Nordost Tyr X1 Umbilical for CH Precision components

Power cabling reaches beyond the IEC input…

By Roy Gregory

If you get all hot and bothered by the very notion of expensive, audiophile power cords, you should probably stop reading right now. In fact, if you get all hot and bothered by the very notion of expensive, audiophile power cords, I’m not sure why you’d be reading this site at all. It’s actually so long since I listened to a standard IEC lead – except for purposes of comparison – that as far as this house goes, it’s a shock to the system (audio and biological) if I use even entry level audiophile power cords these days.

It’s a situation that results directly from prolonged exposure to and appreciation of the musical and sonic benefits delivered by serious power cables. Together with the increased understanding of the vital importance of grounding, AC power cords have done more to drop system noise floor and raise system performance across the board, than any other single innovation I can think of. No matter whether your system is built around a project turntable and a budget integrated or the latest, greatest ‘reference’ components, it won’t sound at or even near its best without a properly managed AC supply and grounding plan.

But increasingly these days, manufacturers are turning (or returning) to separate, external power supplies to further improve performance. CH Precision has long offered the X1 external power supply as an upgrade option. Wadax supplies its Atlantis DAC with one external supply and the Reference DAC with two, while the Reference Server sports an as yet unused socket for connecting – you guessed it – an optional external supply. Meanwhile VTL and ARC both offer multiple box line-stages and it’s no exaggeration to say that Naim Audio built their business on the notion of external power supply upgrades. The thinking here is to isolate the AC circuitry from the signal path (along with any mechanical or electrical radiation it might produce) feeding only clean DC into the audio chassis where the vulnerable signal resides.

So far so good: It’s an approach that both makes perfect sense and is demonstrably effective. But, depending on just how sophisticated a power supply and circuit you are talking about, that might warrant an awful lot of DC feeds. In the case of the CH Precision X1, you are talking 19! The normal solution to this challenge is to use umbilical cables fitted with multi-pin connectors to link the two chassis together. Often those umbilicals are captive, or tied to a chassis at one end, but in a case where they are not, enquiring minds and cable manufacturers are almost inevitably going to ask, “Just how important is the cable in that umbilical?” So perhaps it’s no surprise to find Nordost offering replacement umbilical cables for the CH Precision X1 and various Naim components.

Hands on…

With X1s and an assortment of CH pieces on hand, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss and several X1 umbilicals duly arrived. The Nordost Speciality X1 cable is designated as part of the Tyr 2 series (making it slot in one step below Valhalla 2) although I think that probably has more to do with construction and conductor numbers than anything else. It is fitted with visual identical plugs to those on the CH Precision supplied umbilical and wrapped in a silver and black woven mesh, albeit one that’s not as slick and shiny as the standard CH cable. It is slightly stiffer but noticeably less springy than the standard umbilical, arguably making it slightly easier to dress – no small consideration by the time you’ve hooked up signal, comms, power and ground cables to the back of a rack full of CH equipment! Standard length is 1.5m and that will set you back a not inconsiderable $4,000 USD, with prices in Euros and other currencies yet to be set. That compares to $4,075 for a 2m standard Tyr 2 IEC power cord, which given the low volume/built to order nature of the beast, the plugs involved and the complexity of construction is pretty much exactly what I’d expect. And before all you Naim owners out there have a cerebral haemorrhage at the very idea of a $4,000 cable, the various Din and XLR versions start at around $375 per cable for Red Dawn, or $1,000 per cable for Frey 2. It’s not until you get to the Burndy equipped Tyr 2 cables that match the NAPS 555 DR, Supercap, XPS or NAP 500/300 PS that the prices reach the same level as the CH leads. Previous experience using Nordost’s basic Leif series cables in the context of Naim’s slim-line electronics suggest that the Red Dawn and Frey, Din and XLR options could be just the thing to lift the performance of Nait/200 level Naim components.