Recommended Components 2021 Edition Powerline Accessories

Powerline Accessories

AC Nexus Advanced Power Distribution & Ground Enhancement System: $20,000 ★
Steve McCormack, once the proprietor of The Mod Squad, is the man who introduced the concept of accessory isolation feet—his Tiptoes were aluminum cones with flat tops and sharply pointed feet. Now he's brought to market this passive AC-power filter, whose Panzerholz enclosure contains two fist-sized silver-conductor capacitors from Duelund. The IEC AC inlet is a Bocchino Audio Marriner10 and the AC outlets are four Furutech Nano Crystal Formula duplexes. Four Cardas ground posts of solid copper are also provided; not provided is an incoming AC cord, though the AC Nexus's distributor will bundle it with a 6' EinKlein David cord for a total of $28,000. Thus equipped and used in MF's reference system, atop a Harmonic Resolution Systems isolation platform (SMc Audio suggests that the AC Nexus is sensitive to vibrations), the AC Nexus coaxed from MF's gear a welcome degree of serenity, "Along with a butter-textured sweetness of sound." But, as Mikey wrote, "overall, it was too smoothed-over for me, too romanticized." Replacing the EinKlein David cord with an AudioQuest Dragon resulted in a more "open" sound. (Vol.41 No.6)

Audience Adept Response aR12-T4: $11,400 ★
The Adept Response provides power-factor correction, RF noise filtering, transient suppression, and 12 Hubbell high-conductivity power outlets. Each outlet is isolated from its input by one filter, and further isolated from the other outlets by a combination of two additional filters, allowing an entire audio system to be plugged into a single AR. BD noted a profound overall improvement in his system's performance, characterized by enhanced clarity, precision, low-level detail, image definition, soundstage size and depth, and tonal density. "A thoroughly thought out, well-designed, nicely executed manifestation of all that's currently known about power conditioning," said BD. "TS" changes from the earlier aR12 include: a new, larger ground with connections welded rather than bolted; Teflon capacitors throughout; and the use of monocrystal copper wire on the Teflon caps. With the aR12-TS in BD's system, dynamic transients expanded, resolution of low-level detail significantly improved, soundstages opened up, images became more dimensional, and voices took on additional harmonic richness. "The Audience aR12-TS is the best power conditioner I've heard," said BD. Current version is an update of the TS BD reviewed, but JCA judges that the changes, at a minimum, should not reduce performance. (Vol.30 No.4; Vol.34 No.10; Vol.35 No.1 WWW)

Audience powerChord SE-i: $930 ★
"The wonderfully flexible powerChord, too, was a winner, significantly cleaning up the sound by lowering the noise floor, opening up the space between instruments, and significantly improving the system's resolution of low-level and inner detail." Though BD's reference, Synergistic Research's AC Master Coupler, offered better senses of space and ambience, the Audience was very nearly as good and much easier to use. Upgraded at least twice since originally reviewed but should be at least as good as before. (Vol.25 No.8 WWW)

AudioQuest Dragon Source AC cord: $4400/1m, $3400/additional meter; High-current version: $5400/1m, $4400/additional meter
The top models of AudioQuest's power-cord lineup, the Dragons are available in two types: Dragon Source ($3400/1m), intended for source components, and Dragon High-Current ($4400/1m), intended for use with power amps, AC-power regenerators, and other products that draw higher-than-average current. All Dragon models are made with a combination of solid silver and solid copper conductors, and feature AudioQuest's battery-powered dielectric bias system (DBS). After fitting his system with Dragons of both sorts, MF reported "a major improvement in the overall sound" and decided to buy them: "In the context of my audio system, based on what I hear every day, it's well worth it." (Vol.41 No.5)

AudioQuest Niagara 3000 Low-Z Power Noise-Dissipation System: $2995
The Niagara 3000 is an AC power conditioner with two high-current receptacles for amplifiers, five source-component receptacles, AQ’s Transient Power Correction (which provides a current reservoir specified to provide more than 55 amps of “instantaneous” peak current), and AQ’s Ground-Noise Dissipation System. TG found that with his twin subwoofers powered by the Niagara 3000, “it was obvious that there was less distortion in the signal, and the bass was deeper, more dynamic, and more musical than before.” He added that with his system powered by the AudioQuest, the conditioner extracted a “previously unheard level of tangibility” from streamed recordings. (Vol.43 No.12 WWW)

