Golden Sound Blue
Price: 5 foot - $600. 6 foot - $700
Golden Sound Red
Type number: 802S, Serial number: 2003001, 2003009, 2003013
Price: 5 foot - $1000
P.O. Box 1293
McLean, VA. 22101
Telephone: 888-811-5818 703-847-2617
Upon returning from a particularly enjoyable performance of the amateur orchestra in which my wife plays the oboe, I fired up the system and readied myself for another acid test. Not bad, I thought, after listening to a few minutes of the Brahms Hungarian Dances with the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Ivan Fischer [Philips 289462589-2]. We are certainly in the ballpark. The tonal balance is credible. The presentation is just slightly gray-- lacking in immediacy, focus and tone color, dynamics, weight and overall dimension. That's all that's different. Actually, it doesn't sound anywhere near as expansive. The real thing is often overwhelming and awe inspiring. Oh, well, we do what we can with what we have.
What I just happened to have is a pair of Golden Sound power cords burning in for the last four days. I swapped them onto the amps, leaving everything else as is, and instantly felt quite a bit better. I'll run down the specific changes in a little while, but I'll tell you now that what I like most about what I heard is the natural voicing and expressive power these PCs bring to the presentation.
So who is Golden Sound?
Golden Sound is the audio company that makes affordable accessories, including the popular DH Cones to isolate your components and the Acoustic Discs to control room resonances. If you're curious, take a look at Dave Thomas's recent review of these accessories. What no one seems to know is that they also make a line of power cords. Golden Sound doesn't advertise that fact in the USA, but their PCs sell well overseas, especially in the Orient. However, word is starting to get out in the States and the buzz level is building.
The two models of Golden Sound power cords are designed for specific applications. The GS Blue, which retails for $600, is physically the least imposing of the two models and the easiest to work with. Still, it is larger than most PCs. To give you an idea of its girth, it's fatter and heavier than the Harmonic Tech Magic PC. It is neutral and evenly balanced through the frequency spectrum, though there is a nice bloom to the treble that comes out in loud passages. Throw into the mix the cable's round and grainless qualities and the upshot is a more tube-like sound. The GS Blue is designed for source or line level components.
And then there's the Red ($1000). Wait until you try this one! The Red comes marked with a "type number" and a "serial number" for internal tracking. It has twice the conductors, along with some design improvements and better construction quality, and is physically a bit fatter, heavier and stiffer than the Blue. The tonal balance is a bit darker, with more bass energy. The Red shares the same round and grainless qualities, and most of the bloom, with the Blue. The treble is more refined and even more natural sounding. The quality of the bass on the Red, though, is in another league altogether: bigger and better. Likewise, the sound is larger and more dynamic, with added drama and excitement. The Red is primarily designed to be used on amps.
Now back to my return from my wife's concert. I liked the sound of the Reds so much I decided to put a Golden Sound Blue PC on the DAC. Pace and overall dynamics improved again. Continuing further, I put another Blue on the CD transport. With each additional GS PC I felt I was inching closer to what I heard at that afternoons performance.
A run down of the characteristics of the Golden Sound power cords include:
They are on the warm and full-bodied side of neutral, certainly not lean or bright.
Smooth and grainless with a tube-like bloom.
Nasty treble artifacts like glare are diminished.
Transients are vivid and surprisingly powerful without being edgy or aggressive.
Very good soundstage dimensionality, with precise and stable imaging.
They are also heavy, stiff and difficult to position. The IEC and AC plugs are audio grade Hubbell connectors, but their fit is somewhat loose. I worry when connecting components on one of the high shelves. They are made of various gauges of high-quality silver, coated with a touch of gold. Break-in takes around 4 to 5 days (100 hours). Each GS PC is handmade and tuned by ear: there is some physical variability between samples, but I didn't detect sonic variability. They are sold through a few selected dealers and also available factory direct.
Weight + Power = Thrust
A CD I have a newfound appreciation for is the Water Lilly Acoustics'Natures Realm, with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra [WLA-WS-66_CD]. We played this disc often when it came out in 1999, since it was the "first analog all-tube orchestral recording in 20 years!" I remember being unimpressed with the sound or performance at the time. Now when I play it, with the Red and Blue in the system, it sounds a little warmer, as expected, but also a hell of a lot more dramatic and compelling. For the first time I can hear just how fine these Philadelphians are playing. There is a musical focus here that is head and shoulders above that of most orchestral recordings. I'm thinking Sawallisch is a really good conductor! This was not apparent before. In addition, it's an excellent sonic display, and a testament to the engineer's skill and concern for quality. Kavi Alexander's legendary quality fanaticism is evident in the little things like short signal paths and high-quality wires, not to mention the big things like custom-designed tube electronics by Tim de Paravincini. And it is also a testament to the powerful effects of the GS Red and Blue. The bottom end is marvelously full yet articulate, with the low bass into the low mid-band a little emphasized, adding weight and slam. Crescendoes are explosive but kept under control. Treble extension is excellent. Compared to other PCs, there's a little extra flesh and sweetening in the treble, the bloom I mentioned earlier, but it is so tastefully done, it sounds natural and serves to add color and excitement. The mid-range doesn't have as much of the bloom, but it is far from lean. The effect of this voicing gives the mid-range more clarity. Then all frequencies manage to arrive coherently in the time domain, with the result being fast, powerful and full-bodied transient attack. My only complaint with this CD has to do with the narrow stage width -- unfortunate, because it spoils an otherwise perfect disc.
