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    Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

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    JunkyJan

    Posts: 100
    Join date: 2008-12-08
    Location: BC, Canada

    Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by JunkyJan on Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:05 am

    Good evening all

    I've been racking my almost-burned-out grey matter trying to understand how fancy power cables will help the sound of my ST-70... I can appreciate that you want as unimpeded a current path to your power transformer as possible (obviously) but the claims from some of the cable manufacturers are just so bizarre, I can't see how anyone would buy into it... and yet it seems they do make (a lot of) money.

    Here is one example: http://www.lessloss.com/dfpc-signature-p-199.html

    Please can anyone shed some light on this for me? In my student years I have studied (among other things) subjects ranging from Thermodynamics all the way to Digital Electronics, but the above just blows me away.

    PS. I'm not trolling for a fight, and truly hope I'm not "stepping on people's toes"... Just genuinely curious!

    -- Thanks in Advance!
    -- JunkyJan

    JunkyJan

    Posts: 100
    Join date: 2008-12-08
    Location: BC, Canada

    While I'm at it....

    Post by JunkyJan on Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:05 am

    I may as well also ask: Has anyone tried these? http://www.shunyata.com/Content/products-DarkField.html (and praised by no less than TAS Shocked )

    Any ACTUAL difference that could be subscribed to something other than "Psycho Acoustics"?

    -- JunkyJan

    Bob Latino
    Admin

    Posts: 1933
    Join date: 2008-11-26
    Location: Massachusetts

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by Bob Latino on Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:16 am

    Hi Jan,

    I personally haven't heard any real differences in the sound of any Dynaco amp by swapping AC cables in and out. It also seems silly for someone to spend $1000 for an AC cable to put on a $500 amp! I imagine that you *might* be able to see a difference between AC cables in an amp's audio signal on an oscilloscope but probably would have a hard time really hearing any difference.

    As to raising the speaker cables off your rug > I did raise mine on one occasion by supporting the cables with Styrofoam coffee cups. I never heard any difference in the sound quality on my system by raising the speaker cables off the rug.

    Another thing about Dynaco tube amps. Many people get an old Dynaco tube amp and as part of their "restoration" of the amp they pull the original Dynaco power cord and put in a big ass, fat, thick THREE WIRE AC power cord and ground the third wire to the chassis. They turn the amp on and discover that their once very quiet ST-70 now has a low level hum. The star grounding system on Dynaco tube amps was not designed for a 3 wire cord and in almost all cases the installation of the three wire cord will increase the hum level (if any) rather than decrease the hum level. If you want to replace the cord with a thicker three wire cord then do it > just cut off the third wire inside the amp. There are always people who will say > "I replace all my power cords on all my vintage gear with three wire cords for SAFETY". Look - If any substantial voltage leaks to the chassis almost assuredly the fuse will blow. Also, if value means something and your original power cord is in good shape, you will devalue the amp by replacing the original cord with a fat three wire cord. Of course if the original cord is bad then you will have to replace it if you want to use the amp. My criteria for replacing these cords has always been "Does it have any cracks in the rubber?" Examine the cord carefully and bend it back 180 degrees upon itself in a few places. If the rubber cracks anywhere > Replace the cord. Good replacement cords may be found at any local Wal-Mart. Get a brown two wire extension cord and cut off the female end and use the rest for your power cord. Most of these cords have 16 guage wire and are rate at 13 amps - far beyond the 3 amp fuse of an ST-70.

    Bob

    danf

    Posts: 58
    Join date: 2009-01-19

    Power Cords, Safety and Magic

    Post by danf on Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:47 am

    Hi Jan and Bob,

    As a physicist, everything that I read about magic power cords and interconnects seems to be pure fantasy. There are long and angry discussions of this issue on most audio forums, but there is no dissuading the true believers. Spending ridiculous sums on cables usually doesn't hurt anyone or cause global warming so it's not worth confronting these claims with science.

