I have removed all except one device, It is used to keep the DSS receiver, VPI record cleaner and Dolby Processor from interfering with my two channel.
This conditioner has four switches on the front panel that cut power to the four devices protected by it. When its time to listen to two channel, all the switches go to off. Even better than conditioning them is removing their power from the wall.
There is no conditioning on any component in the system except for described above. Power conditioning applied to my preamp, phono stage, speakers and amps have all served to reduce performance.
The best any device did was the Accuphase. It helped the digital a little and the dealer suggested I try it on my preamp. I warned about the preamp being high draw and they said "No problem, plug it in."
We did, and after the smoke cleared it was removed from the system. I have only tried the Hydra since then and have lost interest in doing additional testing.
I've had a Power Wedge, a PS Audio Power Plant, and a Hydra, and I have ended up getting rid of all of them.
I'm not getting rid of my Audio Magic Matrix and Stealth Mini Digital. 'tis wonderful in my system. My electric needs some conditioning, but as you will read, this is not so, in many areas. Go with your tympanics. They'll never lie to you. peace, warren
Nothing in High end equipment cleans up what comes out of the wall. However not all power conditioners are created equal or do they all really condition. I would not put standard conditioners on amps. I might put them on purely digital equipment such as dvd, sat. ect. I have an equi-tech system which is balanced power and not exactly conditioning. It provides pure clean balanced power without messing up good amps with conditoning that often impacts the full range of output to your speakers.
Drubin: What made you decide to get rid of those conditioners? Did you end up buying a certain piece of equipment that obviated the need for conditioning?
I put in 2 dedicated 20 amp lines for my system, it was the best and cheapest upgrade I ever did.
I used to use a Blue Circle Power Pillow. It was a useful thing, but I moved and sold it and didn't replace it, and now I don't miss it. Highs were a little softer/cleaner, mids slightly rounder, bass unchanged. I used it for the cd player and preamp and tt. Sound was different with it in the system, but I can't honestly say it was better.
I agree w/Albert and others who no longer use power conditioners. I used 2-3 mid-priced power conditioners in the past and 1st, none could handle my big McCormack DNA-2DX amp, and 2nd on other components they sometimes changed the music quality/character but never improved it. Since then I've installed a dedicated AC system and am convinced that's the best way to go when possible-- but then we own our house and I can do that. I consider good outlets and power cords an extension of the ded. AC supply.
If we rented and couldn't put in a ded. AC system, I'd seriously look at power conditioners if I thought they might be beneficial-- PS Audio, Hydra and the like. Finally, I've had discussions with Steve McCormack about this, and his advice has always been to plug his amps directly into "wall AC". Cheers. Craig
I sold my Blue Circle conditioner. Never noticed a difference. It did look cool, though. Probably snake oil, or maybe I have clean power from the wall and did not need it.
With all due respect, I'm kinda' surprised at the strong responses in the posts above.
Yet, each of you who negate the need for a 'good' line conditioner claiming that dedicated lines are all you need also seem to own one or more aftermarket power cables. That would indicate to me that you may not be entirely convinced dedicated lines and outlets alone are the only requirement for cleaning up AC.
As some of you suggested, there are good and bad power conditioners. But there are also active and passive line conditioners.
Others suggest that power conditioners seem to strip something away from the music.
With what little I know, I would probably agree with that last statement if that statement were applied only to some to many of the active power conditioners.
But the passive in-line conditioners I am using have no such limitation.
I have the dedicated lines, the custom 10gauge 99.95% OFC house wiring, the FIM outlets, etc.. I live in a quiet residential neighborhood with no major industry or power stations in the area. And my AC is dirty.
Aside from seperating/minizing the digital and appliance AC noise, I cannot think of any reason why I should expect AC to be clean simply because I installed some dedicated lines.
Dirty AC is dirty AC. With dedicated lines, only now the dirt is dedicated.
I've seen the specs on several active line conditioners and yes, they can be extremely limiting in current capacity.
To give you an idea, one of my smaller Foundation Research LC-1's in-line conditioners (used for my source or pre) has almost the same current capacity as PS Audio's largest P1200 line conditioner.
As for my McCormack DNA-2 Rev. A amplifier, the LC-2 passive in-line conditioner has double the constant current rating of a P1200 and almost triple at peak current ratings.
