Some observations from a former skeptic - and a question
I had been firmly in the camp that power cables made little difference. A few years ago, I purchased an AQ Niagara 5000 (very nice improvement by itself BTW) and had auditioned various power cables with it. Nothing too fancy but I found differences difficult to perceive so I just used AQ Monsoon cables. However, I continued to read how others felt power cables had the most impact which I found curious.
I recently decided to move the Niagara to a system in another home and was planning on getting another Niagara 5000. My local dealer (who carries both AQ and Nordost) suggested I try the Nordost QB 8 MK III which he claimed to be a notable improvement over the MK II variant.
I compared the Nordost and Niagara in home and found them different but not dramatically so. The Nordost I thought a bit more dynamic, the Niagara a bit “blacker” in background.
The same dealer was surprised and suggested we do an In-store demo of power cables going into the QB 8 (great move by the local dealer!).
And there it was. The benefit was clearly there in improved spatial cues - the better cables were more “open”. I tried the same thing in my system - and same result. Unfortunately, power cables do matter. I will note that the AQ Niagara - as much as I liked it (and it was the first conditioner that I heard that made a big difference) - was somewhat negating the impact of the higher end power cables (a nice benefit in hindsight).
Power cables don’t make as much a difference as interconnects or high quality digital cables (to my ears, in my system) but the benefits are there depending on your budget and appetite for going down the proverbial rabbit hole.
As an aside, despite Nordost’s claim otherwise, the dealer and I both found the cable from the wall to the QB8 the least impactful and the cable(s) from the QB8 to the amp and source most impactful.
My system now is mostly Valhalla 2s (interconnects and A/C from QB 8 to components. I never expected to get here given my previous experiences.
I need one more A/C cable to complete my loom - for my processor (part of my digital stack). I auditioned a Tyr 2 and it made a notable difference. Unfortunately.
My total expenditure in cables is now equal to the cost of the rest of my system which seems crazy on the surface, but the results have been really rewarding - and more audible than most component upgrades.
Which leads me to a question:
How does this group think an Odin 1 (several available on this website) would match with my Valhalla 2 loom? I’m gathering many users feel that Valhalla 2s are > Odin 1s.
I could just stick w/ Tyr 2 on that unit though the cost differentials are not that great between new Tyr 2 and used Odin 1, but Valhalla 2s are up there.
I am absolutely an advocate of high end wires. But their efficacy are dependent on your system, room and power. Also, what particular aspects of sound and music you listen to.
Your story sounds completely reasonable. I once ended up with wires that nearly cost the same as my system. so, you are not crazy there.
Be very cautious buying used Nordost. There has been large sales of fake Nordost from China… price $50 - $100 new (in fact most high end). If you have owned or seen the real thing you can tell… but if not your never going to be able to tell.
By the way, on average most folks experience speaker cables and amp power cords being the biggest difference, then interconnects then the rest of power cords… then vibration dampening.
I had a quick look at your system… photos would be great. It gives a much fuller impression than a list. I would be inclined to recommend staying where you are, enjoying your system, and saving for your next component upgrade.
And there it was. The benefit was clearly there in improved spatial cues - the better cables were more “open”.
Man, if there’s one truth I’ve learned as a long-time audiophile, EVERYTHING matters to some degree or another (unless the system is poor or not transparent enough to reveal the differences). Just wanted to say goodonya for sticking with it, keeping an open mind (and wallet), and, most importantly, ultimately having the ability to trust your own ears. (Hopefully jasonbourne won’t show up here and try to rain on your parade). Congrats on making some nice positive strides in your system! It’s gotta feel super rewarding, and you’ve certainly earned every bit of it.
Since you have tried Nordost cabling with the Nordost power conditioner, you should also try the Audioquest Dragon power cord with your Niagara 5000 conditioner. I believe they were designed to be used together.
Thanks all for the feedback. It has been an interesting journey and I’m grateful there are experienced forum participants who can offer feedback in a collaborative environment.
@ghdprentice- noted on purchasing pre-owned cables. I think I’ll steer clear, though I will note the Odin 1s are from authorized Nordost dealers who took them in on trade for Odin 2.