    Bob, I *strongly* disagree with your comments on three wire power cords. If an amp has no input cables connected, or if the preamp has no ground, the chassis can be hot without blowing a fuse. I believe that all safety codes for electronics require either double insulation or grounds. I would *never* even think about running a tube amp without a grounded chassis.

    I have built over 15 tube amps, all with three wire cords and have no issues with hum. The ST-70 in particular has a sophisticated ground scheme that is very easy to use with a three wire cord. The only potential hum issue is a ground loop with grounded preamp.

    Dan

    GP49

    Posts: 490
    Join date: 2009-04-30

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by GP49 on Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:42 am

    danf wrote:
    As a physicist, everything that I read about magic power cords and interconnects seems to be pure fantasy. There are long and angry discussions of this issue on most audio forums, but there is no dissuading the true believers. Spending ridiculous sums on cables usually doesn't hurt anyone or cause global warming so it's not worth confronting these claims with science.

    They won't believe science, anyway. Shocked

    And, Bob...if you tried running cables on top of Styrofoam cups, did you use ordinary ones that you brought home after drinking coffee out of them? Because the audiophools say that's not right; you must use NEW Styrofoam cups made from virgin, non-recycled plastic resin beads refined at one specific plant in Tibet, where the air is thinner and has less contaminants. The plastic must then be handcrafted into foam at a facility hidden deep in the rainforests of Central America. The vapors in the air from the rare Oogle Tree, native to the area, are vital to proper dielectric characteristics of the Styrofoam cups so as to enhance the audio experience.Rolling Eyes

    If you're REALLY cheap and INSIST on used Styrofoam cups that you brought home after drinking coffee out of them...there isn't much hope for you, but at least drink proper coffee, for the audio characteristics it will impart to the secondhand Styrofoam. The beans must be grown in the proper region within the mountains of a politically-correct nation. When the beans were roasted, how they were stored, the plantation where they were grown and the name of third-world farmer who picked them are all-important. You must grind the beans using a method to minimize your coffee-consumption carbon footprint. Then exfoliate your Styrofoam cup with a Loofta sponge before filling each with coffee. Twisted Evil

    On the other hand there are those who say that Styrofoam cups used to drink hot chocolate will provide more of a sweet, rich sound that tubeophiles seem to seek out and cherish... tongue

    Bob Latino
    Admin

    Posts: 1933
    Join date: 2008-11-26
    Location: Massachusetts

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by Bob Latino on Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:20 am

    GP,

    I did use Styrofoam coffee cups that were new and unused but damn! - they weren't from the Oogle tree. Maybe I should repeat the Styrofoam cup "raising of the speaker cables" with the proper cups ... lol ..

    Believe it or not a few years ago someone was marketing a large wooden knob for $485 USD that had some magical properties that would "dampen the vibrations in the volume control" for better sound. I hear that it is not being sold anymore but I did find some info on the knob and a photo of the knob at the link below.

    $485 wooden audio knob

    Bob

    danf

    Posts: 58
    Join date: 2009-01-19

    Audio Nuttiness

    Post by danf on Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:03 pm

    If you like these "audio excesses" have a look at the WTF thread at diytube.com under diy hifi.

    Tube Nube

    Posts: 336
    Join date: 2008-12-06
    Age: 51
    Location: Calgary, AB

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by Tube Nube on Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:43 pm

    "Good, good, good, good vibrations...."

    It's snake-oilsmanship, little different than in the days, decades and centuries of old.

    The funniest part of fancy power cords is that they plug into plain old vulgar, lo-fidelity house wiring.

    Now, if you could audiophilically wire yourself all the way back to the power station....

    Oh, but wait, you don't need to with these new fangled power line conditioners!

    JunkyJan

    Posts: 100
    Join date: 2008-12-08
    Location: BC, Canada

    OK, seems to me that at least I'm not going (too) crazy

    Post by JunkyJan on Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:37 pm

    ...And thank you for the heads-up - $485 wooden knobs, indeed...

