Power Cable

THE HELIX IMAGE" Power Cable

The “HELIX IMAGE” power cable represents several years of researching different cable architectures and materials.

I started looking at cable architectures a while back, initiated by an experience with a home lighting repair.

I was installing a new two way switch on a hallway light, the type with a switch at each end of the hallway (see diagram below). I decided to play it safe and use my multimeter to verify the open/closed position of the switches.

With the switch in the OFF position everything checked out, but with the switch in the ON position I found that there was a reading of 42 volts on what was supposed to be the "dead conductor" i.e. the red conductor in the diagram below.

page1image6056


I subsequently found articles on the web which verified that in this particular situation it is common for one of the conductors in standard household power cable to register an "induced voltage".

In the case of “conventional” cable architectures, the live conductor and the neutral conductor tend to be side by side in extremely close proximity for the length of the cable, so is it reasonable to assume that noise will be induced between the conductors in a power cable?.
Would “noise pollution” also be present on the ground conductor, which, and depending on the design of a components circuit, might also have an adverse effect on sound quality?

Additional research revealed even more to consider regarding good cable design...

For more information on cable design issues please read the three articles below that talk about the many problems that challenge cables designers.

They will provide a great deal of insight into the many parameters and design techniques employed to build cables that excellent in their performance.

The articles are specific to Interconnect and speaker cables, but much of the theory also applies to power cables


https://www.psaudio.com/article/cables-time-is-of-the-essence-part-1/

https://www.psaudio.com/article/cables-time-is-of-the-essence-part-2/

https://www.psaudio.com/article/cables-time-is-of-the-essence-part-3/



The premise of the helical design concept eliminates the parallel conductors which minimizes cable issues to imperceivable levels!

BONUS! - the Helix acts as a Faraday Cage just for the LIVE wire!



But First My Disclaimer:

DO NOT attempt any of the assemblies detailed below unless you are an experienced
Electrical Professional OR Electronics Hobbyist - otherwise consult a technician!

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for following local electrical codes. Failure to do so may result in personal injury, damage to equipment, or power cable failure which can result in fire.

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the cable selected is suitably rated for the power requirements of the component(s) it will be attached too !

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the IEC/Mains connectors are installed observing the correct polarity !
- failure to do so can result in poor operation, component failure or electric shock.


YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the dielectric strength of the insulation on ALL conductors used, meets or exceeds local codes!

e.g. In North America - 600v at 200 Celsius for 120v 50/60 Hz supply


These Power cables are only to be used for
Home Audio Purposes and must not subjected to harsh environments and frequent handling, which generally require additional protective coverings.

The materials mentioned below comply with most codes for NORTH AMERICA ONLY!

Electrical codes in other countries may require the selection of different materials, therefore
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for following those local electrical codes.

YOU are responsible for ensuring “power related” assemblies are safe to use!


What size wire do you recommend for various components?

For "power components" i.e. amps and power conditioners, I have found that using a single 2 x 14 gauge live Conductor (effectively an 11 gauge wire) will suffice for the most demanding components (e.g. amps up to 600 watts).

You might think an 11 Gauge cable is capable of handling much more that 600 watts, HOWEVER, transient peaks in the music can result in very high instantaneous current demands. This cable has been designed to accommodate a significant amount of "headroom" in order to handle those peaks without compressing the signal,
so I conservatively rate its use up to 600 watts.

However, since you will NEVER drive a high output amps to their max, these power cables can be used with higher wattage components up to 1000 watts.

For the LIVE Conductor of Source Component power cables:
Either…

  • 2 strands of 14 gauge Neotech UP-OCC solid copper - my preference for Heavy Duty cables
  • 2 strands of 18 or 16 gauge UP-OCC Solid Copper for Source power cables

Materials...

The materials listed below will build a 5ft power cable that is suitable for use with Power Aimplifiers rated up to 600 watts.