I've taken just my LC-2 out and ran the custom romex directly to the amp via a hubbell cryo-dipped IEC plug. It took all of 5 seconds to hear that the LC-2 is doing it's job very well especially at virtually eliminating any trace of sibilance that immediately vanished when I put the LC-2 back in place.
In fact, based on this and a few tests similar to this with a few aftermarket power cables, I am convinced that at a certain point in component equipment quality, AC and it's proper conditioning has everything to do with the presence of sibilance in a system or lack thereof.
Thank you Stehno. You've summed things up quite well.
Unless one has equipment or power cords with some type of low pass filtration built into it, there is still PLENTY of AC grunge getting into their equipment even with dedicated lines. Then again, one might be amazed at what can be removed from the power line by using parallel filtering and / or high current line isolation devices.
How about i start loaning out one of my AC Line Sniffers to you folks with dedicated lines and you can start checking out just how effective those lines really are ? You can compare the noise on your dedicated lines to what you hear on your standard household lines. I'll even include an adapter so that you can check out just how effective your "mega-dollar" AC cords are at reducing incoming noise. Believe me, what you think of as "clean power" from a dedicated line is NOT pretty. Nor is it "clean". I've viewed it on a scope, listened to it on a modified Sniffer and measured it on a calibrated test equipment, all at the same time. All i can say is that dedicated lines are but a starting point.
My guess is that once you became familiar with what was really taking place in your AC system and knew how to interpet the data that is available to you, you would start re-thinking your investments and start looking at alternative means to power line filtration & conditioning. The cumulative effects of PROPERLY EXECUTED noise reduction in an AC system are both measurable and audible. That is, IF one uses common sense and maintains a low impedance path for the electricity to travel through.
Like anything else, there is a "science" to this. While we don't have all the answers to solve the mysteries of the Universe, mankind is smart enough to figure out a few things here and there. Getting rid of noise on an AC line is one of those things. Whether or not it can be done on a "simple" and "cost effective" basis depends on just how "clean" someone wants their power to be and how many side-effects they are willing to put up with. As such, "clean" is a relative term, just like the words "good", "sufficient" and "working". Something can "work sufficiently" for minimal cost. Something can "work good" for a little bit more money. Neither approach means that they are "working optimally" since that approach typically requires a lot more time, labor and money but all of them would be "working" to one extent or another.
Having said that, most approaches to AC filtration are attempts to make things "better", but are done so in a cost efficient manner. As such, the drawbacks to such an approach are audible side effects due to higher than acceptable impedances and current limitation. Audioengr discussed some of this in a recent AC cord thread and used science / math to try and prove his point. The same principles that allow him to do that also allow us to solve other problems, IF one wants to. Once again though, it all depends on how badly one wants to solve the problem and how many side effects they are willing to put up with. If one wants minimal side effects with maximum performance, one may be required to put in quite a bit of time, energy and money to get there. Sean
I don't doubt your position Stehno, it's just that in my system every conditioner applied to my main (two channel) gear made the music worse. It would be senseless to continue to use a product based solely on theory.
As already stated, a one time exception was a test with my digital player. Although the Accuphase provided some improvement, it cost six times more than the player it was providing power for.
On the topic of dedicated lines, if they are done properly they reduce the stress of sharing load with other devices. This can be significant in systems where the equipment draws heavy on the line. As for power cords, the good ones are audible whether connected directly or through any of the line conditioners I've tested.
A perfect example is the Walker motor controller. The aftermarket power cable supplying 120 from the wall to the controller makes a big difference in sound. Although this is called a controller, it is a regenerator and therefore, my one "successful" power conditioner.
A sonic signature here was hard for me to accept. The power entering the Walker is converted and then regenerated before outputting to the turntable motor. Logically that would remove any effect or personality the power cord could impart.
Far from it, even after the regenerated power turns that motor which is driving a brass pulley, turning a silk belt that is spinning a 60 pound lead platter on an air bearing, it is not only audible, it can be altered significantly by various brands and designs of power cords.
Crazier still, whatever personality that cable has on the Soundlab speakers, amps, and preamps is exactly the same personally it imparts on the turntable.
So far, all of the power conditioners I tested were effected by the choice of power cable. That personality or sound is also delivered through to everything it is providing conditioning for.
There are two new Audiogon members invited for music this coming Tuesday. If they wish, we can do a quick test and they can post here based on their own listening experience. I will ask if they have interest in this.