@ozzy- fair point. I did not compare my Niagara 5000 w/ a dragon cable into it or out of it. But, I did try some Hurricanes and Tornados when demoing things and did not find them materially better like I did when I went upstream on the Nordost system. Since so many here report positive experiences with the dragon level cables, I’ve no doubt I haven’t experienced the best of that unit, but I’m also not wanting to reverse course to now go all in on AQ cables. But, it is an intriguing idea.
The system at the lake home is much simpler: Sonus Faber Olympica Nova IIIs, and an NAD M33 integrated amp w/ built in streamer. It’s quite musical (particularly given the price point), but I’m not feeling like I want to add $20k in cables to it. (Yet).
Power cables make a difference alright. Just not as much difference as an isolation transformer, which also protects your equipment from spikes on the AC line.
I did the experiment, which I've detailed several times on this forum. Only trouble with isolation transformers is that they tend to hum loudly when they're doing their job, so they really have to be sited outside the listening room. A utility room is ideal.
My total expenditure in cables is now equal to the cost of the rest of my system which seems crazy on the surface, but the results have been really rewarding - and more audible than most component upgrades.
My sense of things, especially with components associated with power is that it takes an expensive and intelligently selected set of power components designed to function as a system to have power components make a major impact upon what we hear. Some Ops want to add one super Amazon PC to one component and expect to hear a difference. I found it to be very difficult to spend large amounts of money on power and I only did so because my salesperson encouraged me to return everything if it didn’t make a major improvement to my system. I never expected to hear a major improvement and I felt guilty for spending so much money on items that I previously ignored.
It’s great to hear of your positive experience, but spending a lot on power is a big step for many of us.
Good post. Confirms my thinking. Any part in of system has an impact on sound. Some impacts are too minute to be noticed, depending on the 'noise level' or 'quality' of the system. On a high quality system like mine ($4,000 including room($0)) and low quaity ears (came with my head) , the most noticeable impacts are repeatably found from the room and speaker side, followed by speaker cables, then the rest of analog signal chain. The rest more or less disappears in the 'noise level', i.e. the system does not have sufficient 'resolution' to let smaller differences become noticeable.
I am convinced that increasing the resolution by using a factor of 10 ($40,000) or 100 ($400,000) for the system cost will bring out differences even in the digital path and even the power soruce/cables.
Maybe some time in the future I will get a chance to verify the above (on someone elses system, most certainly not mine) in an A/B test of for example power cable (or even a FLAC vs xxx file).
When I lived in a large city 20+ years ago a power conditioner was a must.I didn't realize how much noise was on the line until it was eliminated. Now being out in the boonies good surge protection is all that is needed now as there's no noise I can perceive. I did upgrade all of the pcs several years ago with well built shielded cables that seemed to have a bit blacker backgrounds,until I got to the amp.That's where there were really noticeable differences. "The one" ended up being a silver pc from ZenWave. One of those OMG moments.
I am lucky to be friends with dealers that do a lot of trade-ins, so I get to test more things than I would be able to experience normally. I am not in the USA, and I am not trying to sell anything. My personal experience is as follows:
1. Cables matter a lot, including power cables.
2. Each electrical installation can be different; hence, the cable or conditioner that works in one place, may not be required in another. Testing is a must.
3. If you use excellent-quality cables for the electrical installation, it is very significant because it begins to improve things even before the power gets to your power cables. It adds up; almost everything matters.
4. Among the power cables I have tested (a lot), the ones that are so good that the sound improvement is significantly better than any other brand are the Tara Labs (including the ultra-expensive ones) and Crystal Cables. The Tara Labs are more expensive, too thick, and rigid, so this makes the result from the thin (in comparison) Crystal cables more impressive. They are much easier to manage, and they are pretty. Also, they are not cheap either, but they make a big enough difference in the sound quality to persuade me to migrate to them in stages, as finances allow, including the electrical wiring for the audio setup.
I used 12/2 but many here seem to recommend 10/2 that’s probably not much more expensive and I’d think could only be as good or better but is a bit harder to run due to stiffness (I had two 20-amp lines installed BTW). I used a Porter Port, but if I was doing it again I’d probably get this Maestro outlet as it’s reasonably priced, and Enjoy the Music did a head-to-head comparing it to pricier competition from Oyaide, Furutech, etc. and it held its own.
