Power Conditioner to the rescue

This is a report of the Audio Magic Eclipse II power conditioner. Since I have never owned or tried a power conditioner in my music system before trying the AM, I have no baseline comparison to a similar product

As a late bloomer (only a couple years ago) to trying out different power cords, I simply have not heard the dramatic differences, for better or worse, between power cords like other A’gon members have reported. There have been subtle improvements in resolution with small-signal components but the cost for these power cables has always out-weighed more significant upgrades, e.g., IC’s for the same cost. And the CAT JL-3 amps showed no differences with power cords at all.

There have been many reports here that attention to dedicated circuits, filtering, isolation transformers, upgraded outlets, etc., should be considered before putting out the effort and expense of power cords. With a 30A (10ga) dedicated circuit for each amp and one additional 20A circuit for the rest of the system, I was on my way to better power. But with only one outlet on the back wall to drive the rest of the system, it was quite a rat’s nest with a cheapo 6-socket adaptor plugged into a standard wall outlet.

Two local (Minneapolis) audiophiles, Artg and Jadem6 (JD), both had a fit when they saw that this was my solution to powering the system. Another visit by Art had him shaking his head when he saw this here again. Finally he could not stand it any more……he politely emailed me later that day to suggest that I look into an Audio Magic unit for sale on A’gon. And with JD’s recent report on the significant loss of musicality when he removed his Hydra to put it up for sale, here was another hint that maybe this was something for me to finally consider.

I spent two very long nights reading all I could on the Walker Velocitor, Sound Application Line Stage, Audio Magic, PS Audio Regeneration units, Shunyata Hydras and Balanced Power models. There was no consistency in the reports on the PS Audio units. And I already have enough heat generation with the Aesthetix Callisto Sig and Io and CAT amps that I certainly did not need the add’l heat from a regenerating power unit.

The one product line that continued to strike my interest was the Audio Magic. While each of these units was reported to bring on significant improvements, the AM was consistently the product line where the improvements were detail, resolution and dynamics rather than dimensionality and holographics. I have so much of the latter characteristics in my system now that I needed to focus on the former. The AM clearly sounded like the unit to audition. Art was right on with his suggestion that I investigate the AM.

I emailed Jerry at Audio Magic to get his perspective on which unit would be a good match for my system. Later that day, Jerry called me back. He is one heck of a nice guy and a pleasure to discuss technical issues over the phone. He was honest to tell me right away that he’d love to sell me his top Transcendance model but the Eclipse II would bring on such a significant improvement to my system that spending more at this time was not necessary. The Eclipse II model was being discontinued, as according to Jerry, the demand has been to either go for the less expensive Stealth XXX model or all the way to the Transcendance. He had two remaining Eclipse II models…..one of which I purchased.

Jerry gave me the option to have the unit shipped the next day or he could burn it in for a week or so and then ship it to me. I wanted the best first impression possible the instant I installed this unit so I requested that he burn it in. Two weeks later (today) the unit arrived.

What do you do when you get a power conditioner for the first time? Do you plug one component in at a time and listen for changes or do you just go for it all at once and make the decision with or without the conditioner on this merit? I have read here that digital components are greatly affected by these units. And I wanted to find out for myself if this was true. Transports seem to be the one link that consistently lay claim to the biggest improvements. To get a qualitative and quantitative assessment of each component in my system, I decided to try one component at a time.

I use a Pioneer PD65 as a transport. I have tried Muse 8, Theta Basic II and even recently Art’s Audio Aero Capitole CDP as a transport, and differences for me anyway, were very subtle at best compared to this $450 budget product. This is why I have held onto this unit for so very long. It truly has been an amazing performer as a transport. This was the first component to go under the AM microscope.

I started with the Alan Parsons “On Air” CD. On one track, Christopher Cross is the singer. There is much ambience and detail in his voice that makes this track very good for comparisons. After listening to this 3 times with the PD65 plugged directly into the wall, I plugged it into the Eclipse II. There is absolutely no way I would have ever believed the difference had I not heard it for myself. What was before a mushiness, lacking in individual sounds, was now so incredibly clean. I was mightily impressed as I was unprepared for the improvement. No transport comparison here ever came close to such an improvement. And how could this be possible? How could there be such a huge improvement in clarity and detail? A return to the PD65 plugged into the wall and the entire presentation was a mushy mess of sound. It was not an issue of noise or grain but simply that everything was slurred together. Upon hearing this single improvement, I did not care if the AM did nothing else in the way of improving my system. I could spend twice as much on a transport and not at all get the improvements I just heard with the Eclipse II driving the ridiculously cheap PD65. Absolutely incredible!

