Questions by Matej Isak of Mono & Stereo.
First, of course, why exactly the name DFPC power cord?
DFPC stands for Dynamic Filtering Power Cable. There has always been a dichotomy between solutions which filter the noise out of the power and the resulting dynamic performance of the audio because of their use. However good the solutions were, there was always something lost from the audio along the way. “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” The DFPC was named such because it really does result in dynamic sound as well as is very effective at filtering out noisiness from the power line. It allows every component to function at its top performance level as it was designed to do, by providing clean power which results in clean audio. Resurrecting this dichotomy was no small venture, because it required us to think in a new way about things which are already known.
LessLoss power cords are said to feature a proprietary treatment of the outer conductor surface. How can it be conductive only to low frequencies?
High frequency attenuation exists in all cables in the world, as a matter of fact. This performance value of the cable is given for cables which are meant to pass high frequency information, which is the valuable content we wish not to lose. An example of such a cable is your typical 75 Ohm coaxial TV cable. (That’s why it is called “Cable TV”). Manufacturers publish the attenuation value at a given frequency in dB per unit length. Some have very little attenuation, so they can pass a high frequency signal without degradation for a longer distance. Some are not so good at passing high frequency information for very long. Our goal with the treatment of our special power cables was to make the conductors not capable of passing high frequency information at all. And the higher the frequency, the worse. When we say “good cable” and “bad cable”, we are really talking only about the application and what is required for the best results for that given application. For us, it was evident that we do not want the cable to act like effective antennas or carriers of high frequency noise. We wanted them to suppress the noisiness in the power line as much as possible, so that the equipment could function without this interference at all.
Any resistor you see on the market today is made such that it will pass a low frequency more readily than it will pass a higher frequency. That is the nature of resistors in the first place. It is impossible to do it the other way around – you cannot make a resistor pass only high frequencies while suppressing the low ones. Then it would not be a resistor. To achieve this it would have to be a capacitor.
In creating these special conditions for the DFPC conductors, it was necessary to achieve an axial gradation of conductivity along the entire length of the cable. It is known through the nature of the passing of electricity through a wire that the higher the frequency, the less penetration deep into the core of the conductor the signal will pass. At high frequencies, it will remain at the outer-most portion of the conductor (called the skin). Indeed, the higher the frequency, the closer it will be maintained at the very skin of the conductor.
Knowing this, it is possible to specially prepare a conductor which has limited conductivity at the very skin, and more conductivity the closer one gets to the core. The very skin has a high surface resistance, whereas deep in the core, the conductor is just as conductive as any other good conducting metal, such as copper. Thus, a very elegant solution is born, which we call the LessLoss Skin-Filtering method, because that is exactly where it happens. We do not put the frequencies we want to attenuate at the skin – Mother Nature does it for us.
While it is true that electricity always takes the path of least resistance, this observation is true in the conceptual framework of a discreet circuit board. If you think of the nature of electricity flow in terms of a three-dimensional piece of round wire, if there is conductivity at the skin of this wire, the high frequencies will flow there, and will become attenuated. In other words, there is a hierarchy of rules. First comes the rule of the skin effect, and subordinate to this rule is the adherence to the path of least resistance.
Have you ever wondered why the best antennas are silver plated, and polished regularly to get all the oxidation off? That is exactly what we do not want in a power cord, and for the exact same reasons.
Shouldn't the suppressing of the high frequencies consequently also dampen the high bands?
That will depend on what frequencies we are talking about. With the DFPC, we are talking about radio frequencies and beyond, very high up into the spectrum of electromagnetic noise. If you had 200 little transistor radios and tuned them all to different stations, and then summed up the sound of all of those stations together, you would be shocked at the amount of noisiness there is all around your equipment. Add to this the CB signals, the satellite signals, the GPS, the cell phones, and the cosmic radiation, and the result can be described as nothing less than a complete mess. And now if you do not prevent this complete mess of noise from entering your gear, it will cause intermodulation with the precious signals inside your gear and will thus cause their audible degradation.
The high bands of the audio spectrum are to be understood as extremely low frequencies when compared to the radio and higher frequencies we are dealing with. Clean power results in clean signal transfer and clean amplification of those signals.
But the ‘muddy’ sound you are alluding to does not come from a source of power which is clean of high frequency noise. It comes from microvibrations, which are a different beast altogether. These result from molecular vibration whereas electromagnetic fields result from the interaction of photons and electrons. Electromagnetic noise is an electromagnetic phenomenon (energy vibration without mass) whereas microvibrations are an acoustic phenomenon (energy vibration with mass).
