Maybe it was the irresistibility of the Cambridge Azur 851W or maybe I struck a chord with tales of my “Forced March” into old age: in either case, my last blog generated an unusually high number of responses, the first of which came from my good friend—and oldest client—Jerry Willsie of Straight Wire. Jerry loved the blog and suggested that I try the amps with a pair of Straight Wire Pro Thunder Power Cords. Five days later, the cables arrived at my doorstep.
At $700 for a one-meter cable, Pro Thunder is, in absolute terms, expensive. In relative terms, however, it’s a downright bargain! Straight Wire’s flagship AC Cable is actually less expensive than many companies’ entry-level product but its build quality is absolutely top-of-the-line, employing the superb WattGate connectors at either end with artistically accomplished terminations: shrink-wrapped, crimpled and encapsulated in silver solder. Eight Compressed, 14-gauge OFHC (Oxygen Free High Conductivity Copper) conductors—3 for each polarity and a pair for the ground path—add up to 9 AWG of ultra-pure copper for both positive and negative power paths: more than enough to handle 20 amps. (Interestingly, Straight Wire recommends their less expensive “Black Thunder II” Power Cord as the sonically superior choice for source components, where current draw isn’t an issue. Gotta admire this company’s downwardly-mobile honesty!) The white mesh “Tech-Flex” jacketing adds an upscale aesthetic.
Driving the Cambridge AZUR 851Ws, the Pro Thunders improved dynamics across the volume range, but especially at the highest output levels, where musical climaxes of all genres were at once more relaxed and composed. At the other extreme, silent passages seemed marginally more silent and backgrounds blacker which, in turn, seemed to render images with a touch more dimensionality.
The preceding description is an accurate assessment of my listening sessions. It is also cliché. Audiophiles expect High End power cords to lower noise and improve high-level dynamics and the Pro Thunder most certainly does. What was more impressive was the manner in which these cords added humanity to the music: inflection, breathiness, that silence in between the notes that is as important as the notes themselves.
At $700 each, the Pro Thunders are more than a third the cost of the ($1,699 MSRP) Azur 851W power amps with which they were used. So, the question becomes: are they worth the money? For me and, I believe, most audiophiles, the answer is obvious, as cabling has become a component in its own right and the Pro Thunders endowed the Cambridge amps with a greater degree of refinement than they—or any other high-power amps at this price range—otherwise exhibited. More importantly, in a world where Power Cords routinely cost over $10,000 (really), the Pro Thunder delivers a family-sized serving of the very best available for an insignificant fraction of the price.
I wonder what a system wired entirely with Straight Wire Power Cords—Black Thunder on the front end, Pro Thunder on the back—would sound like? Highly recommended.