Another

REVIEW

 

 

Cullen Crossover Power Cables

Price: 3 ft. $175 

by

Brian Boehler

 

 

Do power cables make a difference in a high-end stereo system?  This hotly debated topic has often polarized the audiophile community.  There are hard core proponents and hard core detractors supporting both points of view.  The hard core detractor believes the flow of electrons or electricity has travelled hundreds of miles to reach your home and how could a meter or two of fancy wire at the end of this trip possibly have any positive affect.  It is either 120V (assuming the USA) or not.  It has either picked up noise/hash on the line or not.  A fancy wire at the end of this journey should have no impact what-so-ever. 

 

The hardcore proponents understand this logic but choose to recognize the only thing the component is seeing is the first few feet of the fancy power cable.  I have heard many of the arguments from people much smarter than myself and I chose to just listen and see what happens to the music and my system.  I don’t consider myself either a proponent or detractor, but a listener.  I either hear something or I don’t.  Frankly, sometimes I have heard differences (i.e. not better or worse but different), sometimes I heard nothing, and sometimes I heard a definite improvement.  It is dependent on many variables and those often change over time.    

 

Patrick Cullen

 

Who is Patrick Cullen and why does he think he is qualified and capable of producing anything different than many of the other suppliers of high end audio cables?  Have you heard of Rick Cullen the owner of Cullen Circuits?  They manufactured high-end electronics for many companies including PS Audio, Ampzilla, Infinity, Genesis Technologies, BGW, Camelot and others.  Patrick is Rick’s son and spent 12 years in the family business learning the ropes before starting Cullen Cable.  Rick was able to avail himself to a broad spectrum of electronic know-how and he has brought these experiences to bear in building Cullen Cable. 

 

Another important lesson Patrick learned from his time at Cullen Circuits is value.  We have seen the price of high-end audio cabling escalate tremendously over the years.  Patrick is focused on producing audiophile quality products without the huge price tags and mark-up.  Patrick is located in Central California and hand builds his products using the best quality materials he can find.   

Cullen Cable makes the following products; power cables, speaker cables, interconnects, digital cables, power strips, and some power filtering products.  I decided to test the Cullen Crossover Series power cable which is the most expensive power cable product Cullen Cable makes.  Don’t worry, it is Cullen Cables most expensive cable but it is not an “expensive” cable by today’s standards. 

 

Crossover Series Power Cable Construction

 

The Crossover Series Power Cable has a unique blend of silver and copper. It is completely hand built from the ground up.  Cullen starts with 3 – 12 Awg 99.99% Pure Silver Plated Copper with Teflon Dielectric.  He braids the 3 wires in a way to virtually eliminate any noise.  Then the wires are shielded with a 100% coverage Tinned Copper Shield Braid.  Patrick believes this makes for a drop dead silent power cable.  The shielded wires are then wrapped with a Teflon wrap and then for a nice and professional cosmetic look covered with Black Techflex sleeving.

 

The unique blend of silver and copper makes for a very neutral and balanced sound.  The crossover power cable is not bright from the silver or dull from the copper.  The balance seems to be about right based on my initial quick listen/comparison.  I’m going to give them 150/200 hours before any critical listening to ensure they are broken in and settled into my system. 

 

 

 

Power Cable Features:

 

Military Spec Wire (i.e. not Chinese wire)
12 Awg 99.99% Pure Silver Plated Wires (Line, Neutral, and Ground)
Teflon Dielectric – (supports an extremely quick and accurate cable)
Available with a 15 Amp or 20 Amp IEC
100% Shield Braid Coverage
Super Flexible

Nice looking in a simple and unpretentious way
Completely hand built from the ground up by Patrick
Made in The USA!

 

Connectors:

 

18k Platinum plating over 99.99% OFC Solid Red Copper On both IEC and Plug
Cryo Treated for 48 Hours at -192 degrees

 

General Sound Quality:

 

I have used numerous power cables over the years.  I found most to have some effect (positive or negative) on the sound but it was usually minimal or just different as opposed to quantitatively better.  Brands included MIT, GTT Audio - Absolute Power Cord, PS Audio AC-12 power cords, VH Audio, Harmonic Technology, and Acoustic Zen.

 

Over the years I have found some power cables slow things down and affect speed in an overall system.  Others are zippy and over emphasize speed and thin the sound out.  Often the best sounding cables have little sound of their own and just get out of the way, preserve the flow of the music and preserve the resonance body of the sound as in a voice or cello.  I listen for a full sound with the right balance of speed, articulation, and naturalness.  I really don’t care about the gage of the wire be it slim or huge.  I want the cable to be reasonably flexible so I can move it around easily and not feel like I have to get out special tools or gloves to twist the cable around a rack or piece of equipment.  I also have a problem with power cables costing multiple thousands of dollars.  I want balanced sound for reasonable money and at a staring price of $175 for a 3' cable, definitely falls into our S4CB category, better known as "Stereo for Cheap Bastards". It should be noted that most of the Stereomojo staff proudly claim membership in this elite circle.  

 

Specifically, I heard the cables “energize” my system in a positive way with more of the music pulling me in and enveloping my senses.  Some cables can be called “polite” where the overall sound is a little slow and the sound is on the lean side.  They never offend but they never get the system moving where you want to tap your foot or play air guitar.  The crossover series power cable seems to have that jump factor while remaining neutral in overall sound quality. 

