Listening #96 Page 2

When I powered the system back up after installing all of this, it seemed the Shunyatas were doing a number of things I like—to a greater degree than I associate with cables at all, let alone AC cables. "Winterlong" and "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," from Neil Young and Crazy Horse's Live at the Fillmore (LP, Reprise/Classic 44429-1), had a better, larger sense of scale. Instruments sounded more explosively dramatic, and voices were similarly punchier: There was more holler in the singing (I mean that in a good way). Cecille Ousset and Rudolf Barshai's fine recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto 3 (LP, EMI ASD 1077851) gained in similar ways, with an added sense of purpose: Musical lines sounded surer and more meaningful. I like that sort of thing.

Then, also in keeping with Shunyata's recommendations, I added to the system their Hydra V-Ray power distributor. CDA-101 copper also abounds in the Hydra, as do capacitive filters and specially made MOVs designed to sacrifice themselves only in the event of severe, potentially catastrophic spikes and irregularities. There are also electromagnetic circuit breakers, a dual-box chassis of aluminum alloy, and fully 7 lbs of copper bus bar. Also featured are Shunyata's proprietary SR-Z1 AC outlets, manufactured for them by Hubbell (footnote 4).

Yet on first listen, the gains gained by the Black Mambas were gone, and then some. The imaginary stage seemed wider, but the center fill was absent. The color, too—the area the crayon was supposed to fill in—was gone, leaving only outlines, albeit sonically sharp ones. In the Prokofiev concerto, the fifths in the bass strings and timpani that announce the piano's entrance were robbed of substance and momentum. The Neil Young album sounded scooped-out in the way of so much modern sound: plenty of bass and treble, not enough flesh and blood in between. I was sufficiently disappointed with the sound of the V-Rayed system that I wondered if either the Shunyata power distributor had had insufficient running in, or if the listener had had too much—for that day, at least. I elected to stop for the time being, to relegate the V-Rayed system to background duties for a few days, and to listen more intently some other time.

Drifting too far from the shore
Later in the week I repeated all of the above, with similar results: Wonderful sound with stock AC cables. Even better sound with Black Mamba Power Snakes on the preamp and amps. Enduringly and unambiguously less center-fill focus, less color, and less sense of solidity and substance with the Shunyata power distributor in the system. The Sibelius Violin Concerto, with violinist Ruggiero Ricci, Øivin Fjeldstad, and the London Symphony, in a typically first-rate reissue by Speakers Corner (LP, Decca SXL 2077), sounded better without the V-Ray in virtually every regard: Staccato eighth-notes in the ensemble violins and violas in the first movement had much more texture and clearer attacks without the power distributor, while the clarinet had greater presence and a more believable spatial presence. Most of all, the many rubato passages seemed better timed—less aimless and adrift, temporally, and much more purposeful—without the V-Ray.

And in the 1958 David Oistrakh/André Cluytens recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra (LP, a typically noisy late-'90s EMI Centenary reissue, SAX 2315), the soloist's "Conte de Fontana" Stradivarius was richly textured when the preamp and amplifiers were connected directly to the household AC outlet, but noticeably less so with those same components plugged into the Shunyata distributor.

Still, I listened on, returning once again to that Prokofiev concerto: There was no question that, with the Shunyata Hydra V-Ray, piano chords were being hit harder while remaining even cleaner. And I dare say the system's sense of spatial focus improved with the AC power distributor in-line: Oddly or not, I merely had to move my listening seat back a few inches in order to notice or appreciate that change.

Then I noticed: With the Shunyata AC distributor, digital music files (mostly AIFF with a scattering of WAVs, streamed from iTunes on a recent iMac) fared even worse than LPs. That led me to try three more experiments:

First, I compared the performance of my Thorens TD 124 turntables (these days, one is relegated to stereo duty, while the other one handles mono LPs and 78s), plugged alternately straight into the household current and into the Shunyata Hydra V-Ray. In every case, with every record I tried, my turntables sounded markedly better—more drive, more momentum, more realistic textures—when their AC was conditioned by the Shunyata: a true man-on-the-street difference. (When I began making those comparisons, it also seemed that the 124s' platters got up to speed more quickly, with less need for speed correction, with the Hydra V-Ray in line. But while those distinctions were never reversed, they weren't consistently present, leaving open the possibility that motor temperature or other factors were at play.) As a hobbyist with years of experience with various accessory power supplies for turntables with AC motors, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.

