Transformers .. Is It Just Me?

I have 2 line conditioners in my system in series -- the SR PowerCell 10SE Mark II (according to Ted_d's information, thanks) plugged into a Bybee Stealth. Frankly, with my recent experience with an isolation transformer, if I had to do it all over again I would have made different choices. I think I could have had a lot more bang for my buck. Let's just say that the Bybee Stealth made it worthwhile.

After experimenting with a lot of Bybee products I have come to the conclusion that it is hard to do too much AC cleaning. Lately, I have been doing research into balanced conditioners, isolation transformers and power regenerators. Since I live overseas it would cost an arm and a leg to have one of those mammoth balanced transformers shipped over -- not to mention the cost of the item. This is beyond my budget. So I have been looking at relatively inexpensive "alternatives". I cannot afford a balanced conditioner or balanced isolation transformer at the moment so I decided to gamble on a relatively inexpensive medical grade isolation transformer.

I found what I thought might be a good choice on Ebay. (I also found an inexpensive power regenerator. That's a story that will have to wait for another thread.) I just put this isolation transformer into my system and have been doing some A/B-ing. I have read where non-balanced transformers will have minimal effect -- but I did read (I lost the thread) where one Audiogon poster was not convinced of this. My initial experience -- is it just me? This is amazing. The holographic effect with this unit in my system is astonishing. This is unmistakable. When I unplug the unit the air around instruments and vocalists is gone. The sound is still holographic but it is not the same at all.

OK, the unit has a hum due to the internal fan. But with all but very low volume I cannot detect it. I'll have to work on damping the hum. Has anyone else had a positive experience with a medical grade isolation transformer? My unit was made in Germany by Block, by a top maker of transformers. It weighs about 40 lbs. and the toroidal is encased in resin. Do different medical transformers give different results?
Vey interesting. Can you tell us where you bought it, and the price? I did a brief search, and saw Tripplite models of various prices. How do you know what to buy?
I bought it on Ebay for $350. I know this is a lot higher than some other brands offered on Ebay but this model enables me to convert the voltage externally to 230 volts and I was also impressed by the high quality of this made-in-Germany unit. In any case, it was definitely a gamble because I have absolutely no experience with these units (medical grade) or with balanced transformers.

The common wisdom is that you need to go balanced to get sonic improvements. The fact is that I am left stunned by this unit. I have been listening all day with amazement at what it does in terms of realism and "being there". Uncanny. These are some of the best $350 (+ shipping) audio dollars I have ever spent. But I must caution -- YMMV. I have never seen another unit of its kind advertised anywhere. I have no idea if other medical grade transformers will perform the same wonders.
Here is an article I found that might be helpful
it's not surprising that you reaped this much benefit from an isolation xformer. Like you said it's results are often YMMV. If you have a lot of grunge on your AC line & you do not have sufficient common-mode rejection then installing an isolation xformer will get you great results 'cuz one thing that an isolation xformer does is provide something like 100dB, 120dB, 140dB of common-mode rejection. They also break-up ground loops (since the pri & sec are isolated with mu-metal casing around each). So, it's no surprise that your noise floor dropped & various textures of the music came popping out!
enjoy the music. :)

P.S. if I may ask, where do you live? your username info says USA. where ever you live, your power is pretty dirty...
Thanks for the link. I'll have a look today.

Thanks for your comments. I live in Asia. I don't divulge personal information so I do not specify which country. Suffice it to say the AC here is very dirty. I have used a lot of Bybee products to clean up the AC and have had great results. The isolation transformer does this in spades for me.
I just checked the link. It refers to balanced AC output. The isolation transformer I bought is not balanced. It is medical grade. This is why I have been pleasantly surprised with the sonic results. Common wisdom says the transformer has to be balanced for any sonic benefits to accrue.
Common wisdom says the transformer has to be balanced for any sonic benefits to accrue.
no, this is NOT a true statement at all. A transformer can be benefitial even if it's single-ended. it just has to be designed correctly for the job that it is intended to do. In a balanced xformer by making the AC signal differential the architecture allows for rejection of common-mode in the topology itself. Whereas in a single-ended xformer you have to use mu-metal cans for shielding & reduction of capacitative coupling. Just 2 different ways to skin the cat....
what do you think - all the transformers used in solid-state audio are all balanced? Do you think that the EI transformers so widely used in tube equipment are all balanced? Do you think that all the wonderful super expensive, wonderful sounding MC step-up transformers are balanced? No, they are not.....
Yet their impact on the sonics is remarkable.
Thank you for this informative post. Not being technically competent on the subject of transformers I am very interested to know that what I am hearing has a technical explanation. My purchase was based purely on intuition. I could not be happier. I just added a Monarchy AC regenerator to my system today -- on the transport and DAC -- and the sound has been elevated yet one more level.
The sound just keeps getting better with break-in. I strongly suggest this as a less expensive option for those looking at balanced transformers.
Sabai, I thought about adding an Isloation Transformer before my SR Powercell, but most that I see are rated 3 Amp.
What amperage is the one your using?
It looks like 6 amps. Here is the URL for the original listing:

I have mine before my SR PowerCell. It dwarfs the PowerCell's sonic effects in my system. I cannot say what other isolation transformers would sound like. This is the only isolation transformer I have ever owned.