    The sad thing is that I have an audiophile friend who is a really nice guy, made a ton of money during his lifetime and is retired now. His background is completely non-technical, and I don't think he even took a basic science course 40 years ago at school. He proudly displayed & demonstrated a $2,500 interconnect cable to me last time I saw him, and I have to admit that I did act impressed (hey, I was a Boy Scout once).

    Reality was that I could not hear the difference between it and the "low-end" $400 interconnect cable he was using before. I don't think his lack of science / technology knowledge is what causes him to overspend on "stuff", let's just call it a "lack of proper judgment" - making him susceptible to these "unconfirmed excesses".

    I have a relative who is a psychiatrist, perhaps I should ask her if there has ever been any papers done on "Psycho Acoustics".

    BTW, danf - the WTF thread on diytube.com is great, thank you!

    -- JunkyJan

    GP49

    Posts: 490
    Join date: 2009-04-30

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by GP49 on Fri Jul 24, 2009 12:15 am

    A goodly part of audio salesmanship is based on the insecurity of the customer. Most customers are going into the high-priced audio salon to seek advice from someone who, it is assumed, knows more than the customer and is experienced in hearing what's good and what's not so good...and who will guide the customer and recommend what will work best in that customer's environment and system.

    So the salesperson plugs in a length of $1600 Placebo Ultra-Z4260 interconnect into a system, all the while extolling the benefits of the Placebo's Neutral-Frammus Geometric Phase Balancing and Continuous Wave Vacuum Propagative Grauncnik-Configuration. Then he plays the music and proclaims, "Now, doesn't that absolutely BLOW AWAY the Honest Bob's $400 cable we had in there before?

    The customer can't hear a whit of difference but figures: "the salesperson knows what he is talking about"; and "why would anyone doubt the value of Neutral-Frammus Geometric Phase Balancing and Continuous Wave Vacuum Propagative Grauncnik-Configuration"; and "I can't hear a thing but he's been at this longer than I have so it must be true."

    Never mind that the store makes $1200 profit on the Placebo cable, with the manufacturer kicking back $200 as a spiff to the salesperson. So our customer goes home with an interconnect that cost the dealer $400. The manufacturer gave back $200 of that to the salesperson, so it receives $200 for the cable. But the Placebo isn't made by the "manufacturer" at all. He sources it from the Low Buck Joint Venture Cable Company And Brick Factory outside of Guanghou, China which charges $25 for each interconnect.

    Now, how about the Honest Bob's $400 cable? The store makes a "normal" profit of $200...100% markup is normal for accessories...on it. The "manufacturer", being "Honest Bob," relies on the cable's real performance to sell itself and doesn't believe in spiffs. So Honest Bob gets exactly the same $200 for his $400 cable as Placebo does for its $1600 cable! And guess where Honest Bob's cable comes from? Why, the Low Buck Joint Venture Cable Company And Brick Factory outside of Guanghou, China, of course. It's got a different color jacket but inside, the same wire is coming off the same big spools of wire from the New Capitalist Former Communal Wire Plant and Toilet Manufactory! If Honest Bob sells about the same amount of cable as Placebo, he's going to pay about the same to Low Buck as Placebo does.

    So now our customer goes home. He plugs in his $1600 Placebo cable. He's not sure it REALLY sounds better or not, but is unwilling to admit to himself that he can't hear the difference. After all, the salesman could. But he leaves the Placebo in there anyway and listens to some music. Hey, it doesn't sound bad, so it must be OK.

    Months pass. Our customer has never actually been BLOWN AWAY by the superiority of the Placebo Ultra-Z4260 interconnect, but is pleased that he's now paid off his credit card charge for it. After all, he really needed that money for such frivolities as homogenized milk and shoes for his kids, but the Placebo cable must have been worth it. Right? Hmmmm...