Visitors that have been coming around long term are no longer amazed by this, it is taken for granted due to the number of times this has been tested and identified.
Since I moved last year, I have never removed the API Power Wedge Ultra from my sources and preamps, where it supplies filtered, isolated, and balanced AC, or from my amps, where it just filters (it is supposed to work best with everything connected through it and nowhere else). I would be forced to use an inexpensive power distributor to evaluate this, but I guess I really should do a new comparision with and without the PLC, especially since I not only am in a new place, but have replaced a lot of gear since the last time I tried to evaluate the cumulative effect of the Power Wedge. Previously, I never heard a downside, and everything sounds great now too, but empirical evidence-gathering may once again be in order, pain in the behind though it might be. (I should note, however, that I can easily switch the balanced-AC feature on the sources in or out while leaving everything hooked-up and running, and that test causes me to remain skeptical that many of them could sound as good plugged into unbalanced AC from the wall.)
Dedicated line? Dedicated garbage. Bad electric is bad electric. There are, however, benefits (Albert has mentioned many) of using dedicated lines, that will be realized, even if the electric is still "dirty." I've experienced my system with and without my Audio Magic. Significant difference. Wouldn't be without them, in Point Lookout. I am sure there are places where power condioning won't do a thing. Not here. Go figure. Electricity is a mystical thing. peace, warren
I agree that some power conditioners I tried actually degrade sound more than improve, usual negative effective being rounding/softening of edges producing reduced dynamic contrasts. I am happy with AM Stealth Cryo and won't be removing it anytime soon, haven't noticed any negative effects only positive plus surge protection.
Even people who are averse to power conditioner at stereo outlet should pick up set of 8 Audioprism Quietline III and place throughout house at outlets of usual noise sources: Computer, Refrigerator etc. (I use these in addition to Stealth)
Nice post, Stehno.
Although, my experience also falls inline with the camp that the best sound I have found in my system is plugging a decent power cord straight into the wall. That doesn't mean power conditioners don't help in other people's systems.
It is good to see that Albert has actually had some success with power conditioning (ie. the controller for the turntable and the albeit expensive Accuphase) as this tends to mirror my experience with my low budget gear. My theory is that less expensive equipment with less than stellar power supplies may benefit much more from good line conditioning than better built equipment with massive power supplies. I have usually looked for audio bargains and acquired two Inouye line conditioners,
at very reasonable prices ($150 Cnd. versus their $800 Cnd. retail price), and their effect within my system has been profound, and a huge improvement. I acquired the first one primarily because of the huge performance boost it offered to my turntable. The 2nd one I bought for my TV after a power surge almost took it out, but I have since moved that one into my sound system as a dedicated conditioner for my integrated amp. I would agree that power cords on conditioners are as important as cords directly feeding components.
Perhaps I have just lucked out, but the conditioners I have been using have been great. I recently stumbled upon the Quantum Electroclear (available for the massive sum of $40!) and now use two of them in my system, in conjunction with the Inouyes, which have had their receptacles replaced with cryoed Hubbells.
The Quantum Electroclear makes, to my ear, for a staggering improvement with digital gear, and works well with my integrated amp as well. The quality of the receptacle it uses concerns me, yet it seems very effective. With a bit more attention to detail (better integrated receptacle, sturdier male plug), I think it could be (and maybe already is) the giant killer of power conditioning within any moderately priced system.
Albert: I'd be curious to see what you think of the Electroclear with your digital gear. I think it's substantially less than the Accuphase!
Don't share transport or CD player to your amp's on the same outlet. This seems the most effective way to remove the grainy high if rest of components are already fine. I used to have Martin Logan, and it is the best sensor to power line noise. You can hear the background noise after turning on lights or refrigerator running. Add one conditioner do help to reduce that noise. So, I think a good conditioner make sense if you can't isolate noisy electronics like air conditiner, refrigerator, PC, transport... to differet outlets. If you already isolate your noisy component, then it is not so critical.
I have no doubt that the results that folks have achieved are exactly as stated.
