Size Matters: PS Audio xStream Statement SC Power Cords, Juice Bar II, Power Ports
I decided to kick my power delivery game up a notch. My Signal Cable MagicPower cords have served me well and I highly recommend them. However, I was curious to hear how much, if any, improvement I would hear from a bigger, beefier power cord with better shielding. Before we get to my findings, I would like to review a couple of naysayer axioms regarding aftermarket power cords. If you have been reading me for a while, you know that I frequently use water flow analogies to describe the flow of electrical current through conductors. With your indulgence, I will use another water flow analogy to discuss these axioms.
"I don't see how sticking a so-called "better" power cord on the end of your gear will improve the power delivery. After all, the power has traveled many miles from the generating station through common copper, then through the common copper wiring in your home. It is ludicrous to think that a few feet of boutique wire, whether it's copper, silver, or whatever, will make an audible difference."
Water Flow Analogy For Axiom #1
"I don't see how sticking a so-called "better" water filter on the end of your faucet will improve water quality in the home. After all, the water has traveled many miles from the natural water source (river, lake, aquifer, or whatever) through lots and lots of dirt, then it has been purified by a multi-million dollar municipal water treatment plant staffed by highly trained and well paid employees. The water then travels through a sanitary public water system and then trough the common copper piping in your home. The antimicrobial properties of common copper are well documented by scientific research. It is ludicrous to think that a small, often expensive, "boutique" aftermarket water "purifier", will provide an improvement in water quality and taste over and above that provided by the multi-million dollar municipal water treatment plant and the miles of anti-microbial copper piping. Those who believe so have fallen victim to the "placebo effect"."
Aftermarket power cords are snake oil and totally unnecessary. Any modern, well designed audio component has a power supply that is fully capable of supplying the power requirements of the device.
Water Flow Analogy For Axiom #2
Aftermarket water filters are snake oil and totally unnecessary. In the highly unlikely event that any microbes or other contaminants miraculously get past the multi-million dollar municipal water treatment plant and the miles and miles of anti-microbial copper, the human body's immune system would effectively deal with them.
The "raw material" that our precious audio components use to make music is the electrical current delivered from the wall socket. Unfortunately, that "raw material" often comes out of the wall in less than ideal form. It may be contaminated with noise from the environment and/or from other devices on the power circuit. The waveform may be distorted. The voltage may be out of specification. Contaminated power is useful for most "normal" applications like running your AC or toaster. If you are trying to faithfully recreate a musical performance, you might want to consider some in-home power treatment options. You can be sure of the fact that the highly paid, highly trained folks at the power company did not have the audiophile and videophile in mind when they designed their miraculous electrical power grid.*
PS Audio xStream Statement SC Power Cord
Overview: 8 AWG, PCOCC single crystal copper, multiple shields, proprietary connectors, ferrite impregnated jacket. MSRP: 1m-$499, 1.5m-$564, 2m-$629, 3m-$759.
Figure 1. The Statement SC made a strong positive statement in my two channel system.
Figure 2. Pretty, pretty. Even if the Statement SC didn't live up to its performance
claims, it is still worth buying for the nice "snake" oil type diamondback jacket and
big thick connectors.:p**
Figure 3. A stack of Statements. 2m for the monoblock amps, 1.5m for the SACD player
and phono preamp, and 3m for the line level preamp.
Figure 4. Yes, size, and shielding, does matter. The black power cord is a Signal Cable
The first components to get Statement SC's were my JC 1 monoblock amps. Each amp received a 2 meter cord. Immediately after installation I heard the following:
1. Sound stage height constriction. Images were 0.5 to 1.5 feet lower in height.
2. Less bass impact.
3. Much heavier image weight.
4. Sibilant voices.
Checking back 7 hours later, I heard the following:
1. The sound stage height constriction was gone and the sound stage dimensions and image placement within the sound stage was the same as with the MagicPower cord.
2. The noise floor was lowered. Music sounded louder, although the sound level meter registered the same volume as with the MagicPower cord.
3. The sibilance on voices was gone.
4. Subtle details in percussion instruments were heard more clearly.
After 30 hours of play, the bass detail, speed, and weight had surpassed that of the MagicPower cord.
