I ordered a full complement of replacement AC-12’s for my two channel system in May 2009, but PS Audio was out of stock on the 1.5 meter and 2 meter lengths I needed. Only the 3 meter length was in stock at that time and the backordered cables were not available until the end of August 2009.
Figure 1. PerfectWave proprietary connectors feature gold plated prongs and engraved anodized name plates.
PS Audio claims that the PerfectWave (PW) power cable series significantly outperforms the former top of the line Premier SC series. The PW series also costs significantly less than the Premier SC series.
The main differences between the Premier and Perfect wave cables are in jacketing, conductor material, and conductor geometry. The Premier cables used a ferrite impregnated jacket to create a magnetic field that filtered line noise. PS Audio claims that the magnetic field, while filtering noise, also added a bit of sluggishness and restriction to the sound compared to no ferrite at all. The PW cables accomplish noise filtering by varying cable conductor size, shape and geometry based on PS Audio manufacturing experience and on patents by Jay Victor (e.g., US patents 7476808 and 7170008). The Premier cables were a hybrid conductor design of PCOCC copper and silver with an effective wire gauge of 7 AWG. The PerfectWave cables are all PCOCC copper with an effective wire gauge of 8 AWG.
According to Ryan Conway, PS Audio's Vice President for Custom Products, the performance hierarchy of PS Audio's power cables is as follows (prices are for 1 meter length):
PerfectWave AC-12 Power Cable ($699.99)
PerfectWave AC-10 Power Cable ($499.99)
xStream Premier SC ($999.99)
PerfectWave AC-5 Power Cable ($199.99)
xStream Statement SC ($499.99)
PerfectWave AC-3 Power Cable ($99.99)
xStream Plus SC ($269.99)
xStream Prelude SC ($139.99)
Figure 2. PerfectWave power cables are clad in a handsome black nylon covered jacket with gold thread accents.
Listening Evaluation With AC-12 On Power Plant Premier AC Regenerator
The Power Plant Premier's manual advises that the PPP is sensitive to power cord changes and that the owner should experiment with different cords. I did. On the inbound side of the PPP (between the wall and the PPP), I found that a Signal Cable MagicPower cord ($109) sounded better than the stock cord (~$2), A PS Audio Statement SC cord ($759) sounded better than a MagicPower cord, but a Premier SC cord ($1,793) did not sound sound any better, or even different, than the Statement SC cord. Therefore, the Premier cord was sent back.
On the outbound side of the PPP (between the PPP's outputs and the component), I heard continuous improvements as I went from a component's stock power cord, to the MagicPower cord, to the Statement SC, and to the Premier SC.
A 3 meter AC-12 cable was installed between the Power Plant Premier (PPP) and Soloist SE outlet on 5/22/09. It replaced a 3 meter Statement SC. The following improvements were heard immediately:
1. Lower noise floor as evidenced by apparently louder sound volume.
2. Enhanced bass detail, weight, and “growl”.
3. Enhanced three-dimensionality and sound stage depth.
My two channel system is served by three 20 amp AC circuits, all terminated by Soloist SC in-wall conditioners. Each monoblock power amp has its own AC circuit. The third AC circuit serves the Power Plant Premier. The power amps are connected directly to the Soloists. The PPP feeds the line level preamp, phono preamp, SACD player, and turntable motor power supply.
During listening evaluations, I put the Statement SC back on the PPP and moved the AC-12 to the right side power amp. The only difference I heard between the left side, whose power amp had a Premier SC, and the right side with the AC-12 was that the right side sounded louder. The AC-12 was returned to the PPP and I awaited the arrival of the rest of my cable order.
On July 10th, I started up my two channel system, which is in my living room, and went to the kitchen. I was struck by the sound of the bass, which was dramatically heavier and more articulate and fluid than the day before. I was also hearing more overall clarity. I stopped what I was doing in the kitchen and went back to the living room to listen. The disc in my SACD player was one I had listened to the previous day, so I knew the differences I heard were not due to differences in recordings.
