morrowmap1

Morrow Audio MAP1 – a power cable for the rest of us?

Two years ago, Bryan Fletcher (distributor of Audio Note UK in this part of the world) stopped by DAR HQ with a power cable for me to try out. He wanted to challenge my then assertion that such tomfoolery (my word, not his) made little or no difference to budget equipment. He wanted me to hear with my own ears – I dug his pragmatic approach. I’d invited an audiophile buddy over to play second confirm/deny. The power cable in question retailed for a cool $2500.

After playing switcheroo on Earle Weston’s thousand dollar Troubadour for only an hour, both my second opinion and I were chowing down on humble pie. Fletcher’s cable made a noticeable improvement to clarity and micro-dynamics. Still, a $2.5k cable on a $1k amplifier made no sense. This wire was for Kondo or dCS owners; where it would comprise a much smaller percentage of the pairing hardware’s sticker price.

Morrow Audio MAP1   a power cable for the rest of us? morrow audio MAP1 v3 580x202

If you were about to buy a thousand dollar amplifier or DAC, you probably wouldn’t drop an additional two and half thousand on its power cable – you’d just buy a better amplifier or DAC.

Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

I don’t review cables. There are always those guys who live to dump comment after comment about how they make zero difference despite – and here’s the kicker – never having heard the cable in question. And if they’re not kicking you for espousing the virtues of naked emperors, they’ll be bashing you with talk of double-blind tests. In short: cable reviews’ comments sections often descend into flame wars. There must be (?) a corollary to Godwin’s law that applies specifically to audiophiles: “As an online discussion on cables grows longer, the probability of someone insisting on ABX testing approaches 1.”

Morrow Audio MAP1   a power cable for the rest of us? morrow

Mike Morrow (left) and Larry Love (right)

I spent a short while explaining the aforementioned reasoning behind my anti-cable-review stance to Larry Love and Mike Morrow in Newport Beach last month. “If I don’t hear a difference, I’m calling it out”, I said. “No problem – take your time”, they grinned. They’d requested a review of their entry level power chord; something one might slap onto a thousand dollar integrated. “If it performed as promised, DAR readers would be REALLY interested in this,” I thought.

The MAP1’s particulars: 12-gauge stranded silver-coated copper, two runs for each leg, teflon insulated, terminated by Wattgate connectors. US$159.

As the web copy runs, the MAP1 is “designed for medium current hungry power applications like power amplifiers but will work well in source applications.”

Original owners enjoy this neat little bonus: “If you trip over your cable, if your pet eats your cable, if your child takes scissors to your cable, if your cable gets tangled in a sweeper, etc, we will repair or replace it for free. You only pay the shipping.”  Now, that’s what I call post-sale service.

With these kinds of system addendums you either hear a difference or you don’t. I did – no question.

I first hooked the MAP1 into the rear of Earle Weston’s EL34 Topaz integrated. Poor Earle – his stuff always seems to be knocking around when ‘deluxe’ power cables show up. I gave the Wadia 151PowerDAC Mini some Morrow Audio treatment too. The results? Smoother, less stressed. Think: a change from denim jeans to cotton pants or an increase in bed sheet thread count.

Morrow Audio MAP1   a power cable for the rest of us? morrow audio MAP1 2 580x326

The AURALiC Vega then took some time with the MAP1. My conclusions tumbled down the same: more cleanly polished transients with an ever-so-slightly easier-breathing background. The MAP1 takes music for a shoulder massage, tenderizing (without lessening) micro-dynamic inflection.  Results were even more arresting behind headphones.  I spent a morning’s email-&-coffee hour with the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC + AKG K-702 and Sandwell District’s Fabric 69 mix.  The Morrow fuel line saw the Mytek dig for more micro-detail, present it with clearer separation and kick harder/lower with bass.  Had I simply nudged the volume pot during power chord change over?  I hadn’t – wow.