Next unit on deck was the Genesis Digital Lens. I put this into the AM and again the improvements were not subtle. This time it was a significant increase in dimensionality, holographics and smoothness. There was so much more air and silence between the notes and without the edgy bite that detracted from enjoyment. A return to the Genesis plugged into the wall and the soundstage simply collapsed. Gone was that incredible openness and ambience that gave the music that special presence. It reminded me so much of my recent listening comparison of the Aesthetix Callisto vs. Calypso. The tonality was nearly the same but the Callisto brought on that awesome dimensionality and smoothness without sacrificing the subtle details. The Genesis in the AM matched this the same way. Again, how could this be? Geez, it’s only 1’s and 0’s. How can clean power affect two products like this? The bottom line: I didn’t care! I was so impressed by and unprepared for the AM’s performance.

Jerry told me that I would hear a big improvement in the DAC and that I should also plug it into a digital outlet on the Eclipse. The Manley Ref DAC was next to plug into the AM. The improvement here brought on a change that I never would have expected: a significant drop in fatigue. With the Manley now on the AM, the forwardness that was part of each initial attack on guitar strings was gone. Christopher Cross’s voice was much more coherent with the rest of the music rather than it being higher in amplitude. There was far more body, air, ambience ….. absolutely incredible. I plugged the Manley back into the wall and that edgy spike in his voice was back. It is amazing how it is nearly impossible to tolerate such a sonic flaw after hearing the music without it…..even briefly. I could not wait to get the Manley back into the AM to bring everything back into place.

I was tired of the Alan Parsons CD by this time so I switched to a Vangelis CD, Voices. The track, “Prelude”, is a favorite of mine for piano music. After listening to this just once, I plugged the PD65 back into the wall. In one instant, what was such incredible clarity was now one big mush. The initial observation with the PD65 was repeatable. The Genesis and Manley in the AM did not change at all the sonics of the PD65 plugged into the wall. Unless the PD65 was plugged into the AM, the improvements brought on by the other units in the AM mattered very little; the slurring of the notes had to be resolved first. What I have read here many times was indeed true: the transport benefited by far the most with the conditioner; it was indeed that significant. I am now a believer.

For digital playback, I had one more component to try with the AM: the Aesthetix Callisto Sig with one power supply. I put the PD65 back into the AM, and the glorious piano magic was back. I then moved the Callisto to the AM. Another smile came my way. Once again, I had a huge improvement. There was yet another degree of air between the sounds and for the first time, a big jump in dynamic contrasts. I had to put the Callisto back into the wall to confirm this latter difference. Sure enough, the loudest notes with the Callisto in the AM were now softer and with a reduction in ambience. I was so eager to put the Callisto back into the AM. With the Callisto back into the AM another observation was made: it was as if the time between the piano notes was longer than I heard before. The keys were no longer slurred together as before. I remember only ever noticing this sonic character once before: when I replaced the stock tubes in the Callisto with older tubes. After the PD65, the Callisto benefited the most from the AM. And this too was a surprise as the Aesthetix power supply is a very serious work of engineering.

Only one conclusion can come from my observations above: this is hands down THE most impressive improvement to my system ever and by quite a huge margin. I have paid much more to upgrade one component where the improvements were not even remotely as significant as what I experienced with only plugging any one of the four components into the AM. To get all of this at one time is unprecedented. And for this cost! Oh my!

With the first round of tests based solely on CD playback, I have not heard what might come with plugging the Aesthetix Io phono stage into the AM. And will the turntable motor plugged into the AM make a difference? How on earth could that be possible? I will have to find out.

I owe so much to Art and JD for my success here. And to Jerry at Audio Magic: you have one incredibly impressive product here. Customer satisfaction does not get any better than this.

John, it's great to read you've had such good success with the Eclipse II. Power conditioning is an elusive thing akin to catching smoke in the air. It's intriguing to read how many people have positive and negative experiences with the exact same products...and it doesn't seem to be limited to any particular brand. It's nutty.

You don't mention the cost of the Eclipse II...

Tvad, thanks for the support. This was a new adventure for me. And I expected only a few minor improvements but the outcome was hardly minor. I can see Art and JD both nodding their heads, "we told you so, we told you so, finally you listened". This now paves the way for me to make a second attempt at hearing power cord differences and hopefully improvements.

