Blast from the past…

Painting listening room three, and playing Tetris in my head as to where everything is going to go, etc., etc., I subconsciously pick John Klemmer’s Touch on TIDAL and wonder where has the time gone? Back in 1979, when I was painting the walls in my first apartment, this was the record I bought on the way home from the hardware store, with a few gallons of bright white paint in the trunk.

The system was different then: A pair of ESS AMT-1 towers, a Phase Linear 400 and a Nakamichi 600 series preamplifier (along with a Technics SL-1200 TT) were my pride and joy. Much has come and gone since then, yet a current spec SL-1200 still provides compelling music, and a stack of 600 components have been lovingly restored by Echo Audio and Gig Harbor Audio, so the memories are intact.

38 years later, bright white and John Klemmer still seem like pretty good choices. What are you listening to today?

Issue 83


Old School:

Exploring Vintage HiFi With a Master Craftsman


The Channel Islands PEQ 1 mk.2 Phonostage
By Jeff Dorgay

Journeyman Audiophile:

Simaudio MOON Neo Ace
A receiver for the 21st Century
By Rob Johnson

Personal Fidelity:

Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Headphones

TONE Style

Dell’s XPS 27 Desktop: The World’s 1st Audiophile Computer!

Book Report: A History of Rega

Lima Ultra Personal Cloud Storage

Lume Cube Photo Light


Spin the Black Circle: Reviews of New Pop/Rock and Country Albums
By Bob Gendron, Todd Martens, and Chrissie Dickinson

We Will Always Go Out Dancing!
By Todd Martens

Jazz & Blues: Craig Taborn, Roscoe Mitchell and More!

By Kevin Whitehead and Jim Macnie

Audiophile Pressings: Five From Crowded House

Gear Previews

McIntosh MP1100 Phonostage

Grand Prix Audio Monaco 2.0 Turntable

Coincident Dynamo 34 SE mk. II amplifier

Atoll IN-100SE Integrated Amplifier


By Rob Johnson

Conrad-Johnson TEA1 S2 Phonostage
By Jeff Dorgay

Pro Audio Bono SE5 Platform
By Jerome Wanono

Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Momentum Phonostage
By  Greg Petan

Esoteric F-07 Integrated Amplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

Grado Statement 2 Phono Cartridge
By Jeff Dorgay

Sonneteer Alabaster Integrated

Watch this space, we’ll have a full review of the Sonneteer Integrated amplifier. This bit of British understatement delivers the goods; the sound quality is well beyond what you would expect from an $2,399 box. WELL beyond.

Rob Johnson’s full review will be up in a day or so, please stay tuned!

For more info, send inquiries to [email protected], they have a new website that is almost finished…

The German Physiks HRS-130 Speakers

It only seems fitting to play Lou Reed’s “Vanishing Act” while listening to these marvels of German Engineering. The difference in his haunting solo vocal on this track compared to listening to a more traditional cabinet speaker is astounding.

With the lights low in the listening room, it comes close to feeling like Reed is right there, standing about three feet in front of my listening chair. The overtones in his deep voice, awash in texture, feeling correct from a height standpoint as well, proves to be a moving experience. And that’s just the first track.

About five years ago I had the privilege to listen to the smaller Ultimate 2 loudspeakers and came away amazed at the enormous sound field these speakers recreated in my listening room. You can read that review here: ( The Ultimates do not use the advanced carbon fiber DDD drivers that the HRS-130s do, and they have a smaller, 8-inch woofer.

Like the HRS-130 you see there, they also featured the carbon fibre driver. The earlier HRS-120s I lived with for a while featured the earlier metal DDD driver. They were intriguing, but the metal driver still had a bit of a harshness that you don’t quite realize until you hear the carbon fiber driver – then you can’t unhear it.

As with the Ultimate 2s, or any other German Physiks speakers, one of their greatest strengths is the ability to vanish in the room. The omnidirectional DDD driver handles all frequencies from 220hz to the maximum of 24khz, leaving the delicate midrange notes untouched by the transition, distortion and phase anomalies of a crossover network. Even though the driver is characterized as “omnidirectional,” it recreates space with very precise cues.