AudioQuest Niagara 5000: $4999.95 ★
KR, who admits to many years of skepticism about the audible advantages claimed for power conditioners, has had a change of heart, evinced by his use of the words love and Niagara in the same sentence: "I love what the Niagaras 5000 and 1000 . . . have done for the sound of my system." At half the price and less than half the weight of AudioQuest's flagship Niagara 7000, the Niagara 5000 differs from it primarily in lacking the Dielectric-Biased AC isolation transformers on its eight noise-dissipation outlets. (See entries for the Niagara 1000 and 7000 elsewhere in this edition of "Recommended Components.") Bolstered with some of AudioQuest's NRG Edison AC outlets ($149 each), the Niagara 5000 compelled Kal to write that "the noise from [my] tweeters was reduced, and the noise from [my] woofers was now completely inaudible." And there you have it. (Vol.40 No.9 WWW)

AudioQuest Niagara 7000: $9499.95 ★
Billed as "a complete rethinking" of AC distribution, the AudioQuest Niagara 7000 is a power-conditioning accessory that provides a total of 12 AC outlets: four hard-grounded high-current outlets, plus eight others divided into two groups of four, each said to be 100% isolated from the other and from the four high-current outlets. Inside this attractive 81lb box are circuits comprising AudioQuest's Ultra-Linear Noise-Dissipation technology, six banks of direction-controlled ground-noise dissipation, and AC isolation transformers to which AQ's trademark Dielectric-Bias System (DBS) has been applied. Although MF described the Niagara 7000's outlets as "the most difficult to use I've ever encountered," owing to their sheer grip, he was impressed with the Niagara's effectiveness, which he regarded as being on a par with that of his Shunyata Research Hydra Triton v2 and Hydra Typhon distributors. Each had its strengths, MF said, noting that "the Niagara 7000 better resolved fine detail and threw a deeper, more expansive soundstage." (Vol.39 No.2 WWW)

AudioQuest NRG-X3 AC cord: $99.95/6ft ★
The NRG-X3 three-pole AC cord uses strands of long-grain copper for its semisolid, concentric-packed conductors. SM connected the NRG-X3 to the Emotiva ERC-2 CD player and heard a cleaner, brighter top end; faster, more assertive attacks; and longer, lovelier decays. "The AudioQuest NRG-X3 delivered more music, made more sense of the music, managed to more fully convey the artists' intentions, and made me a happy guy," he said. (Vol.35 No.1 WWW)

AudioQuest Tornado AC cord, High-Current Version: $1199.95/1m; +$300/additional meter; Source Version: $949.95/1m
When HR replaced his Pass amp's standard power cord with the High-Current version of AudioQuest's stiff, three-conductor Storm Tornado, he noticed "a change in the fundamental shape and tone character of the music coming out of my speakers. Instruments and voices seemed stronger, more three-dimensional. A sleeping dog would have been startled by these differences." Inversely, when Herb replaced the Tornado with a $1 generic cord, he described the results as "like putting on scratched sunglasses and a wool coat on a hot day." That said, HR reported that, with the cheap cord, one of his favorite recording artists endured in having "a naturalness of tone and temper . . . I didn't need a Tornado to enjoy his music." (Vol.41 No.8 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics L-5xe power line filter: $2450 ★
In an attempt to dissipate unwanted high-frequency energy riding on the AC line as heat, the L-5xe, built into the same case as Ayre's P-5xe phono stage, the L-5xe line filter uses a coil of wire wrapped around a nonferrous core for each of its four AC jacks. "Its slight softening effect seemed to improve image palpability, three-dimensionality, and midband texture," said MF. However, the Ayre's "pleasing romanticism" lacked the believability of the faster and more detailed Shunyata Hydra 2, he felt. With the L-5xe in his system, JM noted a taller, wider soundstage and sweeter highs, with no loss of resolution. "Without question, the L-5xe made the system more listenable," he decided. (Vol.30 No.7, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Brick Wall PW8R15AUD surge protector: $289 ★
This small, solid, black block is a series-mode surge protector rated for 15A loads and comes equipped with eight outlets in four filtered banks and a captive 14-gauge AC cord. Gave KR the sense that his equipment was safe from catastrophic insult without changing his system's performance whatsoever. (Vol.28 No.5 WWW)

