POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 42
as reviewed by Jeff Parks
Sometimes as I try to upgrade or improve my system I forget the obvious. Case in point: although my system was sounding pretty good, I couldn't get a review piece to sound its best. I tried all the usual suspects: changing out interconnects, playing around with different source pieces, even doing some tube rolling. In the end, other than some minor changes in the tonal qualities of my system, nothing really changed regarding this piece of gear. In short, the gear sounded veiled. It was missing that last bit of resolution in the upper extremes, the midrange was a bit recessed, and the bass was not as taut as I had been accustomed to hearing. Granted, this piece of gear was a modestly priced integrated amplifier, thus it is to be expected that it won't necessarily stand up to my reference system. Even so, I had expected this piece of gear to sound better in my system than I was now hearing.
Trying to rationalize by knowing this piece of gear is British (not to stereotype all British gear), I merely equated this effect to the atypical reserved British sound. Having owned a pair of Kef 107.2's, and now a pair of Aerial 7Bs which in many aspects are similar in their sonic footprint, I attributed a part of the problem to my speakers where they have great bass, pretty good midrange (though not a strength), and when all is said and done, being a little bit on the warm side of the audiophile scale. That is why, when I pick out gear for my reference system, I choose items that are usually closer towards that of being neutral in order to strike a balance—my current reference gear is an E.A.R. 868 full function preamplifier and an E.A.R. 890 amplifier both of which are fairly neutral in their sonic signatures. The only exception to this rule is my E.A.R. Acute CD player which is little bit to the left (by being warm) of neutral. I prefer this type of sound from my CD player since digital sounds, well …digital.
Like I said, while I had moved cables and gear around, in the end I ended right back where I started; overall this setup gave me the best sound with the least amount of compromise. What was I to do? I could return the review piece to the manufacturer and pass on the review, or I could pass the review piece on to another. Both were viable options, but in my opinion not really satisfactory as I feel I owe it to the readers of PFO to review every piece of gear that comes my way. Eliminating any obvious defects that would place a review on hold, I feel that my job isn't to say whether or not I love a piece of gear (though at times I do let the cat out of the bag), but to tell how it sounds in the best objective terms possible …based upon my subjective opinion. The goal is to be positive and keep to the facts.
Even with my thirty years in the hobby I get stuck every once in a while with what I call an audiophile dilemma. Realizing that I do not know it all, I will go up the audiophile food chain for advice—for example my friend and audiophile guru Dan Meinwald who is also the importer of fine high end audio products. Many times Dan has served as my "lifeline" to help me solve or at least give me a different perspective as I try to resolve an audio conundrum. After speaking with Dan, he suggested that the problem may be my power cords. I disagreed with him at first since my power cords have always served me well. In addition, my audiophile ego really didn't want to face that that may be the problem. However, the seed had been planted.
Once I was able to swallow my ego a bit, I took Dan's advice and begin to look at my power cords as a possible source of my problem. At about the same time I also called John McDonald from Audience to discuss any new review possibilities. After hearing my concerns regarding my current power cords, John suggested I try out the new Audience powerChord-e (for enhanced). John stated there is a clear improvement over the older Audience Power Chords, and since John was adamant the powerChord-e would make a difference, coupled with the fact that he has never steered me wrong in the past, I ordered up a complete set for my reference system. After a few days a large package full of Audience cables landed at my door.
Having the day off from work with no kids in the house I decided to add the cables into the rig and spend some time listening. When I quizzed John as to what the break in period was, he stated they should sound great right out of the box and that over time they will relax a bit. Right out of the box, changing out the power cords to Audience's new powerChord-e power cords had a significant effect upon the overall character of my system—review piece included! The improvement in sound was not just in terms of an audible little bit of gain as is often the case …no, it was dramatic!
How did my reference system sound with the new Audience powerChord-e power cords? The first thing I noticed was the extended headroom with respect to the amplifier's ability to communicate both micro and macro dynamics. This was experienced as an aural explosion; compared to how my rig had sounded in the past. The power delivery was so incredible, it seemed like I was using a more powerful amplifier, one that was now at ease and never strained, even at high volume. My system sounded bigger with a sound that was more organic as opposed to a being a bit sterile or even constrained based upon what I was now hearing. Most importantly, the midrange—which had always sounded somewhat slightly recessed (I had attributed this to my loudspeakers)—had finally come to the forefront of the soundstage. I had never thought my system sounded congested as it was very musical, but placing the powerChord-e into the system clearly opened up everything.
Even the soundstage improved and gained size with better clarity of the musical instruments and their imaging. In parallel to above, everything within the soundscape took its rightful place now being layered in an order that was truly believable and yet remarkable to experience. My system had new life to it where it maybe sounded a bit bogged down. No more though with the Audience's powerChord-es in the system. I was truly blown away.
Realizing these changes, I have to admit Dan and John were right; the problem was in the power delivery to my system. With the new power cords in place my problem was solved. In the end, not only was I happy with the resulting sonic improvement of my rig but with the Audience powerChord-e power cords in place the review piece in question was back on the writing table. The review now took on a new life with the powerChord-e powering it up, thus, in my humble opinion the Audience powerChord-e saved the review.
I called John Mc Donald and began to inquire what was different with these powerChords (e-version) as opposed to the 'older' powerChords that I had been using for the last four years. I was always happy with the old powerChords bearing in mind they were a clear improvement over my old reference cables (which possessed a slight metallic character). Using the new "e-version" of the Audience powerChord cables, the sound now truly went beyond my expectations.
John was mum as to what has 'literally' changed regarding the new e-version of the powerChords, though he did say that 'something' was done to them that is proprietary in nature. Perhaps they are now going through a cryogenic process as a lot of the changes in sound I have heard from gear that has been through the cryogenic process, is similar to what I was now hearing from the new powerChord-e power cables. If done right, cryogenic treatment usually improves the sound of gear in terms of it becoming blacker or quieter, thereby improving focus and dynamics. This is exactly what I heard (in short) when auditioning the powerChore-e power cords. Even with John being mum, it really isn't important to me what the changes are other than fulfilling my own curiosity, what matters in the end does the change make a difference in sound? On that point I will say a clear, yes!
For those of you who have older Audience powerChords lying around don't junk your cables just yet. If you send you old cable back to Audience they can bring your cable up to the "e-standard" for a fee of $165 per cord. Since I have a bunch of older Audience powerChords lying around you can be rest assured that I will be giving John a call.
What can I say? Sometimes when we are trying to solve a problem with our system we forget to take a serious look at the power delivery of our system. It truly is amazing what the last six feet of AC "delivery wire' can do to the overall sonic footprint of your system. In my case, this difference was truly astounding!
As many of you may already know, Audience has a history of making great products ranging from one of the most used capacitors in the industry by DYI type installers (the Auricap), to one of if not the best values in high end audio, the Au-24 series of interconnects and speaker cables. And let's not forget the Audience adeptResponse series of line conditioners that are among the very best the industry has to offer. After all it was just last year that I nominated the Audience Adept Response for a Writer's Choice Award while my cohort Greg Weaver did the same for the Audience Adept Response-t (Teflon caps). Over and over again, Audience puts out a product that is great sounding and an excellent value for your hard earned audiophile dollar. So, if you are looking to improve the power delivery to your system look no further than the Audience powerChord-e. I bought my review samples which is my highest recommendation! Jeff Parks
5 foot powerChord-e