Power Cable

DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX"

The “POWER HELIX” power cable represents several years of “tinkering” and researching different cable architectures and materials.

I started looking at cable architectures a while back, initiated by an experience with a home lighting repair.

I was installing a new two way switch on a hallway light, the type with a switch at each end of the hallway (see diagram below). I decided to play it safe and use my multimeter to verify the open/closed position of the switches.

With the switch in the OFF position everything checked out, but with the switch in the ON position I found that there was a reading of 42 volts on what was supposed to be the "dead conductor" i.e. the red conductor in the diagram below.

page1image6056


I found an article on the web which verified that in this particular situation it is common for one of the conductors in standard household power cable to register an
"induced voltage".

Turns out my digital multi-meter had such a high resistance that it drew no current so the reading was unusually high. However, my analogue meter, which draws a little more current still registered a reading of 13 volts.

That’s still - a lot of "noise".


In the case of “conventional” power cable architectures, the live conductor and the neutral conductor tend to be side by side in extremely close proximity for the length of the cable, therefore I consider it reasonable to assume that noise, at the amplitude measured above, will be induced from the signal conductor into the neutral conductor.
This “pollution” of the neutral conductor may also take place on the ground conductor also and depending on the design of a components circuit, have an adverse effect on sound quality.

The premise of the helical design concept eliminates the parallel conductors and minimizes induced noise to imperceivable levels!


For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens


But First My Disclaimer:

DO NOT attempt any of the assemblies detailed below unless you are an experienced Electrical Professional OR Electronics Hobbyist - otherwise consult a technician!

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for following local electrical codes. Failure to do so may result in personal injury, damage to equipment, or power cable failure which can result in fire.

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the cable selected is suitably rated for the power requirements of the component(s) it will be attached too !

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the IEC/Mains connectors are installed observing the correct polarity !
- failure to do so can result in poor operation, component failure or electric shock.


YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the dielectric strength of the insulation on ALL conductors used, meets or exceeds local codes!

e.g. In North America - 600v at 200 Celsius for 120v 50/60 Hz supply


These Power cables are only to be used for
Home Audio Purposes and must not subjected to harsh environments and frequent handling, which generally require additional protective coverings.

The materials mentioned below comply with most codes for NORTH AMERICA ONLY!

Electrical codes in other countries may require the selection of different materials, therefore
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for following those local electrical codes.

YOU are responsible for ensuring “power related” assemblies are safe to use!

Materials...

The materials listed below will build a 6ft power cable that is suitable for use with Power Aimplifiers rated up to 600 watts.

  • 6 ft of Furutech FP-3T762 bulk cable, OR
  • 6 ft of DH Labs Power Plus bulk cable
  • 28 feet of stranded Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire, Cryo Treated, Red - available from Take Five Audio (TFA)
  • 14 feet of green 12 gauge mains copper wire from Home Depot
  • 2 feet of 1” black Heat Shrink sleeve
  • 7 ft of 3/8” (10 mm) expandable nylon sleeve (outer sleeve)
  • 7ft of black 1/4” expandable nylon sleeve (for Live conductor - see below)
  • 1 Pair of SONAR QUEST CRYO Ag Audio Grade Silver plated IEC plug + US main plug
  • lead free solder suited for electronics use - or WBT 4% silver solder can also be used
  • 10-12 gauge copper spade/fork connectors
  • For Spade/Fork terminals take look at the Grainger Web site and in their options check box select TERMINAL TYPE: Standard, WIRE RANGE: 12-10 gauge, INSULATION TYPE: Bare and SEAM: Butted
  • Fork Terminals - Spade Terminals - Grainger Industrial Supply
  • 1 6ft x 1/4” fibreglass rod - available from Home Depot

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 4.31.10 PM

The Sonar Quest connectors have heavy Silver plating on pure copper contacts that provide excellent clamping and transmission of electrical current - available from ebay

I use an approximate ratio of 2.5:1 of Ground/Neutral:Live conductor

e.g. for a 6ft power cable I use 14ft of Ground and 14ft of Neutral Conductor




The Live Conductor...

I have tried many different “wires” for this role, and without question the best have been the conductors found in either of the two bulk cables listed above.

