Review: Shunyata Research New Hydra 2 - 20A AC filter

Category: Accessories

Sometime ago, I had the special opportunity to recently speak with one, Grant Samuleson. Top sales hand for the Shunyata Research Co. The premise for that interaction was not at the fore, one of casual conviviality. IN fact it was quite otherwise. At the time we did talk, I didn’t know Mr. Samuleson,from Adam’s house cat. I came to find out his position with Shunyata, and his sincerity in the undertaking of that arrangement. As the result of that encounter I obtained an entirely different perspective about Shunyata completely. Service and support is a primary concern for them. Customer relations are something they remain keen on as well. In addition to his obligations he has with Shunyata Research, he offers up his experienced appraisals about implementation and characteristics of the company’s products online, with some regularity.

After some considerable dialogue between Mr. Samuleson, and myself, I was presented quite an uncommon prospect. Mr. Samuleson offered to afford me the occasion to preview some number of Shunyata products that he thought would improve my overall system performance, given my rig’s nature and my preferences. No strings attached. This magnanimous offer came as an effort on shunyata’s part to remedy the previously unattained information, and repair the incongruous info obtained via their authorized dealers, from which I had errantly espoused online. Being the doubting Thomas that i am, I was reluctant to accept. The assurances he gave me thereafter overcame that bump in the road altogether. I accepted the one time offer to audition the Shunyata products, when it was convenient for Shunyata to provide them. The only provisos were, that I provide some security prior to shipping, and preview the entirety of the products over one months span. I did. Notably, this occurance transpired due to the lack, then, of a brick and mortar dealership in my area. Otherwise this boon would have been facilitated through the cooperation with the local dealership. Shunyata did make this endeavor the exception due to that sole factor.

Some good while later, and having given Shunyata Research a security for their merchandise, the products arrived. These items came on the heels of my extensive auditioning of interconnects I had been doing for some months to replace the Cardas Neutral Reference I had used since the beginning of my systems construction. The package contained several Taipan helix Alpha’s, a Python Helix Alpha, a pair of Altair xlr IC’s, and a 20 amp Hydra 2. SR sent along some IEC to NEMA aC adapters for run in purposes. This ought to be interesting.

One of the Taipan Helix Alpha’s had the required 20 amp connection for the Hydra 2. Good thinking. I had no such cord in my personal mix. Knowing how important run in is for everything I hooked those two up first and daisied the balance of the cords together. I alternated the cords about the chain for a bit over the recommended 100 hours of break in Shunyata believes minimally necessary for good performance. I found that more is better. 200 is more like what is needed to get near an optimum level. They were not hard to listen to at all however throughout the whole thing, they were simply better with more time. I used my fridge, fans, lamps, subwoofer, and several other items in the house to run them all in as quickly as possible. I didn’t think to use power tools at the time, but I’ll keep it in mind for reference. Only the Altairs got time on the system. Sparringly however, as I had my newly set Synergistic IC’s to enjoy.

I had set the Hydra 2 onto the table adjacent to the fridge, connected the 20 amp Taipan Helix Alpha, letting the Taipan dangle off the cabinent, and sought another cord to attach. The Taipan promptly dragged the Hydra 2 off the shelf and it smacked onto the floor below, with a sickening noise. Maybe you’ve heard that noise before? You know it I’m sure. It’s the noise of money flying out of your pockets before you get to use it. Sort of like when that new reel flys off into the briny deep on your first cast, or that crunching sound of metal on metal when you first park your new car at a mall and didn’t see the buggy sticking ever so slightly into your space.

I really had not planned a ballistics test for any of the gear, but it seems one was provided me at no extra cost. My heart sank. Hitting the bottom, it bounced upward and lodged itself in my throat. Uh, oh. The drop was only about three feet. I said a little prayer. Then another. Inspecting the little black box showed no apparent issues. No damage to the sturdily constructed unit were apparent. “Please work little box”. I hate to pay for broke stuff. Even if I broke it. I finished the chain, and energized the unit. It worked. Well it conducted electricity anyhow. Fine. Keep working little box. Live long and prosper, er, break in, er, get ready fast.

