Once the homemade power cable was finished I immediately connected it to the preamp. Interesting. The most immediate thing I noticed was an increased openness without brightness that was never in the design before. Separation of instruments was greater, soundstage deeper, all the good things you’d hope for. However, there was a tightness to the sound – perhaps better described as stiff, mechanical, a bit wooden if I may resort to over used Audiophile terms.
I had stumbled upon break in. Of course I was familiar with electronics breaking in – even audio cables as their dielectrics changed for the better, but power cables? This was new to me.
I left it all plugged in and went away for the weekend but upon my return with fresh ears and a resolve to try and figure things out, I put on a CD and listened to reference myself again. I was shocked. The hard, stiff, wooden sound was completely gone and in its place was a very relaxed, open full presentation of the music which I had never experienced with this preamp. It’s perhaps helpful to remember I built this contraption from Home Depot wire and connectors for under $20. It was trouncing the sound of my $1 stock power cable, but high-end this cable was not.
Looking at this mess of twisted wires wrapped together with nylon string, my entrepreneurialinstincts kicked in and thought “I don’t understand what’s going on here but I’ll bet this is something we can build and sell”. I mean, why not? The differences were startling, there really wasn’t anyone selling high end power cables and my biggest concern was how to present this idea to people in a way they’d give them a try.
In the ensuing months I experimented with aluminum foil wrapped around the cable for shielding, tying only one end of the shield to ground, the other left open (the open end was next to the equipment). This was an old technique we learned in signal cables – because you didn’t want the shield to be a simple antenna passing the high frequency garbage from input to output. I changed wire types, geometry and every parameter I could think of to see what happened.
In the end I wound up with a great sounding prototype of what would become one of the first high-end aftermarket power cables. We were going to call it the Lab Cable because it was built in my lab – certainly not because any scientific or laboratory-like work was being done. In fact, I had little no clue why any of this mattered – I just knew it did and could hear the differences easily – as could anyone else that took the time to just listen.
The next challenge was how to make this cable. And that turned out to be a story in itself.