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Positive Feedback ISSUE 51
september/october 2010

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supra

LoRad 1.5 and 2.5 AC Power Cords

as reviewed by Kent Johnson

 

supra cord

 

 

 

 

KENT JOHNSON'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Magneplanar MG1.6

ELECTRONICS
Dodd Audio Midline tube preamplifier. Rogue 90 Stereo tube amplifier.

SOURCES
Sony SCD-C333ES SACD/CD player for SACD. The Sony feeds a Cullen Circuits DL3 Stage III modded PS Audio DAC for CD replay.

CABLES
DH Labs Revelation interconnect cables. Alpha Core Goertz MI2 speaker cables. My digital cable is two meters of Belden 1694A video cable terminated with Eichmann Bullet Plugs. It works great. Here is the article that the information for making it came from: PFO Issue 14, "Why longer is generally better for an S/PDIF Digital Cable," by Steve Nugent.

ACCESSORIES
Monster HTS 3600 MKII line conditioner on the source components. I have four dedicated circuits available to me, three twenty amp and one fifteen amp. The Rogue and Hafler are each on their own twenty amp circuits. The front-end equipment is on another. The fifteen amp circuit is not in use at the moment. I have a pair of AKG K240 headphones.

 

Supra is the brand name for cables made by Tommy Jenving in Ljungskile, Sweden. Jenving began making audiophile cables in 1976, making Supra one of the earliest manufacturers of specialty cabling in the hi-fi industry, if not the earliest. Supra cables are distributed in the US by Sjfn Hi-Fi.

Description

Supra products include numerous models of speaker and interconnect cables as well as specialty cables and terminations. They only offer two choices of AC power cable, however, the LoRad 1.5 and 2.5. These LoRad cables, short for low-radiation, differ only in the gauge of the cable used. The LoRad 1.5 utilizes three 1.5 square millimeter cables comprised of 320 individual tin plated copper wires. The model 2.5, unsurprisingly, uses three 2.5 square mm cables of identical construction. Both cables are rated at 15 Amps, the rating of the termination plugs themselves. All LoRad power cords use Hospital Grade connectors.

Supra ascribes the following advantages to its power cables on their web site:

LoRad stands for Low Radiation of electric and magnetic alternating fields.

The screen protects your equipment from radiated mains noise and from RF pick up.

Short pitch twisting of the cores cancels the magnetic alternating fields.

This will result in a cleaner sound and more accurate transients.

All Supra cables use very high quality oxygen-free copper coated with high purity tin. Jenving believes that this offers the most natural sound quality as there is no possibility of the copper oxidizing. He states that:

"Cables with copper or silver stranded conductors suffer from complex oxidation. The semi-conductive 'diodes' between the strands aren't seen by steady tests, but look like a high capacitance to music signals. This causes energy storage/release cycles, that regular tests miss, yet which is audible with music. This problem is also describable as the electron flow being trapped' inside strands & twisting away from the direct route." Jenving's designs also result in very low inductance and virtually zero skin-effect.

All Supra cables are wrapped in a pale blue PE (polyethylene) covering. The PE coating minimizes dielectric absorption and is very flexible. It is also environmentally friendly and halogen free.

Supra cables are all directional. The labeling on the cabling "reads" from the source end to the receiving end. This makes it easy to properly orient any Supra cable.

The Jenving web site provides a great deal of technical information about their cables. It is well worth a look.

The Supra cables that I auditioned were each 1.5 meters long (5 feet) and pre-assembled for me. The LoRad cables are actually sold as separate lengths of wire and terminal ends. The LoRad 2.5 cable retails for $15 per meter, the 1.5 cable for $11 per meter. The hospital grade ends are $20 each. This results in the 1.5 meter LoRad 2.5 cable costing a mere $62.50, the 1.5, $56.50.

My job is to discuss how components sound, as best I can. Readers are more than capable of deciding for themselves if something is a good value. Still, the question is almost unavoidable: are these cables too inexpensive to be truly audiophile quality? Read on.

Noting Some Prejudices

I have gone from something of a power cord atheist to outright evangelist over the past decade. I still have no idea why different power cords make the differences that they do, but adding them to my systems has been an unequivocally positive experience for me. I am sufficiently prejudiced in favor of after-market power cords that I don't even bother to listen with the power cord supplied with most pieces of equipment. The free cords are just not good enough to ascertain how the equipment actually sounds.

The cords that I own are not particularly expensive ones. I have found that most $100-350 dollar after-market cords will open the door to a component's performance to a considerable extent. More expensive cords may open that door further, true, but, in some respects their addition becomes more of a tuning process than an upgrade.

Listening

I began listening with a system comprised of my Sony 5400 SACD player, Sony SCD-333 player as transport for a Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1, Dodd preamp, and Rogue 90 amp. I used Supra Sword speaker cables with Fritz Speakers Carbon 7 Monitors. I began by replacing the PS Audio Prelude power cable on the Rogue amp with the Supra LoRad 2.5.

The very first impression I got of the Supra came from plugging the IEC end into the Rogue. It had a precision to its fit that really impressed me. A lot of IEC ends never really feel secure. These do.