Let us define basics. What materials exactly do you use and why?
I will reply by telling you what we do NOT use. We do not use silver, gold, palladium, platinum, rhodium, or any other exotic metal in our power cord conductors. We want to offer a valuable product which is extremely effective. I believe we are right on target with this. The elegant solution we offer is affordable, and is becoming quite popular because of it.
It boils down to price point vs. performance. We are in this to please both the pocketbook and the ear. And even if we had an R&D budget of 50 million dollars, I am unsure whether we would find an exotic, expensive conductor alloy which would achieve sonically what our current power cords do indeed achieve.
There is an ongoing and lasting trend about silver, gold, platinum and other exotic materials and their use in power cables. LessLoss views on this?
I would make a very clear distinction here. The various possible rare metal alloy combinations are numerous without limit. Each different mixture will no doubt result in a slightly altered sound from one another. When we follow down this path in terms of R&D, we find ourselves on the path of “mixing and matching,” much like in the fine tuning of a recipe. The recipe is the result of the flavors put into it. Likewise, the “alloy recipe” is the result of the fine colorations of sound that are achieved in the use of different metals.
But LessLoss would like to distance itself clearly from such a “recipe” methodology. To us, that is not proper R&D. Rather, it is a path based on the perils and dangers of “falling in love” with a certain metal or combination. It uses half the mind only. The romance can really be beautiful at first, but to live with a mere coloration is not our long-term intent with a mature product. Rather, we want to approach R&D from a philosophical standpoint, based on as much as we can know about very established things: What is already known? How do we formulate the problem? What is a good strategy? Where does this strategy lead us? What materials fit the picture? What is the cost point? Can this be taken to the extreme, with better results? Or worse? Such questions, being asked at every twist and turn of product development, bring us to solutions which are not quickly discarded: none of this “on one week and off the other” business.
We look for ways to go deeper into the recordings instead of bringing out some obvious aspect, and then always this aspect, for all recordings. That, to us, is coloration, and is highly undesirable.
LessLoss aims to create timeless, well-crafted solutions that will not require replacement because of ephemeral trends.
What makes LessLoss unique in terms of its approach to high end audio? Is there an underlying framework, vision, or philosophy for your brand's identity? What can you say about the high end audio industry in general, and where does LessLoss fit in?
All ideas, hopefully, go on a path from mere utility towards functionality and quality. So it was with the advent of the automobile, which was initially but a motorized imitation of the horse-drawn carriage. Compare and contrast with the paper-thin and ultra-sleek form of an ultra-tight Lamborghini. Press the gas pedal on both and examine the difference.
I believe it is always a good idea to apply thoughtfulness to any endeavor, high performance power cords included. LessLoss does not sign up for “esoteric” viewpoints and solutions which are understood by only “the select few.” We do not believe that “sacral geometry” has anything whatsoever to do with good audio. Even the golden section is but an aesthetic viewpoint which has no sacred place, nor even a logical one, in the physics of avoiding signal loss.
Some believe in glass. Some believe in acrylic. Some in Ebony, and some in Aluminum. In stark contrast to this, we believe in the power of logical conceptualization which can clearly be followed by anyone. We believe in achieving results which this thought brings us in terms of getting more deep content and focus out of our recordings. In many ways it is not unlike detective work. There is always a plethora of explanations – the question really is: is it a plausible one? Is it a good explanation worthy of further investigation? Thus, we are led by our minds and we check this by ear when we cannot devise contraptions which show us in numbers what we are investigating.
What are your experiences with resonances? How do they affect the signal passing through the power cables?
I once encountered a theory whose proponent represented a manufacturer of extremely expensive cables. They were saying with hand on heart that there is an ideal length for their cables. I do not recall the exact number, but it might have been something like exactly 1.68 meters, and exact multiples thereof. Any other lengths were to give you worse results. The theory seemed pretty elaborate to the naïve ear – something about resonances or harmonic resonances, which seemed, to me, like a logical labyrinth. Hard as I tried, I could not figure out how they got to those numbers.
