POWER: conditioners vs filters vs cords

OK. I've heard a lot of contradictory stuff on power accesories. I'm going to throw this out to the roundtable and hopefully clear up some of the fog. I've heard the following: 1) Most full blown conditioners ($500+) do everything better. They stabilize input power, clean up ground loops, filter noise and insulate against power surges. However, some compress dynamics. 2) Most surge supressor/filter units ($200-$350) clean up ground loops, filter noise and insulate against power surges. (but a good power conditioner makes the system sound better overall) 3) Good power cords kinda clean-up ground loops and kinda filter noise; their major advantage is a blacker background, better dynamics, soundstage and imaging. 4) If you have a full blown conditioner, better powercords are redundant and offer little advantage. Am I on the right wavelength here? I have a minor intermittent ground loop, and I know my power is a bit on the dirty side, infrasonic garbage wise. So the question is this: I want to improve my sound quality by cleaning up my power supply without blowing a small fortune. I'd like to invest between $200 to $400(list price) but I wouldn't be adverse to bumping the price to $650 if it REALLY makes a difference. What do you recommend? Your opinions on any part of this subject are welcome and product recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks, Morbius2130aol
I own Chain lightspeed,1000/also the price.I own King Cobra/yep,both contribute. I have seen the 9600 for 450/thereabouts.With the right selection,you can get as much improvement as you want to spend the money for.DON"T assume,the improvemets of each are repetitive.On a budjet maybe the Monster2000/+whatever chord you decide/used of course.
I use a Monster HTS2000 ($125.00 mail-order) and a Harmonic Tech. Pro 11 PC ($130.00 used) with very good results. I plug everything into the Monster though you would want to try your "amp" both straight into the wall as well as into the Monster. My power is really bad and the "amp" socket on the Monster is the better sound, it is supposed to not limit the current and there are two of these "amp" sockets on the Monster. The upgraded PC by the way is on my source a CAL II CD player. I would recommend the HT PC to try on laid back sources that you would like to liven up a bit. If you have a brighter source you may want to try something else as it is all system dependent. The good thing about PC's is that you can buy used, try them, and resell them without losing any money. My amp has a huge external power supply which may also be why the power conditioner does not seem to deteriorate the sound. I pulled the cord on the power supply by mistake and the system continued to play at volume for at least 10 to 15 seconds. I highly recommend the HTS2000 based on your budget and with the extra left over you may be able to upgrade a couple of PC's if you purchase used. Both the conditioner and the PC have been worthwhile upgrades in my system. PS: While you are at it you may as well replace your wall socket with a Hubbell or something similar. If you can do it yourself it would only cost around $20.00 to do.
I have had good results with power wedge 116, you might find one used in your budget. As with the above post though, you will want to try your amp with and without it.
I started with Adcom ACE515, then went up to Monster stuff, and now have Vansevers conditioners and cords. Do not plan to upgrade again other than maybe demo a Vansevers "Unlimiter" which is a power center designed for power amps. As the name suggests, it does not limit power as some/most conditioners do.
All of these items are subject to "your mileage may vary." I recently added a Richard Gray's Power Company unit and it has helped to open everything up and increase the palp factor. But a word on ground loops: in my system, neither a Chang Lightspeed unit or the RGPC were of any help with a nagging ground loop problem. My dealer recommended using "cheater" plugs, but I had to lift almost every ground in the system for that to work -- which just didn't make sense to me. The thing to do is to find the source of the hum, which can be done by a fairly tedious but worthwhile diagnostic, essentially disconnecting the entire system & reconnecting each piece, component by component, starting with amp to speaker cable, then pre-amp to power amp, and then adding the various inputs until you isolate the source(s) of the hum. In my case, the hum came from the interconnect running from my TV (with apologies to purists) and, in particular, tracing it back further, from the CATV cable from my wall. Inserting a Jensen ISOMAX isolation transformer (cost $49) between the CATV cable and my VCR eliminated the hum from my audio system -- no cheaters. Go to www.jensentransformers.com for more than you'd ever want to know on the subject. Jensen also makes an isolation transformer for stereo audio use, but it's more expensive. For a less expensive audio isolation transformer, check out the JK Audio "Pureformer" isolation transformer. I ordered one and it looked like a quality product, but I didn't need it because the Jensen piece did the job. Good luck.
