Why Power Cables Affect Sound

I just bought a new CD player and was underwhelmed with it compared to my cheaper, lower quality CD player. That’s when it hit me that my cheaper CD player is using an upgraded power cable. When I put an upgraded power cable on my new CD player, the sound was instantly transformed: the treble was tamed, the music was more dynamic and lifelike, and overall more musical. 

This got me thinking as to how in the world a power cable can affect sound. I want to hear all of your ideas. Here’s one of my ideas:

I have heard from many sources that a good power cable is made of multiple gauge conductors from large gauge to small gauge. The electrons in a power cable are like a train with each electron acting as a train car. When a treble note is played, for example, the small gauge wires can react quickly because that “train” has much less mass than a large gauge conductor. If you only had one large gauge conductor, you would need to accelerate a very large train for a small, quick treble note, and this leads to poor dynamics. A similar analogy might be water in a pipe. A small pipe can react much quicker to higher frequencies than a large pipe due to the decreased mass/momentum of the water in the pipe. 

That’s one of my ideas. Now I want to hear your thoughts and have a general discussion of why power cables matter. 

If you don’t think power cables matter at all, please refrain from derailing the conversation with antagonism. There a time and place for that but not in this thread please. 
There is no music signal going through a power cable. Your analogy comparing "light" to "heavy" masses does not apply to electron transfer through wires! 
Hello mkgus -
I used to be a "cable skeptic" and in particular about power cords. That’s no longer the case, especially after replacing a Cullen Crossover v1 PC with a Shunyata Venom HC cord on a Merrill Audio Taranis power amp. The immediate difference in sound was not subtle nor was the "difference" particularly pleasant...at least initially. Things got much much better after 50+ hours of use.

At any rate, the information posted by Galen Carol at the link below was provided by Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata Research. It might be of interest to you.

Sorry to inform but there is no electron transfer through wire. Electrons are for all intents and purposes stationary. What IS traveling through the wires is photons, which makes sense, right? You know, since the signal travels through wire at near lightspeed. Happy Holidays! ⛄️ 🎅🏻

Next up, do photons have mass? 🙄
Thanks, ghosthouse. Some interesting info there.

Roberjerman, when an amplifier drives a loudspeaker, doesn’t the voltage in the secondary winding of the transformer drop, which leads to a current in the primary winding?
Geoffkait, you are correct in that energy is transferred through the electron’s electric field however the electrons do react and move against the current a slight amount before changing directions again and again. In any case, photons have momentum even though they have no mass. 
Post removed 
keep this in mind...roberjerman has claimed over and over, that power cables have NO difference in sound, from one to another. Enjoy ! MrD.
Post removed 
If electrons go back and forth at their drift velocity (in an AC circuit) which is very slow to begin with they have zero net velocity, no? So what I said is correct, electrons don’t travel through wire. In a DC circuit they would travel but extremely slowly. The point is they are not the signal. If photons have no mass their momentum m x v would be zero. So, since they do have momentum they must have mass. Photons at rest have zero mass is what is taught in school. But I am pretty sure there is no such thing as a photon at rest.
Post removed 
Roberjerman, have you tried any power cables? I recommend you go buy two Pangea AC9 SE MKII power cables (1.5m) and put them on your amp and CD player. You can return them if you don’t hear any improvement and it will only cost you the price of shipping. Be warned, after hearing it you won’t want to return them. 
Keep in mind, you would need equipment that has an iec connector, unless you are willing and able ( as I have done many times ) to internally rewire the factory cord with an upgraded cord. Most newer equipment has iec inlets, most older pieces do not ( which is why maybe someone has not tried after market cords ). But it is the blind, deaf and dumb that makes such arguments. Pcs make a difference. Enjoy ! MrD.
I tried some version of the AC9 a while ago, and the darned thing was so heavy that it almost pulled itself out of the socket on the back of the unit.  Returned.
They are big and heavy. You almost need a way to secure them. My amp sits low enough to the ground that the cable sort of props itself up. 
... props itself up off the ground. I know I committed an audiophile crime. 😃