Last, went back and found some helpful tips I got here when I installed my dedicated lines so thought I’d share in case it might help — my electrician had no clue how to properly install a dedicated line for audio so it definitely helped in my case…
- If possible run separate lines for digital and analog components
- Don’t use 14/2 and go with at least 12/2 Romex
- All lines should be installed on the same leg and not share a neutral bus
I'm still a skeptic. As a professional consumer researcher, I know the only valid way to do these comparisons is through a blind listening test. I looked online and was only able to find one blind study on power cords for audio. It wasn't perfectly done, but it was pretty good. Sorry, I don't have time to go online and find it again. But I remember the conclusions clearly.
The data revealed two things. First, power cables do not impact sound quality in any reliable way, even when listened to by serious audiophiles. Second, people listening are convinced that they hear differences. How can both these things be true?
Here's an example. You have people listen to the same system playing the same song with two different power cables, and you repeat this several times. The first time they listen, they tell you that A sounds clearly better than B. But the next time they listen you flip a coin and either make A from round 1 A again in round 2, or you make A from round 1 B in round 2. Then they listen again, same system, same song. This time they swear that one power cord sounds better than the other, but it's not the same cord they thought sounded better 5 minutes before. You can repeat this many times and determine that their preferences are, in fact, totally random.
Neuroscience research shows that the brain plays a much more active role in constructing our sensory experiences than we normally think it does. In a famous series of experiments, it was shown that when people are told a bottle of wine is more expensive, it actually tastes better to them. It's not that they lie to try and look sophisticated. But brain scans reveal that they actually get a more enjoyable experience when they think the wine costs more.
One other interesting outcome of the blind listening experiment on power cables. Even though the results showed that people's preferences were random, most people were convinced that they had heard an important difference. The placebo effect is very powerful. You probably do hear a difference. But it's not because of the power cables; it's because your brain is constructing that experience for you.
For fun, do try this at home. Get a bunch of friends together and do some blind random comparisons between your new power cable and your old one. Resist the temptation to cheat. Be sure you really don't have a clue which cable you are listening to.
Here is how to do it right. Lable one cable 'heads" and the other "tails". Have someone privately flip a coin and then, when only they can see, plug in the corresponding cord. Listen. Then have someone flip the coin again so only they can see. If it's heads twice in a row, that's fine, use the same cable twice in a row. After the second listening, have all the listeners privately write down if they liked the cable in the second listening the same amount, more, or less, than the cable in the first listening. Do this 10 times. Each time people compare the cable they just heard to the previous cable. be sure to obey the results of the coin toss. It's ok if at the end you have 7 heads and only 3 tails, or if you have 4 tails in a row, or whatever. Just obey the count toss. At the end, see if people dependably liked one more than the other. And just as importantly, when the same power cord was used twice in a row, could people tell that it was the same, or did they say the like one better than the other. If you do this, let us know the results.
If the link does work, search on Amazon for The Things We Love: How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are. It goes into the science behind why we love music, among other things. I recommend it highly, but I'm biased because I wrote it.
What you say might be true in some cases, but not all. I've been playing instruments and listening to music, on my father's audiophile system, since I was very young. When I was older, I started to put my own systems together. As I made more money the systems improved. Anyway, I can easily hear differences in everything. I've gone into audio shops and heard great systems, and not so great ones that the owner said was great, unless they were exaggerating to sell me something. Blind tests are tricky though, I think that in some cases people are under pressure to make the right decisions and that might affect their judgement.
I can appreciate being a skeptic and I’m fine with your position. If you read my original post - I had done multiple demos previously - with no discernible difference. Conceptually, it didn’t make sense to me either. I did not expect positive results so I came in to this with no confirmation bias.
That said - the differences in an a/b comparison were pretty easy to hear. No, it wasn’t a blind test but I will politely suggest that you would have heard a difference - it wasn’t difficult to perceive.
I would also submit that one problem with a blind test is that you’re required to identify which is which correctly. The test can be failed while still perceiving differences. Of course, different is not always better. But let’s start with the exploration of whether or not there are differences.
As a fellow skeptic, I think you would appreciate how many pieces of gear (some were considered state of the art and in an exalted price category) I have auditioned and passed on because there might have been a difference but I wasn’t sure - or it didn’t merit the spend.
