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AQ Firebird Power Cable


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Just had the opportunity to try the AQ Firebird AC Cable on my Aesthetix Atlas Signature driving my new Quatro Wood CT's. I was hoping that it would not effect much of a change.. WOW! The difference is not subtle. A major improvement and yes, I realize, a substantial investment too. Unfortunately it is only a loaner from a friend.  I don't know how or why this cable improves all of the usual listening parameters but it does. And let's keep in mind, if it weren't for the Vandersteen Quatros superb resolution maybe the difference from a stock cord would not be as perceptible. Thanks for such an amazing loudspeaker RV!

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Garth has done some amazing work at AQ…i recently had Pegasus up thru Dragon XLR IC in my reference system…for a week long extended evaluation . All beat Niagara or Sky between my DAC and Preamp. While important….for musicality and emotional engagement. Pegasus trades a bit of incisive eetail away…. but IMO is a great value.

Having said that, its not like upgrading speakers all along the Vandersteen line. The Quattro are world class ! thanks for the update on power cables.

Jim

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Full disclosure #1 - I've never heard these AQ cables, nor am I ever likely to.   So, I have no opinion on them.

Full disclosure #2 - The cable  I'm about to suggest was the work of a very long time friend of mine.  He patented the design, but that patent expired more than 10 years ago.  He no longer is involved, at least to my knowledge.  He has been doing other things outside of audio since he designed the cable.

~~~~~

This is a classic cable design, over three decades old.  But, it has worked really, really well for me.  Originally it was sold as the Tiffany TPC-60.  Tiffany Electronics Group is long, long gone, of course.  XLO started selling it after Tiffany closed.  Very different price category than the AQ product.  

Tiffany TPC-60

Other vendors sell this, too, but Parts Connexion has the nicest photo.  🙂 

In my Tiffany samples, I replaced the original connectors with some more modern Furutech products.  My cables were made before high end AC connectors were a thing.  I don't know what connectors XLO uses these days.

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I always think it's a good idea to try a basic version of whatever before jumping in head first, both feet waving.

The XLO cable sells for roughly 2.5% of what the AQ cable sells for, at least at the six foot length.  Let's assume that on an arbitrary scale the stock cable gives you 90% of the performance that the amplifier is capable of providing.  Maybe the XLO cable gives you 97% and the AQ cable 99%.  Or whatever arbitrary numbers you choose.  

To me, unless your audio  budget is infinite, there might be some room for, ahh, contemplation there.

A while back, I described how I needed to change the outrigger spikes on our Quatro CT's.  Once I added granite platforms under the speakers, the required tilt became such that the outrigger spikes Vandersteen normally supplies were too short to do the job.  So, I found some snazzy stainless versions at McMaster-Carr that do the job very well.  They cost about $30 in total, with all the associated other hardware, if I remember right.  A number of people thought that might be bit pricey.  $30!  (Mr. Vandersteen volunteered that he'd supply longer outrigger spikes if a customer returned the standard versions - problem solved.)  

To me, $30 to give a little bit more stability to the loudspeakers in case somebody bumps into them is a very cheap insurance policy.  Less chance for a squished dog, an upset home occupant, or a damaged loudspeaker.  But, obviously not everybody shares that opinion.

Besides, without going into a very long discussion that probably isn't appropriate for here, the reasons why power cables affect the sound of a home audio system is not entirely what the marketing handouts and the popular press describes it to be.  The germane point is that it's very system dependent.  Not only does the audio equipment matter but at least a part of the home wiring and what's connected to it matters, too.  No single magic bullet solves everything.  (OK - proper battery power of each and every component with separate batteries and equipment designed to properly use those batteries may be close.  But, that's hardly something you can buy off the shelf today and the pragmatic aspects of such a system approach are really daunting.)  So, it might be better to start off simply and work up from there.

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2 hours ago, BKDad said:

 …

Besides, without going into a very long discussion that probably isn't appropriate for here, the reasons why power cables affect the sound of a home audio system is not entirely what the marketing handouts and the popular press describes it to be…


Ear teaser.

