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  1. #1
    AR Newbie Registered Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    The effect of mains conditioners, cables, plugs (others?)

    I can understand that mains conditioners / filters and quality mains cables make a difference. Before I take the plunge I would be very interested to know:

    1. the relative merits and differences between the various mains conditioners / filters (i.e. PS Audio, Tice, IsoTek, now even Nordost, etc)

    2. the relative merits and differences between quality mains cables, particularly between the lower cost quality cables by people like SignalCable, and the higher cost of say $150 to 400 a cable (i.e. without getting really ridiculous i.e. Nordost etc).

    3. UK versus US (or European) plugs – in the great debate over the effect of the mains on sound, I haven’t read anything about the merits of using US (or European) plugs, which are unfused, as opposed to standard UK 13A plugs. For those blissfully ignorant of UK wiring, our plugs include a dinky little fuse, which if you take the argument that one is listening to the mains when you listen to your system to the extreme, means that you are funnelling the mains supply through a very small piece of wire on route to each component of the system. Are there differences here?

    My system is a combined AV / two-channel, with

    DVD (possibly Denon 3910 or similar; haven’t yet bought)
    Meridian 200 CD (maybe replaced at some point)
    Lexicon MC-8 pre / processor
    Bryston 9B amp
    JM Labs Micro Utopia Be speakers
    Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope Phase I Active interconnects
    Synergistic Research Alpha Quad Active speaker cables

    All the Synergistic Research cables are actively shielded by DC current to improve soundstaging, depth, prevent RFI etc; (see if you’re interested)

    I have one Goldring mains cable on the 9B and the rest are all bog standard.
    Mains supplied on a separate 4mm Twin & Earth ring main dedicated to just the AV/HiFi equipment but through switched sockets at present. I am going to replace key ones with unswitched MK ones (unless someone has a better suggestion…).

    I was thinking of a mains conditioner / filter with US sockets plus trying the Synergistic Research active mains cables, but they are expensive relative to the interconnects and speaker cable, but I would very much appreciate people’s experience in what they have found.



  2. #2
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    SF Bay Area
    I'm probably the wrong person to respond, but honestly, I think that cables and line conditioners rank at the bottom of things that you need to worry about in your system. The main issue with cables IMO is in how well shielded the plugs are to keep EM interference out. So long as you're not using ridiculously long runs and at least a 14 gauge speaker cable, you should be fine. In cable tests I've participated in, I have noted very subtle differences between cables. But, they are so subtle that I can't justify that kind of cost, when there are so many other ways of improving the overall audio quality of a system that cost less.

    Rather than worry about line conditioners, cables, and plugs, I would look more into your room acoustics. Room acoustics can cause problems with the time domain coherency, which can have far greater effect on soundstage and imaging than anything I've ever heard from a cable swap.

    A row of acoustic panels behind my front speakers made a startling improvement to the imaging, and a measurable improvement in the tonal accuracy. The cost? $16 for a box acoustic ceiling panels, and I still had three panels left over, which I used on the backwall. Other products out there target the bass region or can be used for diffusing or go into the corners to prevent the horn effect from creating a smeared sound. Accounting for the room acoustics already matters with two-channel setups, but IMO are absolutely crucial when dealing with a multichannel setup.

    Anyway, hope someone else gives you the answer that you're looking for (since it looks like you're set to buy new cables regardless), but keep the room acoustics in mind if you're looking for something that makes a clear cut improvement in your system's sound quality. The improvements with room corrections are measureable and clearly audible. Cables and line conditioners, it's a murkier discussion.

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