Silent Source Signature Power Cord
|Silent Source Signature Power Cord|
The Sound of… Need I say it?
10 July 2003
High purity (stranded) copper conductors plated (proprietary) with precious metals and insulated with Teflon. Vibration dampening the entire cable length. Multiple shield geometry with inner shield at a fixed reference for maximum effect. Entire cable is cryogenically treated after construction. Power cords use custom connectors with 100% hardened OFC terminals for the IEC and wall plug and are direct plated.
Low Current AC Cord: $580 for 6′
Medium Current AC Cord: $599 for 6′
High Current AC Cord: $650 for 6′
Silent Source Audio Cables
PMB 122, Suite 109
10455 N. Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75231 USA
First, a few words about me and my power cord fascination…
Several moons ago I had the mundane notion that power cords made minimal difference in the sound of a music system. I was a power cord heretic then and I openly admit my past transgressions. I used stock cords up until a good audiophile friend said, “Keith, I cannot believe you are plugging $5k monoblocks into the wall with stock cords.” He goaded me into trying some aftermarket power cords. Thus began my descent into power cord madness.
Fast forward three years later. Suffice it to say I have tried many of the well-reviewed power cords on the market today. My friends call me a power cord nut. My enemies call me a raving lunatic. I call myself a little of both. As a power cord nut, I’m confident stating that power cords make a huge impact on the sound of a music system. As a raving lunatic, I have spent thousands of dollars over the past few years on power cords for my audio system. What drives me to these extremes? I have heard my system’s sound go from jaw-droppingly amazing, to absolutely awful with the simple switch of a power cord. Why exactly this phenomenon happens is beyond my limited knowledge of electrical theory. However, experience tells me that power cords can make or break the sound of a music system. This is enough to drive even a casual audiophile stark raving mad!
Reviewing a particular power cord is a difficult proposition. It is difficult, I have learned, because the performance of some power cords can be system specific and component specific. The only way one can tell how well a cord performs with a given component in a given system is by listening to that system. I have learned that some brands of power cords seem to do a superior job with a wider range of components than other seemingly inferior power cords. But I must stress, that the level of performance may vary depending on your system and components. Careful evaluation is recommended before laying down hundreds of dollars for something with the same basic function that can be bought for $9.99 at Circuit City. Let’s face it, if our “significant others” ever found out we were spending upwards of a grand per power cord, they’d leave us and take our beloved expensive power cords with them.
A few good cords at a reasonable price… Enter Silent Source
Walker Audio distributes both Omega Mikro power cords and a brand called Silent Source. After talking with Lloyd Walker on several occasions, I have come to the following conclusions about the man: First, Lloyd is an honest and upfront guy who will not sell a product that he thinks is not a good value at its price point. Second, Lloyd likes to let people make up their own minds about audio. He is not into big advertising, preferring good word of mouth to sell his products. Third, Lloyd also has a very good ear for music and sound. He is a great designer who lets his ear be his guide, no matter how counterintuitive the proposition is. Finally, Lloyd loves to talk about audio. I love to talk about audio too, so Lloyd and I can easily spend upwards of an hour on the phone chewing the proverbial audio fat. In fact, only a dead cell phone battery cut our last conversation short.
Lloyd informed me that the Silent Source power cord he was sending me for review was in the mid-priced category, costing $599 for a six foot cord. This cord can handle 15 amps and work well on both low wattage and high wattage components.
One reason I wanted to review the Silent Source power cord is because I felt that my current reference, the Omega Mikro AC LCX active cord was probably better than the Silent Source. Sometimes it can be difficult for a reviewer to be objective when reviewing a component or cable that he or she feels is the best they’ve ever heard. It can be hard to put the component in any reasonable context or perspective. Sometimes your review finds you babbling about it like a fool. There was going to be no babbling like a fool in this review … or so I thought.
I put Silent Source power cords on my Ayre CX-7 CDP and V-5x amplifier. My Ayre K-3x preamp seemed the least affected by changing power cords, so I left an Omega Mikro Red power cord on it. My initial thought was that my entire system started sounding good … make that incredible. It seemed I was not missing much from using Omega Mikros all around.
