The AC power supplying my system has mostly been an afterthought at least until recently. Sure, I’ve made attempts to improve the quality of the power in my listening room by moving from simple power strips to a Power Plant Premier (an older iteration of the PS Audio regenerator) and then to a Synergistic Research Powercell 10se Mk III. I’ve also installed two dedicated 20-amp circuits in the space. Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to try a PS Audio P5 (much better than the Power Plant Premier) and a Zorin isolation transformer (quite impressive) in my system. But the quality of the power driving my system has been occupying my consciousness for a while now.
So, what has precipitated this sudden interest in the quality of the power in my system and the quest for something better in power conditioning? A new, to me, phono stage. I purchased a Boulder 1008 a few months ago and it’s proved to be a bit of a challenge to achieve consistent sonics from this unit. I’ve never had a piece of gear that can sound so great one evening and kind of meh the next day or evening. I’ve read many accounts of power quality varying from day to night, but I’d never before experienced such differences in sonics in my system from one day to the next. The Boulder also seems to be especially sensitive or responsive, depending on how you look at it, to cords, cables, interconnects and what I assume are power quality. Or, perhaps it’s more revealing of these issues?
There are many flavors of power conditioners available – surge protectors, filters, regenerators, isolation transformers, balanced transformers, etc. And like so many things, there are advantages and disadvantages to the various designs. While addressing one power quality issue a power conditioner may sacrifice sonics in another area such as transients or current limitations. The “do no harm” mantra that interconnect and cable manufacturers often cite shouldn’t apply to power conditioning in my opinion. Of course, you don’t want to make things worse, but hopefully whatever power conditioning you’re spending your HiFi budget dollars on should make things sound better than without it!
With improvements in both source material and reproduction equipment it only makes sense that power quality will play an increasingly important role in HiFi systems. Systems that have the ability to resolve fine nuances of recordings are going to also expose power quality issues. For more in-depth information on power quality see the following article: Dirty AC Power: Getting It Out of Your (Audio/Video) System, By Roger Sheker, Chief Engineer @ Audience
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of our trade magazines developed a standard set of criteria (THD, emf rejection, current, impedance and I don’t know what else) for power conditioners and started reviewing and testing them in a similar fashion to all the other electronic gear? Just sayin’.