Fortunately, the HRS-130s new cabinet, with the black gloss polyester finish (also available in white) features corners that are slightly more rounded, giving this uniquely shaped speaker a bit more sex appeal. Personally, I love the black cabinet with the black carbon fiber in the DDD driver. The 10” woofer is downward firing, and the entire enclosure barely takes up a 13” square footprint. A pair of HRS-130s will set you back about $22,000 in the standard finish. Upgraded colors, wood finish and even full carbon fiber are available at extra cost. I know I’d go for all carbon fiber, but I’ve always had no problem spending your money.

Back to the big Sound

Staying in the blues groove, next up is Keith Richards “Wicked as it Seems.” About ten seconds into the track, when Richards’ signature greasy, growling guitar enters the picture, it not only has the necessary amount of dynamic punch and tonal saturation, it comes forward in the mix, occupying its own space. It feels as if Richards walked out from behind a stack of amplifiers and walked right out in front, attacking you with his presence – incredible. Still, with not enough blues under the belt, I quickly switch to Michael Burks “I Smell Smoke.” If you haven’t had the chance to hear this late, great blues master from my hometown (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, yeah) play, he was an absolute powerhouse, dominating whatever stage he played. Again thanks to the instantaneous acceleration and fatigue-free presentation of the DDD driver, Burks’ guitar tears through the air between the speakers, and thanks to the perfect integration of woofer and DDD driver, the accompanying bass line is just as engaging. There’s no question that these speakers can rock.

It wouldn’t be an audiophile review without some female vocals, would it? Fortunately, Larry Borden, the GP importer hosting the demo enjoys Ella Fitzgerald as much as I do, and a quick romp through “Miss Otis Regrets” is lovely. The precision of this driver is immediately showcased, capturing every bit of nuance that Fitzgerald is famous for, without any hint of harshness to take away from the magic that is recreated here.

Thanks to a full complement  of Merrill Audio electronics and EMM Labs DAC, the entire system plays to the HRS 130’s lightning fast transient response. Should you like the transparency and immediacy of an electrostatic speaker, you’ll probably appreciate the similar characteristics that the German Physiks speakers offer. But that’s where it ends. While the HRS-130 has the same transparency that an ESL offers, the DDD driver has such wide dispersion, you can enjoy these speakers anywhere in the room. While walking around Borden’s room, it’s evident that the spot between the speakers is the place to be, yet there is no dead spot in the rest of the room. These are speakers that can be enjoyed by everyone when you have a musical gathering.

Listening to track after track of heavy rock proves that these speakers have the extra punch that the smaller German Physiks speakers can’t quite muster. I won’t make the Spinal Tap reference here, but…  Winding up my listening sessions with the title track from David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, I’m drawn back into what makes these speakers so special; the way they can unravel a multifaceted recording is indeed special. This track combines a driving bass line, a highly discordant piano, and crunchy guitars with Bowie’s sultry signature voice. On a less than awesome set of speakers, it just goes flat, yet through the HRS 130s, I’m enveloped with a rich musical experience.

An Intriguing Presentation

Where most panels provide a more diffuse rendering of the sonic landscape that they render, the HRS 130, with the DDD driver is a different animal. More pronounced dynamically than a panel, they still don’t set you back in the chair like a great all-cone speaker does, yet they offer better integration between the woofer and DDD driver than most hybrid ESL designs I’ve lived with.

Bass response is solid, and the spec sheet claims response down to 29hz. While we didn’t have any test gear at our disposal, a run through a number of Pink Floyd tracks reinforces the notion that there is plenty of LF information available with the HRS 130. Even in Borden’s large (approx. 22 x 30 foot) room, I feel no need for a subwoofer when enjoying these speakers – even when playing Kruder & Dorfmeister at high volume.

With an 86db sensitivity rating, it’s probably best to have some power on tap, and the Merrill Audio Veritas amplifiers producing 400 watts per channel into 8 ohms keep these speakers well controlled.

