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elrod power systems
EPS 2 and 3 Signature AC power cords
as reviewed by Bob Neill with comments by Dave Clark
This is the most difficult review I've ever tried to write, not because David Elrod's EPS 2 and 3 Signature power cords aren't good enough, but because they are so good that for all intents and purposes, audibly they are nearly inseparable from my system.
In praising TG Audio's SLVR power cords (on Enjoy the Music), I speculated that I could imagine a cord with their punch but a bit more suavity, refinement, and finish; and that based on their ancestry (Electraglide), the EPS cords might provide enough improvement in those areas to make them worth the extra $1000 they cost. I made that speculation on the basis of spending a week or so with a pair of unbroken-in, standard EPS cords, which were more suave but also a little weak on the bottom.
It turns out that the Signatures are indeed more refinedand to my ears give away none of the firmness and venue information of the SLVRs. The SLVRs sound more robust, which means either that they are more robust or that they have the Signature's authority without its suavity. Impossible to say. There are systems in which they might be the better choicesystems a bit on the soft side, and that need to be awakened a bit. Barry of Backwoods Ontario has found them a blessing for his Chord 64/Audiomat Arpege/Reynaud EV3 system. In my system, which loves refinement as well as authority, the EPS Signatures sound even better.
Separating the sound of power cords from that of other contributors to an audio system is a tricky business, but not impossible if you can hold everything else fairly constantno small task for a reviewer. The EPS 2s and 3s (a total of four) in my system, with the Blue Circle AG3000 preamp and AG8000 amps, added (or freed up) richness, smoothness, clarity, and, as I keep saying, finish. Notes, especially on the violin and piano, had a finish they had not had before. These qualities have emerged over the course of several monthsand yes, the reports of long break-in times for these cords are true, unless you can just plug them in somewhere out of the way and let them run 24/7. Over this extended period, my system got better and better. No matter what other interconnects, speaker cables, and speakers I used, the curve of improvement was steadily upwards. The Sigs are less distinctly audible than any power cord I've hadearly Shunyatas, lots of Electraglides, Nordost El Dorados, Blue Circle BC63s, SLVRsand they have taken my system further.
And then, recently, when I substituted a less authoritative BC3 Despina preamp for the AG3000 during my audition of the Reynaud Trentes, I had the kind of tangible revelation this review is crying for. The BC3 was doing its usual subtle and musical things on a power cord appropriate for its price range, when I thought, in the interest of finding out what the Trentes could do, why not try a Sig 2? Wow. What the EPS Signature cord did to the BC3 Despina was comparable to but greater than what a 3.1 power supply does that turns it into a Galatea: everything suddenly got clearer, firmer, more energetic, more authoritative, and, on top of that, more sophisticated and refined. The EPS Signature 2 power cord literally transformed the Despina into a better preamp, and the Reynaud Trentes sang their thanks to David Elrod. I had not really noticed how dramatic an improvement the Sigs provided before this experience because my AG3000 preamplifier has clarity, firmness, energy, and authority to burn. The Sigs were reinforcing these qualities, not adding them. If your system has the virtues of the Sigs already, as I said at the top, you may at first have trouble discerning their contribution to your system. But trust me, it's there!
Are the Signatures significantly better than the "standard" EPS power cords? I had the standard cords in my system briefly, not even long enough to break them in. As I said, they had some of the Signatures' refinement but seemed a bit lightweight. They sounded different from the TG SLVRs, but not betterthey exhibited different priorities. David Elrod says the Signature versions are 25% better than the standard cords in every way, and I have no reason to doubt him. Even before break-in began, they sounded at least that much better. Are they worth $1600? Well, given that my Electraglide Fat Boys retailed for $2200 and are still selling new for $1750, I would say absolutely. The EPS Signatures could easily be mistaken for Electraglides in appearancethey have the same black mesh sheath and are nearly as inflexiblebut the connectors appear more substantial. They are audibly in the "Electraglide tradition" in that they emphasize musical rather than sonic virtues; but to my ears they have solved that cord's problems, which had to do with overall softness, but particularly in the upper bass.
Is any power cord worth $1600? In a modest system, probably not, though based on my experience with the BC3 Despina, I have no doubt the Sigs would improve things. Until I heard that, I would have said there are probably more dramatic ways to upgrade. Now I'm not so sure. It isn't fair that power cords should make such a difference, but they do, and we've known it for a decade, so get used to it. They are components like any other. In a system that has reached one of the many plateaus of satisfaction, in which there is no way to improve the system without upgrading major components, the EPS Signatures might well be the component to finish things off. It is no coincidence that they turned up in many systems as CES 2003. The word is out. Bob Neill
I have been using the "standard" and not the the Signature Elrod EPS 2 as the "primary" AC cord for the BC3000 preamp for a little over three months now. I say primary as prior to that I was quite pleased with the BC63. The BC63 showed itself to be rather "silent" in its sonic signature, imparting little into the signal while allowing the BC3000 to do its thang! That is, with the BC63 in the system (as opposed to the trying a Sahuaro AC cord) there was a greater sense of neutrality and clarity. Substituting a Sahuaro for the BC63, I heard a subtle shift in tonality best described as being a bit "fuller" or having a more prominent bassno make that for clarity's sake, like a "loudness" contour switch, in that there was just too much of a good thing.
The Elrod EPS 2sent to try with the Cary 306/200, and as yet not there!results in even greater clarity, bass drive, and overall musical/sonic neutrality. The EPS 2 is best described as a "turbocharger" in that the everything really opens up! Music comes across with a greater sense of slam, pace, and WOW! I can find little to fault and much to praise. Yes, at times I do hear maybe a whitening of the musical palette, but I am not so sure that may be the bits and not the cord. I would rate the EPS 2 a sonic marvel in that so far it appears to not be imparting any sonic signature, all the while allowing things to improve.
While the cord is a bit stiff and cumbersome (you can hold it from one end and it will not droopgee wish I could that!), it can be "bent" or "folded" to fit into the space as needed. My only complaint is that I had only one to try! Dave Clark
Elrod Power Systems