For 5 ft power cable you will require…
  • LIVE conductor: 10 ft of one of the wires identified above
  • NEUTRAL Conductor: 15 feet of Stranded Neotech UP-OCC wire with teflon insulation
  • GROUND Conductor: 15 feet of green 12 gauge mains copper wire from Home Depot
  • 4" of 3/4" or 1” black Heat Shrink sleeve
  • 2" of 1/8" black heat shrink sleeve with adhesive
  • Optionally 6 ft of 1/8" diameter cotton sleeve - when installed the sleeve expands, which makes it shorter
  • 1 Pair of SONAR QUEST CRYO Ag Audio Grade Silver plated IEC plug + US main plug
  • eutectic solder suited for electronics use - or WBT 4% silver solder can also be used
  • 1 - 5/16” (7-8mm) diameter fibreglass rod 4-5 ft long - available from Home Depot

For the Spade/Fork terminals…
  • buy the 10/12 gauge (yellow) for the double neutral conductor
  • and 14/16 gauge if using solid wire for the Live conductor, otherwise use the 10/12 gauge
  • I buy them from a local auto supply, electrical or hardware store
  • Spades


Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 4.31.10 PM

The Sonar Quest connectors have heavy Silver plating on pure copper contacts that provide excellent clamping and transmission of electrical current - available from ebay

I use an approximate ratio of 3:1 of Ground/Neutral:Live conductor

e.g. for a 5ft power cable I use 15ft of Ground and Neutral Conductor



How To Make Them...

To determine the “Direction” of the Helix - see Inside The Helix Geometry.


The Neutral Conductor...
On the 5/16” rod, wind the neutral conductor in a helix configuration, space the windings about 1/4” apart and remove from the rod.

pc1



The Ground Conductor...

On the 5/16" rod, wind the green GOUND conductor in a helix configuration, space the windings about 1/4” apart and remove from the rod.

pc3

  • Interleave the Neutral conductor and the Ground conductor while the ground conductor is still on the rod
  • apply heat shrink to each end such that the connectors have a more solid foundation for the cable grip to clamp onto.


power one



The Live Conductor…

Constructor the Live conductor as shown in…
The HELIX IMAGE (Air)

  • Thread the Live conductor assembly through the centre of the red & green coil(s)
  • Trim and attach a second 12/10 awg spade connector on free end of the Live conductor, crimp and solder in place.
  • Attach a second 12/10 awg spade connector on the free end of the neutral conductor, crimp and solder in place.
  • Place 12/10 awg spade connectors on both ends of the ground conductor, crimp and solder in place
  • OPTIONAL: add expandable nylon tube for added cable protection


Here are two of my earlier power cables sitting on cable lifters...

Power cables

NOTE: When Attaching the Sonar Quest connectors to the cable assembly...

PLEASE ensure you adopt the correct polarity - your life may depend on it!!!



Mains Polarity




Assembly Notes...

Why do I use spade connectors? -

  • First, trying to attach the mains/IEC connectors to a large gauge cable is very difficult,
  • More importantly - the spade connectors prevent detachment from the connectors in the event of unforeseen stress being placed on the connectors.
  • I have also found that the spade connectors that are crimped and soldered actually improve sound quality.

For a more secure crimped joint, I always crimp from the back - as shown in the image below, which prevents the collar from opening.

Crimp-022


I use pliers as shown in this image that applies an extended crimp along the whole length of the spade connectors collar

imgres


Cables that are more suited to source components can use lighter gauge conductors, but be sure to determine their power requirements and select a gauge that can handle it with headroom to spare.

Can you use other brands of IEC/Mains connectors?


Of course. Some people might prefer to use Furutech, or Oyaide high quality connectors.

Others may prefer to use something more reasonably price, like the Vanguard range of connectors.

I believe the Sonar Quest connector line provides exceptional sound quality for a reasonable price.

