INCONVENIENT TRUTHS aka UNCOMFORTABLE READING FOR SOME. #1 Audiophile IEC plugs, Fuses, off-the-reel cable and placebos


Today folks, I want to shed some light on some of the mysteries regarding the mains supply into your equipment. I'm not, at the stage, going to be talking about mains regeneration as that's the subject of another article, probably in March

I want to

1.confound ignorance the buyer gain control of the comparative demonstration in the retailer

3. dispel a few myths and

4. help those that are interested in arriving at more enlightened decisions.


I've been in and out of this industry for over 40 years, in fact I started in 1976 and through that period I and my team achieved over 9,000 sales from £56k systems (Douglas Adams) right down to the occasional mains plug, gold-plated or otherwise. This means that I have a considerable wealth of experience to share; hands-on, practical and helpful … usually.

I’m not ‘owned’ by, nor obligated to any maker / importer / retailer.

MY “TOOLS” and 3.00am

For most of my investigations I used the then state of the art STAX007 / Omega Earspeakers and the matching 717 energiser because … they are the most revealing transducers I have encountered. If anything is going on, then these will reveal it.

Sources include BBC FM Radio 3 and an XTZ II CD player.

3.00am because mains ‘noise’ is probably as low as it can get in a 24hr cycle. Also, negligible ambient noise.


I have biases and prejudices. I am aware of their existence and when they come into play. The best I can do is to acknowledge these and marginalise them. In this respect, I’m the same as you – except I know the inside track whereas most ‘civilians’ don’t.


Now this is very tricky topic, worthy of a series of articles on the subject. I’m not going to get into an endless and pointless debate about what it doesn’t and does mean … in practice. For some of course, ‘more detail’ = ‘better’ and for others ‘more bass’ = ‘better’ and so on.


The makers have a particular advantage over the public … although this is not of their own making making.

Every time you remove the connection between one piece of electronics and another - for example a fuse in the fuse holder - you're actually wiping the contacts which, at the very least may have a beneficial impact – but sometimes not.

Consequently, any attempt to replicate a change such as checking for fuse directionally (which I fervently believe is a myth]) or auditioning o called ‘audiophile fuses (in my experience, another myth) in a mains plug is going to be influenced by contact wiping. There is no way, to date, of overcoming this.


Affordable alcohol works well as an audio connector cleaner. Choose a 90-percent or higher solution of high-purity octyl alcohol, which doesn't leave a residue. Don't use rubbing alcohol; it leaves residue behind when it evaporates. Apply the solution with a nonabrasive cloth and gently polish the connector.


Many years ago my good friend Colin Wonfor caused a mild controversy re his gold-plated mains plugs albeit at reasonable prices. If I recall correctly, Colin made no particular claims about the benefits and joked that sometimes it was quite nice to do something small and feel that you were improving your system at negligible cost!

I sold many of these on sale or return and I believe less than one percent were ever returned on that basis. Candidly though ... I never heard any change let alone any difference but, on the other hand, I reasoned this couldn't do much harm and within the context of the system, was inexpensive.


If you stop to think about it, the humble fuse is the gateway through which everything else happens. No surprise there of course but on the other hand I wonder, as indeed many others, if the fuse can be improved..

I have experimented with so-called audiophile fuses and quite honestly I have never heard any difference whatsoever.

On the other hand, within the context of, let's say £100k system, fiddling about with different fuses - which cost of an absolute fraction of the total cost of the system - is probably harmless I might be fun although frankly I can't see hear it.

Do fuses ‘wear out’? No idea, but in my view highly doubtful.

Do fuses deteriorate over time? No idea, but in my view highly doubtful.

Danger / a warning

Some years ago a retailer of audiophile plugs, fuses and associated paraphernalia placed a sticker on the front face of the mains plug saying that any attempt to open the plug would validate the warranty.

If I recall correctly, this self-appointed guru was replacing 13 amp fuses with a solid bar of copper of the same dimensions.

You might not know this but the fuses are not primarily to protect you from electric shock from the casework of your equipment but are to protect the cable and thereby your safety from overheating.

I believe that the substitution of copper bar cannot be justified in anyway whatsoever and that any sonic benefit is trumped by the consequential safety concerns.

Every now and then on the auction sites and no doubt in other places too you will come across a cable plug which has had the warning sticker removed but you will find that the centre screw has been super-glued as indeed has the edge of the plug’s body to stop you looking inside.

If you come across this, my advice is you walk away right away.


I undertook numerous experiments with different brands of off-the-reel audiophile cable all using identical IEC plugs and identical mains plugs with identical fuses!