Did you change out the female IEC's for male IEC's or do you have custom power cords?
Sabai, Thanks for the info. I'm not sure what Amperage my Powercell draws, but I have everything ( Audio,Video) running through it on a 20 Amp dedicated circuit.
My Amps are on seperate dedicated circuits.

So, I'm not sure how big of a Isolation unit I would need.
Most welcome. I have a dedicated 20-amp line for my audio system. I think it will come down to the quality of the transformer. I don't think you will find another one like the one I bought -- in the enclosure, made in Germany by Block, with the toroidal encased in resin. But Tripp or another inexpensive unit may end up doing the same job as mine in your system. I can only speculate. All I can say is I gambled and won -- big time.

During the decision-making process, the big issue for me was the weight. Some of the units out there weigh from 70 to 100 lbs. or more. I live overseas. The shipping cost for one of those heavy units put the purchase out of the ballpark. My unit is compact and weighs about 40 lbs. double boxed.

Regarding size and weight, I think Tripp are also within reason. Frankly, I would have gone with one of their units if I had not bought mine. But I have no idea if their toroidals are encased in resin and if that makes a difference re: the sonic benefits. Theoretically, according to what Bombaywalla has to say on the subject, a well-chosen Tripp unit should be able to give good results. I have seen them for about $100 on Ebay -- mint. Worth the gamble, IMO.
Sabai, I'm still not sure of the value to look for. I have seen them listed as 1KVA up to 5 KVA and beyond.
Mine is 1.380KVA. I would get the highest rated unit you can afford depending on the requirements of your system. I would be careful to choose a unit that is rated at least twice the cumulative watts of your system -- especially if you have a pre amp and power amp. Go through your system carefully and add up the rated watts, then double that number. This should be the minimum number to run your system safely.
Sabai, I just bought a Olympus Model 012MD Hosp Grade Isolation Transformer Ultra Low Leakage rated at 11.25 Amps.
It states "The leakage current is the lowest 10uA or less for the most stringent applications."
Does anyone know what that means ?

Near as I can figure, the items plugged into my Synergistic
Powercell is about 500 watts total.
So I think this unit should be able to power properly, but I'm still double checking my calculations.
I have no idea what this leaking number means. Check your calculations carefully before powering up.
I just checked Ebay for your model and found this Olympus item with the same model number:

It says 1350VA which is more than double the watts of your system. I'll be interested in hearing what it does for your system.
It states "The leakage current is the lowest 10uA or less for the most stringent applications."
Does anyone know what that means ?
normally, when a transformer is designed the intention is to keep the magnetic flux in the primary confined strictly to the windings of the primary. Similarly, the intention is to keep the magnetic flux confined to the sec windings only. But this is impossible to do in a practical transformer because the whole theory of operation of a transformer is coupling of magnetic flux between pri & sec to transfer power to the output. SO, there is bound to be some primary winding flux leaking into the sec winding. As a result there will be some leakage current associated with this. In an isolation transformer leakage is bad as the main function of this sort of transformer is isolation. That's the attribute that's being touted & sold for a premium. So, lower the leakage current, the better the isolation between pri & sec.
Well thank you Bombaywalla and Sabai for the help.
Sabai, that was the one I bought, I made an offer he could'nt refuse.

Ok, another question, does Medical grade mean it was made to tighter tolerances that could translate to better Audio/ Video?
You're very welcome. It looks like you have purchased a good unit. I hope it gives good results.

Medical grade means manufactured to high standards. How those standards differ from non-medical grade transformers is a question I cannot answer. Perhaps Bombaywalla can help here. He has indicated in an earlier post that non-balanced isolation transformers can indeed translate into better audio. I can attest that my isolation transformer has made a huge difference in my system.
Ok, another question, does Medical grade mean it was made to tighter tolerances ....
What 'medical grade' means that the instrument will not spark nor will it create an electric shock hazard in the hospital environment both of which can be extremely harmful to the patient or care-giver/doctor/nurse/PA, etc.

Same deal when you read "hospital grade" wall outlets.
I just bought 3 more used Olympus Isolation transformers.So that will give me 4 total to work with. The Plan is to use one before my Synergistic Powercell and the other 3 after the Powercell thus isolating the digital from the Analog and home theater components.
The Power Amps will still be on there own dedicated circuit.
Wow, that's a lot of isolation. Did you get good results with the first one?
I haven't got it yet. So we shall see.

Each and every time I have improved my AC to some extent there has been an improvement in audio and video.
Beit, dedicated lines , power cords, power conditioners, outlets and / covers, crystals, noise destoyers, Nordost products, and etc.
So, I'm hoping for some improvement. The cost is minimal to what I have invested.
Go for it. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I'll be very interested in hearing from you on this.
Well, I received one of the Iso medical grade Transformers yesterday.
I have it installed before my Synergistic Powercell into a dedicated 20 Amp circuit. All of my equipment (video and Audio) is plugged into the SR Powercell except the Amps.