 

Listening Details:

 

I decided to change out most of my main power cables all at the same time as my starting point.  I could go back and substitute in key locations later if differences were small or hard to quantify.  I basically had an 8 foot cord from the wall to the PS Audio Power Plant Premier and then three 4 foot cords including my W4S DAC2 upgraded and my mono-block power amplifiers.  I let it run and break in for a few days and sat down to listen.  My first impression was one of surprise and delight.  I was hearing more life and energy than I was use to at a given volume level.  The system was “energized” in a positive way. 

 

The differences I heard with the Cullen Crossover Cable in my system were not enormous but readily apparent. The Cullen cable provided both additional detail/leading edge transients and better developed dimensions/holography within the soundstage.  This was evident on Inlakesh’s "Dwelling Place of the Radiant Mind" from The Gathering CD.  The chanting and didgeridoo notes were better developed and subtle chime sounds were easier to pull out of the sonic fabric.  I found myself visualizing the chants and chime notes as bubbles within the soundstage.  With the Cullen cord, each bubble was more 3D, floated clear of the other bubbles, was mostly spherical in shape, and when popped, left a hugely resonant decay spread out to the boundaries of the soundstage.  By comparison, the same notes through the PS Audio cord frequently sounded as if they shared some small part of their surface with another bubble.  There was less space between them rendering the chanting and didgeridoo reproduction via the PS Audio cord slightly less resonant and dimensional by comparison.  The sound of the chime, which underlays the chanting which underlays the didgeridoo was easier to follow with the Cullen Crossover Cable in the system.  Once this enhanced detail and expanded dimensional envelope had been identified, its contribution to the overall presentation of the music seemed indispensable.

 

I then used the Cullen Crossover Cable to power the Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2.  Essentially, it proved impossible to clearly sort out the contribution of the Cullen to what I heard but the overall sound quality was improved with more pace, rhythm, and timing.  The W4S DAC is the only component I have with low current draw.  I wanted to see how the cable would react to a lower current draw and how it might affect the overall sound.  It certainly seemed to me with the Cullen Crossover Cable on the W4S the sound was superior to any other power cable I have used.  The most unique aspect of this superior sound on the W4S DAC-2 was the drop dead silent background with no noticeable grain or noise in-between the instrument or voices.  The space between each bubble in the soundstage was extremely quiet, silent and black.  Very impressive. 

 

Concerning deep bass, I felt like the Cullen Crossover Cable dug down deeper and stronger in the lowest bass regions without sounding bloated or over-blown.  The deep bass is tight and very musical; you actually hear the harmonics of the lower registers.  This was evident on Niyaz’s "Ghazal" from The Niyaz CD.  Azam Ali and team have a very powerful bass synthesizer sequence which can be awesome if everything in a system is right.  I get a sense the lowest bass is coming through the bottom of the floor into the room.  This illusion of a deep growl coming from the floor is stronger, more controlled and with more growl/presence using the Cullen Crossover Cable. 

 

Vocals are nicely handled with these cables.  Some power cables seem to emphasize speed and attack which can lead to a thin sound in the human voice.  Essentially there is no chest cavity sound or resonance to the voice.  These power cables can also emphasize sibilance and brightness in the human voice.  The Cullen Crossover Cable has found a wonderful balance of speed and human chest resonance. 

 

One example I found very helpful in showcasing the human voice and in very low level resolution was on Kari Bremnes' “Coastal Ships” on the Norwegian Mood CD.  Her voice is quiet and a little delicate but there is body and chest to her voice.  The resonance of her voice is there but a little buried in level.  If a cable is at all thin, bright, or emphasizes sibilance then her voice loses it resonance cavity and is out of balance.  The Cullen Crossover Cable hits the right balance in my system and maintains the balance between detail and resonance.  At the end of the song she gets very quiet and sings lower and lower to a whisper.  The sound can easily disappear into the noise floor if the cable isn’t dead silent/quiet.  I got as low in the noise floor as I have ever experienced in my system.  The cable seemed to find the right balance of attributes to support the human voice and keep it all focused on sounding rich and full.  The cable also portrays the micro-dynamics of the music and preserves the tapestry of the music even in the small shifts and changes in loudness and in the very quietest of passages. 

 

Pricing:

 

Now the surprising part of this review.  Based on the sound quality I experienced, I would have expected a much higher pricing structure.  I have heard power cables in the $700 to $1000 range which were in the same ballpark sound wise.  Some power cables close to the same price were inferior and sounded slow and clouded in comparison. 

 

3 ft. $175          4 ft. $183          5 ft. $191          6 ft. $199          7 ft. $214          8 ft. $229

 

For each additional foot add $15

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the Cullen Cable Crossover Series Power Cables have hit the sweet spot from a sound and dollar standpoint.  From my perspective, these cables are indisputably an amazing bargain.  The cables are extremely reasonable priced and have a sound which rivals many of the thousand dollar power cables I have auditioned over the years.  These are a top sound value and sonically reach way above their asking price. 

 

I want to challenge the people who are riding the fence on whether a power cable can possibly make any difference.  Here is an outstanding power cable for real world dollars which are well worth checking out in your system.  Patrick gives a 30 day trial and return policy which will allow you to decide for yourself, in your home and without all of the “experts” telling you what you should hear.  Trust your ears and reaction to the music.  I would be surprised if you heard nothing or decided to send them back.  Who knows, we might switch a few open minded detractors to proponents.  I promise it won’t hurt and it might actually surprise you!

 

 

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3/15/14