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Equipment Review

September 1999

Shunyata Research PowerSnakes Power Cords

by Grant Samuelsen

PowerSnakes King Cobra power cord


Review at a Glance
Sound The Mamba was able "to keep the integrity and musicality of the original recording intact." The Black Mamba offers a "silent background, breakneck dynamic shifts, and clean, colorful frequency extension." The King Cobra is simply "complete and affecting."
Features Proprietary design techniques and Stardust compound; silver-plated stranded copper conductors.
Use The Mamba and Black Mamba are highly flexible; the almost two-inch-in-diameter King Cobra is stiff in the middle, more flexible at the ends.
Value Although the Mamba is fine and the King Cobra transcendental, the middle-priced Black Mamba may be the big winner, competing favorably with power cords almost three times its price.

I’m continually surprised by the number of people I speak to or notice on the Internet who rage at the thought of even auditioning an after-market power cord, much less an expensive one. "Hunk of copper," "snake oil" and "pseudo science" are all-too-familiar refrains. Also common are the folks who do explore some power cords, but expect to hear big differences ten minutes after connecting an inexpensive power cord to an expensive component. When they don’t hear what they expect, they consider themselves expert enough to expound on the genre’s unworthiness. Yes, power cords do have an image problem, and not all are competently designed or fairly priced for what they do. Heck, every high-end product category has those moldy muffins. In my broad experience with this category, I have evaluated power-cord designs that do employ unique technology, are meticulously constructed using very expensive parts, and can effect sweeping, definable improvement in recorded sound. I’m not talking about little nuances that require golden ears to hear either; I’m talkin’ big, "how can that be?" type of differences.

I’m equally perplexed by the relatively unquestioned acceptance of power-line conditioners as some form of noise-canceling holy water. I’ve experimented with a half dozen of them at a variety of price points on a variety of line-level equipment, and I was not overly impressed. I would concede that most of them made some improvement in background-noise level or imaging. Unfortunately, all of them seemed to rob some of the life, incisiveness and air from upper frequencies, and subtly shaded or damped midrange color. I don’t consider six models of PLCs to be representative of the genre though, and I am sure there may be some out there I could be impressed with. I am aware that there are a growing number of manufacturers who incorporate noise rejection and filtering elements into the power structure of their designs, which in my opinion makes the all-in-one use of multi-outlet PLCs a big mistake. I’m not on an anti-PLC crusade here; I just think too many consumers short-change themselves by buying filtration products as if they were power-line panaceas without exploring or even acknowledging legitimate treatment alternatives.

We all develop our unique perspectives (hopefully through direct experience) on how to configure our music systems and what to look and listen for in the changes we make to improve our sound. Regarding power-line treatment, my perspective is that the more direct and refined the AC path is leading to a component or system, the better the sound. By incorporating dedicated circuits, audio-grade lines, high-end outlets, and a well-designed power cord, I have realized improvements in sound that rival gains from any other systematic change I have made. After two years of power-line experimentation, I find the most critical link in power delivery to be the one coupling each component to its power source. It’s been my experience that a carefully chosen, well-designed power cord can have as affecting and positive an impact on music reproduction as any other component in a playback chain. Controversial? Probably, but it has first-hand experience as its basis.

In the two years I’ve spent exploring AC products, I have had long-term audition or ownership access to just under two dozen power cords ranging in price from $99 to $3000. Most could be described as having an audibly distinct character -- dry or languid, extended or rolled, light or dark. There were obvious performance differences separating some of the power cords, but those often were the most expensive cords as well. Generally speaking, within each price class, I determined there to be no obvious "best" power cord. I had my preferences, but even the highest priced power cords had their own distinct sonic personalities and could be described as better suited to one application or another. But beginning with this review of the Shunyata PowerSnakes, my subjectivist stance on power-cord performance may have been permanently altered.