Granted, you do have to “butcher” some very nicely made bulk cable, however, you can make three power cables from one length of bulk cable. Happy

First, strip of the outer sleeve of the bulk cable and the shield and remove the internal conductors.

Using just one of the internal conductors - Attach a 10 gauge spade connector, crimp in place and apply solder

Place the 1/4” black nylon sleeve over the length of the Live Conductor

Attach a small piece of 5/16” heat shrink sleeve at each end to hold the expandable sleeve in place

DO NOT apply the second spade connector just yet!

Live Wire


The Neutral Conductor...

The Neutral Conductor is made from two lengths of the
Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire listed above.

Why two pieces? - this effectively make the neutral wire a 9 awg conductor, which I have found performs much better, resulting in faster dynamics, better bass performance and control and more natural imaging.

Cut the 28 ft length of wire into two equal length pieces.

On the 1/4” rod, wind the neutral conductor in a helix configuration, space the windings about 1/4” apart and remove from the rod.
Repeat the winding process with the second piece of wire.

Neutral  Wires


With the second coil of wire still on the rod...
- Attach the first coil to the second coil with a 10 gauge spade connector
- Wind the first “coil” of wire between its windings as shown below

Remove the two “intertwined” coils from the rod

Dual Neutral


The Ground Conductor...

On the 1/4” rod, wind the green GOUND conductor in a helix configuration, space the windings about 1/4” apart and remove from the rod.

Ground Wire


Thread the Live conductor through the centre of the red coil(s)

Attach a second 10 awg spade connector on free end of the Live conductor, crimp and solder in place.

Attach a second 10 awg spade connector on the two free ends of the neutral conductor, crimp and solder in place.

Wind the green wire between the “double winding” of the neutral conductor as shown below.

Place 12 awg spade connectors on both ends of the ground conductor, crimp and solder in place


Cable Assembly



Place the expandable nylon sleeve over the cable assembly and cut to length

Cut two adequate lengths of 1” heat shrink tubing and place over the nylon sleeve

Attach the Sonar Quest connectors to the cable assembly
ensuring you adopt the correct polarity!!!


Mains Polarity


Position the heat shrink over the ends of the outer sleeve and apply heat

Secure the connector covers in place to complete the cable assembly

Final Product


Assembly Notes...

If you feel the use of Furutech or DH Labs bulk cable is a little too
“extravagant”, you can opt to use a 6ft length of the stranded Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire. In which case I would reduce the upper limit of an attached amplifier to 500 watts.

Why do I use spade connectors? -

  • First, trying to attach the mains/IEC connectors to a 10 gauge cable is very difficult,
  • More importantly - the spade connectors prevent detachment from the connectors in the event of unforeseen stress being placed on the connectors.
  • I have also found that the spade connectors actually improve sound quality.

For a more secure crimped joint, I always crimp from the back - as shown in the image below, which prevents the collar from opening.

Crimp-022


I use pliers as shown in this image that applies an extended crimp along the whole length of the spade connectors collar

imgres


Cables that are more suited to source components can use lighter gauge conductors, but be sure to determine their power requirements and select a gauge that can handle it with headroom to spare.

Can you use other brands of IEC/Mains connectors?


Of course. Some people might prefer to use Furutech, or Oyaide high quality connectors.

Others may prefer to use something more reasonably price, like the Vanguard range of connectors.

I believe the Sonar Quest connector line provides exceptional sound quality for a reasonable price.

The Journey...

I’m a frugal person with a distinct dislike of overpaying for something as simple as a piece of wire!


I started making my own cables many years ago from Bulk cable with reasonably priced connectors.

I first tried Furutech bulk cable and then stumbled upon DH Labs, which I believe offers similar performance for about 1/3 the price - how could you not like that.

I then investigated a braided architecture which proved very effective, even using plain old Romex house wire.

Finally, I tried the Helix Architecture, which has proved to be the best performing power cable architecture to date.

I have now implemented this architecture on all my cables that have anything to do with audio.

What do they sound like?

The “POWER HELIX” is a high performance power cable that allows connected components to perform to the best of their abilities.

They assist components in delivering ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled bass performance.

How Long is the Burn-In Period?

It is imperative that these cables are allowed adequate time to settle and burn-in...

  • they will sound extremely good on initial installation
  • after about 60 hours they allow more of the micro details in the form of venue specific reverberation captured in live recordings, or applied by very talented sound engineers, to clearly be heard.

