Best $50 I've ever spent in my entire audio career! A "markl Certified No-Brainer Headphone Geek Tweak"*. (*Some restrictions apply, read below, please)
I was a skeptic, now a believer in power cords. I had never heard any other aftermarket power cable, so I had no idea what to expect. Based on the performance and obvious build quality of the VD Power 3, I am satisfied in my mind FWIW that I have pretty much licked the power cord "problem" in my system.
Could other aftermarket power cords sound better than the VD Power 3? Probably. Don't care.
OK, before my initial reactions, some opening thoughts on power cords:
1. Someone else said it best when they advised that power cords should be one of the last tweaks in a system you already love. The idea is to add that extra layer of icing on the cake, not to "transform" from a Bose into a Nautilus.
2. It makes little sense to attach a fancy powercord to a low-cost, mass-produced component that has many cost/performance compromises. Although I'm no electrical engineer, it seem obvious to me that adding "clean power" to "dirty" "noisy" or "cheap" components will do little to erradicate the nasties in the system.
My components, a Melos Maestro and a heavily-modified Sony SCD-333ES each have very tricked-out, beefy, well-engineered and thoughtfully constructed power supplies. No, they're not cost no object designs, but they're plenty good, good enough to really allow a good power cable to shine. In fact, the Sony also has Bybee filters at the AC Mains to further reduce distortion in power supply. These components also have higher quality parts in the signal path, components that reject "nasties" and let a clean signal pass.
OK, bottom line, think about your component. Even if it has a removable IC, how good are the parts in there? Good enough to let a POWER CABLE make them sing? If you have your doubts, money should be spent upgrading that component before you swap its power cable!
3. I feel silly talking about the power cable's "sound". I think we should adopt a convention of referring only to the effect the cable had on your component, not the cable's inherent "sound". I refuse to believe that power cables have a "sound" of their own They ain't in the signal path. However, they can let your components really operate closer to peak performance. But a cable's performance and effect is going to vary from system to system, making it much harder to characterize a power cord's "sound". Anyway...
4. Your Headphone Listening Style (http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showth...istening+style
), will also determine the degree to which you will notice the power cord's effects. Affects like these are best appreciated by people who close their eyes and focus solely on the music. That said, I still think that the astonishing level of change I've experienced in my system would be readily obvious to even a casual listen.
5. Power conditioners are good. Monster makes some effective and low-cost solutions. I've recently scaled back from an HTS5000 to the new HTS1100 in anticipation of getting these cables. Again, VD reco'd sticking them straight into the wall. Well, the 1100 has fewer stages of filtartation than the HTS5000 yet it still has the surge protection. So, long story short, these results were obtained with the cables plugged into the conditioner, despite a reco that they go straight to the wall for maximum effect.
OK, so here's some scattered notes about what I've heard so far in relative order of most noticeable to least noticeable areas of change:
1. Weight and authority, especially in the bass. This is not "bloated" bass to me, put firm and powerful. Over the rest of the frequency spectrum, the sound itself benefits greatly from a increased sense of solidity and body. This results in an increased "presence" which aids in imaging too.
2. All sounds and instruments exist clearly in their own space. This translates to better imaging and a bigger soundstage with increased depth.
3. Music seems "faster" and more nimble. Melos was never a "fast" amp, but it's been given quite a boost.
4. Detail, detail detail. I'm overwhelmed at the number of things I'm hearing for the first time on very familiar music. Lowered noise floor means more music gets through. This system is blessed now with incredible sensitivity and subtlety as well as brute force.
OK, that's what I spy right away. I'll post more maybe later. In my history of "tweaks", I would rank the degree of change wrought by the Power 3 in my system thusly:
1. Power 3
2. Getting my Modwright mods for my SCD-333ES (that's a BIG difference)
3. Upgrading to fancy interconnects
4. Swapping tubes
5. Adding a power conditioner
6. Vibrapods (very little, if any noticeable effect)
However, it should be noted that without that existing foundation of tweaks, the Power 3 would not have had as dramatic and noticeable impact, so it's sort of an arbitrary ranking in a way.