At about a hundred and twenty five hours it was time. Actually it probably wasn’t the exact right time, but my patience had run out, and my anxiety level was too high to refrain. More importantly, the clock was ticking. 30 days, remember? Time to find out if the box did more than just pass along power. I put it to work on my power amp. The Hydra 2’s design is as simple as it gets. Outwardly. One IEC input receptacle of 20 amps. Two NEMA output receptacles. Simple. Inputs on one end, outputs directly opposite. Intuitive. Four tiny little feet support the box. It has no light to indicate it is operating. It just sits there. Quiet. Unassuming. Nondescript. It doesn’t get hot. It flies through the air and lands abruptly onto a floor with an inadvertent yet awkward thud, and no real world issues. (don’t try this at home… go to your friends home and try it with his). It doesn’t buzz. It does what it does in utter silence. Silence, you see, is it’s job. It’s whole reason for being. It does exactly that. Sssssssssshhhh.

The Hydra 2 works quietly, almost stealthily, to perform subtractively, it’s fundamental influence on the system components strung to it. What it subtracts is not the music nor any of the elements therein. It does not take away from the performance, or it’s involvement. It neither condenses the sound stage nor does it enhance it. It would by all accounts thus far seem to do quite little. To make that declaration would be more than understatement.

More to the point, what the diminutive box does is allow. It allows the power coming out of the wall to enter the associated components with greatly reduced artifacts. It also works in reverse. If a component is producing, or leaking back into the ‘grid’ some errant attributes, these too are quelled. I found that bit fascinating. One would assume the prospect to surely work on the imcoming potential, but the return as well? Excellent.

Blackness of background is what most audiophiles relate to when comparing power filters and conditioners. For that matter blackness of background, is attenuated by a good many system’s mechanisms. Filters and conditioners are chiefly known for this one contribution. Blacker the backdrop for the music, the better the opportunity for increases in imaging, and hence, the contrived illusion of reality. The Shunyata Research Hydra 2 allows one to come quite closer to the aspect of reality by diminishing the errant voltage devils that live unabated on the supply lines fueling our beloved components. A bad thing. Eliminate those imps from the voltage and the equipment performs less encumbrances. A higher level of performance coincidentally is derived.

Regardless the position of the SR Hydra 2 in my system, the results were the same. Improved performance. Improvement by allowance. Subtractive allowance? In part. Not subtractive of desired content, but subtractive of impediment. On my stock Sony XA 777 es, no notice of gremlins could be discerned. Not one bit of etching, hiss, graininess, or glare. On my tube preamp, again, no trace of tube noise, could be ascertained. No matter the contrivance, the noisy, or not so noisy, gained in it’s ease of streaming material.

With all dedicated circuits supplying juice the notion of some dark sprites in the power lines detracting from system performance seemed to me to be ridiculous. Their dedicated power lines! How are they affected? They are affected by the common denominator. The incoming power itself. Though somewhat removed from much of the households requisite needs and influences, yet not entirely, the power entering the home carries along some quite negative elements with it. It’s amplitude may and quite often does vary, and it is unfiltered and raw. The severity of these unattended power line matters are not completely addressed by the SR Hydra 2. It serves only to eradicate a portion of the troubles with power, not all of them. For instance, it does not regulate the amplitude of the incoming power.

The SR Hydra 2 is also transparent enough to allow influence of the supply cord attached to it, to become symbiotic with the associated device. This relationship serves to engender the character of the cord more so than that of the SR Hydra 2, which I could find had no such obvious character. No obvious fingerprint? To some small degree there could objectively be considered one of slight warmth. Though by comparison only. I found this also quite extraordinary. Given the filtration of aberrant power line rudiments. It isn’t to far a reach, to think if the thing is going to attenuate errant power line aspects, why then, not the influences of the supply cord being attached to it, rather than allow that feature through. It filters both ways, remember? Why I say, audiophiles need to know this sort of thing. Beats me. In a word, “Magic.” I have no clue as to how it occurs. I will say however, it really does make a positive difference by apparent ‘lack’ of nasty line current grunge. I don’t actually care to know in fact. I believe there needs to be some element of magic in a system if it is to produce a magical performance. Certainly this attractive phenomenon has explanation. To be sure. I did ask. They ain’t tellin’. Suits me just fine. Keep your little secret all to yourselves. The important notion is practically speaking, that it happens. That bit alone extinguished my overt curiosity. When things work well, I’m far less curious.