Power Cables for my Source Components...
Most “Source components” - like CD players, phono stages, DACs, etc.. draws significantly less power than amplifiers. They typically consume up to 40 watts

So, they do not require a 12 gauge power cable !


Most source components have a “less capable” power supply than amplifiers.

So their performance can be improved using a better “quality” power cable !


The following are details for building the
HELIX IMAGE - SOURCE power cable as follows...

  • A dual neutral conductor made from 14 gauge silver plated Mil-spec wire,
  • OR, a single neutral conductor made from a single strand of 14 gauge Neotech stranded UP-OCC copper wire - is simpler to fabricate and will improve performance
  • The ground wire is a single 14 gauge copper wire - I now use the Mil-spec wire - it retains the coil shape better
  • for neutral and ground wires - use a ratio of 4:1 neutral to signal to provide adequate helix coverage
  • The Live conductor can be either a 2 x 18 or 2 x 16 gauge UP-OCC bare copper wire, each wire inserted in a teflon tubes
  • The construction techniques are almost identical to the standard HELIX Image power cable above
NOTES:
  • DO NOT use wire that has a cotton insulation - they are not rated for mains use in power cables

So - for a 5 ft cable you will need...
  • 2 x 5 ft of 18 or 16 gauge Neotech Solid copper for the Live conductor
  • 2 x 20 ft of 14 gauge Silver plated Mil-spec wire from Take Five audio for the neutral OR…
  • 1 x 20 ft of Neotech stranded UP-OCC copper wire with insulation removed
  • 1 x 20 ft of Teflon Tube (PTFE 10 Tubing .106"ID .130"OD Approx. 10 awg ) from Take Five Audio
  • 1 x 20 ft of 14 gauge Silver plated Mil-spec wire from Take Five audio for the Ground conductor
  • 7 ft of 1/8” cotton sleeve (if desired)
  • 14 and 18 gauge Spade connectors - auto supply stores normally have very cheap spade connectors
  • 2" of 1/8” heat shrink tube with adhesive
  • some masking tape
  • quality solder - I now use eutectic solder, but high content (e.g. 4%) silver solder can also be used



So why do they work?

The power supply of an amplifier tends to be very well designed and built, because of the power requirements at play, whereas the more affordable source components, tend to be built to a price point and therefore the power supply is very often not as “capable” as the rest of the circuit.

The rest of the electrical components are very often just as capable as those in the amp, but in operation, their performance is impacted by the inadequacies of the power supply when handling transient peaks in the signal

So if you use a very good power cable on a source component you can mitigate some of the inadequacies of its power supply.

Solid silver wire, if used for the Live conductor has an IACS rating of around 106% compared to UP-OCC copper at around 103%


What is IACS? — it’s a measure of the conductivity of various metals relative to “Pure Copper”, a standard developed for copper wire producers, annealed copper having a rating of 100%

So the silver wire in these cables is able to respond more quickly to transient signal demands.

ALSO - the insulation on this particular silver wire has a Dielectric Constant (Dk) of 1.4, compared to Teflon at 2.1. But if the Air adaption is used the IACS approaches 1.1-1.2

The continual change in polarity of the alternating current charges and recharges the insulation much like the dielectric in a capacitor, which induces noise into the conductor. A lower Dk reduces the amount of noise generated internally within the conductor itself.


What improvements did I observe?

  • There was a significant improvement in the details of “venue acoustics” - i.e. echoes and reverberations
  • dynamics were noticeably crisper
  • the image was noticeably larger front-to-back and there was more precision of artist location within the image
  • there appeared to be more “air” around each performer
  • clarity was improved, i.e. you could hear more of the fine details and layers within the music

I recommend making the single 2 x 18 gauge cables...


ONLY - if your component draws less than 40 watts - WHY?

The 18 gauge wire(s) is rated at around 1 amp - HOWEVER - transient spikes can result in significantly higher current draws, which can impact performance or even overheat the cable.

