Recommended Components: Fall 2018 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)

APC AV S15BLK: $730 w/battery backup ★
The S15BLK is a comprehensive power source, conditioner, and controller that features extensible external power and isolated EMI/RFI filtration for each of its outlet banks. Voltage regulation is accomplished electronically and without the hysteresis or rebound problems of slower, motor-driven compensation. Protected even the heaviest of KR's loads while also eliminating gray colorations and intermittent chassis vibration. "The S15 made the bridged eVo6 into an even better power amplifier—a super amp." (Vol.28 No.9 WWW)

Audience Adept Response aR12-TS AC power conditioner: $8995 ★
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. (Vol.30 No.4; Vol.34 No.10; Vol.35 No.1 WWW)

Audience powerChord: $539/6ft ★
"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. (Vol.25 No.8 WWW)

AudioQuest Dragon Source AC cord:$3400/1m; $4400/1m high-current version; +$2,500 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 7000: $7999.95
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 81-lb 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)

AudioQuest Niagara 5000: $3999.95
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 1000 AC conditioner: $999.95
Although it lacks the Niagara 7000's isolation transformers—things known for being bulky and expensive—the far less costly Niagara 1000 has the same "ground-noise dissipation" system and "ultra-linear noise-dissipation" technology as AudioQuest's well-reviewed flagship product. The result is a 20"-long, six-outlet, dark-chrome–finished power strip that, in the words of HR, lifted veils: "isn't that what a $1000 power strip is supposed to do?" Herb concluded that the Niagara 1000 "might be the single most important, most high-value component I've auditioned for Stereophile." JA was also impressed by the unexpected manner in which the Niagara 1000 cleaned up the sound of his system. (Vol.40 No.4 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: $949.95/1m; +$250/additional meter
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)

AV Options SuperWiremold Deep Cryo power strip: $399
This product is precisely as its busy name describes it: a Wiremold AC power strip that has, in the interest of enhanced conductivity and noiselessness, been given a deep-cryogenic treatment and endowed with a Wattgate 5266i AC plug, also cryogenically treated—and now it's, well, super. The finished product is mounted on a plinth of solid, hand-finished maple fitted with four silicone-rubber feet, for mechanical isolation. Is it worth $399? AD found that switching from a stock Wiremold outlet strip to the AV Options version was "very much on a par with going from incorrect to correct absolute polarity for a given recording." Note that, when used with products whose own AC cords are fitted with chunky Wattgate plugs, not all of this strip's nine conventionally spaced outlets will be usable. (Vol.38 No.9 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: $259 ★
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)

CablePro NANA power strip: $350 ★
Manufactured by Wavelength Audio Video and available at most Naim Audio dealers, the NANA is an eight-outlet power strip featuring 12-gauge silver-plated OFC internal wiring, silver-soldered connections, and a hardwired, shielded power cord, all built into a nonmagnetic enclosure, and devoid of LEDs, MOVs, and filters which might corrupt performance. Plugging his entire system into this one strip, Art found "unambiguously good" performance: "My system was simply easier to listen to, and required less nervous energy on my part in order to convince myself I was hearing music." 12 gauge stranded UP-OCC wiring adds $100. (Vol.29 No.3 WWW)

Environmental Potentials EP-2450 Home Theater Power Supply: $1025.21
Environmental Potentials EP-2050 Waveform Correction Absorber: $729.99 ★

The EP-2450, a lightweight, full-size chassis, has eight unisolated AC outlets that can pass 20 amperes of HF-filtered, ground-filtered, surge-protected AC, and comes equipped with a filtered and surge-protected coaxial line. KR used the EP-2450 to rid his system of noise generated from digital amps. "Reduced amp noise to effective inaudibility!" The E-2050 provides protection from AC-borne noise by means of a tracking filter, and uses a metal-oxide varistor to clamp and absorb surges. KR: "Examination of my house's line voltage on an oscilloscope revealed a smoother, cleaner 60Hz signal than before." (Vol.28 No.9 WWW)

Kimber Kable PK10 BASE PowerKord: $320/6 ft, other lengths are available at $26/ft. ★
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 MarkII: $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 Valhalla 2 AC power cord: $4999.99/1m
See Interconnects.