What I do know is that the frequency of an electromagnetic wave is inversely related to its length, so that at 50 Hz the wavelength is 6,000 kilometers, and at 100 Megaherz it is 3 meters. With power frequencies at 50 or 60 Hz, there is nothing in my knowledge that can relate to any node at that frequency that would be of value for the design of a power cord of anywhere near 2 meters in length. Much less for some exact arbitrary length and multiples thereof. All different gear has different power consumption current, so even that parameter is not equal in all cases. So I don’t see it making any sense. If somebody finds a certain length of antenna coming into their gear to sound good, that’s fine with me, but I personally much prefer no length of antenna. And what happens when they relocate to the proximity of a different set of radio stations?
What is the connection between resistance of the cable and materials used? How do you fine tune this so as to affect the audio signal?
The one thing I could never get any experiment to show was how in the world a less conductive power cord could ever under any circumstances sound better than the otherwise same power cord with higher conductivity. The reason we tried this was in response not to our own gut instinct (which went against this theory completely), but to several known advertisements boasting specially made power cables with less conductivity for low-power consuming digital gear. We failed to find, ever, in any of our tests, any piece of digital gear, nor any power cable with less conductivity, which would ever perform better than the same cable with higher conductivity. After a while I became embarrassed with these tests, but we were just giving the proponents of these theories the benefit of the doubt. In the end, we decided to offer only one cable for all applications because it worked better on digital gear as well as power hungry amplifiers at the same time. More conductivity is always a good thing, and will never result in a worse sound, regardless of power consumption of the gear. The same thing which applies within your wall wiring in this regard, will apply to the gauge of the wire used in the power cord. The only limit is one of physical practicality and safety requirements.
Why Oyaide plugs? Do they really make all the difference?
No, they don’t make all the difference: they make an important part of the difference. When over the course of two years we compared some 20 different plugs, very critically, mind you, we noticed two or three different aspects of connector design which stand out in terms of resulting sound quality. The quality of the contacts was the first thing. Oyaide hand polishes their contact pins twice before gold-plating them. This personal care results in a high quality contact area, devoid of the usual microscopic bumps and valleys. The quality of this can be heard. To prove the point, we took sand paper to try it the other way around. It is definitely audible.
The next thing is the plating used. Each type of metal plating does something to the sound. There are many available. Some audiophiles use metal platings as “tone controls” in their systems. In our findings, the simple gold plating is the best for power cords. It does not emphasize any of the high frequency bands, avoiding that initial ‘sexy’ type sound which becomes increasingly fatiguing over time. Only 20 minutes of such sound can give you a headache and cause one to wish to turn the volume down or to end the listening session. When we find ourselves wanting to turn it up, we know we are on the correct sonic path. Losing sleep is even better!
Then there is the question of plastic housing. It does affect the sound, and in our opinion, Oyaide is exactly on the right track here. They have chosen an extremely hard plastic (PBT) and have strengthened it even more by adding 30% glass fiber content. The result is something as hard as a rock, regardless of how warm your amp and ambient temperature becomes. When the contacts are very tight, and the structural plastic very strong and stable, the result is a strong dynamic sound which does not suffer from microvibrations due to soft plastic easing up the grip on the contacts as it warms up. This should not be underestimated, as everything regarding signal transmission quality is tied directly to microphonics of the associated materials. Moving ever so slightly, a needle causes a signal to be created. That is the whole sound, right there, in that microvibration! So we want the microvibrations to be isolated where we want them, and to have none of them where we don’t. And with power plugs, we don’t want any at all, for this little sin will permeate throughout every circuit within the system. Oyaide has done very well at solving this issue. Other manufacturers will use soft plastic believing that it absorbs microvibrations. In fact, it colors the sound, and makes it somewhat more muddy and less realistic. The softness we touch with out fingers on the macro level does not necessarily accurately reflect the acoustic micro-phenomena which impact the resulting sound most. Some of the hardest woods absorb acoustical energy more effectively than some softer plastics. Softness is no indication here.
Where is the borderline between blacker backgrounds and killing the music?
The music should always emerge from a silent background and should never be a part of that background. The background should not partake in the tone quality. It should be merely a carrier of the echo and ambient information. Any background which partakes in tonal quality is already impacting the sound in an unnatural way.
When extreme electromagnetic stillness reveals a muddy sound, it means that acoustic microphonics are being exposed, and have become audible as a separate phenomenon. Two things are happening in a single cable! The absence of one can expose the presence of the other, just as the presence of one can mask the effects of the other.
How did you manage to balance these phenomena?