Snake charmer

Caelin Gabriel is the engaging mind behind Shunyata Research and the PowerSnakes line of power cords. He received his electrical engineering training in the military and was employed in a division of the NSA dedicated to the development of high-speed electronics. Gabriel’s avocation has long been the study and application of quantum physics principles and theories in his design work. His abiding love of music coupled with the knowledge of a power system’s importance to sound inspired his three-year commitment to the development of his PowerSnakes line of power cords. They were meant only as an outgrowth of his hobby at first, but took on a life of their own after word of their performance spread. "Shunyata" translates from Eastern script as "the stillness from which all creation emanates," a good motto for a company designing and manufacturing power cords, eh?

Gabriel focused his design talents on power delivery because he believes that the power-coupling components in an AC system (power cables, outlets, filters, in-house wiring) are responsible for most of the noise and grunge that detract from our enjoyment of music. A great convergence of that noise exists in and around a high-end music system. Two of the Shunyata cord designs, the Black Mamba and King Cobra, incorporate a loose, granular compound in their outer sleeves which Gabriel refers to as "Stardust" (patent pending). This substance is NOT, he affirms, any relation to ferrite or other substances he considers detrimental to sound. Stardust is distributed in a three-layer configuration in the King Cobra, and a single layer in the infinitely flexible Black Mamba. The Stardust compound’s function is to absorb high-frequency noise from the radiated electromagnetic field in and around the power line, absorbing equally from all three wires: hot, neutral and ground. Gabriel uses a moving-water analogy to describe how six feet of his power cord can restore to normal the damage 20-100 feet of Romex does to AC: "Visualize a rapidly moving, constricted stream (Romex) bristling with solid waste. Picture that stream as it widens, approaching a large, tranquil lake (Black Mamba/King Cobra). The ripples dissipate as it enters, and the waste is deposited at the mouth of the lake. On the opposite shore (component), all is peaceful and clean."

There is a lot more going on in the design of the PowerSnakes than just Stardust, but it is proprietary information, so I’ll just relate what I know. Caelin emphasizes that his power-cord designs employ no resistive, capacitive or inductive devices, and are easily compatible with power-line filters. He does advise that when using his PowerSnakes, a consumer should re-evaluate the use of line conditioners, as many who use the ‘Snakes find PLCs unnecessary.

Externally, all three cables appear to be as professionally constructed as any I’ve yet encountered. The Mamba is encased in an attractive, semi-translucent silver jacket. Held up to a light, it’s easy to see the separate sleeves each conductor is housed in. It uses a 10-gauge stranded copper conductor that’s plated with silver. The Mamba’s price point precludes the use of the Stardust compound. The Black Mamba is outfitted in a shiny black braided sleeve about one inch in diameter, and uses the same 10-gauge silver-plated copper conductor. The Black Mamba was the first Shunyata cord to use the Stardust compound around its conductors. The King Cobra is a sight to behold, almost two inches in diameter, with a sleek black braid covering a triple sleeve filled with the Stardust compound. The King Cobra consists of 40 separate parts chosen exclusively for their sonic value and requires a full day to build. It uses 8-gauge wire and terminates in a top-of-the-line WATTaGATE gold-plated plug. The center four feet of the King cobra are slightly stiff, but malleable due to the Stardust compound. The last 10-12 inches on either end are very flexible and easy to connect to component and wall outlet. I had no difficulty using any of these power cords, and found them to be as ergonomically complete as any of the finest cords I’ve used.

Snake pit

My music system has been stable of late, with the exception of power-line products coming and going over the past while. Throughout my home I use inexpensive but effective AudioPrism Quietline parallel filters on noise-producing outlets. From the dedicated 20-amp breakers on my main panel, I’ve run 15 feet of "cable jacketed" 8-gauge JPS Labs Power AC wire, which terminates at the listening room wall into a four-outlet JPS Labs Power Center. A secondary line runs from panel to a dual Hubbel outlet for digital. I use JPS Labs Power AC cords custom-fitted with screw-type silver-contact IECs on my amplifiers, which require these special fittings, and have been using a combination of power cords on my digital equipment.