As we all know, not only is there the consideration of how much power is delivered, but also the quality and speed in which it can be delivered. Audioengr provided a small sample of the math involved in working through such problems. He discussed various impedances / problems found in common power cord / power delivery systems and the factors that these bring with them in terms of the speed and quantity of power provided. On top of this small yet vital part of the puzzle, one must also start to factor in such things as the quality of the power provided. Dielectric absorption, thermal losses, susceptability to RFI / EMI, distorted magnetic fields due to irregularities in the impedance of the cables, etc... are all factors that come into play. One will run into these variables with ANY type of cabling or electrical device that one attempts to use. As such, the "chain" is only as strong as the weakest link and should be viewed and approached as a whole.
Unless one can find a way to isolate the power being provided to the system from the AC mains using a low impedance / high current method, and then follow through the rest of the AC system with a high level of integrity, anything else is a band aid and side effects WILL result. This is why i do not doubt the poor results that some folks have encountered i.e. they were not a "complete" plan of attack but several different pieces of the puzzle thrown together at random. To top it off, some of those parts may not even be from the same puzzle i.e. they lacked compatibility with other components being used.
The approach that many audiophiles take to AC filtration / isolation is kind of like installing the wrong type / heat range of spark plug with the incorrect gap in a race motor. One "might" end up doing such simply because they were told by an "expert" ( i.e. "salesperson" ) that such parts would "work". Let's say that you took a spark plug that was designed for a lawn mower and installed several of them into a 1966 427 Shelby Cobra : ) Sure, the plug might thread into the hole in the block, just as all of your power cords and filters plug into each other just fine. No problems here. As the spark plugs are called upon to "work", the plug will fire i.e. the system still "works" and is running. However, the engine / system is surely NOT running optimally due to compatibility problems. Such a situation occurs even though all of the "basic" requirements of the installation were met. The end result is lower performance than expected. On top of this, you now have a LOT of side effects due to less than thorough planning and lack of parts compatibility. As such, it would be time to re-evaluate the approach taken and eliminate the source(s) of the problem.
With that in mind, we have to be able to achieve a high level of isolation from the mains to start off with. Not only are we isolating the system from what is in our own house, but what is on the lines being fed into the house. To do this properly, we have to have a filter / isolator that is capable of providing far more current than we will ever draw and do so without increasing the line impedance. From there, we would need to use a low inductance high current cable that takes advantage of a low absorption dielectric. This cable would also need to be configured in an RFI reduced geometry. All points of contact should be made using connections of similar materials that are protected from corrosion and / or maintained on a regular basis. The end result would be power that was "cleaned" first. That power would then be delivered on a timely basis in the quantity needed with the least amount of "damage" ( voltage drop / dielectric absorption / series resistance / phase & impedance problems ) possible. The potential for contamination after the initial filtering / isolation were accomplished would be minimized since we used cabling that is resistant to RFI and EMI. This is achieved through the use of specific geometries that also contribute to lowering inductance.
If one wanted to take that a step further and "go gonzo", it would not be hard to do. The use of further filtering / electrical isolation at the feedpoint to each individual component, so as to minimize cross contamination from component to component, could be taken advantage of. But, once again, one must pay attention to the manner in how the filtering is done and the impedance / speed of delivery that said filtering introduces into the system. The filtering / isolation for a CD player would NOT be the same as that required for an amp in terms of current capacity and / or electrical design.
This is a "total approach" to AC filtration that is not difficult, but it can be costly. The main expenses would be coming up with the equipment necessary to filter / isolate vast quantities of current at the mains while maintaining a low impedance with minimal leakage. After that, there are plenty of mass produced quality cables that one could select from. The same thing goes for points of connection ( outlets, power plugs, necessary jacks, etc..) and individual filtration / isolation devices at the component level. Whether or not one wants to take the necessary steps to provide "total approach" AC conditioning is up to them. If one takes a lesser approach, one can and should expect lesser results. Sean
albertporter,i agree with you that power filtration kills the musical nuances we are paying so much to hear so i removed mine. i have a question for you and others who have done the same thing,how do you protect all that fine equipment from power surges or lightning strikes? my home was hit by lightning and it fried my phones,tv,alarm system and some lights but thank the audio gods not my system. the electrician who made the repairs said he see's this all the time. i heard that some folks have put some kind of protection in the breaker panel, has anyone tried this? if so,how does it effect the power delivery to the equipment if any?
Capeguy, I have no protection. It does worry me, especially during those electrical storms that Texas and Oklahoma are famous for.
When the weather turns really ugly, I simply do not play my stereo. Sometime I get so paranoid I unplug the main components.
