After trying a Bybee Signature Purifier, and an Audio Magic Stealth without any benefit (nor detriment I might add), I have settled on going straight to the wall. I've used ErnieM's Starquad Belden DIY cord with good results, and I'm now using a TG Audio 688. I'll add that replacing the wall outlets with Porter Ports provided the best bang-for-the-buck in the realm of AC.
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I have everything plugged into my Balanced Power Technologies BP-3.5 Signature - EXCEPT the First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II. This is a point Emmanuel Go was adamant about. When you first get the preamp, use the stock cord and tubes - straight into the wall while breaking in. Then experiment with power conditioners, cords, etc. after you are familiar with the preamp. After many comparisons, the First Sound preamp sounds best IMO going directly to the wall. (the dynamics and imaging seemed more compressed) This is the ONLY component I have owned that has NOT sounded better going through my balanced power conditioner. I do feel the aftermarket power cord has improved the performance of the preamp as well. I am using an Electraglide Mini Khan Plus at this time.
The greatest sonic improvement to the preamp was inserting NOS Siemens 7308 gold pin tubes.
Thank you all for your responses. I like the idea of starting with the stock cord and tubes so as to establish a "baseline" of sound for the unit before monkeying around with power cords / line conditioners. So the concensus is don't use a line conditioner but do try several high-end power cords (Shunyata, Audience, Electraglide, TG Audio etc.)
The wildcard here is the replacement of the tubes with the NOS Siemmens 7308 tubes but I hear that they are rare and one must purchase from a reputable dealer so as not to pay full price for a used tube. Where does one buy 7308 tubes from a reputable vendor?!?
You got it Kevin! I'm running the Audience PowerChord on my FS, and I think it's great. I haven't heard the other ones though, so I can't offer a comparison. Another PC that gets positive reviews is Virtual Dynamics' Nite cable.
As for tubes, I know Emmanuel likes the Siemens 7308 as shown above, but I personaly didn't care for them as much as some folks here. I really prefer the Amperex USN-CEP 7308s or the Philips E188CC SQs instead.
Kevinzoe, I've tried Siemens 7308, Amperex 7308, Amperex 6922 PQ
and Philips 6922 SQ. All are excellent tubes. In my opinion, the
Siemens are the best, but you would also be very happy (I think) with
Amperex 6922 PQ White Label made in USA. They are very close to the
Siemens sonically, and they are easier to find. Don't let the scarcity of
Siemens 7308 tubes lead you into a sense that only they will satisfy your
quest for better tubes for your First Sound. Do a search for
"Amperex" on Audiogon, and you'll probably come up with
some for sale. If not, they appear from time to time with relative
Also, you might read "Joe's Tube Lore" if you haven't already.
It's a good primer on 6922 and 7308 tubes. Here's the link:
THANKS all for your insight thus far. Despite a secondary thread begining to develop here about tube replacements, I think the concensus to my posted question is to forget using a line conditioner with the FS preamp. On a related note, I was speaking with Bea from VTL today about the same two issues (power cord upgrade or to use a line condition on the VTL amp) and she suggested that tube rolling would provide more benefit than replacing the stock power cord. Specifically she suggested replacing the Svetlanna 6550 tubes with KT88 and thought that plugging the amp directly into the wall outlet would be best. Seems to be some consistent information across manufacturers.
Audiofankj -- thanks for the tip on locating the Siemens 7308 tubes @ Upscale Audio.
Tvad -- thanks for the heads up on the alternative tubes both 7308 and 6922's. I haven't heard of the "Joe's Tube Lore" article so thanks kindly for bringing it to my attention.
Happy listening all.
In case you were wondering, I bought an Audience PowerChord (4ft) for my First Sound preamp and an Audience AU24 interconnect between my Audio Aero CDP and First Sound and it all sound marvelous, especially when my VTL St-150 amp is in Tetrode mode (more air around the instruments, better soundstage etc.).
I expect to buy another Audience powercord and interconnect for the amp and between pre & amp.
Interestingly, I was just about to post a question regarding the First Sound Deluxe preamp and line conditioners. I've had my FS (which I LOVE) for about 4 months, but after 1 month I started to hear clicking and popping sounds (bad tubes?). I replaced the tubes on my headphone amp (an Earmax Pro) but that didn't help and was now wondering if maybe the noise is due to my having the FS plugged into a BPT line conditioner. Bottom line, I would stay away from the line conditioner and plug the FS directly into the wall.
Brooksl - interesting note on voided tube warantee if non-VTL preamp is used . . . I spoke with Bea at VTL and her KT88 tube prices are not competitive with what I can get from a local Toronto supplier at www.conusaudio.com so I don't think tube warantee will apply. But thanks for the heads up in any case.
Are you using VTL stuff?
Go into the wall, no conditioner just like others have mentioned, but try to have a dedicated circuit, good outlets, and good power cords. I have listened to both the Shunyata Diamond Back and Taipan. In my system (with a First Sound 4.0), I think the Silent Source power cords are better. Quieter background, lower noise floor, more transparency.
I prefer the First Sound into the wall, with FIM outlets, and Silent Source PC's over plugged into a Shunyata Hydra-8. Saves money, too.
I have not tried the Audience "PowerChord"--as some recommend. If the PowerChord is as good as a PC as the Audience Au24 cables are as IC and speaker wire, then the PowerChord is worth looking into.