I use a Mark Levinson No.39 CD player running directly into a pair of 200-watt Essence Sapphire mono amplifiers, in turn driving a pair of Audio Physic Avanti Century speakers (review forthcoming) or the sublime ProAc Response 3.8s. I connect everything with JPS Labs Superconductor2 interconnects and NC Series speaker cables. Ancillaries include Black Diamond Racing shelf and cones, baggies filled with lead and sand, Vibrapods, DIY Corian equipment bases, Michael Green’s Just A Rack and Corner/Echo Tunes, DIY corner traps, and Sonex. My room was built for audio: slab floor, specially braced and insulated double-layer drywall, and an acoustic ceiling. Room dimensions are 19'L x 16'W x 8'H.

Two years ago, I replaced my very expensive Altis digital separates and Essence Jasper preamp with the Levinson No.39 (and two children). Exchanging $25,000 worth of tubed electronics for a solid-state, all-in-one player was initially a musical down shift. I discovered, though, that through the careful application of ancillaries, and refinement of my AC system, music sounded very realistic and enjoyable again. My system’s sonic balance is on the natural, musical side of neutral for an all-SS system, yet incredibly revealing of any change in its internal or external structure.

Review guidelines

For this review, I compared the AC cords on hand on the Mark Levinson No.39. As only one of three electronic components in my system, it reveals the differences of one power cord used in the system more noticeably than, say, one cord applied to a five- or six-component system. That said, I have used the power cords listed here, and many other cords, on a variety of equipment, and I discovered that most power cords’ sonic characteristics remain essentially the same whether used on amps, preamps or digital. The primary variable seems to be how much, or if, an individual values what a specific power cord adds or subtracts from the sound of his or her system. Just as with anything else involving musical reproduction, it is mandatory to personally audition any AC product in the context of its intended application before considering purchase.

Unlike other equipment that we pull in and out of a system for evaluation, power-line products require that they be left in operation for a longer period of time before realizing their true sound. Most power cords can sound edgy, closed in, and sterile the first two to three days, gradually attaining their actual character around the fifth day. Caelin Gabriel and other cable designers can explain the technical "why?" of this, but it’s quite obvious through even casual listening that if you aren’t patient during a power-cord or power-line-conditioner audition, you won’t really know what the product sounds like, or how it compares to others. Thus, my listening impressions were arrived at by leaving a power cord plugged into a component and drawing power for a week before listening and taking notes. I compared how each PC performed musically first, delineating timbral, tonal, and frequency-related characteristics along the way. Lastly, I calculated how the power cord affected depth, imaging, instrumental layering, and other audiophile-related stuff. I spent an average of one month with each power cord in my system before finalizing evaluative notes and switching to another. Whew!

I owned all of the power cords used in this review, with the exception of the PowerSnakes. I chose to encapsulate my opinion of the general sound of each power cord I used for comparison, making reference to its sonics easier in the review. I found the power cords mentioned below to be very different in their presentation of music, and to offer exceptional or state-of-the-art performance in at least one or more areas.

ElectraGlide FatBoy Mk 2 ($1995): Lifelike timbral and tonal presentation through the midrange. Instrumental textures and colors are fully developed, rendering vocal and instrumental music with splendor. Wide-open sound with smooth transient execution. Imaging and transparency are very good. The Mk 2 had some problems with the realistic portrayal of frequency extremes. Linearity begins to get uneven and choppy as frequency extends into treble range, with the top octave tipping slightly into brightness. Same problem occurs in the bass region, where bass lines artificially widen slightly, and boom a little past the midbass region. Overall, an excellent cord. The Mk 2 version has been recently discontinued and replaced with the Gold version.

Synergistic Designer’s Reference ($2000): Tremendous "audiophile" power cord. A 3D imaging champion offering thrilling control and extension at the frequency extremes. Realistic image placement, front to back and side to side. Slightly sterile and dry-sounding through the midrange. Leading-edge of transients a little fuzzy. Presentation is a little highlighted in absolute terms. The Designer’s Reference was recently replaced with the Squared version, same price.

