Audiolics Anonymous Chapter 128
In this, as in many other professions, it is either feast or famine. One month, I'll have nothing to write about, and in the next there'll be several products worthy of discussion. Last month I starved, this month I have more on my plate than I can cover. Suffice it to say, that three improvements have been made over the past couple of months that have brought my system to a level of musical realism and enjoyment that I've been striving for, for years. Unhappily, one of the products still does not have a US distributor, and the other, while producing musical enjoyment worthy of its cost, after two weeks of evaluation, had a noise problem with one of the channels, and therefore has gone back to the manufacturer for repair. Thus, we are left today wit the biggest improvement in my system in at least 10 years, the...
Power PP2000 Regenerator
While the transformer outside your house should clear most of this junk, they seldom do, and can actually add more noise if they are being overtaxed. Plus, every piece of digital equipment in your system and throughout your house adds further noise. Of course, most producers of high end equipment swear that their power supplies filter out this junk, and some do an admirable job, but they all let some of the noise through onto the not quite perfectly flat DC your equipment runs on. Unhappily, the things that bad electricity do to our systems are exactly those qualities that we high enders are striving to remove to achieve a perfect soundstage with correct, solid imaging, tight bass, and ambiance information that brings us closer to the "absolute sound". Very few if any of us actually can get the best possible sound out of our components due to the junky wall current. And until one hears the difference, one will think that their system is the best that it can be.
We've all had one listening session sometime in our lives where the sound was superior to anything previously heard. That's not your imagination, but probably the one time in many when the electricity had been at its best, and even then that might not be the best that your system could produce. To top this off, the electricity in our country is getting worse from year to year. My benchmark for best listening session ever, has been one morning on George Washington's Birthday way back in about 1984 or 1985 at Clark Johnsen's Listening Studio in Boston. While his system always sounded fantastic, on that day the Gods played a joke on this reviewer and allowed me to hear what his system could do with possibly pure 60 Hz. electricity. I don't know whether the electricity was perfect on that day or just close to it, with all other shops in the area closed, but the sound was phenomenal, with the stage extending to twice as wide as the speakers, and extending way behind the rear wall, with each instrument taking up a normal area, and the entire space filled with ambiance information. Never again had I heard such reproduction; that is until now!
There have also been many times when I've added a new piece of AC noise reduction equipment to my system and have approached the best my system could produce to that point on a regular basis. My present best AC setup consists of two Bryston Torus AVR15 power conditioners and voltage regulators running off of an Audience aR2pT and aR12 power conditioners. That's $10,000 worth of AC cleaning power to get to the level I have today. Every piece of electronic equipment, except for possibly AC motors on transports and turntables, runs on DC of varying voltages from 1 to several hundred. All require as flat a DC as possible as the equipment takes that flat wave and modulates it with the audio signal to produce an amplified AC current, which moves the speaker. If the DC is not perfectly flat, this AC noise rides on the signal and produces distortion.
Its the job of the power supply to convert the wall AC to as flat a DC of different voltages as possible and remove any junk carried with the AC. Unhappily, there is no power supply out there that can do this perfectly, as they work similar to high order crossovers which rapidly remove signal above the crossover point, but not completely. The more junk on the line, the more will pass along with the DC distorting the music. This shows up as loose bass, loss of ambiance information and mid to high frequency distortions of the signal giving harshness.
A second problem relates to how the voltage and amperage waves relate to each other. Due to capacitance and inductance in electronics, the two waves may not match each other perfectly in time, thus making it difficult for the power supply to sample the AC at the appropriate time to get the proper DC voltage and current.
Third, due to the transmission system and the transformers outside the house, the wave may be flattened at its peaks which leads to decreased transients and difficulty of some power supplies to sample the wave correctly.
One can help your equipment's power supplies by removing as much of the noise as possible from the AC line before it reaches them, by aligning the voltage and amperage waves, and maximizing the power curves. There are several ways of doing this and I've probably used 25 different equipment types over the years to accomplish this with varying success; everything from multiple isolation transformers to AC-DC-AC converters, to capacitor-inductor systems, to equipment with hidden magical parts. Each has had both advantages and drawbacks, and none to this point has been successful in giving me the same high purity of sound I will get about one late night listening session per year, or that sound heard in the Listening Studio those many years ago.
The Pure Power unit, like several others I've had here over the years, takes the AC from the wall, converts it to DC then reforms the 60 Hz. AC wave and puts it out through 10 Hubbell receptacles. Unlike other units out there, it has a 20 Ampere IEC input receptacle but they supply a 15 to 20 Ampere power cord for those having only 15 Ampere AC wall outlets. One unit, being able to handle only 15 plus Amperes, kept shutting down with deep bass information with the large Crown Macro Reference amp, which alone can suck 15 amps from the wall, driving the subwoofers. With the Crown plugged straight into the wall, the PP2000 could handle without problem the eight front channel SET 300B amplifiers and my source components, using up about 90 percent of its capacity. As all the equipment including the amplifiers operating in Class A, this was a steady amount of current, as compared to using the Crown, which can suck 15 amps on peaks. The single unit sounded superb, giving the best imaging that my system has ever had. Lost was the superb bass tightness that the PP2000 imposed on the Crown before it was overtaxed. Then, during one listening session, one of the subwoofer cables shook loose and shorted out the Crown, which is now in for a $480 repair, but that did have the advantage of being able to listen to the system connected only to the PP2000.