My experiences with power cords have been very different to just about everyone else's experiences here. Perhaps this was due all along to the terrible power conditions in my music room as has now been "cleaned up" by the Eclipse II. I would love to hear what might be possible to do something similar to the 2 30A dedicated lines for the CAT amps.

Concerning negative experiences with power conditioning, I can not find a single instant where an Audio Magic unit has been reported to do anything other than bring on a dramatic improvement to the sound. That the Eclipse II brings on so much clarity, a most incredible degree of space between the notes and holographics to die for, is not an opinion...it is all undeniably there. I would be very interested to hear of one negative report on this product. I can imagine how an electrical system that has been implemented in an ideal environment might not benefit from such a unit, but that's a different issue.

What surprised me the most was how the AM improved 4 different products from a 15 year-old midfi Pioneer CDP acting as a transport, to the battleship constructed Manley Ref DAC and the super-fi Aesthetix Callisto Signature line stage. The priorities, designs, implementations, target audiences, etc., of these products are not remotely similar and yet the AM greatly improved them all in much the same way. It's not smply about tonality or synergy as is often the focus of many product discussions and reviews.

The Eclipse II's price was $4k but Jerry has discontinued this model to now support either the Stealth XXX and Transcendance which is $5k.

I tried the Stealth Mini conditioners in my system...both the Mini Digital and the standard Mini. I didn't have a negative experience. My experience was basically a non-experience. I didn't perceive any benefits or detriments. I was hoping to have a religious experience like what I read in reviews and user comments, but it didn't happen. I've since been through a handful of power conditioning products ranging in price from $400 to $3500 retail. None really have produced "A-Ha!" moments, although I've found that the Hydra 2 lowers the noise floor and produces a more natural music experience. Even these, however, effect the system in subtle ways.

At least we're open to the possibilities, right?

Tvad, I can relate so well to the quest for those "A-Ha!" moments. After many failed attempts here for improvements in some links in my system, I simply quit trying and returned to focus on those links that gained much from further refinements. In some cases as the system has improved, some links that showed very little difference between component changes at one time start to produce very different results.....in some case, very nice improvements. Staying open to the possibilities is indeed a good trait.

Last night, the instant I heard the PD65 plugged into the Eclipse II, it was indeed a religion experience. Such times, when the results are so far to the opposite end of the scale to our expectations, are often the most exciting and valuable. It was a huge wake-up call for me.

If you were local (Minneapolis) I'd be happy to let you try the Eclipse II for yourself. However, it sounds like your electrical power and circuits are mighty clean already so for now, just let this pass. After a few system updates, return to this and maybe then you will have a different outcome.

Nice write up John, and no need to thank us any longer. I think part of the reason John is having a musical awakening is due in large part to his pariculars: tubed amp, tubed preamp, tubed dac, NBS PC's and MIT IC's, AND the fact that he had all his critical souce and premps plugged into a plastic six-outlet adapter thingie.

now John, you need a better outlet to plug the AM into: FIM880 is good. Also, we'll bring our power cords (JD and I are about to have a PC brawl with Elrod, Electraglide epiphany, Isoclean power superfocus and Kubala) to see if you can NOW hear a difference.

Either way - ENJOY!
Here's a followup to my initial report....this time with LPs as the source.

A favorite LP for comparisons is the "Riviera Paradise" track from Stevie Ray Vaughan's, "In Step". The first thing to try was the Clearaudio Ref TT's AC motor. After swapping back and forth between the wall outlet and the Eclipse II, I could hear no difference in tonality, timing or space between the notes. I suspect that the platter's mass would make this TT less susceptible to motor variations caused by varying power conditions. Unfortunately, no benefit here with the AM Eclipse II.

The last thing to try was the Aesthetix Io phono stage. I started with the Io in the wall and then switched to the Eclipse. My first thought was that there was a drop in dynamic contrasts with SRV's guitar with the Io in the AM.

There has been much reported here on dynamic compression with many power conditioners. However, this was not at all the case with the Aesthetix Callisto a few nights ago. I listened to the Io in the AM a few times and then switched the Io back to the wall. Sure enough, the initial attack on the guitar was louder but I soon realized it was not dynamic compression but rather a ringing spike that took a little time to calm down. A return to the AM and it was very clear how much more natural and coherent the guitar playing was and not just at the initial attack of the string. No matter how much we may think we have no edginess in our system, along comes a comparative event like this where it clearly shows otherwise.

