I’ve waited an extended period of time to write this review about the five months when I have now had the four LessLoss DFPC Signatures in my system. During that time, I’ve had plenty of opportunity not only to evaluate the DFPC Signatures and compare them to other PCs, including the original DFPCs, but also to evaluate their performance in conjunction with the DFPC Firewall and ruminate on how power affects the performance of audio (and video) systems.
Is the Quality of Your Power More Important Than, Say,
The Quality of Your Preamp?
As time has gone on, I’ve moved the aspects of power and power conditioning up on my list of most important factors that must be addressed before a system achieves true musicality. In experiments over the last two years with a wide range of both mid-fi and high-end equipment, I’ve consistently been able to attain equal or greater performance from mid-fi systems powered by superb power cords than the performance of high-end equipment with merely good power cords. Let me illustrate. Several years ago I used a Proceed HPA-3 power amp to drive my speakers, a specially-modded Pioneer Elite DV-38 as my source and a Sony EP9ES digital preamp/outboard HT processor as my preamp/DAC. I discontinued this system because it sounded too electronic, too sibilant and a bit bloated in the bass. However, I kept those components and used the HPA-3 to drive the center and rear speakers and the Sony as the outboard HT processor in my home theater setup. Out of curiosity, I pulled those components out of the home theater system and set them up as their own 2-channel audio system, but powered them through my dedicated circuitry using upgraded power cords and high-end power conditioner. I was somewhat surprised to find that they sounded quite good – much better than how they sounded way back then plugged into non-dedicated outlets with average power cords. If they had sounded this way four years ago, I might not have felt such a need to upgrade. The worst aspects of the system were eliminated, and system aspects that I had thought were average came to sound pretty good.
My experimentation has included dedicated circuits (three for my listening room running from their own wall panel), high power circuits (separate 20-amp circuits to feed extremely high-power monoblocks), upgraded wall outlets (Walker, Wattgate and Synergistic Research Tesla) and after-wall power conditioning (PS Audio, Nordost Thor, Audience Adept Response, Monster, the excellent Walker Velocitor and my own preferred LessLoss Firewall – see below). I have yet to experiment with the effects of upscale circuit breakers and isolation transformers, but I don’t doubt that I could obtain even further improvements from such devices. The main point is that power really matters, and we’ve reached a point where we have a wide choice of products that are designed to address this fact.
My Experience With LessLoss
You should know that I’ve been a fan of the original LessLoss DFPC and replaced all my Silent Source power cords (which are superb power cords that I absolutely continue to recommend) with the DFPCs. The Silent Source PCs themselves replaced a fairly substantial line of prior cords I had in my system: Nordost Brahmas and Valhallas, Z-Cable (now Clarity Cable) Cyclones, Transparent Reference Power Links, PS Audio Statement and Premier SC, and the Bybee Power Cord (earlier version). I freely admit that, insofar as power cords go, it’s become difficult to separate my personal tastes from my analytical side. I will describe the “objective” qualities of the DFPC Signatures, but you might as well know up front that they fit my personal musical tastes perfectly. It’s up to you to determine whether I’m writing a positive review because they produce the type of sound I like, or whether I love them because they are objectively that good.
The Original DFPC and the Firewall
As a reference point, it would be useful to refer back to my August 2008 Dagogo review of the original DFPCs. A key conclusion I reached at that time was that unlike many other high-end PCs, the DFPC did not have any one particular quality that distinguished it from others – it was simply a bit better across the board, and much less expensive. Comparing it to my Silent Source PCs:
“… I found that the LessLoss Dynamic Filtering Power Cable was more extended both in the treble and in the bass – not by much, but it was clearly so. And it wasn’t just more extended in a vague way. It was also more resolving at the extremes, all while bringing out the body and dynamics of the music in the way that made me really like the Signatures. This was a cable that had it all: body, speed, dynamics, microdynamics, bass and treble extension, absence of glare, etc.”
I thought that the across-the-board strengths of the DFPC made it sound incredibly natural. I bought DFPCs for my entire system and subsequently acquired a LessLoss Firewall power conditioner and extended the benefits of the all-DFPC system even further. I found that the Firewall multiplied what the DFPC did on its own (see my April, 2009 review). A few months later I couldn’t help myself and acquired two more Firewalls so that I had one for my front-end and one each for my power amps. (See my companion article about the effect of three Firewalls in my system.)
Enter the DFPC Signature
I received four DFPC Signatures for review. I used them in multiple configurations, substituting at different times original DFPCs, a PS Audio Statement, Silver Audio Wattmasters, and a Kimber Digital One. Each configuration produced, in one degree or another, the effects described in the next section. So you can get a sense of the variety of uses, here is a summary of the sequence of configurations I tried.
I first applied the four DFPC Signatures exclusively in configurations feeding my front-end. The first front-end configuration in which I used the DFPC Signatures was between the LessLoss Firewall and four front-end components. This was usually an Esoteric P-70/D-70 transport/DAC combo, an MBL 6010D preamp and the Lyngdorf RP-1 digital room correction device. However, I also inserted a Marantz DV8300 and a Qsonix Q105 Music Server (review to come). Under the original scenario, an original DFPC was used to connect the Firewall to a dedicated 15-amp circuit and the four DFPC Signatures were used directly on the front-end components. I then proceeded to try variations of this scenario: I switched the original DFPC connected to the wall with the DFPC Signature connected to the MBL preamp; I substituted a PS Audio Statement for the original DFPC in the wall and later the original DFPC attached to the preamp; I substituted a Silver Audio Wattmaster in several different feeds; I swapped a JPS Labs Digital One in the digital components; etc., etc.
