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Reviewer: Jules Coleman
Connecticut reference system
Exemplar/Denon 3910 Universal Player; Shindo-Garrard 301/Mersault Arm/Shindo modified Ortofon SPU Classic, Clearaudio Maximum Solution with TQ1 arm/Stradivari cartridge, Graham Phantom arm/Benz LP cartridge [all in for review]
Preamplifier: Shindo Catherine all tube, full function, dual mono, dual chassis; Shindo step-up transformer for SPU cartridge
Amplifier: Shindo WE300B Ltd mono blocks
Speakers: DeVore Silverback Reference; Tannoy 15" Gold in custom cabinet
Equipment rack: 2 x Harmonic Resolution Systems M1-R
Interconnects: Stealth Indra
Speaker cable: Auditorium 23
Power cord: Stealth Cloud Nine on Exemplar
Power conditioner: Shindo Mr.T

New York Systems
Exemplar/Denon Universal Player
Preamplifier: Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid
Amplifier: Audiopax Model 88 monoblocks; Mullard EL34 monos
Speakers: Audiopax Reference 100; DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 8
Interconnects and cables: Stealth Indra and Stealth MLT hybrid
Power cords and other accessories: Audience powerChord, Stealth M-7, various Harmonix tuning feet

Retail of review product: $3,800

Audience enjoys a well-deserved reputation among audiophiles as a manufacturer of high performance, good value interconnects, speaker cables, power cords and Auricap capacitors. The adeptResponse represents the company's first foray into power line conditioning and it is an auspicious entrance at that.

The adeptResponse is a transformerless conditioner featuring twelve fully isolated Hubbell HBL 52662R outlets, chosen for their mechanical design and current-handling capacity. Each outlet sports its own individual circuit and the usual jumpers that connect the two outlets of each duplex have been removed. Isolation is further enhanced by the fact that unwanted high frequency noise between outlets must pass through three filters. According to the manufacturer, the isolation provided is sufficient to protect individual components from the hash associated with digital sources even when an entire system is fed from the adeptResponse. Nothing during my long term listening in three different systems indicated otherwise.

Transformer-based power conditioners provide good filtering but often limit power transfer to result in a loss of current to power amplifiers. The net effect is an overall reduction in dynamics and one reason why many users of power conditioners do not plug their amplifiers into them. Audience recently made available test results that indicate that their conditioner exhibits virtually no DC resistance (roughly 44 milliohms with their powerChord attached). The adeptResponse is also a partial power correction device. Audience claims that not only does it not compromise system dynamics, perceived dynamics actually increase.

Early in the review process, Audience requested that I return the review unit. They'd made upgrades to the adeptResponse's internal resonance control. I am very big on resonance control in components and equipment racks. I opened up the chassis on its return. The layout was clean and the chassis was damped. Minimally microphonic parts are used throughout. A device that is designed to reduce noise should not introduce mechanical vibrations of its own if at all possible. Audience's concern for resonance control was thus a welcome feature of their adeptResponse.

The unit itself is relatively light since it lacks a massive transformer. It is nicely finished in silver or black (mine came in silver), well laid out and easy to use. The front panel is modestly adorned with a magnetic circuit breaker acting as power lever and a cool display indicates line voltage in real time. In my Connecticut home, it showed a steady 119 -121 volts whereas in my NYC apartment, it fluctuated between 124-127. In addition to the twelve outlets, the back features a Neutrik powerCon connector and Audience's own suitably terminated powerChord. Neutrik's connectors are far superior to standard IEC connectors by providing a locking interface and significantly lower DC resistance.

The powerCon connector does not preclude the use of other power cords but requires that any such cable be re-terminated with a Neutrik connector. This makes power cord rolling impractical and meant that in the context of a review, I had no opportunity to try the adeptResponse with other power cords on hand. I would have liked to if only to determine the extent to which the overall effect of the
power conditioner in the system could be altered by changes in the power cord connecting it to the wall.

The current retail price of the adeptResponse is $3,800, placing it above the mean for power conditioners. It represents a departure for Audience from their more modestly priced interconnects, cables and power cords. It is obvious that the adeptResponse is the company's assault on the state of the art in power conditioning and the product is priced accordingly.

Like nearly every other manufacturer of high-end components, Audience's stated ambition is to produce components that are essentially neutral, have no sound of their own and are there simply to get out of the way of the music. Such claims are invariably well intended but the truth is that every component has a character if not a characteristic sound. More importantly, every system has a sound. That sound is in part a function of the interactions of the components that comprise it and the relationship of that system to the environment (room) in which it resides.

A manufacturer who claims that his or her products are neutral invariably explains the sonic colorations of tone and timbre as properties of the other components in the system. I don't know how many times I have put together systems composed entirely of neutral products only to produce a non-neutral sound. Who hasn't? If all the components were as neutral as claimed, such a result would be seemingly impossible. But in fact it is ubiquitous.

There is simply no such thing as the sound of a component in the abstract. Components can have a certain character that is relatively invariant over a range of associated equipment. The magnitude of impact may change but it is roughly of the same sort. Identifying the character of a component provides one with a partial roadmap to the systems in which it is most likely to work best. My responsibility as a reviewer is to identify the character of the Audience adeptResponse, not to grade it.

I bought my first power conditioner about six years ago. In the intervening period, I have owned or borrowed for long-term listening at least six different ones. Let's just say that I haven't been blown away by anything yet. To varying degrees, every conditioner I've had in-house reduced the noise floor, clarified the musical picture somewhat and isolated the rest of the system from digital grunge - but often at an unacceptable cost to dynamics. Placing a power line conditioner in my system was like experiencing a sudden hush in a
large lecture hall as if, against all odds, the students were about to uniformly pay undivided attention to my lectures while at the same time having my lectures take on an unusual clarity and precision. The problem with that? The classroom walls -- and especially the ceiling -- start to close in to suffocate the audience through a loss of oxygen. Everything is quiet and clean but there's no breathing room. People are out of energy, behave sluggish and somewhat lifeless. In audiophile terms, everything slows down and compresses. Worse, I'd occasionally come across a power line conditioner that would throw in the rare tonal anomaly for good measure. All this was a matter of degree of course but no conditioner escaped notice in these regards.

I ultimately settled on Shindo Laboratory Mr.T as my reference. Like other power line conditioners, it reduced the noise floor, isolated digital nasties and did the usual window-washing job. The key for me? It's been voiced around Shindo electronics and that's what I use in my reference system. I noticed few if any of the usual deleterious consequences in my all-Shindo rig and that was good enough for me. On the other hand, I have too little experience with Mr.T in other settings to recommend it to non-Shindo owners.