For components rated BETWEEN 40 - 80 watts - use 2 x 16 gauge strands (effectively 13 gauge).



Using Helix Power Cables in a more "Demanding" Environment?
Let's face it, power cables in an audio system "generally" sit at the back of the audio rack and DO NOT move, except for the occasional component swap or audition. It's not what I consider a dynamic environment. so the construction methods and materials above are "safe", but for this style of use ONLY!

I will warn that the Helix power cable IS NOT SUITED (intended or designed) to be used in extreme rugged and demanding environments. such as a recording studio or a live performance !
If you need a "REALLY HEAVY DUTY CABLE", then, The Helix IS NOT the cable you need, so get yourself a length of Furutech bulk mains cable, which is designed to be used in almost any environment.

The Journey...

I’m a frugal person with a distinct dislike of overpaying for something as simple as a piece of wire!


I started making my own cables many years ago from Bulk cable with reasonably priced connectors.

I first tried Furutech bulk cable and then stumbled upon DH Labs, which I believe offers similar performance for about 1/3 the price - how could you not like that.

I then investigated a braided architecture which proved very effective, even using plain old Romex house wire.

Finally, I tried the Helix Architecture, which has proved to be the best performing power cable architecture to date.

I have now implemented this architecture on all my cables that have anything to do with audio.

What do they sound like?

The “HELIX IMAGE Power Cable” is a high performance power cable that allows connected components to perform to the best of their abilities.

They assist components in delivering ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled and very natural bass performance.

How Long is the Burn-In Period?

It is imperative that these cables are allowed adequate time to settle and burn-in...

  • they will sound extremely good on initial installation
  • after about 60 hours they allow more of the micro details in the form of venue specific reverberation captured in live recordings, or applied by very talented sound engineers, to clearly be heard.

The end of the Road?

My hope is that this design will be embraced and enhanced by the DIY Community and encourage them to experiment with different conductor materials and configurations to tailor the sound to their own liking.


For Helix cable spec’s please see Its More Than Just Numbers - Isn't It?

My Review System:



page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy


Power Supply Basics

WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional - consult a technician

OK - so this is one of those areas where the whole "audiophile" world can go completely berserk with cables, outlets and plugs made from high priced materials and components to "purify the supply"

If you have the money to spend and the belief they work - by all means buy them. You've obviously done your homework! So skip this section.

But - this guy loves his wife and he wants to stay married to her - high honey Happy

On the other hand, if you are not knowledgeable in this area and want to get a basic understanding of what can be accomplished - read on...

Screen shot 2013-03-29 at 2.08.43 PM

So, what are the power related items that you can augment or add to improve the quality of the power to a component?
  • The power line from the junction box
  • the wall outlet
  • Filtered outlets
  • Power cable plugs and connectors
  • Power cable lead (i.e. the wire)
  • Power Conditioner
  • Power regenerator
  • Balanced power supply
  • Isolation Transformers

BUT FIRST - Let's talk about the UPS before we go any further:
  • Many are primarily designed to protect computer electronics and allow you enough time to shut down your computer.
  • There are a few designed for "Consumer H-Fi", but most are designed for computer use
  • Their outlets may not provide the best clamping of plugs
  • Getting one with a sufficient rating to power your setup for a couple of minutes can be expensive
  • I have read of success stories, but my attempts with my AV system have only resulted in failure.
  • I definately WOULD NOT consider these for audiophile use at present.

So - let's take a look at the more basic things you can do...
  • if possible run a separate power line from the junction box to the hi-fi
  • while you're doing that make it a 20 amp cable - your hi-fi will love you for it! Happy
  • install a 20 amp Pass and Seymour MRI grade outlet - do not do this on a 15 amp line - IT'S AGAINST CODE!
  • if you can't run a new cable, then replace the 15 amp outlet with a 15 amp hospital grade outlet
  • if you really want to up the anti - install one of the basic Furutech Outlets or a similar product/brand - there's lots to choose from

Why hospital grade? - they are manufactured to higher standards with better materials - but more importantly, they clamp on the pins of the plug so much better.

