The ESP MusicCord PRO, an audiophile power cord

You already know my bias here–obviously I’m going to say the ESP cord is a scam. But I honestly believe in testing things to determine the truth. If the results defy my prejudices and prove me wrong, I will always own up to it and give credit where credit is due.

A friend loaned me an ESP MusicCord PRO for testing. Rather than relying on my own ears, and opening up the possibility that somebody might say I was lying, or that the test wasn’t fair, instead I did a single-blind test on TalkBass, where everyone could decide for themselves what they were hearing. Here is the link to that test. I did a previous test that was also informative, but had many flaws in methodology so I nixed it; however the flaws did not change the validity of the results–they only pointed out the need for more stringent methods.

I took a pre-recorded bass track, and ran it through a tube amp with a post-power-section line out, and then recorded the resulting output. I powered the tube amp with the MusicCord, and with a flimsy cheapo 18 AWG cord of the same length. I recorded one track with one of the cords, as a “control”; then I recorded two more tracks, one with each of the two power cords, for comparison. Absolutely no post-processing was done to the tracks. Then I posted them with the simple question “which track, A or B, sounds like the control?” Since the source material was identical, any audible difference could be directly attributed to the power cord swap. If a majority of people could tell that one track was “more like” the control than the other, then that would suggest there was merit to the idea that the power cord could have an effect on the sound.

The result, predictably, was that there is no evidence of any audible effect from the cable. Just as many people “got it right” as “got it wrong”, and 80% said they could not hear a difference at all. And more to the point, ESP claims the difference is obvious, like night and day. Their video “proving” the effect has a dramatically audible difference. But in my test there is absolutely NOT a clear or night-and-day difference. Even the people that thought there was a difference admitted that it was a barely audible distinction, and that the perception vanished after one or two more listens to the tracks.

So even if we were to cling to the few people that “got it right”, and ignore the statistical evidence outweighing them, we would still have to question whether ESP’s “proof” was created in a legitimate, unbiased manner. Actually we know it wasn’t, because the musician visibly plays more enthusiastically when using the MusicCord, and this changes the tone, the dynamics, and the amplitude. He also begins playing lower notes at the point where he says how much fuller the lows sound. So their “proof”, their demonstration, is in fact a lie. A cynical, predatory, calculated lie, with no other purpose than to extract your money.

It’s exactly like the pills and potions that promise a larger “manhood” or a cure for baldness. They proliferate until the Feds get enough complaints about individual brands to investigate and shut them down. So far, there have not been enough complaints about these fraudulent power cord advertisements. And unfortunately, there is no way to prove that a person doesn’t hear an improvement! So as long as the only thing the cable-makers claim is that their cords “sound better”, there is really nothing the regulatory agencies can do about it.

It’s worth noting too that the $160 ESP is actually one of the cheapest audiophile power cords out there. Some of their competitors cost ten times as much, no exaggeration! Each one of those companies has customers, too–and those customers develop such belief in the product that they will not only swear they hear the difference, they will even evangelize other audiophiles to buy the cables too. This frees the vendor from even having to make their own fraudulent advertisements! The suckers do the dirty work for them.

For your continued amusement, here is another TB thread on the same subject. And here is an article about a double-blind (ABX) test on a MUCH more expensive power cord.

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