The end of the Road?

I have decided to end this particular power cable “obsession” with the
“POWER HELIX” simply because...
  • the cost of better materials is making them significantly more expensive
  • I believe any improvements using better materials will probably be marginal from this point onwards

My hope is that this design will be embraced and enhanced by the DIY Community and encourage them to experiment with different conductor materials and configurations to tailor the sound to their own liking.

My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on an Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Bluesound Node 2 music server

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLE Innovations gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX"

  • DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V"



page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy


Power Supply Basics

WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional - consult a technician

OK - so this is one of those areas where the whole "audiophile" world can go completely berserk with cables, outlets and plugs made from high priced materials and components to "purify the supply"

If you have the money to spend and the belief they work - by all means buy them. You've obviously done your homework! So skip this section.

But - this guy loves his wife and he wants to stay married to her - high honey Happy

On the other hand, if you are not knowledgeable in this area and want to get a basic understanding of what can be accomplished - read on...

Screen shot 2013-03-29 at 2.08.43 PM

So, what are the power related items that you can augment or add to improve the quality of the power to a component?
  • The power line from the junction box
  • the wall outlet
  • Filtered outlets
  • Power cable plugs and connectors
  • Power cable lead (i.e. the wire)
  • Power Conditioner
  • Power regenerator
  • Balanced power supply
  • Isolation Transformers

BUT FIRST - Let's talk about the UPS before we go any further:
  • Many are primarily designed to protect computer electronics and allow you enough time to shut down your computer.
  • There are a few designed for "Consumer H-Fi", but most are designed for computer use
  • Their outlets may not provide the best clamping of plugs
  • Getting one with a sufficient rating to power your setup for a couple of minutes can be expensive
  • I have read of success stories, but my attempts with my AV system have only resulted in failure.
  • I definately WOULD NOT consider these for audiophile use at present.

So - let's take a look at the more basic things you can do...
  • if possible run a separate power line from the junction box to the hi-fi
  • while you're doing that make it a 20 amp cable - your hi-fi will love you for it! Happy
  • install a 20 amp Pass and Seymour MRI grade outlet - do not do this on a 15 amp line - IT'S AGAINST CODE!
  • if you can't run a new cable, then replace the 15 amp outlet with a 15 amp hospital grade outlet
  • if you really want to up the anti - install one of the basic Furutech Outlets or a similar product/brand - there's lots to choose from

Why hospital grade? - they are manufactured to higher standards with better materials - but more importantly, they clamp on the pins of the plug so much better.

Why not install a "filtered outlet" instead? - this is yet another place where opinions differ...
  • I prefer NOT to have a filter/conditioner on my Amp
    • I've have read they can compress the sound
    • Companies like Nordost promote the use of unfiltered power sources!
    • Other companies make their bread and butter from them - so they think they are essential!
  • using an unfiltered outlet gives you more options - like - adding an external unit later should YOU choose to
  • tell ya what - try one and see what happens Happy

Now, if you are not replacing your power cord - WHY NOT?
  • the least you can do is replace the plugs/connectors?

Why?
  • Because that crappy little cable that was meant for a computer has an even worse plug on it!
  • when you cut into the cable - you'll see how bad the cable really is
  • you'll do yourself a favour and replace the power cord while you're at it! - mission accomplished! Happy

Seriously
If you do not plan on replacing the 18 gauge power cords that came with your components
STOP RIGHT HERE!
You'll just be wasting your money!


But if you are serious about fine tuning the power components of your system a good power cable is essential...

  • there are lots of nice, reasonably priced plugs out there to choose from...
    • like the Vanguard Gold Plated Copper Connectors
    • There are also reasonably priced plugs with un-plated copper pins - is copper good?
      • YES - VERY GOOD, IF YOU KEEP THE PINS CLEAN - annual cleaning required, especially if the outlet is on an outside wall!
  • Then there's the various cables like that sold by Furutech and DH Labs...
    • only those that use high quality copper, silver coated copper and solid silver as conductors should be used
    • Screened cable, braided and helix designs that assist in dealing with eliminating RF are preferred
  • For added safety/security I crimp spade connectors to the conductors
    • this ensures maximum electrical contact and the wire should remain securely attached
  • If you prefer to go the ready made route, be aware that some "boutique cables" do not actually perform that well
    • The market for these is huge and like anything else - some companies charge over the top for their product
  • Which one to buy? -
    • Look for the companies that specialize in unconventional cable architectures like Anticables
    • Price too good to be true? - be very aware of Brand Fakes!
  • I also think that like any other component in the system you need to match the cable to its component e.g.
    • I would start with 10-12 gauge for amps and 14-15 gauge for ALL other components