I did determine however slight, though noticeable, the SR Hydra 2, does have some degree of character, in comparison. In a word it is one of, “warmth”. Not overtly so, but there nonetheless.

With all the musical content of my rig digitally sourced, my latest fav CD is Illinois Jacquets’ offering from the early 80’s, “Jacquet’s Got it”. A big band jazz and blues album that is exciting, reasonably well recorded for the time, and spans a fair amount of content. With only 8 tracks the album furnishes a broad array of the talents of one of jazz musics more innovative stylists. On track one, “tickle toe”, a rousing rendition that affords near all of the musicians a solo, with Jean Babtiste, joining in on the solo’s with his own salute. When introduced into the system the SR Hydra 2 permitted the whole of the ensemble and the solos to develop with a greater straightforwardness and the complexities of the large band were rendered far easier to associate with. Individual elements became more distinct. They all stood out as the result of the greater depth to the darkened setting. One further note on the track is when the clarinet follows the trombonists efforts, without the SR Hydra 2 the instrument was thinner, and more brightly thrown into the foray of the up tempo melody. It came in as quite the startling and shrill insert. With the SR Hydra 2 in place on the BAT VK500 w/BP, the clarinetists inspired introduction, the onset of the first note became more the harmonic thrill, than the alert. Even the engineers get into the act with the drummers heart pounding forcefulness, by casting about the sound stage the kick drums individual thumps in a circular fashion from left to right and reaching towards the listener’s position prominently, as it swerves about the room. That’s about the only ear candy on this cut aside from the talents of the musicians of course. The SR Hydra 2 trimmed away the starker edges of the leading transients, and gave way to the more musical pace and force of them without drawing one’s attention to them. The dynamics and harmonics remained unaffected otherwise.

On Susannah McCorkels “Hearts and Minds” CD, her emotive rendition of “Haunted heart”, a smoky ballad with the accompaniment set well back into the stage with Susannah’s closely miked vocal more forward in the tune, the Hydra 2 gave a clearer vista to the whole of the performance, enabling one to catch the soft tones of the quintet at her support, as easily as her own accounting. Natural and distinct the voice showed more articulation while maintaining the thrust of emotive styling.

A cleaner, clearer view into the performance was always the fault of the little Hydra 2. Apparently the early on and incidental ‘ballistics’ test of the Hydra 2, as it fell some three feet and smacked onto the floor beneath, had no effect upon it. Consequently construction efforts as well as those of design should be applauded. Kudos for the construction quality. I know I’m grateful for it. Additively, just how many reviews do you read that incorporate ‘drop tests’? Now that’s bleeding edge stuff.

Being a passive conditioner, the SR Hydra 2 will not fix all the present problems one may be experiencing with their assemblage of audio equipment. It filters only. It does not regulate, or re-generate. With gear other than audio, for example TV’s and Video sources, the picture quality became more vibrant and lusterus. The nature of that Vibrance and luster was affected by the cord cuppling the Hydra to it very much so. I didn’t notice if the ice cubes were clearer or if they froze faster however. Nor did I take measurements of temperature changes. The light was brighter though.

Wherever the little black box was set, to whatever the appliance it was coupled, a greater level of performance was realized. An increase in the level of supply cord does in fact become additive as well. Symbiotic. Proportionately. Each Hydra wields yet a different wand to cast it’s sorcery into the mix. The SR Hydra 2 uses a supple and generous hand to the tempo and casts a slightly temperate scale to those devices attendant to it’s influence.

IN direct comparison to another passive conditioner, the PS audio UPC-200, which is outfitted with more outlets, some greater flexibility, and a resultant higher price tag, the efforts of the SR Hydra 2 show themselves to be of a dissimilar balance. In regard to blackness of the overall setting, they are on par with one another. The sense of the music when rendered, however is where they are more apart. The UPC-200 when set to the Dual mode (it’s less quieting than it’s other setting of High Current modality, but better at segregation of unlike designs, ex. Digital & analog), it is almost indistinguishable with it’s darkening of the performance setting from that of the SR Hydra 2. It is in this sense I compared the two conditioners. On the same devices in my system.