I too received a lighting strike, probably nearly twenty years ago, but still fresh on my mind. The damage was almost identical as described by you, including (thank goodness) my stereo escaping any damage at all.
1. There are NO absolutes in this or any other audio-related area. What works great for you won't necessarily do so well at my house etc. etc.
2. Yes I once stopped using line conditioning - for about half an hour. The sibilance came right back along with the dirty power. I still used the dedicated circuit with transorbs & upgrade AC cords.
With dedicated lines, only now the dirt is dedicated
John I love that statement! Couldn't have said it any better myself so I'll appropriate yours. Thanks.
3. Philes like Cape & Albert should at least install whole house surge protection if they find that a line conditioner isn't doing them right. If your area has thunderstorms, then once you've been hit by lightning then you'll better understand the ramifications of no protection. You won't always be at home to turn everything off & unplug it just in time. Then believe my, you'll cry. Even in storm free areas, line transients can be severe & damaging.
I use a Joslyn gas-tube-discharge parallel transorb at the house panel & also I parallel MOV's across my dedicated outlets. And I STILL power down & unplug everything when storms are nearby. I've learned my expensive lesson the hard way - twice!
I use conditioners but not for lightning protection. I have twice had my house hit by lightning. Most recently my stereo was on and plugged into a Sound Application. While my garage door opener, intercom system, answering machine and telephone were all destroyed, my system was unaffected. The first time I had no protection but the system was off except for the preamp. That time the computer was taken despite being on a surge protector, which did not burn itself out, and not on, but the stereo was again unaffected. My computer guy said that computer chip are much faster than surge protectors.
I have never found any surge protector that sounded anything other than like shit. Also I have found only three conditioners that I think add more than they subtract in sound. The good one have been in the last three years. Before that I would initially like them but ultimately found they detracted.
When we have a severe storm, I unplug the Velocitor and Harmonix conditioners.
has anyone used ps audio's uo as a surge protector? does it work? how does it effect the sound? at $399 for thehigh current unit this might just do the job. what do you think albert?
I don't like what the PS Audio does to the music. They were ineffective with my Soundlabs (powering back plates) and Soundlabs draw only one eighth of an amp at 120 volts.
The Soundlabs are an excellent place to test conditioners, whatever sound the filtering adds or takes away is obvious and immediate. That personality is additive and identical in every other component it's tested on.
Comments here at Audiogon about balanced lines have all spoken favorably. A friend who also owns my same preamp and speakers and who's opinion I respect said balanced lines helped in his home, and there appears to be no downside.
So far the only bad news is the parts costs. After much testing, the best results were from large air core transformers, hand made in Switzerland. They are very expensive and require a fairly large mounting space near the AC panel.
The economy needs to turn around and my business must improve before I venture into multi thousand dollar investments for experimentation.
I just finished my living rooms acoustic treatment, rebuilt my Soundlab cores and back plates and had six new power cables built by Purist Audio. These were a small miracle, beating my Dominus like Dominus beat OEM cords, but they were very expensive.
When I recover from all that and test the new Bruce Moore 225 Mono blocks that are on the way, I hope to do more experiments on power. Possibly the balanced approach.
Crazy4blues, in answer to your question, I got rid of the three conditioners for different reasons, some relating to sonics and some more to my comfort level with owning the product and having it in my system.
I had one of the early Power Wedges and used it without giving it much thought for several years. Until I took it out of the system one day and found that I preferred the music without it. I think it made my system sound dull. (But I wonder if what I find dull is what others consider a welcome absence of sibilance.)
I mostly liked what the PS Audio did sonically, but I was frustrated that it (1) had only 4 outlets, (2) could not accomodate my power amp, and (3) consumed power all on its own, so I was conflicted (environmentally speaking) about leaving it on all the time even though I certainly wanted to leave my low-consumption front-end gear on all the time. Also, I thought it was ugly and I was kind of embarassed to have it in the house.
When the Hydra came out, I thought: 6 outlets, doesn't consume power, handsome, and I had had some good experiences with Shunyata power cords. But I was never convinced that it improved my system. Larger soundstage, yes, but things often sounded, again, dull. So I sold it and have been using a Mapleshade power strip as a stopgap.
