Smackdown #1: Preliminary Recap

Smackdown room

Well, I haven’t heard of any fatalities, so I assume all attendees survived our first (full, sold out!) Audio Smackdown! Feedback is starting to come in, and well, well… you guys actually had fun!  Just like we pictured it.

(Note: I just figured out that if you click on the image you get the full size version! Did everyone know that but me?)

This report is a preliminary post to give members who couldn’t make it to the event a sense of the general feeling of the gathering, and give attendees an opportunity to chime in with their impressions by commenting on this blog post. 

Before going any further, I believe I can speak for everyone in saying a gargantuan “Thank You” to Leslie – not just for graciously hosting and reconfiguring her home to accommodate that many members – but for being the superhero queen of cable swapping! I say that because just lifting some of the exotic cables we auditioned was hard work, let alone bending these pythons and finessing the plug into the socket!

Before the event, Leslie’s system was tweaked first by Jason and then just a day before our gathering, by Ted Denney, owner of Synergistic Research. We both would like to say how much we appreciate your efforts and the improvements they made!

Screenshot 2014-03-09 17.30.10

So, here’s a brief recap – which I’ll preface by saying it won’t do the event justice. Not that it was perfect (hardly… but the perfectionist in me did learn a lot about what not to do next time!), however, the buzz in the room was high, with lots of interaction and conversation and we kept the pace fairly brisk to keep everybody awake. It seemed to work.

My apologies in advance if any of the facts are inaccurate. If so, please submit a comment on this post with the fix or additional info you’d like to share about the event.

We auditioned 12 cables, but I’ll only focus on the top four, the ones that won the most battles before being eliminated (except for our winner, of course).

Smackdown Lively

The “Sudden-Death” style of instant elimination A/B comparison is not always fair to all contenders, but life just isn’t always fair… even if you’re a cable. However, it sure works to keep the energy up in the room – and if we didn’t pull that part off, it wouldn’t have felt much like a Smackdown, now would it?

Smackdown Virtual Dynam Genesis

Pictured above is a Virtual Dynamics Genesis power cable that was bought used for $2000 by member Paul, who shared that it was actually a good deal, since the retail is around $10K! This cable won 2 battles, which earns it a 3rd place ranking.

Smackdown Elrod Silver Statement

This, above, is an Elrod Silver Statement, a huge heavy monster that costs $3000, and I’m not sure whether that was used or new! Its owner, (or should I say Snake Charmer?) is Tracy S. This cable won 2 battles, which also earns a tie for 3rd place.

Speltz AC PC Level 3

Apologies to whomever brought this cable above… wait, that was me! OK, apologies to myself that somehow in the commotion I didn’t get an on-site action shot of this Paul Speltz designed Anti-Cables Level 3 Power Cord, so I pulled this photo off his website. Retail cost: $330 for 5 ft. This cable won 5 of its battles, which earns it Second Place in our take-no-prisoners elimination Smackdown.

 

Screenshot 2014-03-09 20.00.47

And Now, the big question: What cable won? Well, it seems to be more mysterious (and embarrassing) than expected. We finished auditioning and had our Smackdown winner… We were wrapping up the event by revealing the identity and price of each power cord by asking its owner to talk about their cable… but, the winner wasn’t there. He had to leave early, and not only do we not have photo of our winner, we’re not exactly sure who it is because the cable doesn’t match up with anything on our list.

We did have some people/cable no-shows, but we had extra cables so we swapped in some of those on the fly, but there wasn’t an opportunity to find out much about them. We expected to get the full details at the unveiling of all the cables and their owners.

So please, if you belong to this last minute winning cable, step forward and I’ll be happy to adjust this post and give you the kudos your cable deserves… especially because, get this, people – it’s HOME MADE! Doesn’t even have a name. I remember a brief discussion early in the event about the cord being silver and copper, but only $0.77 a foot (that can’t be right, can it?) and that it had decent Furutech plugs, but that’s about it.

This DIY cable won 3 of its battles (the last three rounds). Cost:?

We would have loved to have a playoff between these top four cables, but we didn’t have time.

So, that’s it for now. Now you know what I mean by preliminary (yeah, Alón, you can’t even tell us what cable won. Good job, new guy!). Obviously, I need help. Please post a comment on this blog and let’s juice up a conversation and get some answers!

Thank you for appreciating this imperfect first effort. A lot of work went into this event before its debut, and we’re pretty happy about how it turned out. Remember, this should be the beginning of the conversation about the event, not the end. We really want to hear from you! Post that comment while it’s fresh in your mind.