Shindo Mr. T. isolation transformer: $2195
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)

Shunyata Research Hydra Denali D2000/T: $3495
Shunyata Research Hydra Denali D6000/T: $4995

Products in Shunyata's Denali series of AC distributor-conditioners boast a number of innovations, each with its own set of initials: improved Noise-Isolation Chambers (NIC v2), claimed to reduce high-frequency electromagnetic interference; a new technology, QR BB, said to eliminate "the sense of" dynamic compression associated with power conditioners; filters claimed to isolate the noise of Component-to-Component Interference (CCI); and treatment with a Kinetic Phase Inversion Process (KPIP), said to dramatically reduce burn-in time. The two-outlet Denali D2000/T and six-outlet D6000/T are also characterized by their truncated towers of their aluminum enclosures, built on stainless-steel isolation platforms and intended for placement on the floor, next to the user's equipment rack. With two D2000/Ts and one D6000/T in his system, MF heard "a far more open sound against super-'black' backgrounds" than he remembered hearing with Shunyata's Hydra Triton v2. (Vol.40 No.6)

Shunyata Research SR-Z1 wall outlet: $95 ★
A JM favorite, this heavy-duty duplex outlet has a vented case for heat dissipation and uses highly conductive brass connectors. (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Shunyata Research Venom Power System: Package Retail $1185
The Venom system consists of Shunyata's PS8 eight-outlet power-distribution strip ($695), three models of Venom power cords ($75–$295/1.75m), a Venom HDMI cable, and the Venom Defender plug-in noise filter with surge protection ($195). Optional stainless-steel spikes ($200) replace the PS8's stock rubber feet. Housed in a handsome enclosure of brushed stainless steel that's meant to sit on the floor beside or behind an equipment rack, the PS8 uses cryogenically treated Hubbell outlets, oxygen-free copper wiring, and a Carling Technologies hydraulic-electromagnetic circuit breaker. The Venom Defender contains a thermally insulated metal-oxide varistor that provides 22,000 amps of surge protection. With the Venom products in his system, JM noted a significantly lower noise floor and more easeful overall sound. "Highly recommended," he said. (Vol.36 No.12 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: $3299 ★
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)

Torus Power TOT AVR power conditioner: $2499
The TOT AVR power conditioner, which has at its heart a sizable isolation transformer, also offers an Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) system designed to maintain a stable voltage of 120V, Ò5V, within a range of 85–135V. The TOT AVR can also be had with Torus Power's Series Mode Surge Suppression (SMSS) system—a $250 option that, in units sold in the US, clamps the voltage instantly if it rises more than 2V above 135V. LG found that the TOT AVR was not up to the current demands of his 400W monoblocks (Torus makes other, more rugged conditioners), but that it otherwise "improved musical detail and three-dimensional imaging for a wide range of music," along with providing the peace of mind of knowing that his gear was safe from lightning. (Vol.40 No.3 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)

PS Audio P10 Power Plant replaced by new model.

dalethorn's picture

I bought a AQ NightOwl Carbon when it was on sale, and I'm glad I did (get it on sale, that is). A weak bass and a weaker treble makes a very different headphone from the NightHawk. I wondered what Skylar was thinking when I purchased the NightHawk a couple years ago and broke them in. But as it turned out, a little bit of EQ and the NightHawk was a splendid performer. Not so the NightOwl - I gave it away - couldn't bear to take someone's money for it.

SimonK's picture

The NAD amps are in fact Class D's though they call them Hybrid Digital. They are power dacs with an output switching stage coupled to a DAC.

Axiom05's picture

When did this issue mail out? I'm still waiting for mine in Sarasota, USPS is so frustrating! It is not good when I can read the articles online before I receive my paper copy.

DougM's picture

With all the great budget CD players available from the likes of Marantz, NAD, Cambridge, and many others, you couldn't find one to recommend to your readers, but instead are still beating the dead horse of the PlayStation?, and grossly overpriced "portable players" and smartphones. The only actual CD player you could find that doesn't cost a small fortune is the Rega. You do a real disservice to your readers who aren't among the 1%. Another reason why I pay more attention to the British magazine What Hi-Fi 'cause they cover truly affordable electronics and speakers. Shame on you JA!