Now, this is a brand new unit straight out of the box. The other 3 units will arrive next week and they are used units.

First impression, the sounds does sound quite a bit cleaner, deeper and clearer. But, there is a sharp hardness to the sound. I believe this is because it’s brand new, consisting of new power cord, new outlets, new transformer, new electronics and etc. It will take time to settle in. But even at this point, I believe it’s a keeper.

On my LCD TV the picture is quite a bit sharper, the colors don't seem as vibrant but the image is very defined. For example, on the Fox program "The Five" I could see just how much caked on makeup Kimberly Guidfold uses.

So, I'm going to let it break in a while, and then soon I will have the other used units for isolation of my Digital, Analog and Home theater equipment and see how all this develops.

Thank you Sabai for starting this thread.
Most welcome. I am interested in your initial observations. My medical grade isolation transformer looked like new. I also installed it before my SR PowerCell. I did not experience the "sharp hardness to the sound" that you are observing. Actually, besides rendering the sound more life-like, it removed the edge or brightness that was still there with my SR and Bybee conditioners in series. The music sounds much smoother and more natural now.
I just replaced the stock power cords on my isolation transformer and power regenerator with DIY cabling using Oyaide plugs and IECs. This is a huge improvement across the board. Highly recommended. I may upgrade these DIY power cords later but for now they are doing a great job.
You may want to try putting a small packet of 1/2" x 1/8" neodymium magnets over each transformer. I get good results doing this.
Interesting... Once I have the 4 Iso's cooking, I may try with some tweaking.
Sabai, For now I prefer the Iso Transformer plugged into my Synergistic Powercell powering just my digital. Perhaps that's the way I will go.
I have my transformer first, then my PowerCell. I have read 2 threads where others have tried daisy-chaining like were are doing. They both got the best results from putting the transformer first -- before the conditioner. I followed their lead and it does indeed give the best results in my system.
Pehaps mine just needs more time to break in. When I get the used units, one of them will be put before the Synergistic powercell.
Mine needed no breaking in. Please report back when you have all 4 in your system.
Well I just received my other 3 Isolation transformers.
I now have a total of 4 of them.
One is before my Synergistic Powercell and the other 3 are plugged into the Powercell. One is used for digital, one is for analog, and the other one is for my Home theater equipment.
My Pass Labs Amps are still plugged directly into another dedicated circuit.
Yesterday for the first time, I got to try them all together.

First, the Video, what excellent picture quality, I am seeing better colors like a little more greens and yellows. Picture looks pretty sharp and natural.

On my Audio, everything sounds so clean, it sounds as though the soundstage moved forward a bit.
To my surprise with this now sharper sound, I can now hear more warts in the recorded sound.
An example of this is on the SACD "Wish you were" song by Pink Floyd. The main guitars in the middle of that song now sound distorted, but, then I realized it was supposed to sound like that! I noticed it right away it is now very clear.
I'll still be playing around with different placements of the Iso Transformers and perhaps try it on my Pass Power Amp sometime.

The only drawback right now is the slight transformer hum I hear on the Iso unit that is connected to the dedicated line that feeds the Synergistic Powercell. It must be because it has the most current draw.
I'm glad to hear you are getting such good results with your transformers. I also have a hum on my isolation transformer plugged into the wall but it's no problem since the music drowns it out.
I also have the Olympus 012MD Isolation Transformers. I have had 3 of them for 3-4 months. I bought mine because, when I was in the Navy, we hospital grade UL60601 transformers (like the 012MD) for our sensitive equipment and they produced excellent results.

These isolation transformers are among the best available. Most audio gear use torroidal transformers, which are very good and cost effective. These use R-type transformers which are the best, but also the most expensive.

I also noticed a clarity to the sound quality that I had not had before. Each instrument sounds as if it were being played by a different driver - they are much more clearly defined and natural sounding. Harmonics from pianos, intentional distortion used on electric guitars, etc. For example, when I listen to Neil Young's bluray (audio) box set, those songs that have distorted electric guitars have an underlying distortion that I have became accustomed to. Now, that underlying distortion is gone - I can clearly hear that one rlectric guitar is distorted - nothing else, and I can hear all of the other instruments more distinctly than ever before. There is also a major improvement to the picture quality on my plasma TV - everything looks more natural.

I am using the audience aR6T conditioner after one transformer that is plugged into an oyaide outlet, and have it powering all of my digital electronics via JPS Digital AC-X power cables. I have my second 012MD connected to an audience aR2P-TO which powers two of my BEL 1001 MK V amplifiers via JPS Power AC-X cables, and the third one is between a different oyaide outlet and a PS Audio Juice Bar that powers all of my analog gear via JPS Analog AC-X power cables

These transformers improve my system's sound quality more than every power cable (eg, audience, Cardas, Shunyata, JPS, etc) and more than every conditioner (eg, Shunyata, audience) I have owned.

Happy Listening!
Your experience is very interesting. The medical grade isolation transformer that I use is torroidal.