Harmonic Technology's Magic Power Cord
Second Opinion
Mike Silverton
5 May 2000


Doctor: That gall bladder's got to go. Patient: Hey, not so fast. I want a second opinion. Doctor: You want a second opinion? Okay, you're ugly. (Very old joke.)

It galls me, irrespective of bladders, yet I am obliged to endorse Marshall Nack's findings with regard to Harmonic Technology's wildly pricey Magic Power Cord. Nothing personal. Marshall's a stand-up guy. Delightful wife, good taste in music. Nil amiss with the man at all, except perhaps an untimely fixation on microgroove vinyl. Hey, I'm not here to bang the drum for digital. I'm here to complain. What bugs me is having to admit that a designer power cord really makes a difference -- this one, anyway. Your correspondent's begrudging acknowledgment of the Magic's audible virtues does not arise from an informed technical perspective. Quite the contrary. I'm just a little old, sedentary listener, audiophile, discophile, devoted husband, fond grandparent, voting taxpayer, etc., etc. I've no idea in the world why what I hear happening is happening at all. So I guess I'm angry on principle, based on what remains of a Consumer Reportist posture you know, the zipcord-does-it-just-fine mantra. The mischief-maker within would just love to pooh-pooh a high-end pretension.

Not today, kids. I made comparisons, first against Harmonic Technology's own Pro-AC II power cord, along with power cords from Audio Power Industries and XLO. The latter, which I've had on hand for around five years, is probably obsolete, but that should make scant difference to what I set out to discover: whether good-quality power cords can possibly make an audible difference to what emits from one's speakers. They do. If you're an old hand at reports of this sort, as you've already guessed, the costliest of the lot -- HT's Magic -- makes the greatest difference.

The Magic Power Cord joins my front end, consisting in its entirety of a Mark Levinson No.39 CD player, to a Richard Gray Power Company line enhancer, one of a linked pair which also receives a Mark Levinson No.33H mono power amplifier. The other linked RGPC pair provides for a single Mark Levinson No.33H. I am using in addition two Quantum Symphony and one Quantum Symphony Pro line-enhancement pods. Even with this array of amerliorative gizmos online, the Magic -- to say it again -- makes an audible difference. Not so pronounced, perhaps, as the system in operation with and without these line-enhancement devices, but yes, a difference.

A comparison such as this necessitates switching a component off and on a number of times within a brief span. One's memory for sound is unreliable. Be that as it may, the end-user / journalist must do it his way, however flawed, or no way at all. In order to keep the inevitable confusion to a minimum, I restricted myself to a single CD, a recent arrival from Hat Hut Records, hatOLOGY 548, Sneak Preview, with pianist Simon Nabatov, Mark Helias, double bass, and Ron Rainey, drums. The 1999 sessions took place in Cologne's LOFT, an important new-music and jazz venue. It's a musically fascinating, fine-sounding disc, yet not so harmonically dense as to prove an encumbrance. Simple is best. The timbral lines are true and distinct, with a sensuous low end. I finally settled on track three, "The Lake," which begins in quietude with several long moments of delicate percussion. Actually, my old XLO acquitted itself rather nicely, but the nod still goes to HT's Magic for the wealth of subtle detail it permits. In a word, a more lifelike sound. The API, with its a surprisingly harsh presentation, did least well. Without belaboring their differences, by comparison with the Magic, the lesser cords appeared to me to mask events.

I trust I've not contributed to the obliteration of your liquidity or significant-other relationship.