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Reviewer: Mike Malinowski
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Walker Black Diamond turntable; Walker Reference phono preamp; Clearaudio Goldfinger
Preamp: VTL TL-7.5 Reference
Amp: Tenor 350M; darTZeel NHB-108
Speakers: Wilson X-2 Alexandria Series II
Cables: Silent Source Music Reference; Transparent Opus, OmegaMikro, Transparent XL w/MM interconnect; Silent Source and Xtreme between phono pre and preamp
Stands: Custom Renzetti Racks, VPI phono stand, Zoethecus, Walker Prologue Amp Stand
Powerline conditioning: Equi=Tech [under review], Walker Audio Velocitor, PS Audio 300
Sundry accessories: Walker Audio Valid Points resonance control discs; ASC tube traps; Argent Room Lens; separate 100-amp sub panel feeding five dedicated cryo'd outlets; Loricraft Model 4 record cleaner; Walker Talisman
Room size: 29’x 19’ x 10 full ASC acoustic design.
Review component retail: $12,500

The massive 375lbs Equi=Tech 10WQ looks somewhat like a standard electric power distribution panel on steroids. Inside is a very different commercial-grade product designed for laboratories, recording studios and anywhere that the quality of power is critical. Our little audio world encompasses a myriad of power conditioners whose mystique at times rivals the discussions of the ‘sound’ of cables.  From amongst the variety of power conditioning technologies only a handful of players use true balanced power. Of them Equi=Tech is the most prominent led by president and developer Martin Glasband.

A little background
In the spirit of full disclosure, this review of the 10WQ is somewhat different than the average component. First I entered the process somewhat biased. Over the past 10 years I had auditioned and owned a variety of power conditioners including regenerators, with balanced power units winning my favor by a large margin. Second, the 10WQ unit is not a review sample. I purchased the unit as any other consumer would. It couldn’t be done any other way as there is no practical way to temporarily install such a unit. Finally the 10WQ’s installation gets into a somewhat gray area as distributed balanced power is not included in the current residential National Electric Code. Since I am neither an engineer nor an electrician, I was concerned about reviewing and possibly recommending an electric distribution product that was uniquely designed and approved for commercial applications.

While I will subsequently address safety concerns, for my personal system I took a series of conservative and I believe prudent steps prior to purchase. First I read everything I could get my hands on regarding balanced power. I downloaded it all into a mini reference book of articles and technical information. I then gave this to my builder, electrical contractor and insurance company. I discussed the concept of balanced power with the contractor and explained how its use would be limited and controlled (only available to electronic equipment in locked rooms with labeled outlets) and finally I included all of the data for the inspector. Each signed off on the system.

After discussions with Martin I believe there to be a distinction between something in violation of the electric code and something not in the code. For home use balanced power is not in the residential code. However according to Martin, any inspector has considerable latitude. If he/she is convinced that the device in question is safe, it will get approved. After months of research on this subject, my personal opinion is that balanced power is safer than traditional power delivery. I’ll discuss safety and the future of balanced power later.

Martin Glasband is possibly the foremost authority on balanced power for audio systems. When you have opportunity to discuss audio and electrical matter with one of the authors of the National Electric Code, you tend to listen. Having personally used balanced power for many years without a proper idea as to its inner workings, this review allows me to share new-found insights. For simplicity I will offer much of Martin’s analysis and representations directly by liberally quoting from our conversations and his technical writings. In this introduction my goal is to offer the how and why of balanced power without turning the discussion into an academic journal.

History of Equi=Tech
The birth of balanced power dates back to 1988 when Rick Perrota, the founder of Matchless Amplifiers, approached Martin Glasband to design an electrical system for his new studio complex in California. After exploring the traditional areas such as grounding and isolation transformers, Martin was challenged by an engineer concerning filter capacitors since they direct current onto the ground from the hot side of the AC mains. Martin developed a pseudo-balanced system and presented it to the electrical inspector of Los Angeles who immediately rejected his solution as being unstable and ungrounded. Back to the drawing board for a solution that satisfied both the noise issues for the studio and safety concerns for the city. "Ultimately our balanced power system was developed to satisfy the grounding concerns of a safety inspector."

Martin Glasband is one of those industry visionaries who didn’t just recognize a problem but developed a solution. His original R&D goal was to improve audio sound quality from the studio up though our listening rooms. Initially Martin had growing concerns about the quality of the power and electrical noise issues in the exploding high-tech electronic world. In 1993 while Equi=Tech was essentially an R&D start up, Martin and associates proposed amendments to the National Electric Code for the use of balanced power. Their solution was elegantly simple and their subsequent products were marketed primarily at professional audio and video studios. Martin claims that the majority of music and video as well as movies and television today are produced using Equi=Tech balanced power. His customer list is a high-tech Who's Who spanning the top music and film studios such as Skywalker Sound, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the FAA and even Oakridge National Laboratory. Martin claims that balanced power will improve the performance of any sensitive electronic equipment in any environment. Shortly we’ll see how his claim holds up in a high-end audio system.

What is balanced power?
Commercial electricity dates back to the 19th century beginning with the proponents of Alternating Current battling those favoring Direct Current. Personal intrigue and politics aside, the initial battle was ultimately won by AC as it provided safety and the ability to be transmitted over long distances at a variety of voltages and frequencies. With the original purpose of electricity being public lighting and streetcars, the concepts of sensitive electronic equipment, reactive ground noise, RF and EMI were of course inconceivable at the time. Flash forward 100 years or so and we are essentially using the same unbalanced electrical system from the last century. Electrical standards have remained stagnant over the recent decades, yet a proliferation of sensitive electronic equipment, electric noise and interference have become limiting factors on performance. The more sensitive and revealing our equipment becomes, the more we can hear the harmful effects of power noise and distortion.

Martin’s discussions of power affecting sound quality are often from the view point of the professional studio but they are equally applicable to our home systems. The concern over noise and low-level detail is probably more critical in the professional studio than a home system. Once the effects of noise are introduced into the recording chain, they are there forever. Once musical detail is lost in a recorded performance, it is gone forever. At least in our home systems we can continue to improve the reproduction incrementally up to the inherent limits of the recording. Historically we have gone down a long and expensive path with power filtering, noise suppression, isolated outlets, grounding systems and isolation transformers all with limited success. Up until Equi=Tech no one has treated the true source of this audio power problem.