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|I was overwhelmed by mixed emotions. I felt completely seduced by the focus, imaging, dead silence and increase in apparent detail but the loss of harmonics, overtones and weight gave the Audience what I think of as a very modern sound - more fabulous HiFi than music.
I then readjusted the Timbre Lock so that the sound without the Audience power conditioner was more robust and fatty especially down below and even a bit in the midrange. The net effect was seductive in the way old-fashioned tube gear is often thought to be: less articulate but warm and cuddly. This is very easy listening and some audiophiles refer to it as 'musical'. I was incredibly impressed by the Audiopax's ability to warm and fatten up the sound to cater to different listening preferences - even ones that weren't my own.
When I reinserted the Audience, the system was magically transformed. All the virtues (darkness, low noise, focus, etc) returned. More importantly, the Audience's emphasis on resolving the leading edge led to a welcome increase in articulation. The space between instruments and notes that was once nearly indistinguishable was easily distinguished and more importantly, had some apparent mass of its own.
Once I saw how to work the Audience along with the Audiopax, I backed off on the Timbre Lock looking for a balance that was as musically persuasive as I could find. Interestingly, I found a setting that was not terribly far off from the so-called normal position. In this position, the Audience power conditioner was a brilliant addition to the system. I kept the Audiopax in this position -- which I would characterize as roughly 10% on the warmer side of neutral -- for the remainder of my listening. I was then able to confirm all my other judgments about the character of the Audience. Dynamics are not compromised by plugging amplifiers into this conditioner. Background noise nearly vanishes completely. Image focus is unrivalled in my experience. The sound is just on the correct side of the music/HiFi divide. But even in these circumstances, the Audience is tonally more to the ying than yang.
Now I wanted to see how the Audience would sound in a system built around an amplifier with an absolutely glorious midrange, pretty good extension on top, a somewhat plumy bass and a definite warm tonal balance overall. I had matched this amp with the DeVore Gibbon 8s with great success in the past.
The DeVores are very resolute in the upper frequencies and midrange. The bottom end is a little less articulate but very weighty. With the Mullard amp, the sound can be ever so slightly slow and leaden down below. On the other hand, it is splendid and naturally warm everywhere else in the frequency range. The Gibbon 8s are happiest in my experience with a good 15-25wpc push/pull EL 84 amp. The latter tube tends to be a little more resolute and tighter in the bottom than your typical EL 34.
|A second take to prove how system-dependent things really are:
When Jules Coleman asked if I would pen a few words on how the Audience Adept Response reacted in my system, I quickly switched my CD player from the wall socket. The Audience imparted a bigger soundstage, with individual instruments sounding weightier and their placement in the soundstage slightly larger. There was also a slight veiling or smoothing of the overall tone that made for a fuller if less dynamic presentation. Playing an older CD like jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan's Overseas, the Audience presented his trio as lush and warm but with the edges slightly rubbed off. Extension of notes was good but there was a certain lack of sparkle although the music was larger and smoother sounding than through the PS Audio wall outlet.
Playing a more current record like The Crusaders' Rural Renewal, the Audience initially fared better. Rural Renewal is a mellow funky workout with all the original members of the famed 60s' soul jazz ensemble back in action. Here, the music sizzled and shimmered in a very clear and distinct soundstage. Cymbals sounded a little wispy as did acoustic piano, but the sound was dynamic and bass in particular had solid drive and extension.
How would The Crusaders' disc differ through the CD player coming directly out of the wall socket? The instruments sounded less veiled and more natural and I felt that I was hearing a better representation of their actual tone: the splat of the horns, the strike of the stick on the drums. But I sorely missed the more romantic sound of the Audience. Dynamics improved a bit out of the wall socket, the overall sound was more immediate and snappy but the Audience's larger soundstage was missing.
