I used an isolation transformer with a balanced output for a couple of years. I really cuts down on the common mode noise (Neutral to ground) noise by 146db. Also reduced (not eliminate) a hum I had in my system. But I stopped using it because it got quite warm whether or not any equipment was on/off or in standby. It also had a 3V gain compared to the input voltage. My input voltage jumped to 125V after some work in the neighborhood. With a tube amp and an output voltage of 128V I stopped using it and picked up a re generator for fear of a voltage surge. But while I had it it did lower the noise floor. I have since traded in the re generator and plug my new SS class D amp directly into the wall (Aavik U300) with an Ansuz MainzD8 power distribution and have the best sound I ever had in my home. With the MainzD8 my noise floor dropped even more and the sound is so much more natural and 3D.
Equi-Tech is the real deal, worked much better than the PS Audio P10 and cheaper and more efficient. Better in every way. Gearslutz is a good place to buy them.
But with that said, if your equipment can take 240V, American 240V is balanced, and free. I use it with the Furman AC-210 and everything is perfect. Furman is also the real deal unlike audiophile offerings.
I have the Furman P-2400. It has saved my gear from a few power surges. For example, recently a construction worker cut power to my house. When he turned the power back on, all the gear that was plugged into the Furman survived unscathed, but my dac which was plugged into another power conditioner would no longer power up.
The P-2400 is very heavy and well built. I like that it has 14 outlets. It can draw 20 amps. The Furman can handle almost any home audio system, with current to spare. My current system only draws 3.5 amps, so there's a lot of headroom. I had an OTL amp which created a current draw of 8.5 amps for the whole system, so the Furman worked well even with my power hogging OTL amp. The only drawback is that it has a captive power cord, and the front display cannot be turned off, but it can be dimmed. I bought mine at Amazon Warehouse for a great price, more than 50% off retail. I have only compared it to a low end PS Audio conditioner, so can't comment on how it would compare to the other brands you are considering.
Ok, I have now taken a step forward in my project. I pulled a strand of 12-2 across the entire length of my basement today to allow for a dedicated 20 amp circuit. The goal is to install an outlet box in the floor and utilize a cruzeFirst Maestro outlet. This will power the Furman P-2400it. Pulling wire is soooo much fun!
I am using 10 gauge wire, try pulling that wire! I have 3 dedicated lines. One for digital that plugs into a PS P-10, one for my Pre/Amp (Pass Labs) and one for my subs (JL Audio F-113). All of the outlets are the Furutech GTX-R.
Spread out through the 3 dedicated lines are 8 High Fidelity MC .05’s.
I have a whole house surge protector, but when I am aware of a storm I still disconnect by turning off the circuit breakers and unplugging equipment.
Equi=Tech (it's an equal sign "=", not a dash) is the high-end professional balanced AC way to go. A Son of Q unit would be ideal, and both expensive and a bit difficult to find, for almost any home system. That said, thereby hangs a tale:
A few years ago, I determined that Equi=Tech was the way to go for balanced AC, but as noted their units are expensive and it seemed at the time they were universally on back-order. So I called Equi=Tech about 8 a. m. one morning to see what I could find out. Lo and behold, the President, Martin Glasband himself, answered. It was maybe 5 a. m. his time in Oregon. Well, turns out he's a classic rather eccentric genius, and he *loves* talk about his stuff. Moreover, he'll tell it to you straight. We talked for over an hour. The reason so much was on backorder at the time was because he'd received a large shipment of toroidal transformers that were slightly out of physical spec for his production units. The transformers he uses are built to a crazy perfectionist's standards and are supposedly the most technologically refined transformers made. I've no reason to argue. In this case, he had a bunch of transformers that worked just fine, but were a bit too big for his production units. Here's the kicker: He sold me one of those transformers, mounted in a grey steel electrical box, at a fraction of the price of a complete unit. It was plenty easy enough to wire up myself. Martin pointed out that the transformer is essentially 100% of the useful funtionality of his balanced AC units, and that the rest amounts to decorative and convienience I/O and packaging.