PS Audio specifies a break in time of 300 hours. My policy is to disqualify a piece of gear if I don't hear an advantage to keeping it within the first 50 hours of listening.
After 3 days of listening to the power amp Statement SC's, I installed a 3 meter Statement SC on my Pass Labs X0.2 preamp. On first listening, the noise floor was lowered further and the images became a bit heavier. The improvement here was very noticeable, but was not as significant as the improvement heard on the power amps. After 20 more hours of play, sound stage depth increased a bit. Since I introduced the preamp's cord well before the power amp cords were broken in, I don't know if the improvements I heard on the fifth day were due solely to the preamp's cord or to a combination of the preamp and power amp cords. Wherever it was coming from, the cables, voodoo, or placebo effect, I liked it!:)
On the sixth day I installed a 1.5 meter Statement SC on my Cary CD 306 Pro SACD player and on my Pass Labs Xono phono preamp. There are two receptacles on the wall behind my equipment cabinet. The X0.2 preamp and right JC 1 amp are plugged into the right receptacle. The left JC 1 amp and a Signal Cable MagicStrip 4 four outlet extension cord are plugged into the left outlet. The Statement SC's for the SACD player and phono preamp were plugged into the Signal Cable MagicStrip.
On first listening to the SACD player, I heard a loss of bass impact and detail and high frequencies were rolled off. I did not hear a lowering of the sound floor. I thought, "Great, I can return this one and get some cash back.
I let the music play and came back to listen ten hours later. The constricted highs were gone. I was also hearing and feeling more bass as well as hearing more ambient and reverberant information. I switched the MagicPower cord back in for a comparative listen. The music volume seemed to dropped slightly and I was missing subtle details, particularly in percussion instruments, that I clearly heard with the Statement SC. The Statement was immediately put back in service.
On the analog side, immediately after installing a Statement SC on the Xono phono preamp, I heard:
1. Sibilance in voices and high frequency percussion instruments.
2. Slightly more tactile bass.
3. A sound stage height lowering of 1 to 1.5 feet.
As with the SACD player, after 10 hours of moderate level playback (average 90 dB-C), the sibilance and sound stage constrictions were gone.
As stated previously, the Statement SC's for the SACD player and phono preamp were plugged into a MagicStrip extension cord. I then decided test a theory.:)
***Edit 8/14/08*** A follow up to the Power Port review is given in post #37 in this thread.
http://i148.photobucket.com/albums/s...ight88/mad.gif *Stop making sense!!!
http://i148.photobucket.com/albums/s...ght88/wink.gif**Awwww...calm down. He's just kidding.
Part II: A Theory Validated
PS Audio Juice Bar II
While I was yet delirious from the intoxicating effects of the Statement SC snake oil, I ordered a PS Audio Juice Bar II (heavy duty eight outlet power strip) and a 3 meter Statement SC power cord to go with it. The Juice Bar II does come with a 14 gauge power cord, but PS Audio advises that, like most stock power cords that come with high performance audio gear, the Juice Bar II's stock cord is a "throwaway" item.
The listening evaluations in the previous section were made with the 1.5m Statements plugged into a 10 foot four outlet Signal Cable MagicStrip extension cord.
Figure 5. The Juice Bar II is machined from copper, aluminum, and brass billet. You
can read all the juicy technical details at www.psaudio.com.
Figure 6. Nice touch. The IEC jack is machined into the Juice Bar's aluminum end cap.
Figure 7. The Juice Bar II/3 meter Statement SC combination (weighing 8 pounds) dwarfs its predecessor. The 10 foot MagicStrip weighs 3.2 pounds. The JB II/S SC combo also dwarfs its predecessor in price. It is over 7X as much.
Replacing the MagicStrip with the Juice Bar II/Statement SC combination resulted in an immediate lowering of the noise floor comparable to that heard when the the power amp cords were replaced. With both the analog and digital sources, images became heavier.
I expected to hear the same sibilance and sound stage constriction heard when the other Statement SC's were first installed, but in this case I did not. I just experienced a further refinement of all the good things I had been hearing. The Juice Bar II/Statement SC combo brought my source components much closer to receiving the full power of the darque side.:)
PS Audio Power Port
Based on my good experiences with the Statement power cords and Juice Bar II, I decided to splurge on a couple of PS Audio Power Port receptacles.
