The Harmonic Technology ‘Magic’ Power Cord
|The Harmonic Technology ‘Magic’ Power Cord|
21 April 2000
Harmonic Technology MAGIC Power Cord
1.8 meter $1500
2.5 meter $2000
Manufacturer: Harmonic Technology
13100 Kirkham Way Unit 212
Poway, CA 92064 USA
A Tale of The Blue Snakes
"The first thing you notice is the presentation becomes BIG. Stage width, depth, and the space between instruments all seem larger. Images are more solidly located in space and don’t wander about."
By this time, most audiophiles accept the impact signal cables can make in a high-end system. Proper cable matching can bring a system into a higher performance class. What is harder to rationalize is that power cords can have as big, an impact as signal carrying cables. How can the conductor carrying the AC affect the sound of a component. If AC reaches the component it turns on, otherwise, it’s off. On or off. Or is there something else going on here?
Be that as it may, because we are subjective reviewers, it’s sufficient to know we discern a difference. I would like to have an explanation, but it’s not imperative. These musings were inspired by the arrival of the new ‘Magic’ power cord from Harmonic Tech (HT). These brutes have an imposing physical presence, which garnered them the nickname "snakes." They are bulky, about 1 inch in diameter, inflexible, heavy, and hard to use. Forget about using them in tight quarters. They also tend to pull out of AC outlets.
I have been using the HT PRO-AC II PC (MSRP $180 for 2 meters) throughout my system for over a year. They are very good, and an exceptional value. They had displaced a variety of other cords, including the much more expensive NBS Master PC and the standard Electraglide model. Now theMagic PC comes along and is slightly better in every parameter.
I received two and tried them in a variety of situations. After 24 hours, the sound was heavy and dark. After 48 hours, it began to sound right. You will need 72 hours burn-in to hear their true potential. Connecting one to the Lingo power supply for the turntable was even more beneficial than using one on the power amp. In all locations they had a positive impact. Front-end components can benefit as much as or even more than the power amp.
The first thing you notice is the presentation becomes BIG. Stage width, depth, and the space between instruments all seem larger. Images are more solidly located in space and don’t wander about. Individual instrumental parts are more distinct. Especially on massed strings, where the PRO-AC II PC has a slight electronic haze, the Magic is pure silk. From note to note it’s as if the score is open before you. Where bass can be warm and indistinct, this cord reveals the tunes hidden down there. Musicality is somehow enhanced, and thereby your involvement becomes greater. All this happens without any work on your part, because the sound is more relaxed.
Herewith are the manufacturer’s remarks: "Using technology similar to our PRO-AC II power cable, the MAGIC utilizes twice as many conductors in its uncompromised construction. The MAGIC Power Cord implements our pure OFC silver for the hot and the neutral conductors, and our Single Crystal TM (OCC) copper for the ground, creating a massive and effortless conduit for your AC supply. It also utilizes two additional shields for rejection of RFI, digital, and other electromagnetic pollution. This state-of-the-art power cord eliminates and rejects RFI due to shielded construction, using both a foil shield and a separate braided shield to ‘drain’ away any unwanted electrical interference."
Depending on your taste, you might find they benefit from tweaks. I like using a BYBEE AC charger on the PC to the amp. I find the BYBEE adds warmth without losing any definition. Also, with the Quantum Symphony plugged in, the initial transients were toned down. They became a bit too aggressive with the Magic. Again, this is a matter of taste.
When I went back to the PRO-AC II, the sound became warmer, smoother, and somewhat fuzzy with less detail. Images were smaller and less stable. The acoustic space lost definition. However, the difference was not night and day.
It was still musical. I could be quite happy with these PRO-AC II cords if I didn’t know about the Magic PC.All of this was aptly demonstrated with the TAS list LP ‘La Fille Mal Gardee,’ music by Herold, and arrangement by John Lanchberry (London CS6252).
"To put things in perspective, I found the upgrade achieved by two of the Magic cords about matched by the separate upgrade when I replaced my BAT VK200 with the Berning ZH270. That’s right."
With the Magic in place, the orchestra’s precision was heightened. The sound was faster, more tuneful and more enjoyable. I don’t have any illusions that this is a piece of great music. But it gives a feast of effects, including a tuba solo and various uncommon percussion displays. The (wood?) clapper approximately 5 minutes into side A acquired the startle factor one hears in real life. The tuba was more realistically situated within the brass section.
Around the same time a Berning ZH270 amplifier (MSRP $4500) arrived.
This is an all tube OTL design, with 70 watts per channel. It has a luscious, smooth midrange, a full yet tuneful bottom, and precise treble. It has an effortless quality and is much more dynamic than my BAT VK200, even though it has less rated power. It also opens up the soundstage. All these good things come in a compact, very lightweight, practically maintenance-free unit. One caveat—the input, output, and AC receptacles are very inconveniently positioned on the back of the chassis. It forces you to use banana jacks on your speaker cable. The signal wires are right on top of the IEC jack.
There is no question that it sounds more rich and full-bodied than the BAT VK200 (MSRP $3500), even with it’s 100 watts. The BAT is one of the new generation of solid state amps that combine the virtues of solid state (mostly greater power) and the warmth of tubes.To put things in perspective, I found the upgrade achieved by two of the Magic cords about matched by the separate upgrade when I replaced my BAT VK200 with the Berning ZH270. That’s right. Two of these cords were about the equal of going from a good solid state amp to a more refined tube amp. System performance gained measurably with the Berning, as it did with the Magic cords.
With the addition of either product every parameter benefited. Then when I combined the Magic PC and the Berning amp together, the sound became wonderfully composed and unruffled. Full orchestral tutti dynamic peaks came across with total ease and lack of strain. There was no congealing of individual voices. Of course, this was the best and, naturally, the most costly configuration. My point is that the changes were incremental. I started out with good sound and it just got better and better. It didn’t metamorphose into something radically different, but was recognizably the same, just better.
Sometimes you change a component and it’s like night and day. That wasn’t the case here. Interestingly, David Berning was of the opinion his amp would be relatively immune to changes in power cords, since he built in four levels of conditioning. Yet the sound did improve when connected to the Magic PC, as well as the BYBEE for that matter.
At the top tier of the high-end, performance improvements get increasingly more costly. The Magic PC will be of great interest to those people determined to extract the last bit of performance from their system.
They work equally well on front-end components and the amp. They outperform any cord in my system and are without question the best PC I’ve tried. They could take your system to that edge located on the outskirts of the performance envelope, albeit at a high price. On the other hand, they are not for the feint of heart or wallet. If you are just starting out in audio, or are even at some middle ground in this hobby, your dollars might be better spent on the PRO-AC II. Or another affordable PC offering superior sound like the Legend Audio Power II.
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