Why not install a "filtered outlet" instead? - this is yet another place where opinions differ...
  • I prefer NOT to have a filter/conditioner on my Amp
    • I've have read they can compress the sound
    • Companies like Nordost promote the use of unfiltered power sources!
    • Other companies make their bread and butter from them - so they think they are essential!
  • using an unfiltered outlet gives you more options - like - adding an external unit later should YOU choose to
  • tell ya what - try one and see what happens Happy

Now, if you are not replacing your power cord - WHY NOT?
  • the least you can do is replace the plugs/connectors?

Why?
  • Because that crappy little cable that was meant for a computer has an even worse plug on it!
  • when you cut into the cable - you'll see how bad the cable really is
  • you'll do yourself a favour and replace the power cord while you're at it! - mission accomplished! Happy

Seriously
If you do not plan on replacing the 18 gauge power cords that came with your components
STOP RIGHT HERE!
You'll just be wasting your money!


But if you are serious about fine tuning the power components of your system a good power cable is essential...

  • there are lots of nice, reasonably priced plugs out there to choose from...
    • like the Vanguard Gold Plated Copper Connectors
    • There are also reasonably priced plugs with un-plated copper pins - is copper good?
      • YES - VERY GOOD, IF YOU KEEP THE PINS CLEAN - annual cleaning required, especially if the outlet is on an outside wall!
  • Then there's the various cables like that sold by Furutech and DH Labs...
  • only those that use high quality copper, silver coated copper and solid silver as conductors should be used
  • Screened cable, braided and helix designs that assist in dealing with eliminating RF are preferred
  • For added safety/security I crimp spade connectors to the conductors
  • this ensures maximum electrical contact and the wire should remain securely attached
  • If you prefer to go the ready made route, be aware that some "boutique cables" do not actually perform that well
    • The market for these is huge and like anything else - some companies charge over the top for their product
  • Which one to buy? -
    • Look for the companies that specialize in unconventional cable architectures like Anticables
    • Price too good to be true? - be very aware of Brand Fakes!
  • I also think that like any other component in the system you need to match the cable to its component e.g.
    • I would start with 10-12 gauge for amps and 14-15 gauge for ALL other components

So now you've got the outlets and power cables sorted - what's next?
  • Generally, some sort of power distribution centre, like a Power Bar or Power Conditioner
  • The main problem here is the market is flooded with poorly made power bars and conditioners
    • unless you get one from a reputable company like Furutech, PS Audio, etc. - they are not desirable due to poor construction and materials
    • If you are going to spend that much, you might also look at a power conditioner
ADDENDUM: I now use a DIY Power Distribution Bar using Pass and Seymour MRI grade outlets and found the that the performance improvements in sound stage and micro details were well worth the change.

Combined with my
DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX" I find no need for a power conditioner

What is a
"Balanced Power Supply"?
  • Basically, it is a large transformer that is "generally" wired into the mains supply beside the junction box
  • It provides clean and phase coherent balanced AC power that remains stable regardless of how they are loaded down
  • Good ones are built like tanks and are designed to handle the dynamic demands of music, like those available from Equi=tech
  • There are also "portable products: that plug into the wall outlet.
    • A more flexible approach! - until you see the quality of the attached power cord
  • As a general rule of thumb - never connect your component to the main supply via any device with a whimpy power cord!!!

So what exactly is an
"Isolation Transformer" then?
  • It's similar in principle to a Balanced Power Supply in many respects, a little smaller scale, generally portable and most products also offer surge protection and overload protection
  • • Again, units like the Tripplite Medical-Grade Isolation Transformers are built to higher specifications and can also be used in audio setups
    • Units with a sufficiently high power rating can be used on the lower powered Integrated/Power amps
    • However, it is very important that you know the VA rating, since units often have a "trip device" to protect against overloads
    • I would recommend ONLY using these on source components or lower powered tube amps due to their reduced power handling abilities
  • NOTE: - from what I have observed, these units can be used in place of a power conditioner and do not appear to compress the sound.