The clincher: price context. Often one’s intended (power) cable spend might be better deployed on buying a better amplifier or DAC. At US$159 for Morrow Audio’s MAP1, that ain’t necessarily so. If you own something from the likes of Exposure, Rega, Creek – anything in the $1-2k amplifier bracket – this power cable is well worth a punt. Morrow Audio offers a 60-day home trial so you can carry out your own home demo. Or your own double-blind testing.

Me? I’m buying this MAP1 as well as a second for other ancillary gear.

See – I told you I don’t review cables.

Further information: Morrow Audio


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Comments
  1. Junker

    First one before the nihilists in black turtlenecks and armed with marmots enter your bathroom while taking a bath threatening to separate you from your “johnson”.

    That or it goes that way of Guttenberg’s CNET article… Good luck and God speed Darko!

  2. Mike

    I’m not doubting your assessment but based on personal experience and what I’ve heard from others I tend to avoid silver plated cables.

    Solid silver or solid copper, yes. Plated, no.

    After his insisting I once borrowed a pricey power cable from a dealer. He wanted to dispel my skepticism.

    I immediately heard a notable difference with my $100 aftermarket copper cable. Problem was that the difference was for the worse. Clear and detailed but also thin and bright.

    So my conclusion is that maybe expensive materials should “sometimes” be kept for jewelry and not for audio components.

    Would a $500 rhodium plated hammer do a better job of banging in nails?

    I guess carpenters know better.

    • John H. Darko
      John H. Darko

      Who sells your ‘$100 aftermarket copper cable’?

  3. ms142

    There are a lot of 10-14 gauge, silver-plated copper, and Wattgate/Marinco terminated power cables from small vendors that are <$100 though. I tried one and didn't like it, ended up preferring by a wide margin a $50 Pangea AC-14se (still enough to provoke hifi skeptics with its use of PCOCC copper etc). This review would be a lot more useful if the reference point is not just a $2.5k cable.

    • John H. Darko
      John H. Darko

      The intention wasn’t to use the first cable as a reference point for the second, more to provide a broader context. Can you recommend another small vendor power cable for $100-200? (Preferably one you’ve heard). Thanks.

      • Junker

        The Kimber PowerKord14 starts at $190 which also uses Wattgate connectors works great for sources. Their PowerKord 10 starts at $230. This is what I’m using on my amp. Good cable.

        One thing I always like to mention is to be sure to upgrade your outlet either before or when getting a better power cord. Get hospital grade at the very least. The cheap $2 outlets don’t retain make a very good connection with your home wiring and the actual connectors have low contact pressure. I have a WattGate model but they are very limited right now and the new versions won’t be ready until 2014.

        • John H. Darko
          John H. Darko

          Thanks Josh – useful info.

  4. Junker

    Generally, I’d think silver plating would be more appropriate to digital cable since high-frequencies tend to travel along the surface where low frequencies (i.e. 50-60Hz) would just look for any conductor mass. A thin layer of silver may be helpful as a passivator to protect the underlying copper from oxidation. I believe that is also most of the reason for oxygen-free copper rather than a direct increase in conductivity.

    But what do I know I’m just armchair engineering. A chemist who understands material properties, an electrical engineer absolutely not.

    One thing I’d like to mention is with regards to other plating metals. I try to avoid platinum, rhodium, and nickel. They look nice, are hard, and hold up well but they have relatively poor conductivity.

    Electrical conductivities in Ω-1 cm-1:
    Ag: 62.8
    Cu: 60.7
    Au: 48.8
    Al: 37.7
    Rh: 23.0
    Ni: 14.6
    Pd: 10.0
    Pt: 9.4

  5. Mike

    http://shop.grantfidelity.com/PC-1-5-Performance-Power-Cord.html

    The $100 cable I was referring to is actually $125.
    When I received it I had a bit of a sinking feeling. I thought it looked rather cheap like a DIY job with ferrites shrink wrapped on each end and a nylon mesh sleeve. I immediately removed the ugly sleeve and the ferrites and plugged it in my integrated amp. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Well balanced with better weight than my other $100 cable(an older model Shunyata Venom) The pricey cable I was referring to was a $650 Siltech (can’t remember the model). While it may be a question of synergy I immediately found it to be very clear with good instrument separation but had no weight at all. Definitely not for me.