CAD Ground Control GC1: $1995CAD Ground Control GC3: $4500
These passive systems are intended to reduce a broad range of high-frequency noise picked up by and created by electronics, as well as RF noise that gets into connecting cables and components from the AC mains. MF tried the two-socket GC1 and the six-socket GC3 along with CAD cables ($350 each) that connect on one end to the Ground Control units with 4mm banana plugs and are terminated on the other end with USB, RCA, XLR, spade, and 4mm banana plugs. He found with one of his favorite LPs that the Ground Control system resulted in “more delicate” sound but with still well-articulated attack. The background was blacker, recorded strings had more luster, female voices were smoother, and sibilants were more cleanly expressed so that the LP sounded “more ‘there’ and less recorded.” He subsequently wrote that “Now that I’ve lived with it for another couple of months, I can render my verdict: I can’t live without it.” (Vol.43 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

Clarus CPB-2 Duet Power Block: $1250
This “well-engineered,” two-outlet, high-current power conditioner features a noise-reducing low-pass filter (up to –49dB, 100kHz–6MHz) rated at 30A and utilizes a proprietary technology that Clarus calls “C-Core.” Thermal Metal Oxide varistors protect against surges. MF auditioned the Duet with the matching Clarus Aqua AC cable ($549 for 3', $1849 for 12'). With the Clarus in the system, MF found that it produced quieter backgrounds and a somewhat reduced a layer of “haze,” this probably caused by high-frequency hash. It also didn't limit dynamics, he found. (Vol.44 No.2 WWW)

Kimber Kable PK10 BASE PowerKord: $249 1.5m (5'); longer lengths available at $86/m ★
ST used Kimber Kords throughout his system, and noted tremendous differences with a Jadis Defy-7. But try before you buy, he warns. (NR)

Kubala-Sosna Elation AC cable: $2000/m, $500 each additional meter ★
A JA favorite. See "Interconnects." (NR)

Kubala-Sosna Emotion AC cable: $1250/m; $350/additional meter ★
A KR favorite. See "Loudspeaker Cables." Add $300 for each additional meter. (Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Luna Mauve AC Cord: $1800/2m Luna Orange AC Cord: $1200/2m ★
A new company from Quebec, Luna Cables designs and manufactures four lines of cables: in order of ascending cost, Luna Orange, Luna Mauve, Luna Red, and Luna Black. In all Luna cables, the conductors are old-style tinned copper—in some, the conductors are actual new-old stock tinned copper from decades ago—and Luna eschews polymers in favor of natural materials, such as the hand-dyed cotton used as an outer sheath on all of their models. Designer Danny Labrecque is a tube-and-vinyl aficionado and a longtime Shindo Laboratory dealer, and Luna's résumé suggests that, while not specifically intended as such, their interconnects, speaker cables, and AC cords will jell with systems influenced by vintage-audio values. That's what attracted the attention of AD, who was impressed by what he heard. In particular, AD flipped over Luna's humblest power cord—remarkable, since he seldom has much use for aftermarket AC cords, period. From the Luna Orange series, it sells for $900 CAD for a 2m cord. When he tried the Luna Orange AC cord on his Shindo Haut-Brion power amplifier, it was, he said, "as if I'd found, somewhere in my system, a theretofore undiscovered knob labeled Vividness, and had goosed it up a couple of clicks." (Vol.39 No.8 WWW)