NBS Statement ($3000): Very Balanced presentation. Warm, full-bodied midrange, smooth presentation of instrumental lines and quiet background. Naturally extends at the frequency extremes. Good imaging. No real sins of commission. Needs to overwhelm and set new standards in sound at its price point, but doesn’t quite get there. An exceptional power cord, not taking its lofty price into account.


PowerSnakes Mamba

I was seeking power cords at the Mamba’s price point, $395, for comparison as the Mamba arrived. After letting it settle in for a few days, I sat down to listen casually. I quickly dismissed direct price-point comparisons and decided to judge the Mamba on its own merits and compare it to the expensive AC cords I have had in my system.

What caught my attention when listening to the Mamba’s presentation was its ability to get into and through a transient edge cleanly, without the discontinuity I’d become accustomed to with some power-cord designs. Those of us with solid-state or digital-only systems often attribute the little bit of splash or distortion around a transient edge as being artifacts of a recording or our equipment. Peter Gabriel’s "Digging in the Dirt" off of his US CD [Geffen GEFD 2473] is one of many tracks I enjoy musically, but don’t play often because of its fuzzy, threadbare production values. With the Mamba in the system, the poor recording quality was still much in evidence, but the graininess I’d almost always noted around the transients wasn’t brought forward or highlighted, allowing me to enjoy the music first, while peripherally noticing the inadequacy of the production. Musical detail was in abundance with the Mamba, and took center stage.

The Mamba conferred good spatial presentation and depth in the soundstage, with a reasonably quiet background and respectable representation of the original recording venue. While listening to The Cleveland Quartet’s rendition of Beethoven: String Quartets [Telarc CD 80425], I was keenly aware of the hall and its ambient character. This is no small feat for a power cord costing under $400. Center imaging was first-rate, dimensional and lifelike. As you traveled laterally within the soundstage, however, images became less distinct than with the more expensive cords. The NBS Statement and Synergistic Designer’s Reference, for example, were both champs at front-to-back layering, easily distinguishing instrumental characters outside of the center box between the speakers.

Bass lines were rendered with the taught, propulsive energy required of jazz and rock, with no hint of widening or boom at the bottom. Percy Heath’s upright bass strokes on the title track "Walkin’" from Miles Davis’ Walkin’ [JVC JVCXR-0047-2] caught me off guard with how authoritatively they were reproduced, and how integral they were to the rhythmic structure of the music.

I find brass instruments to be a particularly difficult test for any system, especially a solid-state, digital-only one. With all the reissues arriving on the market, I’ve rekindled my affinity for Lee Morgan’s hard-bop style on trumpet. On Art Blakey’s Moanin’ [Blue Note RVG 724349532427], Morgan is out front on the title track, enunciating the theme in his usual ebullient fashion. The Mamba never let the notes Morgan squeezed out sound compressed, hard or unnaturally bright. It just let the music flow. Comparing the Mamba to power cords costing two or three times as much, the overall midrange presentation was on the lean side of neutral, though only noticeable upon comparison with the NBS or ElectraGlide power cords.

The Mamba’s treble presentation was excellent and did compare with that of the ultra-expensive cords. Music heavy with cymbal work almost always has me consciously aware of its reproduced nature. With the Mamba in use, splashy treble excursions always appeared to have just the right amount of color, allowing me to suspend my disbelief and relax, focusing not on frequency behavior, but on the music before me.

Most power cords I’ve owned have a perspective or a personality that shows itself over time as favoring one performance parameter over another. Listening to music with the Mamba, I wasn’t aware of any parameter of its performance that I could call state of the art. On an absolute scale, it couldn’t compete in the frequency-extension or imaging departments with the Synergistic Designer’s Reference. Nor could it affect music with the tonal purity or timbral acuity of the ElectraGlide FatBoy. What the Mamba did do was not call attention to itself by having a definable character or sonic calling card. I found myself just listening to music rather than picking up on a noticeable over or under performance in any one area.

