Questions and Answers: Power Cords

Since power cords are commonly known as the most important cables in an audio system, it’s no surprise that that we often get questions about them! We thought it would be helpful to put our “most asked” questions about power cords here so that you can find all of your answers in one place. Have any more power cord-related queries? Let us know! 

Q: How do power cords affect your sound system? 

A: Depending on how the specific power cords are constructed and what technologies they use, there can be several different sonic effects attributed to upgrades. However, in general, the biggest sonic differences tend to be registered as a change in dynamics (which sometimes disguises itself as a volume change), and in a distinction in imaging and soundstage. 

Q: Can power cords really make a difference after the miles that electricity travels in wires to get to my house?

A: While they are not audio-grade, the cables used to transfer electricity through the grid and to your home are actually a significant gauge. The “choke point” usually occurs in your home. Not only that, but it’s very important to try to minimize the effects of artifacts, EMI, and RFI that are introduced to electricity on its journey to your home and continue to be introduced from your home appliances.  

Q: Why should I upgrade the power cords supplied with components at purchase?

A: Manufacturers typically add in the power cords supplied with their components at the last minute. Oftentimes, this power cord is merely supplied as a means to an end, for as little cost as possible, so that the manufacturer can make the intended price-point of their product. As a result, little thought or effort goes into how it may affect the component. For proof of this, next time you are at a hifi show, pay attention to the cables being used in each manufacturer’s room. You will notice that when they want to make their product sound as good as possible, manufacturers opt out of using the power cords they themselves provide at point of purchase.

Q: In what order should you upgrade your power cords? 

A: The most important power cord in your system is the power cord feeding your distribution bar. This should be the first power cord you upgrade. Beyond that, while no two systems are the same (and there may be many variations), we suggest upgrading the rest of your system in the following order: pre-amp, power amp, DAC, phono stage, transports (based on usage).

Q:  I’d like to upgrade my cables. Ideally, I would like to stick to the same series of power cords throughout my entire system, but for budget reasons the upgrade will be a slow process. Can I wire my system with power cords from different ranges within the Nordost range? 

A: We completely understand why it might be hard to stick with your “ideal” cable throughout the system, so prioritizing does make sense. One of the reasons why we design our cables the way we do is so that they can easily be upgraded and mixed throughout your system without any drawbacks. All Nordost cables have the same design philosophy, so while products improve due to added conductors, gauges, and technologies as they progress up the lines, they all have the same sonic signature. This allows you to choose your cables according to your own personal needs and budget, and upgrade piece by piece as needed and when able. 

Q: What is the minimum recommended length for power cords?  

A: The minimum recommended length is 2 meters. 

Q: Is it worth upgrading the power cord that feeds a streamer in your home entertainment system? 

A: When we aren’t enjoying our music, many of us are spending a lot of our time streaming television and movies. For those of you that use an Apple TV media streamer, or any other streaming device powered by a figure 8 power cord, there is an easy, inexpensive upgrade that is sure to take your streaming to the next level! Nordost’s entry level Purple Flare Figure 8 Power Cord is the perfect solution for your Apple TV. The Purple Flare Power Cord is a high-speed, low-loss power cord that will allow your streamer to produce a picture worthy of your home entertainment system. 

For more information on upgrading your streamer with the Purple Flare Power Cord, read this review.

Q: Is it worth upgrading the power cord that feeds your subwoofer?

A: If the amplifier in your subwoofer isn’t as good as the amplifiers in your primary loudspeakers, it’s imperative to optimize its situation, in order to allow your subwoofer to succeed. This can easily be done by upgrading the power cord feeding the subwoofer. A really good power cord is essential to ensure that the built-in amplifier performs at its absolute best. With quality AC feeding your subwoofer, you will finally be able to enjoy those powerful, low frequency notes in your music, and not be stuck experiencing them as just a rumble.

10 thoughts on “Questions and Answers: Power Cords

    • Yes, when using power cords in your system, all feeding different components, they can be different lengths. However, if you have a component that requires two power cords, make sure that those two power cords feeding the one component are the SAME length.

  1. Recently I had my electrical service upgraded and in the process I installed a dedicated hi-fi circuit to avoid any electrical interference from other appliances. I also upgraded the wall socket/outlet to a higher grade. For the small cost I am pleased with the results.

    • I am currently using 2 Red Dawn power cords for my Integrated Amp and DAC and Heimdall for my Music Streamer. If I were to add another Heimdall2 or Frey2 power cord should replaced the power cord at the source or amp? ( am using Heimdall2 USB and Frey2 interconnect in my setup).

      • Assuming you aren’t using a conditioner or distribution device, like our QBASE, you should use the best power cord on your integrated amplifier.

        We feel in most systems the hierarchy goes as follows:
        Distribution unit

  2. I am looking to upgrade the power cord between wall and my regenerator. I am using Nordost throughout my system, from the regenerator to all the components. My question is, given the thin gauge of Nordost cables, and several other manufacturers designating parts of their power cable line as “High Current”, are Nordost power cables sufficient for wall-to-regenerator applications? Thanks!

    • I wouldn’t categorize the gauge of any of Nordost’s power cords as ‘thin’. Even our entry level Blue Heaven cable uses 16 gauge conductors (Red Dawn 14 AWG) which is absolutely appropriate for 15 amp devices. When people refer to “high current” devices they are typically talk about amplifiers and most are under 10 amps consumption at their peak.

      The important thing is to make sure the power cable feeding the conditioner is the same level of performance as the rest or better yet, one step above them. That power cord is the most important in the system since it impacts everything downstream from it.

  3. What is the reason for recommending a minimum power cord length of 2 meters? I have seen this said elsewhere, but I have never heard or read a sufficient technical explanation for the recommendation.

    • The length influences how the conductors within the cable resonate. A 2m cable will resonate in a more broad banded fashion and sound a bit smoother than a 1m.

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