Over the years, I have certainly heard huge effects from power-related variables in my system. I believe it's important. But I find that I am often unsure about whether the change is an improvement, and sometimes I feel like I'm chasing my tail. Ditto for cones and footers and such. About a year ago, I decided to remove most of them from my system and perhaps revisit the whole topic down the road when I had the time and patience to critically evalute their effects in my system. I used to buy inexpensive tweaks on the basis of reviews or buzz and assume that it was a good thing to have them in the system. Now I'm being more conservative about adopting these things. I got tired of friends asking, "What's that?" and then, "Does it work?" to which I could only say "I don't know, but it's supposed to." Know what I mean?
I am an avid reader of Audiogon and the Audio Asylum, but rarely contribute due to my status as a distributor; however, I believe that I can offer some considered thoughts to this thread and add a fresh perspective without (appearing to be) flogging any of the products I represent.
I think it is important to state that I was at one time firmly in 'the best power conditioner is no power conditioner' camp.
I am also of the philosophy that if a system or component is not musically satisfying, then it has failed in its ultimate goal: communication of the music. I also use this as my primary criteria in evaluation of any component, cable and accessory changes in my system. If the new element in my system does not allow me to better connect with the music, it doesn't matter what other sonic attributes it has*.
Also let me disclose up front that I am the principle for a company called Music First Distribution. We are the US Distributor for Foundation Research Audio Electronics, the line currently offers a line level preamp, a phono stage and a series of components designated as the 'Noise Reduction System'.
It would be easy for one to conclude that I am now a 'believer' because I sell noise reduction components, but actually, I sell these components because they are what finally convinced me that effective noise reduction is an absolute requirement.
In my experience, systems assembled around effective noise reduction are often able to transcend both the medium and the equipment. When properly assembled and voiced, these systems allow the listener to get closer to the music by conveying the ultimate in musically significant resolution and low level detail, without the accompanying amusical artifacts due to external noise.
In my opinion and again based on my experience, a well designed and EFFECTIVE noise reduction component must:
1) First and above all, do no harm:
The noise reduction component must add no sonic signature or coloration of its own. For A/C line conditioners, a critical aspect of this requirement, and the downfall of the majority of in-line conditioner designs is the requirement that the conditioner MUST NOT be the current limiting element in the specific application or circuit. I strongly believe that current limiting is one of the largest flaws in A/C line conditioner design. Underpowered A/C regenerating devices, power bars and other distributed conditioning solutions are anathema to the above dictum, and those of us** who have spent the time and money to dedicate high current power delivery to individual components naturally (and correctly) shy away from these designs.
2) Offer effective noise reduction:
In my experience, bi-directional noise reduction is the most effective noise reduction method, i.e. not only isolating the component from the power grid, but also, and often more importantly, isolating the component from the rest of the system. Bi-directional filtration is especially important on digital components and class D amplifier designs, which can inject high frequency noise back into the rest of the system. It therefore follows from dictum 2) that, A/C line conditioners must also:
3) Be dedicated to individual components:
In my opinion, this is the only way that true isolation between components can be achieved.
It is my experience that when well designed noise reduction components meeting the above three criteria are installed on the vast majority of systems, the improvements are not only dramatic and without drawbacks, but also revolutionary. In the past, I was always one who viewed the words 'neutral' 'detailed' and 'revealing' as negative attributes that were contrary to the objective of musicality. I now believe that this view was mainly due to the fact that truly neutral components do nothing to mask the noise present in the system. Quite often, components and systems that are branded 'hi-fi' or 'audiophile' in the perjurative sense, are transformed with the application of effective noise reduction so the first thing that impresses the listener is the musical "rightness" of the system.
Well designed noise reduction components (lets call them WDNRCs) do two things in the above type of application:
a) First, WDNRCs dramatically lower the noise floor revealing tremendous amounts of true, subtle, low level musical detail. This detail that was previously masked has a tremendous impact on the ability of the listener to connect with the music.
b) Secondly, WDNRCs remove the A/C RFI and EMI noise that is ubiquitous in every system to various degrees. These noise artifacts have the effect of artificially highlighting frequencies where the noise manifests itself. Also, the noise artifacts are amusical and instead of these frequencies adding to the musical experience, they cause listening fatigue and unnatural listener tension that ultimately reduces and more often eliminates the ability of the listener to connect with the music. Classic manifestations of this type of noise are unnatural vocal sibilance not present in the original recording and distortions on crash cymbals and high hats in drum kits (for me high hats are the most difficult test to pass). The presence of external A/C RFI and EMI noise causes these sibilances and cymbals to separate from the musical tapestry and they appear to separate from the soundstage. They are so easy to pick out once the phenomena is pointed out that even casual listeners can pick them out with ease. Because these distortions are errors of commission, where the noise floor effect discussed in a) above is an error of omission, they are, for me, the greatest reason that a system fails to communicate the musical message***.
