Richard Gray's Power Company 400S AC line conditioner Letters part 4

We also received the following letter, which was too long for publication in the print edition of Stereophile:

A scathing review?

Editor: I was disturbed by Jonathan Scull's scathing review of the Richard Gray's Power Company device in the June 2000 Stereophile. I reviewed this product for Widescreen Review and liked it a lot. I also recommended that readers of my own publication, the Audio Perfectionist Journal, try the Richard Gray's unit in their own systems. Mr. Scull came to very different conclusions and soundly condemned the RGPC as a rip off while comparing its sonic contribution to the view "through an old, abused New York taxi" window.

I have no doubt that Jonathan accurately describes what he heard with the RGPCs in his system but I think that few people who try the device will have similar negative results. His review is misleading.

I have used the Richard Gray's units with a wide variety of audio and video components and found them to be consistently beneficial. Improvements to sound and picture have ranged from moderate to substantial. They have proven to be particularly effective with CRT-based video projectors and, contrary to the Stereophile review, I have found them to provide the most benefit in high-resolution audio systems that were properly set-up to begin with. I have never experienced anything resembling the sonic disaster described by JS.

Should I condemn Jonathan Scull as a stone-eared amateur because he disagrees with me, or could something else be responsible for our conflicting experiences. Is it possible that we can all learn something here?

I think that further discussion is called for. I offer the following as food for thought because I'm certainly not sure about all the technical reasons why the product works. I am sure that the RGPC units can improve the performance of some systems because I've observed that to be true and I think that it is unfair for an influential magazine to condemn them because they didn't work for Mr. Scull.

The tone of Jonathan's review seemed to suggest that he started with the preconception that this device is a scam and set out to expose it as such. Actually there is nothing mystical about the unit or the basic description of the product by the manufacturer. It's a large inductor in an enclosure. I believe this inductor can provide power factor compensation through a "flywheel" effect while offering inter-component isolation and some power line filtering under the right circumstances.

The manufacturer makes some exuberant claims, but that's how products are sold these days and I may be at least partially responsible. When I wrote my review for WSR describing how I think the RGPC works, the Audio Line Source "Gray Paper" had not yet been published. Many statements from my review about the action of inductors subsequently turned up in the Gray Paper. The manufacturer's claim that the product acts as a reservoir of current may not have been the best choice of words to describe the action of the device because technically there are current reservoirs inside each of our audio components and the real problem is keeping them completely filled.

The statements I made about the action of inductors are well-known facts. Every first-year engineering student learns about "ELI the ICE man." This mnemonic reminds us that voltage (E) leads current (I) in an inductive (L) circuit, and voltage lags behind current in a capacitive (C) circuit. Capacitors oppose changes in voltage while inductors oppose changes in current flow. The effects of capacitance and inductance are well understood and most filters use one or the other, or both of these reactive components.

The reason for the visible and audible improvements that the Richard Gray's device can provide in some systems is a matter for speculation at this point. Using small bits of science to "prove" that the device can't work, such as calculating its energy storage potential in Joules, is counterproductive to say the least.

A wise professor once showed me an aeronautical engineering paper that proved that a bumble bee can't fly. His lesson was that a good scientist should never ignore empirical evidence. We can observe the powerful effects of an inductor every time we start our cars. "Inductive kick" from the ignition coil fires the spark plugs in a gasoline engine. A complete novice can visually observe the effects of the Richard Gray's Power Company device by plugging it into an AC circuit shared by a projection TV. An experienced audiophile can hear the audible improvements that the RGPC can bring about.

The point is this. The unit works in some circumstances, and quite well. More units often sound better than just one. Like many advances in the audio art, this product represents seat-of-the-pants engineering but I believe that we can figure out how to explain what's happening if we try and I'm sure many will offer their opinions.

There are a number of credible witnesses in the industry besides me who have seen and heard the benefits of the RGPC devices. So, why did Jonathan Scull have such a negative response to the Richard Gray's Power Company? The most likely explanation is that his system was so thoroughly tweaked to his tastes that any substantial sonic change would be perceived as having a negative impact without readjustment. Since he had already decided that this product was a scam, he didn't bother to experiment further. There are also many other possibilities.

The review mentions "dual-quad 20-amp lines," whatever that means, and "the pass-through amp sockets on the Audio Power Industries Ultra Wedge" power line conditioner in Scull's system. Changes in the electrical parameters of the AC source are among the variables that could make the RGPC device seem detrimental rather than beneficial in a given system.

All my experiments have used real-world, 115V, single-phase power like the kind found in most homes. Series line conditioners, which almost always negatively impact sound quality in my experience, may interact with the RGPC (can you say "tank circuit"?) and cause deleterious effects on the AC line. Having series and parallel reactance in the AC circuit could wreak sonic havoc. A series line conditioner doesn't have to have anything plugged into it to have an effect on sound. Simply plugging it into the wall socket places reactive components on the AC line.

I believe that the Richard Gray's Power Company is worthy of further investigation because I've seen and heard the positive results that it can deliver. Do I think that the RGPC is the end-all accessory component for all people and all systems? Of course not. I advised my readers to try one in their own systems before buying. I think your readers would be better-served by a similar recommendation rather than the vitriolic condemnation of the product they got from Mr. Scull.—Richard L. Hardesty,

Mr. Hardesty talks about how important it is that empirical evidence not be overlooked. I absolutely agree. But in the case of the Richard Gray's Power Company device, not only were the technical explanations offered by the manufacturer incorrect, the reviewer's own experience didn't offer any contrary evidence. And with respect, Mr. Hardesty, Stereophile's reviewers deliberately take no notice of what reviewers for other publications think and write about products. They listen for themselves.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that another Stereophile reviewer, Shannon Dickson, also had extensive experience with the RGPC device, Shannon, too, was not particularly impressed. As he wrote in an August e-mail to Jonathan and me: "I didn't have a particularly negative experience, just no real benefit at all that I could repeatably and reliably attribute to the Power Company units. In one configuration, I did notice some slight veiling, but that could have been due to ganging several of the devices together versus using the direct connection via a Cardas power strip to the wall at my house."

On the subject of the bumblebee being unable to fly, if you look at the insect's mass and wing area, hence wingloading, and how much energy it therefore needs to expend to be able to fly, it really is hard to see how it does so. The answer, as always in "negative proofs" lies in something overlooked by the researcher. Large flying insects drastically overheat their bodies in order to enable the extraction of energy from their food to proceed much more efficiently. And in the case of very large flyers, such as African dung beetles, their body temperatures are almost at the fatal level.John Atkinson

Footnote 1: A disclosure: Madrigal Audio Labs, the manufacturer of my (purchased) Mark Levinson components, sponsors my webzine.
Richard Gray's Power Company
Audio Line Source LLP
2727 Prytania Street #6
New Orleans, LA 70130
(800) 880-3474

ishis's picture

With apologies to all the poor slobs who bought the Richard Gray 400s. Scull was right - these things are worthless. In fact everybody I have spoken-to who owns these things don't even know how they work or what they do!!  Absolute stupidity!

No, they aren't filters - not even close!

Yes - they choke the crap out of amplifiers!

No - they don't make a TV look better. A cheap line filter does that better.

Yes, I have tried them....and rejected them.