Audio’s a bitch when you don’t have enough listening experience or the ability and confidence to trust your own ears. Sad really. Yet we here have to endure their painful and utterly ignorant posts. Ugh.
I think the psychology of some of the "meter reader" cables-don't-make-a-real-difference types is a lot like some other close-knit clans of professional skeptics - self-righteous, arrogant, vituperative, and totally closed-mindedly convinced of their mechanistic imagined view of what a human being is - a fine-tuned biological deterministic machine that can be totally characterized by various types of medical and biological research. In this mindset, if instrumentation can't detect it it doesn't exist. My impression is that there aren't any of these extreme types on this blog, but they may soon make their presence known.
These "guerilla skeptics" of audio are zealously defending the bastions of the wonderful enlightened scientific establishment against the legions of unwashed devotees of "woo" phenomena that don't exist outside their deluded audiophile imaginations, and these closed-minded skeptics are determinedly promulgating their empty philosophy wherever they can trumpet it. They worship the double-blind experimental protocol despite the fact that this protocol has the inherent tendency of (by a self-selection effect) carefully selecting out the faithful flat-Earth meter-reader engineer types who will usually predictably find nothing due to the very self-suggestion psychological phenomenon they think is going on with the true audiophiles.
These flat-Earth meter-reader engineer audio fanatics remind me a lot of the "guerilla skeptics" that infest Wikipedia especially in the topics of paranormal phenomena and the afterlife, and of the science of Intelligent Design in its battle with Darwinism's impotent and invalid partial random walk process of random mutation plus natural selection. They have taken on the they think noble task of policing the Internet and especially Wikipedia of any false claims of esp, psi, the paranormal in general including NDEs, past life memories, mediumistic communications, any other afterlife research findings, and so on. The same scorn of the ignorant unbelievers, the same arrogance that they (the elite representatives of the True Theory) know the Truth and it has been proven by science (In reality not by a mile!). They of course also totally and deliberately and falsely mischaracterize the scientific researchers and proponents of ID as devotees of Young Earth fundamentalist Christian Creationism).
I tend to take all of this turmoil as indicative of a common thread of a strong intolerant science fanatic tendency in our society, people who have a deathly fear of "woo" of all kinds, they characterize as some sort of evil any deviation from the strict line of establishment consensus mainline reductionist materialist science, namely scientism - the worship of Science as some sort of religion. As a reversion to past ignorance and deluded religious faith that oppressed the development of enlightened Science in the beginning. Leading evangelists of this new religion are people like Richard Dawkins.
The other influence in their ranks is where there are the ones that just mainly have a strong need to belittle others in order to bolster their own egos. In order to accomplish this, they see themselves as heroic guardians of the True Faith of Materialism. Any topic where they can find what they consider "woo" is fair game since it allows them to really feel superior.
Yes measurements are maybe half useful and more useless, but expectation bias, placebo effect and when the beer happens to kick in are all things.
They are both a thing.
As for power cords where does it stop? Certainly outlets should be changed to commercial duty gold plated of course, and then that horrible solid core Romex wire from the circuit breaker to the outlet needs replacing with single crystal copper. Don't even get me going on the circuit breaker itself and the meter. Pretty soon we are out the street hanging new power lines. I have an electrician's license but I don't want to do that.
Honestly, my system's outlet is pretty bad. Probably the first thing most should change including me to a heavy duty commercial type. Where it takes effort to plug it in.
But yeah I can see how the crappy zip cords feeding my amps may be a weak point. And where they plug into the amps.
Did you actually read my original post and follow up comments?
I’m well educated and frequently discuss confirmation bias in my own work. I started this journey having already proved to myself that power cables don’t make a difference. I had actually done the work previously and concluded:No difference.
But, my sense in reading through your responses is that in being a skeptic, a position I was in and can respect - you and @ahuviaare not open to doing this work. You “know what you know” so there can’t be a difference. You conclude that it must be confirmation bias for us - ignoring that my bias going in was I had already proved to myself previously why bother.
The difference between us is that I decided to do the work again out of respect for others viewpoints and in recognition that I “don’t know what I don’t know” as I am not a materials scientist. And, I came out the other end of the journey pleasantly surprised.