    • John H. Darko
      John H. Darko

      Thanks Mike.

  6. Mike

    You’re welcome.

  7. Bill

    Hi John

    Any chance of you listening (not reviewing!) to a power cable closer to home such as RK Cable VFM?
    I believe it is around $75

    • John H. Darko
      John H. Darko

      Sure – I’m game. Who should I contact?

      • BIll

        I believe member Junkmail on Stereonet is the owner (based on his signature)

        • John H. Darko
          John H. Darko

          What a confusing handle he has. ;)

  8. Vincent

    yes..always interesting…

    I never felt I would even try to A:B test accurately as changing a power cord not only takes time but disturbs the “moment” for listening.

    I find using a belt and braces approach works for me. I tend to have multiple audio kits in different locations – I use a weighty audio specific emi;rfi filter board at each location and from that then run aftermarket power cables. Looking at my main rig it is one thick aussie made power cable into the filter board and then 4 USA spec cables snaking out of it. They are seldom thin so if you do this it helps if they all look the same !

    One of mine is a $300+ cable but most (and I mean about ten of them) are Shunyata Diamondbacks which were/are on a deep discount from $275 to $125 – gold plated contacts and cyro treated OHFC copper cable. My listening experience suggests that an aftermarket cable makes a very worthwhile difference as do emi:rfi measures. However beyond an MRSP of say $300 the law of diminishing returns sets in big time.

    The good news though is unlike electronics, these things last almost forever – so buy well and you should not have to revisit your power cables for ten years or much more !

    Vincent

  9. Graham

    G’day JD

    I read your article with interest.

    As an aside, I kept wondering, who actually has US outlets to plug these into?

    Interestingly, high quality USA plugs etc are relatively cheap compared to high quality Oz plugs, outlets & GPOs, which doesn’t help the local guys keep prices down.

    Keep up the good work.

    • John H. Darko
      John H. Darko

      I used – shock horror – an adaptor and *still* got good results. I’d wager I’d hear even more ‘benefit’ if my cable were terminated with an Australian plug.

      • Junker

        How realistic would it be to use an US or European style outlet?

        If that is an option then WattGate, Oyaide, & Furutech come to mind.

        • John H. Darko
          John H. Darko

          I’m thinking of getting one with US sockets.

      • Graham

        Which may go some way to identifying that maybe (just maybe) the termination aint at fault, but may be the cable in between shows gains from some decent shielding.

    • Vincent

      ….I agree most readily available high grade audio cables all have USA plugs on the end. The simple solution is to buy an audio grade power conditioner. I have a handful of the Rose Voix – these are nicely machined and very well made – the weight is a good indicator that they aren’t made on the cheap – anyway 1 x IEC connector on the way in – you can use any one that came with your hifi kit or PC although I use a specialist audio one – and then the power board has 4 sockets on it, each of which will take Aussie plugs; UK plugs and most usefully USA plugs -all with a good firm fit. So this is where you can use your USA plug audio cables into your hifi gear. Coemaudio/Stereosonics used to sell these for about $175. In my experience very useful units themsleves as well as being the way to best use USA plugs.

      cheers

  10. Junker

    I still think you are leaving a lot on the table… If you do figure out a solution that you like, you may want to post a DIY article for you Aussies to swap out their outlets.

    • John H. Darko
      John H. Darko

      Probably, but I can’t write about *everything* that arises. This review was simply to show that sonic improvements can be had from a budget power cable. Time is the single most limiting factor in what I cover from hereon.

  11. MickyC

    Geez, cables sure do get them talking. This many comments in this short a time frame must be a record. Tomfoolery attracts crowd I suppose!

  12. agnar150

    Schiit owner

  13. Scott Wajda

    I’m extremely interested to hear what/if any difference there is between the MAP1 and Shunyata’s Venom 3. Any experience out there? Google search doesn’t offer very much. Basically identical price, so curiosity is killing the cat here.