So now you've got the outlets and power cables sorted - what's next?
  • Generally, some sort of power distribution centre, like a Power Bar or Power Conditioner
  • The main problem here is the market is flooded with poorly made power bars and conditioners
    • unless you get one from a reputable company like Furutech, PS Audio, etc. - they are not desirable due to poor construction and materials
    • If you are going to spend that much, you might also look at a power conditioner
    ADDENDUM: I now use a DIY Power Distribution Bar using Pass and Seymour MRI grade outlets and found the that the performance improvements in sound stage and micro details were well worth the change.

    Combined with my
    DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX" I find no need for a power conditioner

    What is a
    "Balanced Power Supply"?
    • Basically, it is a large transformer that is "generally" wired into the mains supply beside the junction box
    • It provides clean and phase coherent balanced AC power that remains stable regardless of how they are loaded down
    • Good ones are built like tanks and are designed to handle the dynamic demands of music, like those available from Equi=tech
    • There are also "portable products: that plug into the wall outlet.
      • A more flexible approach! - until you see the quality of the attached power cord
    • As a general rule of thumb - never connect your component to the main supply via any device with a whimpy power cord!!!

    So what exactly is an
    "Isolation Transformer" then?
    • It's similar in principle to a Balanced Power Supply in many respects, a little smaller scale, generally portable and most products also offer surge protection and overload protection
    • • Again, units like the Tripplite Medical-Grade Isolation Transformers are built to higher specifications and can also be used in audio setups
      • Units with a sufficiently high power rating can be used on the lower powered Integrated/Power amps
      • However, it is very important that you know the VA rating, since units often have a "trip device" to protect against overloads
      • I would recommend ONLY using these on source components or lower powered tube amps due to their reduced power handling abilities
    • NOTE: - from what I have observed, these units can be used in place of a power conditioner and do not appear to compress the sound.

    But wait - what about
    "Power Re-generators"?
    • first let me say - there is no better power supply than that which comes out of the outlet - i.e. when it works right!
    • however, if you live in an area that suffers constant power fluctuations/brownouts then you might want to consider one - wait, make that two!
      • As discussed in the section You Need Good Power Cords the peak current demands can get quite high
      • because of that I would recommend one unit for the source and one for the Amp(s).
      • of course that also depends on how much power your system needs - One unit would be ample for my entire system.
    • Expensive - yes, but how much is your system worth - bad power can destroy your investment - seriously!
    • These units do not have the same "headroom" as the power company, but if the power supply is really bad then it becomes a viable solution
    • I do think they should be considered "A LAST RESORT" to fix a troublesome mains supply, rather than considering them as standard equipment Happy
    • But - if you are in a real bind with your power supply and can afford the best the industry has to offer - go for it Happy

    A DIY Power Distribution Box/Panel

    As a minimum, you should install a quality power distribution box to plug components into.

    This diagram details the the wiring method to follow
    Power Bar

    These are fairly simple to build with the right parts....

    You will also need the following....

    Spring Clips like this for connecting to the mini breaker...
    image[17]

    IEC Chassis Connector like this...

    image[14]

    Mini Circuit Breaker of the correct current rating like this...
    image[11]

    All the wiring on the Neutral side is ROMEX house wire - but higher quality wire can be used such as 12 gauge mil spec wire from Take Five Audio

    The wiring on the live side can be ROMEX, but higher quality wire, such as Furutech will perform better. If you use stranded wire I would recommend using spade connectors to fasten them

    Wiring each outlet back to the power bus improves the isolation between outlets and reduces the capability for injecting noise from one component to another component

    To sum up! - the things that I consider will get the most bang for the buck are...
    • A dedicated Power line from the junction box - 20 amp if possible
      • this will result in less noise, since the line is not shared with household appliances e.g. with the washing machine
    • A hospital grade outlet - i.e. at minimum
      • better plug-pin clamping will result in better transmission of power to the component
    • A good power cable - including good plugs/connectors
      • please read the section "You Need Good Power Cords" for benefits
    • A power distribution Box
      • at a minimum to plug the source components into
      • The DIY box above is great value
    • An isolation transformer
      • ONLY if the power supply to the house old and is very noisy
      • removes any noise that may be present at the outlet

    The rest of the items talked about here will certainly improve the quality or the power in your supply, but they tend to get very expensive and are more of a
    "last resort fix" to resolve the more difficult power supply issues you might encounter!

