The one most deplorable sight for an audiophile upon unboxing new equipment is probably that of a generic power cord. In fact, of all the equipment I have purchased, common emphasis was placed on power supplies and regulations. Not one manufacturer had addressed the importance of the power cord.
This is a predicament for both the manufacturer and the audiophile. Most equipment manufacturers entrust the crucial task of power supply and regulation to the likes of C-core transformers and other premium parts inside the equipment, and the issue is easily dismissed as they see the power cord as just a connection between the equipment and the wall outlet. While the importance of a high-end AC Main is well recognized by the audiophile community, no manufacturer would readily concede that the excellence of their products was dependent on a specialized power cord. It is also doubtful that most audiophiles would be willing to pay the additional mark-up that an equipment manufacturer would necessarily have to impose with the addition of such a premium AC cord. Yet the difference they can contribute is substantial.
The AC Cable
Being the thickest cable in my system, the #560 is made up of 312 individual 30 AWG strands of copper conductors tightly crimped into vises on both ends that are then connected to Hubbell and WattaGate IEC plugs. Using substantial metal parts and clamping bolts, this pressurized connection helps maximize contact and keep air out in an attempt to assure long-term reliability. ProGold, the contact enhancer from Caig, is applied to the finished vise before being secured and shrink sealed into the Hubbell and WattaGate IEC plugs. Non-inline toroidal filters on both ends of the power cord are included to prevent EMI & RFI from contaminating the power supply without choking off any necessary current. Requiring four to six hours to hand-make each cord, they are finally covered with a flame-retardant and abrasion-resistant braid. The finished #570 looks and feels first class in overall construction.
A gold-plated version, the #560G (gold), retails for $750 and $990 for respective lengths of 5 and 8 feet. A lower model that utilizes 123 30AWG strands, the #555, is also available. In an email reply to me, Granite Audio’s Don Hoglund claimed that in the making of the his AC cables, the application of his continuous-cast single-crystal 99.9999% copper did not sound any better than regular-cast 99.9999% copper, so regular copper was used. Granite Audio does recommends a one-month break-in period.
Don provided two #560 AC cords for review purposes when I was auditioning the Audio Note M3 Preamplifier. Since both of the #560’s were put to use powering the Audio Note Quest Monoblocks, which in turn drove the Genesis VI speakers, a system-wide application in my 5-piece system was impossible at this time. When the opportunity arises to do so, I shall present a follow-up audition. Interconnects were two pairs of Granite Audio #470 ‘s, with Cardas Quadlink 5C speaker cables. Since the auditioning of the #560 began at the time of the AN M3 review and continued to this day, I shall make use of the findings captured in the AN review and expand on the characteristics of the
various systems using the #560.
In the same passage from the soundtrack to Conan The Barbarian [Varese Sarabande VSD-5390] as examined in the M3 review, microdynamics presented by triangles and instruments that are rich in higher frequencies came through clearer with more definition and reverberation. Consequently, the performance sounded livelier as onstage activities appeared more numerous and orchestrated.
Playing another remarkable soundtrack, Alien3 [MCAD-10629] also revealed improvements in ambience retrieval and microdynamics. With its intrinsically superior dynamic contrasts and detailed resolution compared to that of the Conan soundtrack, Alien3 sounded even more shocking at times, while the condoning string and brass in the track “Lento” came through sounding markedly more resolute and harmonious in a beautiful fusion. Composer Elliot Goldenthal is one talent to watch.
Sounding slightly less hyper-detailed than the Alien3, the early-digital Deutsche Grammophon recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons [Duetsche Grammophon 415 301-2] did not experience refinement of the same magnitude. With no brass or percussion, the primary areas of improvement were in the rhythm and pace of the strings, sounding more energetic and focused with the #560 AC cord, which in return diminished the relatively unmusical dryness so typical of early digital recordings.
The one voice to behold in the CD, Astrud Gilberto’s singing in the 1964 jazz masterpiece Getz/Gilberto [Verve 810 048], became airier and thereby more transcending than before. Stan Getz’s mastery of the saxophone also became more profound in his very liberal and lyrical iterations, as swings in dynamics and the resultant air turbulence from the instrument came through very distinctively.
Classical piano playing of Evgeny Kissin in his 1999 reading of Chopin’s Polonaise, Op. 53 from the CD Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Sonata No. 2, Polonaise, Op. 53 [RCA Victor Red Seal 09026-63535], carried increased insights as calmness and outbursts were given heightened contrasts. Putting the stock power cord back into the chain not only diminished the drama, it also reduced considerable punctuality from the playing of Kissin and the glamorous sheen of the piano.
In a different setup, I used the McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe power amplifier to drive the 3.2 ohm, 85 dB full-ribbon Apogee Duetta Signatures. The DNA-1, the most powerful amplifier in my possession that delivers 360 Wpc into 4 ohms, consistently drove the Apogees to very high levels without distortion. With the M3 preamplifier and DNA-1 Deluxe each drawing power via the #560’s, the Apogees produced improved dynamic contrasts. The very delicate top end of the DNA-1 Deluxe became slightly airier, giving more body and definition to background instruments, such as triangles and cymbals. However, there was no apparent increase in the low frequency quality and resolution.
