At first thought, the notion that a power cord can improve sound quality by enhancing fidelity and reducing noise may seem pretty far-fetched. Maybe the term “snake oil” comes to mind. Well, that’s what I used to think too.
I’m a lifelong hobbyist and audiophile, owning my first component stereo system before entering high school. I "tinkered" with my gear probably as much as I listened to it. Later, I became a product design engineer. I thought I understood the basics of consumer electronics component design. I knew that the musical signal didn’t go through the power cord. So, my premise was that a power cord could not affect sound quality.
I could tell by observation that the some components in my stereo system such as the power amplifier used a heavy-duty power cord, while other components including the pre-amplifier and CD player used a light-duty power cord. These differences were confirmed by reading the printing on the power cable jackets that identified the wire gauge. For example, if you read “18-3” it meant the power cable was constructed using three (3) 18-gauge conductors.
One component - my pre-amplifier - used a detachable 18-gauge power cord. Because it was detachable, the power cord could be easily changed. Being curious, one day I swapped a 14-gauge power cord for the 18-gauge cord. To my surprise, I heard dramatic differences!
First, I noticed a frequency shift. Adopting the performance with the 18-gauge power cord as the baseline, the 14-gauge power cord caused the bass frequencies to be more prominent and treble frequencies to roll off. Also, I noticed a loss in clarity. Bass notes were less well defined and stereo imaging was blurred. Frequency shifts can be compensated for by equalization, but distortions that cause slow bass response and blurred imaging cannot be corrected by equalization.
After ruling out other causes like a possibly defective power cord, I accepted that it was the power cords causing the performance differences and proceeded to try and figure out why. I repeat, I didn’t understand how the power cord affected the differences, but I trusted my ears. After all, listening is how we judge all audio components, right?
That's how my pursuit of a more optimized power cable design for audio gear all started. After more than 25-years’ experience and much research and development, Essential Sound Products has accrued a wealth of understanding why the power cord has such a profound impact upon audio component performance and how to optimize the design to improve sound quality in several key areas.
---- Michael Griffin, Founder & President
The primary objective of our power cord designs is to improve tonal quality and enhance fidelity. Our initial focus was home audio systems. Through our experiences, we have learned that these same problems can occur in any audio system including instrument amplifiers, pro-audio recording gear and in houses of worship and entertainment venue PA systems. The ac power cord can be a significant contributor to numerous sound quality issues including:
These sound quality issues can be traced to the component power supply not getting enough current to operate properly. The 18-guage power cord supplied with most audio gear acts as a bottle neck, restricting current flow. Switching to a 14-gauge power cord introduces more phase distortions, exacerbating conditions like sluggish bass response, blurred imaging and restricted high frequencies. Therefore, neither provides an optimal solution.
MusicCord’s patented cable geometry dramatically improves transient current flow while filtering phase distortions to afford greater bass extension and tighter control, a richer tonal pallet with harmonics intact, and elimination of midrange harshness during loud passages and transients. The midrange becomes smoother and more pleasing, and ear fatigue is eliminated.
Once midrange harshness is reduced, volume can be increased to make it easier to understand dialog and vocals. All these improvements are appreciated against a quiet background because of our shielded cable construction and attention to detail in the termination process. More about these features later.
Essential Sound Products has strived to back up our claims with various demonstrations, test and measurement data, and share this information with you our customers. If you are interested in these details, please visit our technology web page.
Background noise in an audio system can be insidious and if loud enough crippling, making its use unfeasible. In the recording studio, a higher noise level means less usable dynamic range. Noise can be caused by numerous external factors as well as poorly built or damaged, unshielded power cords. Some of these causes include:
It only takes a loose connection to have a buzz noise in your system. Cheap power cords are notorious for loose crimp joints when manufactured. Their molded connector body provides minimal strain relief. Just a tug on the cable to detach the power cord instead of grabbing the connector body can loosen the termination and cause a buzz noise. These cheap power cables typically have weak, easily deformed folded metal contacts that may not consistently make good contact with the mating power inlet or outlet. Gaps between folded metal allows contamination and moisture, which promote corrosion and reduce conductivity.
MusicCord conductors are hand-terminated to plug and connector pins. Each conductor is crimped, then hand-soldered to insure optimal electrical conductivity and mechanical integrity. To make the terminations further resistant to handling stresses, reinforcement rings are assembled to the cable ends, then over-molded. If the cable is tugged, the stress is on the reinforcement, not the terminations! Each MusicCord is Hi-Pot tested at 2000-Volts to insure insulation integrity. That's 10-20 times greater than the ac mains voltage the power cord will experience in normal operation. This severe test will reveal any potential for short circuit.
Audio/Video equipment racks present a particular noise challenge. Power cords for each component are intermixed with interconnects, speaker cables and control wiring. Excess power cable length exacerbates the problem of signal cables coming in close proximity and sometime contacting the power cables. Practically all power cables supplied with audio/video gear are unshielded. Unshielded power cords in this environment presents a potential noise problem for two reasons.
First, like unshielded signal cables power cords are susceptible to RFI (Radio Frequency Interference). Guitar and bass players have told us that when performing in venues with fluorescent lighting, they often hear a hum noise through the amplifier. Others have reported their unshielded power cord even picked up faint radio stations! Not with MusicCord!
Second, unshielded power cords can actually cause hum noise in nearby signal cables. The strong magnetic field surrounds the power cable is a source of EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference). A Mylar/foil shield found on some interconnects is ineffective at stopping magnetic field propagation. Best practice is to space signal cables away from power cords, but in most installations it is practically impossible to avoid some undesired routings.
Below is a photo from a recording studio where shielded MusicCords replace the unshielded OEM power cords. First, you notice the shorter power cables, which eliminate excess length and make for a professional appearance. More important, MusicCord’s patented shielded cable design is effective at rejecting RFI and preventing EMI in the Cat-5/6 interconnect cabling.
MusicCord’s patented cable design features multiple line/neutral conductors spiraled around an oversized ground conductor and maximum-coverage braided copper shield. Most types of audio/video signal cables are available with shielding and power cords are available with shielding. You may wonder why shielded power cords are not standard with audio gear. Aside from any cost concerns, there is a legitimate sound quality issue associated with most shielded power cords. Most shielded power cords will cause distortion in the bass frequencies. The sheild exerbates the second harmonic of the ac mains carrier frequency, which is 60Hz in North America and 50Hz in most countries with 220/240-Volt ac mains.
MusicCord’s shield in is intentionally spaced away from the current-carrying conductors by an inner jacket to reduce potential interaction. This additional spacing combined with using multiple current carrying conductors where each has a weaker magnetic field than a single large conductor, dramatically reduces potential interaction. You get the benefits of the shield without the negative distortion effects.
We're so confident that if you try our high performance ac power cords that you'll be completely satisfied,
we back them with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and lifetime warranty.
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