Lastly, there is a well known power cable and conditioner manufacturer who publishes white papers and their measured results of their power cords. It’s now established that the effects of power cables can be measured.
To the question of where does it end? Hopefully here for me but I remain open to the possibilities.
Wow, so much anti-science hostility. It’s one thing to argue about the efficacy of cables, but let’s not get off the rails! Science created audio reproduction. Science improves it. Science probably saved your life once. Science has a say in this matter.
I didn’t see anything in ahuvia’s post that was rude or should have drawn such hostility. If the mere idea of skepticism is so threatening, the "cables matter" side needs to do the work to feel more emotionally secure. Come up with some tests and prove it.
I do agree that you can only go so far referencing published studies and that personal experience does matter. I also agree that it doesn’t really matter what other people think about a tweak you make that you like in your system.
However, that goes both ways. You say you don’t care what people think but you only really don’t care what people think if they disagree with you. I would say that’s not the optimal attitude to learn things or to convince others. Clearly when someone posts about a positive cable improvement they do care what people think when people agree with the post.
Forums are not echo chambers. People need to learn to deal with dissent. There is a Truth here, and maybe finding that starts with showing some mutual respect?
(I’m skeptical that power cables matter outside of quality construction and gauge but as I have never done a test and wouldn’t have the budget anyway I am more interested in reading data, facts and experiences and find the flaming counterproductive.)
EDIT: to the OP, the above doesn't refer to you as I think your posts are pretty balanced and respectful. But a few of the above set me off.
Yes I read your post and I do believe you. You heard a difference.
And I admitted that I should get a better outlet and power supply cords for my amps. The wall sockets are weak and also the socket on the amp itself where the cord plugs into the amp is probably corroded and also a weak point. I should solder a direct connection there and eliminate the socket connection.
Even just plugging in and unplugging can make a difference as a new more solid copper to copper connection is made.
Yes you did offend me. When someone calls someone else’s thoughtful well written post "raging" I think it’s stupid and that offends me. And you do this kind of thing regularly, you did it to me early on when I first joined.
You are sniping from the sidelines. Certainly not being nice.
@mgrif104I have the Nordost QB8 v2 and Nordost power cables and had the exact same experience as you.
Dont be put off that your cables now cost x multiples more than the rest of the system. Cable ancillaries have the highest markup so they tend to cost so much, but it’s needed to get the performance. If you did not discover this you could be on the usual speaker/amp merry go round, where an audiophile keeps chasing an elusive sound not realising the veil and lack of clarity/realism is caused by lack of power filtering and poor signal transfer. No new speaker or amp is going to give you what you want in this situation. But once done, even a modest priced system can go to the moon on performance when it’s fed a clear signal.
Also dismiss the expectation bias nonsense. I cannot tell you how many time I have purchased a new more expensive audio item and WANTED it to be better and had to finally admit it was not. Shouldn’t the brain bias fool me into liking the new toy better? Similarly I have purchased what I hoped were GIANT KILLER items, hoping at 1/5th the cost they would be better or at least compete with the higher priced item so I could sell it off. But no, again had to admit sometimes the higher priced was better. Trust your ears, do the a/b swaps in quick time, like a few minutes, so your audio memory is fresh.
And last advice, get a Nordost QKore 1 to connect to the ground post of the QB8. It’s such an important upgrade, huge, more so than any particular power cable upgrade I did.
…. And raging in the Internet audio forums is my guess.
How old are you?
@thyname - if you really wanted to have an adult conversation, you might want to avoid quoting out of context when what I said was:
I am more interested in reading data, facts and experiences and find the flaming counterproductive
Misquoting just to make me look unreasonable doesn't shine a very good light on you. My request is for respect and an open minded discussion. That's apparently not what you want. I guess I'd rather run into you in a forum than on a highway...
Remember the "Pepsi Challenge" and "New Coke"? That was the product of blind testing.
Just as a side comment, I am not as much of a proponent of blind testing as many of the science-side guys. I believe that one might be able to detect and prove a difference with blind testing, but I don't believe it always or even usually works to determine which is "better."
The sample size is necessarily small for blind testing so that A-B works. But that small sample size thus doesn't take into account the fatigue that over-bright sound, for example, can create, or many other audio gremlins that only become apparent with longer term listening.