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Note: instead of writing over this last section (with all its attendant mystery and intrigue), I’ve decided to continue on this same post with the new information. Thank you to all for posting your thoughts and excitement about the event. This is just the beginning! Much more fun and thought provoking stuff to come. Here are the photos of the winning cable, from its owner and builder, Larry Deniston, who reveals his secret tweak, below:

DSC_0031

 

Hi Alon,

Attached find a couple of pictures of the cable – kept the shoot out cable number label on for posterity!  A funny note is that when I was looking at the label on the cable to let David know what it was and I noticed that it had directional indicator that I hadn’t seen before and then noted it was hooked up backwards – there’s the secret to the sound quality!
Thanks again for setting up the shoot out, it was great fun and I apologize for having to leave early.  Am looking forward to events in the future.
Best, Larry
DSC_0034

So, for our winner, it seems the wrong way was the right way. Congratulations Larry!

We’ll do another cable Smackdown soon and have a playoff between the cables that placed in this first event. We’ll schedule fewer contestants and spend more time listening to different music genres for every cable in every battle. By then, chances are, a few of us will probably have built a cable based on the same successful design. Maybe someone will build two of them, one in each direction! Thanks everyone for making this a great first event.

Cheers,

Alón

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 Alón's Posts, Events

13 Comments to Smackdown #1: Preliminary Recap

  1. GREAT event. Great venue. Great job organizing.

    The mystery cable was a 1m DIY Furutech FP-314Ag. The specific connectors were Oyaide L-037 and C-037.

    Available on eBay as parts or built cable ($100-$200).

    Bob

  2. Bob on March 10th, 2014
  3. Hi Alon: The mystery member is Larry Deniston of Walnut Creek. He had to leave as unfortunately he had an appt to put his 18 year old cat down. :-(

    The cable is available from http://partsconnexion.com/ and is available in mkI and mk II versins. Larry thinks he did MkI. Approx $23.95/meter (AC Cable FP-314Ag MKI Series 3×15 AWG). There is a secret about the construction, but I will let Larry explain that …

    The “Oyaide” connectors (couldn’t possibly be real for this price, could they?) are available for cheap at:

    http://www.dhgate.com/product/brand-new-oyaide-p037-c037-ac-power-plug/130125051.html

    Note the high freight cost!

    Alon: did I miss something? Where did Leslie come from and what is her audio story?

    Fabulous host and a great event put on by both of you. Really fun.

    Peter Truce

  4. ptruce on March 10th, 2014
  5. Thanks for the post! I’ve been building DIY powercords for a while. Probably the easiest thing to DIY, as there is no need for special tools except a good volt meter to check for continuity and leaks. If anyone’s interested, I also have a heat gun that you can use on shrink wraps to provide additional support to the connector/cable connection area. It’s basically a high heat “hair dryer”. Hard part is trying to find shrink wraps that are big enough to go through the connector and can be shrunk small enough to hold the cable.

    Frank Cheng

  6. gundam91 on March 10th, 2014
  7. The supposedly Oyaide connectors were most likely clones. I judge that from the gold label and no hologram. The real ones have silver labels and a hologram.
    They are available for $14 (including shipping) on ebay. Search for C-037 or L-037 plugs but do not look for oyaide name in those auctions, because ebay would not allow them…
    I have used similar plugs and can attest to their high build quality.
    The Furutech FP-314Ag is available from many vendors for the same price of $40.60/meter.
    If you construct your own cable then make sure to connect the shield to ground only at the wall side of the cord. Float the shiend on the IEC connector side to avoid a ground loop and make sure it does not touch anything else.
    Remember: it’s 110V AC inside, so treat this DIY project with the respect it deserves!

    This cable was the great surprise of the shootout. Price/performance is out of the ballpark!
    However, this was a very limited experiment. All cords (including pre and amp) were connected to the sale Synergistic PowerCell 6 (I think) conditioner, which in my opinion is not the right configuration for any system, but that’s my subjective recommendation, of course.
    I prefer to isolate the digital source from the other components, to minimize coupling of high frequency noise into digital PLL circuitry and other low level analog stages.
    For the skeptics, just put a scope on your power supply rectifiers and check the ringing at the cutoff points. It ain’t pretty in most equipment…
    My theory for those who say why should a 1.5 meter cord fix an AC problem when you have miles of Romex bringing the power into your house is very simple. I don’t care about miles away, which have no bearing on local RF noise levels due to the fast attenuation with distance. I do care about noise sources in close proximity, including appliances and, yes, power amps and other audio gadgets.
    If you go with my logic, then noise isolation and not “power conduction” is the main task of a good power cord. The Virtual Dynamics places all sorts of ferrites and other (?) thingies on the wires to achieve the noise reduction. The Elrod seems to have something of that nature too. The Furutech cable relies on a simple copper shield and nothing else (that I could see, maybe Larry can add a comment here), but still managed to achieve excellent subjective performance.
    How it would have faired without the PowerCell 6 is something we haven’t had enough time to try, so the book is not sealed yet on this topic.
    Perhaps “to be continued” – on a smaller scale…

