Today's story -- about a new audio company -- begins like so many others. In search of a specific solution to combat an irksome problem, an engineer-cum-music lover bites the bullet and develops one for himself. He has friends pester him about one-up copies which he gladly provides. Life's happy and peaceful. He then eventually crosses paths with an audiophile established in the business. This expert's fully cognizant of the status quo in his particular product genre. He takes the measure on performance and price to pronounce the product a breakthrough performer. He encourages the engineer to formally go into business - and hopefully not lose him to the very real struggles that assault anyone mad enough to enter our overcrowded and jaded audiophile circus at this time. Life was happy and peaceful once...

I first met Lenny Mayeux when still calling on dealers as Mesa/Boogie's National Sales Manager for its then newly-hatched audiophile division. Pat McGinty of Meadowlark Audio was about to attend the Grand Opening of a new High-End store in Southern California's Mission Viejo. He and BAT's Geoff Poor were the featured guests of honor, to answer questions about their products and give attendees a chance to interface with two formidable industry dignitaries. I invited myself to check out the store and perhaps plant some initial seeds on behalf of Randy Smith and his impressive Mesa Baron amplifier. This Audio Expedition establishment turned out to be the most cunningly conceived specialty audio shoppe I had yet seen. Situated in a small upscale mall, it combined 7-or-so fully discrete soundrooms, each of which was sized and decorated with select furniture and fine art to mimic an elegant home's various spaces, from spacious living room to cozier antechambers, studios and bedrooms.

Fast-forward to HE2003 where I bump into Lenny Mayeux inside the Avantgarde/BAT exhibit. He grins broadly and hands me a card. I knew how the store which he'd managed so expertly had closed in the meantime, due to an unfortunate medical condition afflicting his partner. I didn't know that Lenny was since working with Dan Babineau of Running Springs Audio, had, in fact, been instrumental in the company's launch. You see, electrical engineer Dan was one of Lenny's early customers. Suffering an out-of-spec power delivery step-down transformer 150 yards from his home -- which no sweet talk or threats to the power company could see replaced -- Dan had finally employed his 20+ years of professional experience to filter the incoming AC for his audio system himself. Enter the original 1st-generation Haley named after his daughter. It made appearances at Lenny's store and the rest is history.

2 years in the making, the Haley is now in its 6th generation of successive prototyping. It premiered to some fanfare at HE2003. Both our own, and Robert Harley's and Wayne Garcia's show reports for The Absolute Sound, named Running Spring's joint exhibit with Avantgarde's mighty horns and four Balanced Audio Technology VK-150 SET monos -- drawing an ungodly 1000 watts each -- our favorite sound in San Francisco. We now learn that designer Dan Babineau is the audiophile consultant for a major firm that specializes in capacitor design/manufacture for critical military, medical and other applications. Dan personally spearheads said firm's capacitor R&D for audio OEM customers. He listens to and evaluates films and foils, sprays, papers and other assorted arcana of concern only to someone deeply entrenched in audiophile custom parts development.

One of Dan's latest efforts in this speciality contract field? George Cardas' newest golden-ratio capacitor design. Babineau's complete list of clients, protected by iron-clad non-disclosures, apparently reads like a who's who - of heavy hitter, instantly recognizable High-End audio brands. His own Running Springs Audio Haley benefits from capacitive filtering as do Jim Weil's designs for Sound Application and Caelin Gabriel's new Hydra-8. Unlike the Sound Application units however, Dan employs his speciality caps -- built to +/- 1% tolerance specifications by the firm he consults for -- not in an exclusive or primary fashion, but rather in conjunction with other technologies which include a modified Telecom filter. While the very heavy Haley's innards remain riveted and potted, Dan quipped that even a bona fide EE studying its schematic would be somewhat at a loss to comprehend his circuit exactly - safe to remark that it acted somewhat like a large inductor but not quite. Incidentally, said dogbone-shaped inductor is a from-the-ground-up custom job that winds 6-Nines wires around a synthetic matrix core in true differential-balanced fashion to filter both legs of the incoming AC.

The 6-outlet Haley performs voltage stabilization to 123V within 4ms from power-on and thus acts as a quasi regulator during short-term voltage sags or spikes. However, it eschews any DSP, feedback or power regeneration à la PS Audio or ExactPower. It also avoids any LEDs, meters or even power switches. I've never understood why certain makers add the latter. Do you see them on your AC receptacles? A slow-blow 15A circuit breaker assists in surge and spike protection, overall power rating is 1850 watts. Running Springs Audio also makes 2400-watt capacity units with 20A current delivery dubbed the Duke [$1,299 with Cardas Golden Reference 20-amp cord and single duplex] and the Danielle [double Haley with 6 duplexes and Cardas cord, $2,495].

Today's $995 "entry-level" model measures 10.6 deep, 6.7 inches wide and 6 inches tall. Its industrial appearance embodies the mantra that most line conditioners will be parked out-of-sight on the floor behind a component rack. This rightly begs the question why to lavish a svelte but expensive designer panel on its front. However, as introduced in San Francisco, Babineau offers a $70 optional clear-anodized silver aluminum front with swirl marks and black silkscreening ($100 for the larger Duke and Danielle units) for those who don't mind spending a little extra on looks alone. The black Haley's mission statement clearly revolves around aggressive value.