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21 hours ago, Gsal said:

Just had the opportunity to try the AQ Firebird AC Cable on my Aesthetix Atlas Signature driving my new Quatro Wood CT's. I was hoping that it would not effect much of a change.. WOW! The difference is not subtle. A major improvement and yes, I realize, a substantial investment too. Unfortunately it is only a loaner from a friend.  I don't know how or why this cable improves all of the usual listening parameters but it does. And let's keep in mind, if it weren't for the Vandersteen Quatros superb resolution maybe the difference from a stock cord would not be as perceptible. Thanks for such an amazing loudspeaker RV!

How much improvement a power cord makes depends on how well the power supply is doing its job.  I have received reports of small improvements, but some preferred the stock power cords.  Nothing special about our cords except they are shielded, YMMV.  RV

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24 minutes ago, BKDad said:

 

From an electrical stand point the power supply is responsible.

… but I am wondering is using a transformer had buffered me from the many woes that others experience.

 

and then the tease part is you throw it out their like Tomic would attract some trophy fish… how am I su[pose to avoid going for the bait? 😁

At least I try to be honest with my self assessment.

Edited by Holmz
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I have found results to vary greatly.  I own Hurricanes and a Dragon on my Niagara 3000.  The Dragon is SOOOO much better than the Hurricane was on the Niagara. Not even close, but I don't plug my M5 amps into the unit.  They go directly into a dedicated circuit.  On my Ayre, they made a nice difference.  I've notice much larger differences on my source components.  

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23 minutes ago, ctsooner said:

… but I don't plug my M5 amps into the unit.  They go directly into a dedicated circuit.  

 

For the same amount of $ I would likely be more tempted to get M5s than a power cord.

And I suspect that the Nagra battery is probably as good as a power cord. 

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11 minutes ago, Holmz said:

For the same amount of $ I would likely be more tempted to get M5s than a power cord.

I'm 100% with you on that!

And, if I already owned M5s, I'd be more likely to replace the Quatro CT's with Kento's.

Now, if I owned Seven XTRMs, a couple of supplemental Sub Nines, and M7-HPA's, I guess I'd be in the market for the best power cords I could find.   And a nice very slightly used 911R. 

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26 minutes ago, Holmz said:

And I suspect that the Nagra battery is probably as good as a power cord. 

A long time ago, I built a digital playback system around a PS Audio Lambda 2 CD transport and an Audio Synthesis DSM-X DAC.  The latter was actually a DIY kit (kinda rare) that used an Ultra Analog module as the conversion device.  The output filter was passive.  The recovered SPDIF lock was cleaned up with a VCXO clock.  All very exotic and not standard for its day.  Since it was a kit, I also upgraded the regulator board to some even newer regulators with David Heaton's encouragement.  Every single stage had its own regulator.

The AC to DC power supply was external and used some of Ben Duncan's and John Thorpe's best ideas to make the DC as clean as possible.

Naturally I just had to do something different.  So, I put together a system using sealed lead acid batteries to replace the DC power supply.

What a difference!  After much fooling about and measurements, I concluded a couple things.

Was the DC any purer from the batteries?  Not that I could measure.  Any differences were completely mitigated by the regulator system.  So, that wasn't it.

But, disconnecting from the AC mains certainly eliminated any common mode current path that passed through that mains connection.  It seems that audio gear, maybe especially digital audio gear (and other digital gear, too, but we care about audio here), is affected by common mode currents that often convert into differential mode currents along the way.  None of them contribute in a positive way to the sound quality.

Henry Ott and his associates were right all along.  

Batteries break that current loop in a big way.  But, aside from the battery charging and maintenance challenges, batteries also can be hard to use in audio.  Almost all audio circuits pass the audio signal currents through the power supply, and batteries are not ideally linear or noise free in that sense.  So, you have to work around that.

Anyway, the point is that there's more going on in a typical audio system than initially meets the eye.  This is not unique to audio systems - ask any instrumentation engineer - but it often gets ignored.  Various power conditioners can change and improve the situation.  Power cables can change the characteristics of the common mode current path.  As Mr. Vandersteen pointed out, you can do great things in the power supply to minimize the common mode current loop.  Audio Precision test systems not only optimize their power supplies for that, but also use a combination of audio transformers and special circuitry to minimize the effects of common mode currents on the device under test.  You just don't usually find that in typical home audio gear.

