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Power to the People -- the AudioQuest power cables

Dave Bar worked for Crutchfield from 1981 until his retirement in 2016. After a 23-year stint in the sales department, he joined the home A/V writing staff. Dave's expertise and good humor will be sorely missed.

More from Dave Bar

You spent countless hours researching and agonizing over your component choices. You carefully connected your gear together with top-notch patch cords and speaker cables to ensure all the quality that you paid for makes it through to the business end of your system. You even added a high-quality power conditioner/surge suppressor to enhance performance and protect your investment from the “nasties” that crawl through the power grid into your home.

Then you go and plug it all in using the wimpy stock AC power cords that came in the box with your components. Sound familiar? That was me! At least it was until I discovered that there’s such a thing as high-performance replacement AC power cords. I know it might sound crazy, but these things really work. Here’s my story (and I’m sticking to it)…

I started by replacing the stock power cord on my Panamax MAX® 5500 conditioner/suppressor with an AudioQuest NRG-3 (figuring that an upgrade here would potentially benefit all my gear, since everything is plugged into it). I immediately noticed a big jump in bass output from my powered subwoofer. And it wasn’t just a volume increase; there was actually greater bass definition, clarity, and extension. Each note became much more distinct, with bass lines sounding more tuneful and easier to follow. I was also hearing low-frequency information that I’d never noticed before coming through on pipe organ and movie soundtracks. I ultimately wound up backing the level on the sub down just a bit. (You might like what it does enough to leave it where it is! It’s a matter of personal taste.)

The benefits didn’t stop at the low end, either. I was also hearing less digital edginess when listening to CDs, along with greater depth and width in the stereo soundstage. Even surround sound effects started really popping during movie playback! Most surprising of all was the improvement in picture quality on my (now ancient) Sony CRT rear projection TV. The old girl never looked better! Black levels were much deeper than before, and yet I could make out far more detail in the darkened areas of the screen. And the whites looked, well, whiter. I also noticed that the entire picture seemed clearer and more focused.

After replacing the stock Panamax AC cord, I went on to swap out the power cable on my Onkyo receiver. The improvements were much the same as before, if not a bit more subtle. I did notice a significant improvement in mid-bass definition, and further refinements in high-frequency smoothness. Cymbals became much more natural sounding, with plenty of air around them. Bass guitar lines were even more pronounced and easier to track, especially in the upper registers of their range. (Phil Lesh and Jack Casady are even more awesome bass players than I ever really understood, before now.)

No doubt you’re beginning to see the picture. I’m absolutely smitten with my latest “discovery.” I could just kick myself that I waited so long to upgrade this most sadly overlooked and neglected “component” in my system. Oh well, better late than never.

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