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John Gallup

Power cords, speaker cables or power conditioner?

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Installed the system described here last summer and am very happy with it. But the desire to tweak is never fully satisfied, at least not for me. I'm using the stock power cords with the M5-HPAs and Quatros. The speaker cables are Kimber 8TC, and the only power conditioner I use is a glorified power strip. Which piece should I upgrade first, and with what equipment? Let's assume a budget of $7500. Any suggestions would be appreciated, particularly those based on user experiences.

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Personally, I'd buy all Audioquest (wait, that's what I did, lol).  I'd get a Niagara 1200 power conditioner deal.  It's around 1000 or I can sell you my 1000  for $500 as I'm thinking about moving up in the line.  Then I'd sell the Kimber and get Robin Hood bi wire combo.  8' run is 3600, but you may need less (200 a foot plus 2k).  I got the William Tell and it's AMAZING to say the least.  What interconnect do you run to the amps?  The Newer AQ are hopefully right around the corner, so wait for a great deal on one of the older ones, or just get a new one as they will be all Garth's designs.  

For power cords (in most systems they make a very large difference), I went wiht Hurricane's, but get what you can afford.  Thunder/Tornado or Hurricane are all going to sound great.  I'd get them for anything digital, preamp and the amps (they are 20amps and need that type of connector).  Don't forget a set of fog lifters for the speaker cables and any power cords to get things off teh floor.  That does lower the sound floor a bit as it takes away a bit of haze you don't even realize is there until it's gone.  then you take them out of the system and listen for a bit and you hear a touch of haze.  I also just installed Garth's power outlets for dedicated lines I now have behind the speakers and the electronics.  

Niagara- 1000

Robin Hood- 3600 (or less)

cords- Tornado's (2X1200 high current plus 950X1 pre)= 3350

total= 7950- 10% or so seems very fair 7200 and fog lifters and outlet

That's my take for what it's worth.  That's a heck of a nice set up IMHO.   Go listen to the Hoods vs your Kimber.  The Kimber should show a bit more sibilance than the Hoods.  The Hoods will be much better all around and should be.  They are an amazing cable.  

JMHO.

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It appears the vast majority of our members love Audioquest; from speaker, interconnects, power cables and conditioners.  The only AQ products I'm using (for right now) is a Leopard phono cable and a NRG-2 power cable on my Lingo power supply.  

I use a power conditioner, but it is an Equi=Tech 2RQ (Grants Pass, OR).  As funds permit, I intend to go with more AQ products.  Will probably start out with speaker cables, as I have found they produce (at least in my experience) the most significant difference / improvement.  Then interconnects, then power cables, then  ................

Gosh,  ............ don't we wish we were born rich instead of good looking?  🤪 

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I like the Equitec conditioner a lot.  I'd keep that for now.  I feel that the power cords made a larger difference when connected to my server than the interconnects.  I had a Niagara and WEL .  I installed the Hurricane on my server first and was floored at the difference.  Then I went from Niagara to the WEL and it was another huge leap forward.  Then I kept the WEL in and added another Hurricane to the Ayre AX5/20 wiht crossover built in that I am selling and it was another leap forward. I installed the Niagara and the dropped off wasn't as significant as I thought it would be.  it was big, but I felt the cord made nearly as much of a difference.  

With Garth's new interconnects around the corner, I'd want to audition to see how much of a difference they make.  I do feel that the speaker cables made the largest difference in my system and it's to close.  This is why you need to audition one product at a time and if you have a couple of cords and or cables, you need to play a bit to see where the bang for the buck is.  Most of the dealers I'm friendly with do this for you, but remember they can only stock a limit amount of loaner cables or demo's so they don't alway audition every cable or cord in the line up.  They go for value proposition.  

Often times you're much better off just upgrading a component.  To my ears, in my system, the speaker cables and power cords were component upgrades.  

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Thanks for your perspective CT.  Most of my cables / interconnects are Morrow Audio.  His upgrade program, while not as generous as it was years ago when I began with his products, has allowed me some of the comparison you mention.  Upgrading the speaker cables provided the greatest level of improvement, so when it comes time to join Mr. Low's family, I'll look at the Folk Heroes series; probably Robin Hood's.  My PSE mono amps are not far away from my Quatros, so I only need 1.5 meter runs.  Then, on to power cords.

On another set up note, I had a bit of an epiphany the other day.  The set up of my Quatros is pretty close to Richard's recommendations.  Equilateral triangle and tilt according to appropriate measurements.  For my ear height and distance from each speaker, it calls for one washer on each spike.  As my floor is not perfectly level, it took and additional washer on the right side to get the laser level to indicate precisely matching tilts.

A few months back, I had a hearing test.  No surprise, at 64 years into this journey, I've lost some high frequencies.  So, I thought why not try another washer on each speaker, decreasing the tilt, possibly pointing the tweeters path more directly at my ears.   HOLY TOLEDO!  Not only am I hearing the highs better, all instruments are presented with greater clarity, presence and detail.  Richard speaks of his five reference recordings; always able to go back to, ensuring your displeasure is with the recording, not your system.  