I would say it is impossible to achieve these both using traditional filtering methods with caps and coils. Take for example the “tried and tested” isolation transformer. When you wind exactly the same number of windings on both sides of such a transformer, you call it a 1:1 transformer, but in fact you are losing about 10% of the voltage because of loss through imperfect inductance. What’s worse, you are not attenuating high frequency noise by direct means, but only as a by-product of the general lossiness that is occurring even to the low frequency energy through such an induction method. Capacitors have their own losses in the form of heat. I have not even touched upon the issues of microvibration, but anyone having ever heard the buzz of a transformer has probably been given enough directly audible and tangible clues to understand that the phenomenon is real.
A good method to go about R&D is to set up test procedures which take a given concept or idea to an extreme. Once this is done, the extreme nature of the experiment, which purposefully exaggerates the effect of one idea under test, acts as a sort of “audiophile’s microscope.” Thus, we can poke and test around in this way and very efficiently see what items in what way influence the sound.
Place 25 expensive isolation transformers in series before your system and take a listen, and tell me whether you have not killed the sound. And if it still sounds pretty good dynamically, then tell me how much that solution costs, and what the shipping cost is, and then of course what the wife will say.
Passive and effective filtering within the cables?
It is not really as passive as it sounds. Nature’s laws are providing us with the location, and as this is known, we are merely providing the resistive conductor there, and nowhere else. It is about as elegant as a filter can be, while reaching all the way up to the very power input plug of the component. The only things remaining unprotected from high frequency noise are the very pins and springs making contact to the IEC input plugs in the gear. That’s good coverage, and it outperforms traditional shielding.
Please elaborate on FlowFlux.
We call our extensive metal processing FlowFlux. These are special annealing and conditioning processes which take into account the very directionality of the wire from its virgin encounter with electricity. You’d be surprised how many factors contribute to a finished cable product’s sound. We have been studying the very strange phenomenon of cable burn in for a long time. Every time a client writes with his impressions of how the cable performs within the first couple of weeks, we take their input very seriously, and over the course of about 6 years, we have amassed a great number of impressions which have been logged and systemized. We have discovered so many influential facets along the way, such that in our lab we can now deliberately make any given cable sound worse. Once had mastered both bettering and worsening the sound, we knew we were gaining a very strong foothold in terms of the sophistication of our art.
You may laugh at this, but obviously on the lowest levels, something does indeed change in the metal, for it displays a type of memory. One would think that memory effects would be reserved only for ferrous metals such as iron, but it has been documented now by so many audiophiles world-wide (we have sent out more than 3000 cables to this date) that it is simply impossible to write it off as mere wishful thinking. In addition to our own private log of highly valuable and educational accounts, the worldwide community has been discussing these strange occurrences in the public forums for a long time now. Those who encounter these once or twice will perhaps at first shrug their shoulders and write it off. But when you see it over and over and over again, and when you hear personal accounts on an individual basis that go over and beyond what one reads in the public forums, it becomes interesting indeed to delve into them to try and make sense of them. Systemizing the evidence, as it were. The days of groping in the dark are over.
We have spent a lot of time and effort experimenting with cable burn in and have now developed our proprietary method for the initial treatment of virgin cable. It begins far before the cable is assembled and ends one week after the cable is fully assembled and ready for use. This is in addition to the typical ‘settling in’ that the audiophile will experience in his system. We have had feedback which report on average of one week of audible ‘settling in.’ Some people hear 3 days of change, most about 3-5 days, rarely someone will hear upwards of two weeks, and very rarely someone will say “I plugged it in and I could perceive no change in sound from the first notes up until now (a month later).” Normally we would write it off as a psychological phenomenon but the statistics suggest a much different scenario. Then there is our own experience which we add to the equation. We do a lot of trick tests here at LessLoss to make sure we do not know what is what, or even mix the test cables up so that we don’t know which is which. Only later are the markings revealed. All of these factors add up to the point where we can say today: cable burn in is real, and so real, that you yourself, at home, can mess up a perfectly good cable by connecting the Live and Netural lines incorrectly. Electrically (in a strictly utilitarian view) this is of no consequence. The gear will function anyway. But for audiophiles, there is a meaningful difference, and with our FlowFlux methods, it can be made even larger than the difference between two brands of cable.
The last meter of the line, the power cord, is the most important. Myth or reality?
Reality, as described by myself in this dedicated writing:
We know that phono preamplifiers are the most sensitive devices. How can a well designed power cord make or break the analog signal?
