January 07, 2009

Do Hi–Fi Mains Cables Make Much of a Difference?

Do Hi-Fi Mains Cables Make Much of a Difference?

Nordost Valhalla Mains cable

Magic or Myth?

Can Nordost Power Cable at around £1,000 per metre transform your Hi-Fi?




Cable companies are offering a range of power cables to the market place with prices seeming to go from about £35 for a QED one with Nordost Valhalla 2 metre mains cable coming in at just under £2,000!!! Here I've researched the Web to try and find out whther there are any reasonably objctive comments out there because I'm sceptical of such highly priced products. Added togther they would buy some expensive kit with presumably much better results in terms of improved sound quality. For my own system I would expect a much better return on investment by buying better amplification over my Quad 77 than by splashing out on several mains cables at over £100 each say.


The Case Against

The webliography contains several links to Guardian correspondent Dr. Goldacre and his column "Bad Science" which launches a lot of sceptical arguments and includes challenges to th hi-fi community around th issue of double blind testing. Below The KZone makes the following point:

The music you listen to will probably have been created in a recording studio. Even if it hasn't -- it's a live performance perhaps -- by definition it will have been recorded using electrical equipment of some sort. This equipment will have been mains powered. Now, I've spent time in recording studios, and I can't say that I ever saw one that used `audiophile mains cable' to power its mixing and amplification equipment. In fact, I've seen mains leads scavenged from kettles and toasters to power the mixing desk. As a matter of principle, your sound reproduction can never be any more accurate than the original recording. So if you spend more on your cables (mains or otherwise) than the studio does, you're wasting your money.


The Case For

The January 2009 issue carries a story about Paul undr its "Readers Systems" series. Paul has a system worth many thousands of pounds including MF amplification and SACD player as well as a Townshend TA565 Univrsal Player and a highly modifid Linn turntable. He comments that he preferred different types of music on the different digital players however when he discovered the Silvermann Clarity 3 mains cable at around £150 this improved the Townshend even with its separate power supply.

Townshend Universal Player


Apparently a £150 Silverman mains cable improved the sound of this nearly £3,500 player

Paul in Hi News said:

It was one of those fortunate moments when, for a comparatively small outlay, a real improvement in sound was obtained. The Townshend lost none of its strengths, but became much more involving . Indeed Max later said that he had noticed the same effect - due to interference from other parts of the system affecting the player. A very worthwhile upgrade then. (Hi Fi News Jan 2009 p94)


van_den_hul_mainsstr-bs-hs.jpg

Van den Hul lower amperage mains cable


Chord power cable


Chord is another cable company with a power chord in their portfolio



Overall I still maintain a strong feling of scepticism. I guess if your system already cost many thousands of pounds then the odd couple of hundred quid as an experimnt is fine, however, for those of us in more real world situations I think getting better equipment after careful auditioning is the most sensible route to improved sound quality.


Postscript

As you will see in the comments box a correspondent has (possibly) got a Kimber PK14 mains cable which he feels does the business.


Kimber PK Palladian

Kimber PK14 Palladian Mains Cable



Webliography


Guardian article on the Russ Andrews Power Cable

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science Blog on Kettle Leads

Follow Up Guardian Article on Hi-Fi Power Cables


Original Russ Andrews article from Guardian in blog format with many comments


The KZone: Snake Oil and Hi-Fi Mains Cables

This I Like Jam Blog entry on "Audiophile" products in general including some fine comments on cables


- 16 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. A.G.

    Personally I have found they make a difference, and my equipment is worth a lot less than those mentiond in the article. Look on eBay for a bargain andmake your own mind up.

    08 Jan 2009, 14:57

  2. Most people’s equipment is worth a lot less mine included! I’m wondering what you ended up with and what difference you perceived?

    08 Jan 2009, 16:06

  3. A.G.

    I noticed more, deeper bass, better soundstaging and a sweeter treble. I use a no-name eBay cable on my tuner and a Kimber PK14 (I think…) on my amp. I have used a Blck Rhodium Fusion cable in the past and these are wonderful value for money, and what I would recommend to you.

    08 Jan 2009, 19:00

  4. A.G.

    Thought I should add that I have FELT the difference in bass, not just heard it.

    I have a Belkin mains filter ordered which I am very much looking forward to trying out. I am also vaguely considering buying aftermarket “hi-fi” fuses but will resist the temptation for the time being.

    08 Jan 2009, 19:04

  5. The Kimber PK14 Palladian seems to retail for £720 on on site. I’ll post the picture on the main posting. I reckon it should make the tea (full flavourd as well at that price :-). From the sounds of it you got a good buy somwhere. All my stuff goes through a Belkin anti-surge block designed for computers which I think makes sense for about £18.