Hearing the phenomenal sound improvement in my system only wetted my appetite for seeing what it could do if completely isolated from the AC for both audio and video. Thus, I emailed Pure Power and plunked my money down for two of my own units, which were on back-order, but finally arrived about three weeks later. With three units, two from the manufacturer and one from Romy The Cat, I was able to plug in all of my video and audio source equipment. This included the Electrohome 9500LC cathode tube projector and the front channel amplifiers into the two new ones, while the rear channel equipment went into Romy's unit and thus completely isolating the system from the wall.
Before I could listen, I noticed that one of the new units would only run from the wall and not recharge its batteries, so off came the front of the unit to check to see if any of the connections to the batteries was loose. None were, but on resealing the chassis, the unit functioned normally for about three weeks, during which time I had the best listening sessions ever in my room. Using three rather than one regenerator actually went one step further in improving the sound. Whether it was because they were being taxed less, running at 50 to 60 percent rather than close to 100 percent of their rated power output, or whether isolating the right from left channel and video and digital equipment from the audio stuff was the cause I have no idea.
So how did the system sound? All I can say is WOW!!! On two channel SACDs and computerized digitized reproductions of studio analog tapes from the 50's and 60's, the sound was unbelievable, the best my system has sounded in it's 28 years of existence. And the sound has not varied by day, time of day, or programming. In other words, the units have cleaned up the electricity to the point where its quality never varies. Does that mean that the electricity, and therefore the system is as good as it can possibly be? I don't know and can't tell until something better comes along.
On surround SACD and Blu-ray classical music discs, the soundstage and ambiance is about as close to the original concert hall as I can imagine. For instance, the newest SACD from the BSO purchased directly from them and reviewed last month, gives a tremendous feel for Symphony Hall not heard here before, and the Philadelphia Orchestra performance of the Haydn Variation and Brahms First Symphony is about as close to a true concert hall feel as I've ever heard.
Then, the unavoidable happened. Romy called and asked for his unit back. He came up the other night and after a few minutes of listening discovered an anomaly in my system relating to the fact that I was allowing my bass horn to do their natural 12 dB per octave rolloff. They were thus producing music up into the mid horn range. As the bass horns use 12" cone drivers and the mid horns use 2" TAD 4001 drivers, the inconsistency was definitely a problem. This had previously been hidden by the electrical gremlins. The next day I added first a 24 dB low pass crossover to the bass horn and after further listening add a further 24 dB. The image cleaned up and everything produced by the main horns came into perfect focus.
Unhappily, Romy needed his unit back so I was left with only two of them. Happily, the two can run my entire system including rear channels and video without problem. Then the same malfunction as above happened again. Thus one unit was sent back for evaluation, but those three weeks were enough to show me how good my system actually is. (Turns out there was a defective fuse inside the unit that shorted out, and the unit will be returned in a few days.) Unhappily, each time I've tried to listen since the unit was sent back, using one unit for the front channels and my other AC conditioners for the rear channels and video has been disappointing to the point where I stop after a short time. The electrical gremlins go around the PP2000 through the other conditioners, thus negating some of its benefits. Once a better sound is heard, there's no turning back.
Anyway, in summary, this is the best improvement I've ever made in my system, and I have not only invested my hard earned funds in the two PP2000 units I have now, but will be putting an order in for a third. After he left, Romy wrote a brief note on his blog about our listening session:
"Today I had something very special. I stopped by to my local NH guy. He had some changed in playback, not all that I like but still generally positive. We listened to a few pieces, it was OK in my view but not what I felt was "right" and had a few problems. Then I pulled some of my "real music" CDs and we played it. Holly shit. Totally out of blue the playback threw the presentation that I can't name with anything else then stunning. It was not just good sound but it was the sound that very few audio people ever experience from playback over entire live. It was my music and I know the recording very well. My own playback did this performance very impressive but I never had it like this. I always felt that that recording can't play better but this presentation took it at totally new level. I truly envy to THIS presentation, particularly become it how I would like my playback to present events. It kind of reminds me what I am doing and reinforced me that I am in very right direction (looking at the lissome of that NH installation)."
After hearing what it can do in Romy's, Maurice Schmir's and my system, I can give it an unequivocal recommendation. It is by far the best AC noise reducer I've ever heard. At $2995 list for the PP2000 with 16 Amperes continuous, 24 short duration and 50 peak or $2495 for the PP1050 with 12 Amperes continuous, 18 short duration and 36 peak for smaller systems this may be the best investment you can make for your system. Remember I've plunked down my own cash for three of them at a time when I was hoping to start saving for my retirement. Oh well, looks like there will be another few years getting up early every morning.
I asked Richard Janzen to comment on the above, and being a man of few words, he sent the following:
"We are pleased to report that the problem in your second PurePower 2000 was a blown safety fuse on the motherboard -- and our normal service turnaround of 2 to 3 days plus shipping time means it will be back in service by the end of the week. It is just a terrific sense of satisfaction to make a product that brings customers so much pleasure. It happens several time a month that a customers has an over the top reaction. Its great every time it happens."