Next, I let these power cords burn in for more than 60 hours before I made any other observations. However, I did note that the Silent Source cords sounded great even though they were brand new from Walker Audio without any break in time. Lloyd did say though that he put some hours on them before he shipped the cords to me.
After several weeks of listening to the Silent Source power cords in my system I came to the following conclusions:
I like these cords much better than any other cords I have tried short of the Omega Mikro LCX active cords.
I agree with Walker when he states on his website that these cords ” … have a huge soundstage and sound very natural.” The key word here is natural. These cords sound more natural than any other cord I have tried save for the Omega Mikro. The background these cords present is black, or as the cords are called, the background is amazingly silent. This black background enables the cords to better convey both the attack and decay of musical instruments within the soundstage.
The midrange of these cords is remarkably detailed and transparent. It is not bright or forward. Many cords have pinpoint imaging but present the images of instruments as too bright or forward and/or constrained, without letting the images breathe naturally. These ping-pong ball-imaging cords sound like what I would call “hi-fi,” but they do not sound like music. Silent Source cords allow instruments to take on a more three-dimensional image that seems much more natural than other power cords I’ve tried.
The bass of the Silent Source power cords is well controlled. They do not play quite as deep as the Omega Mikro cords, but their bass is natural and tonally balanced against the midrange and treble (This is a very subtle difference. Maybe only a few decibels at frequencies in the 25Hz range on my Vienna Acoustics Mahlers).
Their treble seems to be very clean and extended. The Omega Mikro cords may have just a slightly cleaner and more detailed treble. This is a close call and a subtle difference.
The tonal balance of these cords is as neutral as I have heard in any power cord. The Silent Source cords seem to have such a black background with such an undistorted and coherent musical presentation that I get a warm feeling in the depths of my soul just listening to them in my system. These cords present music without impacting it either way, and I love it! Compared to my reference Omega Mikro cords, I would say the Omega Mikro’s are a bit liquid and smooth sounding, and they tend to add a little tube-like dimensionality and tube-like tonality to a system. For many systems, this can be a wonderfully synergistic sound.
Silent Source cords are also very fast as power cords go. They got my toes tapping with every piece of music I played. Leading edge transients and timing of music is greatly improved over most power cords I’ve used. Additionally, the Silent Source cords are at least as dimensional as the Omega Mikro power cords are. I thought my soundstage might collapse with the insertion of the Silent Source cords … NOT! The Mahlers projected a huge soundstage that seemed to, if anything, be widened a little by the introduction of the Silent Source cords.
Silent Source cords also work very well with Omega Mikro power cords elsewhere in the system. I understand now why Lloyd Walker carries them to complement the Omega Mikro line. Mark my words, I think the Omega Mikro cords are great, but I am beginning to think that sometimes too much of a great thing in certain systems, can be not-so-great. The Omega Mikro cords do sound a bit too liquid and smooth. Adding too much liquidity to some systems can put the sound over the top on the liquidity scale, making them sound like audiophile ear candy. This sound, no matter how beguiling, is NOT natural! Surreal? Yes. Beguiling? Yes. Natural? NOT! The complete Ayre system I am using as a reference is already liquid and smooth sounding without the Omega Mikro power cords. Adding three Omega Mikro power cords to the Ayre system seems to add a bit too much liquidity and smoothness to the sound for my tastes. I did not come to this realization until I inserted the Silent Source power cords into my system. Thus, I have found that you can capture enough of the Omega Mikro power cord sound by using the Omega Mikro cords on just one or two choice components in a system. The rest of the components can have Silent Source cords on them.
Before I recommend or review a power cord, I like making sure that it works well in other systems, because you never know when you may find a special synergy between power cords and components in a system that cannot be easily duplicated. I have taken the Silent Source cords over to my friend Frankenfurter’s house (I nicknamed him Frankenfurter because Lars was taken, and Franko sounded too darn much like something out of Goodfellas) and put them on his high-powered tube MFA monoblock amps. The rest of his system has two Omega Mikro Red power cords as well as an Elrod 3 Signature. Using the Silent Source cords on his amps made Frankenfurter’s system come alive. His soundstage improved dramatically as did his bass, midrange naturalness, and overall system transparency. He said he had never heard his system sound this natural before and I agreed. I fully admit to being an insane power cord corruptor.
