Balanced power compatabilty census

I have run across some equipment that does and does not work well with balanced AC. I thought this forum might help others, if supported. In my case, I used 5KVA transformer and one piece of gear at a time.

If you are unfamiliar with "balanced AC", it refers to 60 volts +/- as referenced to ground and hot/neutral are 180 degrees out of phase. Normal (North America) power from outlets is 120V on hot leg only. Equi=Tech, Balanced Power Tech. and DIY projects convert single phase to dual phase with the "promise" of reduced noise. In some cases, sonic improvemnt can be more than just reduced noise. In other cases, the grounding scheme of the equipment may not be compatible. Don't jump to conclusions that because one experience or model worked or didn't, that it reflects on the brand or type.

Genesis Stealth amp did not work properly but I suspect problem is due to active x-over.

Plinius SA100 mk3 worked better but no better than simple isolation.

Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 loved it and had immediately noticeable improvement.

Manley Snappers sounded compressed with balanced AC. Odd for differential amp.

I have yet to try with sources which have separate isolation.

Does anyone else have have positive or negative reports?

Showing 3 responses by zaikesman

I use an API Power Wedge Ultra 116 with my front end stuff (it follows an ExactPower EP-15 used for waveform/voltage correction). The PWU provides separate center-tapped isolation transformers for each of its 6 outlets, with switches that allow you to choose between normal, floating, and balanced power options for each attached component. (This unit cannot provide balanced power to power amplifiers, so I haven't been able to test that application.)

Therefore, the PWU provides a reliable test for how each piece of gear reacts to balanced AC on an individual basis, without throwing in confounding variables. To date I've only used one component that showed no improvement from selecting balanced AC (an older Conrad-Johnson tube preamp), and that one showed no degradation either. All other components tried, primarily SS preamps and digital separates (my phonostage is battery-powered, so it doesn't apply here), showed varying degrees of improvement, from very slight to pretty vast as far as these things go, but again never any degradation. (All these pieces also sounded better fed from the PWU than they did skipping it altogether, no matter which switch position was chosen, so the powerline filtration it includes in addition to the iso trannies would seem to be doing no harm here.)

Based on this evidence, I'd say that balanced AC done properly (independent of any other filters or such that might be included in whatever device is balancing your AC) probably rarely has any downside used for line-level components such as sources and most preamps. If there's a problem with a power or integrated amplifier, I'd investigate whether it could be due to inadequate iso tranny capacity. The issue may have more to do with undesired raising of the powerline impedance seen by power amps than balanced AC per se.
I'd research the forum archives to see what you can find on this subject (and look for contributions written by Sean).
Darkmo: That last comment I think warrants some elaboration -- my components (except power amps, which don't get the balanced AC) that go on semi-powered standby as well as those that turn all the way off seem to behave the same (meaning the way you'd expect) regardless of whether balanced AC is selected at the Power Wedge's iso-trannies...