    My Cables - the Deciding Factors

    • My journey into the world of good quality cables started many yeas ago, but up until then I was far from an "informed customer".
    Most of the time I was listening to salesmen and buying what they recommended.

    I then stumbled across an excellent store that actually provided useful information and was more focussed on selling me the right product.

    Speaker Cables

    My first good copper was a pair of
    CLEARWATER bulk speaker cable from Van Den Hul.
    • I had no idea at that time what I was buying and relied on the advice from the staff at the new store.
    • The impact of these new cables was so immediate that I started delving into other product from Van Den Hul.
    • The Van Den Hul site is excellent and they provide very detailed spec's on all their cable and also MSRP, so you can evaluate every aspect
    • BTW - I recently stripped the insulation from this cable and there was no sign of oxidation after 12 years - amazing!

    My next upgrade was to the
    CS - 122 Hybrid - again another noticeable improvement in the fidelity.
    • It was at this time that I started to consider the documented specifications of the cables before I purchased
    • This cable is a great performer across the board and has been used successfully with my SP120 tube amp
    • It is now attached to my Denon AV receiver on my AV system

    A step up in this area has been with the
    D - 352 Hybrid from Van Den hul
    • This is really a superb cable providing extremely deep, but well controlled bass,
    • Well balance though the mid frequencies and very smooth at the top end
    • This is a very low capacitance cable which is ideally suited to the NAIM amp.

    I still consider the above cables to be ver good, but I have discovered they perform so much better if the signal and neutral conductors are separated. The improvement in clarity, dynamics and bass control was very noticeable.

    After several years using the D-352 I got to review newcomer to audio cables - the
    KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables fromKLE Innovations.
    • despite being a very thin cable when compared to the D-352 it was obvious from the outset that these cables were top performers
    • The bass performance is better and goes much deeper than the D-352
    • I could not detect any added coloration across the frequency range
    • but the most outstanding aspect of these cables are their dynamics, clarity and focus
    • The gZero2 were then move to my A/V system when the KLEI gZero6 speaker cables arrived.
    • Iv’e since replaced those with my own DIY Speaker Cables - The HELIX Speaker that are excellent performers

    Interconnects

    Flushed with two successful speaker cable purchases I then turned my attention to my interconnects, which had up to now been a variety of modestly priced store bought cables and some DIY cables made using some better quality bulk purchase cable.

    The selection of the first one I tried, was mainly due to affordability, but it looked quite good on paper.

    I had selected the
    NAME coax interconnect from Van Den Hul.
    • This is a multi-use cable that was sold as a stereo pair, but could be used for digital purposes also
    • There was a very noticeable improvement in the dynamics, depth of bass and a very smooth top end

    On reading up on other cables in their catalogue I became intrigued by the
    D - 102 III Hybrid.
    • It certainly sounded like an exceptional cable, so I began to look for reviews, only to discover it had already won awards over several years - including...
    • What Hi-Fi 1998: - Best Buy, What Hi-Fi 1999: - Product of the Year, What Hi-Fi 2000: - Best Buy,

    Well if it's that good I thought - perhaps I'll give it a try!
    • Once again my hi-fi store recommended some good quality Furutech RCA's at $10 per connector - a great match for that cable
    • These cables are absolutely the best cable construction I have ever seen - they are built like a tank
    • A fairly flexible balanced interconnect with 3 layer shielding
    • Most of the cables VDH sells are built to industrial standards and for the most part are protected against harsh environments
    • They transfer the finest details to the amp without colouring the sound and allow the dynamics to bring the music to life
    • They have now been in the system for about 6 years

    I next tried some bulk cable from a company that caught my attention -
    DH Labs
    • The nice thing about DH Labs is they have some great looking product at a fraction of the price of VDH

    And then KLE Innovations sent a pair of their
    KLEI gZero20 Interconnect cables and KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables for review - seems these old ears aren’t quite as bad as I had thought.
    • A little more expensive than I like to pay, but these are extremely good interconnects
    • their strongest attributes are clarity, dynamics, extension at both end of the frequency spectrum and spacial imaging

    And finally, my own
    DIY Interconnect Cables - The “Helix Mark V"

    • They deliver a completely “uncoloured presentation” with ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled bass performance.