But wait - what about
"Power Re-generators"?
  • first let me say - there is no better power supply than that which comes out of the outlet - i.e. when it works right!
  • however, if you live in an area that suffers constant power fluctuations/brownouts then you might want to consider one - wait, make that two!
    • As discussed in the section You Need Good Power Cords the peak current demands can get quite high
    • because of that I would recommend one unit for the source and one for the Amp(s).
    • of course that also depends on how much power your system needs - One unit would be ample for my entire system.
  • Expensive - yes, but how much is your system worth - bad power can destroy your investment - seriously!
  • These units do not have the same "headroom" as the power company, but if the power supply is really bad then it becomes a viable solution
  • I do think they should be considered "A LAST RESORT" to fix a troublesome mains supply, rather than considering them as standard equipment Happy
  • But - if you are in a real bind with your power supply and can afford the best the industry has to offer - go for it Happy

A DIY Power Distribution Box/Panel

As a minimum, you should install a quality power distribution box to plug components into.

This diagram details the the wiring method to follow
Power Bar

These are fairly simple to build with the right parts....

You will also need the following....

Spring Clips like this for connecting to the mini breaker...
image[17]

IEC Chassis Connector like this...

image[14]

Mini Circuit Breaker of the correct current rating like this...
image[11]

All the wiring on the Neutral side is ROMEX house wire - but higher quality wire can be used such as 12 gauge mil spec wire from Take Five Audio

The wiring on the live side can be ROMEX, but higher quality wire, such as Furutech will perform better. If you use stranded wire I would recommend using spade connectors to fasten them

Wiring each outlet back to the power bus improves the isolation between outlets and reduces the capability for injecting noise from one component to another component

To sum up! - the things that I consider will get the most bang for the buck are...
  • A dedicated Power line from the junction box - 20 amp if possible
    • this will result in less noise, since the line is not shared with household appliances e.g. with the washing machine
  • A hospital grade outlet - i.e. at minimum
    • better plug-pin clamping will result in better transmission of power to the component
  • A good power cable - including good plugs/connectors
    • please read the section "You Need Good Power Cords" for benefits
  • A power distribution Box
    • at a minimum to plug the source components into
    • The DIY box above is great value
  • An isolation transformer
    • ONLY if the power supply to the house old and is very noisy
    • removes any noise that may be present at the outlet

The rest of the items talked about here will certainly improve the quality or the power in your supply, but they tend to get very expensive and are more of a
"last resort fix" to resolve the more difficult power supply issues you might encounter!

Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference

WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional do not attempt to build/fix anything that uses mains voltage electricity — consult a technician

This debate has been ongoing for many years and until now I have never seen an adequate reasoning!

I've just completed updating all of my power cables — and YES! — it does work — for both Audio and Video

Maybe this example will explain why...

Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 3.29.31 PM

So what happens inside the amp if the dynamic current peaks cannot be accommodated?

If power supply within the amp cannot supply the current required at the speed required to amplify the signal to it's required levels...
  • the voltage within the circuit will fluctuate ever so slightly.
  • the fluctuations can result in distortions being introduced into the amplified signal.
  • also, remember there are two amplifiers operating in a stereo system, so the fluctuations will not be exactly the same.
  • this can result is subtle changes to the phase of the two signals of the LR channels.
  • changes in phase tend to alter the stereo image such that the image becomes "smeared" or "unfocused”.
  • In exotic amp designs the power transformers tend to be very large, are made from great quality copper and have lots of "headroom" — that's why the sound better:
    • "headroom" is the excess capacity available to address the peaks in power demand
    • the transformers are also designed to be very efficient,
    • Therefore peaks in current demand are accommodated by their ability to supply the required current from the power supply directly and when that is exhausted, from the main supply.
  • If there is a tiny little power cord attached to the amp then the “effective supply, i.e. as seen by the power supply of the amp, is unable provide the required current in time.
  • The amp will not perform up to it's “fullest potential" and
  • The stereo image and dynamic response will not be as good as what is actually achievable.

