compact power conditioner for pre-amp and cd player

Cam -- Thu, 08/04/2011 - 19:48

Hi Folks,
I wonder if you can recommend a small but high quality power conditioner for my pre-amp (Simaudio Moon P-7) and cd player (Marantz SA-11S1)?  My amp (Simaudio Moon W-8) will stay plugged directly into the wall.
I only need 2 outlets for the conditioner but ideally with noise filtering between outlets.  Budget is up to $2k but I'm looking for suggestions on value units that are great performers at well under that price point.
Models under consideration so far are the PS Audio Duet, the Audience Ar2p (potentially with the "T" and/or "O" upgrade options), and the Hydra 2.  Opinions or other suggestions would be great!

Paul -- Thu, 08/04/2011 - 20:47

 I had the Quintet and the Richard Gray 400. Sold them both after a couple years of use, as I tried a Shunyata Guardian and it was much better than both. More dynamic, more musical, and much more clear (less grain). Better defined bass as well.
The Quintet is good, dynamic, but on the dry/grainy side; however well worth the money at it's price point. The Gray is more costly, better than the Quintet, but not a match for the Shunyata Guarian Pro. The Guardian Pro currently sells in a 2 or 6 outlet version, both the same functionality. They are in the $400 - 800 range, and very good conditioners at that price point. However, both require a 20A power cable, so factor that into the price. I now have 4 Guardians, 2 of the older 4 outlet versions, and one of the new 6 outlet type, and a 2 outlet. The 2 outlet is used for my TT power and phonostage, and the 6 outlet for the other digital/analog gear. The other 2 for some switching power supplies from cooling fans and HDD and Squeezebox Touch. I keep those on a separate conditioner as the switching power supplies really are very noisy. My amp plugs directly in the wall into a PS Audio Power Port Premier AC receptacle (non-filtering, just better outlet).


Cam -- Tue, 08/23/2011 - 08:06

Thanks Paul,

I'm trying the PS Audio Duet now and find it does some good things but also find it tips up the frequency balance to favour the treble. Does the Guardian Pro impact the frequency balance?

Paul -- Tue, 08/23/2011 - 11:55

Hi Cam,

The Gaurdian Pro models with the 4 outlets are a big step up from the Quintet. I find them to be much more musical, and neutral. It does not tip up the high frequencies as the Quintet can.

However, I have a newer Guardian Pro 6 that has been in the system now for a few weeks, and at this stage it does tip up the high frequencies. My two older Guardian 4 models do not have this effect. Maybe the newer one is just taking longer to break in and come into its own, or maybe the technology is different than the older models.

If you can get your hands on a used Guardian 4, I would recommend taking the plunge. It is the best conditioner I have used below the $1,000 price range. Here is a link to a review of the Guardian 4 and you can see on the page what it looks like. It is different than the new "pro" versions. I definitely prefer also the look of the Guardian 4 over the new pro versions.


JLeeMD -- Tue, 08/23/2011 - 19:18

I have both the PS Audio Quintet and Shunyata Hydra-2. If your budget is <$2000, you might consider the Synergistic Research Powercell 4 ($1250) which, in my experience, is an undiscovered gem. In fact, if you don't need additional outlets I think the Powercell 4 is about as good as it gets. I currently use the Powercell 10 mk2 for my 2-channel system and the Shunyata Talos for my HT system.

Cam -- Tue, 08/23/2011 - 19:57

Good suggestions - thanks guys!  It'll come down to what I can demo from local dealers in Toronto and/or what I can find used but sounds like I've got some good options to try!
Borrowed a Nordost QRT QBase 4 outltet power distribution bar and a couple Nordost QV2s to try from a local dealer today.  First impressions are that the combo is very good.  It makes my system sound more dynamic and increases the size of the soundstage, adding a sense of openness without any edginess or placing added emphasis on the upper frequencies.  Also tightens up bass definition without loosing and bass weight.  Very musically engaging combo!  Although, it should be for about $1,700 for the 3 pieces!  I'll see if that first impression lasts over a few days of listening...