So why is there a large faction of audiophiles and music lovers who swear at noise reduction products instead of swearing by them?
I) The main reason is that there are very, very few products that meet the above three criteria. Most power conditioners fail because they do not pass dictum 1, sometimes by choice but more often due to poor design.
II) Also, there are rare occasions where even effective noise reduction does not appear to be beneficial, and here's why.
There are those audiophiles/music lovers who have voiced their system so as to reduce the artifacts of A/C (and RFI and EMI) noise**** and have done so in the absence of WDNRCs. These systems are usually developed over long periods of time by audiophiles/music lovers with educated ears and with the necessary time and resources. It is important to realize, however, that the only way to reduce the artifacts of noise described in b) above by methods other than the utilization of WDNRCs is by tailoring the frequency response of the system to reduce or 'omit' the noise at the offending frequencies. Unfortunately this method always comes at the expense of masking true musical information in the frequencies where the offending noise resides. The installation of even the best power conditioners in these systems almost always results in a perceived loss of life and detail. More often than not the noise reduction component is removed as the offending element when other system components are ultimately responsible.
Systems such as these are the result of errors of omission. The irony is that systems developed in this way are always more satisfying musically than those that are ruthlessly revealing, but they are no more correct, and while they are not offensive they ultimately do a disservice to the musical message by masking musically significant (essential) detail.
So what does one do? First don't give up on noise reduction! Search out noise reduction products that meet the above criteria. Read David Magnan's treatise on tweaks at http://www.magnan.com/column.shtml. Have fun, keep an open mind and re-explore noise reduction products. Dont be afraid of re-evaluating your system components if you find yourself in the pleasantly musical camp and noise reduction appears to rob your system. It may be a case of taking one step back to take 10 steps forward. I know it was for me.
Lastly, don't take my word for anything! Challenge my perspective by experimentation and post your findings. I gave up taking strangers' (goners', reviewers', manufacturers', distributors', dealers', audio gurus' etc.) opinions at face value about 10 years ago. My system has thanked me for it ever since.
And always remember the best thing one can spend on one's system is time.
Kerry Legeard B. A. Sc. P. Eng
Music First Distribution
*There are pitfalls to using this methodology as I describe in item II) towards the end of of my post.
**My personal dedicated listening room, and one of our three beta test sites is equipped with a top of the line General Electric industrial 225 amp panel box with a super duty silver plated copper bus and bolt on low noise silver contact breakers. This panel box delivers power to 10 dedicated 20 amp circuits isolated on the quietest leg of the utility power transformer via solid core 10 gauge OFC wiring.+ WDNRCs sized appropriately for the components not only work well in this type of setup, they are indispensable and have no downside!
+(I also have the ability to switch each line between 120 and 240 volts if the component can be configured to accept 240 volts. The impact of 240 versus 120 volt A/C configuration is substantial and requires another, much longer discussion.)
***Not coincidentally, many of the areas discussed here are where digital has, and continues (albeit to a lesser degree) to fail. It is my opininon that many (but not all) of the problems thought to be inherent to the technology are due to RF noise generated by poorly isolated digital circuitry which not only contaminates the analog sections of the DAC but also the A/C to the rest of the system.
****Some individual components and even entire lines of components are 'voiced' so as to reduce offending external noise elements.
Musicfirst (and Sean or anyone else more knowledgeable than myself): Regarding the question of 240v lines (and disregarding your proviso about requiring a much longer discussion ;^) , isn't it true that not only can such lines potentially sound different because of factors revolving around their higher voltage, but also because of their inherently balanced nature? Albert alluded to it above, and my experience would also seem to lend support to the contention that balanced AC 'first does no harm', as you put it. For me, it has either made no difference over unbalanced AC (keeping everything else about the power delivery the same, as the API Power Wedge Ultra's switchable iso-tranny center-taps allow you to do), or it's done something positive (sometimes quite so) - depending on the component in question - but switching to balanced has never, ever caused a performance drop with any component. If I am correct in my thinking about 240v being an inherently balanced line, is this not a way Albert (or anyone) could explore (through the necessary modifications to existing gear where applicable) running balanced AC without having to purchase expensive transformers, or to comtemplate possible downsides stemming from adding any device in series with the line? Whatever else we may or may not elect to do power-delivery-wise, could this be the 'free lunch', in effect, that the vast majority of us in audiophiledom are missing from our systems?
