Much more important than given credit for!
According to many technicians, it is not, or at least should not, be possible to hear differences between different kinds of power conductors. Surely the power supply must be faulty or badly designed if you can tell a difference between power cord A and B. If that is the case then there must really be no well-designed or well-working audiocomponents out there because everyone that I tried responded to powercords. So, reality begs to differ. I don’t care why there are differences but there are. I can hear and and you can hear it. Even the die-hard technicians can hear it. If they want. I’ve had the pleasure to introduce and convert more than a couple of technicians to the magical world of audio where nothing is as it seems. There are some possible explanations like inductance and capacitance but frankly I don’t care so much about the why. I just like to investigate and discover the differences. These differences also apply to the cabling inside powercords. To a much greater extent than even I anticipated.
If you’re reading articles on this site, you’re probably no stranger to the idea that power cords make for large differences in sound. But as I discovered when designing extensionblocks even lengths of 10cm or less make a distinct difference. Without going into detail too much, I can say that in the process of designing extensionblocks, I went through tens of possible conductor candidates, trying each and everyone to achieve the balance I wanted. Over the course of this, I had the idea to connect the 6 outlets in one extensionblock with different wire and on purpose not make a note of what was where so that I wouldn’t infuence myself during listening. For extra double-blind listening I invited a friend whom I told nothing about what I’d done. This was admittedly more like single blind testing, but that’s besides the point. What I had installed was pure silver wire, a mix of gold and silver wire and pure copper wire while there was another variant where I used the same conductor but with a different jacket.
Well what do you know?! We could easily distinguish between all the variants used. Gold-silver was the clear winner. This was to be expected as it was with a large margin the most expensive conductor but in audio you just never know, so I was still surprised. What’s more, my listening partner, who knew nothing about the conductors used, arrived at the same conclusion. What we also found was that despite the starwiring, you could still hear small differences between the 6 outlets, probably because the length of cable varies from socket to socket. In most cases, the first position sounds best (being most natural).
But we discovered that you can also hear the jacket that surrounds the conductor. When we listend to the same conductor with sleeving A and sleeving B it was as if we were listening to two completely different brands of cable! Again, I was glad that I had left my friend in the dark because that kept him in an objective position when he proclaimed the one a winner over the other.
At a later date I decided to further up the game by also test the ground cabling used. I wired half the extensionblock with the same conductor as I used for the live and neutral and wired the other half with ordinairy installation wire. Again I left the friend in the dark as to what he was hearing. And of course we could hear a difference! In the case of earthing the differences are definitely smaller than for the live and neutral positions but still you could make out the type used.
What’s more, and you will probably not believe this, you can even hear these differences when not using earthed wall outlets. I’ll let that one sink in… Yes, even when you’re not actually using the earth you can hear what kind of conductor was used for it. I think that this may be so because at the component level, earth is connected and as such wires all components together via the mains cables. I’ve also heard differences when you’re just sticking a cable in a vacant outlet of an extensionblock while not connecting the other end of the cable to anything. In this case you still hear that cable’s character. This may have to do with inductance but I cannot be sure. Nor do I really care. But trust you me: the effect is there!
Just like with power cables, short connecting leads exhibit the same differences as powercords. Even lengths of 10 cm or less have a distinct “sound”. What you’ll hear are things like warm versus cool, fast versus slower and more rounded and lively versus damped.
I can go on about the differences between solid core and litze, silver plating and mixing conductors but I think you get the point. The bottomline is that in audio everything matters. Never make the mistake to underestimate the importance of seeminly unimportant little things like the conductors inside extensionblocks.