Nordost Qbase QB8 Mark II: $1599.99 ★
Of this AC strip's eight outlet sockets, only the one at the center of the strip goes straight to ground. For the remaining seven, resistors are inserted between the sockets and the ground in an attempt to reduce the noisy currents that can come from having multiple ground points of differing potentials within the system. (Vol.32 No.12 WWW)

Nordost QKore grounding units: $2499.99 (QKORE1); $3499.99 (QKORE3); $4999.99 (QKORE6)
Intended to serve as a manufactured ground reference, Nordost's QKore Ground Units contain a "low-voltage attractor plate" made of a patented inorganic alloy, intended to avoid the variables—temperature, humidity, soil composition, phases of the moon—that can compromise the electrical grounds of most households. QKore Ground Units are equipped with QBase Ground gold-plated binding posts and supplied with silver-plated copper QKore Wires. Three versions are available: QKore1 ($2499), which has one QBase Ground terminal and one 2m-long QKore Wire, and is meant to ground the user's primary distribution block/AC power conditioner/etc; QKore3 ($3499), which has three QBase Ground terminals and one 2m-long QKore Wire, and is meant for grounding audio components; and QKore6 ($4999), which combines in one box the QKores 1 and 3, and comes with two 2m-long QKore Wires and extra grounding terminals. After living with all three, JVS declared that he couldn't imagine the serious enthusiast who would choose to be without the "markedly 'blacker' backgrounds, increased transparency and detail, more vivid colors, and greater overall veracity" they brought to his system. (Vol.42 No.1 WWW)

Nordost Valhalla 2 AC power cord: $5499.99/1m
See Interconnects.

PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20: $9999 ★
PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 12: $4999

The largest of PS Audio's Power Plant AC regenerators, the 96lb P20 provides 16 outlets and has a peak load capability of 3600VA. Like previous Power Plants, the P20 can output a pure sinewave, with adjustable amplitude, or it can alter the waveform in ways that PS Audio says can improve the sound of the system connected thereto—a palette of adjustability the manufacturer refers to as MultiWave. JCA found that MultiWave adjustments had less audible effect than the introduction to his system of the P20 itself; of the latter, he wrote that going from a Wiremold power strip to the P20 was "one of the biggest changes I've heard when switching out components (loudspeakers excepted), and easily larger than the differences I heard the last time I compared two preamps." In a followup, JVS praised the P20 for helping get the most out of the Verity Audio Monsalvat Amp-60."As good as the system had sounded with the [PS Audio PowerPlant] P5," wrote Robert Deutsch, "with the P12 there was a major step forward in overall realism. With no change in volume setting, the sound was more dynamic." With his McIntosh MC275LE, The midbass-to-low-bass region was clearer, with bass drums and timpani seemingly having a more solid foundation, and transients generally having crisper onsets and more rapid decays. The MC275 LE seemed to lose some of its "tubey" characteristics—it sounded more neutral, more like the real thing." (Vol.41 No.11, Vol.42 Nos.4 & 5, Vol.44 No.5 WWW)

Shindo Mr. T. isolation transformer: $2395
Just as Seth Brundle, the protagonist of David Cronenberg's The Fly, set out to purify his body by sending it from one teleportation pod to another, so are certain types of transformers designed to purify AC line voltage by sending it from one coil to another via electromagnetic induction: The desired 60Hz AC makes the trip, but the higher frequencies, which our playback gear regards as noise, get left behind. The Shindo Mr. T is one such isolation transformer: a massive Haruna Denki transformer mounted inside a steel enclosure 9" wide by 6" high by 6.25" deep, painted in Shindo's trademark shade of metallic green and fitted with one IEC input and six ceramic AC outlets. A Shindo power cord—these are intentionally slim and bereft of a ground plug—is included. The Mr. T brought a number of refinements—including greater melodic ease and a lessening of artificial texture—to AD's system, which includes a Shindo preamp, amp, and interconnects (and, at times, a Shindo-modified Ortofon SPU pickup head). It also worked wonders with AD's Garrard 301 turntable, revealing in music a better sense of momentum and allowing "tempos [to seem] quicker—although pitches were unchanged." (Vol.41 No.7 WWW)

