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Reviewer: Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: PS Audio PWT; PS Audio PWD; Dr. Feickert Blackbird/DFA 1o5/Zu DL-103; Phasure NOS1 DAC [in for review]
Streaming sources: XXHighEnd; iTunes; Devialet AIR
Preamp/integrated/power: Tri TRV EQ3SE phonostage; Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Yarland FV 34 CIIISA; Qables iQube V1; Devialet D-Premier; Hypex Ncore 1200 based monoblocks; Trafomatic Kaivalya
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Arcadian Audio Pnoe; Vaessen Aquarius
Cables: complete loom of ASI LiveLine cables; full loom of Crystal Cable cables; Nanotec Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotec Golden Strada #79; Nanotec Golden Strada #201
Power line conditioning: Omtec Power Controllers; PS Audio Powerplant Premier; PS Audio Humbuster III; IsoTek Syncro [in for review]; Pranawire Linebacker [in for review]
Equipment racks: ASI amplifier and TT shelf
Sundry accessories: Furutech DeMag; ClearAudio Double Matrix; Nanotec Nespa #1; Exact Audio Copy software; iPod; wood, brass, ceramic and aluminum cones and pyramids; Shakti Stones; Manley Skipjack; Blue Horizon footers [in for review]
Room treatment: Acoustic System International resonators, sugar cubes, diffusers
Room size: ca 7 x 5m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls and concrete floor downstairs,
ca. 14.50 x 7.50m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls, wooden flooring upstairs.
Price of review item: $1.950

We live in a world full of noise. And it is getting worse each day. Everywhere there is acoustic noise. Finding a truly silent place without having to travel is very hard. That adds noise to the mix until a last a sanctuary of quiet is within reach. Over the past decades we’ve noticed our environment getting filled with all manner of junk sounds at an ever increasing rate. Public noise we call it. It comes from traffic on land, in the air and even at sea. That forms a constant backdrop din. It is scary to notice that a lack of public noise for many seems threatening. They favor personal noise to fill the gap.

Companies like Apple are built on that need to compensate for silence and tranquility with noise. The moment silence descends, attention drops and many get into a state of minor frenzy and insecurity. Muzak in elevators, shopping malls and doctor’s offices is unavoidable but more is to come. Take radio stations. Besides playing dynamically strangulated flattened-out content, behind every spoken word there are now sonic shards mixed in. The tiny pauses that separate spoken words are embedded in electronic sound. Without this a listener might lose attention, get uncomfortable and—here’s the catch—tune into another station to lower ratings and thus income for the radio station. The obvious conclusion? Noise makes money. With the M-word mentioned, that same money-driven process causes less and less trained sound engineers to work at audio and video broadcasting stations. Money is saved by having DJs/VJs and their kind provide their own sound engineering.

Here in the Netherlands a foundation named Bescherming Akoestisch Milieu (Protection Acoustic Environment) is campaigning amongst others against unnecessary sound pollution with the slogan Stop de Muziekte Nu (Stop the Musickness Now). Their website lists shops and restaurants that provide quiet surroundings. Music lovers should endorse this sort of awareness. It not only rids us of the noise but with it also 99.9999% of the horrible sound quality of public music.

Next to unavoidable public noise all of us suffer noise in our own music sanctuary. That is not the public noise bleeding through the walls and windows and floors. It’s the stowaway noise that rides on the power we tap from the utility grid. When that noise enters our precious audio gear, it has an unmistakable effect on the music we play back. That’s hifi 101. Many suppliers offer solutions to clean up the power before it gets to the hifi which after all is only interested in 110 or 240 volts at a frequency of 60 or 50Hz. Other AC signal is not useful and should be filtered out. Somewhere. In practice that somewhere is definitely not the power supply of your CD player or amplifier. Well, definitely might be a bit too bold. There are a few audio devices with power supplies that go a long way - but at a price and a steep one at that.

To clean up incoming power we must revert to additional filters, regenerators, special cables, voodoo and snake oil. Here the latter two are included to satisfy the skeptics and mark the place whence they can stop reading further. Perfect filters do not exist. That’s why so many paths lead to the least compromise. Some filters act like valves. The sound fed through them gets limited in expressivity. Guts and the glory are filtered out with the noise. Electronic filters often provide multiple outlets, some grouped in zones. They all have a tendency to introduce that other devastating effect called ground loops. These are the gremlins that haunt you when a new device or even cable is introduced in the system and the sound or image changes even without using the newly introduced bit. Even on equipment with double power switches which disconnect both neutral and hot, the protective earth connection does what its name implies. It connects. With more than you want.

Another havoc'ing phenomenon is DC offset on the mains. This artifact of badly behaved electrical hooligans somewhere on your power grid (your house or wider neighborhood) can cause your system to sound like… well, craptastic. DC offset can make transformers hum and vibrate. This affects other parts in and around your gear. Once DC runs on your mains, a huge isolation transformer that in theory would filter out a lot of noise is prone to saturation to introduce adverse effects.