Footnote 4: Grant Samuelsen also sent me a sample of Shunyata's SR-Z1 twin-socket AC outlet ($75), but I have yet to find time to install it, for comparison with either my stock household units or the PS Audio outlets I wrote about some time ago. I intend nonetheless to try the Shunyata outlet, and will report back by and by.

hugo2001's picture

the cabling makes a great difference, in hi-end systems at last. I was auditioning for a quality blu-ray player, listening in stereo (CD and DVD) on Pioneer Elite flagship Blu ray player on a very expensive system consisting of Ayre KX-R preamp, MX-R monoblocs, B&W 802D.
The sales person let me hear the Pioneer player with his stock power cord and with Shunyata Anaconda CX power cord. in both cases, it was plugged directly in the wall outlet.
The difference was astonishing, it was so obvious, i did not make any effort to notice it. It was like i would have a higher end player or a better preamplifier. I heard much more detail, more information, more smoothness.
The only issue: the cord was as expensive as the player, i was asking myself if i would get better sound with a more expensive player with his stock power cord.

tmsorosk's picture

Plugging power amps into power conditioners ? Art bad .

IronMan's picture

Power cords don't make any difference people. It is just the placebo effect. You think you heard a difference because you subconsciously believe you heard it. It would not pass a double blind test.

dumbo's picture

If you can't hear the difference between a proper high end power cord and the one you get in the box with your equipment or from the home depot then please have your hearing checked.

Granted, if you haven't at least took the time to install a dedicated AC line for your precise high end audio to the breaker box in your home then certainly don't bother wasting your money on a fancy power cord. Polishing a turd can only get you so far!

John Atkinson's picture
"Power cords don't make any difference people. It is just the placebo effect."

Take care not to let the hint of a doubt cross the smooth countenance of your mind, IronMan. :-)

kevon27's picture

Where are the hard raw numbers which show these 'high' end cables make any real difference? Show me HOW these cables do their magic to make music sound better and compare them to a good quality heavy gauge power cable you buy at Home Depot.
When I read reviews like this, I have to ask myself, is this reviewer really honest? Are they getting some kinda kick back from the cable companies for giving a very positive review?
Reviews like this makes me think of an ugly woman who believes by putting on a large amount of expensive makeup will make her beautiful. See, she just spent $1500 on a make up kit and for that price her brain will manufacture some type of improvement in her looks. Even though reality states 'you still ugly', that women will swear she now looks like Harley Berry or something.
To the reviewer :"Stop the yapping and get some precision measuring tools AND SHOW us the numbers (honestly)."
In the mean time, I think I'll stick to www.AUDIOHOLICS.COM to get the TRUTH.

dumbo's picture

Setting aside for the moment the cost of a high end power cord, say your buddy gave you one that he had lying around; would you then be able to sit down and listen with a clear head to what major differences these cables can offer to a system capable of accurately reproducing this change?

In regards to the fat lady, if you were stranded on an island with her and her new $1500 makeup case can you really tell me that she wouldn't look better, or at least smell better with it on then not when the time comes to "Do The Deed"?

tmsorosk's picture

The only people that doubt the improvements of power cords are the ones hat have not tried them . I thought this debate was put to sleep long ago . I guess there will always be newbees , lets hope .

mrplankton2u's picture

Anyone who actually knows what's inside an amplifier, preamplifier, or other audio device in the signal chain understands that one of the core functions within such devices is converting A/C power to DC power for use in audio circuits. If the product is designed and built with consistent quality, the quality of the power supply should match the quality of the rest of the circuitry in terms of signal processing and fidelity. In my exprerience, if the final stage of an amp is substandard and the power supply is substandard, "conditioning" the A/C coming into the power supply isn't going to do anything to help. It is after all, a  signal "chain". The end result is controlled by the weakest link in the chain.

Any decent design anticipates minor anomalies in the supply of electricity at the plug and accounts for it. These absurd power conditioners are the equivalent of wrapping a large seatbelt around the roof and underside of an automobile to add "improved" security to the passengers inside that are already protected by airbags and seatbelts. 

Also of note, practically every marketing company that produces these sham "power conditioners" is up to their ear lobes in other sham products that form the crux of their business. Shame on Stereophile for peddling this snake oil. If readers knew how much advertising money Stereophile is making off of this crooked enterprise, they would cancel their subscriptions.

sear's picture

I have never tried a cable or power device I have never heard a difference with. I usually test power cords with my video equipment because a difference in video quality is clearly seen but sound can be effected by many things including the brain like one poster noted. I tried a basic high end power cord on my blu-ray player and then a very high end power cord and the difference was night and day. I found going from a basic wall outlet to a audiophile one also makes a huge difference on video.

SERIOUS7's picture

I can see purchasing a cable like this if i was running it straight from the wall outlet to my amp but i use a "very good line conditioner" that works very well for me killing all noise in the signal path..