Listening to Anne Sofie von Otter accompanied by a forte piano on Mots d'amour [DG 289471 331-2], most of the sound is in the midrange, as it should be, since she's a mezzo-soprano. This CD is a good example of the Golden Sound effect. I imagine Anne Sofie is singing in a small room at a normal volume. The treble extension and that extra bloom, plus smooth and supple dynamics, enhance the intimacy and immediacy of the presentation. The piano, on the other hand, is playing equally softly for the most part, but has convincing weight and power when necessary, benefiting from the slight emphasis in the bass foundation. This combination of intimacy and power is very seductive.
These PCs sound natural and musical to my ear. Here's what I mean by that: If you listen carefully to natural sounds, you will discern that there are no pure tones. Sounds are complex and comprised of many individual facets. Similarly, your system should not reduce and simplify sounds. To put it another way, with everything else being equal, you want more complexity. The GS PCs preserve the richness of the signal.
I found the GS recommendations right on: the Blue is great on source or line level components. The Red can straddle amps or line level, depending on what else is going on. If the system was sounding a little dark, the Red on the pre-amp would make it more so. But if it was a bit light, the Red on the pre-amp would give it more weight. With the YBA Passion 1000 amps, I settled on Reds for the amps and pre-amp, and a pair of Blues for the transport and DAC, and had weight like you wouldn't believe.
More often than not, the addition of a Golden Sound power cord resulted in increased involvement and enjoyment in the music. They have the ability to make solid-state amps sound a bit closer to tube amps. You can carefully tailor the system to sound just as you want by choosing one or another GS power cord model. They're both good, but voiced slightly differently. This came in very handy when I swapped amps or other components and had to re-balance the sound.
I have had the Golden Sound PCs in the system for about eight months, and many components have come and gone, but the Red and the Blue have become my references. I'll put them up against any power cord, regardless of price.
Follow Up by Dave Thomas
Cuss … er, uh, I Mean Ask and Ye Shall Receive
The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. Now while I'm not a big fan of that cliché it was all that I could think about a few weeks ago when a wonderful new integrated amp from Vincent Audio (review in the works) showed up at my doorstep. It appeared to be a show or review sample because the box had been opened and taped up numerous times and because inside the box there was no power cord.
Apparently the Lord must have heard the few choice adjectives that I used while taking his name in vain because a little while later there was a knock at my door. No, the Lord didn't come to my house, but apparently the postman did because when I opened the door all I saw was one of those red, white and blue U.S. Postal Service boxes. I was surprised to find that inside the box was the Blue power cord from Golden Sound. Allen Chang had called to tell me how good it was but I didn't know he was going to actually send me one.
So here I was with this gorgeous amp and a new power cord and I wasn't cussing anymore. Like I said, the Lord … well you know the rest. By the time the Blue cord arrived I had already connected the stock power cord that came with one of my Electrocompaniet Nemo amps into the integrated. I wanted to see what kind of changes to the sound the Blue would make so I did some listening with the stock cord in place first.
One of my listening reference discs is Eva Cassidy's "Live At Blues Alley" [Blix Street Records G2-10046]. Track two is Stormy Monday and in my reference system Cassidy delivers it with uncompromising power and finesse. But with only the stock cord on this integrated it was lacking the power and detail that I've grown accustomed to hearing it with. I quickly replaced the stock cord with the Golden Sound Blue power cord and played that same track. Cassidy re-emerged in all of her splendor. The Blue power cord was delivering current in a way that allowed the amplifier to be at its best and that is all that you can ask of a power cord.
I've been able to compare the Blue cord with much more expensive cords from Dynamic Design and Virtual Dynamics (reviews to come) and while I'm not going to tell you that it bested those designs, it acquitted itself nicely in a comparison when used on the Vincent integrated. But you don't need comparisons to determine the value of the Golden Sound Blue power cord. Comparisons are always subjective and there can be any number of factors that play into why one cords sounds different or better to someone. But what is not subjective is the fact that the Blue power cord, just like many of the other wonderful products that Golden Sound makes, will dramatically improve the sound of your system. I'll thank the Lord for that.