Setup is easy. The wide dispersion of the DDD driver makes for easier placement than box or panel speakers. While Borden has his pair set up to perfection, I recall when using the Ultimates, if you can spend about 20 minutes with your German Physiks speakers, you will not only get the smoothest bass response, optimum placement will give you the most linear tonal response. I suspect the HRS 130 is similar in this respect. But there’s never been an easier speaker in memory that works well if you just throw it in the room and start playing music. This will be a boon to those who can’t or won’t put the speakers in the “perfect spot,” whatever the reason. To fine tune the speakers even further, there is a four position jumper on the back to adjust the output of the DDD driver; -2db, flat, +2 and +4db settings will easily compensate for too many stuffed chairs, or perhaps some hardwood floors. Another nice touch.

The German Physiks HRS 130 speakers are a triumph of audio engineering, offering a high level of sonic accuracy, with little distortion and the ability to generate a massive, immersive sound field that few speakers at any price can match. I highly suggest you audition a pair! (manufacturer) (US Importer)

New Art Amplifiers From Conrad-Johnson

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of conrad-johnson design inc. and to celebrate, we are introducing two new anniversary tube amplifiers – the ART150 and ART300.

These amplifiers employ the recently developed KT150 output tubes. A single pair of KT150s produces 150 Watts per channel in the ART150 stereo amplifier, while two pair produce 300 Watts in the ART300 mono-block.

In addition to utilizing the KT150 output tubes, the ART150 and ART300 feature new input and inverter stages using 6922s for voltage gain, main power supply reservoirs boasting a more than ten-fold increase in total capacitance compared to our earlier ART mono-blocks and ARTSA amplifiers, and a new regulator circuit for the input stage power supply.

The ART150 and ART300 boast dramatic new styling, yet clearly show their conrad-johnson heritage. The output tubes are showcased behind a clear window spanning the full width of the protective tube cage, while the input tubes are enshrouded in a clear protective block.

ART150s are expected to be available for delivery by mid-May, with ART300s to follow a few weeks after. As with earlier anniversary products, production will be limited to 250 units of the ART150 and 125 pairs of the ART300. Projected US suggested retail prices are $18,500 for the ART150 and $18,000 each for the ART300s.

These new models will replace the now discontinued ARTSA and ART mono-blocks.

Channel Islands PEQ 1 mk.2 Phonostage

Tracking through an old MoFi favorite, Yes’ Close to the Edge, via the nearly $60,000 combination of Grand Prix Monaco 2.0 turntable, TriPlanar tonearm and Lyra Etna cartridge, it’s hard to believe it’s all playing through a $995 phonostage.

The soundstage is massive, and the dynamics convincing, with a great deal of fine detail. The musical presentation here is hardly budget. After a long listening session, accompanying audiophile pals are all left stunned.

With so much excitement surrounding the mega phonostages, with five figure price tags, it’s easy for those of us in the press that have so many cool toys at our disposal that not everyone can drop twenty thousand dollars on a whim. It’s equally easy to think that you can’t enjoy vinyl without taking a second mortgage on their house, or deny your kids a college education.

Dusty Vawter, the man behind Channel Islands Audio has always built first rate gear at reasonable prices, but he’s outdone himself on the PEQ 1 mk.2. At just $995, this tiny phonostage offers performance way beyond what you might expect from the price tag, or the size of the enclosure. Talking to Vawter on the phone, it’s clear he’s pulled out all the stops on this one. “It’s super quiet,” he says in his typical understated fashion. Handpicking some very special op amps and meticulous attention to board layout is what gets the job done here.

Quality touches are everywhere, from the carefully machined chassis (quite a few steps up from what CI has done on past products) to the Cardas input and output jacks. The power supply features Nichicon Muse capacitors along with Vishay 2% polypropolyne caps in the signal path along with Takman metal film resistors. This is the kind of stuff you see under the hood of five-figure components.

All Business

What you don’t get is a huge chassis, an elaborate display, and the ability to change settings from the comfort of your listening chair. If you’re a music lover on a tight budget, you want performance, not goodies and the PEQ delivers. A bank of DIP switches on the back (CI even includes the tool to set them – nice touch) give you 100, 1000, 10k and 47k loading options, along with 100pf, 270pf and 370pf capacitance loading. Two more switches adjust gain for MM(45db) and MC(60db). Finally, a subsonic filter is also available.