    • The delicate nuances pertaining to the acoustic reverberations of instruments and voice within a live venue are faithfully reproduced in the most minute detail, with a precision placement of musicians and their instruments within their own “virtual space”.


    Power Cables
    WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional - consult a technician

    At about the time I purchased my Raysonic SP120 tube amp, I started to look into the world of power cables and the many forum comments stating "wire is wire"!

    Turns out they were right - wire is wire! - But a good quality Power Cable is absolutely essential!

    The first I tried was from
    FURUTECH a well known and well respected company
    • The product I tried was the FP-314 Ag - a 15AWG α (Alpha) conductor
    • The results were again immediate - with a noticeable improvement in low frequency dynamics and depth and more detailed sound stage

    The latest cable from Furutech I have tried is their
    FP-3TS762 20 amp 10 awg cable. Another superb cable that has no problems keeping up with the dynamic demands of the amp.

    From the guys at
    DH Labs,
    • their Power Plus AC Cable, which is comparable from an electrical performance perspective to the Furutech FP-3TS762
    • their Encore AC Cable, which, very surprisingly, is very close in acoustic performance to the Furutech FP-3TS762 but lacks in some of the high resolution details such as the acoustics of the recording venue
    • for my review see DH Labs Encore Power Cable

    I now use my own DIY design that uses a helix architecture that appears to maximize details, spatial imaging, clarity, very low noise floor with a superb dynamic performance.

    See
    DIY Power Cables - The “POWER HELIX"

    Also, I use the
    Sonar Quest silver plated copper connectors on every power cable

    Deciding Factors

    So now all of the cables I look for must have:
    • Low Resistance
    • Low Capacitance
    • Low Inductance
    • Best quality copper, silver coated copper or silver conductors
    • unconventional cable architectures like my helix designs

    FOOTNOTE:
    I take the promotion of products very seriously.
    If a company's product is identified on this blog it is solely based on that products
    exceptional performance.
    I do not receive any payment for products mentioned on this blog

    Over the years I have had my DIY favourites like Furutech and Van Den Hul that produce excellent products

    Every now and again a company comes along with product that challenges those stalwarts!

    At this point in time, that company is DH Labs - stellar products at great prices!

    But once in a millennia a company like KLE Innovations comes along that throws out conventional thinking about cable design and produces products that excel at every level. Expensive? A little, but they are excellent performers.

    If you are a cost conscious consumer like me, take a look at their products.

    I don't think you will be disappointed - I know I haven't been Winking




    Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference

    WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional do not attempt to build/fix anything that uses mains voltage electricity — consult a technician

    This debate has been ongoing for many years and until now I have never seen an adequate reasoning!

    I've just completed updating all of my power cables — and YES! — it does work — for both Audio and Video

    Maybe this example will explain why...

    Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 3.29.31 PM

    So what happens inside the amp if the dynamic current peaks cannot be accommodated?

    If power supply within the amp cannot supply the current required at the speed required to amplify the signal to it's required levels...
    • the voltage within the circuit will fluctuate ever so slightly.
    • the fluctuations can result in distortions being introduced into the amplified signal.
    • also, remember there are two amplifiers operating in a stereo system, so the fluctuations will not be exactly the same.
    • this can result is subtle changes to the phase of the two signals of the LR channels.
    • changes in phase tend to alter the stereo image such that the image becomes "smeared" or "unfocused”.
    • In exotic amp designs the power transformers tend to be very large, are made from great quality copper and have lots of "headroom" — that's why the sound better:
      • "headroom" is the excess capacity available to address the peaks in power demand
      • the transformers are also designed to be very efficient,
      • Therefore peaks in current demand are accommodated by their ability to supply the required current from the power supply directly and when that is exhausted, from the main supply.
    • If there is a tiny little power cord attached to the amp then the “effective supply, i.e. as seen by the power supply of the amp, is unable provide the required current in time.
    • The amp will not perform up to it's “fullest potential" and
    • The stereo image and dynamic response will not be as good as what is actually achievable.

