POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 14
Eclipse Power Purifier
as reviewed by Dave Clark
Photographs and image processing by Dave Clark
Less is More
I have always preferred the adage that "the simpler, the better" in how I approach much in my life. Keep it simple and you have much less of a chance to muck-it-up by doing more than one needs to in trying to accomplish that what is in all reality something rather simple! Geesh, make it happen, do it right, and get on with it! I use this principle in my daily approach to teaching the spirited 10-11 year olds at my school as well as in my daily life as Editor of PFO. But neither is easy to do when one has to deal with a multitude of personalities reflecting unique wants and needs that require constant massaging to make everyone happy. Even so, I have found that if one strives to attune them self to the mantra "keep it simple stupid" or to make it even simpler, KISS, then life moves along at a nice and steady clip with considerably less stress and panic.
This has pretty much comprised my experience with most things in audio as well—that being that the simpler the execution of the design, the better it sounded, or at least seemed to sound. Less is more. Though, like everything else in life, there are always exceptions to the rule. More is more.
Components from 47 Labs and Final Labs defy all logic when one compares them to complex designs from their competitors—yes the Cary 306-200 CD player is rather complex and sounds very musical to these ears, but the DAC from 47 Labs is oh, so simple and sounds very musical too. But too often, products with overly complex designs—circuits designed to address another circuit and so on—sounded similar to every other like-product that has come through my system. Not that they sounded ho-hum, but it was simply more an issue of there being more of a difference than one being simply better. "Gee, you did all that and it still doesn't really sound any better than this one that has a fraction of the parts?" The Sutherland PhD phono stage is somewhat simple and sounds really good too, but so did the considerably more complex Aesthetix Rhea. On the other hand I will admit to owning one of the more complex audio systems in regards to tweaks and such—and have spent far too many an hour worrying if this sounds better than that, and by how much, and heck, am I an audio-weenie or what?! But yes, the additions have made it sound better even though I have heard many a system that is far simpler than mine sound really good as well. Maybe it is the sign of Gemini—the twins, or the fear that I am slowly going bi-polar. Oh, well, at least try to keep it as simple as one can without mucking it up.
Now, this does not suggest that just anything goes. Heck, we if kept everything as simple as possible we would all be eating boiled beef and white bread, and living a dull and droll life ála some comical horror film of conservative right-wing suburbia where free thought and the expression there of, have to follow the party or religious lines that the populace so dearly feels they need to follow—wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Less is less. In audio terms this would mean to slap some parts together via the most rudimentary design and see what happens—everything in a black box, same circuit, and same execution, nothing different—follow the populace party line. But while this may work (and no doubt is exactly how some products do come about (oh so briefly), it is rarely the ideal either for the short term or the long run. No, I still find that the key to it all is the actual thought and execution; that is what really matters most. Think it through by deciding what it will take to make it work best, but keep it as simple as possible, add where it is important, but don't over do it. Less is more, but too little may not be enough. The key revolves around removing anything that really does not make that much of a difference—let alone an improvement. Yes, more often than not, the omission is usually the better option—KISS. Less is more.
So where is this all leading, products from Jerry Ramsey at Audio Magic. Audio Magic is based around simple, well thought out products that follow the KISS mantra. Jerry adds nothing extra—that is, if it does not really add to the product or to your listening pleasure you'll find it in the dumpster out back. Less is more. All of Jerry's products are hand made with care and attention to detail—nothing is taken for granted. Simple stuff, really simple stuff (see the review of the Stealth power line conditioner and Clairvoyant 4D cables). As such, you hear the purity and transparency that Audio Magic has built their reputation on—you hear the music, nothing more.
Case in point—the Eclipse AC power line conditioner—a simple execution of what needs to be done to the AC without mucking it up. That is, clean it up by getting rid of stuff that mucks up the sound, and in the end, "Do no harm." Based on a well thought-out idea of what AC "cleansing" is all about—as witnessed in the earlier Stealths and Matrix's—the Eclipse is not so much an extension of these earlier products, but more an evolution. Jerry took what worked in these rather simple yet very effective boxes and morphed it into the monster the Eclipse presents itself to be—a full-case sized, dual "channel" (the unit requires two AC cords, one for each "channel") AC power conditioner that has few peers sonically.
But what should an AC power line filter do exactly? Clean-up the AC—gee I knew that one! So there is all kinds of crap and noise on the AC grid from who knows who doing what with what—including yours truly. I know that all the computers, televisions, microwaves, digital sources, hospitals, factories, etc, have to wreck havoc with the AC line dumping all sorts of high frequency hash, dirt, or crap into the grid. So what exactly needs to be cleaned and what can pass unnoticed to the audio-weenie listener I have now become? That is, what's the true story here? The one that really matters here in my house?
