The audio world is full of extremes and there is an endless array of products to choose from. It almost seems like the expensive and ultra expensive products dominate but luckily, there are manufacturers and makers who have an ear for the budget-conscious audiophile. One of them are certainly Bob and Kay Prangnell of Mad Scientist Audio, based in New Zealand.
When I first discovered their site I was pleasantly surprised by their sense of humor but let`s see how they describe their Mad Scientist NEO Power Cord:
“Our NEO Power Cord and Inline Power Purifier both use the same updated Power Purifier design. The difference is in the Kegs - the NEO range use Neodymium magnets embedded in two of the three Kegs. This is strong medicine, and using more than two does not improve the sound. (This is why there's no "++" versions.)
NEO Power Cords and Inline Filters use our 11AWG high quality copper wire with Teflon insulation. Standard cord is approximately 1.2 meters (4 feet) but you can order longer cords.
NEO Power Cords also use a layer of cotton over the Live and Neutral conductors, for both enhanced dielectric properties and damping.
They also come standard with Chinese-made "no-name" Audiophile power and IEC plugs, with brass contacts. Copper is available as an upgrade. The inline filters also use the same IEC plug, but a more basic IEC socket, as nobody seems to make a good audiophile inline IEC socket.
These Purifiers use a completely different principle to any other filter I've seen. Most conventional filters use capacitors and inductors. There are others that say they use some mysterious quantum principles. Mad Scientist filters use Black Discus material at their heart. This material is engineered to have specific non-linear behaviour. The effect it has still amazes me.
Please note that our power cords are directional. Be sure to plug the end with the mains plug into the wall. Attempting to plug into your amplifier may damage something. But seriously, we have already figured out which way to orient the wire before we build them.”
Ha ha, that was hilarious, but such description probably won`t score them points from all those serious audiophiles who take audio more seriously than the music. Nevermind, the Mad Scientist NEO looks unlike 99.99% of power cords on the market. I must admit I was a bit perplexed when I saw them for the first time because unlike most other cables, the Mad Scientist NEO power cord does not try to impress visually but it does signalize it is something special and that the most important thing about them is hidden a bit deeper, under the skin. Indeed such was the case upon experiencing them at work.
Upon inserting the NEO into the system (actually into the DAC), the sound changed considerably. There were no instant “WOW” effects that can indicate the cable favors certain spectrum over another or is trying to impress on the short term, no, the first sonic impression was of a calm, relaxed and natural feeling. It was like: do not expect sonic fireworks, better just relax and pay attention to the music.
I don`t think all cables (or any other component for that matter) should be joining the race for the “more is better”, because, frankly, some systems need a balancing act, so to speak and not only more transparency or more of “everything”. To set up a system to sound fundamentally right is not easy. It`s easy to make it sound hyper detailed though but such systems are tiresome on the long run and in a sense make us hate the music instead of loving it. By fundamentally right I mean spectrally balanced and harmonically rich sound. The tone and timbre are absolutely the first prerequisites for the system to sound fundamentally right; transparency and everything else should come afterwards and if these prerequisites cannot be met then all other fancy attributes are pretty much pointless.
What happens when audiophiles get more and more involved with the “sound” and less and less with the music? When they become obsessed with the “more is better”? For one thing, their systems no longer welcome emotions. Is emotionless sound the real and sole purpose of the music? I doubt it is...actually it is quite the opposite but sadly, too many systems somehow seem to fit into this category. The “bright”, “attractive”, “insanely transparent”, etc, are frequent attributes of too many systems which would desperately need the kind of qualities Mad Scientist NEO power cord is able to bring into the sonic picture.
The Mad Scientist NEO power cord makes a listener rediscover the music in quite a special way. I dare to say it doesn`t reproduce all the details like some power cords are able to, but despite that, during the whole testing phase I have never felt like I`m missing something, quite on the contrary, I have been much more reminded of the true inner beauty of the music. Details became less important and somehow I didn`t even feel I need to chase them. But rest be assured I`m not suggesting the NEO power cord is weak in this department, no, it was just that it offered a refreshingly different perspective, one that showed a clear preference for the musical whole, instead of exposing any parameter in particular. I really started to appreciate what the NEO power cord brought in terms of a musically involving presentation.
The sound was reproduced in a most “organic” way, never entering into the “harsh” territory or becoming congested; the “ease” effect was maintained at all times.