    Most hi-end stereo equipment is designed with sufficient "headroom" in the power supply, but the power cord may be insufficient to deal with the peak transient demands that the internal circuitry and components are capable of.

    More modestly priced components tend to skimp a little on the components in their power supply because they are designed to a “price point”.
    • However, their internal circuitry and components are often very capable of a significantly higher level of performance if only the power supply were more “capable”

    In either case — having quality power cabling, connectors , etc., will allow all audio components to perform to a significantly higher level.

    What can you do to ensure the equipment is working to it's fullest abilities?
    • Ensure that the outlet into which the equipment is plugged into is at least a hospital grade outlet — but you don't need to go nuts...
      • I have a 20 amp hospital grade MRI outlet from Take Five Audio - it has much stronger clamping abilities.
      • Even a 15 amp hospital grade outlet will be better than a standard outlet.
    • Ensure that all mains leads are of sufficient gauge and made from high quality copper.
      • 10 gauge minimum for amps.
      • Even larger for those very big mono-block amps or very high powered amps (say, 1000 watts and up).
      • 12-15 gauge minimum for source components .
    • Ensure that all plugs are of a reasonable quality — again you don't have to go nuts.
      • SONAR QUEST CRYO Ag Audio Grade Silver plated connectors are very good and reasonably priced.
    • For added safety/security I crimp spade connectors to the conductors.
      • This ensures maximum electrical contact and the wire should remain securely attached.

    The same applies to TV's also — the better the cord the better the image!

    So why doesn't the manufacturer provide good power cords?
    • All amps are designed to a "price point”.
    • the manufacturer knows that if they include a good cord it will up their price compared to the competition.
    • they also know that the informed consumer will buy a better cord anyway.
    • NAIM did have a slightly better cord included, but it falls very short from the cables that really makes it "shine”.

    There’s a question out there on the web which asks-

    “How can a 5ft quality built power cable make any difference?”


    After all...

    • There’s all sorts of noise on transmission lines.
    • Add to that the noise in old transformers on hydro poles and all those poor connections.
    • The crappy quality wire in the walls of your house/apartment doesn’t help.
    • and don’t forget all those noisy household appliances.

    To answer that question you first have to understand electricity a little...

    A mistake often made is equating the flow of electrical current to the flow of water through a hose, which is not the case.

    AC stands for Alternating Current but, in reality it’s alternating voltage — the voltage is a sine wave that cycles to +120v and -120v either side of a zero voltage point at 50/60 cycles a second.

    When a circuit is completed by turning on a switch, some electrical energy is transferred — however
    • The reality is — the loosely coupled Valence Electrons in the cable, shift in one direction — but only for one half of the cycle
    • As the voltage enters the other half of the cycle the Valence Electrons - shifts in the other direction
    • So there is no “flow of electrons” as such — they just shuffle back and forth — however, there is a transfer of energy
    • This means all that noise in the transmission lines and house wiring never ACTUALLY arrive at your components
    • The noise that does get to your components is in the last 5ft of the supply line
    • YES! - YOUR power cables!

    So, if you can clean up this section, the power coming to the components will be clean and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities.


    What causes all this noise?

    Primarily -
    poor power cable design!

    Let me explain - If you have two wires in parallel and side by side, i.e. just as in a power cable having a conventional architecture...
    • when you pass electricity through one wire i.e. the live wire...
    • noise is induced into the other wire(s) i.e. the neutral and the ground
    • The ground wire is not too much of an issue, since it goes directly to ground and is only really connected to the components chassis as a safety consideration
    • BUT - if the noise gets into the Neutral wire — it can impact the actual operation of the components circuit
    • if you can interrupt the induction process you can clean up the power in that last 5ft of power cable

    How can you clean up the last 5ft?
    • Well, as stated above — the wires have to be adjacent and parallel for induction to take effect.
    • You could just separate them by about one inch, but that’s not really a convenient solution.
    • But one very simple method is to braid the conductors — the tighter the braid the better they perform.
    • In a braid, the wires cross each other at an angle between 30-50 degrees .
    • This is enough to reduce the effect of the induction process.
    • resulting in a significant reduction in noise.