These questions are hard to answer and unfortunately depending on the manufacturer, what their product does is what they suggest needs to be fixed. Funny how that works. Visit the PS Audio site and there is a plethora of information that is succinct and quite all encompassing—but it supports the PS Audio products and not so well those of competitors. No problem with that, Paul is an honest guy who knows his stuff. But I find just about the same everywhere I go. Which means it all falls into what works for you and leave it at that. I mean if it is making great music in your house and in a way that is more favorable than another product you are comparing it to, then it must being something right. At least to something that is keeping us happy!
Jerry is rather secretive about what he is doing inside the Eclipse and his site does not really spill the beans either. All I can say is that the unit has considerably more filtration than the lesser units (7 types of purification for each circuit) with three totally isolated circuits; 2 duplex's for digital that are specially designed for digital components, 2 duplex's that are designed for low level components, and 2 duplex's that are designed for high-level/high current components—all without a hint of current limiting. The Eclipse is wired throughout with ultra high purity silver wire. In addition the unit is cryogenically treated (twice I am told) and receives a special and highly unique Molecular Stabilization Treatment. Molecular Stabilization Treatment!!? Ahh, you're trying to sell us some snake oil here? Well actually no, but I am sure threr are those whoe would argue that is doesn't make a difference because YOU CAN'T MEASURE IT! Yeah, well you can't measure love either. Jerry reports that this MST stuff is legit and is done by a company that services the defense sector. The treatment is claimed to correct on the molecular level errors in the material's structure, meaning that whatever is treated is all the better after the fact. Jerry does this to all his products (to varying degrees of intensity) and suggests that the differences (for the better) are easily discernable to anyone, including the skeptic. He has done listening tests with local audiophiles who all found the treated units to be better than the non-treated units. Night and day different—better different. Not just marginally better, but dramatically so in terms of musicality (something like at a magnitude of 50 to 80% improvement over non-treated products). So put that in yer pipe and smoke it! The Eclipse also has two 20 amp breakers and retails for a hefty retail of $3800. It does come with two of his Xstream silver power cords, but I found the JPS Kaptovators more to my liking—besides the fact that the Kaptovator is like ten times the price of the Xstream, they imparted more weight and heft to the music. Being much more dimensional and less silvery, the Kaptovators add a nice flavoring to the music. In this case more is more.
I am using the Eclipse to feed AC to the preamp (high-level), tuner, turntable, etc (low-level), and CD and SACD player (digital). The AC cords used are Elrod EPS2 Signatures unless noted in the system heading to the left. I did find the unit not in need on Shakti Stones, though an Online placed here and there on various AC cords does help with respect to ambiance and resolution. Less noise equals more music, or less is more. Unfortunately, the Claytons still sound better directly into the wall (though now with JPS Aluminata AC cords as opposed to the Kaptovators) than into the Eclipse. If you don't ask why, than I won't attempt to explain why.
So what do I get with the Eclipse in the system? (Try to keep in mind that this is a system I am listening to—not a single piece of whatever, but a chain of things making music the best it can.) Okay, you get space. Big space. Really, really, big, big space. Black and silent really big space. Vast emptiness that is filled with stuff you want and need—music and information. Space within the space (or make that space between or within the music, note, instruments, performers) that is empty of noise, yet rich in ambiance. Air, presence, delineation of space, 3D palpability beyond what I have ever heard prior with any other PLC. An expansive soundstage that expands aurally in all directions (when it is on the disc/LP—this is not an artificial trick of the hand effect). Okay, I think you get it. The Eclipse does everything you want in space (soundfield) really, really, really well. Much better than the other more complex PLCs I have heard to date.
Other PLCs you ask? Yes, the Eclipse is perhaps not as relaxed and smooth as the World Power Power Wing (a less is more product, BTW), but has more incisiveness and excitement. More listen to THIS, than listen to this…. More of all the above, though music with it is a bit less suave and laid-back—both of which are the Power Wing's strengths. Not that the Eclipse is noisy or etched, it just has more energy. More verve. The Power Wing has more grace and that sense of old-world beauty or charm.
With respect to the PS Audio P300 (more is more), the Eclipse is considerably more open resulting in less of the solidity that the PS Audio (and the Equi=Tech for that matter) bring to the table. I am speaking of solidity in terms of what one would imagine with very large and massive boulder sitting in front of you. Music from the PS and Equi=Tech units have this massive, dense, solid quality that is quite impressive. Big and bold. The music possesses that massive/dense quality when it should open up and move. It sounds heavy and weighted—too heavy and too leaden (lacking space and air) for this listener. I think that most transformer based PLCs lean too far with this quality of density (at least the ones I have heard) and that is not the dominating quality I want in my music. Light and fast is what we are after and the Eclipse is as fast and light as Ali was in his prime—float like a butterfly and sting like a bee! Power, speed… wham! By the way, when I say "light" I do not mean "light-weight" in that the Eclipse is bass shy or tilted upward sonically. No, I mean that the music has this presence that while the bass is as deep and powerful with startling weight and heft and the mids are full, rich, and warm (assuming your components do that that is!), it moves quickly with speed and grace reflective of the enormous space and atmosphere being projected in the room.