    The phone rings. It's the salesman from the high-priced audio salon. He's calling because as a satisfied customer and user of the Placebo Ultra-Z4260 interconnect, our hero might be interested in Placebo's new interconnect, the Ultra-Z4261. For only $2600, it absolutely BLOWS AWAY the old Ultra-Z4260. "If you ever had any doubts about how superior good wire can be, this will prove it to you once and for all." Hey, the customer thinks, maybe THIS is what's needed to really hear the difference! And so an appointment is made and the customer goes back into the high-priced audio salon, once again to listen to cables that don't sound any different, except to the wallet.

    Poor kids. The homogenized milk has gone sour. And no shoes, this month.

    Tube Nube

    Posts: 336
    Join date: 2008-12-06
    Age: 51
    Location: Calgary, AB

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by Tube Nube on Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:59 pm

    GP', you're hillarious!

    I'll tell you one thing that really causes my eyebrows to raise: directional cables!

    What you say is true about customer insecurity -- I was reluctant to ask my Naim dealer, back in the day, though inside I was bewildered about the notion of directional speaker cables.

    How can copper wire possibly prefer one direction of current flow over another?

    GP49

    Posts: 490
    Join date: 2009-04-30

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by GP49 on Sat Jul 25, 2009 12:20 am

    You HAD to ask, didn't you?

    One of my favorite audio salesperson stories involves directional cable. A skeptical customer asked the salesperson why a cable would be directional; what makes it pass signal in one direction better than in the reverse direction?

    The salesperson replies, "The metal wire inside the cable has a 'grain' to it. It's like when you stroke a cat's fur. One way it's smooth; the other, it bunches up and gets gnarly. Wire does that to the flow of electrons. It's like in one direction the electrons pass easier. Kind of like going downhill instead of uphill. You know how s*** always flows downhill, the electrons do that too."

    I'm sorry about censoring that word. I hate censorship. I just watched Mel Brooks's movie "Blazing Saddles" on American Movie Classics a couple of hours ago. As usual, I got annoyed with hearing perfectly good words like "s***" and "n*****" and "ch***" get blanked out. But this is a family forum. lol!

    Incidentally, there IS a reason why SOME interconnect cables get marked for directionality. On some, the outer shield is soldered to the shell of the RCA plug at only one end and that end is supposed to be connected at the source end. Or, is it the output end? I forget. Oh, S***. Exclamation

    Tube Nube

    Posts: 336
    Join date: 2008-12-06
    Age: 51
    Location: Calgary, AB

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by Tube Nube on Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:56 pm

    Blazing Saddles. That is such a classic! Might be time for a re-rent, if I can find it anywhere.

    "Wha'd he say?"

    "The sheriff's a NEAR."


    It just never occurred to me that wire might have a grain. That's a good'un.

    I think I'll get out some 1500 grit and go sand my banana plugs!

    JunkyJan

    Posts: 100
    Join date: 2008-12-08
    Location: BC, Canada

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by JunkyJan on Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:16 pm

    I GUARANTEE that this is a far more sensible upgrade (well, relatively speaking - wife won't agree of course) than any $1,500 interconnect cable will ever be: http://www.tubedepot.com/eat-kt88-quad.html

    -- JunkyJan

    frank

    Posts: 82
    Join date: 2011-02-14
    Location: Pacific Northwest

    Re: Power cables: Midnight Headaches, or "Why am I so stupid?"

    Post by frank on Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:20 pm

    I am with you, I cannot see how a $500 power cord can be better than your standard cord. I suppose I can imagine that theoretically if you had a power conditioner/filter and then plugged your golden cord into it there might be some difference(?).

    As an aside, I don't believe in what I think of as the "religion" of fancy wires in general. Yet, I own and use this category of stuff for interconnects and speaker wire. I have to admit I hear a difference. This brings up a question; if you hear and appreciate a difference, does it matter whether or not it exists?

      Current date/time is Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:40 am