Supplying power to the diminutive Decware SE84C (review to follow), the #560 strengthened the amplifier’s bottom-end resolution when driving the 104 dB Klipschorn. Granted that the K-horns are very easy to push to thunderous dynamics and loudness, their 15-inch bass drivers nevertheless generated more music in terms of both quality and quantity from the little amplifier. In my subjective assessment, I am certain that the SE84C’s small SV83 output tubes and transformer probably were the limiting factors in preventing the amplifier from benefiting more profoundly from enhanced power management.
On Digital Front End
The #560 AC cord prompted a subtle improvement in extending frequency extremes from the CEC TL1 CD transport. Most noticeable was the upper treble where triangles and cymbals sounded slightly clearer, with the bass notes more prominent on the noted recordings. Sub-optimal recordings did not receive appreciable improvements.
Using the #560 on the Wadia 27 Decoding Computer realized similar improvements, with the midrange benefiting the most. Instruments’ midrange carried higher refinements, rendering each note more natural and discernible. There was no significant improvement on soundstaging, however. Perhaps the drastically substantial power supply incorporated into the Wadia 27 was already providing clean and sufficient power to the sensitive circuits, ushering the signals with ease and finesse.
Another digital front end, the Sony SCD-777ES SACD Player, also exhibited similar behavior changes as with the Wadia 27. These minute increases in performance are better appreciated in a very high-resolution system with short cabling. Otherwise, too many variables downstream can easily suffocate the advantages obtained.
In Another System
During the course of this review, I visited the residence of another reviewer for the purpose of furthering the comparison. There were two other power cords being reviewed by this gentleman that were less expensive than the Granite Audio #560.
During the approximately 2-hour session, the Granite Audio’s superiority was appreciable and undisputed. I noted more microdynamics brought into the foreground with better tonality, while my colleague noted better imaging and more precise timbral rendition and instrument imaging. Therefore, while we might not have agreed on the specifics, improvement was apparent to us both, and we agreed that the improvements it wrought more than justified the asking price.
The Granite Audio #560 pushed the performance envelope of my system to newer heights. Improvements as accorded by the #560 AC cord were more significant when applied to tube power amplifiers than to other equipment, allowing the amplifiers to sound noticeably more refined and giving improved micro- and macro-dynamic contrasts. The only occasional drawback is that inferior recordings, previously masked from less potent power, are now more exposed.
Replacing the Quest monoblocks’ stock power cords, the Granite Audio #560 induced more vivid tonal differentiation and spatiality from the Quest-driven Genesis VI. This validated the potency and quality of each watt generated by the Quest, rendering the visualized onstage activities as a vastly enjoyable experience.
While it is impossible for an amplifier to exceed its power rating, I believe most are not receiving electricity from a power cord capable of delivering current immune from RFI and EMI noise. Under such conditions, their potentials cannot be maximized. The construction of the #560, and the aptly applied materials, might have ensured a less polluted stream of current and voltage to be delivered from the wall outlet to the equipment, thus allowing the powered equipment to better meet its specifications.
Therefore, in garnering superior speaker-driving capabilities from expensive triode amplifiers like the $4,000 pair of Audio Note Quest, the #560 is especially recommended. However, with more affordable tube gear, like my $495 Decware SE84C, I do not recommend the #560 prior to investing in higher-end models first, like Decware’s own SE84C Select, which will definitely present improvements more cost effectively.
Since I plug all amplification equipment directly into the outlets, readers using premium power conditioners are encouraged to experiment to find out whether equipment powered simultaneously by both the conditioner and the #560 will sound even better. It is noteworthy that while conditioners clean up incoming power, the AC cable bears the crucial task of sending the conditioned power intact to the transformer inside the equipment. For the transformer and power supply inside to function at maximum, I have come to realize that a quality AC cord is essential for harnessing potent power from the outlet. I dream of re-wiring the power line from my fuse-box to the audio outlets with the #560. I may never find out, but it’s possible that my refrigerator would run much colder with same amount of power and my TV with more vibrant colors.
Ironically, audiophiles willing to invest in accessories like power cords usually already have top-notch systems and thus may look at the #560 as an amusing experiment. But I believe that audiophiles who consider their equipment to be inadequate, especially on tube power amplifiers, should consider the #560 seriously, especially when minimum spending is desired. Because unless you are bent on getting a new machine, the #560 may be able to breathe new life into your gear, thus saving you the unnecessary grief of having to sacrifice your precious equipment at half price and then shelling out possibly thousands of dollars to purchase something better sounding.
My aforementioned visit to the other reviewers home proved the more expensive #560 as noticeably superior to lower-priced models. While spending even more on super-expensive power cords will certainly reward you with better sound from your system, the law of diminishing returns will be most uncomfortably felt, as margins of improvement are likely to come disproportionately. Therefore, I see the 5-foot $600 #560 with its 30-day trial period as a very wise investment.
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