of 10 right. I promise you I could get 10 out of 10. And so could you if you were listening to my system. I can't speak for any other system, but this wouldn't even be a contest in my system. The difference is that dramatic.

Look, I have been listening to my same system for a long time. I know what it sounds like. When I installed the PC, it was like I had upgraded one of my components. I wasn't so impressed the first few days. The detail, sounstage, the clarity, etc., sounded better, but not dramatic. But I left the cord on 24/7, burning in for about two weeks and then it was a night and day difference.

Anyway, you don't have to do a shootout. Just spend about $300 on a decent cord and find out. Some are better than others I suspect, but I am thrilled with mine.

Even my wife, who never listens critically, made the comment as she was passing through the room, "Whatever you have been fiddling with now(tweaking), don't change it, it has never sounded this good."

All I changed was the power cord. Well, that's not true exactly. I had to install an IEC on my CDP to use my new power cord. I used silver wire and an Acme Silver Cryoed IEC. Simultaneously, I installed an Acme Silver Plated Cryoed 20 amp wall outlet. So I can't give all the credit to the PC, but I suspect that you would be just as skeptical of the Acme outlet, as well.

Try a good cord that other people have reported success with and find out for yourself. In my system, it was as dramatic as upgrading a component for a mere $300.
BTW, you said you want to supply the stock cord. I can't speak to what you refer to as your stock cord and maybe it is relatively good. I can only comment on the stock cord that came on my CDP vs. the VD power cord.

I know it is rhetorical to say I would take your challenge since I am on Maui, but I could easily win your bet using the stock cord that came on my CDP vs. the upgraded cord.