I'm not certain if they were at the correct tilt before or now; but I am certain that my system sounds better now (to me) than it ever has, by no small margin!  One can certainly get carried away with "system tinkering", and the important thing is to enjoy the music; BUT, this little experiment has resulted in a HUGE dividend.     

Edited by Steve Edwards
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Steve, that’s awesome to hear. It’s a great read too since it’s important for us all to play a bit and tune to what WE like.  There aren’t any hard and fast rules. 

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Jealous, lol.  I have the Tells and feel they area sweet spot.  Most of the dealers are using the Tells on the Quatro's and the Kentos.  It's an amazing speaker cable for sure.  Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

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Ordinarily when I do some tweak to my system I just do it and start listening. This time, since I had the cables on loan, I decided to actually do some A-B testing, although not blind. I put away my computer (which partially blocks one of the speakers) and closed the doors and listened louder than usual. Before changing anything, I played a list of music I know well and often try out right after making a change. Here they are:

  • "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," played by a Vince Guaraldi combo including a guitarist; this was ripped from a CD and upsampled to DSD
  • "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," also DSD from a CD
  • "Bemsha Swing," from the album "Charlie Haden - Jim Hall, live from Montreal International Jazz Festival" via Tidal, a terrific album where the bass really is prominent
  • "Organ Grinder Blues" from the Art Hodes album "Selections from the Gutter," a collection of stride piano pieces on vinyl by an artist I really, really enjoy , playing with a bassist
  • "Linden Arden Stole the Highlights" and "Streets of Arklow" from Van Morrison's "Veedon Fleece" LP

Then I wrangled the cables into place (which wasn't easy) and played the same music again.:It all sounded great, right from the first cut, and I know this is still unscientific and tainted by confirmation bias, but I was happy.  The bass seemed stronger, but the resolution of individual instruments became clearer, as did the stereo imaging. Then I went on to listen to

  • Joni Mitchell's "Blue" on MQA through Tidal
  • Saint-Saëns' Symphony #3, "The Organ Symphony," also MQA/Tidal

I really noticed the improvement in the last section of the symphony, where just about every section of the orchestra is playing coordinated themes simultaneously, but I had a real sense of the concert hall and could place the sources nicely, a thing that previous systems I've listened to haven't done as well. For my money, piano music and orchestras playing in a hall are the most difficult things to render in a home setting, and these cables really showed their worth.

And speaking of worth, at one point or another I looked the price of these cables new, which is a lot. I paid (just now) $4,350 with tax, and the dealer admitted he'd misquoted the price to me yesterday when I picked them up, but said he'd stand by the deal we made yesterday. This is why they're a good dealer.

Thanks to all who recommended Audioquest specifically and speaker cables in general as the most impactful upgrade. I think you were all right!

Now then:  who can I interest in a five-foot set of Kimber 8TC bi-wired speaker cables?

 

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So glad you enjoyed them like many of us do.  The cords are JUST as amazing to my ears in every system I've heard them.  I know the interconnects may not end up being quite as dramatic an uptick as the cords and speaker cables, but I'm sure they will rock.  Garth is a genius.  Even my buddy Matt who writes for TAS got the silver William Tell after I bragged about how great mine are.  He is loving them and he runs a lot of top gear in and out.  He did hte review on the Kharma's recently.  Great writer.  We hear differently.  He really likes Steen's.  He uses the sub 3 when needed.

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I know this is still unscientific and tainted by confirmation bias  ............ 

John, I'm not a psychiatrist, but I wholeheartedly admit to confirmation bias, or at least acknowledge the possibility of its existence.   The brain is a marvelous, complicated organ (or as Woody Allen said, "my brain!  that's my second favorite organ.")  So when we spend our hard earned cabbage on cables, it's only natural to want to hear an improvement.  And while there will always the pure snake oil naysayers, like most of the members of this forum, I have realized significant improvements in cable upgrades I've done.  Whether it's scientific fact or not, if it pleases YOU  ................  if a glass of wine tastes good to you, than it's good wine.

I hope someday to be enjoying some high end AQ speaker and power cables, enjoy them.

Play on

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I ALWAYS get the cables or cords into my system with each other and do as good a shootout as I can.  Heck, I wasn't a big AQ fan until I got my first pair of Vandersteen's (Treo's).  My dealers just weren't big on them and I had a preamp, amp and speakers that were rewired with Bruce Brisson's internal wiring, so I used his top MH 770 speaker cables adn his 350 interconnects (the 770 and 350's were his best wire used on Spectral and his reference cables).  They worked great in my former system.  Once I got the Steen's I noticed that I liked the AQ better.  

When I heard Garth's prototype cords with his new at the time, Niagara 7000 with the Model 7's, I was blown away.  Richard was there with Johnny Rutan and we all listened and enjoyed.  

We who own Vandersteen's are already 'bucking the trend' by making decisions on what we feel is closest to music and not what we are being sold by ads and dealers pushing what they make hte most money on.  That's the reality and it's why I love reading these forums.  My biggest take is that we all love music more than anything.

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