EWA Elsdon Wonfor Audio: MC-V power cord (silver plated pins) test review

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Neil McCauley / editor in chief

There’s an old saying that you can judge a person by the company they keep. It’s a truism and a cliché but that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect.

Applied to the hi-fi industry, you can make a reasonable stab at the true nature (behind the carefully crafted façade) of the maker by the claims they make, or if you prefer, the things they don’t say. It’s transparent evidence of a refusal to ‘play the game’ - simply because they don’t feel the need to do so. That’s EWA – in a nutshell.

EWA are Mr. Alan Elsdon and Mr. Colin Wonfor who, between them, have decades of success in the industry. Both are truly grounded in science and design engineering and not media-manipulation. In a hype-ridden industry, this is a rarity; rather eccentric in fact and yes, I like this approach. I explain why, below.

A clean review process

EWA make no outrageous claims regarding the MC-V mains cable. In fact, they don’t make any claims at all. It’s a refreshing change. So the review was not influenced - as is so often the case in this industry - on, trying to either substantiate or ridicule claims made by the maker.

This means the review process is entirely clean i.e. the product stands or falls on its own merits.

Comprehensive

I applied the MC-V mains cable in different situations, predominantly driving various CD players including XTZ, a vintage Marantz and a recent Meridian. I also tried it with various amplifiers ranging from an entry-level Accuphase, vintage Yamaha (fortunately with an IEC socket) and a borrowed recent Arcam. I was also curious to see if I could hear any difference when used between solid state and valve amplification and so I used my Manley Stingray Mk1.

No form of mains power treatment was used. By this I mean the MC-V was plugged into an LAT extension block straight from a standard 13 amp wall outlet. Time didn’t allow me the opportunity to try this with PS Audio mains regeneration but …. I may get around to it one day.

Music

Music used included in no particular order, both electric and acoustic blues, a bit of jazz, classical (mainly Mozart piano) and some not particularly well recorded but rather exciting (to me at least) live rock.

The time of day

Reading Max Townsend’s observations re the subliminally distracting effects of inaudible ambient noise convinced me. He has a point in that the time of day one carries out critical listening is crucial to the quality of the outcome. By this he means that the ambient noise generated by traffic @ < 17Hz and other interferences can have a detrimental effect on the review process and thus, the conclusions must inevitably be inadvertently corrupted.

Consequently, most of my MC-V listening was undertaken quite late at night when as best I could judge, the ambient noise was at its lowest.

Breaking-in; fact or self-delusion?

The subject of breaking in of audio equipment, irrespective of the price band, remains a deeply contentious issue. Some take the view that it’s all nonsense while others are convinced that breaking in - over some extended period - means the item being auditioned will sound precisely as per the designer intended.

Perhaps the most contentious of all aspects is the alleged positive effects of breaking in of power cords.

To the unenlightened and the sceptical and many others, the whole concept of this seems ….. utter nonsense. Not only this, but many feel that the whole aftermarket business of replacement power cords is nothing short of outright intellectual deceit, to say nothing of being a blatant financial scam.

STAX earspeakers

Until about five years ago I was very much a sceptic about power cords having any influence, let alone achieving consistently demonstrable benefits. It defied logic and for many, it still does. Not me though, not now and not for a few years either.

This changed once I used a sophisticated (another word for expensive) power cord with my STAX Omega system.

These STAX are ruthlessly revealing and to cut a long story short, trying various power cords around 3am, it was clear to me that power chords can make a difference and on the majority occasions these differences translate into improvements. I’m no longer sceptic.

My auditioning process for the MC-V

It’s tempting of course with a new piece of kit to plug it in right away and determine if there’s any changes which might perhaps be an improvement. Thereafter, can these improvements be easily repeated?

Here though, I took a different approach. Rather than to substitute the MC5 for what I was already using - and then listen - I would reacquaint myself with the sound of my preferred test system with the incumbent power cord and then after a couple of days listening to it on and off, I would substitute the MC-V.

For me, identifying what is missing is simpler than identifying improvements.

I could go on at some length about the changes that I heard with various recordings but, realistically, given what you’ll be listening through, my experiences of specific recordings are likely to be radically different from yours and consequently, are next to useless.

So I’m going to concentrate on the general changes I heard and I hope you don’t mind my refusal to go into the whys and wherefores of changes in the reproduction of specific recordings with and without the MC-V mains cable.

Changes, differences and …… benefits

I did hear a small difference between trying the cord in solid state amplification and valve amplification. Differences were noticeable but not particularly significant in this context.

In general terms though I heard improvements (I will come to these shortly) during each and every occasion. Please note though that the extent of improvement varied in terms of intensity.

What was I hoping for? What did I expect …. and what did hear?

Well, very important to me is the ability of a system to sound exciting, dynamic and with no loss of detail at low volumes.

I refer to this as the point at which the system comes to life.

Fortunately, I don’t have neighbors too close, I can play at quite a high volume. The more sophisticated the design of equipment I’m using means I can reduce the volume without any detrimental effect; satisfaction being achieved at an acceptable sound level. Moreover, it’s equally important to me that the system - when driven hard - should not produce harshness. So I auditioned the MC5 at various volumes.

