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|Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Cairn Fog v2.0 24/192 CD player, Eastern Electric Minimax CD player with NOS Philips Miniwatt 6DJ8s, Sony SCD-XE670 SACD player, Pro-Ject 1 Xpression turntable w/Ortofon 540 Mk II cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Stingray with NOS RCA Black Plate 12AT7s, Audio Zone AMP-1, Leben CS-300X [in for review] Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage with RCA Black Plate 12AX7s
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto, Meadowlark Kestrel 2, REL Q108 Mk II subwoofer
Cables: Audience Maestro interconnects, speaker cables and powerChord AC cables, DH Labs Revelation interconnects, Auditorium23 speakers cables [on loan], GutWire Power Clef 2, Power Clef SE AC cables
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand.
Powerline conditioning: GutWire MaxCon, Blue Circle BC86 MkII Power Line Pillow
Sundry accessories: Pro-Ject Speed Box, Gingko Audio Cloud 11 platform, Grand Prix Audio APEX footers (under rack), Clearaudio Magix magnetic isolators [on loan], Isoclean fuses in all components, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Audience Auric Illuminator MkII, GutWire Notepads and SoundPads, Duende Criatura Tube Rings, AudioPrism Isobearings, Black Diamond Racing Cones, dedicated AC line with Isoclean ICP-002 outlet, homebrew acoustic treatments.
Room size: 13' x17' x 8'
Review Component Retail: PPC with Arrow-Hart 5362 outlets and standard IEC: $149; PPC with Hubbell 5362 20A cryoed outlets and Hubbell 20A 320 cryoed inlet: $249; PPC with Oyaide SWO-DX outlets, Furutech FI-10R IEC inlet, ERS cloth and isolation cones: $474; PPC with Oyaide SWO-DX outlets, Furutech FI-10R1 IEC inlet, ERS cloth, isolation cones and Bybee Quantum Purifiers: $674; PPC with Wattgate 381 outlets, Furutech FI-10G IEC inlet, ERS cloth, isolation cones and Bybee Quantum Purifiers: $774; L-9 SS power cord: $449/6’; L-12 SE power cord: $399/6’; L-12 power cord: $249/6’; L-12 w/Oyaide plug: $299/6’.
Be careful what you wish for. You might just be presented with the bill. When BPT's Chris Hoff suggested I try a pair of his new PPCs (Pure Power Centers), I offered to opine on whatever he cared to send. Sure enough, Chris took my ill-disguised greed to heart. He shipped a bewildering assortment of PPCs, wall outlets, power cords and continued to ship more goodies as the review progressed.
According to Chris, the Pure Power Center or PPC was "the result of customer demand for more AC outlets for larger home theater systems or remote equipment such as mono block amps or a projector that is some distance from the rest of the system. They wanted a way to get the benefits of clean balanced AC power (from their BP Isolator) to more equipment without compromising the connection with an ordinary power extension strip. The PPC can be ordered with the same outlets as their BPT isolator, keeping the quality and sonic signature the same. The new PPC will also appeal to those audiophiles who insist on a straight connection to the wall with no series or parallel devices installed to affect the phase or power factor of the AC mains".
That last bit appealed to me. I am not entirely convinced that PLCs or power line conditioners are necessary in most audiophile systems. While effective in reducing line hash and glare, many unfortunately remove some of the life, drama and excitement from the music. They also tend to be very system- and component dependent. All that active circuitry -- mostly caps and inductors -- is resonant by nature and can incur unpredictable effects with component power supplies. Indeed, "try before you buy" is of paramount importance when choosing a PLC.
Regardless of the system, most of the line conditioners I have tried ultimately failed to impress. I prefer good quality power cables plugged directly into the wall. Of course you need enough wall outlets close enough to your system to make that work. Enter the passive power strip or outlet multiplier.
Since I haven't heard any of the balanced power units such as offered by BPT, Furman or Equi=tech, I won't write off the entire genre just yet. Furthermore, I did enjoy my review time with the Audio Magic Stealth and the outrageously expensive Isoclean gear. Both did their noise-scrubbing thang without sucking the life out of the music in the process. At least in my system, they clearly did not. The Isoclean perhaps offered a slightly warmer, more euphonic effect while the Stealth excelled at clarity and spatial definition.
