You already have a decent hi-fi set up, but with around £50 in your pocket you’re looking to eke out that little extra performance that’ll make a telling difference. One of our potential suggestions would often be to look at power.
Actually getting the fuel into the tank can be as important as anything your system does with it once it’s there, and upgrading the mains cable bagged in with a box-fresh component has the potential to improve upon every facet of its presentation.
Potential, however, is the operative word. There’s nothing worse than paying for something you already have, only for it to make your hi-fi sound worse.
That’s not to say nothing is improved when we use Russ Andrews’ yellO mains cable with our reference system - but it promises a lot more than it delivers.
Build and compatibility
Originally introduced in the late 90s and relaunched in celebration of the accessory company’s 30th anniversary, the yellO comprises eight individually PVC-insulated pure copper conductors, woven for effective interference rejection. It’s wrapped in a black Tecflex sleeve and fitted with a Russ Andrews 13A fuse.
That takes you up to £60 for a metre-long kettle lead, but add-ons are on offer. Another £25 buys you the company’s 13A SuperFuse, Deep Cryo Treatment (where temperatures of -190*C are said to de-stress various materials and re-align their structure) will set you back a further £25.50. And for £15 Russ Andrews will burn the cable in for three days before dispatching it.
Our test focuses on the standard cable so, having matched that three days initial burn-in time, we use it to power a Cyrus CD i feeding our reference system and get to work.
The initial results are positive. Overall, our system sounds more tightly focused in comparison with the power lead supplied by Cyrus, and bass weight in particular feels improved.
Take a track such as Ball and Biscuit from The White Stripes’ Elephant, and Meg White’s kick drum thumps with greater authority, punching its way into the first beat of each new bar, while any lo-fi coarseness in the treble is somewhat tamed.
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There’s a little extra space between instruments as well, releasing detail in busier, more cluttered arrangements such as Bon Iver’s 10 d E A T h b R E a s T. Initially, it gives the impression of being a more mature, more hi-fi-ready presentation.
But it isn’t long before we get a sense of something missing. In short, it’s the music. Our system struggles to find its usual sense of rhythm or dynamic expression, leaving the performance bordering on the disinterested.
While the improvements we hear when using the yellO mains cable over its as-standard counterpart are noticeable, the deficiencies are impossible to ignore.
We’re almost left to our own devices when interpreting how music ought to be delivered, what it should be telling us and what mood we’re meant to be in. It isn’t that the intonation has been changed, more that we’re left searching for clues as to where it might have gone.
We experiment a little, changing the yellO’s position, both between digital and analogue (Rega’s Elex-R) components, and the socket at the other end – but the effects on our system remain consistent.
MORE: Rega Elex-R review
In a set-up lacking focus, bass weight or with issues around a rough top end, there are services the yellO could provide – Russ Andrews offers a 60-day home trial, so you could try it for yourself. But we’re still yet to find a product we could describe as too musical, and so it’s a compromise we really couldn’t recommend.
Don’t be put off by mains cable upgrades in general, they’re still often a cost-effective way of releasing potential you never knew your system possessed - but the yellO probably isn’t the upgrade to instil much faith.
See all our Russ Andrews reviews