Long-term listening is a better gauge of what sounds good. But of course that let's out A-B or any blind testing.
Thus, the slippery nature of this debate. I don't mind the ardent opinions, but the lack of respect and civility is just depressing. I guess we need to be invaded by audio aliens before we come together.
Wow, that blew up a bit. I do sincerely apologize to anyone whom I offended or upset. I'm here to have fun, as I assume you are as well. It was not my intention to add stress to anybody's day.
@cleeds asks “What on earth are you researching that led you to this absolute belief that is so rigid you italicized it and put it in bold face?” Fair point. The font did come off as very shrill. To answer your question, I study why certain things sound, taste, look, or smell better than other; and how to conduct research on these issues. I come at this from a different background from many of you. I don't have the level of expertise in electronics or stereo equipment that many of you clearly do. But I do have other relevant areas of knowledge. Because of my background, I see this issue as part of a larger question about how the brain creates sensory experiences.
@mgrif104 (OP) “the differences in an a/b comparison were pretty easy to hear. No, it wasn’t a blind test but I will politely suggest that you would have heard a difference - it wasn’t difficult to perceive.”
I don't doubt that you heard a difference, and I expect you are correct that I would have heard a difference, too. That's where this all gets interesting. Scientists used to see the brain as being analogous to film in a camera. Your eyes or ears are the lens, and your brain is like the film; it produces a visual or auditory image that simply corresponds to the light waves or sound waves it receives. We now know that the brain plays a much more active role in constructing visual and auditory experiences. The brain works much more like a police sketch artist. What the witness tells to the sketch artist is incomplete information, but the sketch artist is able to render a picture of a person because the artist already knows what people tend to look like. Part of what the sketch artist draws is based on what the witness is saying about how the person looked. But part of what the sketch artist draws is based on the artist's knowledge about the world. Your brain does the same thing.
Visual perception provides a good example of this. Biologically, our eyes can only perceive detail in a very limited area they are looking directly at. In our peripheral vision, we can detect motion but not much else. If our visual experience of the world were simply a reproduction of what our eyes were telling our brain, we would see a little detailed patch where our eyes are looking and a big blur everywhere else. But that's not what we experience. We experience a very clear image across our whole visual field. This is because most of what we see is being constructed by our brain based on the last thing it saw when it was looking in that direction. Magicians sometimes take advantage of this fact in their tricks by doing things in people's visual blind spots that the person can't see.
How does that apply to the case in point? It makes a big difference in our understanding of how biases in perception work. In our old understanding of the brain, the chain of events would have looked like this:
The stereo creates sound waves => they hit your ears => your brain creates a subjective experience of sound => you create a judgment about whether you like this sound and that judgment can be influenced by the confirmation bias and other similar biases.
In our current scientific understanding, the process looks like this:
The stereo creates sound waves => they hit your ears => your brain uses (a) these sound waves, (b) what will make you fit in socially with the people around you, (c) what will bring you social status, (d) what you think you’ll hear [confirmation bias], and (e) it’s past experiences with music, to create what you hear. You then create a judgment about whether you like what you hear; in creating this judgment, you have a second chance to bias things again. The crucial difference is that the biases come both before our auditory experience and after them.
I believe that you did your best to avoid any biases that might have occurred after your auditory experience. You really did hear what you thought you heard. However, no human being can control the biases that occur in the brain as it formulates auditory experience. That's why I don't doubt that I also would have heard a difference. When I go stereo shopping, my brain is on autopilot, trying to create a smooth social interaction with the other people at the stereo shop. I also belong to an audiophile community where my status in that community is based on my ability to hear subtle differences in audio equipment. Even if I consciously think I don't care about my status in that community, my brain is evolutionarily programmed to care immensely about my status, and it will work on autopilot to try and “help me” in that regard.
To be clear, most of the time when we hear differences in audio equipment, our perceptions result from real differences and the sound waves created by that equipment. If I thought all differences in stereo equipment were bullshit, I wouldn't be wasting my time on this website. But I also know that some of the things I hear, that I really do hear, reflect the way my brain has created my auditory experience and don't reflect differences in the stereo equipment itself.
