Monday, April 10, 2006

Audiophilia: More DIY Power Cable Bliss

I built another set of homemade power cables using Chris VenHaus' "Flavor 1" and "Flavor 2" recipies.

see: DIY Power Cables - VHAudio "Flavor 1"
see: DIY Power Cables - VHAudio "Flavor 2"

The new analog Flavor 2 cable will power my second PS Audio UPC-200 line conditioner while one of the digital Flavor 1 cables will power my Proceed PDSD (the second Flavor 1 cable was an economies of scale I'll find a use for it someday that will probably be used for my HD source).

My previous set up had my SACD player, connected with a Flavor 1, sending its 5.1 analog out to the PDSD with its regular power cord. The amp was then fed with a Flavor 2 (as was the UPC-200 line conditioner that everything was plugged into).

I knew that the PDSD could benefit from a Flavor 1 cable; it's my DAC for regular CD playback as well as DVD/HDTV Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. And indeed the PDSD did improve quite noticeably with a Flavor 1. Regular CD playback (of a well-recorded CD)is now almost as enjoyable as an SACD.

But what really thrilled me was that the PDSD's new Flavor 1 improved my SACD playback. The analog SACD signal is going through the PDSD and undergoing volume attenuation in that box. So there is some logic to getting improved sound with cleaner power delivery to the PDSD. Still, with so many tweaks and enhancements already in place, it was surprising to achieve yet another audible improvement in the sound. And now my SACD playback - especially full 5.1 channel playback - is just drop-dead gorgeous.

At this point I think I've almost maximized every bit of performance I can get out of my equipment. It's even more obvious to me now that the components themselves aren't necessarily the most important elements of the equation; by applying the right tweaks (upgraded power cables, biwiring, proper crimp terminations, vibration dampening, Walker SST, a line conditioner) a modest system can sound like an excellent one.

So I no longer think it's a matter of buying the best equipment that you can afford. What you should first do is set aside money for the necessary tweaks. Then buy the best you can afford with what budget remains. The tweaks come first!

Think about it: a modest system without the tweaks will just sound average and an expensive system without the tweaks will be a waste of money because of all the wasted potential in the system. The common denominator are the tweaks. And most of them can be transferred to a better system when the upgrade bug strikes.

I'll have to put together a list of "must-have" tweaks vs "budget" and "high-end" tweaks.


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