Review: Shunyata Hydra 2 AC filter

Category: Accessories

After having some power problems with one of the computers in my house I decided I ought to investigate some power conditioners / surge protectors. Most of my system had been plugged into a Monster power strip that's about 10 years old, except for the integrated amp and the CD player. The amp was plugged into a dedicated outlet on its own breaker. The CD player was simply plugged into a regular outlet.
I looked at the PS Audio, Furman, Shunyata, and Maple Shade conditioners online. I essentially got the Shunyata on a whim because the company claims their products are used in various professional recording studios and I was intrigued by the gibberish on their web site about why their products work. I'm an electrical engineer and what they described was voodoo to me. That doesn't mean it doesn't work of course and I wanted to see for myself.
So I ordered the Hydra 2 and the Diamondback Platinum power cord. (Their conditioners required power cords which are not included.)
The owner's manual suggests burning the equipment in for 200 hours, which I'm doing right now. Before this however, I did some listening. Critical listening but not exhaustive. Here's what I found:
I plugged the integrated amp and either the CD player or the phono preamp into the Hydra 2. At first I just listened to some CDs and Who's Next SHM-SACD. I noticed no difference. I was hoping Who's Next would sound better, but it still sounds like crap. Later, after reading Robert Harely's suggestion in his Absolute Sound review of some Shunyata products (included in the Hydra 2 box), I tried some hi rez digital and an LP. This consisted of Grateful Dead's American Beauty, Steely Dan's Gaucho, and Rush's Moving Pictures, all on DVD-A, and AC/DC's Highway to Hell on LP. The only difference I could hear was on the Rush album, which is spectacularly recorded for a rock album. The song YYZ is mostly just percussion. Without the Hydra 2 and Diamondback, the drum transients and decay were excellent. You really feel like you're in the room with the drum kit. With the Hydra and Diamondback, these parameters were diminished ever so slightly.
That's it; that was the only difference I ever heard.
So I'm going to give the conditioner and its cord the benefit of the doubt and burn them in as suggested. I've got them hooked up to an air filter in the bedroom and will continue my review 200 hours from now. If they don't improve I'll be returning them. It won't be enough if they bring the sound back to par with the original set up; they have to improve it otherwise I can't justify keeping them.

Associated gear
Audio Research VSi60 integrated amp
Rega P3-24 turntable
Dynavector P75 phono preamp
NAD M5 CD/SACD player with Burmester power cord
Denon 2910 universal disc player
Green Mountain Audio Continuum speakers
Audio Magic, Nordost, and AudioQuest interconnects and Audio Magic speaker cables

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So far, the air filter sounds terrific! ;-)
Well, it is often the case that folks find that everything except amps benefit from power conditioning. When I was investigating this, I found that to be the case with every power conditioned but the Running Springs Haley. Try your sources into the Hydra, amp into the wall.
Will do, roscoeiii. Thanks for the tip.
UPDATE: Although I won't reach 200 hours burn-in time until Monday, I am at the five-day mark and thought I'd do a little experiment. I used the Hydra 2 to power my Fender Hot Rod DeVille 410 and damned if there wasn't a difference! It wasn't necessarily better or worse, just different, and I'd be hard-pressed to explain what the difference was. Maybe it was like someone adjusted the amp tone controls. I played a Les Paul and a Charvel Sand Dimas and the effect was more pronounced on the Charvel. In fact I'd say the Les Paul sounded a little more like it "should" without the Hydra, but the Charvel sound kinda nice with the Hydra.
So now I HAVE to try the Hydra and the stereo and see if there are any differences there. I'll follow up soon.
My listening session on the stereo was cut short by a chatty woman who is frequently in my house.
During this brief trial, it was difficult to remember exactly how anything sounded after unplugging the amp, reconnecting it to a different power source, and letting it do its warm-up routine, so results were inconclusive.
Will continue Monday after work and after the 200 hours are up.
I got in about 30 minutes of dedicated listening last night. I used CSN's debut LP and some rock (Zeppelin & Police) and jazz (Diana Krall) CDs.
I'm not sure what I heard. It may have been my imagination, but sometimes the space between the notes MAY have seemed quieter and more realistic. Maybe the quiet spaces were more relaxed. I did prefer the Hydra config ever so slightly with Diana Krall, the Police, and CSN. The Zeppelin may have sounded nicer without the Hydra.
But I'm not sure. Right now I've only got the integrated amp plugged into it. I'll have to experiment with that second outlet it provides too.
Right now I'd be hard-pressed to recommend a product whose impact is so slight that I'm not sure if it even has any impact.
I should mention I use Georgia Power in a suburb of Atlanta. Maybe it's a good waveform to begin with. (Minus the frequent computer-accessory destroying surges.)
I'll give it a few more weeks then post a final review.
The omnipresent chatty woman I mentioned earlier reminded me I didn't get the Hydra to improve the sound. I got it to protect my expensive amplifier. So as long as it doesn't degrade the sound, it's (presumably) doing its job.
It is definitely not degrading the sound. There may be some improvement, but it's extremely difficult to define.
So I'm going to keep it. It will prove its worth if it ever saves my amp from an electrical anomaly like lightning. Of course I'll never know if it works; I'll only know if it fails.
I hope to read of others' experience with this product, since my own review wasn't real conclusive.
The impulse to evaluate upon receiving a new piece of equipment is really strong, but some how irresistible. It is really hard to hear subtile differences with the anxiety of a new purchase. Sure would like to read a review now. After a couple years those subtile differences should be obvious. JD