I then went back through the discs I had played the previous day. In every case I was greeted by a lower noise floor, more details and clarity, more image weight and enhanced three-dimensionality. I was initially puzzled by the changes I was hearing, but then it dawned on me to count the number of hours the AC-12 had been installed. Since I play my 2 channel system an average of 6 hours a day, the 49 days that had elapsed from 5/22/09 to 7/10/09 represented approximately 300 hours of play time, which was the specified break in time for the AC-12.:)
AC-12 On Power Amps
Figure 3. Right power amp's AC-12 on left and PPP's AC-12 on right.
Unlike the Premier SC's, the AC-12's sounded great right out of the box. The Premier's took over 100 hours to sound right on my power amps (review here). The AC-12's only objectionable sonic attribute was a very slight "tizziness" added to high frequency sounds like cymbals and high piano notes. The tizziness disappeared after 10 hours.
First, the 2 meter Premier cord on the right amp was replaced with a 2 meter AC-12 cord. I heard the same increase in apparent sound level on the right that I heard back in May. When the Premier's on both amps were replaced with AC-12's, things snapped into focus and I heard:
1. A heavier kick drum in the center.
2. A heavier, more articulate electric bass with more clean growl and rumble.
3. More tactile bass sensation coming through the floor and seating armrests.
4. An increase in apparent sound level comparable to turning my preamp's volume control up a couple of clicks.
I did not hear the initial loss of bass slam that I experienced with the Premier SC cords. I also did not (initially) hear any new details in familiar recordings, just a better quality of what was already there. The Premier's ferrite impregnated jacket is claimed to "slow down" the music a bit. I looked for an increase/improvement in the apparent pace, rhythm and timing of music but didn't hear it. The JC 1's are very "fast" amplifiers, so perhaps the claimed slowing effect of ferrite is not as discernible with them (or my ears).
AC-12's On Preamps And SACD Player
The line level preamp, phono preamp and SACD player are connected to the Power Plant Premier AC regenerator with Premier SC power cords. Based on my good results with the PerfectWave cables on the PPP and power amps, I was expecting wonderful things since the PPP outputs a near-perfect AC waveform. Replacing the SACD player's 1.5 meter Premier SC cord with a 1.5 meter AC-12 cord resulted in the following:
1. Constricted dynamics that just drained all the life and sparkle out of the music.
2. Apparently lower sound level.
3. An overall veiling of sound.
4. The pace, rhythm and timing of the music was apparently slower.
My first thought was that I had a defective AC-12. I reinstalled the SACD player's Premier cord and moved the offending 1.5 meter AC-12 to the right power amp and it sounded fine. I moved the line level preamp's AC-12 to the left power amp and it sounded fine. I heard the slight high frequency tizziness come back that I initially heard with the brand new 2 meter AC-12's.
I put the 2 meter AC-12's back on the power amps and the 1.5 meter AC-12's back between the PPP and the preamp and SACD player and listened to the SACD player again. The ugliness was still there.
George Benson's voice and guitar on "This Masquerade" ("Breezin" LP) sounded thin and lightweight. His guitar lost a lot of its body, fluidity and overtones. Rodney Franklin's electric piano notes on "One From The Heart" ("Skydance" LP) sounded thin and the light airy cloud of drum cymbals was diminished in size, detail and natural metallic sparkle.
I was puzzled by the disparity in sound between these cables depending on whether they were placed on the inbound or outbound side of the Power Plant Premier.
The Premier's were reinstalled on the outbound side of the PPP and the AC-12 1.5 meter cables were scheduled for return to PS Audio. I like for things to sound good right out of the box and improve with time. The AC-12's on the outbound side of the PPP might have improved with age, but I didn't feel like waiting a few weeks for them to "get right". Maybe, one day in the future when I am more dedicated to audio than I am now, I will get one of those "cable cooker" things to accelerate cable break in.;)