Dissecting a Virtual Dynamics Basic Power Cord (photos included)
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Since I posted about having dissected a Virtual Dynamics Basic Power Cord that MooGoesTheCow gave me, I've been receiving many messages asking me what I found.

As I stated earlier, this post isn't intended as any sort of exposé, but it was very interesting. Though Virtual Dynamics only charges $34.95 for this cable, their web site does state that it "is designed to replace typical stock cord and to compete with the value of the most popular $500 power cords from the traditional electronic design theories," and so any opinions I express about its construction and performance are with this statement in mind.

To summarize my experience with power cords very quickly: a few have had noticeable, positive sonic effects on my rig. The effects, however, have been much more subtle than I’ve experienced with interconnects. I’m not suggesting that you’ll all find the same thing to be true, only what I’ve found in my experiences. I’ll go more in depth on the subject in my upcoming power cord review (I’m going to group several into one “article”). Hey! No smart-alecky comments -- I realize I’m late with my reviews.

Before cutting the Virtual Dynamics Basic Power, I used it in my rig, powering my HeadRoom Max headphone amplifier. I figured if it worked some miracles, I'd keep it plugged into the Max and be done with it. I replaced my Acoustic Zen Tsunami with the Virtual Dynamics Basic Power. The Tsunami is one of the power cables that has made a mild, positive sonic contribution to my rig. Long story short, to my ears and in my rig, the Virtual Dynamics Basic Power was a step back from the Acoustic Zen Tsunami -- similar to the very-mild-if-any effects the inexpensive (~$10.00) hospital grade power cord had on my rig (relative to the comes-with-the-amp stock cord).

So with MooGoesTheCow’s blessing (read: encouragement), the Virtual Dynamics Basic Power Cord underwent some irreversible surgery. Why were Moo and I so curious about cutting this particular cable open? Well (1) it’s not too expensive ($34.95); (2) its manufacturer says it’s designed “to compete with the value of the most popular $500 power cords from the traditional electronic design theories;” (3) for a cable with 18-gauge conductors, it is extremely heavy (heavier than some cables I’ve used with 6-AWG conductors); and (4) for a cable with 18-gauge conductors, it is very thick and not too flexible.

Anyway, following is a summary of what I found, along with any opinions that I have about these findings. NOTE: I am not an electrical engineer; nor do I have, or claim to have, any expertise in electrical engineering or cable design.

Almost the entire length of the Virtual Dynamics Basic Power is covered with what appears to be an attractive white nylon outer covering. Cutting past this revealed what looks to me like a standard utility hose. Click here to see a photo.

Now this is where the procedure got interesting: after cutting away a section of the nylon outer covering, I decided that it would be an interesting time to get a cross section of the cable to see what makes the cable so heavy and rigid. Remember, the cable is very heavy. I was performing this cutting on a cutting board on a dining table, and one end of this very heavy cord was hanging off the edge of the table (this is an important detail). Before you read on, make sure to have a clear image in your head of this heavy power cord, with one end dangling off the table, about to be chopped through, with the dangling end not being held onto by me, as I was going to let it drop to the ground. Okay…. So I start cutting through the cable, just aft of the IEC plug, with one of my sharpest knives, and once all the way through, the heavy dangling end falls to the ground, whipping the now-cut end through the air, and spraying (thanks to the whipping motion) a shower of granular, metallic stuff *all over* the place –- all over the table, all over the floor, all over me. Click here for an up-close shot of some of the granular, metallic stuff. The grain size is similar to granulated table salt, only with a great variety of grain shapes (as opposed to table salt’s rather uniform cube-shaped grains). I figured out that this granular, metallic stuff is ferromagnetic, which made magnet-assisted cleanup of the stuff possible -- still, cleanup took quite some time.

So, simply put, the hose-like part of the cable gives the cable its basic structure and girth; and pretty much the entire length of this six-foot hose of cable is stuffed with the granular, metallic stuff. This granular, metallic stuff is what makes the cable so rigid and heavy.

Emptying more of the granular, metallic stuff out into a trash can, I exposed the three twisted 18-gauge conductors. Each of the three conductors appears to me to be standard, stranded 18-gauge conductor. Insulation appears to me to be standard PVC. The three conductors are twisted, and this twisted bundle is wrapped in what looks to me like a spiraled paper outer covering. So this twisted conductor trio is the core of the cable. The granular, metallic stuff surrounds this core; the hose-like body surrounds that; and the nylon outer sheathing covers the hose-like body.