    I’d like to thanks Alón for organizing a surprisingly very interesting event and Leslie for being such a great host and “combatting” the heavy cables with great restraint… And not much finesse, given the task on hand…

  8. ori on March 10th, 2014
  9. Alon,

    Thank you for sharing your the preliminary recap for for those of us who could not attend. I have a few cords that I would have enjoyed bringing to add to the list of contenders. It appeared to be a great event and fun too.

    I find it exciting, but not totally unexpected, that a DYI faired so well against the name brand cables which were more expensive. Maybe, BAAS can have a follow up event down line for further evaluation of the top contenders?

    Bob Fosse

  10. NordicBob on March 10th, 2014
  11. Follow-up to Peter’s comment: The specific connectors have good cable clamps and strain relief.
    They don’t really need the heatshrink tubing but they might “look more professional” with it…

  12. ori on March 10th, 2014
  13. Leslie, you’re d bomb for hostessing such a fun event at your house.
    Alon, you scored points for setting the event up and getting Bob to show up.

    A can’t wait to see the next event under new BAAS leadership.

    David

  14. anomaly7 on March 10th, 2014
  15. Alon,

    For those of us who needed to leave early, could you correlate the power cables with the identifying numbers used?

    Thanks, Michael

  16. mcb on March 10th, 2014
  17. Ori, thanks for the note about the shield ground connection. I had completely forgotten about that!

    Frank Cheng

  18. gundam91 on March 11th, 2014
  19. Frank, since you’re building from scratch then I’d suggest experimenting with a few more add-ons, which should improve (?!) the RF rejection without having any appreciable effect on low frequency properties:
    1) add tiny ferrites that fit snuggly over the individual wires inside the connectors. I recall that there is enough space for this.
    2) connect a “snubber” between the Live and Neutral. That is a fancy name for a simnple RF shunt, made of 1000pF/600V cap in series with a 22 ohm (tiny 1/8W) resistor. Again, assuming the space allows it.

    All disclaimers apply: I’m not responsible if you electrocute yourself or burn down the house or the entire neighborhood… Consider this post for entertainment purposes only… If you don’t know what I’m talking about – please don’t do it!!!

  20. ori on March 11th, 2014
  21. Hey Everyone,
    This is great. We’ve obviously hit on something with this Smackdown. We’ll get another one on the schedule as soon as we can, but with fewer cables, more great music selections per battle, and an extended playoff. We might have to make it an overnighter, so you might want to bring your pajamas!

    Also, between all of you who seem to be closet experts in DIY cable construction, maybe we should have a cable making and comparison workshop… What do you think? Does anyone have a workspace that could accommodate such a gathering?

    Are we having fun yet?
    Alón

  22. Alón on March 11th, 2014
  23. A fun and interesting event. I just wish it was scientific and objective. Even if one has a theory why the last few feet should matter, a test protocol needs to be set up that eliminates sources of bias. One source of bias was in the assumption that the more expensive cables had to allow for a better sound than the stock power cable. It seems no one wanted to even (blind) test for that.

    Another place for bias was in the use of numbers for the cables. There is an inherent tendency to want to keep supporting a winner to confirm whatever it was that made one give the thumb up to the previous contest. There is also the herd effect bias that was present as well.

    There were numerous flaws in the methodology so really no one should spend money on an expensive cable unless you just like the looks of the thing. I’m sure my wife would go ballistic if I believed such a fat cable made a real difference to our listening enjoyment. We prefer a clean no clutter no visible cable set up to the degree that that is possible.

    By the way the host audio system sounded great and was tuned well, I give no credit for that to the voodoo dot extras that someone thought would be good to place around the room. It was also a welcome surprise that there is a women in our midst that is in to great quality sound.

    Vince, the (token?) skeptical audiophile

  24. skepica on March 14th, 2014
  25. Anyone interested in a PC building event using the FURUTECH bulk cabling , etc…??
    Jim

  26. jim94025 on March 17th, 2014
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