Tweaking Home Theater Part 6: PS Audio PerfectWave AC-5 Power Cable And Other Stuff
"Submitted for your approval: A videophile-in-training had settled in for what he thought would be years of non-stop, carefree viewing pleasure. Then they attacked: the "what ifs", "why nots" and "let's sees" that lurk around every corner in the rabbit hole. Next stop: The Blu-ray Zone"
I thought that it was time to quit living an austere life and indulge in some home theater power infrastructure (and other) improvements.
1. The Monster Cable in-wall subwoofer cable was replaced by Blue Jeans LC-1 subwoofer cable (36 foot run-up the wall, across the attic, down the wall).
2. The two Power Port Premier AC receptacles that each AC regenerator is connected to were replaced with Soloist Premier SE in-wall power conditioners.
3. All Signal Cable MagicPower cords were replaced with PS Audio PerfectWave AC-5 power cords (Power Plant Premier AC regenerators), PS Audio xStream Plasma power cord (subwoofer) and PS Audio xStream Statement SC power cords (preamps, power amps and source components).
4. The subwoofer interconnects were replaced with Monster Cable Z200i interconnects.
The Summer Of Hum
After installing a Sony TA-P9000ES 5.1 preamplifier last summer (figures 15 and 16 of this thread), I would get a loud hum from the subwoofer when the preamp was going through its five second mute cycle after turn on...then the hum would stop once the preamp was switched on. There would also be a loud hum from the sub if the the input selector was turned to the unused "2 Channel Bypass" input. There was no hum from inputs "1"-Blu-ray player, "2"-unused, and "5.1 Bypass"-pass through connection for Sony TA-E9000ES preamp/processor. It really wasn't a pressing issue to correct the hum since it only occurred at initial startup and at an unused input...but you know me.
The subwoofer cable was previously configured as a 6 foot RCA terminated Monster in-wall cable from the preamp to the wall patch panel (double-ended female RCA jack), then a 36 foot Monster in-wall cable, then a double-ended female RCA jack, then a 3 foot RCA terminated Monster in-wall cable from the wall patch panel to the subwoofer.
Prospective cable solutions were tested out on the floor before running cable through the walls.
Curiously, if I directly connected the sub and preamp with either the 36 foot section of Monster ZBass100 or the 36 foot section of Blue Jeans LC-1, I would get the same level of hum as with the Monster in-wall cables.
When I connected a 6 foot length of LC-1 to a double-ended female RCA jack, then the 36 foot length of LC-1, then the other double-ended female RCA jack, then the 3 foot length of LC-1, I got worse hum than with just the 36 foot length of LC-1.
When I connected a 6 foot length of Monster Z200i interconnect to a double-ended female RCA jack, then the 36 foot length of Zbass100 to that, then the other double-ended female RCA jack, then the 3 foot length of Z200i, the hum was less than the previous two configurations.
The hum completely disappeared when I connected a 6 foot length of Monster Z200i interconnect to a double-ended female RCA jack, then the 36 foot length of Blue Jeans LC-1 to that, then the other double-ended female RCA jack, then the 3 foot length of Z200i. This is what I installed in the wall.
The subwoofer's IEC power cable jack does not have a ground pin connection.
All three of the dedicated AC outlets serving my two channel system are terminated by PS Audio Soloist SE in-wall power conditioners. The AC circuit that feeds my home theater subwoofer is also terminated with a Soloist. My curiosity finally got the better of me and I replaced the Power Port Premier receptacles with Soloists. The power cables from the Soloists feed two Power Plant Premier AC regenerators which power the television, preamplifiers, amplifiers, and source components.
Figure 1. Old home theater patch panel with PS Audio Power Port Premier AC receptacles.
Figure 2. Improved home theater patch panel with PS Audio Soloist Premier SE in-wall power conditioners.
On CD's I heard:
1. More bass weight, slam, clean articulate rumble and growl.
2. More overall clarity and image weight at the sides and rear of the sound stage.
3. More three-dimensionality.
4. More ambient reflections.
5. Apparently louder sound level (lower noise floor).
On HDTV broadcasts I saw:
1. More depth.
2. Slightly better black levels.
3. More detail in dark scenes.
4. The picture remains smooth and detailed at a closer distance to the screen. I now have to be closer than 4 feet before I can see individual pixels.
5. Apparently louder sound level (lower noise floor).
On Blu-ray movies I saw:
1. More depth (The wide shots of the stone quarry scene in the opening car chase of "Quantum of Solace").
2. More fine detail (fabric texture in Dryden's herringbone overcoat, woodgrain detail in Dryden's office door and the sheen on stray fibers on Dryden's suit jacket in the opening scene of "Casino Royale").