Overall, my estimation of the Mamba’s sound was one of balance. The Mamba had a singular ability at that price point to deliver transients smoothly and without artifice. It was able to keep the integrity and musicality of the original recording intact. I have had well over a dozen power cords under $1000 in my system and can say with confidence that the Mamba's balanced presentation of music will be a hard act for power cords in that price range to follow.

Black Mamba

PowerSnakes Black Mamba

My expectations for the $695 Black Mamba were high given its less expensive sibling’s showing. The obvious construction differences and the addition of the Stardust compound hinted that there would be a departure from the Mamba’s sound. The Black Mamba shared the Mamba’s balanced presentation and expanded dramatically on the Mamba’s natural transient delivery, but from then on, it was a whole new ballgame. The noise floor I had thought was respectable with the Mamba dropped away more than with any other power cord (or power-line conditioner) I’ve yet had in my music room. Keith Jarrett’s Tokyo ’96 recording [ECM 78118-21666-2], apart from being one of his most accessible works, is a study in recorded ambience and space. Using the Black Mamba on the No.39, I cued "Never Let Me Go." The decay characteristic of Jarrett’s piano, overlaid with DeJohnette’s delicate brush strokes were as true to my memory of a live event occurring in real space as I’ve yet heard from a recording. Jarrett’s vocal ramblings were also more in evidence with the Black Mamba, but because I was so caught up in the gestalt of the music, I had to force myself to notice them. Using the Synergistic Designer’s Reference power cord, I was more aware of the individual parts of the performance, but the music sounded disrupted and flowed less easily.

The Black Mamba’s ability to allow a music system to execute instantaneous shifts in dynamic contrast, either micro or macro, was state of the art. None of the power cords I had here for comparison traveled from quiet to loud as gracefully, or brought to the fore subtle instrumental shadings as realistically. I love the way Susan Tedeschi’s title track from her Just Won’t Burn CD [Tone-Cool TC 1164] eases into a slow blues number, then explodes with dynamic fire toward the end of the track. Using the ElectraGlide FatBoy Mk 2, I was drawn into Tedeschi’s vocal, but when it was hammer time, the EG highlighted the upper frequencies, sounding a little bright and less visceral than the same track with the Black Mamba. Just as it was with the Mamba but to a greater degree, the Black Mamba exhibited a linear progression from one frequency range to the next, with no frequency bumps or highlights. That did so much for my enjoyment of music that I would often forget to move on when doing critical listening and go through an entire disc before switching music.

When judging the Black Mamba in each frequency range on an absolute scale, I noted that both the ElectraGlide and the NBS Statement power cords did more to flesh out midrange color and texture from music than the Black Mamba. Fiona Apple’s Tidal CD [Work OK 67439] is a marginal recording that can sound dry and distant with incorrect ancillaries. On "Never is a Promise" The ElectraGlide power cord imbued Apple’s vocal with the tonal shading required for me to perceive the performance as accurate. The Black Mamba, while delivering a credible version of the same track, didn’t quite match the more generous vocal timbre delivered through either the ElectraGlide FatBoy or NBS Statement. Music isn’t about separate parts, however, and when taken in as a whole, I preferred the more detailed, balanced sound of the Black Mamba on most music.

Although I didn’t find the Black Mamba to clearly favor one frequency range over another, its ability to offer upper frequency detail without artifice or grain is difficult to ignore when listening to familiar recordings. Natural extension, color and detail throughout the treble region was as close to a strength as the Black Mamba had. The Mark Levinson No.39 has an analog volume control with remote access and an LED readout that tracks volume level to within a tenth of a decibel. I consistently found I could push the volume up 2-3dB past my usual high listening level due to an absence of brightness and grain in the upper frequencies. Paul Simon’s extraordinary Rhythm of the Saints [Warner Bros. 9 26098-2] is resplendent with percussion detail that fascinates and draws me into the music. The percussion on "She Moves On" frames Simon’s vocal, and mesmerizes with its complexity. The Black Mamba perfectly separated the individual instruments and their voices. Characters were appearing as much as five feet outside the speaker sides and enveloping the entire width of my room in reverberant decay. There wasn’t a hint of the etching or dryness I could hear using other power cords. The Synergistic Designer’s Reference was no slouch at extension either; it presented subjectively the same amount of detail as the Black Mamba, but presented it in a more colorless form, giving the percussion a chalky sonic flavor.