With the dynamics "issue" resolved I was better able to focus and hear that the piano decayed just a little bit longer. There was no change in image size; I simply could hear the notes an additional second or two. Clearly the noise floor had been lowered. I repeated the process one more time to listen for changes in extension and presence in the bass but I could hear no differences.

The differences for the Io were not as significant as was the case for the Callisto and I would have expected the opposite. But all in all, the Io benefitted greatly from the Eclipse II.

Art: JD was kind to give me three very nice outlets. The pair of cryoed outlets I use for the CAT amps and the other, a PS Audio outlet, I use to drive the Eclipse. The 6-outlet "thingie" has been removed. Would you like me to keep it for you?

John, thank you for stewarding such an informative, interesting thread! The effort you have put into writing such a professional, well written, accessible story should be commended. Most (and certainly me) do not have the drive or skill to do as fine a job. Bravo! Audio Magic should be most thankful for this.

So many of us have issues such as what you were facing. It's nice to get a perspective from someone who did something about it, and was rewarded with such positive results. I myself have been inching towards power conditioners for a long time now, and the professional job you did with this review pushed me very much closer to doing so. While $4000 is certainly a large sum of money for most of us, the improvements wrought in your system bear out that you probably couldn't make this kind of improvement by spending double or triple that amount elsewhere.

Oh, and by the way, like you, I have not heard much in the way of differences between copper power cords. However, with a silver power cord, the differences are real and significant. In some systems, its effects are very positive, and in others they are very negative. But, it is something I would never trade for anything, as I have seen it more than once turn a sleepy system into a beast in the right circumstances. Having a tool like this is quite powerful.
Trelja: Thanks for your support here. It's pretty tough to share such experiences without going overboard with the details. Too much information can turn the report into a novel which quickly becomes boring. But for A'gon members like yourself where the information is of value, it makes it worth the time to share.

I always appreciate when people here put much effort to cover the details of a product new to them....especially in comparison to what they had been using. Knowing the starting point helps to determine the overall value of the component under evaluation.

Yes, $4k is a huge price to pay but I got one of the last 2 new units for $1900. Eclipse models come up now and then under $2k, and often with a pair of very good cords, this is a great deal.

And yes, as you stated, I have never gotten such a reward for this investment. Had I known that such a unit could do all this, I would have paid $4k for this long before anyway. No component change (Callisto, Io, CAT amps, etc.) ever brought on such a huge improvement to my system as this. I think it has to do with the fact that it takes everything in the system (amps excluded) to the next level of upgrade without literally having to upgrade everything. And even then, by simply upgrading components, you still have not addressed a major factor in the system - the power source.

Now that my disbelief has change with power conditioners, trying power cords is the next logical step. Art and JD will soon bring over several cords to try in my system. I wonder if any will be silver. I am glad you mentioned this as I will pay attention to cords with different materials much more than just from different companies. No doubt JD will soon do one of his all-out-assault reports when we have tried all the power cables in our three systems here. So stayed tuned for that.

Excellent write up John! I've been considering a replacement conditioner for my PS P300 and heard the AM's stuff at RMAF 05, very impressive, though I've never had a chance to hear a before/after comparison done.

Are there any updates on your system since then (2005)?
Wow, this thread is still alive. Hello Cmk.

It's interesting that you ask if my system has changed in the last two years. I run with the same phono stage, line stage, amps and speakers. The only differences here are that the phono stage went through quite a facelift with GNSC. And I have learned a ton about tubes to take the Aesthetix and CAT components to new levels of performance.

I finally retired the 3-piece digital setup for the one-box APL Denon CDP. This was shortly after GNSC had taken the Manley DAC to a whole new level as well. But the APL player was a nice step above the overly complicated 3-piece setup. The Genesis and Manley are now part of the Home theater setup but this is overkill. If I ever put together a smaller CD-only system, the Manley and an older VTL linestage will be the center pieces of that.

The part of my system that has gone to a whole new level is the cabling. I have shared much of these details along the way. I liked the Purist and Kubala-Sosna cables very much, but each lacked refinements that the other portrayed so well. Ultimately I discovered the Stealth and Jade cables and the absolutely phenomenal Dream State power cables. Between all these cables vs. the NBS Statement that I had been using for many years, and 20 hand-picked tubes over the last 2 years (I already had pretty much max'd out the Io for the most part), my system's performance is unlike what it was 2 years ago. And the components are essentially the same....except the CDP.