Though the excellent Shunyata Anaconda Vx power cord I use on my current McCormack UDP-1 universal player loaner does a tremendous job in its own right, I felt that the Audience Adept Response added both favorable and unfavorable elements of its own. Further tweaking of the unit such as putting it on its own isolation shelf or perhaps adding weight to its surface would further affect its sound no doubt.
|Keeping everything else constant and bearing in mind that the effective reach of the Gibbon 8s is somewhere in the upper 30Hz range, I placed the Audience adeptResponse into the system. The result was an absolute revelation. There was a clarity and precision in the lower midrange/upper bass transition that I had not heard before with this combo. At the same time, the pace appeared to quicken; the entire system got a little lighter on its feet and more agile. Nothing else I have tried with this amp/speaker combination has brought about such satisfying results. An added bonus was that in the context of this more modest and smaller system, the adeptResponse's way with pinpoint imaging and space|
|made large-scale classical pieces much more credible than they had otherwise been.
Summering back in the country
Before turning to writing the review, I returned the Audience to my Connecticut system. By this time, I had brought in a second par of reference loudspeakers: Tannoy 15" Golds in a custom cabinet. The Tannoys are perhaps the most dynamic and visceral drivers I know of. You don't really know what it is like to follow a bass line until you've listened to bass being played through Tannoys. The 15" are not as articulate or resolute in the upper bass as are the 10s. I have two pairs of 10s and one pair of 15s at this point, with another 10 on the way. On the other hand, the 15s have thunderous bass that fills my room even when driven by a mere 8 watts. No Tannoy really extends as far down as it feels it does and the compression-driven horn-loaded tweeter stops delivering meaningful output around 17K or so. If there is one shortcoming to the Tannoy 15" driver, it is that the lowest midrange/uppermost bass region can seem a bit amorphous or less than well articulated. On the other hand, the Tannoys are very weighty and authoritative drivers and this particular version of them is no exception.
The results with the Audience conditioner were by now not surprising. The upper bass/lower midrange was rendered a tad tidier but the lower bass was once again presented with a bit less weight and authority. It was a better match for the Audience than the same system with the Silverbacks but not nearly as good a match as it was with the Mullard amp system or with a slightly warm setting of the Audiopax monos.
Even so-called neutral components have a character. The Audience adeptResponse is no exception. One standard reason for buying a power conditioner is to isolate components from grunge. Another is to eliminate noise. In my experience, many power conditioners are up to this task. However, no conditioner in my experience, including my reference, equals the Audience in these regards. I don't know that the adeptResponse merely gets out of the way of the music. I do know that it provides the cleanest, clearest window on the musical event I have ever experienced - and not by a little bit.
|Next, I have never spoken with a designer of power conditioners who did not think that one could plug power amplifiers into his conditioner without compromising dynamics. I have not once found this claim to be true until the Audience adeptResponse. Go ahead; plug your amps in. It's going to be fine.
Tonally, the adeptResponse emphasizes leading edge at the expense of some body. It is also less fully developed and weighty than some other conditioners I have used. Like any power conditioner, system-matching issues are unavoidable. This one was at its absolute best in systems that had a little extra meat on the bones. If examples are helpful, I would enthusiastically recommend the Audience for Cary owners but not, say, Kondo owners. As for solid- state amps, I think it would work well with Levinson amplifiers (which I have found a little dark) or some FE- based amplifiers but not with early Krell designs. I'd be interested to hear what it would sound like in a system built around classic Rowland amplifiers.
|The adeptResponse may well set the standard for power line conditioners with regard to dynamics, focus, noise reduction and isolation. Its tonal character suggests to me that it is better suited for some systems than others. This is no criticism. There is no reason why power conditioners should be any different than amplifiers or speakers. I have tried to indicate the kinds of systems in which the Audience will shine and others in which it might not fare as well.
|I regret that I had neither the|
|resources nor opportunity to try different power cords with the Audience. Its sonic signature is very similar to that of the Audience powerChord and I would have loved to see how the unit responded to slightly warmer power cords such as the Elrod, for example.
The adeptResponse may well be all that stands between your system and state-of-the-art-music reproduction. At the very least, it represents an auspicious beginning for Audience in their quest to advance the state of the art in power conditioning. Anyone in the market for high-end power conditioning needs to hear this product.