That's why, even though it might sound dogmatic or intolerant to some people when I say it, the only way to distinguish if the differences in what we hear are the result of differences in the stereo equipment is to do blind listening tests. As I said before, I've only been able to find one such blind listening test for power cables, and the results were strongly negative. But I'm open to other evidence. I don't have a predetermined belief that they can't make a difference. It just seems from the best evidence I've found that they don't.
This raises another good question: does it matter? If people really hear better sound quality from high-end power cables, does it matter that their auditory experience is being constructed by their brain and is not the result of the physical attributes of the power cables? (This relates to @cleeds spot on comment about New Coke.) I think an analogy to the placebo effect is warranted here. The placebo effect can be very powerful. Amazingly, a recent study has even shown that it can work when people know they are taking a placebo! If a placebo can help somebody, I say go for it. In a similar vein, if fancy power cables lead to a better musical experience, that's good, even if it's the audio version of a placebo effect. But I am troubled by how much these cables cost. One of the nice things about medical placebos is that they're incredibly cheap. If someone were charging $1000 per pill for a placebo, I would take issue with that.
@jji666 makes a very good point that it’s hard to do blind listening tests that last long enough to see what it’s like to live with a piece of equipment over time. This makes a good case for mixing blind listening with longer-term non-blind reviews. But I think blind listening should be part of the mix. And for the specific question of power cables, blind listening should be the first step. In my previous post, I explained how to do an informal do-it-yourself blind listening test. But the best way to do this is to have people repeatedly listen to three samples, 2 of which have the same power cord and the other one uses a different cord. Then you ask if they can identify the one that is different. Do this a lot of times. If they can’t identify the different cord more than 1/3 of the time, it’s just random chance and they can’t hear any difference. But if people can consistently pick out the different power cord, then we know there is a difference. At that point, we can do other types of listening to determine which power cord is better.
@ossicle2brain writes that I am “not open to doing the work.” Actually, I am. A full-scale study is more than I have time for. But I’d love to get together with people for an afternoon and to the best approximation of a blind listening test that we can muster. We could record the results and throw them up on YouTube. I live in Ann Arbor MI. If you live in the area and are game, I think it would be fun.
Sorry for such a long post. That’s the danger of letting an academic talk about his work ;-)
OP: Look what you’ve done. Unleashed the night of the living dead. Skeptics, naysayers, flat-earthers, cable-deniers are all on the loose. Be careful - they’re armed with calipers, multimeters and pocket protectors. They just keep coming. How do we return them to ASR?
It’s so easy to set up a double pole double throw manual knife switch with the two cables being compared.
If I was an honest non-snake oil cable manufacturer and wanted to get super wealthy from selling a great cable I would set up some good blind studies with audiophiles at an audio show or wherever. The results would be clear and everyone would buy my cables and I would be rich.
I guess cable makers don’t want to do that. They don’t have to. And if they did it might be like shooting themselves in the foot.
Whatever cable manufacturers do, it does not really matter. People who use cables will continue to buy cables. And people who don’t use cables, will never buy them, no matter what. Raging in the internet is much easier
To all - I started this thread to share an experience which greatly surprised me and which I thought might be interesting to some and perhaps encouraging to others. It certainly has generated some interest…
Thank you for the thoughtful and respectful post. Our youngest is pursuing her dual PhDs in Ann Arbor. Fun town but we rarely get to visit as she’s pretty busy as you can imagine.
Just to reiterate a few things - I respect your position as a skeptic. Your original post implied little room for you being open to the idea that there were perceivable differences. But your follow up post clarifies this.
As you note, I did try to remove those elements that might have caused my own cognitive bias. Aware of my own shortcomings here, I try to be somewhat careful with money. However, I will politely reject the notion that I was clouding my bias to to garner social status. Smiling as I write this, I would not spend money on cables to boost my status on Audiogon forums. I belong to no audio clubs. No one but my wife knows what I’ve purchased (brands or amount spent) and all the affirmation I get from her on these purchases is “really? Whatever.” :) Yes, she indulges my fun.
@ossicle2brainThe flip switch concept is interesting as a aid in this - I never thought of that. Of course, there would still be a sizable pause between cables as equipment should be shut off to avoid the big pulse. Further, my digital gear reboots after losing power.