Some of you might snipe about the limited loading options. You can only get so much for $995, and if you’re putting a system together, there are plenty of cartridges that will work within these parameters, so choose accordingly and you’ll be just fine. Or, for a nominal charge, CI can provide custom gain and loading. Call them for an up to the minute quote. In addition to the Gold Note cartridges on hand, the Lyra Delos, Grado Statement Platinum 2, and Ortofon Quintet Blue cartridges all turned in marvelous performances with the PEQ at it’s standard settings.

This little box is heavy – eight pounds to be exact. And that’s without a power supply. Utilizing a wall wart for now, Vawter says that the new, upgraded AC-15 MK111 dual mono power supply for just $299. Experience with past CI products has shown that their upgraded power supplies are always a great thing. Watch the TONE website for a follow up, as he’s promised to get us one as soon as they are available.

Moving to a more reasonable system, the PEQ is used with a Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 combination as well as my new personal favorite, the Technics SL-1200G with Gold Note Machiavelli cartridge. Fleshed out by a pair of Quad 2812 speakers and the PrimaLuna Dialogue HP integrated amplifier, the PEQ is still a stunner.

Nothing you Don’t Want

As with most solid-state components, the PEQ needs about two days to fully stabilize. It sounds great out of the box, but you will notice a slight relaxation to the mood after it’s been on for two days. Upper mids and highs all become much more homogenous in their presentation, and you’ll be wowed again.

The low noise floor makes the task of digging maximum information from marginal records a breeze. Of course, the PEQ does a lovely job with your favorite audiophile pressings, but on really dreadful, slightly compressed records, there is still a bevy of detail at your disposal. Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything? is a perfect example of this. Reaching for the MoFi version of this, the PEQ deftly reveals the multitrack wizardry here, and there’s even some bass! TR fans know what I’m saying.

Of course, the PEQ does not replace my Pass XS Phono. You get what you pay for with the big box in every aspect of musical reproduction. However, the Channel Islands PEQ goes about the business of amplifying low level analog signals effortlessly, and without drawing attention to itself; visually or audibly. Regardless of your musical taste, there is nothing it can’t handle with aplomb. When the listeners from the beginning of this article were asked to describe the PEQ in one word, they almost all unanimously said “balance.” The second word was “value.”

The level of musical finesse and enjoyment that the PEQ does offer is unmatched by anything I’ve yet experienced at anything near this price. Even if you were planning on spending close to $3k on a phonostage, give the PEQ a spin. If your love affair begins here, that’s a lot of extra money for a better cartridge or some more records. Channel Islands factory direct model (with 30-day return guarantee) assures maximum value. All CI products carry a 5-year warranty, and I can speak from personal experience, CI gear doesn’t break.

I can’t wait to hear this with the upgraded power supply, but even on the merit of the box stock PEQ 1 Mk.2 phonostage, we award it one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017. I’m keeping the review sample as our $1,000 – $3,000 reference.

The Channel Islands PEQ 1 Mk.2 Phonostage

MSRP: $995

Focal Sopra no.3

Many think of France as a center of art and culture, famous for their wine, cuisine, and style. Two hours from Paris, as the high-speed train goes, is the city of St-Etienne, where Focal is headquartered. In this high-tech mecca, lurks a company with both feet firmly planted in the latest technology and hands-on craftsmanship.

There are precious few companies of any kind in 2017, where you can see someone in a clean room producing pure beryllium domes for tweeters, and yet in another see another worker hand finishing a cabinet for final production. This harmony of new and traditional tech has brought us a wide range of loudspeakers culminating in the $220,000/pair Grande Utopia EM.

I have had the opportunity to listen to the Grande Utopia EM quite a few times in different locations around the world. Though I have rarely used the word “best” in my tenure at this magazine, I must say the best hi-fi system I’ve ever experienced is in the main sound room at Boulder Amplifiers. It consists of their amazing 3050 monoblock amplifiers delivering over 1500 watts per channel of pure class-A power through the Focal Grande Utopia EM speakers. Is it the world’s best hi-fi system? I can’t make that call, but it is the most musically engaging system I’ve yet heard.