Like the Mamba before it, the Black Mamba’s bass performance did not disappoint. Speed, articulation and pitch definition seemed spot-on accurate. Acoustic bass was lithe, and full through the Black Mamba, although less full than when using wonderful NBS Statement. In addition to having an exceptional lower midrange, the Statement delivered tremendously clean-sounding wallops when playing the low notes. In comparison to the NBS, the Black Mamba chose nimbleness over fullness. That type of presentation served some music well, and with others I preferred the Statement’s fleshier, fuller impact.

Despite the obvious price-point disparity between the Black Mamba and the other cables, I clearly favored the Black Mamba’s silent background, breakneck dynamic shifts, and clean, colorful frequency extension. Still, I could not quibble with someone who stated he preferred the ElectraGlide FatBoy Mk 2 for its palpable midrange, the Designer’s Reference for its highlighted detail and tightly drawn images, or the NBS Statement for its full-bodied truth of timbre. I merely point out that, through my personal experience with the Black Mamba, I feel leaving it out of the queue for audition with other twice-the-price power cords would be a grave error. I guess if I’d said that in the first place I could have saved a lot of words.

King Cobra

If you flat-earth folks in the back row have made it this far, get ready ‘cause you’ll really read some knee-slapping commentary in the this section. After listening to the $1995 King Cobra power cord over the course of the past two months, I find it to have a significant flaw that may preclude its purchase for most people. It’s missing a large, heavy box and an LED display. That’s it. If the King Cobra were a power-line conditioner or other component, I suspect it would already be flying off the shelves. As impressed as I'd been with what the Mamba and Black Mamba accomplished at their price points, the King Cobra serves music in the most absolute way I can imagine.

The noise floor that was already disappearing with the Black Mamba was vaporized with the King Cobra. Left in its wake was some of the most detailed, naturally resolved music I’ve ever had the good fortune to experience in my home. Recordings I thought were familiar to me took on new dimension and added space. I never much cared for Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost Of Tom Joad [Columbia CK67484]. Its depressing subject matter coupled with a closed-in sound made me wonder why I still had it. Now I know. I dropped it in and randomly selected the track "Straight Time." Instantly, I heard the echo of the studio venue stretching out to meet my room’s side walls. I waited, anticipating the inevitable edge that usually accompanies such startling detail. Nothing but clean, extended music came forth. Listening to the same track with the Synergistic Designer’s Reference, I noticed a loss of the space, color and detail that had made the recording so special with the King Cobra. This affected virtually every recording in my library. I spent a week reacquainting myself with my music collection before continuing with the formal reviewing.

The speed and linear frequency extension so in evidence with Black Mamba went over the top with the King Cobra. I could play just about any music at wall-shaking levels without a hint of grain or brightness. Music had an ineffable flow to it that never called attention to itself. I went a full five decibels farther on the No.39 with certain recordings than I have ever gone before. My double drywall was ready to give in before my ears! Conversely, I discovered that I could just as easily go in the other direction, playing music late at night at low volume levels. I still had access to all the nuances and microdynamic shading that bring music to life. Listening to Haydn’s Symphonies 64, 84 and 90 [Naxos 8.550770], I reveled in all the barely audible texture the King Cobra brought to the fore. When the King Cobra was in use, I found it unnecessary to check the gain setting when sitting down to listen. While using any of the other three power cords, I learned each had an optimum gain setting. Go too high and they congested or sounded brittle, too low and one or another would cause the micro detail in music to be obscured.