So what I have from Equi=Tech ain't pretty, but it sure does work! The transformer itself does not get warm, and does not waste power, AT ALL. Likewise, it does not boost, or drop the voltage, nor does is seem to restrict the current flow in any noticeable respect whatsoever. BUT it does result in an overall noise reduction in my studio system of something like 15 dB, VERY worthwhile. It's dead silent. Most of the better professional recording and mastering studios I know of use the larger balanced transformers/systems from Equi=Tech for very good reason. Check them out: http://www.equitech.com/
I would love to get some feedback from anyone who has experience with both Equi=tech and Furman balanced power units. Ha! I sent an email to a commercial sound reinforcement company that is listed as a Furman dealer a couple of hours from my home. They are listed as a dealer on the Furman website and specialize in audio for gymnasiums, churches and auditoriums. Without going into details the owner of the company basically told me to F'off. He has great disdain for "audiophiles". But offered to consult with me for $120.00 per hour. Geez, I hope he enjoys the sound in his gym! I just wanted to get some feedback on the Furman P-2400it. I received the Maestro outlet today and it is now installed. Now to get the panel wired....
The 240V balanced to 120V balanced equitech units (those that are 3kVA and above) are the best you can do without doing 240v balanced directly off the street transformer to your equiptment. The 120v unbalanced to 120V balanced is a compromise but still very good .
Equitech is not audiophile.
When it comes to balanced power, look at the weight of the transformer.
Coli - I find your comments interesting. You say Equi=tech is not "audiophile" not sure what you meant by that comment and would appreciate a clarification. The Furman weighs 90 lbs. and the Equi=tech 2RQ weighs 72 lbs. The Furman is priced at $2400.00 while the 2RQ is at $4300.00. This is why I'm leaning toward the Furman. I don't see what more I am getting for $1900 dollars in the Equi=tech.
A quick note. I personally doubt that, under ordinary conditions, one would be able to perceive any significant difference between the Furhman P-2400 IT and the comparable Equi=Tech Model 2RQ. Undoubtedly the Furhman is both less expensive and more available. Equi=Tech is almost exclusively pro gear, and Martin claims to be the guy that introduced the concept of using balanced AC in critical applications years ago, but at this point that might not make enough difference to be concerned with.
A couple of other notes: When searching for dealers on the Furman site, one might be better off using the "Home Theater" option. The dealers one finds might be a little more friendly and the gear will be the same. Also, do note that the plug on both of them (I believe) is a NEMA 5-20 and they are designed for 20 amp circuits. Make sure your receptacle can accept it.
Lastly, Equi=Tech claims the current ratings of their transformers is very conservative. I believe it. If your system will run well on one 15 amp circuit, and most will, a 15 amp rated Equi-Tech transformer will not throttle the current flow AFAICT. Likewise for their 20 amp equipment.
If you are going for value, used Equitech 2RQ goes for less than $1000. Transformers last forever. Checkout gearslutz classified section.
But really, the best value is to go without and go with 240V equiptments. Even cheap stuff sounds like a million buck once you go 240V for everything.
(Equitech is used in recording studios/production facilities, they basically are nothing more than a very highly specced transformer.)
I've been using balanced power for over 15 years now with my first unit being a Cine-Pro power pro 10 which was really a Furman just rebadged as Cine-Pro. It was a major step up from what I had been using which was an Adcom ACE-15. Much improved bass depth and articulation along with soundstage solidity were its main attributes however it was limited to 10 amps max and I was utilizing 70-80 % of that. I used it for about 3 years and I then upgraded to a PS Audio Power Plant P600 which as many know outputs balanced power. The P600 lasted about 6 years before it died and it was a revelation to say the least at the time and after visiting my local dealer, he mentioned a then new company called Platinum Power which utilizes a 2500VA balanced transformer. I took the PP-1 beast home where it handily out performed the P600 hands down in every audiophile/perfomance attribute you can name! It is fed from a 15 amp dedicated circuit but only drawing about 8 amps max from it so there is more than ample headroom.
I repaired the P600 and dropped it into the HT system where it was happy for about 5 years until it died again. As luck would have it, I was looking thru my local Craigslist and lo and behold a PP-1 was listed for sale for dirt cheap so I snagged it up as soon as I could and again, it improved the whole HT system especially my Plasma display which was surprising given that it had been powered with regenerated power. It too is powered by a 15 amp dedicated circuit and the system draws about 7 amps max.
One of these days I plan on running 20 amp dedicated lines to both the main rig and the HT rig just to remove that small bottleneck even though I am not utilizing anywhere near the 2500VA transformers capacity. Bottom line is I will be using balanced power for the foreseeable future.
As a side note, the new AudioQuest Niagra 7000 with its DBS transformer looks very interesting, I'm going to track one down this weekend at Newport and give it a listen.
Since my last posting I ran across a BPT unit here and couldn't pass it up. At one third the price of the new Furman I figured it would be a good way to try balanced power with less investment. I haven't put it into my system yet but that will hopefully happen this next week. I will share my impressions.