The Jour­ney to Higher Qual­ity Au­dio

Fol­low­ing the Ideal Path to Up­grad­ing Cables. Part 1 of 3: Power Cords

NOVO - - FRONT PAGE - by Suave Ka­jko

Let me tell you a lit­tle se­cret about build­ing a high-end mu­sic sys­tem: Cables play a much more im­por­tant role in your hi-fi sys­tem than you might re­al­ize. Cables are the “fab­ric” that con­nect each of your com­po­nents to the power grid. Cables also con­nect all of your com­po­nents and loud­speak­ers to­gether. If you think about it, there are more cables in your sys­tem than hi-fi com­po­nents ac­tu­ally. Wel­come to part 1 of a 3-part se­ries in which I’ll sug­gest on how to im­prove the per­for­mance of your mu­sic sys­tem by up­grad­ing the cables in an or­der that will of­fer you the best bang for your buck. As hi-fi man­u­fac­tur­ers con­tinue to push the lim­its of per­for­mance of elec­tron­ics and loud­speak­ers, we are pre­sented with gear that sounds more trans­par­ent and in­creas­ingly more mu­si­cal. How­ever if you’d like to ex­tract the full per­for­mance of your hi-fi gear, us­ing low qual­ity cables just won’t get the job done. You wouldn’t in­stall econ­omy, no-name tires on a Porsche 911, would you? Of course you could still cruise in your sports car, but you’d never be able to push it to its full po­ten­tial. Well, the same ap­plies to hi-fi sys­tems and cables. Phil Gold wrote an in­sight­ful ar­ti­cle on this topic en­ti­tled “Why Do We Need Bet­ter Cables? Con­tin­ued In­no­va­tion In Au­dio Equip­ment Drives the Need For Higher Qual­ity Cables”. I in­vite you to give it a read at www.novo. press.

If you de­cide to up­grade the cables in your hi-fi sys­tem, you might ask your­self, where do I start? How much money do I spend on cables? Most ex­perts sug­gest fol­low­ing the flow of the power / sig­nal path - from the power out­let to your com­po­nents and then to your speak­ers. This means you would start by up­grad­ing the power cords, then the interconnect cables and fin­ish with the speaker cables. In terms of bud­get, au­dio­philes usu­ally de­vote some­where be­tween 10 and 20 per­cent of the to­tal

sys­tem bud­get to ca­bling.

But let’s face it, not ev­ery­one has money ooz­ing out of their wal­let, and there­fore the op­tion to up­grade all the cables in your sys­tem at once may not be on the ta­ble. So does it makes sense to up­grade cables in­cre­men­tally? The an­swer is ‘yes, ab­so­lutely’, in fact that’s how most con­sumers achieve their dream of build­ing a high-end mu­sic sys­tem.

In this ar­ti­cle, I will take you on a jour­ney of up­grad­ing cables and share my ex­pe­ri­ence as to how each in­cre­men­tal up­grade in the au­dio chain in­flu­ences the sound of the mu­sic sys­tem. I have se­lected Nor­dost’s Leif se­ries of cables, Blue Heaven, for the pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle be­cause this se­ries is eas­ily at­tain­able by ev­ery mu­sic lover and of­fers ex­cel­lent value for the money. This jour­ney also takes me back down a road I first trav­elled some 12 years ago, when I tried Nor­dost cables in my own sys­tem for the first time. The Leif se­ries may be con­sid­ered “en­try-level” but don’t be fooled, the Scan­di­na­vian name Leif means “descendant” and is per­fectly suited for these cables since they of­fer much of the tech­nol­ogy found in the Nor­dost’s high­erend cables. Fun fact: each Nor­dost cable se­ries sports a funky name in­spired by Norse Mythol­ogy.

For tech­ni­cally in­clined read­ers, the Blue Heaven power cords sport cut­tingedge tech­nol­ogy that in­cludes pro­pri­etary Flu­o­ri­nated Ethy­lene Propy­lene (FEP) in­su­la­tion com­bined with a high-speed, low-loss Mi­cro Mono-Fil­a­ment con­struc­tion, de­signed to achieve a high level of per­for­mance out of your sys­tem. In­side the cable jacket, you’ll find three, 16 AWG cores (99.9999% OFC), each com­prised of 65 strands. If you’d like to learn about the ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion of these cables, check out www.nor­ - you’ll find a re­mark­able amount of in­for­ma­tion there. Rather than re­peat­ing all of this in­for­ma­tion here, I’ll fo­cus on what re­ally mat­ters - the mu­sic. Fol­low­ing the up­grade path sug­gested above, I started by swap­ping the OEM power cords feed­ing power to my com­po­nents with the Nor­dost’s Blue Heaven power cord ($313.99 US/2m). Clean power in an au­dio sys­tem is crit­i­cal be­cause AC power is what an au­dio sys­tem “shapes” into the sonic fre­quen­cies that we hear as mu­sic. If you’re up­grad­ing mul­ti­ple power cords, I sug­gest do­ing so in the fol­low­ing or­der: power dis­tri­bu­tion bar, amp, preamp, DAC and source. My mu­sic selec­tion jumped around with the oomph of a teenager af­ter chug­ging an en­ergy drink, rang­ing from rock to al­ter­na­tive, acous­tic record­ings, hip hop and top 40. The grownup side of me also spun up some clas­si­cal record­ings for good mea­sure. My test gear in­cluded: a ModWright In­stru­ments LS 100 preamp and KWA 100 amp; Jeff Row­land Con­tin­uum S2 in­te­grated amp; Raidho C 1.1 speak­ers; Sonos sys­tem; Brys­ton BDA-1 DAC; and Gold Note Giglio turntable.

With the Nor­dost Blue Heaven power cord con­nected to the am­pli­fier, I was im­me­di­ately re­warded with a lower noise floor and an im­proved sonic ex­pe­ri­ence. The track “La Femme D’Ar­gent” from Air’s “Moon Sa­fari” al­bum played with crisper, more ex­tended high fre­quen­cies, which were also slightly more pro­nounced. The picked gui­tar strings at the be­gin­ning of “The Grand Op­ti­mist” from City and Colour’s “Lit­tle Hell” al­bum sounded sharper and more de­lin­eated, without sound­ing over-etched or harsh. On the op­po­site side of the spec­trum, there was less bloom around the bass notes, mak­ing them sound tighter and bet­ter ar­tic­u­lated. Florence + the Ma­chine’s “MTV Un­plugged” al­bum sounded re­mark­ably mu­si­cal and filled with emo­tion. This al­bum took me back cou­ple of sum­mers when I saw Florence Welch live at the Mol­son Am­phithe­atre in Toronto. With the up­graded power cords in place, her voice sang with an im­proved pres­ence, re­veal­ing finer sub­tleties. The sound­stage also ex­panded a lit­tle in both width and depth. This painted a sonic land­scape where the in­stru­ments and vo­cals were fur­ther apart from each other, closer to how you would hear them in real life.

Did I get 314 bucks worth of im­prove­ment? Abso-freak­ing-lutely. There’s no ques­tion that as far as cables go, power cables play a fun­da­men­tal role in the per­for­mance of an au­dio sys­tem. Even an af­ford­able cable like the Nor­dost Blue Heaven power cord can make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to im­prov­ing your mu­sic lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Join me for part 2 of this ar­ti­cle as I con­tinue my up­grade jour­ney by in­te­grat­ing interconnect cables (both analog and dig­i­tal) into my sys­tem in the next is­sue of NOVO. Un­til then, en­joy your mu­sic my friends!

Nor­dost Blue Heaven power cord

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