3. More detail in dark scenes (Bond's black coat in the opening scene of "Casino Royale").
4. Apparently louder sound level (lower noise floor).
I also found myself noticing details in the picture that I had not seen before, but were always there in plain sight. For example, the opening credits sequence for "Casino Royale" has a scene of a gun scope sight moving across a queen of hearts playing card. The queen's face momentarily turns into a picture of Vesper Lynd (the woman who breaks Bond's heart) as the scope sight moves across the card. The term "queen of hearts" is a slang term for a cruel, manipulative woman.
Unfortunately after the installation of the Soloists, hum returned...but not from the subwoofer this time. This time, it was from the center, front and surround speakers, with the hum from the surrounds being the loudest.
Using a cheater plug on either of the Power Plant Premier Signal Cable MagicPower cords reduced the hum by 1/2. Using a cheater plug on both power cords completely removed the hum, however, the cheater plugs caused an obnoxious veiling of the sound. I made a grounding strap from a 1 foot length of 8 gauge speaker wire and terminated it with banana plugs. This strap was used to connect the Power Plant Premiers to each other by one of their empty ground sockets. This also completely removed the hum.
I opted not to break in the Soloists on the JuiceCyclone only because I did not want to pull my 6 million pound equipment rack away from the wall and I did not want to remove the Soloists from the wall. With the components connected to each Power Plant Premier (PPP) on and idling, each PPP draws a little over 1 amp of current. The required 300 amp-hours would be reached in 12.5 days. I could wait.
PerfectWave AC-5 Power Cable
Going Further: PS Audio AC-5 PerfectWave Power Cable
I realized excellent performance results from installing three PerfectWave AC-12 power cables in my two channel system. However, I thought he AC-5's were more appropriate for the level of gear in my home theater.
Figure 3. PerfectWave AC-5 cables brought much better than expected results.
Figure 4. Residue removed from the blades of the AC-5 plug.
As with the AC-12's, a gray film coated the blades of the AC-5 plugs. I don't know the effect this film might have had on the sound since I did not listen to the cables prior to cleaning. The gray film on the AC-12's caused a loss of sonic detail.
The ground strap between the AC regenerators was removed and the level of the resulting ground loop hum was measured. With the AC-5's in place, the hum was reduced by 1/2 compared to the MagicPower cords. The AC-5's, like all PS Audio power cables, has a removable ground pin. When the ground pins were removed, the hum completely disappeared.
During the pre-break in evaluation, with music, I immediately heard:
1. Heavier images in the sound stage.
2. More overall clarity and detail.
3. Apparently higher sound level (lower noise floor).
4. The pace of music, especially bass, was faster.
5. More holographic, three-dimensional sound stage.
6. More air and more recording space wall reflections.
7. More bass slam.
8. More articulate, tactile and well defined bass.
9. More subtle bass growl effects.
10. Tighter integration between the subwoofer drivers, and the small, lightweight drivers of the front, center and surround speakers.
The source component for all of the above was a 21 year old Yamaha CDX-1110U CD player with a retrofitted IEC power cord jack and a Signal Cable MagicPower cord.
As with the AC-12 cables installed in my two channel system, the AC-5's initially exhibited a bit of high frequency tizziness and grain. In my AC-12 review, I reported that AC-12's sounded good between the wall and a component and sounded bad between a component and a PPP. I experienced the same thing with the AC-5. In addition to veiled sound when an AC-5 was between a PPP and the Blu-ray player, I also saw a decrease in visual detail in the plasma TV picture. For example, during the opening car chase scene in "Quantum of Solace", the sheen and reflectivity of automobile paint was muted, as was the sheen of sweat on actor's faces. I borrowed one of the broken in AC-12's from the two channel system. Losses in aural and visual detail were apparent with them also, but to a greater degree. The AC-12 is PS Audio's top of the line power cord and the AC-5 is third in the series. I had expected better results with the AC-12, but after I thought about it, I realized the higher quality AC-12 has more of whatever it is the outbound side of the PPP does not like, therefore it is reasonable that the AC-5 would be less detrimental than the AC-12. I sent these results to PS Audio and I am still waiting for their comments.
When watching Blu-ray movies with the AC-5's installed between the PPP's and the wall, I saw no difference or improvement in the plasma TV picture. However, audio, especially dialog, was much clearer and bass and low frequency effects had more tactility, definition, and clarity. There was a noticeable improvement in broadcast HDTV picture quality.
