Here it is January, middle of the winter and audio listening time. And I've certainly been doing plenty of that. Plus some tweaking, the results of which will be reported on today.
First, while I believe I have the best audio-video system in existence (don't we all?), I do have the chance to listen to several other wonderful set-ups of other audiophiles in the area, the best one owned by Steve Klein of Sounds of Silence in Nashua, NH. While Steve is a dealer and distributor of super high end equipment, such as Kondo, Basis, and Vibraplanes, unlike most individuals who once they get into the financial side of audio lose their hobbyist thrill and listening enjoyment, he (my feeling) is into the sales side to get the best equipment possible for himself and spread audiophilia to whoever he can. His system is the second best this reviewer has ever heard (behind mine of course), and he's always ready to have me over to experiment with some tweak or piece of equipment that is considered to be out of the norm.
Thus, last month, the Environmental Potentials EP 2450 Home Theater Power Supply, which was reviewed in my last article, AA Chapter 75 was brought to his house. While there was no fault with it at my place, where it worked as well as other products costing several times its price, in his system, where the electricity is not as contaminated as mine, it also cleaned up the sound, but significantly decrease the bass output, and did not quite do as good a job at cleaning up the sound as his units, costing also several times as much. Power improvement systems are like that; working well at one house and less so at others, possibly a sign that there are many things wrong with the electricity supplied to our listening rooms.
This caused me to take a look inside the unit to see how it is built, and discovered that the guts were by no means constructed to high end standards. As you can see below, while the potted components used for cleaning up the electrical noise were not discoverable, it was very easy to see that the wiring, while adequate, was not up to audiophile levels. A standard 16-gauge power cord ran to a good 20 Amp circuit breaker, but only a single 16 gauge cord then ran out to all eight outlets. Thus, there is probably some current limiting going on if one attaches more than a single piece of equipment. While this wiring is certainly up to UL standards, most audiophiles would immediately look with disdain at it.
So out came the soldering iron and off came the unit's cover. The AC cord was replaced with an IEC plug for use of a better cord. Next, the internal series wiring was removed and replaced with 8 gauge Teflon coated silver coated long crystal copper wire which was run in parallel to each socket and silver-soldered in place. Total cost was 2 hours time and about $20. Obviously nothing could be done with the other guts of the unit as it was all potted.
So did my work make a difference? Absolutely. Happily, as there were two units available, I was able to compare the difference between the stock and modified one. On my system, the bass was definitely tighter and deeper and there was more impact. There was no difference in the unit's ability to improve the AC noise, but the unit was already working admirably on that. Basically the same was heard on Steve's system. It's only failing was a continued slight harshness on digital with female voice compared to his $9,000 worth of AC equipment.
So there you have it. Buy one or two of these for $798, spend a few enjoyable hours and about $20 to $30 more and have very close to a megabucks AC cleanup system. Of course Environmental Potentials engineers may look askance at my efforts and may be a little squeamish about recommending this but maybe it will give them a little incentive to come out with an upgraded product.
And now a few words on m tweaks from Doug Joseph:
Wow - this is a tricky one for me! How do I go back and tell the engineers you enhanced our product with $20.00 and a soldering iron? Hahahaha! I would say that obviously the warranty is void on the equipment that was altered, and I hope that nothing happens from using types of wire and lengths of wire that were not specified at the plant - but I will cautiously forward the feedback on to R&D.
The lid is applied with a 2 ton press over a crushed aluminum lip so if you happen to have a plasma saw or something - be careful! Last note - The EP-2450 is not constructed in what you would view as "high end" standards. I would probably not want to hear our equipment described that way, but you are the one with literary license - the pen is mightier... What happens with "high end" products is they are burdened by the "Big Copper" approach as they have to include enough surface area to account for saturation and dissipation of the reactive power coming back from the AC to DC rectifier(s). There is so much capacitance in an electronic device and we have to keep in mind that these capacitors are dumping this garbage back into the system every 1/2 cycle or 120 times per second. Per Kirchoff's Law - this is a "source" of an electrical surge event and that byproduct will cycle back through the system to its "source". Now if ground, neutral, or the voltage legs are the only path available to the reactive power or high frequency noise, imagine what type of contribution the home distribution system is getting from home entertainment equipment alone? I believe, and I would have to check, but I believe the smaller wire is used to produce the correct impedance to the circuit (less than 1 Ohm). I would have to check if you want me to, but I have heard our engineers answer this question before in the industrial facilities we protect. We are often asked how we protect 480VAC circuits with such small wires in parallel - the answer is always: install the voltage legs as short and straight as possible to the breaker that we parallel in on to reduce resistance and to prevent the "antennae effect" where wire will not only conduct, but radiate...
I believe, and I would have to check, but I believe the smaller wire is used to produce the correct impedance to the circuit (less than 1 Ohm). I would have to check if you want me to, but I have heard our engineers answer this question before in the industrial facilities we protect. We are often asked how we protect 480VAC circuits with such small wires in parallel - the answer is always: install the voltage legs as short and straight as possible to the breaker that we parallel in on to reduce resistance and to prevent the "antennae effect" where wire will not only conduct, but radiate...
The innovation at work in the EP circuit is the ability to track, filter, absorb, and dissipate the resonance put off by capacitive switching (rectification). The unique ability to remove the garbage riding the line and prevent the same anomaly to return via ground or other means is absolutely novel and not available elsewhere in the market. All that copper wiring (and heavy gauge wiring at that) is what I would describe as "low end" such as the products we outperform routinely in the industrial markets. And by the way, skin effect produced from eddy currents of reactive power that crowd conductors will break down the insulation and lead to short circuits or short lifecycles of equipment from heat - another reason why other products with no moving parts have a shelf life.
The speakers are new to the United States but have been highly praised in the British high-end literature. I believe Steve got involved because he's the Kondo distributor. While they looked to be of excellent construction, I normally don't like bass reflex speakers due to their under damped bass and have a problem with passive crossovers, preferring either single driver speakers or active crossovers multi-amplified, and third order crossovers usually really bother me as the drivers tend to be out of phase.
Interestingly, by the third note, I had fallen in love with them. Steve was running his Kondo Kegan 20 w PSE 300B amp and the speakers were putting out 95dB continuous with higher peaks. They are 90dB/W/m efficient and have a very flat impedance curve, making them ideal for low wattage amps. They are also flat to the mid 20Hz range, putting out superb very tight bass. I thought Steve was running his two REL subwoofers with them, but they were not connected to the system.
The mid-range and highs were to die for. I could hear no discontinuity between the drivers or their third octave crossover. The music just came through. While expensive, they are less so than the B&W 800 series and to my ear are far superior. The Brits certainly know how to build great speakers.
Happily, one can buy the lowest priced one and then upgrade by changing the wiring, caps and inductors as one becomes more affluent. I wasn't able to compare the three models as Steve only had the Signature in stock but I'd certainly be interested in hearing its big brother when it becomes available.