I’ll put some thought to a different way to do this. If I could find a way to make a high quality recording, I’d happily post those files to this forum without identifying which is which and let the forum participants weigh in. Unfortunately, I lack high quality recording gear and I don’t think going upstream there is a good spend, but if I can borrow some, I’ll do so.
Lastly, I reinforce the idea that differences in these cables can be successfully measured. I won’t dispute that there is massive subjectivity in what is good, but our ears are relatively sensitive instruments. Why can a power cord make a difference despite all the mileage to the house and the cabling in our walls?
As previously noted, I’m not a materials scientist - nor an electrical engineer but it’s worth noting that electricity does not actually flow through our cables like water through a pipe. Perhaps the best analogy I can come up with is that electricity is more akin to sympathetic resonance across all connections. In this construct, it’s easier to conceptualize why every segment of cable acts as both transmitter and antenna.
I was still highly skeptical going in to this - and doubts re-enter my mind. But, I’ll kick back and listen to some music. It seems to be sounding better than ever. If it’s placebo - so be it. It sounds damn good!
@mgrif104Dual PHDs? Wow, that kid must really love school. In what? I teach in the Bschool on the UM-Dearborn campus, although I also have an appointment on the Ann Arbor campus where I live. Next time you come to town to visit her, schedule a little extra time and bring some cables. I'll provide the stereo, the beverage of your choice, and someone to swap power cords so we didn't know what we were listening to. It would be fun to see if we could hear a difference.
Her degrees will be in biomedical engineering and computational analytics. Yes, she’s a nerd, but our entire family is as well - she wears it well.
I’d enjoy connecting and will keep that in mind. I can just imagine my daughter’s eye roll when I suggest I’m going to meet up with another audio buff to compare power cables. Then again, perhaps the curious engineer in her would come to the fore. But I would take a fair amount of good natured abuse from her and my wife…
If I recall correctly, there is a pretty nice audio dealer in AA. You might casually wander in there and see if they would perform a blind demo for you. It would be in their interest to do so. You might come away reinforced in your viewpoint, or not.
@mgrif104 Very impressive. We're all proud nerds at our house too. I think the phrase "nerdy audiophile" may be redundant.
Excellent idea about the audio shop. The audio dealer you are talking about is probably Paragon Sound. I was in there a few months ago listening to their million-dollar rig, which sounded astonishing. He's offered to lend me some power cords to try at home. I think I'll take him up on his offer and do a little blind trial on my own.
Something in my gut tells me that it's unwise to post me email here. Not sure why this would be any better, but I have a contact form on my speaking website
I didn’t write that. Just to set the record straight. I can only speak about how lazy I am, which is very. :)
The flip switch concept is interesting as a aid in this - I never thought of that. Of course, there would still be a sizable pause between cables as equipment should be shut off to avoid the big pulse. Further, my digital gear reboots after losing power.
It could be made so there is no pause. Briefly both would be in use before the changeover.
It’s so easy to do that one wonders why they don’t and get super wealthy.
What I would do if I had a super great cable: Set up a room at an audio show. Switch the cables every say 20 seconds or so and flash a light when changing. The golden ears walking around would pop in to the room and vote on which sounded better. They would just hit a button whenever that happened. Eventually the super great cable would have the vast majority of votes and the CEO would get super rich from selling this great cable.
@mgrif104, as to your original question...I have tryed all Valhalla and all Odin wires loop, except for the speaker cables, on all Burmester set up and Odin has far less of 'signature' than Valhalla (which in my experience can give somewhat clinical overall sond). Also, imho, new Nordost series have a different voicing than previous ones and aldo one can seldom read that, for example 'Tyr2 is old Valhala and Valhalla2 is the old Odin' I found that not to be true (heard tyr2 and valhala2, but not in my system) Nordost had its own house sound and its changed, again, imho. I Would say that old Odin is 'better' cable than V2, but also I would not make such investment to put it on NAD (please don get me wrong, its just that I think that such amount of money invested in another amp would be better used)
I appreciate your experience here. I’ll likely continue with Valhalla 2 since I’m so far down the road.
Incidentally, the Nordost loom is not feeding an NAD amp - but T+A and Auralic G2.1 series digital stack. The NAD is my gear at our 2nd home and I was mentioning that I didn’t want to go through upgrading cables in that system too as it doesn’t really merit the spend.
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