After the initial listening and viewing session, both AC-5's were burned in on the Cyclone for 32 hours at 10 amps (320 amp-hours). After burn in:
1. The high frequency tizziness and grain was gone and was replaced by a silky smooth and detailed top end.
2. All of the benefits noted in items 1-10 above were increased, especially bass weight and slam.
3. There was more midrange liquidity.
As I have improved my home theater's power infrastructure, I have realized tighter and tighter integration between the large subwoofer drivers and the small, lightweight drivers of the SDA SRS front speakers.
When listening to music on the HT system, I used to always switch off the subwoofer because I didn't like the "exaggerated" bass with music. It wasn't bloated, boomy, or bad...I just didn't like it because it was obvious that the effect was not a part of the original recording. Now, the sub's augmentation of bass is so fast and articulate, and so well integrated with the SRS's that I seldom listen to music on the HT without the subwoofer engaged. It's not "natural" and it's not "accurate", but it's a flavor that I (now) like. I might be turning into a bass head.:(
Since I obtained such good results from upgrading the AC receptacles and AC regenerator power cords, my mind naturally ran to what would happen if I upgraded the rest of the power cords in my home theater.
Going More Further: PS Audio xStream Statement SC Power Cords
I began eying PS Audio Statement SC ("SC" stands for "Special Copper") power cords as a possible replacements for the Signal Cable MagicPower cords after Statements were discontinued and dealers began dumping them at 60% off the $659 retail price (2 meter length). I located one such dealer who had eleven 2 meter Statement SC's left in inventory at $289 each. I made an offer to take 9 of the cords at $125 (81% off retail) and my offer was accepted. I went back the next day and bought the remaining two Statements. Such good shopping.:)
Figure 5. My cable contortionist skills came in handy when installing a pile of big thick Statement SC power cords behind the HT
I had previously used the Statement SC in my two channel system and had auditioned them in my HT system with good results. However, the number of Statement SC's required for the HT system would have been cost prohibitive at regular retail and even used market pricing. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long for "closeout" prices.:D
Upon receipt of the Statements, the plug blades were cleaned and they were conditioned on the JuiceCyclone for 36 hours at 10 amps (360 amp-hours). The following figures are oscilloscope plots (Fast Fourier Transform or noise spectra) for the AC power from the wall (kitchen wall outlet), from the Signal Cable MagicPower cord, and the Statement SC power cord.
Figure 6. FFT plot of AC power from the wall.
Figure 7. FFT plot of AC power from the Signal Cable MagicPower cord.
Figure 8. FFT plot of AC power from the PS Audio Statement SC power cord. No wonder you make Such Good Sound.
It is easier to see the difference in the plots if you save them and click through though them in succession. The reduction in line noise between the wall and the broken in Statement SC was quite dramatic.
After the Statement cords were installed, the weight of the bass on music without the subwoofer engaged came much closer to the weight of the bass with the subwoofer engaged.
I saw an improvement in the clarity of Hi Def broadcasts, but no difference or improvement in Blu-ray picture quality.
Going Even More Further: PS Audio xStream Plasma Power Cable For Subwoofer
I could not use a Statement SC on the subwoofer because there are only three inches of clearance between the rear of the SVS PB12 Ultra/2 subwoofer and the wall behind it. The Statement needs 6 inches of bend clearance for the connector ends. The xStream Plasma cable has a right angle receptacle plug. An AudioQuest right angle IEC adapter was used on the IEC connector. The previously used MagicPower cord was modified with a right angle wall plug and right angle IEC connector.
When the MagicPower cord was replaced with the un-broken in xStream Plasma cord, the bass was apparently lower in volume but the tactile sensations were increased. Cleaner, less distorted bass typically sounds lower in volume. I also heard more clarity in movie dialog and in the midrange of music CD's. The degree of bass slam was the same.
The sub can draw up to 29 amps during peak demands, but draws very little current during normal operation and next to nothing when idling. Therefore, the current draw from the sub was inadequate to condition either the Soloist or the power cord. Therefore, the Juice Cyclone was connected to the PS Audio Soloist SE in-wall conditioner behind the subwoofer through the xStream Plasma cord in order to properly condition both of them. After 360 amp hours on the Cyclone (36 hours @ 10 amps), I heard:
1. More bass weight.
2. More tactile sensation.
3. More bass articulation.
4. A little more bass speed.
5. More subtle bass details, especially micro growls.