Happy New Year to all!
I am not a professional reviewer, am just a fellow audiophile who enjoy music and gears.
I listening preference are: 75% classical mostly orchestral music and 25% small group acoustics and vocals
My system consists of the following:
DAC/streamer: CH Precision C1
Interconnects: High Fidelity Cables (HFC) Ultra Reference RCA
Preamp: FM Acoustics 245
Interconnects: HFC Pro XLR
Power amp: Dartzeel NHB-108 model 1
Speaker Cables: Argento FMR
Power cables: HFC UR, Argento FMR
I was using an Acoustic Revive RTP-4 power strip before while it does its job I feel it is the bottle neck of the system. Therefore, I made the plunge to buy the HFC pro conditioner by the year end. And after a long waiting time and some mishap with the carrier, it finally arrived last Friday. I have all the components including amp plugged into it. Although I know the conditioner needs time to settle in and it is probably too early to write something formal, I just want to share my initial impressions.
My overall impression is that the conditioner does bring down background noise to a new lower level. And because of the lower noise level, I can hear more details previously were buried. For example, The Beethoven Triple Concerto by Mutter, Ma and Barenboim trio has a nice company by West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Before it was hard to differentiate violins from violas, it is easier now. Micro dynamics also improves, the touch of bow on the strings by Mutter and Ma, is more audible.
I also noticed that the sound stage seems to be deeper, while the width is about the same as before, but the layout of the instruments is more 3D like. Previously the horizontal info was there, I can visualize the layout of instruments or musicians from left to right but the vertical spread is not obvious. Now on certain recordings I can visualize the height info of the instruments. Also, the images are more palpable now, the music notes seem to emerge from a darker background and solidly located in a 3D space.
The biggest difference before and after is I feel am listening to live music. There are some recordings previously sound fine, with enough resolution, separation, tonal balance, but just not exciting or enticing enough to let me sit through the whole album. I lost focus after minutes and wanted to change. It just seemed something is missing; the music is not interesting enough. Now I listen to the same recording and it feels just more vivid and live like.
For example, although I like Jazz at the Pawnshop, it is not my go-to Jazz Album because it felt flat before. And now it comes to live. The drum hits are solid and feel real, although it doesn’t go down very deep (could be the recording or my speakers), but it converts the sense of live music.
It is like you zoom in into a picture and discovered another layer of info previously hidden. The clarity carries to the entire spectrum, the cymbals is clear but not harsh, individual notes have enough separation but still stitched together to complete music phrases, drums and double bass are clean, and with real impact.
Rhythm and pace become easy to follow. I tap my feet a lot while listening, and forgot to take notes.
Listening to RR’s Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances by Eiji Oue, The musicality is intact even I listen at a low decibel level of under 60. Evan at low volume, the strings part is so expressive, and the conversations between different groups is presented convincingly.
I am rediscovering my favorite albums, Bruckner 8 used to be boring after 3 mins now is enjoyable and the same to other large-scale orchestral works.
For female vocals Jazz, it is an absolutely joy to listening to them. They are rendered in such effortless and smooth way. And a system than can play large orchestral work certainly is able to handle small-scale acoustics piece with ease.
Now here comes to the bottom line question: is it worth it?
The conditioner is so far the most expensive piece in my system.
I am a firm believer that small tweaks don’t lead to big improvement. For high-end audio, the last mile is very expensive and where diminishing return really hits. You could spend $50 or even $100K and only achieve 10% improvement or even less. So does the conditioner bring 10% improvement? My answer is an absolute yes.