Uh-oh a review about power cables, this is going to be contentious! Here I present to you my take on the Naim Power-Line mains cable which retails at around £530 in the UK. This is Naim’s first foray into the mains power cable market. The Power-Line has since been followed by the cheaper Power-Line Light.
We all know who Naim are so they need no introduction and they remain one of my favourite hi-fi brands as I have documented elsewhere.
Unboxing the Naim Power-Line
For a mains cable the Power-Line comes in some pretty fancy packaging. You get a nice metal tin filled with padding that has cut-outs for where the cable is placed. There is a “pride of ownership” feeling to the cable as you open, in a similar way to what you get with Apple products. That being said, it is still just a mains cable!
Just a mains cable?
So what sets it apart from a regular mains cable? If you read the blurb from Naim they talk about “individual dielectric insulation”, “rubber outer that provides both high levels of inherent mechanical damping” and “2m length for added flexibility with installations”. Don’t all power cables do that? As Pete Tong would say, lets continue…
Naim go on to say that the Power-Line has “floating contacts, combined decoupling and clamping, double wiper contacts and case eddy current suppression.” Hmmm I’m not entirely sure what all of that means! Decoupling sounds like it is referring to suppression of vibration on the cable. That would make sense as Naim often take steps to reduce vibration within their products elsewhere.
Putting all the marketing to one side, lets find out how this mains cable sounds. Using my Naim SuperUniti and ProAc Response D18 speakers I listen to six tracks using the original “basic” supplied power cable that came with the SU. The music is from various genres and two of the tracks are high resolution at 24 / 88 or higher.
The SU is left turned on all the time to keep it warm. Before I start listening, I switch the SU off briefly and then on again to keep the test fair. I am already familiar with the sound of this system but it helps to reset my ears.
Next I swap out the original power cable for the Power-Line and listen carefully to the same six tracks again. I find differences very hard to hear. On three of the tracks I hear no change at all. On the remaining three tracks I think I can hear some new sounds: slightly more detail than before. No change in bass, sound-staging or depth. I make notes on what I have heard so I don’t forget.
Now I remove the Power-Line and go back to the original mains cable. This time I listen only to the three tracks where I heard a difference with the Power-Line. Using my notes, I listen carefully again to see if I can still hear the extra detail.
I can. It appears that the Power-Line isn’t unearthing anything that wasn’t there before. I was disappointed! To be honest, I wanted the Power-Line to make an impact because even though £500 is a lot for a cable, in the world of Naim it is a cheap upgrade!
To round off this review I would say that my results are inconclusive. I know people who use Power-Lines in their Naim setups and swear by the fact that they make an improvement. For what it is worth, I believe them. My take on this is that my system is not sensitive enough to benefit from what the Power-Line does.
Maybe a £500 cable on an all-in-one SuperUniti and mid range speakers is the wrong balance. Maybe the electrical supply to my hi-fi is free of problems so there is nothing for the Power-Line to do. Maybe it’s all snake oil. I don’t know.
Sound-wise aside, it is a very nice cable! Sturdy, well built and “attractive” as far as a mains cable can be.
Any decent dealer will allow you to try one of these for yourself so I would definitely recommend an audition first. Don’t buy this blind because it may only be suitable for the high-end Naim Classic and the 500 series.