Richard Gray's Power Company 400S AC line conditioner Page 3

On the front-end, I tried the 400S on the high-current BAT VK-50SE preamplifier and the Accuphase DP-75V 24-bit/192kHz upsampling CD player, which was used almost exclusively for front-end evaluation. (The Mark Levinson No.32 Reference preamplifier regenerates its own AC, so it wasn't a good used for this review.) I tried the 400S straight into the dual-quad 20-amp lines that serve our front-end components, and plugged into the "pass-through" amp sockets of the Audio Power Industries Ultra Wedge our front-end components are normally run through. I also tried the Accuphase player directly into a 400S and then into the wall for direct rather than parallel operation, and I tried it this way into the amp sockets on the Ultra Wedge. I also removed the source components from the Wedge and powered them directly from the wall, and put everything on that Cardas extender into one socket.

The Richard Gray's Power Company 400S manifested the same voice or coloration no matter how I used it. It sounded like your windshield looks after a big rig blows by in a rainstorm: The first swash of the blades cleans things up, but the view remains rather obscured. Unfortunately, sweep after sweep, the view remained the same, as through the window of an old, abused New York taxi. Another analogy: Drop your forearm into a sandbox and sweep it broadly across the surface. That's what the 400S sounded like.

It was quite obvious. With all material, the sound bloomed in the bass somewhat, the midrange took a step back behind a light, slightly obscuring, but smooth-sounding scrim, the upper mids through lower treble were similarly laid-back and slightly recessed, the very top seemed to lunge forward, and was rather grainy as well. In spite of this, the 400S imparted an overall smoothness to the sound through its "effective area": that broad sweep from midbass through upper treble.

But I can see where it might impress on first blush. The plumped-up bass could be attractively bloomy, and the slightly smoothed-over mids were easy on the ears. The highs were generally darkish, with that sudden forwardness in the upper treble that I found objectionable. I imagine the 400S would sound best on a leaner-than-dog's-breath amplifier, the very type most likely to distort the AC line feeding it.

At first, I thought the system quieter; images seemed to pop out more fully from the background air. But I came to feel it was all done with mirrors, like dramatic Hollywood lighting: Lynchian in perspective, like the vivid scene in the red room from the Twin Peaks movie, with crackling lights, a glassy-eyed Agent Cooper, and the backward-speaking walk with me. Yeah, a little bizarre like that, too.

I used many of the CDs I'm familiar with, playing them over and over, at times using a quick-switch method of plugging and unplugging one or two arrays of 400Ses into the Cardas extender. No matter how I arranged things, it always had the same effect. I won't cite any specific recordings—across the board, soup to nuts, the sound was the same, to one degree or another: obscuring, somewhat closed-in, sweet, with a slightly grainy top end.

Finally, out of curiosity, I plugged our 27" XBR Sony television monitor into the 400S, then added another and another. It was a little different; not better, not worse, just...different. I preferred the image without.

What does it all mean?
In general, if the AC in our area was taking a direct hit in the middle of the day, the Richard Gray's Power Company 400S could sound...all right. Other times? Didn't care for it. A lot of money for not very much benefit.

If you have an early-CD-sound solid-state system and you want to smooth off its rough edges, be my guest. The 400S would probably work well in that context. But if you have anything resembling a carefully set-up, high-resolution system, I suggest you spend your money elsewhere.


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.