ONLINE - ISSUE 15
Phantom AC cords from Soundstring - A quick
Changing power cords is one of the very best ways to improve and tweak a top system—heck, any system. Audiophile-grade power cords have improved tremendously over the past fifteen years or so. I can remember an Audio Research Corp. event at the Atlanta Audio Society about twelve years ago, at which the ARC rep told us that the company would never make equipment with detachable power cords. Captive cords were the only way to go for ARC, but I’ll tell you what went—captive cords!
Everybody in the interconnect game is making power cords, and ALL aftermarket power cords beat stock cords. Most are very good, some are incredible, but many of these suckers are getting big, Big, BIG. Most are unwieldy, or at least large and unattractive. The wider and thicker they become, the more advanced and more mellifluous they sound. Some big cords are even ungrounded, and downright dangerous to fragile digital gear.
I was wondering when a manufacturer might rethink the race for the most gigantic power cord and come up with something smaller and equally good, at least for non-amplifier connections. By golly, the folks at Soundstring have done just that! Following on the heels of their new, smaller, and fine sounding Alpha interconnects comes the Jed-X Phantom power cord in a bright white jacket. Looking about as unassuming as a standard 18-gauge Belden AC cord, but dressed in winter white, this small, flexible cord is anything but ordinary sounding. It is a sonic WOW for an entry-level cord, and it beats the pants off all of the supplied cords I have ever used.
On the front-end gear fro which it was designed, the Soundstring Phantom is just plain excellent. I noticed more air, better midrange nuance, significantly better depth, and more drive and pace. The first place I tried one was on my Scott 350B tuner, which was upgraded with an IEC connector when I had it restored. Because of its flexibility, I had been using the power cord that came with my Stax electrostatic headphones. The Phantom was just as easy to use, and as it broke in, the sound just got bigger and more vivid. It was also very, very smooth and highly detailed, with no obvious colorations. This is a very accurate AC cord that gets out of the way of the music. It isn’t as dramatic or defined as the big boys, but is certainly in the ballpark, and will provide a big boost in overall sound quality that will surprise and delight.
As the Phantom is only 18-gauge, I was surprised by how good it sounded with my EAT 300B/SE-1 Cary SET amplifier. I removed the Eichmann Express 10-gauge cord and installed the Phantom, which sounded a bit smaller and brighter, and had a little less depth. I’d say it was 80% as good as the $300 Eichmann, and the amp with the Phantom sounded very good indeed. I went back and forth between them and settled on the Eichmann, but could have lived with the Phantom.
The Phantom has the same advanced construction and patented windings (just less copper) as the Soundstring Pro 10 cord, which is close to the best you can buy. Now for the kicker, as I’ve waited long enough—the Phantoms are only $98 for a 6-foot cord! I did not know you could get this kind of quality for so little. Now anyone can add a “BAM!” to their system! Just install Phantoms on all components that have detachable power cords. I’ve tried a number of other $100 cords, and was always disappointed. They usually gave a bass boost but little else. The Phantoms increase clarity, and appear to have no emphasis at any frequency.
I gave the Phantoms a final test by putting them in my reference system in numerous positions. The Phantoms did not introduce any unwanted nonlinearities or grunge. They got me to first base, so to speak. but the taste of high-end sound they provided was not sufficient to keep them in the circuit. I continue to prefer Soundstring’s top of the line AC cords, or the Palladians, the Tara RSCs, and so on. If you have a system wired with the best, the Phantoms are probably not for you. If you are making do, they could be just the ticket. I was very impressed by their definition and air. I liked their bass drive and midrange clarity. The highs are very smooth and detailed. Depth perspective is also quite good. This is saying a lot for a $98 power cord!
On the negative side, width and height are smaller than that yielded by the best cords. You get less of everything, but in a subtractive sense, with no added haze or false warmth. The Phantom cords are very neutral, and I think this is their biggest plus. I have always hesitated to recommend entry-level high-end power cords, as they don’t give you much for your money. No more! The Soundstring Phantoms are the go-to power cords for the CD player or tuner you want to upgrade inexpensively. You’ll have to spend at least $250 to better these $98 beauties, so there’s no reason in the world to live with stock cords any longer. Soundstring has created the least expensive power cord player in high-end audio today! Robert H. Levi