As I write this it's mid August, which is usually a time for audiophiles to enjoy the great outdoors and defer experimentation to the Fall, when this will be published, but this year has been an exception. The weather in New Hampshire has been abominable with some rain almost every day, high humidity with little Sun, and big storms weekly. For the first time in 26 years, we didn't even open up our swimming pool except to take off the cover and repair some damaged tiles. The tadpoles, frogs and mosquitoes are loving it. Thus there's been plenty of time for tweaking, which was great as there were several products sent here for evaluation.
Today has been a time for celebration. After four months my second set of Vacuum State tube amplifiers came back yesterday from being updated and repaired, and two of my new 300 B single ended amps from Electra-print Audio with Jack Eliano's new circuit to optimize them for tweeter driving arrived today. Guess I'll be spending the next week placing them into my system and balancing the speaker's crossovers and relative driver volumes. What Joy!!!
Before I continue with this month's column I have an apology.
Last month I recommended a program for video production called Power Director 7 Ultra. Since then for some reason the program has been acting strangely, causing the computers I've tried it on to shut the program down in the middle of processing of high definition movies to DVD quality. I at first thought it might be that a Core Duo 2 gig processor might not be fast enough, but I loaded the program on a 2.3 gig quad core computer with 4 gig of RAM and it did the same thing. I even re-downloaded the program but the same thing occurred, so something is wrong with it.
To balance the faux pas above, you were told about a set of fantastic programs in AA Chapter 105, where we talked about the cMp and cPlay programs developed by "cics", (who still wishes to remain anonymous when he should be receiving kudos from every audiophile for these wonderful programs), for playback of digital audio through a home-built computer or server and how its sonics beat every other program I've tried for audio playback. (How's that for a sentence worthy of Dickens?) I received an email from the developer, who wishes to remain anonymous, with the following helpful hints for improvement on my project, including an update to cPlay for those using Windows Vista with SSSE3 capability:
Had a look at the article again - here's more suggestions:
1. Switch to eSata to remove SATA card. eSata adapters connect to mobo SATA without introducing any power consuming device
2. Have a dedicated audio pc - DVD drive and video processing is not ideal
3. Use Granite Digital PS for remaining USB peripherals and ROM drive
I'm only suggesting these because what you experiencing is excellent sound but you definitely missing out on something special.
I then sent the following to CICS with his reply:
You want to keep power supply to mobo (12V1) and CPU (12V2) as clean as possible. When doing jitter measurements, by just having a USB device attached to mobo caused a 3db deterioration in noise floor. So even small loads have the potential to pollute power supply. Ideally all USB devices and ROM drive need to be externally powered. In the case of eSata card you're adding another power consuming device which adds noise.
With recommended GB mobo and E7200, I'm able to reduce power consumption significantly. This also reduces noise - less ripple voltage from PSU and other factors.
The way I see it, we create a much cleaner environment from which samples are streamed to soundcard. This reduces jitter distortion.
So there you have it. You can follow CICS original plans for building a super CD player and server, or follow mine for being able to play and record all digital formats including live ATSC television at somewhat reduced CD playback quality. All for less than what you'd pay for a low high end CD player. You decide!!
Before I continue, let me settle a couple of points relating to electricity and the various cords and equipment developed to control the nasties that come through our power lines, previously discussed in many Audiophile Anonymous Chapters. First, every house probably has different electrical problems in the electric lines from both out and inside the house. These are carried as noise on the 60 cycle sine wave of varying frequencies from sub 1 Hz. to the giga Hz. regions, intensities, and timings and can be seen as spikes or irregularities in the sine wave on an oscilloscope. In addition, due to capacitance and inductance both in the transmission lines and from various motors, digital equipment noise, and even radio frequencies transmitted with the AC, the voltage wave may be out of phase with the amperage wave. This wreaks havoc with the power supplies of equipment as they have to filter out the anomalies and would much prefer to work on a perfect sine wave to produce their various DC voltages. For a reviewer, this is a problem as a conditioner or power cord that works on one system may have no effect on yours depending on your electricity's problems. Also it may actually have a deleterious effect on another system. So like all audio and video equipment which have to work in synergy to get a positive effect, AC cords or conditioners have to be evaluated in your system, and if you can, get a money-back guarantee on them with a trial.
Second, electrical cords are one of the more difficult pieces of equipment to evaluate because not only are they system but also equipment dependent. How they function and what they do both in a positive and negative fashion is affected by the equipment they are mated with. A cord that may work superbly on a preamp may current limit an amplifier or increase noise in the system from a digital piece. Thus one quite often has to mix and match cords to their place in the system.