I have to say that I did hear differences between all of them but none of them was sufficiently significant to justify in some cases monumentally excessive prices verging on the absurd. But like everything there are exceptions to the rule and I have on a few occasions encountered the situation where a manufacturer will point to a specific type of power cord, invariably used in the development of their product. and in some situations, like LFD Audio, the sound of their power amp is, to a surprising extent affected, by the specified cord. I believe NAIM advise similarly.

No I can't explain the following but when using that LFD power cord supplied to buyers on the sale or return basis, on non-LFD equipment, the responses have been surprising and quite a few who praised the build quality concluded that the result was noticeably, consistently and negatively affected. With LFD though, the inclusion was almost mandatory!

Dr. Bews (LFD founder) did explain this to me, but I didn’t understand what he was saying. An exceptional designer but in my experience through many years, a near hopeless communicator.


As I mentioned earlier, I'm not immune to biases and prejudices however hard I try and I have to confess that I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to impressive looking IEC plugs … some of which sell for ridiculous prices.

With this in mind I have done experiments and again using one brand of power cord cable, the same 13 amp plug and the same fuse and various types of heavy duty IEC connectors. Now please bear in mind my previous observations about the beneficial (to the manufacturers) of the wiping of the contracts every time you pull a plug in and out.

With that in mind and I do try and keep to remind myself of this, I have heard improvements when just changing the IEC male plug mainly in terms of bass agility, articulation, integration with the midrange and so on.

So I do keeping an open mind on this and considering on the face of it, a ridiculous cost of that say £80 for an IEC plug, in (say) a £10 K system, then the investment (as a percentage of the total costs of the system) is minuscule. So, even if you don’t hear an improvement, then no damage done is my opinion.

In some respects, but not all, the degree of benefit might, just might equal (on a value basis) any electronics upgrade.

Before considering, for example, purchasing an amp with a higher damping factor in order to achieve a more satisfying bass response … try changing to a thoroughly well engineered IEC male plug. You might, just might save megabucks.

I tend to, for reasons of curiosity and experimentation, scan some of the online auction sites for interesting looking cables or more relevantly, cables with interesting looking IEC terminations. It's a harmless pursuit and I suppose shows that I have more time than sense but, occasionally, and it is only occasionally, I strike a nugget and that the cable match to whatever piece of hi-fi equipment results in a more pleasing sound. And of course if you purchase wisely and are prepared to lose (say) 15% when you sell-on the purchase from the auction site, you might be happily and remarkably surprised.


When I was more high-profile in the industry than I am now I didn't get to talk to a number of different designers about a number of topics.

In each instance I asking the same question …Do you REALLY know why your power cord with connectors sounds different from others of your competitors?

I was scrupulous to avoid using the term “better” as this is very contentious. By and large manufacturers don't like to focus on that point. They far prefer “different”. I promised that I would report off the record thus enabling them to be candid via anonymity.

Not one designer of power cords was able to offer any form of intelligible explanation and in fact some concurred with their competitors that it's not only a dark art (by implication, not black science) but favourable outcomes were achieved via relentless experimentation. That said, they did mention in each case, and I can substantiate this that the ability of that power cord to reduce RF interference - especially in the tangled web of cables behind many systems – is paramount.

Consequently, this led me within my own systems to mess about with the positioning power cords in relation to interconnects, speaker cables, and so on. More often than not, after much experimentation, the effects of RF breakthrough were reduced.



I use a decent heavy duty 13 amp power plug with a rigid case and I would change the fuse every year. Not audiophile fuses though ... just standard 13amp fuses where appropriate. I have done this but frankly not noticed an iota of difference. On the other hand it's such a low-cost maintenance thing then why not?. This leads to the thorny contentious issue of are fuses directional and if so do they matter? Frankly I really don’t care and neither should you.

DIY Cord off the reel

I would probably pay no more than £15 per linear metre. After 40 years in this business I'm no longer convinced that paying substantially more for the cable itself (as distinct from the mains plug an IEC) makes any form of sense at all. Is the cable itself directional to start with or does it become so after usage? Frankly I don't know, I don't care and neither should you.

IEC plugs

I have covered at some length above and please take note of my biases as clearly stated. My thoughts here might be irrational but … I would quite be quite prepared, based on my experiments, to purchase an IEC plug possibly up to £60. I am convinced – possibly as a consequence of subconscious self-hypnosis and/or delusion that the quality of the IEC connection is possibly in most cases in most systems the most significant part of getting the best out of your system from the context of mains supply chain.

Thank you



INCONVENIENT TRUTHS aka UNCOMFORTABLE READING FOR SOME. #2 - Interconnects and their terminations

INCONVENIENT TRUTHS aka UNCOMFORTABLE READING FOR SOME. #3 - Speaker cables and their terminations

INCONVENIENT TRUTHS aka UNCOMFORTABLE READING FOR SOME. #4 - Uninterrupted power supplies and mains regeneration devices

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