Audio cable conditioning theorists generally fall into three groups:
1. Those who believe that cable break in is due only to voltage conditioning of the cable's insulation, which acts as a dielectric.
2. Those who believe that cable break in is due only to current conditioning of the cable's conductors.
3. Those who believe that cable break in is due to voltage conditioning of the cable's insulation and current conditioning of the cable's conductors.
I am in group three.
There are some well regarded audiophile cable conditioning products available (e.g. FryCleaner, Audiodharma Cable Cooker). Nordost's "Vidar" cable conditioning system is not commercially available. It is only made available to their dealers.
I recently ordered an Audiodharma Cable Cooker for my interconnect and speaker cables. The Cable Cooker conditions power cables also, but it only supplies 1.88 amps continuous, which my 7 and 8 gauge power cables would laugh to scorn.
Power cables and power line accessories (receptacles, adapters, filters, etc.) typically take hundreds of hours (typically 300 to 500 hours) to break in and reach their full sonic performance. In the case of cryogenically treated items, the break in time may be increased to double, close to double or more than double.
Manufacturers usually specify a break in time for their power products that is based on the user pulling at least 1 amp of continuous current through the cable or device for a certain number or hours (amp-hours). I have learned a lot from the tedious process of noting changes in power equipment as it breaks in. However, that long drawn-out process is something I would like to avoid in the future. Hence, I went and got some help. I constructed a device, the "JuiceCyclone", that pulls copious amounts of current through power cables and other power line accessories, thereby reducing the break in time from weeks and months to days and hours. Going forward, I will make initial listening notes and then put power cables and power line accessories on the Cyclone for accelerated break in.:)
Figure 1. The JuiceCyclcone reduces power cable and power accessory break in times from weeks and months to days and
Figure 2. JuiceCyclone prototype with three 250 watt bulbs (750 watts, 6.25 amp current draw). My household wall voltage
averages 120 volts.
Figure 3. JuiceCyclone prototype with four 250 watt bulbs and two 100 watt bulbs (1200 watts, 10 amp current draw).
The JuiceCyclone comprises a 10 amp IEC socket, a triple light switch, Romex 12 gauge wiring, an assortment of 300 watt, 250 watt and 100 watt light bulbs, three keyless incandescent light bulb sockets and three double bulb socket adapters. The chassis was constructed of scrap lumber I had in my garage. The Romex wire was left over from an AC circuit install. The total cost of materials for the Cyclone was $50. The cost of materials for 9 power cord daisy chaining adapters was $63.
Figure 4. The bulb sockets are wired in parallel and can be individually switched.
Figure 5. IEC socket.
Figure 6. A long time from now, after I become a serious audio hobbyist, I'm going to build a dedicated workshop for my projects.
Figure 7. The "Juice" is loose! Pulling 10 amps continuous! :)
Power Cable Break In Trials
Current load was calculated based on a nominal wall voltage of 120 volts. My wall voltage is usually in the range of 121 to 123 volts. When the AC circuit is loaded with 250 watts continuous (one 250 watt bulb) the voltage drops 1.4 volts. The voltage drops 2.8 volts with a 500 watt load, 4.2 volts with a 750 watt load, 5.6 volts with a 1000 watt load and 7 volts with a 1200 watt load.
The Signal Cable MagicPower cord on my home office plasma television has well over the specified 50 amp-hour break in time. However, I replaced that cord with another MagicPower cord that had been on the Cyclone for 32 hours with a load of 750 watts (6.25 amps, 200 amp-hours). The picture from broadcast HDTV sources was noticeably clearer. I did not see any improvement from Blu-ray sources.
The Signal Cable MagicPower cord on my home theater system plasma television was switched with a MagicPower cord that had been on the Cyclone for 50 hours with a load of 750 watts (6.25 amps, 312.5 amp-hours). High definition broadcasts were a little clearer. I did not see any improvement from Blu-ray sources.
Figure 8. These AudioQuest IEC right angle adapters improved with Cyclonic aging.
I purchased a few AudioQuest right angle IEC adapters. One was to be used as a strain relief for the heavy PS Audio Premier SC power cord hanging off the rear of the SACD player in my two channel system. The rest were spares for future use. When I installed the adapter, I immediately heard a veiling over the sound. I sent an email to AudioQuest asking if these adapters required break in:
"I purchased an AQ IEC90-2 right angle connector to use with my SACD player's power cord in a tight area. I noticed a veiling of the sound after the IEC90-2 was attached. Bass was particularly smeared.
I attached the IEC90-2 connector to the power cord of a CD player in another audio system and I heard the same veiling and bass smearing.
Do these connectors need to be broken in over a certain period of time?"
I received this reply from AudioQuest Product Specialist Alasdair Patrick:
There is no wire in the IEC adapters, so no break in is necessary. I have never experienced this before. The only thing I can suggest is to exchange the adapter.
"Audiophile AC receptacles don't contain wire, but their manufacturers (PS Audio, Furutech, Oyaide, etc.) specify a break in period. I assumed something similar might be required for the metal in the IEC90."
Mr. Patrick's reply:
"Break-in" involves the dielectric rather than the metal. Having said that, I guess the molded plastic could act as a dielectric, so leave things hooked up and running as much as possible for 10 - 14 days and see if things get any better.
I daisy-chained all of the IEC90-2 adapters, attached one end to the Cyclone and the other end to a power cord. After 24 hours with a load of 750 watts (6.25 amps, 150 amp-hours), the overall veiling was gone, but the bass was a bit less well defined compared to the Premier cord alone. After another 6 hours (37.25 amp-hours) on the Cyclone, I could not hear a difference between the Premier cord and the Premier cord with the IEC90-2 adapter attached.
I re-burned my 2 channel rig's power cords for an additional 320 amp-hours with a load of 1200 watts (32 hours at 10 amps). I made some adapters so that I could daisy chain the 7 power cords. Audioexcellenceaz, the manufacturer of the Cable Cooker, sells IEC power cable daisy chain adapters for $10. The parts cost for my homemade adapters was $7. I made 9 of them for a total of $63.
While my PS Audio cords were soaking, I reinstalled the Signal Cable MagicPower cords that were used previous to the PS Audio cords.
The system sounded good with the MagicPower cords, but I was missing some things:
1. I had to turn the volume up due to the raised noise floor.
2. The sound stage shrank a bit in width and a lot in depth.
3. The enhanced three-dimensionality I had been spoiled by for so long was gone.
4. The razor sharp bass transients and subtle complex bass micro growls (growls within growls) I had grown a accustomed to were gone.
5. Image weight was reduced, particularly at the sides and rear of the sound stage.
It is amazing when you hear how the quality of a piece of wire between the wall outlet and a component affects the quantity and quality of information heard.
Figure 9. "Hammerhead" IEC power cable daisy chain adapters.
Figure 10. Such Good Juice! The 2 channel rig's power cables prepare to get zapped with 10 amps continuous. Power cables are
dumb. It makes no difference to them whether the device pulling current through them is an audio component or a light bulb. ;)
After 150 amp-hours, I swapped out the MagicPower cord on the right amp with its PS Audio PerfectWave AC-12 cord. The left side of the sound stage was drowned out by the right side. Furthermore, the right side of the stage was wider, deeper and more detailed. I put the left amp's AC-12 back in and both sides were balanced, but I didn't hear any improvement from the additional burn in time.
After an additional 170 amp-hours, all cables were reinstalled. I didn't hear any difference or improvement. Seems my two channel system's power cables really were broken in. :)