With the system more simplified now, I no longer have as many power cables as before. And I do not need as elaborate of a PLC as the AM Eclipse. I now use a Running Springs Haley for the 3 components (phono stage, line stage, CDP) and the AM is used upstairs for the HT setup. What it does there for the TV alone is quite impressive! But it also connects all the audio gear there too....mostly hand-me-downs from the music system upgrades over the years.

Hi John

Thanks for the update. Your system is indeed impressive. I do appreciate your systematic way of testing each product to achieve the best possible combination to your ears. Are you an engineer by profession?

My main interest is in the AM Eclipse. While you were using it the music system, did you use it with the power amplifiers? What was your experience with them in this application. I'm considering using one for my main music system. I do need the additional points mainly because of the number of components I have plugged in.

Analog 2/3 (Schue, Herron, Conductor's air pump).
Digital 2 (Denon & Benchmark)
Radio 1 (MagnumDynalab)
Amps 2 (ModWright/Sanders)
Sub 1 (Cabasse Thor)
Total 8/9

If I get the Eclipse, how would you recommend I configure the power to each duplex?
Hi all
I've just inserted the Eclipse II into my system, replacing a PS P300. What can I say, my jaw dropped and I'm still on cloud nine and this is only the first 12 hours of play.

So how do things compare with your amps placed into the Eclipse vs. straight into the wall?

The amps sound better into the Eclipse. The first obvious sign is more bass, so this may require some retuning of your system. In my case, I had to lower the gain on my sub, twice actually. The next thing which is obvious is that the music is more organic, relaxed, AND coherent with the rest of the spectrum.

Initially I thought that only with the Eclipse (2 powercords in, 2 amp out, 4 analog, 4 digital out) then this could be achieved, however a friend who used the AM Stealth Mini Reference (1 powercord in, 6 outlets) to filter his setup:

Accuphase CD Transport (only thing plugged into the wall)
Benchmark DAC
ModWright SLP9.0SE
Sanders Monoblocks x2
Vandersteen Quattro x2 (powered subs built in)

and we found that with the Quattros plugged in, it sounded more coherent and controlled. I was quite amazed. His unit wasn't even fully run-in yet.

Since my earlier post, the music has taken on a new found silence between the music, and when the music starts, it just sounds more whole/complete. Over my 20+ years in this hobby, never has any system sounded so like live music, including some costing much more, it really is...MAGIC.

Another thing I'd like to say is, that when you hear some power conditioners, some tend to add something, enhance the treble/bass but add a bit of noise into the mix, OR some tend to very quiet, to the extent of limiting dynamics - like putting a thin veil between you and the performance. The Eclipse seems to be best at being quiet and yet without restricting the music's flow. Quite a feat.
Thanks Cmk. Yesterday I spoke at length with Jerry. As luck would have it he had just pulled out his personal Transcendence and replaced it with an Oracle. When he offered the Tran up I jumped on it. It and 2 power cords will arrive early next week. I'm hoping and expecting jaw dropping results. Curious to know which cords you're using.
I'm sure you will enjoy it. Darn, he didn't offer it to me??? Your timing must be good! Ops sorry, just realised that I wouldn't be able to use his anyway, the voltage in my country is 220-240v.

I'm using the JPS in-wall PCs (customed with UK type hospital grade plugs) to the wall sockets as I can't use US-type plugs. I did get an Illusion 4D which I currently connect to the ModWright.

When you get the Transcendence, try out the filters and let me know which setting you prefer. So far I'm only using the first (up-position) setting on all the filters as I find it to have the most "air".
Cmk. Well my jaw remains on the floor as I listen to track after track with the Transcendence in my system. Major upgrade equivalent! Things will even get better as the new cords continue to burn in. BTW, there are no filters in this piece.
I don't know if Jerry mentioned it, he's probably quite busy preparing for RMAF, but you got to try out the powercords, especially those from the conditioner to the component. So far I've had great success with the Sorcerer and the Illusion. Haven't tried the others yet, but will someday get around to it. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better...
I've been looking at the audio magic products. Are they really this good? I use the Richard Gray stuff now. THoughts on how they compare to the Isotek?
Hi Jtwrace
I can't say enough good things about them. If you want quiet and dynamics, they are the way to go. They let the music through. A friend commented that they allow your components to perform optimally, and after powering them with it, do you get to hear what they are capable of.

Can't comment on other products I have no experience with.