Most hi-end stereo equipment is designed with sufficient "headroom" in the power supply, but the power cord may be insufficient to deal with the peak transient demands that the internal circuitry and components are capable of.

More modestly priced components tend to skimp a little on the components in their power supply because they are designed to a “price point”.
  • However, their internal circuitry and components are often very capable of a significantly higher level of performance if only the power supply were more “capable”

In either case — having quality power cabling, connectors , etc., will allow all audio components to perform to a significantly higher level.

What can you do to ensure the equipment is working to it's fullest abilities?
  • Ensure that the outlet into which the equipment is plugged into is at least a hospital grade outlet — but you don't need to go nuts...
    • I have a 20 amp hospital grade MRI outlet from Take Five Audio - it has much stronger clamping abilities.
    • Even a 15 amp hospital grade outlet will be better than a standard outlet.
  • Ensure that all mains leads are of sufficient gauge and made from high quality copper.
    • 10 gauge minimum for amps.
    • Even larger for those very big mono-block amps or very high powered amps (say, 1000 watts and up).
    • 12-15 gauge minimum for source components .
  • Ensure that all plugs are of a reasonable quality — again you don't have to go nuts.
    • SONAR QUEST CRYO Ag Audio Grade Silver plated connectors are very good and reasonably priced.
  • For added safety/security I crimp spade connectors to the conductors.
    • This ensures maximum electrical contact and the wire should remain securely attached.

The same applies to TV's also — the better the cord the better the image!

So why doesn't the manufacturer provide good power cords?
  • All amps are designed to a "price point”.
  • the manufacturer knows that if they include a good cord it will up their price compared to the competition.
  • they also know that the informed consumer will buy a better cord anyway.
  • NAIM did have a slightly better cord included, but it falls very short from the cables that really makes it "shine”.

There’s a question out there on the web which asks-

“How can a 5ft quality built power cable make any difference?”


After all...

  • There’s all sorts of noise on transmission lines.
  • Add to that the noise in old transformers on hydro poles and all those poor connections.
  • The crappy quality wire in the walls of your house/apartment doesn’t help.
  • and don’t forget all those noisy household appliances.

To answer that question you first have to understand electricity a little...

A mistake often made is equating the flow of electrical current to the flow of water through a hose, which is not the case.

AC stands for Alternating Current but, in reality it’s alternating voltage — the voltage is a sine wave that cycles to +120v and -120v either side of a zero voltage point at 50/60 cycles a second.

When a circuit is completed by turning on a switch, some electrical energy is transferred — however
  • The reality is — the loosely coupled Valence Electrons in the cable, shift in one direction — but only for one half of the cycle
  • As the voltage enters the other half of the cycle the Valence Electrons - shifts in the other direction
  • So there is no “flow of electrons” as such — they just shuffle back and forth — however, there is a transfer of energy
  • This means all that noise in the transmission lines and house wiring never ACTUALLY arrive at your components
  • The noise that does get to your components is in the last 5ft of the supply line
  • YES! - YOUR power cables!

So, if you can clean up this section, the power coming to the components will be clean and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities.


What causes all this noise?

Primarily -
poor power cable design!

