Clarus Crimson AC Power Cables Review: Digital Delight

Linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine, bucatini… these are types of pasta noodles and they all have different shapes and affect the way a sauce sticks to them, hence subtly influencing the flavour of the dish you’re preparing. Some are round and fat, thin or hollow, some are flat – what I’m getting at is they make a great metaphor for AC cables.

Choosing cabling to loom up your hi-fi has been a protracted exercise in A/B listening tests and like eating too much pasta, can leave you feeling a bit sleepy and in need of a nice espresso. That said, in the digital-playback world of the audiophile – or music lover as I prefer to call those with a bent for high fidelity – cables can make a noticeable difference to system performance in my experience.

Most people usually start out in this hobby with stock power cables (that ship with their integrated or power amplifier, preamplifier, CD player, DAC, etc.) and end up with whatever speaker cables and interconnects they can afford at the time of purchase. Many are steered towards brands that fall within their budget (or that they stretch to) by their local bricks and mortar shop, or that have been recommended by their friends in the hobby, or the advice given by those populating online forums: all reasonable and logical avenues to pursue for the burgeoning music lover new to deciphering the cryptic language of high fidelity and the role cables can play in particular.

Stock cable vs. Clarus Crimson.

But all of these usually end up as initial cable purchases because I’ve found that once an individual starts to experiment with sonic flavoring via cabling, it can be, as I wrote two paragraphs ago; an ongoing process. Because what usually happens, as well, is an upgrade to the amplifier being used, or preamp, or CD player or DAC… or speakers. And with that upgrade path there is almost always the ancillary cable upgrade path too – to get the most out of one’s system.

This happened to me, this happened to pretty much everyone I know in the hobby. Most have taken different paths on their long, winding journey to finding their own particular audio nirvana (it’s long because it’s expensive and it takes time to save money, choose the particular sonic mountain range you want to conquer and even what route of ascent to the various sonic summits therein you want to climb).

There are as many destinations in high fidelity as their are manufacturers and they can be as distinct in their makeup as low-powered SET (Single-Ended Triode) amplifiers and tubed preamplifiers paired with high-efficiency loudspeakers or horn-loaded designs to big solid-state mono blocs paired with difficult-to-drive 4th-order crossover-equipped transducers and everything in between. And each approach usually warrants its own unique cabling solution based on various impedances, loads, output and type of sound being sought.

With that said, it is an innate understanding of one’s own unique system – its specific context or baseline – that allows one to gauge the affect of a cable on the final sonic signature of their reference system. This takes time and an inherent understanding of the components within the ecosystem of one’s high-fidelity set-up. Without a familiar baseline for comparison, you will lose your mind screwing around with cabling and up like Chevy Chase trying to escape the roundabout in European Vacation.

Into the system: a component baseline

So it was this component baseline I decided to intimately acquaint myself with before inserting the Clarus Crimson line of AC/Mains cabling which this review is about. I pulled out all the aftermarket AC cabling I have ended up using in my system and went back to the standard AC cords that my preamplifier, mono blocs, DAC and music server shipped with.

Some of the first things I noticed was an increase in the noise floor, a lack of distinct clarity in timbre to stringed instruments, degradation of tonal color/bloom to brass, less vocal/instrument separation on densely-populated tracks and a mashing of the sound stage in every axis. The more I listened, the more I interpreted less air around upper registers, a lack of decay off percussion (high hat, cymbals) and less speed to transients and the leading edge of notes on piano in particular. It was a great experiment for me because once again I felt I noticed more by taking something out of the final equation after becoming so used to it, rather than always focusing on what I notice when something is added to said equation.

Clarus Cable

Bill edit's picture

In many, many reviews (not just yours), "lowering the noise floor" is cited. In my systems, I just do not hear any background noise; no hiss, hum, no nothing. Not when music is stopped and I raise the volume high; and not when I'm listening to soft, medium, or loud music. I do hear, obviously, some noise when playing records, depending on their condition and quality. I presume, than, that if I replaced all my power cords with the reviewed ones (or various others), there would be no change in noise floor. Right? Or is noise floor defined as something other than background noise?

Rafe Arnott's picture
... of 'noise floor' is the threshold that the recorded event overcomes background artefacts introduced to the audible reproduction of the signal path.

Crummy AC is easily the biggest culprit for this and having used a number of power conditioners and aftermarket AC cables over the years I've found that many are able to combat the AC pollution in power lines that our stereo equipment shares with everything from our neighbor's microwave oven to the fluorescent lights in our bathrooms, never mind EM/RF interference that saturates most of the space around us in urban environments

I can't tell you what you hear, I can only pass along what I do and that's more detail/music/dynamics/etc. getting through to my ears (passing the threshold) when I've employed various combos of cables/conditioners/regenerators/grounding boxes/etc.

As with all things in this hobby when it comes to vagaries of your location on the power grid, your cables, your equipment being used... the sound will invariably be different, that's why with this type of thing it is so subjective to the individual listener.