Signal HiFi SignalCable 20A MagicPower AC cord: $79/3'
KR came right out and said it: "Of all possible system cables, the one that I believe has the least potential to influence a system's sound is the AC power cord." He also spoke of chafing at the idea of premium-price cables that are too inflexible to use behind his equipment rack. Enter the SignalCable 20A MagicPower cord, based on 10 AWG stranded, high-purity copper, with hospital-grade Marinco terminations. (The 20A connectors are optional at no extra cost.) As of this writing, KR was considering buying more of them. (Vol.41 No.3 WWW)

Torus Power RM20 AC power isolation unit: $3499 ★
Torus Power's Power Isolation Units (PIUs) combine surge suppression with massive toroidal transformers to provide AC power conditioning and protection from voltage surges. The RM20 uses a single 2400VA toroidal transformer to supply 120V and 20 amperes to the 10 AC outlets on its rear panel. It has a 20A circuit breaker for its On/Off switch and uses a 14AWG detachable AC cord rated at 15A/125V. "The PIU greatly enhanced subtle details of tone, timbre, and imaging when dynamics were extreme or volume was loud," said LG. CS20 version has 17" faceplate (silver or black); also costs $3295. (Vol.31 No.1 WWW)

Triode Wire Labs American Digital AC cord: $499 up to 5'
The High Power Digital American power cord was reportedly designed for power amps, power regenerators, power conditioners, and power bars: a theme emerges. Nevertheless, HR began his time with Triode Wire's cord by using it with digital source components, including his Schiit Audio Yggdrasil D/A processor, and was impressed: "I was surprised to hear more even more vigor, more distinctly drawn images, and a lot more physicality." A few days later he reinstated the Schiit's own stock cord, but after playing only two CDs "became impatient" and went back to the Triode Wire Labs. That said, when he tried the Digital American with his Pass Labs solid-state amp, he found the improvement less remarkable than with the more expensive AudioQuest Storm Tornado cord. (Vol.41 No.8 WWW)

Wireworld Platinum Electra power cord: $1700/1m ★
Compared to the more expensive Shunyata Research ZiTron Anaconda, the Platinum Electra sounded less vivid and less natural, said MF. (Vol.36 No.11)

COMMENTS
grymiephone's picture

The Linton Heritage is not an audiophile speaker, and I will stop there, it's hard to find music it plays well

Glotz's picture

And it sounded fantastic with 'entry'-level Hegel components.

Everyone is different, and especially when one levels generalist comments.

grymiephone's picture

I had a response with more details but it was deleted.

Glotz's picture

Sorry man. I think the site had some issues a week back as well. Anything that was edited sometimes got deleted.

grymiephone's picture

Oh, well. for what's it's worth:
I tested the Linton with 5 other speakers. When I ordered it, the sales person said: be warned, it's NOT an audiophile speaker. And it didn't compare well. I wanted to love them but my 23 year old Celestions had more image and punch than the Lintons. I am sure they can sound good in a different system

MatthewT's picture

I agree with the "not an audiophile speaker" remark. I wish we could know what Art Dudley thought of them. I love them, FWIW.

Glotz's picture

I appreciate both of your insights here.

It helps me come closer to the truth. Or that's not right- The perceptions of each person lend us insights into how each person feels in their system.

I know a lot of times it's hard to speak to one's system for fear of others being critical.

Nonetheless, it does tell me what possible variances there are. I thought the double Linton's were impressive, if expensive. The dealer had them in a pseudo-d'appolito configuration, with the top speakers upside down and on top of the bottom pair.

liguorid42's picture

I agree everyone's opinion of what he or she likes is valid, and an opinion that you shouldn't like something because it's not an audiophile product is invalid. That being said, if you're a wine connoisseur you wouldn't necessarily make a buying decision on a pricey Cabernet based on the opinion of someone whose beverage of choice is Mountain Dew. And "not an audiophile speaker" can just mean your favorite reviewer has not made the sign of the cross before it, and is pretty useless without some description of what you perceive its sonic flaws to be.