As I said, this is a contentious subject, very long and involved, and probably not good for a forum like this.  I'd just suggest to anybody that they should try to find what they like in their own home system and enjoy the music it recreates.

 

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Wow, I guess I opened up a can of worms. That was not my intent.

For a long time I did not believe that cables and such could make much of a difference. I've read all of the "scientific" explanations for why this cable is better than that and frankly it would appear that not even the Electrical Engineers can agree. So, I just took a back seat and chalked it up to advertising hype.

As I said, I was not even in the market for a new AC power cable but was offered the chance to borrow the AQ Firebird and try it in my system. I think I've got a pretty good amp in my Aesthetix and the Quatros are very revealing of what's upstream. I always thought that if a power cable could make such a difference why wouldn't the manufacturer address that in his original design? They go to all the trouble to upgrade their circuitry with rather expensive and exotic capacitors, resistors and such. I even asked Jim White of Aesthetix that question and he simply referred me to my dealer.

Anyway, I no longer care about the various pros and cons of cable designs. I'm the first to admit that I am not an Engineer and therefore unqualified to argue the point. I can not, however, deny what I heard. Yes, most of the cables currently offered are grossly overpriced but then again many audiophiles are paying outrageous prices for cartridges, preamps and the like. If a $3500 AC power cable makes a $12K amp sound like a $20K one then I guess that's a fair price to pay.

Back to my original intent...I had been skeptical about the effects of expensive power cables. I tried an expensive power cable. It made such a difference that I will rue the day I must return it. If you ever have the chance, try one. The Vandersteens are revealing enough to let you know if it is to your liking.
 

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I didn’t question whether cables, specifically power cables, make a difference.  My experience is that they do and have put that into practice.  No can of worms.

My point is that power cable improvements are system dependent, and that’s from a technical perspective.  Listening tastes are something else beyond that.

Some audio reviewers used to talk about buying wine and how what you get may not really be proportional to the price.  I know nothing about wine, but I think that really is true with power cables.  Stock power cables could be great for one person in one system.  That would be ideal.  Others might find that they’re only happy with very expensive power cables.  I just don’t think that there is a linear continuum between the free solution and the most expensive   The peak performance for one listener in one system may just as likely to be somewhere in the middle.  I generally don’t find that to be true with gear like loudspeakers.  Are Seven XTRMs better than Kentos?  Are the Kentos better than Quatros?  I think there’s a continuum there, for all sorts of reasons.  Not so much with power cables.

If people want to spend any amount of money on power cables, that’s their business, at least according to me.  But, if there’s an alternative that may be close in performance, or maybe even better, for much less money, why not give the low cost idea a try?

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3 hours ago, Gsal said:

Wow, I guess I opened up a can of worms. That was not my intent.

All good Gsal…

Engineering is often how to make something work, and even in F1 or space programs there are budget and performance trades.
Science is often more about how it works… or what physical things are happening… and making some attempt to describe and understand it.
And then at some point we moved from what is happening “en masse” to understanding that things are happening in discrete quantified steps.

I guess that even worms can be good.

 

5 hours ago, BKDad said:

As I said, this is a contentious subject, very long and involved, and probably not good for a forum like this.  I'd just suggest to anybody that they should try to find what they like in their own home system and enjoy the music it recreates.

It is usually only contentious because people make it that way.
Usually when I open with “I tend to be a cable denier” it is a polemic shot over the bow. So maybe I should not start with that wording.

In reality I am attracted to gear with an outboard power supply, as I know getting the fields moved away is probably a good idea.
And I actually have a relatively expensive power supply, and for me it is more like super expensive considering I am not overly sure.

I can believe that some of these cord may work, but I would really like to know why and how.

And some people fight like it really matters, that the gear cannot, or should not, make a difference.
And another group that hates those people.

As my good pHd friend says, “I know there is no damned reason I can find why it should work, but it seems to.”