I tried 3 Pangea Acc9 MKII cables and also an AC14 something and they all sucked the life out of my system.  Back they went to AA.I use the mid priced Shunyata cords in my system and am extremely pleased.
A plausible explanation is the upgraded cable is better at filtering out RFI/EMI from getting in or out of the CD player.
@stereo5 That was not my experience. It did tame what sounded like overly bright treble so maybe in your system the effect was too much if you were already happy with your treble. I would like to try Shunyata some day but I’m quite happy for now. 

Power cables, as with all cables, are highly tunable. I like starting with the basic wire and jacket and tune my way up from there.


Why would multi-thousand dollar components come without adequate power cables? In fact, presuming power cables do make a significant difference, why wouldn't a $5-10k amp or pre-amp have just exactly the right power cable for its specific design? Why would a component maker spend so much design and construction effort on a unit and then send it to you with a crappy cable? That would make me wonder where else they are cutting corners.
Why would you jump to the conclusion that they’re cutting corners. I’d say the evidence is actually that many if not most high end amplifier manufacturers are blissfully unaware of aftermarket power cords or, in some cases if they have heard of them they don’t care. Now, one reason they might not pursue power cords is every customer is different, so no matter what power cord the manufacturer provides folks want freedom to choose their own power cord. Same thing for fuses. Why should manufacturers pay for something that’s going to be replaced? Doesn’t make sense.
+1 geoffkait Not to mention that each individual’s system and system goals are highly specific and unique.
😂😂😂 this forum is funny! Most of you are full of it but still funny!! Lots of self proclaimed experts.. what a riot!! Keep em coming.. this is great entertainment!! 
I thought this was an audiophile site?!? It reads more like a “audio on the cheap“ site...  
Why would multi-thousand dollar components come without adequate power cables?

n80  Good choice of word in 'adequate.' That's exactly what they are: adequate.
Post removed 
There was a time when the high end manufacturers did not supply iec power cord inlets ( they were all hot wired ) on their equipment. I have not seen a high end piece as of late that is not equipped with an iec inlet. What does this tell you ? Enjoy ! MrD.
Post removed 
The Rega Osiris integrated comes with a very juicy pc. It’s got their name on it though I’m not sure if they make it. PCs make a difference but at a certain point it’s diminishing returns unless money doesn’t matter and if it doesn’t who cares. 
I am new to this site and trying to learn as this is a hobby for me.  I am curious how the power cable makes a difference when the copper wire running from the fuse panel is low grade copper.  I think 50 feet cost me $33.00. I ran a dedicated line and breaker for my home theatre. Wouldn’t that be the weekest link in the system?  The only thing I can think of is everybody must be using some sort of power conditioner and this power cord is after the conditioner.  That is why the new cord would make a difference.  I am wanting to try this to hear the difference, do I have to have some sort of power conditioner first?  Sorry for my ignorance as I am trying to learn so I do not make costly mistakes.  I can tell there is a lot of knowledgeable people on this site.  Thanks for the input and I hope this is keeps with the topic of why power cords make a difference.

Why would multi-thousand dollar components come without adequate power cables?

See Caelin Gabriel's #5 at the link posted at 12:46PM today.
In my system different power cords make the system sound different. This is my observation and is not my imagination.

I hypothesize the difference is due to the “skin effect”. Apparently higher frequencies of A/C conduct more readily over a thinner layer at the surface of a conductor, while lower frequencies conduct over a thicker layer from the surface to core. Based on this, the proportion of conductor surface area (high frequency preference) to conductor volume (low frequency preference) will change the frequency dependent conductance of the power cord.  

Or something like that. 
Sorry to inform but there is no electron transfer through wire. Electrons are for all intents and purposes stationary. What IS traveling through the wires is photons, which makes sense, right?
Dude, really???

