by Roy Harris
Shortly after the completion of the review of the Luminous Audio Technology Axiom II Signature passive preamp, the designer, Tim Stinson, suggested that I review his power cords, which were designed for him by Ralph Hellmer, a musician and speaker designer/manufacturer.
Hellmer read many books on the subject of electrical engineering and acquired an understanding of the particle beam accelerator. He then applied the principles of the accelerator to the design of a power cord. Before the power cord went into production, it was submitted to a local audio society in Richmond, Virginia and was compared to several other power cords. It was selected as the favorite in a shootout.
The line cord is available in two versions — grounded and ungrounded. Luminous Audio Technology believes the ungrounded version sounds slightly better than the grounded version. For those who desire a shielded cord, a low resistance steel shield is used, with a minimal loss in performance. According to Tim Stinson, the salient performance factors of the line cord include, its low noise, deep bass response, and superior dimensionality (soundstage width and depth).
Conductors are 4 12 AWG stranded OFC. Overall, the power cord is 9 AWG.The plug and IEC are silver plate over rhodium, selected because of its conductivity properties. The conductors are attached to the plug and IEC using screws, rather than solder.
The critical design features, responsible for the performance of the line cord are the star quad geometry and the neodymium magnets. While there are other companies which employ the star quad formation in the design of interconnects, speaker cable and power cords, none, to my knowledge incorporate magnets.
The subject of this review is a pair of 2 meter ungrounded Power Mega Lynx AC cords, connected to my monoblock amps.
The power cords were ‘demos’, but I was advised to pass a signal through them for 48 hours prior to critical listening. After receiving the cords, I sent a signal from a DAC to a receiver for one day, and then listened casually for an additional 24 hours. I chose material, i.e., CDs which I believed would test the stated attributes of the power cords. Thus, I was primarily interested in sources which would include instruments producing bass, complex material and other sources that might elicit resolution and/or low level detail.
As I indicated in my review of the Axiom II preamp, I own several CDs suitable for evaluating bass response, orchestral-based CDs, which provide an opportunity to assess width and depth, and I will add other music to check for frequency response flaws. I will also be interested in the presence or lack thereof a sonic signature, often manifested as an imbalance in frequency response.
I believe that “do no harm” should be an objective for any component. Very often flaws are noticed in the treble region. Thus I selected as my first disk music which has a significant amount of treble information — a harpsichord recital by Sophie Yates. The CD is a recital of baroque music, whose title is SCARLATTI IN IBERIA, track 1, recorded on the Chandos label, CHAN 0635.
The sound of the harpsichord was full, slightly rounded, yet not lacking in resolution and extended in the bass. The harpsichord had a somewhat distant perspective, reminding me of a mid to rear hall location. The release of the strings was neither sharp nor obscured. It resembled the tone — slightly rounded. I believe the sound of the harpsichord reflected in part, to the perceived distance from instrument to listener. In any case, the instrument sounded natural and unfatiguing.
Another instrument that is a good test of treble response is the violin. The CD TWO WORLDS, track 8, Decca 012 157 960-2, was chosen for the aforementioned purpose. The music is an adaptation of one of Bartok’s Rumanian Dances, featuring Dave Grusin, Gil Shaham and Lee Ritenour. The composition begins with a piano introduction. The piano was clear and extended in the bass. The violin did not sound shrill. Although not as extended in the treble as I have noted with other cords, here the violin sounded more natural and more listenable. When playing in the pizzicato mode, the strings had a solidity and weight . I have heard this recording many times. Frequently pizzicato playing brings out the sound of a thin violin string. I was fortunate not to experience this effect. The nylon strings of the acoustic guitar did not exhibit any resemblance to steel. It had a denseness that is typical of nylon. Its timbre was very realistic.
