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December 1999
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Review-O-Rama!
Wired 4 Power
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

  Here we go again with another round of killer Review-O-Rama festivities. Attention all readers (and manufacture of cool stuff), if you know of other great goodies please send us an e-mail as we would love to review it for possible inclusion into our upcoming Review-O-Rama articles. And now our Review-O-Rama theme song:


Click here for our Review-O-Rama theme song

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the main event!
LLLLLLLLLLLLet's get ready to rummmmmble!

 

This Review-O-Rama we are gonna tackle the deep dark secret life of wire and power. Without wire our systems would be silent and of course without power we would all be enjoying those great ol' 78 rpm Victrolas. Of course this is virtually the year 2000 baby so let's get high-tech!

Furman IT-1220You know you love it, your equipment needs it, and dictators rule with it. We are talking about power of course. Only wimps seem to use unfiltered virgin power in the late 1990's. Long ago i personally penned the very first article about the benefits of balanced in Ultimate Audio magazine (November 1997). Back then no "audiophile" manufacture made them, and in fact most did not know it existed! This is where the Pro Audio industry is way ahead of tweako-freakos like myself.

The unit in question, which is still in service here, is the Furman Sound IT-1220 balanced power unit which is capable of handing 20 amps of super he-man current. What is so special about balanced power?  What is it anyway?

Normal power in the USA is simply three wires consisting of 120V positive, Neutral and Ground. Balanced power, on the other hand, is 60 Volts positive, 60 Volts Negative and Ground. Typically, this gives your power 16 db lower background noise when your entire system is powered in this manner. Balanced power can also reduce line noise, EMI and also the hum pickup from other power wires. Noise that may exist on both the positive and negative power wires may cancel themselves out and thereby giving nice clean sounding power. Life is good (and life is highway, i'm gonna ride it al night long).

The Furman Sound IT-1220 features:

Available in 10 amp, 20 amp and 30 amp models (see their website)
All three models provide precisely balanced AC power
for ultra-low-noise installations
All models typically give a 16 dB improvement in back
ground noise floor in systemwide installations
Torroidal transformer with center-tapped secondary
Exclusive "Soft Start" circuit prevents turn-on transients
and high inrush currents
Faraday shield reduces electrostatic coupling between
primary and secondary
Extreme Voltage Shutdown circuit protects against dangerously
high or low input voltages
Microprocessor-controlled "smart" AC voltmeter monitors line
voltage, flashes alerts for marginal and extreme conditions
Provides basic power conditioning (spike suppression, RFI filtering)
plus gas discharge tube to dissipate spikes
Ground fault interrupter (GFCI) protection
IT-1210 and IT-1220 models UL/CUL listed

So as you can see this is truly an effective, non-voodoo snake oil tweak. In my music reproduction systems it seems to give a blacker background while allowing more very low level detail to come through. Of course my system rarely ever incurs that annoying 60 Hz buzzzz n' hummm (and i do deal with a vast amount of gear each month). Solving the buzzz n' hummm problem makes the $1,579 this unit retails for worth it, let alone the audible improvements balanced power brings to a system. By the way, the IT-1220 weights 65 lbs. and is built like the proverbial Sherman Tank. i have literally stood on my unit to reach upper shelf software in my equipment cabinet. If you have not tried balanced power in your humble abode then by all means do so ASAP! Odds are you will not be disappointed.

 

Ok, so you have balanced power but are still using those basic power cords that came with your shiny new _______ . For a long time i felt power cords were a way to fleece the rich from their hard earned cash. Tried a few of the NBS $3,000 power cord jobbies and found it made my system sound worse! Maybe because my power was so cleanly wired to my room (and balanced of course) that power cords only hurt the music? Well, i later got cornered by the head honcho at VansEvers to try their Pandora Box. The cord was interesting and the "mechanically tunable" idea seemed interesting. Well i hated it and so did another reviewer at the cool 'zine SoundStage!. Made things sound obscured and clouded up the music. Not good. The other reviewer who writes for SoundStage! agreed with my assessment.

Then about a year later i get yet another El Tweako-Freako power cord to try. This time it was one of their digital power cord ($549.00) and two of their analogue power cord ($649.00). i expected another depressing deterioration of the music as obtained by the under $500 VansEvers or the $3,000 NBS beast.

Well blow me down, the cows have finally come home! The Nirvana power cables offer awesome power cables that seemed to improved the already excellent power delivery system within my humble abode. This improvement was almost on par when i went from standard to balanced power! Excellent stuff these Nirvana power cords! Using top quality ultra-pure insulated copper wire and plugs, these three cables within my music reproduction system brought forth added clarity without the deceiving boosting of the upper midrange (which some mistake as adding clarity instead of "equalization").

In fact the lowermost frequencies seem to be deeper yet more distinct too! While it was indeed a bit more subtle in the lower frequencies than the upper, it was still noteworthy. After having a few discussions with the owner of Nirvana cable i find out that Stephen Creamer has worked professionally in the power distribution business. His no nonsense approach to power distribution is refreshing to the black magic box vibration tuning voodoo i received from another power cord manufacture. Maybe i have just grown old of the snake oil salesmen in my old age of 34? We live, we learn i guess.

Nirvana S-L Series Speaker CableWhile i am on the subject of Nirvana, their S-L speaker cables kick booty too! In fact the two meter length is $1,095 and is by far the least expensive speaker cable i find worthy of using with the incredibly transparent Avantgarde Acoustics Uno speakers i currently own. Due to these horn speaker over 100 db/w/m sensitivity, they seem to separate the men from the boys when it comes to quality products. Martin Collins of Stereophile magazine rated the Duo speakers extremely highly in what was a monstrous rave review. i can easily understand why the Jonathan Valin of what was Fi magazine bought the Avantgarde Acoustic Trios. Most definitely speakers to die for (and please bury me with mine to make these truly "heavenly horns").

 

Kimber Select KS-1030Now it is time for me to reveal my super secret weapon. Unless you can afford the super expensive Audio Note all silver litz AN-Vz interconnects (amazingly good and rightly so for $2,500 a meter), the Kimber Kable Select all silver KS-1030 ($1,200 for meter length) seem to work extremely well with a vast array of  equipment. To quote the their wonderfully informative and well designed website "The KS-1030 uses our very special Black Pearl silver conductor for both signal and ground/return. The conductor and cable environment allow rhythm and shades to rush pristine. Quality performances and recordings feel liquid and graceful, transients become explosive and agile, harmonic structures limitless. The KS-1030 simply allows all the emotion and color to be experienced."

i can only echo this as they are very revealing yet also seem to gently caress the music. To put it another way, they allow the music to explode when necessary yet when called upon by the source material, they sound effortlessly revealing minute substructure within the full barrage of music. If you are a lover of acoustic jazz and classic music, the naturalness of harmonics i hear here should surely bring a satisfying grin to your face. If you are looking to spend serious, but not insane money on interconnect cables then i would highly recommend auditioning the all silver Kimber Kable KS-1030 interconnects.

 

So there you have it folks. From balanced power and power cords to all copper or all silver cables. Of course these reviews are only the tip of the iceberg as the Furman Sound makes both bigger and smaller units than the 20 amp IT-1220. Kimber Kable makes a full line of interconnect cables starting with their popular $78 a meter PBJ. Nirvana, well, those cool cats seem to do it all! In the end what really matters to me is that you...

Enjoy the music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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