The differences that I heard with the Supra in the system were not enormous but readily apparent. The Supra cable provided both additional detail and a better developed front to back dimension within the soundstage. This was evident on Marilyn Mazur's "Metal Dew" from her Elixir CD (ECM 1962 1737320). Here the xylophone notes were better developed and subtle chime sounds were easier to hear. I found myself visualizing the xylophone notes as bubbles within the soundstage. With the Supra cord, each bubble was more 3D, floated clear of the other bubbles, was fully spherical in shape, and when popped left a hugely resonant decay that spread out to the boundaries of the soundstage. By comparison, the same notes through the PS Audio cord frequently sounded as if they shared some small part of their surface with another bubble. There was less space between them rendering the xylophone reproduction via the PS Audio cord slightly less resonant by comparison. The sound of the chime, which under lays the xylophone, was easier to follow with the Supra cord in the system. In truth, I hadn't really been conscious of the chime in my previous playing of this track. Once identified, its contribution to the overall presentation of the music seemed indispensable.

My next step was to replace the PS Audio SuperPunch cord on the power supply of my Dodd preamp with the Supra LoRad 1.5 cable.

The results were interesting. I listened to Melody Gardot's My One and Only Thrill CD (Verve B0012563-02). The LoRad 1.5 cable offered a somewhat smaller soundstage than I had been hearing with the PS Audio cord but with better focus and more solid placement of the instruments within it. By comparison the PS Audio cable offered a more open soundstage that was, perhaps, a little untidy by comparison but more dynamic. Both cables offered equally beautiful rendering of her voice. Personally, I preferred the larger soundstage that I heard with the PS Audio cable.

Since I only had one LoRad 2.5 cable, my next step was the put the PS Audio Prelude back on the Rogue and try the 2.5 with the Dodd.

This proved to be a very good move. The 2.5 brought a new level of clarity to Melody's vocals revealing subtle uses of vibrato that I had not heard before. There was more air surrounding her voice, brushes on drum skins were more realistic, and the soundstage seemed more unified and less an assemblage of individual musical instruments. There was an additional richness to the sound that had not been evident before.

These changes went beyond simple comparisons to the SuperPunch I had replaced. The Supra provided an upgraded level of performance for the Dodd and correspondingly for the system overall.

I then used the LoRad 1.5 to power the Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1 that I am in the process of reviewing. It proved impossible to clearly sort out the contribution of the LoRad 1.5 to what I heard but the overall sound quality was very, very good. The W4S DAC and my own modified PS Audio DAC III are the only components that I have with both IEC input jacks and low current draw levels. It certainly seemed to me that, with these components, the LoRad 1.5 was superior to the power cables I had been using. I felt that I was also hearing a slightly quieter soundstage. I will be doing additional listening to the LoRad 1.5 as I finish that review.

My final comparison was made in my living room system. I substituted the LoRad 2.5 for one of the Shunyata Diamondback Platinum cords that power that system. I have a Diamondback on both my PS Audio A-100 amplifier and Xindak XA3200 MK II preamplifier.

The LoRad 2.5 effected the same sorts of improvements that I had heard in my main system. There was better detail in the form of air around voices and instruments and a more 3D character to the soundstage.

The first track on the Tierney Sutton Band's CD, On the Other Side (Telarc CD-83650) is "Get Happy." This is played as a dirge. The speed is slow, the individual drum hits sound absolutely real, and the lower registers of the piano could be readily felt through my Quad 21L2 speakers. This has to be the darkest version of this song ever recorded and possibly the most interesting as well.

Tierney's voice is beautiful and extraordinarily well controlled. It is a terrific performance that ends with the words "chase all your cares away." She extends the "away" out allowing it to fall in level until it becomes literally a hissing sound that sustains itself just above the level of audibility. With the Supra cable I could still hear a very faint vibrato in the air stream; I was unable to hear this with the Shunyata cable. Clearly the differences weren't huge but the Supra cable offered information down to the lowest threshold of my ability to follow it. I then added the LoRad 1.5 to the system, placing it on the Xindak preamp. To my ears, it offered no real advantage to the Shunyata Diamondback Platinum that it replaced. I want to emphasize that the sound quality of the system was extremely good, but I was unable to hear any describable differences such as I had heard when I introduced the LoRad 2.5 into the system.

supra cord detail

Conclusion

The Supra LoRad 2.5 is indisputably an amazing bargain. It proved to be more revealing than power cables I own in the $250-350 range. It offered terrific bass, tactile midrange, and delicate yet complex treble performance. It slightly improved the soundstage of both of my systems. Personally, I can't think of anything further to ask from a power cable, regardless of the price. These are seriously good cables.

The LoRad 1.5 suffers by comparison with the over-achiever qualities of the 2.5. It suffers further by costing only very nominally less. In my experience, a larger gauge cable has never offered anything but advantages and these come, in the case of the 2.5, at the price of a Vento latte. I think the 1.5's would be the perfect cord for DACs, tuners, and other low power components. I really do not have enough of these types of components with IEC connectors to get a better handle on the 1.5's performance.

I plan to keep the LoRad 2.5 on my Dodd preamp and I am giving some serious thought to getting a pair of 1 meter cords for the living room system.

Unless you plan to spend at least $500 or more on a power cord, I am not sure that you can significantly improve on the Supra LoRad 2.5. In fact, all of the Supra cables, in my experience, are remarkable deals, even the most expensive. They are well worth checking out if new cables are in the budget. Kent Johnson

LoRad 2.5 power cord
Retail: $62.50

LoRad 1.5 power cord
Retail: $56.50

Sjofn HiFi
Lars Erickson
1020 East John Street
Suite 101
Seattle, WA 98102
web address: www.sjofnhifi.com
TE: 206-605-8590

 

 

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