My favorite Steely Dan recording, AJA, MCAD 37214, track 3, provides a test of midrange and male voice. Unfortunately, the tenor sax is not well recorded. Donald Fagen’s voice was very smooth sounding. Yet, there was no slurring or smearing of words. The lyrics were always clear. The chorus enunciated all consonants properly and smoothly. This combination was a first. I have heard the chorus sound very full and smooth, but mispronouncing several consonants, especially the letter X. Resolution and smoothness is very rare in audio. I suspect that most musicians would appreciate these line cords. The saxophone sounded like a tenor, with weight in its lower register, and an upper register that retained the timbre of a tenor rather than an alto. I have taken this CD to many CES shows — many times Pete Christlieb sounds like he’s playing an alto. If a stereo system has any issues in the treble, this track will reveal them.
I aim to extract as much bass as my panel speakers are capable of reproducing. Consequently I was curious to hear the next two CDs — excellent tests of bass response. The first featured an electric bass, while the second was a recording of an upright (acoustic) bass.
Victor Wooten’s bass solo can be heard about three minutes into the title track, “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”, from the CD of the same name, from the Warner Bros release, 26562-2. The leader is the banjoist, Bela Fleck. One can observe the articulation of the fingers on a steel string. As the instrument descends the scale, its sound gets fuller and, of course, deeper, until the bassist strikes the lowest note, whereupon, the bass vibrates greatly. The instrument sounds so life-like, as if the artist is performing in the same room as the listener. I certainly found the base response not lacking extension, given the frequency range of my speakers.
The popular ‘Adagio in G’, from the Cisco recording ADAGIO D”ALBINONI, track 1, GCD 8003, is a duet for organ and upright bass. The organ sounds very full bodied with extension in the bass that I rarely hear. I did not detect any absence of bass frequency. When the acoustic bass starts playing, one hears the upper register of the instrument, which communicates a sense of pathos. As the bassist, Gary Karr, navigates the lower register of the instrument, he strikes a low note. That note causes the body to resonate and reveals the scale and grandeur of the instrument. It doesn’t seem that there was any lack of bass extension.
I use two orchestral recordings to access dimensionality (width and depth), One of these, ‘Gaite Parisienne’, by Offenbach, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, JVCXR 0224-2, track 1, presents a spatial relationship between two instruments — a woodblock and triangle. I selected this recording as my first test of width and depth. The lateral soundstage presented by the orchestra filled the wall behind the speakers. This is typical of what I usually hear, regardless of the associated equipment. However, the woodblock moved forward, reducing the space between it and the triangle — the foreground instrument. The sound of the triangle was very clear and full. The combination of richness and articulation, as evidenced by the audibility of each strike of the wand upon the body of the instrument is seldom experienced.
Another orchestral selection I use to assess soundstage width and depth is Ravel’s ‘Alborado del Gracioso’. My favorite interpretation is a 1961 recording conducted by Ernest Ansermet, London 414046-2. Early into the piece, there is a very brief clarinet solo. The instrument is in the background. One perceives a great distance from the clarinet to the front of the orchestra. The orchestra fills about three quarters of the width of the wall behind the speakers. The soundstage width is similar to what I have heard when other power cords were in the system. Two minutes later, there is a bassoon solo. Here, too, the instrument sounds deep into the back of the orchestra. Its timbre is very realistic
The last CD I selected can be a torture test for some stereo systems, especially those with an unbalanced frequency response or a forward upper midrange. It is a Chesky recording of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Capriccio Italien’, conducted by Alexander Gibson,, with the New Symphony Orchestra of London, track 1, Chesky CD 12. At the beginning of the recording one hears a poorly recorded brass section. The brass on the JVC recording sounded fuller. Here, the brass sounds harmonically bleached. Fortunately, the string ensemble sounded smooth. One can observe the strings in the foreground and the brass behind them. I believe audiophiles ascribe the term ‘layering’ to such a phenomenon. One can hear the leading and trailing edge of the transient response, following the third cymbal crash, later in the piece. One also should notice decay following the third cymbal crash. Its duration is a bit longer than usual. This is a typical early digital recording, where the brass is thin at loud SPLs, but sounds fuller and smoother at lower volumes.
As I indicated earlier, I consider a necessary principle for all components and stereo systems to ‘do no harm’. At no time during the review was the sound of any musical selection objectionable, except for the beginning of the Chesky recording. I don’t think any power cord could tame a loud brass section poorly recorded.
