Review: Shunyata Research Hydra AC filter

Category: Accessories

The reviews I have written this past couple weeks of my systems components have lead to questions of the rest of my equipment. So now I am finding myself writing reviews of my power cords, power conditioner and isolation devices. This review will address power conditioning and power supplies.

I have tried a few of the power conditioners available. The first conditioner I bought was the Monster HTS2000. This is a very reasonably priced "power strip" that has filtering on different outlets for different components. It also has non restricting outlets for power amps. The benefits were noticeable but not jaw dropping.

I next got a PS Audio P300 with multi-wave. This is really a power regenerator that converts the power to DC and then back to synthesized AC, producing "clean" power. The unit is in effect a power amplifier for a fixed frequency so it does draw a lot of electricity and produces a fair amount of heat. The multi-wave feature provides eight different wave patterns to the power. Alternating frequency from a simple 60Hz to several different options between 50Hz and 120Hz or some combination of frequency, in a sine or square wave pattern. The P300 was a great product and I could run both the Aloia amps, the Aloia pre-amp (now replaced in my system) and the Sony SCD-1 from it using about 130 watts total. I found however that I was limited on the amount of settings I could use. The amp's transformers rattled a lot on some settings, with other settings it was quite but the result was not pleasing. I think there were two that I used, #2 and #5.

I then bought the Shunyata Research Hydra. This is a non limiting power conditioner. I have found it to produce extremely quite black backgrounds. The Hydra can drive both of the "class A" Plinius SA-102 amps with no problem, but I do not use the Hydra for them. Rather the Hydra is only used on the Placette active pre-amp and the Sony SCD-1. The Hydra can provide all the benefits of the other conditioners I used, but does not have any of the problems. There is no change in PRAT with or without the Hydra. Bass has a slight improvement in focus and definition without darkening or bloating the signal. The highs are grain free, and the Hydra removed more vales of haze or noise than either of the other products. In fact if no conditioner were equal to looking through ten layers of smoked glass, the Monster removed three or four of those layers. The P300 removed up to six or seven and the Hydra removes all ten. The improvement in lower noise level, lessening of layers of haze tend to improvement the detail, imaging, definition and sound stages.
Power cords, Audio Prism Quiteline filters and dedicated circuits with audio quality outlets will also provide a similar level of improvement. I highly recommend that all these improvements are made together. The net result is positively jaw dropping. The reason I went to the Hydra was it simply made everything extremely quite, clean and had no apparent effect on the sound. The PS 300 did something different with each setting, and my thought was it added something to the signal. On setting #1 is seemed neutral but was also the noisiest on the transformers. I LOVE THE HYDRA and think it should be one of the first upgrades made.
I have tested the SMART power conditioner along with Audio Power Industries Power Wedge Ultra 116 and Chang Lightspeed 9600. The SMART was too grainy and seemed literally to add to the high frequency haze of which I am trying to get rid. The Power Wedge was not of the quality in sound I would expect for the cost. Again it was relatively noisy and grainy. The Chang was ok, but they did not amaze or blow me away. I felt the Monster offered most all the benefits of these three products for a fraction of the cost.

Associated gear
Sony SCD-1 SACD player
Placette active pre-amp
two Plinius SA-102
Dunlavy IVa speakers
Nordost Valhalla interconnects and speaker cable
NBS Statement power cords

Similar products
None I've tried
Hi Jadem6, curious as to why you decided not tied both you Plinius amps to The Hydra? If you have, what were the results? Thanks
Hi Norm, before I installed my second dedicated circuit I did have the two Plinius amps, the Placette pre-amp and the Sony SCD-1 running through the Hydra. The result of removing the Plinius from the Hydra was very slight and mostly focused in the bass. The bass is not quite as defined and tight with the Hydra. It may be a bit deeper (maybe) with the Hydra but the focus and tonal quality was limited. The other area of change was in pace. The speed and tempo are better without the Hydra. I'm running the Plinius through a Wattgate outlet and I'm assuming this has helped to balance the two.

One thing to remember with amps, they tend to be least effected by power conditioner due to the large transformers used in power amps.
Another great upgrade would be to run a Elrod EPS 3 power cable to the hydra from the wall. He will terminate with the same twist lock connectors as Power Snakes uses to the Hydra. I would do this before you upgrade any other power cables.
I just heard the Elrod last week when a friend brought one by to test. It's very promising, doing a number of things in the high frequencies better than my NBS Statements. The cord had only about 35 hours on it so my final judgement will have to wait untill next time he comes by. The bass was less developed and less focused with the Elrod, and the PRAT was lacking some. My friend was told the bass is the last to "come in" as it's conditioned. The PRAT is a concern but not so much that if the bass does develope I might take your recommendation. Remembering that the NBS can be found for $500 often used and the Elrod is $1500 I will need to see more first.
I have a HYDRA and recently bought an Elrod ESP 3 Signature for a good price on Audiogon;I felt lucky that I was able to buy it as I was looking for one since I bought the Hydra six months ago.The Elrod definetaly did make a big positive differience and I'm now happy twice over.My reason for E-mailing you is to ask some advice.I just bougt a Chang Lightspeed MK II 1000,not sure if that is the correct model name.I run my Theta Casablanca II,my Theta DVD/CD Transport,my Fanfare Tunner,And a Yamaha 2300 SACD/DVD Audio/DVD Player through my HYdra.I run my HD RPTV,my Sony HDTV Reciever,my Aerial Sub-woofer through my Lightspeed.In your oppinion should I sell the Lightspeed and buy another Hydra.I bought the Lightspeed for the Digital Inputs and for it's passive conditioning abilities;anything in my house with a transformer hums.I'd really appreciate your oppinion.Thanks Ambrose.
Hi Ambrose, sorry it took me so long to comment. I've been working on my house and have not had the computer hooked up do to the dust.
Before anything I'd try to find a solution to your hum problems. It may require an electrician to look at your main wiring. Once this is solved (I suspect a poor grounding system) you might try a second Hydra or the Stealth. I have heard great things about the Stealth but have not tried it myself.
I recently got an Elrod for my Sony and an Anaconda for my Hydra. This has tamed the system somewhat, making it less edgy (although it wasn't edgy to begin with) and less electronic sounding. A very nice upgrade, but not if I had paid full price.
Hi! Although, in time, your power conditioner experience will prove useful to me, at the moment I am looking at a couple of preamps and thought you might be able to help me in that regard. One I am considering is the Aloia 11.01 inductive preamp, which are going used for what appears to be very attractive prices- $1100 or so. I can't find any reviews of this preamp, and wonder what your experience is? Right now, I am using a Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 tube pre into Acurus ss power amp into Soliloquy 5.3s. Thanks, Ben