Putting it all apart, I would say the bass was of good quality, well defined and controlled, the lower mids likewise and if anything, I would wish for a more “weightier” presentation in this spectrum but despite that, the overall impression was satisfactory nevertheless.
The upper mids were relaxed and non-fatiguing, with still above average levels of resolution, detail and 3D insight.
The Mad Scientist NEO power cord went a long way in attempt to ameliorate the typical “digititus” effect; the music possessed a nice analog feel that was most welcome with any musical genre and ensured relaxed musical sessions for many hours.
Orchestral music was rendered in a very listenable fashion, devoid of any nervousness or anxiety; the individual instruments were perhaps less precisely focused but the tone colors were still rendered beautifully which is rarely the case. The sound of piano was rich and nicely balanced; the upper keys never sounding peaky or otherwise annoying.
The depth effect was very good by all standards, the width and height a bit less so.
The solo voices and choral works were a joy to hear, they all possessed a natural dose of warmth with sibilants sounding smooth and open but not overly so.
In general, all pop music was rendered in a much more listenable fashion than is usually the case with other cables from this price region.
Kiwi stuff...Kiwi music?
They`re strong! Let`s start with some sophisticated music examples. "Douglas Lilburn was born in Wanganui, New Zealand. He attended Waitaki Boys' High School from 1930 to 1933, before moving to Christchurch to study journalism and music at Canterbury University College (then part of the University of New Zealand) (1934–36). In 1937 he began studying at the Royal College of Music, London. He was tutored in composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams and remained at the College until 1939. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has recorded most of Lilburn's major works, including the three symphonies composed from 1949 to 1961 and many of the other symphonic works. His A Song of Islands was given its American premiere on November 17, 2012, by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by James Judd, the former music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra."
As an example of his picturesque music, I would recommend his Symphony No 2, the finale could be heard here:
The music is simply beautiful as is the land itself and the Mad Scientist NEO power cord did a great job of presenting this marvelous piece in a most respectful way. It brought out all the subtleties with ease and provided a truly memorable listening experience.
A Song of Islands, tone poem for orchestra is another piece absolutely worthy of consideration (William Southgate, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra):
This is an enchanting piece of music and if you watch the video you will be able to witness some of the unreal scenery from this amazing country.
Crowded House is a rock band formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985. The founding members were New Zealander Neil Finn (vocalist, guitarist, primary songwriter), and Australians Paul Hester (drums) and Nick Seymour (bass). Later band members included Neil's brother, Tim Finn, and Americans Mark Hart and Matt Sherrod. Who doesn`t know “Weather With You”, a beautiful easy going song in the seventies fashion:
This song kind of describes the Mad Scientist NEO power cord character: easy going and colorful (not colored though!).
Moving into the pop music realm. Billboard says: “Technically, Lorde isn't the first New Zealand artist to top the Hot 100 in the U.S., since Kiwi musical eccentric Kimbra did so as a guest artist one year before on the Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." Kimbra's contributions to the "she-said" part of Gotye's breakup classic remain easily her best-known work in the States, but her entire 2011 debut LP "Vows" is exceptional, a fusion of styles ranging from electro-pop to jazz to classic soul -- often over the course of the same song, as on single "Cameo Lover." It wouldn't be shocking if she eventually had a couple hits of her own on this side of the Pacific.”
I couldn`t agree more, the “Wows” is a fantastic album for those seeking something new in this genre. The following songs are absolutely worth mentioning: Cameo Lover, Wandering Limbs, Withdraw and Something in the Way You Are.
Let me finish with some “primitive” music, David Dallas - Ever Get The Feeling, the first track from the Jamiroquai inspired EP 'Buffalo Man':
The 6-track EP are songs inspired by, sampled or interpolated from the catalogue of Jamiroquai. David Dallas credits the band for opening his mind to other genres of music besides Hip-Hop and R&B.
“Runnin” is featured on his album, 'Falling Into Place’:
The Mad Scientist NEO power cord was able to reproduce the bass lines with heft and definition; the rhythm was carried out effortlessly and making one want to tap one's feet which is always a good sign.
There you have it, a small insight into the musical rainbow from the land just above the Antarctica.
The subject of this review, the Mad Scientist NEO power cord showed a strong performance with a distinctive sound capabilities that elevate it from the rest of the pack.
This power cord has strong long term qualities that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. It can suit many systems and tastes provided the owners do not seek ostentatious performance but rather a balanced one that will satisfy on the long run.