Figure 8. I was skeptical at first, but...
The only benefit I heard from the Power Ports was a slight additional lowering of the noise floor. I mentioned this in an email to PS Audio and I was advised that the Power Ports take about 300 hours to break in. The Power Ports also provided the mechanical benefit of gripping the connectors tightly. The weight of the Statement SC's caused the connectors to sag away from the regular household outlets.
Figure 9. Now, that's a nice looking AC outlet. The Power Port
(in designer white) blended in perfectly with my contemporary
decor. That alone justified the price. :) ***
Figure 10. No sagging power cables here. The Power Port bites
and holds on tight.
Noise Is Insidious, Pervasive And Nasty
There are two original electrical outlets on the wall behind my audio cabinet. Both outlets are on the same dedicated 20 amp circuit. Unfortunately, the best location in the house for my wireless router, access point, and cable modem is close to that of my two channel audio system. Therefore, in addition to running my two channel gear off this circuit, I also run my networking gear and the back light for my turntable. Unplugging all the networking gear resulted in a slight lowering of the noise floor.
I decided to be generous and let the networking gear and the turntable back light have the whole original audio circuit to themselves. I ordered the installation of two new dedicated 20 amp circuits strictly for the audio gear. Things must currently be kind of slow in the electrical trade because I called my electrician's office on Thursday and I received an appointment for an estimate visit for the next morning. When the electrician came over, he said he could do the installation the following Monday morning, which he did.
Figure 11. New kids on the (terminal) block. Absolutely one of
the best tweaks ever!
I knew that I would receive some audible benefit from the dedicated circuits, I just expected it to be on the order of what I heard when I unplugged my networking equipment. I did realize a lowering of the noise floor, but it was much more than expected. I also heard and felt more bass and could hear more high frequency details. Sound stage depth was extended a little more. I did have some concern about a slight midrange glazing (loss of detail). That aberration went away after 7 hours of moderate level playback. I assume the new copper needed some time to settle in. Also greeting me upon my return to listening was a significant enhancement of image weight and SDA three-dimensionality. Really, I had no idea that providing a separate power circuit for each of my monoblocks would result in Such Good Sound.:)
I decided to reconfigure the power cabling to provide a more balanced power draw on each circuit. On the left side, there is a continuous total power draw of 325 watts consisting of: JC 1 power amp (250 watts continuous), X0.2 preamp (35 watts continuous), Xono phono preamp (20 watts continuous), Teres turntable battery charger (20 watts continuous). On the right side, there is a continuous total power draw of 315 watts consisting of: JC 1 power amp (250 watts continuous), CD 306 Pro SACD player (65 watts continuous). I did not notice any audible difference between the original and modified power cabling configurations.
The retail price of the Statement SC cables are 8X to 8.5X the price of my former Signal power cables. They are not 8X to 8.5X "better" and I did not expect them to be. A while ago, I became comfortable with the concept that the higher you go up in performance, the more incremental the performance gains and the more disproportionate the price paid for those gains.
Further Thoughts: Power Conditioning
I am interested in placing some type of power conditioning component between the power amps and the wall. The deterrents are:
1. All the devices that I know of provide less current and overall power than the wall. PS Audio's Power Plant Premier (PPP) power regenerator literature states that it offers the "full power of the wall". However, the theoretical full power from a common North American 15 amp, 120 volt wall circuit is (15A) x (120V) = 1725 watts. The PPP's literature states that it's maximum power output is 1500 watts. This is a 13% reduction in the power available from the wall.
In the case of a 20 amp circuit, the theoretical maximum power from the wall is (20A) x (120V) = 2400 watts. In this case, the PPP reduces the maximum power from the wall by 37.5%. If you are running high current amplification and like to listen at concert levels every now and then, insertion of the PPP might give one pause.
2. I don't have any more space in my audio equipment cabinet!
I might try a couple of the PS Audio UPC-200's. They are always available on Audiogon and are small enough to fit in the space behind my speakers.
http://i148.photobucket.com/albums/s...t88/tongue.gif ***He's not kidding.