Examining the cross section at the cut-off end of the cable (the IEC end) shows what looks to me like a glue of some sort used to plug each end of the hose-like body, keeping the granular, metallic stuff out of the IEC and NEMA plugs on either side of the cable, and from falling out of the cable. Click here for a picture of this cross section (notice the bits of granular, metallic stuff left over, the position of the twisted conductor trio in this cross section, and what appears to be glue plugging this end of the cable).

Following are a few photos of the cut-off IEC end of the cable in various stages of being peeled away:
  1. This is the cut-off IEC end of the cable with the nylon sheathing cut away, revealing the hose-like covering, and a piece of electrical tape covering a small whole (I’m guessing this whole was used to inject the glue-like stopper material at each end of the cable).

    This is pretty much the same as the above photo, but with the electrical tape peeled away, exposing the aforementioned hole.

    This is a photo of the IEC end with everything peeled away but the twisted trio of conductors.
One of the things I noticed was that the three-conductor core did not appear to stay suspended exactly in the middle of the granular, metallic stuff along the whole length of the cable. At some points in the cable, this twisted core pushed through the granular, metallic stuff and touched the hose-like cover. Also, at each end of the cable (as you can see in the cross section photo), the twisted conductor core is pushed out toward the side, touching the hose-like outer cover.

Regarding the granular, metallic stuff: I'm not sure if this granular, metallic stuff is intended purely as mechanical damping, or if it is supposed to also serve as some sort of full-length ferrite. Really, I have no idea what its purpose really is, but I do know that it’s what gives this cable its very heavy weight. I’m not sure what this granular, metallic stuff is made of, but its ferromagnetism drops at least a hint of its possible content, and/or its partial content.

Am I impressed with the build quality of this cable? Not really. Though I’ve not cut open a $500 power cable, I have cut open some $500 and $900 interconnects, a $150 headphone cable, and a couple of $250 digital cables, and found what appeared to me to be more complex internal designs and fancier materials (like Teflon and Teflon/air dielectrics, and fancy shielding, for example), not to mention what seemed to me like more uniform construction and symmetry, as well what looked to me like better cable body fit and finish from sheath to core. If I ever get the time, I’ll try to take some photos of some of these other cables I’ve cut open (in another thread, I did post some photos of a dissected section of Cardas Neutral Reference interconnect). Even a $10 Quail hospital grade power cord exhibits what looks to me like more uniform, symmetrical construction.

Again, I’m no electrical engineer. This post is of my experiences and my opinions only. The Virtual Dynamics Basic Power cord might be just what you’re looking for, and might do better things for you and your rig. It just didn’t work for me as I had hoped, so I cut it open and found that its construction didn’t do much to impress me either.

Maybe one day I’ll try one of the higher end Virtual Dynamics power cords and see if I get better results with one of those.
 
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally posted by jude
Maybe one day I’ll try one of the higher end Virtual Dynamics power cords and see if I get better results with one of those.


...sonically or surgically?


Fascinating pictures. I really like the sound of the Power 3's in my system, to the point that when I decided to try a top of the line set of cables, I decided to start with Virtual Dynamics. I don't have them yet, but there's a case of VD headed my way...


I just switched the CD53 over to the Power 3 from an Absolute Power Cord, and the difference was immediately apparent (I really used to like the APC, dammit). With the EAR HP4 driving the R10, the instrumental separation became greater, that is, each instrument seemed a more coherent whole in its own space. Bass extension was improved a lot as well (and the R10 needs every bit of low end help it can get). I tried switching back to the APC, but the difference was so obvious that I went back to the Power 3 again, pending the arrival of my upgrade.
 
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eric343

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In my professional (*cough* *cough*) opinion, that ferromagnetic powder is probably sandblasting sand (well, it looks like sandblasting sand; I don't know if sandblasting sand is magnetic). Is it connected in any way to ground? If not, I'd say its purpose is mostly filler; though it might act partly as a ferrite core despite the powdery nature meaning that it would be a very ineffective ferrite.

The glue stuff appears to be standard hot glue, availible in nearly any craft store; though it might be special 'audiophile' hot glue


And the air-hose is a nice touch - reminds me of the Vanhaus DIY-power cord design that uses that same type of air hose as an outer dielectric...

The inner tri-wire cable appears to be a standard run-of-the-mill power cord; I believe Quail sells some nice ones for $1/foot. They're a bit heavier guage, though.

Anyone want to send Jude a Nite?



