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I have an almost identical system to yours: ML 37,
360, 380S, 335, TacT RCS 2.0S. About 2 months ago
I got a good deal on a Furman RI-1220 balanced power
conditioner. They also make a less expensive model,
the IT-1220. It made a significant improvement in the
noise floor and transparency. It also seemed to make
the high frequencies cleaner or less sibilant. I would
recommend it highly. Absolute Sound magazine had a
review of power conditioners within the last 3 months.
The Furman was well rated.
You might add to your list the Foundation Research LC-1 and LC-2 passive in-line power conditioners. These are dedicated in-line conditioners in that you purchase one LC per component.
Marty DeWulf of Bound for Sound reviewed these in Aug, 2003 issue and claimed these to simply be the best he's heard and purchased them for his 'Big Rig'.
As far as I know, endorsements don't get much better than that. And Marty DeWulf has supposedly been quite a stickler for proper line conditioning for years.
And the prices of the LC's are no greater than a good to excellent power cable and come with their own built-in power cable. Therefore, potentially saving money buying a cable and line conditioner while still aquiring perhaps the very best.
In my system the PS Audio PP works (regen output) very well for the front end gear but less difference/improvement for my amp (Ayre V3). I do have a PS Audio Ultimate Outlet feeding the Ayre and it makes a very noticeable improvement. In addition, the PS Audio power cables (or any other good makes of PCs) should not be overlooked when using pcs. It too make a huge difference in improving the overall sonics in my system. I also like the pp for their ability to vary their power output settings......... YMMV
You forgot one of the major players. Audio Magic. I've gone from the Stealth to the Stealth Mini Digital, Matrix and now, the Eclipse. Each was more wonderful than the first. The Stealth (and Eclipse, as well) is, now, encased in a rich, heavy duty housing, far superior than the cheap plastic housing of last year. Watch the 'gon, and you'll catch a Mini Stealth, going for a song. Try it. Don't like it? Back on the 'gon for what you paid. You'll, probably get another for your analog side. Or visa versa. peace, warren
I'm surprised there has been no reco for the Shunyata Hydra 8 yet. That 's the one I would recommend, of the ones on your list. I currently am using the original Hydra with an Anaconda vX cord. It was a huge upgrade over my previous conditioner (Audio Magic Stealth). The Stealth was quicker, but the Hydra is much more musical. You can almost see the rosin falling off the bow. The attack and decay of notes are more natural. Comparing the original Hydra with the newer Hydra 8, is a matter of tastes. The 8 is more dynamic, but not as rich and full, IMHO. Which ever Hydra you wind up getting, the Anaconda vX power cord should be considered a mandatory accessory. YMMV.
Mark: Dedicated lines with a clean connection for the mains at the ground rod is the first place to start. If the mains aren't properly grounded at the service entrance, you are FAR more likely to experience noise from other devices within your own house entering your system. As such, a good clean connection that is protected from the weather and potential corrosion at the AC mains / ground rod is the place to start.
After that, i would look into AC isolation using high grade, high current "old school" iron core transformers. If you use conservatively rated isolation transformers that are good for at least 40% more than what your total current draw is under the heaviest demands, you'll probably be good. I am a fan of "over-kill", so using an even bigger transformer is better for multiple reasons ( lower source impedance, less chance for saturation, reduced hysterisis distortion, etc... ). That is, so long as the isolation / noise suppression characteristics of the transformer aren't reduced to obtain higher current capacity.
As a side note, toroidal designs are WAY less efficient at isolating line noise, so don't believe the hype from the manufacturers that are using such an approach. This isn't to say that they can't work pretty well, as they can, but they will never work as well as an optimally designed "heavy metal" transformer. We are talking about differences of appr -85 dB's of noise suppression using a toroidal design compared to appr -125 to -145 dB's for an ultra-isolation iron core.
As far as balanced AC power goes, this may work wonderfully for some gear, but other gear will actually perform worse. Any gear that has been designed with polarity specific filtering in the power supply will suffer a degradation in performance. While i don't know of a lot of gear that makes use of such a design*, i do know of a few pieces. As such, you might want to check with the manufacturer(s) of your components before investing in ANY type of AC filtration devices. Just be prepared to wade through a half dozen different opinions : )
As far as power cords go, and i'm basing this on information available through the various websites from each of these companies, the Shunyata stuff appears to be more advanced than any of the others that you're using. While i know that no product works universally, you might want to think about this aspect of your system a bit too.
Stehno: No offense, as i too read and subscribe to BFS, but i have a hard time believing quite a bit of what Marty has been feeding us lately. After seeing the rack that he's using in his "Big Rig" and having used an identical product, there's NO way that his system is as revealing as it could be. At least not in my experience or opinion. That rack is a "destroyer of sonic subtleties" in my experience. Then again, i know others that have tried out quite a few different racks and also enjoy that same model, so take my comments for what they are worth. Regardless of personal preferences, i take everything that he says with a grain of salt after learning about this and a few other things. Like any other review / reviewer or person sharing information ( me included ), proceed with caution and use your own judgment. Sean
* As i've mentioned before, most gear lacks proper filtering and power supply design. It is for this reason that something as simple yet highly effective as polarity specific filtering isn't found in most gear. Most designers / products haven't even taken care of the basics let alone advanced to something as advanced as this. If they did, the changes from one type of power cord to another wouldn't be as audible as they are.
Speaking of power conditioners. I've come to take much for granted in my system, including truly great electric, starting with dedicated lines running into a great power conditioner. Because I'm getting some new pcs and I had to do a little rearranging, I decide to listen to my system without my Eclipse. Man, I didn't realize what I had until I didn't have it. I'm not going into the whole deal, with the standard ho hum ubiquitous adjectives, about soundstage, ladidadida, but the bottom line is: couldn't wait to hook up my Eclipse, once again. Major player in my system. peace, warren
Any power conditioner will change the sound, now if you like it and most of all does your equipment like it. They all interact with the power supplies. Some gear hate balanced power, some get slow sounding. I use a Furman Reference 20i. I tried it before buying and I compared my front from wall and to the Furman, in each case the Furman lowered the noise to such a extent that sounds and noises made during the recording were easy to hear, pages being turned, lip smacks, breathes taken, lower fade outs etc. So I have kept it. Not cheap though. Furman been the pros choice for years. The Guy who designed for Furman now works for Audio quest. Looking at the Niagara 7,000 and specs it is very much like the Furman but double the price. I tried PS audio, balanced power, Exact power and a few more. Sold them all. One option. Is the Harmonic Technogly Magic power cords with the built in noise filter. Of is the real deal and what you can do for the front end is buy a quality power strip plug the HT into it and you condition your whole front end. Power amps to me always sounded best off the wall. I use McIntosh that have the auto transformers.