    08 Jan 2009, 19:27

  6. A.G.

    This is what I have:

    http://www.russandrews.com/product.asp?lookup=1&region=UK&currency=GBP&pf_id=1560&customer_id=PAA0990016409881DKCNDJLCXODLZFWJ

    Although I paid a lot less than that. If I had £720 I wouldn’t spend it on a mains cable!

    09 Jan 2009, 15:12

  7. Looks good! I have a bid in for something on ebay right now. If the price is right I’ll take a risk. No £720 on a cable seems pretty barking and you seem pretty sane :-)
    cheers

    09 Jan 2009, 15:50

  8. I have started a thread on this issue in the Gramophone forum which is getting a lot of interesting and measured responses:

    http://www.gramophone.co.uk/mainforum.asp?messagesectionID=59&messageID=69986

    09 Jan 2009, 16:23

  9. Chris Hinds

    The honest answer is no, not a bit. Many audiohiles may tell you that you hear a difference. You don’t. There are hundreds of miles of bog standard cabling between the power station and your sound system, there are even a fair few yards if not miles between the local substation and your sound system, changing the last couple of metres will do precisely nothing.

    Psycologically you might prefer the cable there because you want to believe that it helps (not just you, anyone that has spent that kind of money on something wants a return). Put it this way, when I was running sound systems for 8,000 people we didn’t need special cables, electricity will get there just the same. If you want to improve your sound then spend money on speakers – that’s where most variation is.

    09 Jan 2009, 17:02

  10. Lee Davis

    I agree with Chris the mains cable will have no effect whatsoever.
    The only possibly worthwhile investment is in a reasonable mains filter which will protect your equipment from spikes when things like your fridge cut in/out and interference from other equipment. However if your hi-fi is expensive enough to consider spending so much on a mains cable then I would expect the power supplies to be sufficiently well regulated that even this should be unneccessary.

    09 Jan 2009, 17:37

  11. Thanks Chris and Lee, these are very good points. I have found good amplification very important and have certainly noticed big and very obvious differences between makes and price points. Again speakers do vary a lot. I used to find Missions very harsh for example. I very much like monitor Audios and middle price range B&W sound good to my as as well. Certainly I would be spending serious money in these departments.

    09 Jan 2009, 20:08

  12. James Bateman

    You’re top of the discussion forum and I coulldn’t help but commenting. From my (single) experience as a third party observer, they have absolutely no effect whatsoever. The person who paid for the kit did feel a significant benefit, so make of that what you will!

    12 Jan 2009, 19:44

  13. Trouble is if you have forked out a load of money you are likely to be a bit biased. Best thing is to do doubl blind testing but that is a bit difficult to organise.

    12 Jan 2009, 22:33

  14. Tony

    Mains cables do make a difference because apart from your mains supply your other household equipment can create Radio frequency interference upon your system,as well as EMI . Most specialist cables use a weave which helps to counteract such interference.

    The best option is to use an isolated ring or radial supply for your hi-fi-make sure that you use an unswitched socket-this option makes a worthwhile difference.

    Most low value hi-fi systems will struggle to justify the cost of expensive cables.

    The improvements can be comparable with an equipment upgrade.

    The well known accessories comany Russ Andrews will allow you a trial period to assess their cables.

    A little known but excellent cable company are Silver Arrows of Worthing.Nordost make good cables at lower prices than Valhalla also worth a mention are Missing Link cables.

    Best advice is to use your own hears some people who make anti cable comments perhaps do not listen to the music or have not based their views on personal experience. Although a lot of snake oil exists in the hi-fi world and stupid money is involved that does not alter the fact that cables make a genuine difference.

    18 Jan 2009, 17:09

  15. ChrisD

    I’m wondering, have any of you who are in favor of buying quality leads taken the time to do some amateur double-blind testing? I mean, get a friend/wife/kids to exchange the cables without you seeing which is in use, then you listen to some music and try to guess which cables are used… then repeat that process about 10 times, and if you get more than 7 right, you have essentially proven that there is an effect. How about that? Some fun and listening to good music with a friend, won’t take longer than an hour or two – can’t be too much of an obstacle, can it…?

    Chris

    31 Jan 2009, 20:13

  16. I haven’t but it is a good idea. The main problem is getting hold of a range of different cables at different price points. This is one of the major problems when cable buying. If you know several people with different cables it sounds like a great way of spending an evening. If you do it please drop a comment.

    01 Feb 2009, 05:43


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