Paul -- Wed, 08/24/2011 - 11:50

Hi Cam,

I tried a Quantum RT800 "QRT" 8 for a week or so and it did not work out in my system. It reduced the excitement and dynamic impact of the music. It was musical, but a bit too soft. These things of course are system dependent, and based on what type of sound you also prefer. Some want analytical and "true" and some want warmer and more romantic sound. Like a lot of folks, I am in the middle but need the dynamics, without edge or brittleness. That is why I like the Guardian 4 model. Clear, dynamic, touch of warmth, and clean highs. Note that the quality of the 20A cable used with it makes a huge difference. I have modded my 20A cables, by adding Wattgate Audiophile grade AC connectors on both cable ends ($70 each end of the cable, so $140 to convert a cable to 20A). I have converted to 20A on a Nordost Vishnu, a Nordost Brahma, a Aural Symphonics Cappuccino, and lastly a much cheaper XLO Reference 2. Surprisingly, the XLO wins hands down when converted to 20A and feeding AC to the Guardian 4 (I have 2, both with XLO modded cables on them). The Brahma comes in next, followed by the Cappuccino and finally the Vishnu. The Vishnu is better on a source than it is on an amp or feeding a power conditioner. It is a too dry sounding and too light for my tastes to feed AC to a conditioner. I think it would only work if your system had excess bass you needed to tame. The Brahma alone sounds better on an amp or a preamp than any of the cables noted above, but for me does not work as well when feeding AC to the conditioner. BTW, all the cables I noted are rated for 25A so modding to 20A to feed 20A conditioners is not an issue.

I have tried the QV2's also. In my system they made no difference, as I suspect that all of the fine tuning I have done makes them redundant. I find that that type of filter works best in a system that has not so much other conditioners in play. I had the PS Audio Noise Harvesters in my system in earlier days and they worked very well, cleaning some grunge from the AC and improving clarity. Now, with my system tweaked more heavily, they have less impact. If you used the Harversters or the QV2's alone with no power conditioners in the system then they would make a more noticeable difference.


Cam -- Thu, 08/25/2011 - 16:34

Hey Paul,
Thanks for the great feedback!  It's crazy how system dependent all of this type of gear is! 
I've tried the Brahma PC on my Moon i-7 integrated before I moved to separates and my reaction was like your reaction to the Vishnu - too dry and tipped up in the treble for my tastes.  The XLO Reference 3s were nice and powerful but a little too rolled off in the high frequencies for me on my CD player and pre-amp (they seem to do well on my amp, though).
When I listened to the Nordost QRT stuff (just their QBase power distribution unit, and the QVRs), I did so without any power filtration in place.  They were better than just using the PS Audio Duet, which tipped up the treble like the Brahma power cord did, and were better than no conditioning at all.  What was surprising to me was the difference in sound between where you plug equipment into the QBase 4 outlet distribution unit.  There is one "earth" power socket in the QB4 that Nordost recommends plugging your pre-amp into, with the power amp next to it and your key source on the other side of it.  Just reversing the sockets used for the pre-amp and amp lead to a significant change in the sound (for the worse).  Bizzare!
I'll definitely check out the Guardian gear if I can get my hands on it - thanks for the recco!

Paul -- Fri, 08/26/2011 - 13:42

Hi Cam,

I am very surprised you found the Brahma to have a tipped up treble. How long did you have it in your system? I find that power cords need continous use for a couple of weeks before you hear their true nature. In my case, the Brahma is anything but tipped up. It is a very solid and powerful sound PC, with a little emphasis on the bass side of things. By solid, I mean it removes the thinness that a lot of PC's exhibit that are otherwise detailed sounding.

BTW, I had the same experience with the Quantum unit that you had with the QB4 where it sounded different depending on which socket you plugged into on the unit. That was one of the reasons I returned the unit, which BTW was a demo unit and had lots of previous break-in time.

Anyway, good luck with your hunt for a conditioner that fits your system.


Cam -- Sat, 08/27/2011 - 07:11

Hi Paul,
Strange that we had such different experiences with the Brahma.  The one I tried from the dealer wasn't new - he was using it with some of the equipment he had in the store - but I'm not sure how many hours it had on it.  I just thought it was the typical "lean/clear/fast" Nordost house sound and never considered it could be a break in issue - maybe I should have kept it for longer! 
Totally on another topic but it would really serve dealers well to make sure the accessories they lend out for demos are fully broken in.  I've had so many of them say to me "it's not fully broken in and it will get way better over time".  What does that mean?  How much better?  In what way?  It's all fine if I like the way the product sounds when I try it (and crossing my fingers that I like the changes that come with break in) but if I don't like it when I try it (like the Brahma) then they lose out on a sale.  Crazy!
Sorry for the off topic rant!
Thanks again for the suggestions!

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