After several weeks I acquired a second Firewall, so I removed my existing Firewall from the front-end components and used both Firewalls between separate 20 amp circuits and my monoblocks using original DFPCs (oh my!). This meant that there were four DFPC Signatures now plugged directly into the 15 amp circuit that fed the front-end.
After two more months I acquired a third Firewall and inserted it into the front-end and repeated much of my first round of experiments.
Finally, I used the four DFPC Signatures by placing two between my monoblocks and the two Firewalls feeding them, and two between the Esoteric D-70 and the Lyngdorf RP-1 and the Firewall feeding them.
Exhausted, I decided it was time to write the review.
Every configuration I tried with the DFPC Signatures resulted in obvious improvements over every other power cord I had on hand, and to the extent my memory is reliable, to every power cord I’ve ever had in my system at any time, owned or demo’d, at any price range. As I mentioned above, some of these were very pricey cords, up to $3,000 per 2-meter cord. The first set of comparisons was of the DFPC Signature to the original DFPC.
Compared to the original DFPCs, the Signatures produce a wider and deeper soundstage, with improved performer placement, including “air” around each performer. The Signatures are also more extended at both the top- and bottom-ends without changing the overall balanced sound that the DFPCs produced. Furthermore, the bass weight became the most realistic I’ve heard – clean, detailed and chest-thumping when called for, but without calling undue attention to itself on pieces that are meant to be dominated by the mids and treble (ever hear a subwoofer set at too high a volume?). Detail improved even more, again without calling undue attention to itself. Instead, each additional detail had its rightful place in the overall performance.
Notwithstanding those clear improvements, the even more gratifying aspect was the reproduction of instrumental timbre, which I compared directly to live grand piano and violin (I have 2 family members who each play one of those instruments). This ability to reproduce the nuances of timber put things over the top, achieving that elusive quality of “musicality”. Musicality means many things to many people. Some seem to use it when they encounter a system that doesn’t sound artificially reproduced. My definition goes a bit beyond that. “Musicality” is the word I use when I can suspend reality and have the clear sense of being at the recoding or concert. It is the reproduction of music in a way that is so natural that you absolutely and completely ignore the equipment.
Over the course of the next three weeks I started substituting other power cords that I had on hand. Substituting the PS Audio Premier SC for a DFPC Signature at any place in the system resulted in a shrinking of the soundstage’s width and depth and added some emphasis to the bass. After careful listening, I concluded that the additional bass emphasis was artificial and negatively affected the balance of the presentation. Substituting the JPS Labs Digital One for the DFPC Signature at the input of any digital component was like adding several veils to the music. Substituting the Silver Audio PCs resulted in loss of extension in both the upper and lower ends and shrunk the soundstage. An inexpensive proprietary power cord provided by Ian Grant of Grant Fidelity was surprising in its overall balance and glare-free upper extension, but couldn’t come close on bass or soundstaging. I could elaborate on further nuances and give you a more complete description of the differences, but the advantages of the DFPC Signatures were so obvious it would be pointless. I was able to easily demonstrate the DFPC Signature’s superiority to visiting non-audiophiles, all of whom preferred the DFPC Signature without hesitation. In fact, the only cables that came close were the original DFPCs. They performed better in my system than any of the other cables, but they were clearly bested in all respects by the DFPC Signatures.
I don’t know if the DFPC Signature is the best power cord out there. I’ve not tried the best from Isoclean, Furutech, Shunyata, Kimber or Tara or heard the Nordost Odin or Silent Source Music Reference. Furthermore, system synergy beats a mindless assemblage of all-star components 9 times out of 10, and there are always a variety of PCs with the synergy to improve your system. All it takes is to figure out which works the best. However, there are reasons why the DFPC Signature is a no-lose proposition for any serious audiophile who’s looking for a top power cord. First, the DFPC Signature’s extremely balanced strengths will likely improve several aspects of system performance at once. It isn’t just superb in doing one or two things – it does everything well, whether detail, extension, transparency, performer placement, soundstage depth and width, PRAT, etc.
The second reason is comparative value. In my review of the original LessLoss DFPC I indicated that “it is a product that would typically fit in the $1,200 to $2,000 range but which sells for $569 on the LessLoss website, including shipping”. Well, the DFPC Signature is a product that would typically fit in the $2,000 to $3,000 range but which sells for $1,150 on the LessLoss website, including shipping. This is still a lot of money, and I’m not going to insult your intelligence by pretending it’s not. But if you want to take a shot at a serious upgrade, but simply can’t afford (or maybe justify) $4,000, $5,000 or even $7,000 for two power cords, $2,022 (discount for 2) will, for example, get you a pair of DFPC Signatures for your CD player and integrated amp that will likely make those two components sound like they both got much more expensive upgrades.
The DFPC Signature is a serious contender for top power cord available at any price. Even if you later find something you like better you will likely want to keep it for some other component or system. Highly recommended.
Thank you to Constantine Soo and Ed Momkus of Dagogo for these articles on the DFPC Signatures and the Firewall power conditioner. I look forward to further collaboration with Ed Momkus regarding the exciting new Blackbodys and other future projects.
We have made considerable progress and are well on the way to fine-tuning the sleek design of the new Firewall, approximately 9 cm x 9 cm x 33 cm. Instead of oak, we are using polished Tankwood, (also called Panzerholz) a high tech multi-layered and extremely densely compressed wood, which sinks in water. Our research has led us to investigate this material not only because it is bullet-proof, but because it has among the best acoustic resonance damping characteristics known, and is therefore used for the chassis of F-1 cars. Also of interest is its use as a neutron shield in nuclear research. Most important, however, is the sound, which we are finishing the fine-tuning of.
LessLoss Audio Devices
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