The SR Hydra 2’s repertoire of effortlessness and unveiled talents, are in contrast to the PS Audio UPC-200’s, in a word, cleaner. A touch more vivid, by distinction. This is also a contrast of degrees. Apart from side by each demonstrations, it remains most difficult to determine which one has the deeper blackness. It is however more easily determined which has the stronger attendance with the leading transient energy. The PS Audio UPC-200 pushes ahead here.

More ‘weighty of the two conditioners, the PS Audio UPC-200 sets itself apart from the SR Hydra 2 in that capacity alone… and then by mere degrees. This seeming alackrity and resonant roundness of the tones is still, to what ever the measurement, an objective assignment. I will say in support of the SR Hydra 2, that subjective trait of the PSA UPC – 200, did not place it in a poor light when it came to it’s recital of music. What the SR Hydra 2 removes from the power line is conducive to enjoyment musical renderings. The PSA UPC 200 in contrast with it’s cloaking method is but another take on how a similar end is divined.

The most pointed analogy I can muster of the two is that of the disparity from silk, to velvet… the Hydra and UPC200, respectively. how the two offerings conduct themselves with musical recreation is this, the SR H2 allows, and the PSA UPC 200 wraps. I saw the music as more emergent with the PS Audio than with the Hydra.

I like the SR Hydra 2 and will continue to keep it in one of my systems. It is that integral an item. It performs that well. It is a value and valued component. I keep also the PSA UPC-200. I feel the same way about it as I do about the Hydra 2. They both have their attributes and are additive constructs that possess value, and performance commensurate with their associated price tags. You may find as I did, they each will have that inth degree of difference which will enable particular cabling and components to excel, given the proper application for either Hydra or UPC-200, as the case may be in your system.

Associated gear
BAT VK5i tube preamp w/remote control. Fully balanced throughout. Outfitted w/2 Amperex PQ US 7308 whites w/sheild: 6 - 6DJ8’S Matsushita 70's NOS: 2 NOS Tung sol 5881’s.
It is isolated via a layering of Mahogany blocks, vibrapods, PB shelf material, MDF shelf material. All tubes are outfitted with herbies tube dampers. Peaks, Teflon, and nickel.

BAT VK500 w/BP. A solid state dual mono amp using a singular chassis. Fully balanced unit that provides 250wpc @ 8 ohms. 450wpc @ 4 ohms, and plays like a 300-350 wpc amp given it's considerable storage capacity. It uses two VooDoo gold Dragon II's power cords as primary supply cords, it also uses a Hydra 2 passive conditioner.

Primary Source
Sony SCD xa 777 es CD Player. the CDP uses a Shunyata Python Helix VX as supply cord. M.I.T.Magnum 3 III RCA w/rca to xlr Cardas adapters at the preamp. serve as the ICs. Isolation is via herbies ‘iso cups’ w/ebony balls, using the same layering as the preamp described above.

VSA VR4-JR loudspeakers w/aftermarket spikes. Red cherry.

Main ICs:
Synergistic Resolution Ref X2 Active 1m XLR (MAIN ic), connects pre to amp.

Primary source
M.I.T. Magnum 3 III RCA 1.5m

Secondary source
Nordost Blue Heaven 2m (source IC)

Loudspeaker cables:
Synergistic Signature 10 X2 Active bi wires now config'd as standard supplying the upper module
Synergistic Alpha Quadd series X Active on JR bass driver only. also config'd as standard and driving the lower module

Power cords
Shunyata Taipan Helix Alpha (VK5i)
Shunyata Python Helix VX - cdp
VooDoo Gold Dragon II (2 for vk500)
VooDoo Black Dragon
PS Audio – OEM

Passive Conditioners
PS Audio UPC 200
Shunyata Hydra 2

Velodyne CHT 10 inch active sub. (preamp outputs VIA Cardas xlr/rca adapter).

VooDoo 20 A IEC adapter.
Cardas RCA/XLR input adapters.
Footers used:
Wood, mahogany, under preamp
Herbies iso cups w/ebony under CDP
Herbies tube dampers

Similar products
PS audio UPC200, Chang, Transparent.