Spend your money getting a good powerline to your system - put a spike in the line and save your money on these items.
Ljgj: What is a "spike"?
Excellent question. I don't think you will know without trying some in your system's environment. Here is a link to a review of one of the Blue Circle conditioners. I use the model that is one "down" from the reviewed piece, (I have the BC 84 and use all of BC's "bottom line" power cords and have a reasonable investment for the improvement.) But it is also a pretty good discussion of conditioners for different systems. Good luck, and let us know what your experience is. Charlie http://www.soundstage.com/das_bc83.htm
I have never been happy with any conditioner or filter my system or in any other systems that I have heard. The only exception was with a friend's system when he lived in the city in a building that also housed a large amount of computer gear. I accept that others have had opposite experiences and so conclude that we are either in different circumstances (I live in New Zealand) or have different musical values. For me, the biggest improvement is getting good power cords. The next best thing is to provide a dedicated mains, or better still one for analogue and one for digital, or better still, one for each component. The next best thing is dedicated earths. There is a lot in the archives about doing this. One thing to watch out for is that if you use dedicated mains, but use stock cables the sound can get worse - specifically it can get gritty and bright. So good cords are always necessary. Another thing to watch out for is that dedicated mains is really about minimising the noisy connections on the line, so your key focus should be on ensuring the best integrity of every connection that you can get control over. The point about lines that are not dedicated is that they go through many connections as they weave their way from wall outlet to wall outlet - picking up noise as they go.
TO:Dekey would you share that where did you mail order your HT2000? e mail or phone #? thanks
Timchen: I picked it up at Globe-mart.com. CLICK Audio/Vidio - CLICK Home Theater - CLICK Surge Suppressors - CLICK Monster - CLICK 12 outlet model @ $124.95. I'm not trying to be funny, it is really buried in there. Fast delivery too, it showed up in three days.
This is in response to some of the above people and their ground problems. Beware of cable TV and cable computer feeds. Almost all cable TV and cable internet feeds have serious ground problems...usually DC on the ground. If you are using cable into your TV or FM, and these units are in any way tied into your stereo or the AC that feeds your stereo...you are in for trouble... In a nutshell...everything about the sound of your system will be better if you make sure that cable feeds are in no way connected to your audio system.
I pretty much agree with Redkiwi's post above. I have two name brand AC conditioners, but after installing dedicated AC and ground systems, and going to good quality power cords, the power conditioners actually degraded music quality, and I no longer use the AC conditions for primary stereo components. By far the best "bang for the buck" is good quality power cords that are compatible with your system. Cheers. Craig.
From my experience most "Brand Name" conditioners are living off their brand name and stopped innovating years ago. The Adcom ACE-515 I started with many years ago and have long since discarded originally came out around 1986, and the current model is exactly the same internally. Only the on/off switch button is different only probably only because they can no longer get the original one. Mike Vansevers stuff I now use are designed is a pro audio guy who did not believe in conditioners until he started playing around himself and discovered he could improve on his dedicated lines in his studio. Read all the white papers and other comments on his web site.
You can also get the Monster conditioners at http://www.hififorless.com/acatalog/
The PS Audio Powerplant 300 is worth considering. You could pick up a B Stock from the manufacturer for $750. I picked one up and have found dramatic improvements. Read the reviews on audioreview.com. Although expensive, consider the fact that it improves the sound on up to four of your components, and that it does far more than recondition the power - it takes it from DC and then back to AC again. The PS audio homepage gives a good explanation of how the unit works. I think this will give you the best bang for the buck, even though it stretches slightly beyond your budget. Also, I believe you can return the unit within 30 days for a refund if you are not happy with it. Best of luck with whatever solution you go with :-)
I also agree with Redkiwi and Garfish. I have never experienced any improvement with power conditioners. The best results for me are amps and front end right into the wall. I currently use a monster 2000 for surge protection only on a few components. It really compressed the sound of my CD player.
