Power to the People—Part II
|Power to the People—Part II|
|Power Cords for Amplifiers from Electra Glide, Magnan and Shunyata|
|Noel T. Keen|
|3 January 2000|
|Electra Glide Audio
Suite A -2772 Burden Creek Road
St.John's Island South Carolina 29455
803 559 4202
|Magnan Audio Cables
355 N. Lantana #576, Camarillo, CA 93010-6038, USA
Fax: (805) 484-9544
|Shunyata Research Inc.
424 Camber Ln
Port Ludlow, WA 98365
Recommended Power Cords to Amplifiers
ElectraGlide Gold FatBoys
Shunyata King Cobras
Confusion reigned during release of part I of Power cord reviews. Due to a severe auto accident, I intended to release only reviews of cords to the CD player. However, the partially completed reviews of cords to the KR amps were erroneously not removed and appeared in the article. Subsequently I did considerable additional listening to cords for the KR tube amps. Although the conclusions are the same, I submit this addendum constituting the full review
The class A KR Enterprise VT8000MK amps (recently rave reviewed for sound inStereophile despite abysmal measurements) each draw at least 300 watts continuous power, and as such, cords must have good power carrying capacity. Compared to the stock cords, various after market power cords made relatively less sound difference with the KR amps than they did with the Krell CD player (described in Part I). As indicated above, I could not use cords to these amps from the P300 Power Plant, so they were either plugged into a dedicated 20 amp wall circuit or into the Magnan Signature cord/strip from a dedicated 30 amp line.
Magnan Signature—$800 Retail—Third.
David Magnan has extensively researched interactions in AC power cord design, and this led to the Magnan Signature power cords, combining greatly reduced time dispersion ribbon conductors and proprietary built-in passive filtering. These cords combine micro-thin alloy and nonmetallic ribbon technologies with air space/TFE teflon dielectric construction. The Signatures and the recently introduced Bronze, described above, are entirely hand made. The Signature power cord is claimed to improve all sonic parameters--greater resolution, image focus, dynamics, weight and impact, along with a much quieter background. CD playback is most improved, due to the particular sensitivity of digital timing jitter to noise on AC power. The cord comes in a standard 8-foot length, with shorter lengths claimed to diminish the beneficial effects. Longer lengths are available, as is a 6-outlet strip. The Signature with strip has been my reference cord (with a short jumper) for powering the Krell FPB600 amplifier. Note the discussion in Part I of ‘Power to the People’ of capacitive filtering in the Signature cords and its effect on the PS Audio power Plant P300.
Listening trials revealed that, relative to the stock KR power cords, the Magnan Signature cords improved resolution and detail, better filled the soundstage and integrated instruments/singers. System dynamics were improved by plugging the signature cord directly into dedicated 20 amp line outlets. At their relatively affordable price, these cords are highly recommended for trial.
Shunyata PowerSnakes King Cobra—$1995 Retail—Second
Designer Caelin Gabriel states that the PowerSnakes King Cobras (discussed extensively above) can be used anywhere in a high-end system, and I found that they worked quite well with the KR Enterprise power amplifiers. On the these amps, the King Cobra cords yielded some of the characteristics noted on the CD player, namely a lower noise floor, lush, rich character to instruments and voices, sense of ease and musicality, with beneficial effects on soundstaging, depth, air and palpability. The improvement with the King Cobras relative to the stock cords was not nearly as great, however, as with the CD player. The King Cobras performed better when run from a wall plug as opposed to the Magnan signature power cord/strip. The latter resulted in a suppression of dynamics and some reduction of the ‘airy’ character of these cords. My experience with the King Cobras on the KR amps confirmed their overall quality as a special product. It is a pity that I could not use the King Cobra with the Krell FPB600 solid state amp, but it uses an IEC20 plug. My suspicion is that these cords might work very well with solid state amps.
ElectraGlide Fat Boy Gold—$2000 Retail—First
Designer Scott Hall sent shock waves through the audiophile community when the ElectraGlide cord was introduced some three years ago and essentially devastated every power cord then in existence for extracting improved sound from components. In many ways, we have Scott to thank for the current interest in improved after-market power cords. Scott has not retired since the splash of the original ElectraGlide cord and has introduced new cords at several price points as well as highly regarded interconnects and speaker cables. Scott uses tube equipment and freely admits to designing his cables and power cords to complement tubes. Scott’s latest version of the highly regarded Fat Boy power cord makes extensive use of Leviton plugs and IEC connectors with 24k solid gold conductors. He also strongly recommends that Fat Boy users invest in gold IEC male plugs on components as well as his gold duplex AC outlet plugs, since he believes these also make a major improvement in sound.
The standard Gold Fat Boy cords are short (only five feet). They are also not particularly flexible and can be bent in one dimension fairly easily but not the other. This may create problems in connecting components to the appropriate power plugs. In my case I had to move my equipment rack in order to plug the Fat Boys into a dedicated 20-amp line. Relative to the previous version, the newest Gold Fat Boy cords have revised outer tubes, new damping controls, RFI/EMI filtration and the ribbon conductors are also sealed in a vacuum. Thus, while expensive, the new cords offer a lot of features relative to the older versions that sold at the same price. Scott recommends that the Fat Boys only be used on preamps and power amps (and preferably tube equipment), but not digital components. While they were not evaluated here, the previous Fat Boy MkII cords are also still available in more flexible 6-foot lengths for $1500.
The Gold Fat Boys were used in my system from the Magnan Signature power cord/strip or directly from a 20 amp dedicated line with the ElectraGlide gold duplex mentioned above. After three weeks of constant break in with a 200-watt lightbulb, the Fat Boys provided excellent resolution and detail with the KR amps, better than any other cords tried. During the first few days, this high level of resolution was accompanied by a tendency to brightness that subsequently disappeared, but the resolution fortunately remained. Once broken in, the Gold Fat Boys excelled with the KR tube amps. My listening notes consistently refer to greater detail and resolution as well as better soundstaging than with any other cords tested. The differences were also anything but subtle. Dynamics (already a strong point with the KR amps) were improved relative to any other cord and the sense of ‘live’ was greatly enhanced in the system by the Fat Boys. I used the Fat Boys both from a dedicated wall plug and also from the Magnan sig/strip from another dedicated 30-amp line. Although Scott Hall thinks I’m crazy, I came to prefer the sig/strip, although differences from direct wall plugging were small. From the strip, however, I sense more of a live character to music but do not note erosion of dynamics or detail.
The Gold FatBoys proved that Scott Hall has not lost his touch as a serious power cord designer. Despite their somewhat idiosyncratic stiffness, these cords delivered excellent sound with my reference KR tube amps. Needless to say, I purchased the review pair. I should note, however, that a considerable factor in the overall system sound is due to the Shunyata PowerSnakes King Cobra cords for the CD player (described in Part I and also purchased). I think that mixing these two cords leads to considerable system synergy. The lush, airy and low noise character of the King Cobras on digital beautifully complements the dynamics, resolution and detail of the Fat Boys to the KR amps. The result is closer to live than I’ve been before. If you are interested in the best cords to power amps, consider both of these cords these cords highly, but don’t forget the Magnan Sigs, which offer very good value for money.