We divided volunteers into two test groups. The first group arrived at 11 AM, with protocol explication beginning at 11:15. We broke around 1 for food. Agreeing not to say a thing about the test, the first group welcomed members of the second group at 1:30 for joint munching. After the first group had departed, the second test began around 2 PM and ended shortly after 4 PM.
In the first test conducted by John and Manny, selections were held to 60 seconds each. Every time soprano Leontyne Price’s exquisite “Depuis le jour” was cut off mid-phrase, my heart contracted. As a result, when I ran the music in the second trial, I extended a few selections up to 11 additional seconds in order to stop at the end of musical phrases. Although this extended the length of the test a bit, I hoped it would leave participants feeling more complete. If nothing else, it made me feel better.
At the start of each session, we conducted a mini-training session by playing two selections of music. Each selection was repeated twice, one with each cable set. After the switch, I led a brief discussion in which we noted the differences we heard. The selections used in training session were not the same selections used in the test.
The short training session for the first group was conducted with the felt down. (We left the felt up for the entire second session, including the training period). With the felt down, I personally thought the differences between the sound of the two sets of cords was quite apparent, and several participants agreed with me. Once the felt was up, it was harder for me to tell the difference between the sound of the cords). The Nordost, in my opinion, delivered a lower noise floor, increased treble vibrancy, greater transparency, more color, and more dimensionality. The residual grayness heard with the stock cords was replaced by color, vibrancy, and a greater overall musicality. (Editor’s Note: Of course it will be argued that when the barrier was down, everyone knew which cords they were hearing.)
One participant thought the Nordost set sounded louder. It wasn’t – volume level never changed. But, let’s assume that the cords caused a slight change in final volume. If that participant had been able to tell the difference based on his perception of loudness, then he would have scored correctly on the test. But he scored no better than 50/50, just like everyone else.
Given the quality of equipment and recordings, the system sounded wonderful no matter what power cords were used. The Parasounds JC 1s have a distinctly solid-state sound, but it is lightning fast, powerful, brilliant on top, and equally stunning in the bass department. While my reference transport is quite good, the Carmen II delivers a richer sound, with more bass and far greater clarity. (The blur of rapid drum beats heard from my transport was clear without being unnaturally etched on the Carmen II.) As for the ExactPower and the Theta Gen. VIII, I stand by the praise doled out in the reviews posted on this website. (The Talon Khorus X Mk. II sounds quite different than the original issue; it sounds quite wonderful.) The Nordost cords were like the icing on the cake, with the cake satisfying without the frosting.
We experienced five last-minute cancellations and two no-shows. We ended up with 9 participants (including myself) in the first group and 6 in the second. One participant was a woman, the rest male. This made for a potential total of 150 responses. In reality, we only received 149, because one participant didn’t record a response in one of his ten tests.