Dear Marcy: You get a compressed signal from your CD player when you plug it in to your Monster surge supressor? No kidding? I thought that was exclusive to power conditioners and didn't occur in supressor/filter systems. Any further thoughts? How about going to the larger Monster like the 3500. I wonder if the same thing happens in other supressors?
My Denon AVR-5700 is plugged into my Monster 3500's "low loss" outlet, and does not sound different when plugged directly into the wall outlet. Whatjd, thanks for the tip on problems with cable TV runs. I hear a low level buzz and will try disconnecting the "TV audio" out that I have been running from my TV to my receiver. I'll let you know how it turns out. What about cable TV wires that are not connected to the sound system but run next to all of the other cables?
I will cast my vote along with Redkiwi, Garfish and Marcy. I have had similar experiences with treatments, and I have tried more than a half dozen in last few years, only to be disappointed. Only upgrading the primary electrical service to your home (and system) seem to be a sure fire improvement in every case.
I'll agree with the post directly above (and others) with one exception. I own an Innouye Line Conditioner (highly recommended by UHF Magazine in Canada) and find it to work exceptionally well with my turntable, but that is it. My integrated amp definitely sounds better plugged into a hospital grade outlet in the wall. Decent power is not a real problem where I am (London, Canada, pop. 300,000) and the CD player may show a very minor improvement (really close to call-could go either way) plugged into the conditioner during the day, but at night time, when I do most of my listening, CD sound is definitely better plugged straight into the wall, so that's where it is all the time. So my advice would be to investigate good powercords for your system first unless you're using a turntable which "may" benefit from some kind of conditioning.
There are cases where people living in apartments don´t have the chance for dedicated lines + grounding so AC quality and your home place situation might shorten your choices.
As many have said I believe the first line of defense in the quest for pure power is to optimize your existing AC power delivery system.Everyone,even apartment dwellers can check circuits and outlets for possible noise contributing problems.It's easy to trace a circuit in your home.With a tester and a little leg work you can check whats plugged into the same line as your audio gear.It might be that fluorecent light,dimmer switch or computer upstairs thats adding noise.The goal is to minimize the sources of interference before going to a conditioner.This initial step will also help a great deal in getting the most out of whatever unit you choose.An excellent product for those that can't install dedicated lines are the Audio Prism Quietlines,they simply plug into outlets near your system and shunt noise to ground,inexpensive and quite effective.I'm fortunate to be a homeowner with access to my panel and experience wiring houses.I needed to increase the service size in my home and had an additional line 'from the pole'run in where I installed a seperate small panel with audio only circuits.This is the ultimate AC delivery system short of building a power plant in your backyard ( Iv'e considered a small solar powered system) or going to some battery powered system.One last point is that no matter how refined your AC system may be your dwelling is still connected to the same power grid as every house,business and factory in your area and is subject to all the fluctuations and disturbances they generate.If someone can build a power regenerator (like the PS audio units) that run cool,produce perfect 60 cyc. sinewave,and are affordible,thats the way I'd go.....
looking for opinions? There are two products on the market similar to the Audio Prisim Quietlines. They are the Blue Circle Noisehound recently auctioned on this site by Simplymusic and the Enacom Filter that is available from UHF magazine audio store. see uhfmag.com It was reviewed in issue 54. Anyone with experience on either one? Steve
In my system I have acheived amazing improvement by eliminating all grounds and I mean everything. I might be setting myself up for being electrocuted but it might just be worth it.
Alberta_steve - I tried the Audio Prism Quietlines and found them to make no difference at all. I think their main action is to stop your in-wall power cable from acting as an antennae. In my case I have done a lot to provide a dedicated clean power source to my stereo and so others' experience may be very different.