Without doubt the MC-V enable my systems to produce very satisfactory experiences at lower sound volumes and I previously encountered. This was consistent and irrespective of whatever type of electronics were used and irrespective of the speakers too. Moreover, I was only using one MC-V.

Outrageous competition

A system equipped throughout with multiple MC-V mains cables might be transformed – in a surprisingly big way.

Admittedly, I've come across this with alternative power cords, some of which are outrageously priced. The MC-V – price-wise- sits at the bottom of this range of alternatives. However, despite its comparatively modest retail price, its ability to provide this satisfaction at lower than normal volume levels is better than I've ever encountered anywhere else at any price.

Whether or not this was one of the benefits that EWA had in mind - or is merely an undocumented consequence of solid engineering - remains unclear. So the primary conclusion is that in my direct personal experience, any owner of a system craving the full detail and excitement they want at acceptable volumes in addition to louder ones really should consider a home trial.

The MC-V used in a system at rather high volumes seemed to produce a slight reduction in harshness, but this is purely subjective and difficult to prove consistently. Might the amplification have been clipping more softly than usual? Perhaps; but I don’t know for sure. Looked at differently, the MC-V did not add anything unpleasant at the top end.

Female vocals; a useful test

From time to time I did feel that female vocals, in particular, took on a degree of smoothness compared to other aftermarket cords. There was an added degree of vividness, almost (and I hate using this cliché) that another ‘veil’ was removed. This is difficult to quantify and even harder to demonstrate unless you’ve had considerable familiarity with both the recording and the system under audition.

Dynamics

In terms of dynamics I am utterly certain at this was increased and I think in some way this is related to the aforementioned ability to deliver clarity at low volumes in a  way superior to any other power cord I've used to date.

Bass

And now I've come to the most important aspect from me and I suspect many of you reading this, the bass characteristics. To try and explain this, let me relate the following direct personal experience from a few years back.

I was very happy owner of Spendor BC3 speakers. They had a euphonic BBC-like warmth about them and although they had a very pleasing mid-range and treble, the like of which is rarely achieved today, the bass, frankly, was somewhat flabby by today’s standards. I migrated to various active speakers and it became apparent that bass agility, speed, impact and other aspects, all of which are difficult to describe in words, were subsequently much more important to me. Flabby bass was out; right out!

Consequently, in all the systems I now use, excluding some of the more exotic vintage units (where excessive bass warmth was built in from the start and in any event, lacking an IEC input, power cord substitution is impossible), bass character is fundamental to my enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong on this though, I’m not interested in earthquake bass extension with all of the inherent blurring and other negative characteristics.

Inevitably I wanted to see if, just maybe, the MC-V would have any significance influence on the bass performance. And indeed it did.

I use a number of what are best described as bass-difficult tracks, Mainly recorded live, uncompressed and not mucked about with.

There is no question that time after time and frankly without exclusion, the inclusion of the MC-V in my system, in my room, with my preferred listening levels produced a feeling, a perception if you like, that the bass performance was even faster than ever and without any loss of weight.

Even if there was only one positive benefit to be had compared to all the others I have tried, this would be sufficient from me to consider an outright purchase to drive all of my electronics i.e. one per unit.

Context

So here we have a modestly priced (in comparative terms of course) power cord devoid of any pretension, devoid of any outrageous claims by the maker and capable of achieving a significant (and I don’t use that word lightly) improvement in already decent sounding systems.

This has to be viewed in context of course because the system has to be capable of revealing the benefits wrought by the MC-V mains cable's inclusion. It would be absurd to expect that in a modest system it would be cost-effective.

Nevertheless, being an inquisitive sort of chap I did try this with some budget equipment and yes there were noticeable improvements. That said, by this point I knew what to look for and I’m not really sure that ‘civilians’ would necessarily hear the benefits that quickly in modest system, but I might be wrong about this.

Apart from anything else, and I really can’t get over this, inserting a £265 power cord into an new amplifier costing a similar amount really doesn’t make ‘sense’ - despite the benefits to be had.

Epilogue

So, if you accept my findings, here’s a product which under some (possibly many) circumstances might be the most cost-effective upgrade you can make. But the question is ..... how to make sense of this?

Well, I don’t really want to be dogmatic about this and I don’t really like applying rules of thumb. However I suppose you have to start somewhere. I think ratio of 1:4 makes sense. So for piece of equipment, at around £1000 (and above) I think it makes complete sense to seriously consider the outlay of ‘just’ £265 for an MC-V.

Moreover with systems more sophisticated and more expensive I believe that to get closer to the sound that the various source and amplification designers had intended, inclusion of an MC-V is close to mandatory. The only exclusion being electronics makers who include a power cord bespoke to their requirements rather than the usual free one.

EWA have appointed their first UK retailer (Stereonow) who are offering these on 60 days sale or return. Given this, there is no risk at all because – so I am told - in the event of return, carriage both ways is paid by the retailer.

I congratulate the designers, Mr. Alan Elsdon and Mr. Colin Wonfor on an excellent outcome at a ‘reasonable’ price and from what I can gather, all based on solid scientific design and analysis as revealed in the interview carried out by my features editor Howard Popeck elsewhere on this site.

£255 including uk vat @ 20% + carriage.

https://www.elsdonwonforaudio.com/cable-prices-uk

Thank you. Neil McCauley / Editor in chief

 

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