Monster Power AVS 2000 Automatic Voltage Stabilizer & Equi=Tech 2Q & Q650 Balanced Power Systems Page 2

The AVS 2000's rear panel features a massive, hardwired, 8' Monster PowerLine 300 AC cable, four switched and two unswitched outlets, and a sequential turn-on feature (which I never used). Other than the Power button, all you need be concerned with on the stylish front panel are the three digital meters, which allow you to monitor (from left to right) the incoming voltage, the degree of voltage correction, and the amperage draw. That middle meter provided me with plenty of thrills and chills concerning the wonderful world of voltage fluctuation in my Washington Heights 'hood—it varied greatly throughout the day, with incredible sustained peaks of up to 11V after midnight during the summer. There were infrequent episodes of positive and negative fluctuations so extreme I could actually hear a mechanical clacking as the servo-motor scrambled to stabilize the voltage. Normally, the AVS 2000 was just steady as she goes; I could rarely hear the clacking over the music.

When I first began auditioning the AVS 2000, I discovered that it had more than enough capacity to handle the current demands of my entire system—even at whopping volume levels with massive transients, I never went much above 11 amps. However, while I loved the enhanced depth of midrange resolution and the aqueous clarity I achieved throughout the entire system, I ended up preferring the overall effect the AVS 2000 had on my front-end gear to that conferred on my power amp.

High-current demands are a function of the load. When there are huge bass transients in the music and the amplifier wants current, it doesn't politely ask for it, but demands massive, instantaneous bursts of power. With the power amplifiers plugged into the AVS 2000, I experienced what I would characterize as a subtle compression effect. Despite impressive improvements in midrange detail and resolution, I found I wasn't getting as much of a sense of the frequency extremes, particularly heft and body in the deep bass, as I did when the amplifiers were plugged directly into the wall current—and that without this foundation of extra-deep bass, there was something lacking in the depth and dimensionality of the soundstage.

However, I was totally captivated by the dramatic increase in coherence I achieved by plugging my front-end components into the AVS 2000, especially the digital ones. I was particularly impressed by the levels of transparency I achieved, with blacker backgrounds and more profound levels of silence. There was greater resolution on every level—the overall presentation was clearer and more open, with greater precision and definition, less grunge.

In addition, there was a palpable delicacy and detail to the highs, a certain quality of brilliance that I found alluring. In my experience of audio tweaks, their aural signature often proves quite subtle, more apparent in its absence than in its presence. In going back and forth, listening to music with and without the AVS 2000, I found that I missed it most with my digital components. CDs just sounded tighter and crisper. I became conscious of a dull, sluggish quality, a smearing of frequencies, when the Monster was out of the signal chain.

Equi=Tech 2Q and Q650 Balanced Power Systems
Still, there remained a discernible glare to the sound, an edginess in the top end. While the AVS 2000 gave me much better timing and tonality, I was amplifying sonic artifacts that made my wife wince when I pushed the system to concert levels and beyond. What was causing this strident brightness?

Martin Glasband of Equi=Tech, widely regarded as the godfather of modern balanced power technology (and author of Article 647 of the 2002 National Electrical Code), was Johnny-on-the-spot with an explanation: "An enormous percentage of the noise that most adversely affects audio performance is actually created by your own components' power supplies." writes Mr. Glasband. "These are referred to as harmonic or reactive currents, a natural phenomenon that occurs when you apply an impedance load to an AC source. Imagine small waves rolling back toward the ocean as the big waves are coming in. An analogous event occurs on AC power lines when you switch on your equipment, and it's precisely this reactive power that runs rampant through your grounds, chassis, cable shields, and every electronic circuit, adding unwanted distortions, creating frequency anomalies, veiling low-level information, and robbing the music of dynamic energy. The effect is cumulative. The more components you have switched on, the more power supplies are feeding harmonic current back into the grid, and the more system noise there will be. These harmonics are present across a very wide bandwidth, which leads to significant sonic corruption in the performance of both analog and digital electronics."

Equi=Tech offers a deceptively simple solution to this problem in a variety of balanced power-transformer systems, ranging from 350-lb megaliths for hardwiring into mastering-studio electrical systems, to A/V-system-scaled components such as the high-current-capacity Equi=Tech 2Q ($2689) and the new high-resolution Q650 ($1179). These have become such integral parts of my own reference system that I no longer want to imagine life without them.