I know that this is Audiogon but bad science is bad.  FYI, current is not composed of photons.  Electrons and photons ARE NOT the same:
1. Electrons have mass.  Photons have no measurable mass.
2. Electrons are negatively charged particles.  Photons have no measurable charge.
3. Electron mobility (speed) can vary from (effectively) zero to almost (but never reaching) the speed of light (c).  Photons always travel at c in a vacuum and very close to c in other media.
4. Spin (s) for an electron is assigned at 1/2.  s for a photon is assigned as 1.
5. Electrons have an associated antiparticle, positrons.  Photons do not have an associated antiparticle and are created by the annihilation of particles and antiparticles.

Current is composed of electrons, not photons.  It's true that electrons do not travel very far or very fast in a conductor, but they do travel.

I thought this was an audiophile site?!? It reads more like a “audio on the cheap“ site...  
Unfortunately, in today’s high end audio market, there are entirely too many opportunities to spend vast amounts of money for no effect whatsoever. When I started with the hobby fifty years ago, it was a tech hobby, where you learned the basic laws of electronics and acoustics and expected the manufacturers to use those laws in their products. Today, you can spend a thousand dollars on a power cord without the manufacturer providing any grounded theory as to why it is superior to a standard 12ga 15 amp IEC cord. You are just told it sounds better, or fed some marketing mumbo jumbo. Well of course it sounds better; if you parted with $1K for the cord, obviously your system will be improved. It’s called confirmation bias. This kind of stuff has been around for a long time. A hundred years ago, it was called Patent Medicine. 


This got me thinking as to how in the world a power cable can affect sound. I want to hear all of your ideas.

Ok. Here’s one: It could be your perception that changed, not the actual sound. Bias, expectation effect, imagination, etc. There are many biases - "expectation bias" being one well known bias where you expect the "better" or more expensive item to perform better and...viola!...it does!

But a very important point to absorb is that such expectation bias is not at all the whole story in terms of explaining perceptual phenomena. Even if you don’t go in with an opinion either way that A will sound better, or even different, than B, the mere act of focusing your attention to look for differences can in of itself cause the perception of the sound to "change." This is amply demonstrated by blind tests were you don’t switch between A and B but the subject thinks you are switching. Often enough they’ll choose one as sounding better than the "other" even though they are listening to the same thing.

And you don’t even have to be in the mindset of looking for a difference to go awry in your inferences. Again, our minds and nervous system are quite plastic and for a myriad of reasons something can please one day, but not another. So someone can put on his system and find "I like the way it sounds today better than I did yesterday." And then he can *presume* that this alteration in perception had an objective source, so "something changed in the system, not me." "Oh...little did I know I’d left X tweak on the component" or whatever, so THAT must have caused the system to sound better *even though I wasn’t trying to perceive any differences!*

Our senses and cognition are amazing. But far from perfect. And unfortunately they introduce these types of variables in to the problem of trying to ascertain what’s happening in any perceptual pursuit. You can just ignore this, as many do. But if we want to really be careful about trying to understand the nature of an apparent change, the ideal method takes perceptual bias and error into account.

As I’ve written before several times: I once thought an expensive power cord "obviously" changed the sound of my system.

But...I knew that as compelling as my subjective experience was, I could be in error. When I blind tested it against a cheap power cord, every "obviously different" aspect of it’s sound from the cheap power cord vanished. Trying to tell a difference was utterly random. To engage in blind testing is to get a real lesson in the power of perceptual bias.Many assume perceptual biases produce only very subtle effects. No, they can be quite profound.

Now...that ISN’T to say other explanations aren’t correct, and that the power cord did in fact alter the signal audibly in the way you perceived.

But, if you are really that interested in the truth of your experience, I think the above is well worth considering.

