Affordable, High Performance Power Conditioning!

A lot of power products have come through the door here over the years, and most of them have been escorted right out the door quickly. Way too many power conditioners shave transient edges off with the noise, unable to differentiate, or they get wacky with the tonal balance, or both.

Most of the few truly exceptional power conditioners I’ve had the pleasure of using are damn expensive and really heavy. As was my experience with the Running Springs and IsoTek products that I love and used for a number of years (and still do) the real benefit of their technology didn’t happen until you purchased their biggest, and baddest model with major current capacity. This is all awesome if you are plugging in a pair of big power amplifiers or a major system, but what if you have a small system, or just want to clean up a solitary component?

With more turntables and phono preamplifiers arriving for review, the need for more outlets constantly arises. Call me wacky, suspicious, or old fashioned, (just don’t call me Shirley) but I like to keep low level analog components and digital components on separate AC power circuits, so I run my linestage, and DAC on one circuit, and the two phonostages, along with all the turntables on separate 15 amp circuits. I don’t know, I sleep better at night. However, with analog, you can always do better, get more resolution, and drop the noise floor further, so the quest for better power conditioning continues.

The Equi-Core 300, from Core Power Technologies was put to an immediate trial by fire, with new phonostages from Audio Research, McIntosh and Conrad-Johnson at the ready. The 300 in the name represents the maximum number of watts that said conditioner can handle, so this means preamp, DAC or maybe a low powered SET. CPT takes an interesting approach, hardwiring their own power cords into each end of the Equi=Core 300. So much for the power cord argument, you take what they give you; fortunately, it works fantastic. $799 buys you 2.5 feet, $849 gets you 5.5 feet, and the $899 model arrives with 8.5 feet of power cord. The review sample was a 5.5 foot model, and the nly complaint is that the longer model would have provided more flexibility. Unless your component is directly in front of an outlet, consider the 8.5 foot model. For a $100 increase over the best model, the extra length will probably serve you better in the long run.

Minutiae aside, this $849 power conditioner is outstanding. It does its job perfectly and quietly, without fuss. Many internet pundits like to wax poetic about how the heavens part with so and so’s power products. Good for them. The Equi=Core 300 is like a great physician – it does no harm. This is a deceptively simple task, so don’t take it lightly.

Paragraphs could be written describing various musical passages that chances are you either haven’t heard, or don’t want to hear again, so I’ll cut to the chase. Plugging the Equi=Core 300 the  Audio Research REF 3 Phono, Conrad-Johnson TEA1 s2 and McIntosh MP1100 phonostages delivered the same result. The noise floor dropped significantly, and these are all very quiet phonostages to begin with, causing an increase in dynamics. Everything sounds much more lively with the Equi=Core 300 in place. Nothing was changed tonally, and that’s a great thing for this reviewer. Everything just got quieter and cleaner sounding. Removing the unit after a  few hours of concentrated listening made me clamor to reinstall it.

Similar results were achieved with the other preamplifiers on hand for evaluation, and if you know your combined output is pretty close to 300 watts, I’d suggest a high quality power strip from Naim, Wireworld or IsoTek to make for a multiple outlet power distribution system. WireWorld and IsoTek provide excellent, reasonably priced products for this task, and total cost for conditioner and power strip still comes in way below what you’d expect to spend on a premium power cord. Another fantastic transformation was the already fantastic Nagra 300p tube amplifier. While Nagra does not list a spec for power consumed, it only produces 20 watts per channel, so it was worth investigating.

Again, the Equi=Core 300 comes through brilliantly, so digging out an old pair of lovely sounding but notoriously noisy Bottlehead 2A3 SET’s make for an incredible experience via this little power conditioner. I would suggest the Equi=Core 300 to anyone with an SET amplifier. Get two if you need one for each channel. You won’t be sorry. The beguiling nature of the SET really comes through with a dropped noise floor and the Bottleheads sound more like Wavac amps with the addition of the Equi=Core 300.

The Equi=Core 300 does an equally good job with solid-state gear, provided you stay within the load requirements. Though it probably defeats the compact purpose, our Naim MuSo QB and B&W Zeppelin responded incredibly well to some line conditioning and their class D amplifiers sounded way less grainy, treated to clean power. A few pieces of vintage gear as well as a couple of DACs on hand also proved highly compatible with the Equi=Core 300 too. Oddly enough, and we’ve had the same results with every great line conditioner we’ve used, the effect of clean power always seems to be slightly more apparent with tube gear than solid state.