Near the end of this review, a scheduled visit to Boulder’s new factory and sound room makes for a poignant reflection on the $19,995/pair of Sopra no. 3s you see here, in all of their orange glory. No snide comments about the color, my wife loves them. What proves illuminating is playing a handful of tracks on the Sopras after spending a few months with them, getting on a plane and listening to many of them on the Grande Utopias, then sitting back in my listening room the next day to repeat that playlist for comparison.

Dynamics aren’t everything, but if you don’t have them…

Granted auditory memory isn’t perfect, and my reference Pass XS300 amplifiers are not Boulder 3050s, but they are no slouches either, and the overall characteristics of both speakers are easily revealed. One of the most impressive aspects of the Grande Utopias is the way they respond to transients, reproducing drums with the necessary impact to sound believable, in a more realistic way than I’ve ever heard a cone speaker accomplish. A similar, yet slightly diminished effect was had when the Stella Utopias were here a few years ago. Playing AC/DCs “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” at relatively high volume, the solitary pounding on a single snare drum rings true, with all of the force, tone, and decay that the Grande Utopia offers.

Turning the volume down to reasonable level reveals the same dynamic immediacy, indicating a linear speaker. Where some mega speakers only sound great cranked to the max, the Sopra no.3s go all the way down to a whisper with ease, not losing the effortless they display at high volume. Thanks to a 92db/1-watt sensitivity rating this three-way system does not need a ton of power to play at high level, and it is also very tube friendly. Even my 20-watt per channel Nagra 300p works splendidly.

While the warmer tube amplifiers in my collection provide a slightly more friendly, if somewhat colored presentation, when connected to my reference Pass Labs XS300 monoblocks, they are capable of delivering a truly epic sonic experience. They aren’t quite Grande Utopias, but with a lot of power and control behind them, I am always amazed at how much of the flagship Focal sound is present here.

Midrange is another key

After discussing the Sopras design with the Focal engineering team and reading through the white paper accompanying them, it’s obvious that a tremendous amount of refinement has gone into this design, and in some areas, the Sopra range incorporates some new technologies that are not even in the Utopia range yet. At last year’s Munich High-End show, (at the Sopra launch) their engineers made it clear that they were trying to take what they’ve learned with Utopia further and make it more compact as well, without sacrificing the prodigious bass response their Utopia speakers are famous for.  They have succeeded on all counts.

Focal makes it a point in their white paper to discuss just how important midrange clarity and linearity both are to their overall sound. Utilizing “tuned mass design,” a concept derived from Renault Formula 1 in 2005 (Then deemed unfair by the FIA and subsequently banned) Focal can optimize damping of the critical midrange driver without sacrifices in either transient response or tonal coloration. This gives the entire Sopra range clarity and coherence that rivals the best ESL speakers.

The full, in-depth analysis is available here:

For those not so technically inclined, it only takes a brief listen to your favorite vocal track, or a bit of acoustic music to see that the Focal team has exceeded their goals. The delicate piano work on Keith Jarrett’s Shostakovich:24 Preludes and Fugues, Op.87 floats between these orange beauties, with a wonderfully accurate sense of tone and scale. Where some speakers capable of wide dynamic swings can overblow the image of acoustic instruments, the Sopras keep things in proper perspective. Consequently, when an overblown, studio recording with a colossal sonic landscape are played, such as K.D. Lang’s Ingenue, or Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, all of the grandeur is maintained.

Setup and placement

At 154 pounds each, you will probably need a bit of help getting the Sopra no.3s out of their cartons and out into your listening room. While not perfect sonically, I suggest if you have a carpeted floor, to slide them around a bit on their glass bases until you achieve the best placement you can. Then, screw down the integral spikes to optimally adjust speaker rake angle. Thanks to the wide dispersion of the Sopra tweeter, this is only a minor adjustment. For those who have more experience with the Utopia series, and are used to removing the protective grille on the tweeter, resist the urge to remove it on the Sopra series. The tweeter was voiced with the grille in place and sounds too forward sans grill. I was warned not to do this but gave it a whirl anyway. They were right. Leave the tweeter grilles on.

