EVERY COMPONENT in the audio system affects the characteristics of the sound you get, whether it's the turntable, CD player, amplifier or loudspeakers.
What's more is that wiring components such as interconnects and speaker cables also play a part in fine-tuning the overall sound too.
But in recent years, a new trend has come on strong, and this involves the power cord, plugs, inlets and wall AC outlets.
While it is easy to understand that interconnects and speaker cables serve as equalisers, each brand and model coming with its own audio characteristics, the fact that power cords and plugs can also affect sound can be confusing.
The point here is that the cleanliness of the electricity that runs through the components can deteriorate with standard cables, thus the power cable's job is to act like a line conditioner, cleaning up all the electronic trash. With less distortion, audio components receive clean power to work with, allowing them to perform at their highest potential.
I started playing around with power cords last year bearing in mind that many consider this topic the stuff of snake oil salesmen. Search the web and you will find many opinions on this topic and many electrical engineers say that it's a hoax by cable companies to squeeze more money out of customers.
My first audiophile power cable was actually semi-homemade - with power cords, it is possible to mix and match male and female plugs on each end to get different sound characteristics. I started with a Sansui AU-111 vintage tube amp my friend loaned me for restoration. Apart from the circuitry, the power cord was damaged and needed to be replaced.
So I asked the electrician to use a high-quality power cord, and the amp came back with a yellow power cord. It was a Black Rhodium Fusion mated with a Hubbell 8215C male plug, which is a hospital-grade product - meaning that it doesn't get disconnected from the socket easily. You've got to pull quite hard.
Having no idea how that cable affected the sound from the Sansui since this is the first time I am listening to it, the Fusion remained unexplored for a while. That is, until I decided to remove it and add a female plug to the bare end. Now I have a power cord to try on other components.
The CD player was the first to experience the new power cord, and right from the first minute the improvement was evident. It was easy to hear that the highs were more detailed and the imaging was sharper.
I liked the sound of the Fusion pretty much, and with its low pricing (Bt1,200 per metre), this was a great-value improvement.
From there I never looked back. It is no snake oil after all - power cords do affect the sound quality. While it may be questionable whether it "improves" the sound, what power cables actually do is get rid of EMI/RFI pollution and remove other problems associated with standard power cables, allowing your system to perform better.
For example with a lower noise floor, you naturally hear more details from the recording with more energy and atmosphere.
Not long after the first experience, I ordered another 1.5 metres of the Fusion cable and mated it with Wattgate standard plugs (not even audio grade but costing over Bt2,000 per set) and the improvement was even superior to the one with the Hubbell (which can be purchased for a few hundred baht).
Now the two Fusion cables were used for the CD player and pre-amp. And I was happy for a while. But hey, the power amp needed one, too.
I didn't want to invest in really expensive products, and decided to go online and check out the cheaper end first. Results weren't good - the cheaper cables and plugs did change the sound character, but not in a good way like with the Fusion.
After more online research, I ended up getting an Oyaide Tunami V2 cable from an online electronics store in Japan, offering a pretty good discount. I spent about Bt8,000 for this cable.
The Tunami, which features single-crystal copper that is the purest kind you could ever get and high-tech assembly, is specified for "power" and does wonders in terms of bass weight and dynamics. It's like adding a turbo to your car's engine. It's also very quiet and digs out the details much better than the Fusion, which is a slim, entry-level cable more suited to source players and pre-amps rather than power amps.
So if you already have a good system and want to further improve its performance, consider not only high-quality interconnects and speaker cables, but also power cables. Even wall outlets should be considered, both for safety and performance.
But be careful with the budget. There is no point using a Bt30,000 power cable with a Bt10,000 amplifier. That's because you would get better results using a Bt30,000 CD player with a Bt10,000 power cable. Priority should always go to the audio components, and the cable's job is to improve on that already good-sounding system you have at home.