The Equi=Core 300 power conditioner is one of the most unobtrusive power conditioners I’ve had the pleasure to use – at any price. I bought the review sample, and will probably buy another. It’s that good. We have a review in the works of one of their larger models, so we’ll keep you posted. For inquiring minds that need to know, these are designed and hand built in CPT’s Colorado factory and the pride of assembly shows. The Equi=Core 300 is equally well executed visually as it is electronically.

It would be a crime not to give this little box one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017. You need to hear (or perhaps more precisely, not hear) what it can do for your hifi system. In an age where power cords cost more than used BMW’s, this is a refreshing approach indeed.

The Equi=Core 300 Power Conditioner

$799-$899 (depending on length of power cord)

Furutech f-TP615 AC Power Filter/Distributor and Alpha PS-950 Power Cords

Clean power is always at a premium in a hi-fi system, and Furutech is one of the leaders in the field. Its f-TP615 works overtime in my system, where I never seem to have enough outlets. Performing in concert with Furutech’s top PowerFlux power cords, the f-TP615 provides an excellent way to keep gear supplied with the high-quality power it requires to be its best.

If you are a student of the “last wire” school of thought, and claim that the journey of power from the generating station to your system travels through junk wire—and that adding five feet of premium wire and connectors won’t change things—I won’t try to convert you. However, if you believe, like me, that AC power in the wall is more like a gigantic well, full of murky water into which one taps to power a system, read on. Remember, your hi-fi system essentially modulates the AC power coming into the box with audio signals that go to your speakers. The cleaner the source, the cleaner the result.

While I have tried the f-TP615 in several different systems, all yielding excellent results, it best proves its mettle supplying power to my digital front end, the four-box dCS Paganini stack.

Digital Enhancement

Swapping all four stock power cords with PowerFlux and f-TP615 instantly improves the dCS’ performance in two areas: Lowering the noise floor and removing hash/grain from the presentation.  All too often, we mistake the harshness of digital playback for grunge in the AC line.

Spinning David Byrne’s live performance with Caetano Veloso at Carnegie Hall illustrates the aforementioned effects. The sparse yet dynamic recording, featuring the two artists playing acoustic guitar, sounds fine when utilizing stock cords. But a quick switch to the Furutech components reveals more air around the guitar strings, a richer tone, and more body to the audience’s applause. It doesn’t hurt to have the Sonus Faber Aida speakers helping convey the very nuances the Furutech products bring to the dance.

Extended listening makes it easy to get used to the newfound liquidity, and it only takes a quick exchange back to the original setup to hear the soundstage collapse on itself. Everything sounds smaller, less focused, and as if I’ve moved my system to a smaller room.

Next Step, Analog

Anxious from noticing the improvements to the digital side of my system, I was curious to see how my analog front end would fare. Combining the distributor and cords with the ARC REF Phono 2SE, Simaudio 810LP, and Pass Labs XP-25 phonostages that supply my four turntables with amplification, I witness the same effect.

Interestingly, the Furutech components net a more pronounced impact on vacuum-tube gear, wiping away more “veil” than with the digital components at my disposal. Considering the miniscule signal voltages at work, this really is money well spent. Auditioning the latest release from Music Matters, Joe Henderson’s In and Out, cymbals spring to life with more vigor than before. There’s also a definite increase in bass texture.

Such improvements in analog resolution also mean that it’s easier to hear the positives of the Furutech DeMag/DeStat combination—two essential accessories in my analog tool kit.

In the Box

The f-TP615 is built to Formula One car standards. All parts and conductors are treated with Furutech’s Alpha cryogenic and demagnetizing process.  The outlets and receptacles are industrial works of art, which is why many other manufacturers turn to Furutech for plugs and receptacles. Twelve-gauge Alpha -22 wire is used throughout, and the aluminum chassis is covered in a proprietary coating, then combined with ceramic and nano-carbon damping spikes. Each detail ensures the power flowing to your components is as pure as possible. And it all works brilliantly.

While these Furutech designs qualify as premium power products, they will not turn a $500 CD player into a dCS stack. Exhaustive listening comparisons reveal a combination of the f-TP615s and PowerFlux power cords offers the greatest gains in the lowest level of a system’s resolution. Used in concert with top-shelf electronics, they allow components to attain maximum performance. In this context, I enthusiastically recommend the Furutech f-TP615 and array of PowerFlux power cords.

Furutech f-TP615 Power Distributor

MSRP:  $1,650

Alpha PS-950-18 Power Cords

MSRP:  $1,800 ea. (1.8m length)