My listening room is 16 x 25 feet, and I made it a point to try the Sopra no.3s in both orientations; placing them on the long and short walls. Both offered satisfying performance, and your preference will determine what works best. Situated on the short wall about five feet from the back wall and about six feet apart, with slight toe-in made for slightly more powerful bass response, with the listening couch about 10-12 feet back.

I prefer a more immersive, nearfield experience, so moving the speakers to the long wall with the help of Audio Plus Services John Bevier was easy. Orienting the speakers now to about ten feet apart and the tweeters nine feet from the listening position with a lot more room on both sides, the presentation opens up tremendously. Zammuto’s last release, Anchor, now goes beyond the speaker boundaries, out to the side walls and on some tracks feels as if the room has been enlarged. Big fun.

The bottom and the top

Focal has been refining their beryllium tweeter for many years now, and with each iteration, it gets better; smoother and more extended without fatigue. Ten years ago, the beryllium tweeter was a bit much, but they’ve tamed it entirely. It now offers a stunning degree of resolution without any bite. Cymbals, strings, and percussion sound stunningly real, and the integration with the midrange and woofers is equally flawless. The level of coherence the Sopra no.3 offers is world class.

The lower part of the frequency response of the Sopra no.3 is listed as 33hz (-2db) with a useable frequency limit of 26hz. Listening to test tones proves this to be spot on, though the output is still strong in my room at 25hz, yet drops off quickly at 20hz. Seriously though, how much music do you have with 20hz tones, or do you have the room to render them anyway? I can’t imagine these speakers not having enough bass for anyone, and all of the bass heavy tracks I auditioned proved highly satisfying.

Oh yeah, they are beautiful

With so much talk about sonics, which the Sopra no.3s excel at, I forgot to mention the sheer physical quality of these speakers. All three of the Sopra speakers give no quarter to the flagship Grande Utopia EM; they all feature $200,000 speaker build and finish quality. The layers of orange applied to my review samples (as with every other pair of Sopras I’ve seen in dealers and shows around the world) looks like liquid glass. For those wanting something a bit more subdued than bright orange, white, black and red, along with one wood veneer finish; Dogato Walnut. All with the same high quality.

$20,000 is a lot of money to spend on a pair of loudspeakers. However, considering the level of performance offered for the price asked, it’s easy to award the Focal Sopra no. 3 one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017. Focal’s level of in-house build and engineering expertise allows them to produce a speaker with this level of quality and resolution that is unattainable by few other manufacturers for anywhere near this price. Even if you were planning on spending $50,000 on a pair of speakers, I would not count the Sopra no.3 out. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was at just how good these speakers are.

The Focal Sopra no.3
MSRP: $19,995 (factory) (NA Distributor)


Analog source                        Brinkmann Bardo w/Koetsu Jade Platinum
Digital source                         dCS Rossini DAC w/Rossini Clock
Preamplifier                          Pass Labs XS Pre
Phonostage                            Pass Labs XS Phono
Amplifiers                              Pass Labs XS 300 Monoblocks
Cable                                      Tellurium Q Silver Diamond

The Equi=Core 1200 and 1800 Power Conditioners

After the initial success I experienced with the Equi=Core 300 from Core Power Technologies, it only made sense to request review samples of their big-boy 1200 and 1800 (watt capacity) models. At $1,399 and $1,799 respectively these two not only feature fully balanced power, but feature four Hubbell duplex outlets. This should be more than enough capacity for even the biggest power amplifiers.

That’s where the torture test began, with the massive Pass Labs XS300 monoblocks, which draw over 1,000 watts each, continuously. I would not suggest the 1200 for this extreme duty, at brain damage volume levels, I could feel the transients flattening a bit, but the 1800 is more than up to the task, when used on separate 20 amp circuits for each amplifier. At $1,799, one for each channel is an easy choice to make and it works like a charm in the context of a nearly $90,000 pair of power amplifiers.

For nearly every other amplifier, you should be able to get by with one 1800. Keep in mind, I like to play music loud with big amplifiers. If you don’t have monster power amps, you might even be able to get away with the 1200. Check the total wattage drawn by your components and add a little extra for fudge factor when cranking it – that will tell you what model you need.