Let me explain - If you have two wires in parallel and side by side, i.e. just as in a power cable having a conventional architecture...
  • when you pass electricity through one wire i.e. the live wire...
  • noise is induced into the other wire(s) i.e. the neutral and the ground
  • The ground wire is not too much of an issue, since it goes directly to ground and is only really connected to the components chassis as a safety consideration
  • BUT - if the noise gets into the Neutral wire — it can impact the actual operation of the components circuit
  • if you can interrupt the induction process you can clean up the power in that last 5ft of power cable

How can you clean up the last 5ft?
  • Well, as stated above — the wires have to be adjacent and parallel for induction to take effect.
  • You could just separate them by about one inch, but that’s not really a convenient solution.
  • But one very simple method is to braid the conductors — the tighter the braid the better they perform.
  • In a braid, the wires cross each other at an angle between 30-50 degrees .
  • This is enough to reduce the effect of the induction process.
  • resulting in a significant reduction in noise.

Another more advanced and effective method...

Is to wrap the Neutral and Ground conductors around the Live Conductor in a helix
  • This is the most effective approach because the neutral and ground conductors are almost at 90 degrees to the live conductor
  • There is virtually no noise induced into the neutral or ground conductors.
  • The neutral and ground conductors also interrupt RFI/EMI pollution of the Live conductor.
  • The resulting power is virtually clean.
  • But, this “winding process” is much more complex to implement.
  • And more than doubles the amount of wire required.
    • Probably the main reason why it is seldom used.
  • Typically, for a Ft 5 power cord I would use 12-14 Ft of wire for each of the neutral and ground conductors.
  • There is one upside — the wire used for the Neutral and Ground wires does not have to be of the same high quality as the wire for the Live Conductor.

I found that for both Ground and Neutral conductors,
  • using a stiffer wire allows it to “hold” the helix shape once it has been formed and it does not have to be of the same high quality copper as the Live Conductor.
  • You can then insert a high quality, more flexible “live” conductor, like those available from Furutech or DH Labs, into the helix to complete the three conductors required for mains cables.
  • The higher purity copper used in the live conductor will provide a much faster response to transient demands, i.e., better dynamic response.

To form the helix...
  • an easy approach is to wind the conductors around a wooden dowel.
  • the resulting helix is like a spring and quite flexible.
  • This also reduces the likelihood of the less flexible wires from cracking or breaking
  • See DIY Power Cables - The “POWER HELIX"

Of all of the power cable architectures I have tried to date, I have found the helix architecture to provide the most detailed and dynamic performance.

For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens

WARNING: if you attempt this there are a couple of issues you have to address...
  • Ensure the cable is rated for mains use - I use cable capable of handling >=600v at 200 celsius .
  • the gauge you select must be able to carry the power required by the component.
  • DO NOT use Romex House Wire for prolonged use — it will crack and fail with use.
  • Ensure you get the polarity correct when connecting the MAINS/IEC plugs.
    • Reversing the polarity could result in degraded performance.
    • It can also result in electrical shock.

For added security I always crimp small plated copper spades on the ends of each wire and then fasten those into the mains connectors. They are about the safest method, other than soldering, of ensuring the wires will not pull out. The other benefit is that they appear to assist in the transmission process — the net result being improved dynamic performance.

What is the optimum length of a power cable?...

  • Most of my cables are between 4 and Ft 6 long.
  • I have one helix cable that is only 3ft long and it works extremely well.
    • But I would not personally make them any shorter than 3ft Happy
    • Longer than Ft 6 becomes a bit unmanageable to build

DISCLAIMER...

Failure to connect plugs using the correct polarity can result in electric shock resulting in death or may cause equipment to malfunction, resulting in fire!

If you have not had adequate training in the maintenance of electrical appliances, mains electricity or power electrical theories - DO NOT attempt to maintain or build power related products!


IF YOU ATTEMPT TO BUILD POWER CABLES YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK!
  • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR COMPETENCE IN CABLE ASSEMBLY PROCEDURES!
  • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR MATERIALS CHOICE!
  • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INTERPRETATION OF INFORMATION ON THIS BLOG!

IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS - CONTACT AN ELECTRICAL TECHNICIAN FOR ASSISTANCE