The reason I started evaluating AC conditioning equipment years ago before it became a widely known problem is that the AC coming into my listening room has been horrible since I moved into the area 28 years ago. Even though we live in the country and receive our electricity from a nuclear power plant about five miles away, the electricity coming into my house has more noise than some places in major cities. Unhappily, in New Hampshire the only thing our power company needs to keep relatively constant is the voltage, with no regard for noise on the power lines. Thus I've had to use several types of conditioners and cords to maximize their effect while attempting not to degrade the sound.
Let me review my present AC setup. My 200 amp service has all copper wire from the transformer into and throughout the house, and is covered for surges by an Environmental Potentials EP-2050 unit at the service box, and my room has it own 60 amp sub-circuit junction box. The AC then runs from four 30 amp circuit breakers through several runs of 50 amp grade Silent Source AC cords to two APC Ultimate AV S-15 power conditioners running the left and right channels, thence through more Silent Source AC cable to a Torus 15 amp power conditioner each to the left, center and right amplifier channels. The rear channels and video equipment are fed from two APC H-15 power conditioners. All of the source audio equipment is further filtered by an Audience Adept Response aR15 conditioner, using primarily Silent Source AC cables. Even with the above one can still hear a difference in the audio reproduction at various times of day, with Saturday late evenings being the best time for a session, but it is far superior to what can be obtained without the above.
Thus, if an AC cable makes a significant difference that can be heard and is repeatable on this system, it must be doing something. Unhappily, it may or may not make a difference on another system, as the electrical problems there may be completely different from those at my house.
AC cables, no matter what the low end audio magazines tell you, do make a difference, but usually not as significant as replacing a preamp, turntable, cartridge, speaker, etc. They are more like frosting on the cake, or maybe even only the flavoring in the frosting. So, as with other audio equipment, buyer beware and don't think that your results with a particular piece of equipment or wire will be the same on your system.
Tel Wire Cord Cable
I was asked to review this new entry into the already bursting area of AC cords by Clark Johnsen, as he did not have sufficient time to give it a proper review and prefers to write "think pieces" anyway. Two of them were dropped off a couple of months ago by Steve Klein and Kwami Ofori Asante when they came over for a listening session. Both, having Golden Ears superior to mine, knew the outcome of the experiment before-hand. I only mention this first as the Tel Wires were set aside and partially forgotten until Clark emailed me about them.
About three weeks ago, I found them stacked in a corner and decided I should at least give them a listen before sending them back. Surprise, surprise, for their price at $799 list, and especially for the present low introductory price of $399, they are an excellent buy.
First, their construction. The plugs consist of Oyaide Beryllium-copper three prong male AC and female IEC plugs, ( the same used on my more expensive Silent Source cables) both of which fit very firmly in my audiophile grade outlets and equipment. Unlike most other high end cables, the wire is extremely flexible and is made from Ohno Continuous Casting long grain copper, and sheathed in a shiny fine black braid. While I don't suggest doing it as it might break the wire's crystal structure, one could easily wrap them around a broom stick.
Second, their strength. The optimal placement in my system was on my digital equipment, and especially my recently completed home theater computer. I am not sure whether this is because the cable is blocking some noise from the AC getting into the system or whether it's blocking digital noise from the computer or player getting into the rest of the equipment.
Compared to the several times more expensive Silent Source cables that I presently use on the digital equipment, the sound is somewhat more open and transparent with slightly more and tighter bass, giving somewhat more feeling of space. On the other hand the top end sounded softer, but I'm not sure whether this is due to a decrease in high frequency information or a blocking of some treble digital nasties. On analog source components and low wattage single ended tube amplifiers there was no discernible difference between them and the above cables, while on my high wattage Crown Macro Reference 750 watt per channel class AB amplifiers there was slight blunting of low frequency information and attacks suggesting they're not a good match for them.
On the other hand they acquitted themselves admirably compared with the above three to four times more expensive cables. So, as with all equipment purchases its how they perform in your system and their position therein that counts. While this may sound like a cool recommendation, for their price and properly placed in the system, they're a relative steal. The manufacturer doesn't presently have a web site but can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now a few words from Chris Kline of Tel Wire:
Thanks for the kind words, I am glad you liked them. It is amazing the amount of work that went into something that is relatively simple. I have included a picture of it let me know if it works for you size-wise, etc. By the time this appears my website will be up (actually should be in just a week or so www.telwire.net. You got all the facts straight. The introductory price of $399 has been in place since Jan. 2008 but will be going to $599 as of September 1, 2008. So you may want to note that too. Also there is a 10awg High Current Cord in the works, geared specifically for amps. Tel Wire will also have speaker cables and iinterconnects available within the next month that feature UPOCC conductors and Xhadow RCA, XLR and spade ends.