It’s worth noting that even at extreme volume via the XS300s, the Equi=Core 1800s do not limit dynamics whatsoever, and this is usually where a power conditioner craps out. Playing small scale music or female vocals is a cheap parlor trick, most gear shines with a light load like this, but you can play Slayer at nearly concert hall levels and the Equi=Core conditioners do not give out or give up. That’s pretty awesome. As with my Torus power conditioners that also use a variation on the large isolation transformer concept, the Equi=Core units will benefit from a higher quality power cord, so I suggest using a good one to feed them from the outlet to the power conditioner. After all, why scrimp now?

A certain percentage of audiophiles will ponder and/or argue that your power comes a zillion miles from where it’s generated to your house, so why would a bit more wire make a difference? But it does. More than one PLC manufacturer has told me that they look at the power in the line as this giant river that you tap into and the power cord and PLC is the first line to your components. Clean power helps your components deliver everything that you paid for, because any noise and grunge on the power line is modulated into your component’s power supply and amplified thusly. But we can all argue about that on your favorite internet forum.

The 1200 proves perfect for a combination of conrad-johnson GAT 2s2 preamplifier, c-j MV60SE power amplifier, Gryphon Kalliope DAC and a pair of Quad 2812 ESLs and just like the other two Equi=Core power conditioners, offers the same effect. Background noise is nearly eliminated and much like every other vacuum tube component plugged in to the Equi=Core units, they seem to respond even more dramatically than solid-state components. I’ve noticed the same effect when plugging tube components into my Running Springs, Torus, and IsoTek conditioners. Bottom line, the Equi=Core will improve the sound of anything you plug in, but it’s super sweet with tube gear!

Cuing up some high resolution digital files of Keith Jarrett’s legendary The Koln Concert brings it home immediately. Not only is there considerably less background noise than before, Jarrett’s versatile and complex style comes through better than before installing the Equi=Core 1200. As he runs up and down the keyboard, the Bosendorfer’s resonance comes through more clearly, with more of a three dimensional effect, offering a higher level of tonal contrast than before. It only takes a few minutes of listening, and then plugging straight back into the power line to hear the soundstage shrink dramatically, with a veil now added to the performance.

The sparsely arranged 1969 demo of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Marrakesh Express” from the CSN Demos offer the same thing to Graham Nash’s vocal track. With barely any instruments added at this stage, the realism of his voice through the Quads sounds almost larger than life; it’s sheer beauty.

Sonically, the 1200 and 1800 are identical, the larger unit just has a larger capacity, and by that I mean they both do no harm to the musical signal and add no tonal shift of their own. I could wax poetic about this track and that, but a power product either does what it is supposed to or it doesn’t. The Equi=Core 1200 and 1800 conditioners deliver the goods and offer outstanding value for the price asked. They are all made by hand in the Core Power factory in Colorado, and have a 30 day return policy, should you decide for whatever reason these are not the droids you want. I highly doubt that you’d send it back after you experience it, so there is nothing to lose. And for those seeking additional value, they’ve got an awfully good “premium” power cord that can be bundled for only $99. The Shunyata Venom used to be my budget go to power cord, but this one easily takes it’s place.

Even if you think you have “clean power,” you’ll be surprised at what one of these do for the overall sound quality of your system. It’s about a 10-minute demo. Plug it in, listen to your three favorite tracks, then take it out and repeat. This is an easy one, folks. So what are you waiting for? Give them a call, they love to chat with their customers.

The Equi=Core 1200 and 1800 power conditioners

$1,399 and $1,799


Analog source                        Grand Prix Monaco 2.0 table, TriPlanar, Lyra Etna

Digital source                         Gryphon Kalliope DAC

Preamp                                  Pass XS Pre

Phono preamp                      Pass XS Phono

Amplifier                                Pass XS 300 monoblocks, Pass Aleph monoblocks, Audio Research VT80, PrimaLuna DiaLogue HP integrated, Esoteric F-07 integrated, C-J MV60SE

Speakers                                Quad 2812, Focal Sopra no.3, GamuT RS5i

Cable                                      Cardas Clear