The midrange presentation of music when using the King Cobra was as palpable and exquisite-sounding as I can imagine it getting with my current equipment. Both the NBS Statement and the ElectraGlide FatBoy have well-deserved reputations for getting music’s midrange right. All three were comparable when it came to preserving the realistic tone of voice or instrument. However, the King Cobra’s superior representation of space and tonal weight gave it the clear edge over both the aforementioned power cords. The track "Angel" off of Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing CD [Arista 07822-18970-2] was presented in a tonally realistic fashion by all three power cords, but the King Cobra captured the ambience of the venue so cleanly that it seemed to be preserving McLachlan’s vocal in its essence better than the other two AC cords.

I've already spilled a lot of pixels on the treble performance of these finely tuned AC products, but I would add that with the King Cobra there exists a paradox in the way the upper frequencies are portrayed that seems to defy explanation. I perceive there to be more detail, extension and color throughout the treble than I thought possible, yet somehow this clarity doesn't highlight or accentuate recorded flaws in music. Oh, the flaws of poorly recorded music are more audible than ever, but almost peripherally, in the backround. I always hear the music first. My uneducated stab at why this may be is that the distracting noise that presents as brightness or etch is actually more of an AC artifact clinging to a transient than a recorded flaw, or a combination thereof. I'm sure there will be paper-waving engineers who will differ.

One of the reasons it makes sense to audition a product before purchase is to match a component to its ideal counterparts. If your speakers are already too much for your room or are poorly set up, the King Cobra may overwhelm you with its bass performance. I had to shift my speakers slightly to compensate for a slight midbass boom when I inserted the King Cobra. In its defense, the other power cords also benefited from the slight adjustment. Once that was accomplished, both the NBS Statement and the King Cobra slugged it out for the most accurate and most extended delivery of the low octaves. The ElectraGlide FatBoy was overly generous in the bass on most music, and the Synergistic Designer’s Reference a little too well controlled on all music to compete with the big boys. Keb’ Mo’s debut CD [OK/Epic EK57863] is a great blues romp for the uninitiated. It has one of the more moving renditions of "Come On In My Kitchen" that I’ve heard, with plenty of drive and low-frequency information. The NBS Statement gave a very credible rendition of the music, separating out all of the swirling low-frequency synthesizer from bass guitar and kick drum. Bass lines were taught and well defined. The King Cobra had the same weight and push as the NBS, but because it separated each bass line from the others even further and added the better balance of its overall perspective, I perceived it as more realistic.

I found the King Cobra's performance to be as complete and affecting to my enjoyment of music as any other component in my system. I believe when it is used synergistically within a music-reproduction chain, the King Cobra has no peer among the power cords or line conditioners I've had access to. I would recommend that people include the latest generation of power cords from ElectraGlide and Synergistic for comparison, as at the time of my review, I had no access to either.


How many of us continually pursue upgrades of our equipment before even getting around to addressing our power lines? How much of that money is well spent? I heartily recommend audio consumers closely examine the type and pedigree of the AC current they are delivering to their equipment. When seeking ways to address AC-borne noise, I recommend talking with the manufacturer of your equipment before making a purchase commitment to a power-line conditioner. Some very reputable manufactures recommend power cords as viable alternatives to line filtering.

I found the Shunyata line of PowerSnakes to be watershed products at their price points. I highly recommend that they be a part of a comprehensive evaluation of your power lines. My experience has been that the careful system matching and integration of power-line products is a critical, but too often overlooked or incompletely addressed aspect of constructing a music system. The best way to find the correct combination of products for any music system is through the investment of time and effort, and this can happen before you've spent dollar one.

...Grant Samuelsen

Shunyata Research PowerSnakes Power Cords
Prices: Mamba, $395 USD; Black Mamba, $695; King Cobra, $1995.
Warranty: One year parts and labor.

Shunyata Research
7755 Long Lake Road
Port Orchard, WA 98367
Phone: (360) 871-0586
Fax: (360) 871-0592

E-mail: info@powersnakes.com
Website: www.powersnakes.com 

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