BTW, great job with the pics. They're MUCH better than the Cardas Neutral Refernce photos!
 
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daycart1

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Wow, the pellet thingees must be for shielding. I guess (OK, wildly speculate) that this means much of the benefit is for those with RFI/EMF problems.

I wonder whether the cryo versions cryo the wire or the pellets??



I wonder whether the super-premium strains of VD use gold or platinum pellets?
 
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antness

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Does anyone have an opinion about the Cardas power cable? Not sure what model it is, but it's sold at Welborne Labs for $85 and looks almost like the Cardas HD600 cable.
 
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eric343

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Buy it and open it up!

Daycart: Actually, according to the VD website, the pellet-sand is for vibration damping. To reduce "skin-effect" (where electricity travels more on the surface of the conductor than on the inside, creating phase distortions), according to them, it's important to surround the cable with something that will absorb the microscopic vibrations. Now, while I would argue that surrounding a POWER cord with FERROMAGNETIC particles would CAUSE vibrations (the 60hz vibrating magnetic field around it, remember?), they're the ones that designed it so it must do something...
 
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daycart1

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That's interesting, Eric. Nothing beats reading, I should try it. Are they referring to microscopic mechanical vibration, or to molecular "vibration" caused by EM effects?
 
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eric343

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According to VD:
Quote:

Skin effects, like any distortion, are a result of external energies transferring into the audio signal. Resistance in the flow of electrons (Coulomb Friction) causes a mechanical vibration inside the conductor. This mechanical vibration is one such external energy threatening the cleanliness of your audio signal. The vibration will have a predetermined frequency that is the net result of the added impact of every mass and material combination that an electron may flow through. In addition, the impedance of this Coulomb Friction vibration increases as electricity through the conductor is increased.

Our studies concluded that this vibration may be removed via inertia to a physical object of greater mass and mechanical conductivity. Unfortunately most dielectric materials have extremely low mass and are not conductive to vibration. However, our Dynamic Filtering provides a large mass around the conductor, causing more of the vibration to be transferred out of the conductor.

Through this application not only do we increase the speed, linearity and bandwidth of electrical frequencies, but subsequently deal with many forms of distortion, including Skin Effects. Eliminating the mechanical vibration allows us to use larger solid core conductors in our cables, resulting in a stronger, cleaner signal.


Unfortunately, it's too late right now and my brain isn't quite able to dissect it as well as I'd like. But I do find it quite interesting that they show this image of the inside of their cables:
 
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I've found ICs to have a more dramatic change in my system than my VD Reference, but the latter did bring a blacker background and with it, more air between instruments and increased imaging. It's a great cable that needn't be hyped.
 
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jude! what did you do to my cable! you were saying something about running some tests on it, but cutting it open... well, i just hope duct tape fixes it.

just kidding. i've been waiting forever for these pics. hilarious. you should do a reinactment of the dissection and spill the pixie dust all over the floor again, posting pics, of course.

btw, you are not touching my zens. ever.
 
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I think we should all chip in and buy Jude a surgical mask and gloves.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by MooGoesTheCow
...and spill the pixie dust all over the floor again...


Pixie Dust. Har!
 
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This is their cheapest version, right? Not the Power 3? To me, it seems like this power cord is simply a regular cord made to look expensive.
 
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While I'm not an expert in VDs cables, and I don't want to speak for them, I have spent a bit of time with Rick describing the design of his cables. I had called complaining of the weight and the stiffness, only to be informed that this was central to their design and plays a large role in the superiority of their sound vs. other after-market cords. Indeed, it is the "pixie dust" and the heavy-ness of the cord itself that is the "secret sauce" of these cables. It does all have to do with removing vibrations, but I'm in no position to describe it accurately.

I've e-mailed Rick at VD to let him know about this thread. I've invited him to register and to make any comments here that he'd like. I'm sure he's better able to discuss their technology than I can.

And as far as build quality goes, it *is* a $35 cable, marketing hyperbole or no. I wouldn't expect the build quality to compare to the $500 ICs you've cut open or to the build quality of your $350 Acoustic Zen Tsunami, and it's a bit unfair to make such a comparison. I think their claims relate more to sound quality than build quality. Their manufacturing costs are no less than any other manufacturer (well maybe 20% less-- they are in Canada!
) , so you shouldn't expect solid gold conductors with diamond tipped IEC prongs.


Mark
 
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eric343

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Hmm... mind if I borrow your Nite for a week?
 
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