The Ignorance that Shocks and the Audiophile that Talks
I received a shocking email today which was all wrong, wrong, wrong! When my blood pressure returned to normal, it dawned upon me that this wrong view is still held by many people today, even some who are, or want to be, audiophiles.
If you have the wrong premise, you can follow all the golden logic you want, but you will never make sense of the audiophile culture. Making sense of audiophile culture can only happen once you get the underlying facts straight.
Get Your Underlying Facts Straight
Here's that wrong email:
A power cord cannot possibly have an effect on the output audio signal. The electricity has traveled hundreds of miles along all sorts of power lines, gone through multiple transformer stages, entered the house through a breaker panel, and now you say the last 3-4 feet are important?!
Gentlemen, education is in order! With an incorrect view like this, no wonder so many people think that audiophiles believe in snake-oil!
In Our Defense
This logic is completely flawed, because it does not take into consideration which frequencies travel in which way in a wire. Nature determines this, not audiophiles, nor engineers. In truth, the higher the frequency, the less distance it travels in a wire. It suffers attenuation along the way. If you don't like it, talk to God.
That is why, in high frequency communication lines, where we want long distance data transmission, there must be receivers and re-amplifiers set up all along the way at certain distances. The higher the frequency, the more of these stations are necessary, otherwise we'd lose the signal altogether.
And that is also why, even with impedance matched lines, industrial manufacturers of high frequency communications cables are required to publish their products' attenuation/distance data. The less attenuation, inevitably, the more expensive the cable product! Why? Because it is hard to keep signals up for long distances at high frequencies.
Following this correct logic, which is based on attenuation (the higher the frequency, the larger the attenuation per unit distance), it follows logically that whatever high frequency garbage enters the line 100 miles form your home will have least impact on your gear, because it will have been attenuated (made smaller) by Nature herself, well before it enters your power cords connected to your stereo.
By the same logic, it follows that the last 6 feet have the largest impact on high frequency noise content, and it is for this reason that right here, right before your gear, you are able to influence the quality of the power most.
I mean, I'm brain-damaged(*), and even I understand this much.
If you put an expensive audiophile power cord somewhere in the power line 100 miles from your home and called your engineer friend (who works for the power company) to run an A/B test with you, you would NEVER hear the difference in your stereo system.
However, placing the same power cord where it counts, which is at the last 6 feet, one will hear the difference it makes because of the effect it has on the high frequency noise which was induced into the very end of the line, before it had a distance to travel in order to get attenuated.
The logic of this is based only on the way that Nature has prescribed that alternating current travels in a wire. The same law and tendency applies whether the line is silver or copper or aluminum. (By the way, vast miles and miles of power lines all over the world are made out of aluminum, and aluminum is an even worse conductor high frequency noise than copper or silver.)
So, the next time you look up at a high voltage power line, think to yourself: wow, this is a pretty effective natural noise filter, being 100 miles long. I wish I could fit that into my listening room.
Once you understand that attenuation is a natural given, you will understand and appreciate why a power cord is the audiophile's best and most efficient tool to be used to condition his power for each component.
And then, when you hear someone talk about electricity travelling through miles and miles of wire, which "must" influence the sound quality in your stereo much more than your power cable, you can ask them whether they think that the world is flat, too. Or just point them to this article.
Please forward this to your Congressman, and tell him that we demand even lower grade aluminum for our power lines.
(*) Have sustained 7 head injuries in my life. I can still hear in stereo and think in logic.