Sugg. Retail: $180.00 U.S.
Manufacturer: Wireworld by David Salz, Inc.,
3320 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312
(954) 962-2650 FAX 962-2603
(Reprinted from the Winter 1997 Audio
Though I’ve heard some pretty staggering differences among speaker cables and interconnects over the years, skepticism has always kept me from taking the claimed sonic differences among AC cables seriously. How can a cable that carries 60-Hz alternating current make a difference in a two-metre length to a component, especially when that rough beast of a signal has slouched through several, sometimes hundreds of miles of mediocre copper cable, and numerous transformers? I mean, let’s be reasonable here! Any effect it might have on the sound of a component will be filtered out in even a half-decent power supply.
Still, when I first used the Bryston 3B NRB in my system some time back, I found that I could induce a quite loud 120-Hz hum in the amp’s toroidal power transformers by setting a two-stage halogen lamp at the lower illumination setting. But this hum did not find its way into the speakers, being only a physical resonance caused by the dumping of harmonics of 60 Hz into the AC circuit. Maybe there’s a lot more in the AC line than 60 Hz, I thought in passing.
Meanwhile, David Salz had sent me a new AC cable, the Aurora, which is fully shielded, and uses a patented noise cancelling design which “consistently and dramatically improves the performance of audio and video systems.” It is also terminated in a large, hospital-grade plug.
Given my attitude, I didn’t immediately try it in the home system, but always mindful of some of the crap in the often antiquated electrical systems I find when recording in churches, I packed the Aurora cable in with the gear, and used it numerous times to feed AC to the Meridian 607 ADC. Of course, I also use a filter/surge protector/multi-outlet device in these circumstances, a Hammond Zap Trap, so didn’t notice any great improvements when recording concerts and our new organ CD with Ian Sadler (AI- CD-009). Thus it was several months before I tried the Aurora at home, this being in the new house’s large listening room.
There, I found not one, but two dedicated circuits, one to the left side of the room, which now runs computers and lights, the other actually just out of the room in an adjacent furnace room that ran the water softening and filtering system (We’re dependent on a well out here in the country). I had a third dedicated circuit installed for the audio system, with its two outlets inside the cabinetry I had built for components, LPs, and CDs. The idea was to make sure that computer and audio systems were completely isolated from each other, and each filtered (by Zap Trap and Chang Lightspeed(Wtr 93), respectively) between AC and components.
As it turned out, primarily for reasons of speaker cable length, the new Atlantis II cables being a little shorter than my previous Kimber 4TC, I moved my front amplifier out of the cabinet and into this small room to share the water system’s circuit; the softening system operates on a timer, and does its thing with the salt tank once a week, so current draw is otherwise almost nil. Longer balanced interconnects were made up to go back to the Monarchy M-33 preamp/DAC.
Well, as so often happens in audio, one thing led to another, and I saw that, with my amplifier almost alone on its dedicated circuit, the effect, if any, of a power cord on the sound of this amp could be pretty easily isolated; if a difference could be heard, then it would be solely attributable to the AC cord.
Oh, and lest I forget, there’s one other thing to be noted here: the actual breaker box is also in the furnace room, and the cable from it to the outlet in question just over a metre in length. If the others are circuits dedicated to their specific uses, this one is truly committed, being but one step away from being plugged directly into the transformer on the pole outside.
So one morning in the spring, ears sharpened by a second cup of coffee, I pulled out one of my favourite LPs for detecting subtle sonic differences, the Slatkin/St. Louis Mahler 1st (Telarc DG-10066), and fired up the first movement with the generic cable supplied by Bryston still on the amplifier. After about 10 minutes, I swapped it for the Aurora, and started the LP again.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t still drinking my coffee, because I would probably have dumped it all over my lap…the soundstage opened up, the resolution and spatial integrity increased, the bass firmed up, and dynamics, both macro and micro, improved significantly. Things were notably less distorted and faster. I could follow the orchestral counterpoint much better, and the subtle underpinnings of bass drum and tympani were much easier to hear, as was everything else at soundstage rear. It was like upgrading the cartridge or speakers, or to use a visual analogy, getting the focus just right on the binoculars.
I found it hard to believe that a power cord could make such differences, but continuing to switch back and forth, I found the improvement with the Aurora completely consistent, and not subtle. What could a power cord do to improve audio quality and resolution this way? A week or so later, technical writer Jim Hayward called, and I invited him to come by after his teaching was done for the day at Radio College of Canada, not telling him what I was going to spring on him. I really wanted confirmation of what I’d heard, from someone even more pragmatic and skeptical, but with open ears and mind.
We did the same comparisons, but this time Jim didn’t know which was which when I switched (or didn’t) in the adjacent room. Actually he did, since he had no trouble identifying the two power cords and their sonic differences. He was as astounded as I had been previously. Having initially said that such tests were a waste of time because of all the ordinary cable preceding the breaker box, not to mention other things like transformers, he amusedly agreed to do the comparison. Afterwards, he came into the furnace room, looked at the cable from the outlet back to the box, and said, “Maybe if we replace that length we can improve the sound even more!”
How can a simple AC cord, no matter how good, pure, thick, or otherwise immaculate in its conception, improve audio quality? Well, as you will see elsewhere in this issue, plugging little AudioPrism Quiet Line transformers into the AC line can remove noise above the 60-Hz alternating frequency operating as a shunt filter across the AC circuit. Audio Power Industries takes an active approach in their Power Enhancer I (Wtr 94), which joins the Chang in my audio circuit. As I found out from David Salz, the approach taken in the Aurora involves similar filtration, but here he has first fully shielded the cord, and then designed it (in his patented proprietary physical and electrical configuration) to have the highest possible capacitance and inductance combined with the lowest possible resistance; this turns the cable into a low-pass filter that attenuates most of the junk above 60 Hz, especially that which can slip through the power supply into the amplifier’s audio circuitry. The very low resistance also allows current to be drawn with less effort, though this phenomenon is open to question on technical grounds. Whatever the case, there is no questioning the improvement in dynamics with the Aurora.
Until quite recently I would have laughed at the sheer folly of paying 180 bucks for a power cord. But having heard and confirmed the sonic capabilities of the Aurora noise cancelling cord, I will listen carefully when such claims are made in the future, and, of course, continue to listen to my Bryston 3B ST through it.