    Another more advanced and effective method...

    Is to wrap the Neutral and Ground conductors around the Live Conductor in a helix
    • This is the most effective approach because the neutral and ground conductors are almost at 90 degrees to the live conductor
    • There is virtually no noise induced into the neutral or ground conductors.
    • The neutral and ground conductors also interrupt RFI/EMI pollution of the Live conductor.
    • The resulting power is virtually clean.
    • But, this “winding process” is much more complex to implement.
    • And more than doubles the amount of wire required.
      • Probably the main reason why it is seldom used.
    • Typically, for a Ft 5 power cord I would use 12-14 Ft of wire for each of the neutral and ground conductors.
    • There is one upside — the wire used for the Neutral and Ground wires does not have to be of the same high quality as the wire for the Live Conductor.

    I found that for both Ground and Neutral conductors,
    • using a stiffer wire allows it to “hold” the helix shape once it has been formed and it does not have to be of the same high quality copper as the Live Conductor.
    • You can then insert a high quality, more flexible “live” conductor, like those available from Furutech or DH Labs, into the helix to complete the three conductors required for mains cables.
    • The higher purity copper used in the live conductor will provide a much faster response to transient demands, i.e., better dynamic response.

    To form the helix...
    • an easy approach is to wind the conductors around a wooden dowel.
    • the resulting helix is like a spring and quite flexible.
    • This also reduces the likelihood of the less flexible wires from cracking or breaking
    • See DIY Power Cables - The “POWER HELIX"

    Of all of the power cable architectures I have tried to date, I have found the helix architecture to provide the most detailed and dynamic performance.

    For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens

    WARNING: if you attempt this there are a couple of issues you have to address...
    • Ensure the cable is rated for mains use - I use cable capable of handling >=600v at 200 celsius .
    • the gauge you select must be able to carry the power required by the component.
    • DO NOT use Romex House Wire for prolonged use — it will crack and fail with use.
    • Ensure you get the polarity correct when connecting the MAINS/IEC plugs.
      • Reversing the polarity could result in degraded performance.
      • It can also result in electrical shock.

    For added security I always crimp small plated copper spades on the ends of each wire and then fasten those into the mains connectors. They are about the safest method, other than soldering, of ensuring the wires will not pull out. The other benefit is that they appear to assist in the transmission process — the net result being improved dynamic performance.

    What is the optimum length of a power cable?...

    • Most of my cables are between 4 and Ft 6 long.
    • I have one helix cable that is only 3ft long and it works extremely well.
      • But I would not personally make them any shorter than 3ft Happy
      • Longer than Ft 6 becomes a bit unmanageable to build

    DISCLAIMER...

    Failure to connect plugs using the correct polarity can result in electric shock resulting in death or may cause equipment to malfunction, resulting in fire!

    If you have not had adequate training in the maintenance of electrical appliances, mains electricity or power electrical theories - DO NOT attempt to maintain or build power related products!


    IF YOU ATTEMPT TO BUILD POWER CABLES YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK!
    • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR COMPETENCE IN CABLE ASSEMBLY PROCEDURES!
    • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR MATERIALS CHOICE!
    • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INTERPRETATION OF INFORMATION ON THIS BLOG!

    IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS - CONTACT AN ELECTRICAL TECHNICIAN FOR ASSISTANCE



    Grounding and "Floating Shield" architecture

    WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional - consult a technician

    The following diagram depicts how "Floating Shield" cables must be connected to the various components in order to maximize their effectiveness

    All source components having a two pronged plug must have a supplemental ground wire connecting their chassis to one central ground point - in my case it is located on the Power Conditioner

    • UPDATE: I no longer use a power conditioner, it has been replaced with a DIY power distribution panel, but it also has a centralized grounding point.

    Since the Apple TV is not connected "electrically" to the DAC (i.e. only via optical interconnect) and it only has a two-pin plug there is no need to ground it .

    I have included a Pre Amp in the diagram in order to show how the interconnect to the Power Amp must be attached.

    The power cables to the Phono Stage and DAC are of a
    “Helix geometry" which rejects RF and requires no screen/shield

    What difference does this make? - I found that details in the music became much more noticeable and correctly positioned in the soundstage



    Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 2.24.48 PM