I brought the Silent Source over to another friend’s house. He was running a Jadis Defy 7 mkI tube amp with the Genesis 350 speakers and external bass amp. The only other time I heard this setup, I thought the bass was slow compared to the midrange, and there was a serious peak in the bass at around the 60Hz level. I had shrugged these problems off on his room acoustic difficulties, but we were now to find out that his room was not the primary culprit. We inserted the Silent Source power cords on his Jadis amp and Genesis bass amp. The sonic transformation of his system was startling. His bass got a lot quicker and that 60hz hump seemed to go away. His bass also got deeper and much more solid. The Silent Source power cords also improved the depth and focus of his soundstage. His central image went from being disembodied to being tightly focused. The total tonal balance of his system seemed to even out. It was not perfect of course. It is impossible for a 12″ woofer to keep pace with a fine ribbon midrange. However, adding the Silent Source power cords to his amplification was a huge improvement. I really sympathize with this guy. It is tough to calibrate the three tweeters on each Genesis 350 speaker. There are also calibrations for the bass. I do not envy anyone who has harder speakers to setup than I.
“Because all things of the highest power should go up to 11.” – Spinal Tap
What separates the Silent Source cords and the Omega Micko power cords from other power cords I have tried, is their sheer transparency, amazing soundstage, and black background. They both let components pass close to the same amount of detail along to the speakers, whereas so many other power cords tend to be veiled in comparison. Ultimately, the Omega Mikros are a tad more transparent at over one and a half times the price of the Silent Source power cords. It’s a close call though, and requires a resolute system to even begin making this subtle determination. The Silent Source and Omega Mikro cords do not suffer from the many pitfalls other cords fall prey to: brightness, a rolled off top and bottom end, over-emphasis of different frequency bands, muddy sounding, etc. Additionally, the Silent Source cords offered much more transparency and a better overall tonal balance. The word natural keeps popping into my mind when I want to describe the Silent Source cables.
These Silent Source power cords demonstrated no weaknesses on the equipment I tried them on. Although I consider the Silent Source cords to be only slightly outperformed by the Omega Mikro cords, the latter cords have one minor drawback: Omega Mikro cords are FRAGILE. If you have young children, animals that like chewing, or if you are a complete klutz, Omega Mikro cords may not be for you. Silent Source cords will better fit your lifestyle. Even if you do have Omega Mikro cords on all of your components, you still might want to try one or two Silent Source cords if you feel the sound you are getting is a bit too liquid and smooth. I think the Silent Source cords have a slightly more natural and neutral sound than the Omega Mikro cords. Didn’t I write earlier in this review that I would not babble like a fool about these Silent Source cords? So much for a coherent review.
In any case, I have listed many reasons why one should demo power cords in their system before buying them. And when you do demo power cords, try several brands at one time. Walker Audio has a 30-day audition period on all of their products, so you have little to lose trying out these cords. If you do not like a Walker product, or if it does not measure up to your standards in your system, you can return it (less shipping) within 30 days, and get your money back. How can you beat that deal?
Are these cords worth $599 each? This is the $64,000 question. If your current power cords run over $600, I doubt you will regret trying out the Silent Source cords. If you like them, odds are they are going to cost you less than the cords you own. If your current power cords cost less than $600 each, you might just want to splurge a little and buy the Silent Source cords to get a more neutral and natural presentation from your system. Personally, I think the Silent Source cords are worth every penny-even at full retail. They are reference power cords at less than half the retail price of many so-called reference power cords. If you have reference components, and you are missing reference power cords, the Silent Source cords can make a bigger sonic difference/improvement in your system than spending obscene amounts of money to get more state-of-the-art components. Also, if you do not have reference level power cords on your components, you will never know the potential of how good your system can sound. Call me a power cord nut, but the power cords you are using throughout your system dramatically influence the sound of your system. One must hear this to believe it.
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