The purely passive PPC should avoid potentially adverse interactions between active filters and the equipment power supplies connected to them. Furthermore, connecting all your equipment into a single power strip such as the PPC will reduce ground loop-induced noise. It's always best to have one common system ground. The provision of an IEC inlet on this strip can also bestow the benefits of aftermarket power cable seasoning to all your components at once, even those that lack detachable cords. What's more, BPT's PPC offers several options including various audio-grade outlets. More on that anon.
The core PPC is a black-coated pure copper chassis with three duplex AC outlets and an IEC inlet. There are no power switches, fuses, surge-suppressing metal-oxide varistors, capacitors or inductors. According to Chris Hoff, the copper housing offers the lowest impedance path for shunting RF noise to ground. All three outlets feature star wiring, i.e. each outlet runs discrete wires back to the AC inlet. All wiring is BPT's stranded oxygen-free copper litz wire and soldered by hand with silver. All hardware is non-magnetic brass. The IEC inlets are available in various 15 amp and 20 amp styles depending on outlets selected.
|The PPCs are well constructed but not quite in the same aesthetic league as Isoclean. However, the PPCs are considerably less expensive, too. Five different outlet options are available: Arrow-Hart 5362, cryo-treated Hubbell 5362, FIM 880, Oyaide SWO-DX and Wattgate 381. I received all of 'em except for the FIM. Chris then included matching duplex outlets and power cables fitted with corresponding connectors to preserve each PPC's sonic signature. While one could certainly experiment with every possible combination of cord|
|and outlet, I mostly stuck to auditioning each strip with its recommended wall outlet and matching power cable. Initially, I was a little daunted by the prospect of sonically dissecting all this hardware. However, several weeks later it was relatively simple to discern differing effects with each PPC/outlet combo.
Up until this review, I was not the sort of audiophile inclined to play around with various plugs and power strips. However, once I started swapping out PPCs into my fixed Isoclean wall outlet, it was easy to hear differences. In a couple of instances, those were real improvements, too. To make my assignment somewhat less stressful, I temporarily installed a four-position gang-box and wired up the four outlets Chris sent me. This was a no-brainer since my hydro panel is only 6' removed from my system.
I simply added another circuit breaker and hard-wired a line directly to my temporary gang-box positioned on the floor adjacent to my equipment. This probably was outside most local electrical codes and I do not recommend you duplicate my attempt. However, it did make for quick, pain-free comparisons between outlets and their corresponding PPCs. First, I worked my way through the four wall outlet options: Arrow-Hart, cryo Hubbell, Oyaide Black and Wattgate 381. I forewent any power strip and simply plugged an integrated amp and CD player into each duplex in turn, then observed the effects of adding the various power strips.
While donning my reviewers' cap, I limited myself to a handful of recent releases that had my musical mojo rising of late. Michael Tilson-Thomas' ongoing Mahler cycle continues to impress and his reading of the 9th [CSFS 821936-0007-2] is excellent all around. Some critics have harped about some of MTT's interpretive choices but the way I see it, Mahler's oeuvre requires an interventionist approach. If some of those choices rankle a few feathers, so be it. Try listening to Klaus Tennstedt's or Bernard Haitink's Mahler. Zzzzzz.
The album Gimme Fiction [Merge MRG 265] by Texas-based indie rockers Spoon is a tight-sounding follow-up to their 2002's Kill the Moonlight release. The Stones-y track "I Turn My Camera On' complete with falsetto vocals is eerily reminiscent of "Miss You" and "Emotional Rescue". While the current music scene is littered with Disney punk and dreadful pre-packaged pop, a little digging will unearth a few decent gems such as Spoon.
I normally prefer my Bach performed on period instruments but Angela Hewitt's survey of Johann Sebastian's Keyboard Concertos was just too darn good to pass up [Hyperion SACDA67308] - as was Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine [Nonesuch 2-79877], which just might be his finest work yet. Six-string sparks were definitely flying in the smokin' session between Romane and Stochelo Rosenberg called Double Jeu [Iris 3001-883]. Paging Django Reinhart. Check out the killer exploration of Brubeck's "Take Five".
I realize some folks claim quite substantial differences between various audiophile outlets. While I could indeed hear distinct sonic signatures, they were not that big a deal to me. The experience was not unlike comparing similarly priced interconnects or speaker cables: it's really a matter of finding what works for you in your system. As far as I can tell, once you upgrade past the cheap stuff, it's all gravy. All the outlets Chris sent me were leaps and bounds better than the .49-cent Home Depot jobbies my homebuilder had installed.