The Washington Post recently ran an essay about how walking barefoot outside may benefit your health. The reason is simple: grounding. The idea, we are told, is that “humans evolved in direct contact with the Earth’s subtle electric charge, but have lost that sustained connection thanks to inventions such as buildings, furniture, and shoes with insulated soles.” The earth’s surface is perpetually generating electrons that can combat free radicals, thereby functioning as antioxidants. Several universities are apparently researching the practice to try and test its efficacy.
I mention this not because I’m trying to get you to ditch your shoes for a few hours a day, but because to me it underscores how much we still don’t really understand the effects of electricity on our stereo systems. Power cords are a case in point. Many years ago, when I was first starting out in this hobby, I borrowed a friend’s phonostage and he pointed out to me that it had a captive power cord. I was dumbstruck. You could detach the power cord from some pieces of equipment and it was supposed to sound better? Wasn’t this just another way to extract more of the green stuff from audio rubes?
Fast forward to today when I am a firm believer in the effect that power cords can have on an audio system. I know, I know…there remain some skeptics out there who allege that the last couple of feet of electric wire simply cannot make much of a difference—have it your way. But in my experience, power cords can and do affect the performance of an audio system more than we would often like to acknowledge. Now it’s true that you can drive yourself nuts comparing and contrasting power cords until you tumble down the rabbit hole and never fully emerge back into daylight. But when I started hearing buzz, so to speak, about the new AudioQuest Dragon power cords, I couldn’t resist the temptation to explore the dark side of the hobby. A few emails beseeching Joe Harley of AudioQuest to send me the two versions of Dragon power cords—called High-Current and Source—did the trick. As their names suggest, each is manufactured specifically for use with either high-current amplifiers or front-end equipment. (Both models are available in 15-amp or 20-amp versions.) A few weeks later imposing boxes started arriving on my doorstep from sunny California, and I kept plugging fresh Dragons into my system.
In this instance, the hype surrounding the Dragons turned out to be justified. Not only do these cables breathe fire during thunderous musical passages but they also provide a level of refinement, smoothness, and sophistication that was most welcome. At this point I’m not sure that I could live without them.
As for the cables’ physical properties, both the front-end (Source) and power-amp (High-Current) versions of the Dragons are quite hefty and stiff. They use a lot of silver, which is often an audiophile bugaboo. But in this case, I couldn’t discern any stridency—quite the contrary. The first thing that I noticed was the deeper and more potent bass that enriched the sound throughout the frequency spectrum. This development was a product of that old standby, blacker backgrounds. The noise floor became audibly lower after I began by plugging a pair of High-Current Dragons (20A versions) into the Ypsilon Hyperion power amplifiers that I’m currently using. Listening to the superb Sony recording of Gloria with Hungarian trumpeter Gábor Boldoczki, I was mightily impressed by the depth of the bass on transcriptions of Bach, Albinoni, and Gounod. The organ had extra heft down in the very bottom octaves. Rather than the deepest notes having a wispy sense, they were clearly articulated and sustained. Indeed, it was this sense of sustain that truly made my day. It was as though missing notes in the sonic tapestry had now been filled in. This impression was fortified further after I began installing 15-amp Dragon Source cords into my preamp, phonostage, and other front-end equipment.
Throughout, I heard an increased subtlety and refinement, a more impassioned reproduction that allowed me to connect with the music on a more visceral level. On some LPs that I listen to often, such as the Angel label recording of Schubert’s art song “An Die Musik” sung by Elly Ameling, I was smitten by the piano’s extra depth in its nether regions. I’m not talking about what some audiophiles like to refer to as testicular bass, but rather, a rich and absorbing presentation. Once again, I attributed this to the lower noise floor. The piano sounded as if it were situated farther back in the hall and as though decays on chords lasted a split-second longer. It is the richness—or what I’ll call the humanity of the sound—that kept drawing me back in. At first I thought the Dragons might be slightly attenuating the treble region, but this does not seem to be the case. Rather, I think the overall presentation is simply far more refulgent. The piccolo trumpet or coloratura soprano emerges with greater delicacy and emotionality. The very tiny nuances, the microdetails that help convey the emotion of a performance, emerged with greater clarity after I installed the Dragons.
In my view, these are very much the best of the power products that AudioQuest makes. I enjoyed reviewing the AudioQuest Niagara 7000 Low-Z Power Noise-Dissipation System more than a year ago, but my impression is that these power cords deliver even more of an immediate impact. I also have to say that compared with the towering prices of some rival top-notch power cables, the AudioQuest Dragon Source and High-Current wires are something of a steal. They are remarkably effective products that anyone interested in experimenting with power cords should consider.
Specs & Pricing
AudioQuest Dragon Source and High-Current Low-Z Noise Dissipation 3-Pole AC power cables
Prices: Source version, $4200; high-current version, $5200
2621 White Rd.
Irvine, CA 92614