I would refer you to another article I wrote about this just recently:
And because the signals off of a record player’s needle are so miniscule, this article I wrote is also applicable here and will be of interest:
What would you say is the exact goal of LessLoss when it comes to power cables?
To put it in the most succinct way, our goal is this: to offer the lowest noise floor for the gear to operate at its topmost level of performance while at the same time not compromising on natural dynamics or coherence of the resulting sound.
We see things changing rapidly with the advancement of science, metallurgy, micro-physics etc. Will the years ahead bring us much more in a giant way or only small advances?
I believe all development is done in steps. We didn’t make the automobile until we first made the horse-drawn carriage. We didn’t have online music streaming until we first had digitized music. Each development feeds off of the others in a natural way. It is only natural for the audio world to become interested in micro-physics because it has already been established that, at its core, the macro-event we used to call an electromagnetic field is indeed the result of gazillions of individual photon-electron interactions. It doesn’t change our perception of what a field is. A field remains a field because no matter what you call it, it still exists. But new understandings which go more fundamentally to the very core of the events help us explain and develop tools for raising the bar of high quality audio playback as never before.
In this context, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Scientific American magazine, issue June 2011 Volume 304 Number 6, in which author Vlatko Vedral states in his introduction:
“According to standard physics textbooks, quantum mechanics is the theory of the microscopic world. It describes particles, atoms and molecules but gives way to ordinary classical physics on the macroscopic scales of pears, people and planets. Somewhere between molecules and pears lies a boundary where the strangeness of quantum behavior ends and the familiarity of classical physics begins. The impression that quantum mechanics is limited to the microworld permeates the public understanding of science. [...] Yet this convenient partitioning of the world is a myth.”
The author goes on to list 8 observed phenomena, in the past 10 or so years, in the macro world of “hard items,” whose behavior can only be explained by quantum energy physics.
Where is the bridge between the science of cables and their final listening tests? How do you conduct the finalization of your power cables at LessLoss?
We have a network of about 12 very well-kept audiophile systems throughout the world. Some are in Lithuania, some in Germany, in the USA, and in the Far East. We perform trials on these systems, which are all different. It is very important not to jump to conclusions on any one given system. The danger being, that the given results correspond perhaps perfectly with some system coloration or imperfection locally, but will not work at all elsewhere. We try our hardest to avoid this. At every twist and turn, our aim is to get only closer to the depths in the recordings themselves, and to avoid any trace of artificial coloration through the use of our products.
Of course, through the use of any power supply, or any signal cable, some sort of coloration will occur as a matter of course, simply because this is not a perfect world. Whatever nuance of coloration remains is well taken care of by the use of our Blackbody ambient field conditioners.
But even without their use, it can be said that there is a hierarchy of “allowance” of coloration. I will put it this way: if you are given two mandatory tendencies of coloration, slight as they may be, and you must choose one for the power cord and the other for the signal cables, and these two colorations are (1) a touch on the detailed side, and (2) a touch on the sonorous side, then it is clear that the power cord must be chosen as the one to receive the sonorous edge and the signal cables must receive the detailed edge. Why? Because if a power cord sounds detailed it is because of high frequency interference, and this will have implications throughout the entire following audio chain, including even within the signal cables. If you then try to “take it out” of the now amplified (but now harsh!) signal through means of the darker color of your signal cables, you will have just applied two colors to your audio, the combination of which will result in an electronic, artificial type sound, which will not satisfy over time.
Whereas, if you used the darker type sounding cable for the power, you now have very clean electrical operation of your gear, and with the addition of the signal cables which you would otherwise find to be on the “bright side,” you will see that now, since the electronics are running so clean, that the cables are facilitating the passage of all the high frequencies you want – they do not discomfort your hearing because they are receiving clean signals to begin with and are not operating with harsh material from the outset.
This combination results in sonic neutrality. Detail is evident which does not result in listening fatigue over time. That is our goal. My personal test is whether I can listen to even low quality recordings all day long and not tire of the sound. The beauty of expression of the musicians should be the only thing left. The equipment should never take front stage but remain only a carrier, and stay that way throughout playback of all types of recordings.
Matej Isak. Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine. All rights reserved. 2006-2013. www.monoandstereo.com. ..:: None of the original text, pictures, that were taken by me, links or my original files can be re-printed or used in any way without prior permission! ::..