Zaikesman - you may be on to something. Although others in this post have rejected PS Audio power plants (which is fine, to each his own), I have a P300 and find it very beneficial. When I lived in England, I inquired with PS Audio about running it from 240v mains (while still outputing 120v). PS Audio responded (and it may have been Paul McGowan who sent me the e-mail, I don't recall for sure) that not only was it possible to switch the P300 internally to run off 240v, it was beneficial, due to the balanced nature of the 240v mains. I never actually got around to doing it, as it would have required a new power cord with UK std three-prong plug, so i can't personally vouch for the results. But I do place a fair amount of faith in PS Audio's opinion..certainly there was no potential gain to them in exaggerating the benefits of running the unit off 240v.
BTW, the output of the Power Plants is balanced as well...the 120v at the outlets is really +/- 60v.
musicfirst,how about some info on the power conditioners,don't tease.
I dont know if the moderators will allow posts about specific equipment, but since you asked, I will try to post the technical aspects of the products' design.
The Foundation Research line of noise reduction products consists of two models of bi-directional, integrated line conditioner/power cords. That is, they are an 8 foot power cord with a line conditioner hard wired in the middle of the cord! The LC1 and the LC2 are designed to be dedicated to a single audio component, isolating the component from the noise carried through the A/C power as well as preventing component generated noise from entering the A/C power grid.
The smaller of the two line conditioners, the LC1 is capable of delivering 6/8 amps RMS/peak (720/960 watts RMS/peak @ 120 V) with a total loop resistance of < 0.2 ohms and is designed for source components, preamps and even (especially) electrostatic speakers.
The larger LC2 is a 20/28 amp RMS/peak component (2400/3360 watts RMS/peak @ 120 V!) with a total loop resistance of <0.1 ohms and designed for small and medium power amplifiers. There is an LC3 currently in the prototype stage designed for 40/60 amps RMS/peak (4800/7200 watts RMS/peak @ 120 V!!)service for the largest amplifiers with dedicated A/C mains.
The third component of the noise reduction system are called Noise Loads or NL1s. A pair of these devices placed in parallel across each termination point of the speaker cables provide an extremely effective RF/EMI 'sink' for the speaker cables, without being in the signal path.
Music First Distribution
Musicfirst is in there. No power condition or something truly transparant. I love the balanced power of equi-tech but my unit is a built electrical panel with 10 20amp circuits. It provides CLEAN power but does not interfere with the equip. It has filter lines which are only used on digital equipment such as projector dvd ect. Amps are unfiltered. Before spending alot on conditioners a/b them on equipment and see if you can hear the difference.
LC1 $695 LC2 $895 NL1s $395/pr
240 Volt configuration and balanced power: A free lunch?
Balanced power is definitely an attractive option for a number of reasons, and I use it when I can. However, it is not the panacea that some may like you to believe. 240 volts allows one to operate in balanced mode without an (additional) stepdown transformer in the line. It also allows the circuit to deliver the same power at 1/2 the current, or double the power at the same current which can be beneficial if the component or components are in a configuration that may limit current in the 120 volt configuration. 240 volt configuration also eliminates any common mode noise that may be present in the system.
On the other hand, not all of the noise on one's A/C is present as common mode, and 240 volts does nothing to eliminate differential mode noise. Even when running 240v/balanced mode, a system will benefits from a differential mode line conditioner like the Foundation Research LC1s and LC2s, which will run in either 240 or 120 without any changes required in the units. The nice thing about using these units at 240 is that, because they are restricted by current and not voltage, they are capable of delivering twice the power at 240 volts as they can at 120 as is the case with with the rest of the circuit.
There are other variables such as component power supply design that can have an impact on the performance at 120 versus 240 volts, also there is the safety aspect of wiring outlets in 240 versus 120. Make sure you stay in compliance with your local electrical code no matter what you decide to do.
Kerry Legeard B. A. Sc. P. Eng
Music First Distribution
Musicfirst, do you have a 240v line going to your home?