Personally, though I am open to the idea of AC cables changing the sound, I am at this point skeptical due to my own experience with them, particularly the lessons learned blind testing those and other items, and because the claims made by manufacturers are of a frankly suspicious nature - claims made about technical problems in AC causing audible problems, but virtually never objective evidence for the product’s claims in the audio domain.And over the years I’ve seen electrical engineers (who don’t have a vested interest in selling cables) eviscerate many of the fishy claims by AC cable manufacturers.

Hey...you asked... ;-)


Recall that there is no net flow of electons in an altenating current.

Here’s what I think is the fundamental reason why good power cables sound better than less expensive ones, or those with less sophisticated engineering.


I think that better power cables have a higher degree of noise rejection from the line and, as a result, are not passing this on to the power transformer, power caps and beyond. That would translate into higher S/N, which the ear is quite sensitive to.
Oh, and Geoff, I see you brought up the photon thing again. Photons are particles of light energy. Light does not propagate through opaque solids like wire; it stops them in their tracks. And yes, photons are always moving. It doesn’t take much displacement of electrons in a wire to create electromotive power to do some real work. But it’s not photons, and if you believe it is, please turn your belief into a peer reviewed reference or two so that I can read and examine the data that supports your theory, otherwise there’s simply no basis from which I or anyone else should believe you. I’m waiting. It’s simply electrons in wire that are the particles of electromotive force, along with the protons, of course, but the protons stay put yet provide the + charge to keep the electrons, that are negatively charged, in their atomic orbitals. And, recall that photons have no net charge.

Citations please?
Kat a mite fears citations or peer review like a you know what in church. 🙀
Post removed 
Post removed 
Post removed 
roberjerman1,918 posts12-16-2018 12:46pmThere is no music signal going through a power cable. Your analogy comparing "light" to "heavy" masses does not apply to electron transfer through wires!

>>>>I didn’t say there was “music signal” going through a power cable. In an alternating current AC circuit the drift velocity direction of electrons alternates along with the current. I did not compare light to heavy masses. You’re confusing me with someone else.
Stevecham, please be aware all electromagnetic waves are comprised of photons. What we usually call light, i.e., visible light, is part of the electromagnetic spectrum but only a very small part. Radio waves, gamma rays, x Rays, visible light - they’re all photons. Visible light cannot penetrate opaque materials, that’s obviously true, but obviously other higher energy electromagnetic waves in the spectrum can penetrate opaque and solid material, gamma rays, x-rays and ......electronic signals through wire.

The signals in wire are electromagnetic waves - that’s why they travel through wire at near lightspeed. That’s why telephone signals through buried copper cable travel at near lightspeed, that why there’s no propagation delay. And also why there’s no delay over cell phone systems - radio waves travel at near lightspeed in air. And what is the ONLY particle that can travel at near lightspeed in a medium and at lightspeed in a vacuum? Answer at 11. 😳
My good audio retailers and the audio literature have indicated that power cables are of first importance in cabling upgrades. I have always done my power amp first because it benefits my whole system. Interesting that many equipment upgrades feature the power supplies. Ie separate box for supply. 
The power of advertising! Tell enough lies long enough and people will believe the lies.
"A 2014 study published in Science Translational Medicine (Harvard medical school) explored placebo effect by testing how people reacted to migraine pain medication. The researchers discovered that the placebo was 50% as effective as the real drug to reduce pain after a migraine attack."

That percentage would pretty much cover the " significant" difference some people are hearing. Spend the extra money on room tweaks.

fossda  "My good audio retailers and the audio literature have indicated that power cables are of first importance in cabling upgrades."

Salesmen tend to do that.  

Lots of highly subjective discussion.
I will look at my AC at the receptacle then after the surge suppressor then after the power conditioner. My scope is only good to 100MHz but I think that that should be sufficient. Anything AFTER the power conditioner seems to me irrelevant unless one is willing to modify equipment itself. Personally, I am skeptical about diode noise in PS rectifers (please note... "skeptical") after all what are all those PS caps for? 

Anyway, this will need to wait until later this week when I get some time.