Glotz's picture

I think all stereo products can have a home, but you are right it's all about context.

I was impressed with the Denton's midrange, but perhaps that's not fair given I was listening to the collective output of 2 pairs of speakers working in tandem.

mememe2's picture

PLease put this in the "useless phrases" section of your mag. Can we have good pace but lack timing -no. can we have good rhythm but lack pace - no. Can we have good timing but lack rhythm - no. This description seems to be aimed at audio prats (in the original meaning of the word).

Charles E Flynn's picture

"captures the emotion"

liguorid42's picture

Back when founding father Gordon Holt started Stereophile he tried to develop a lexicon to describe how things actually sounded--things like "liquid", "transparent", "grainy", "warm"--as opposed to how things emotionally affected him personally. Theoretically you could go to a hi fi emporium, listen to KLH Nines driven by Audio Research electronics and hear for yourself what he meant. Though he did open the door with his "goosebump test". These days terms such as you describe have made subjective audio reviewing so subjective as not to be very useful to anyone else.

Charles E Flynn's picture

Thanks for your reply.

I have always wondered how one could determine that a playback chain captured the emotion of the performers when the only evidence we have about their emotions is what is provided by the playback chain.

The reproduced sound may convey or provoke emotion, but whether what it conveys is what the performer felt is something we can never determine on the basis of only the reproduced sound.

liguorid42's picture

..in the Firesign Theater album said, "That's metapheesically absurd, mun, how can I know what you hear?"

Heck, you can't know if what you're feeling is the same as what the performer is feeling even at a live performance. Not even close would be my guess. What I'm feeling when I play the piano in private is very different from when I get conned into playing for someone. What the composer felt when setting the notes to the page, different still. I doubt a loudspeaker, let alone a piece of loudspeaker cable, has anything to do with any of this.

George Tn's picture

the Schiit Sol made it on to the list in such a high spot for its price. I've been rooting for that product and it's finally being seen for how great it is.

PTG's picture

Yup.. So happy to see Sol finally get some recognition. SOL had a very rough launch but they owned up to it and made it right ! I would love to get one but am worried about how much tinkering is needed to make it right.. Still thinking about it.... It LOOKS amazing !!!

georgehifi's picture

Same for the Aegir, a A20w Class-A stereo in Class-A Stereophile. I can only think of one similar that could/would do that, and that's the mighty 20w Mark Levison ML2 monoblocks.
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/d6/6a/cc/d66acc2c1d4fa7ea17f5a9bb9345e912.jpg

Cheers George

Glotz's picture

Yes, these components are great to see classified, but it's one person's ranking for a component. The classes also cut a large swath in performance of any one category- and within each class.

That being said, I do think the Sol is pretty-well-reviewed for the money and if my rig broke suddenly... I'd get this one to tie me over.

PTG's picture

Did I miss it or was Bluesound family of products (Node2i, Vault2i ??) totally dropped off the RC2021 list ? If yes, I wonder why...

Jim Austin's picture

On previous lists, when several Bluesound products were listed together, we put them under "Complete Audio Systems." We dropped most of them simply because they haven't been auditioned in years--indeed, no Stereophile reviewer ever tried a gen-2 version of any of the products except the Node2i, which I bought a few months back and use daily. Dropping products that haven't been auditioned in a long time is longstanding RecComp policy.

With only the Node2i on the list, it no longer makes sense to list it under Complete Audio Systems; it should be moved to Digital Processors. But I overlooked that fact when preparing the 2021 edition.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

C_Hoefer's picture

I just navigated to this page intending to point out the error in location of the Bluesound Node 2i - glad to see you already caught it! It belongs in digital players.
--CH

prerich45's picture

I'd like to see some of the other offerings tested by Stereophile. The Gustard dacs have measured well by another site. I've actually purchased one to see how it fairs to my ears - as I've already seen its numbers. SMSL,Gustard, and Topping are making some possible world beaters, it would be interesting to see this publication put them on the bench.

Fstein's picture

Lirpasound announces $79 amplifier, states previous price of $159,000 a joke no reasonable person would believe

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