Frequency response was always balanced, extended, but not as extended as some other cords, yet, sufficient to resolve differences in the sound of instruments and provide the resolution required to observe the contribution of each instrument, regardless of the size of the ensemble. While not as extended as other cables, I never felt a loss of clarity or detail.
I believe the low-noise property of the line cord accomplished something rare–the delineation of soloist and chorus, in such a way as to make audible each word sung by soloist and chorus, when both were singing simultaneously.
Only once, did I observe a forwardness in the midrange, contributing to a loss of depth. Perhaps, there is a slight peak at some frequency. This is speculation, as I did not have a spectral analyzer available to me. I’ll have more to say about how I remedied this situation shortly.
The company selling this power cord, Luminous Audio Technology issued several performance statements, namely, superior sound staging, greater low level detail and greater bass extension. I was able to confirm three of these assertions, as I considered sound stage width on a par with other power cords. I noticed greater depth and layering than I experienced with other power cords. Bass was deeper and fuller and there was greater low level detail.
The nature of resolution was more natural than I experienced with other cords. It was similar to the ‘detail’ that one experiences when listening to instruments at a concert. Usually, one does not use the term ‘resolution’ as an aspect of the experience of a live musical event. It is there but does not call attention to itself. The net effect of the type of resolution I encountered made most recordings sound more like live music.
I will now refer to the enigma of the forwardness of the woodblock I noted when listening to Offenbach’s ‘Gaite Parisienne’. I was puzzled at its occurrence. I thought about it and considered the possible remedies at my disposal. I decided to replace the RCA grey plate 12at7 with an RCA black plate 12at7 tube in my CD player. I noticed several changes in sound, as I played the Offenbach and other CDs to look for a consistent pattern. I noticed greater space between the woodblock and the triangle. The triangle sounded more diffuse, i.e., less focused. Overall, there was a slight loss of clarity and extension in treble response, yet, it didn’t alter resolution enough to observe veiling. Another way of explaining what I heard is to consider an analogy in optics. If a lens is perfectly focused, a slight turn of the lens reduced the focus, but the loss of clarity may be insignificant.
Other changes I observed, included instruments having slightly more weight, a slight diffusion of image, more natural timbre, greater depth, without loss of dynamics or bass extension. One might say that the tube lent a slight euphonic coloration to the music.
In my personal listening, naturalness of timbre is my primary goal. I am willing to sacrifice performance with respect to other attributes of sound. Incidentally, when listening to other discs, before and after the review, I did not notice any midrange forwardness.
It is impossible to establish the cause of an event when there two possible variables — the component and/or the recording, either of which could be the source of the occurrence. Therefore, the issue of neutrality or lack thereof, cannot be determined.
I would still consider this power cord suitable for almost any stereo system. While it is not a panacea for a bright or ‘dark’ sounding system, it should not exacerbate these conditions. Further, stereo systems which are well balanced and not problematical, should profit from its strengths, which I have already indicated.
As I have demonstrated, a resourceful hobbyist can compensate for an occasional deviation from neutrality by judicious application of passive components.
As a reviewer, I would not hesitate to use these power cords with my VTL monoblocks, in spite of a possible instance of forwardness, since the recording may be the source of the problem rather than power cord.
Speakers: QUAD 57s and Magnepan 1.6s
Amplifier: VTL Deluxe 120s
Preamp: Axiom II Signature
CD Player: Vincent CD S6
Interconnects: Mojo Audio and Soundstring Audio
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Power Cords: Emotiva
Power Accessories: Quantum Line filters, PS Audio Noise Harvester and Alan Maher Line filters
Power strips: PS Audio Juice Bar and Balanced Power Techology
Passive Accessories: Ennacom filters, Ophiopogon, Z System Z sleeves, Egg crate mattresses, Room Tunes, maple wood bases, Sound Fusion Sound Boosters, Sorbethane feet, ERS Paper and a lead weight
Luminous Audio Technology Power Mega Lynx Line Cord
Manufactured by Luminous Audio Technology
1312 N Parham Rd
Richmond, VA 23229
tel — 804 741 5826
Price: $639.00 per two meter cord
Source: manufacturer loan