But neither one of us go full “Joan of Arc” mode and want to die proving the point of whether a cord works of not… so we just listen and have a glass of wine and enjoy it.
But we are both super curious.

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Those links I posted previously offer good explanations of why any of this might matter.

If there is a difference in the sound character when a change is made in the system, for good or bad, there is a reason.  Some folks like to ascribe that 100% to some sort of observer bias and dismiss the rest.  And, yeah, that's a possibility to consider.  However, there's a word my high school English taught me that I think applies to that attitude: Sophist.

You can find a LOT of people who think that time and phase characteristics do not matter one bit in loudspeaker performance.  To be really fair, they might not matter to a lot of people.  But, everybody reading this forum, I hope anyway, thinks that time and phase are very important.  Neither are just some imaginary being.  Just because you want something to be a certain way doesn't mean that it is.

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Another great thread.   For what I paid for the cords, I could never do an upgrade to Kento's. I wish as that's my dream speaker, lol.  I got the Dragon used as well as a couple of the Hurricane's, so I was able to afford them.  They have made a full component upgrade if you would.  I listened extensively before purchase.  At the time, it was the best bang for my buck.  The M5's are a different situation and I'm sure the new preamp Richard releases will have a similar effect. it's why I'm selling the Hurricanes (have to be able to afford the new pre).  The Dragon stays right where it is though as it upgrades the Brinkmann Nyquist and everything else plugged into the Niagara.

I had a Paul Hines, LPS.  He's considered the best designer of outboard LPS's (or at least he has a cult following).  I have a buddy who manufactures and designs some of the best DAC's I've heard and owned sell me his.  It's a beast of an LPS and it made a huge difference in lowering the noise floor on the DAC (I tried two others that made a decent difference, but not even close to the Hines).  

I think Richard put it best when he says that if you design the power supply properly from the get go, that you will get a lesser effect with a cord upgrade.  

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19 hours ago, Gsal said:

I always thought that if a power cable could make such a difference why wouldn't the manufacturer address that in his original design? They go to all the trouble to upgrade their circuitry with rather expensive and exotic capacitors, resistors and such.

I actually called Ayre and, I think , Ryan answered. I asked him about this and he said that they try to make the best product that will work in the majority of systems. Adding power cables would just increase the price and there is the issue with overall system integration. So, they just ship a generic power cable and let the user do as they wish.

Bob

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9 hours ago, BKDad said:

Those links I posted previously offer good explanations of why any of this might matter.

If there is a difference in the sound character when a change is made in the system, for good or bad, there is a reason.  Some folks like to ascribe that 100% to some sort of observer bias and dismiss the rest.  And, yeah, that's a possibility to consider.  However, there's a word my high school English taught me that I think applies to that attitude: Sophist.

You can find a LOT of people who think that time and phase characteristics do not matter one bit in loudspeaker performance.  To be really fair, they might not matter to a lot of people.  But, everybody reading this forum, I hope anyway, thinks that time and phase are very important.  Neither are just some imaginary being.  Just because you want something to be a certain way doesn't mean that it is.

But with respect to the underlined part…
Is a lot easier to compare to the sound pressure field to the electrical signal when the field is upright and proper… and not with every other driver out of phase.

If we move away from “what sounds nice” towards what is more accurate, it is hard to argue that the time/phase correct is less accurate.
But it is also hard to argue (with honesty) that our respective speakers do not sound pretty close to reality (or the reality of the recording). So there is some correlation between measurement and subjective.

It should be easy to show some difference in adding a power cord.
Whether it is better or worse is harder to define.
But rarely do we see a difference shown.
it might all be true, but I can not infer it as such without some proof… only with faith in the advertisement.

 

All that said, I got the sower supply and anti-vibration plate for the gear… 🤔

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On 12/8/2022 at 4:52 PM, GdnrBob said:

I actually called Ayre and, I think , Ryan answered. I asked him about this and he said that they try to make the best product that will work in the majority of systems. Adding power cables would just increase the price and there is the issue with overall system integration. So, they just ship a generic power cable and let the user do as they wish.

Bob

Hmm. OK.

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