On the other hand, via transformer based PLCs, instead of hearing individual instruments occupying their own atmospheric space, they come across as one big dense object—slow and ponderous (not Ali, think Sumo wrestlers). Yes, one can listen into this density and pick out the performers, but with the Eclipse the presentation is filled with space and air. Each instrument/performer occupies their own space separate, but still connected via the room or musical envelope. This may best be described as studying a conglomerate rock. Being made up of individual and distinct parts, one can see them through careful examination. Yes, you can see the pieces that make up the conglomerate though one fails to appreciate their entirety or individuality due to the sheer density of the rock. Imagine breaking the conglomerate down into its separate pieces while it floats in dark black vacuum. As one lights the floating conglomerate from every direction, each piece separates from the others, leaving just enough space between them so one does not loose the sense of the original conglomerate. Against this vast emptiness, one gains an appreciation for what constitutes the conglomerate or whole. Each piece takes on a new level of delineation from the whole—a separate uniqueness that allows one to see what is what. You can see the space between the pieces along with the delineation of detail and presence of the individual pieces, while maintaining the gestalt of the original. The Eclipse is all that and a bag of chips.
Now this could suggest, and maybe does, that the Eclipse is too sterile and empty. Empty of that musical uhh! that makes music sound like, well music and not background noise. Not so. The Eclipse has that ethereal musical presence where transparency and neutrality are kept in their place. Yes, it is all about speed and pace, timing and rhythm—where the Eclipse does the fast cha-cha-cha as opposed to another's slow waltz. And yes, the treble is clean without a hint of edge or harshness. It is clean and extended, airy and pure—what you hear is what is on the recording—if it sounds bright and hard, then you have other issues to deal with. The Eclipse adds nothing to music nor seems to take anything away that I can hear, meaning it as good at getting out of the way as I have experienced so far. The newest Lambchop releases Aw, Come On and No, You Come On, as heard with the Eclipse are wide open and alive. Ambiance, speed, and clarity are presented all in spades. Kurt and friends join you in the room to perform some of their best twisted R&B country jazz mangled rock yet. These releases are rather unique in that not only do they sound killer, the music is pretty fantastic as well.
Bass has that wallop and slam with all the texture and presence that bass should have—dynamics, texture, speed, and clarity. Yeah, and lots of atmosphere where you have the feeling of bass energy in the room—that presence of space and power. Try Eno's Drop release or the Eye from Yello. Either release will energize your room with enough tactile driving and pulsating bass notes that even Sly and & Robbie would be smiling. The Drop has that Eno atmospheric ambiance with a bottom end rivaled only by that of Jennifer Lopez. Yes, the Eclipse passes on all the stuff that the bass, no make that music, should have, but that is so often lacking when too much stuff is going on. Remember the idea of keeping it simple? The Eclipse lets the music flow without a hint of strain or restraint. I am assuming that from what I am hearing there is not current limiting as music is almost energized or turbocharged when components are plugged into the Eclipse. Meaning Jerry has kept it simple—yet effective—without anything added to get in the way.
But this all makes me wonder again; what is a power conditioner supposed to do? I mean they are all filtering and treating the AC, yet the audible effects are so different. I mean what the heck is going here? How does the Eclipse create such an atmospheric soundfield as opposed to one that is more dense and massive via the PS Audio or Equi=Tech? What's the deal? After all it is just a bunch of electrons so how can running a component off one versus the other result in such a shift musically? Obviously, they are filtering or addressing different areas of AC noise and whatnot, meaning that some are doing things to the AC that either are not an issue here or that I really do not care for what they are doing at all. Perhaps the Eclipse is the lesser of the bunch, meaning less is more. Heck if I know, but I heard what I heard and the differences are quite remarkable.
Downsides? Well the Eclipse would hardly be considered inexpensive. It does not feature a fancy box that weighs a ton—meaning with really heavy cords it can be moved about a bit against its (and your) will. Try some Vibrapods to keep it in place. It may make your system sound too good causing you to loose sleep and go broke buying too much music. It may make some music sound bad, well a lot already does, but it doesn't color the music or make it all pretty and nice like some other units do. The Eclipse is tonally neutral and only makes your components sound better (or worse perhaps, if what you are using is coloring the AC in some way to make it seem better)—but not necessarily your music. That is, it will make really good recordings sound really, really good and even so-so recordings will sound better. But if you bought some crappy music, sorry it's still going to be crappy music. It only has 10 sockets so if you have more components than that, you need to downsize. It does require two AC cords, so if you want the best, you will need to budget some extra money for that as well. Along with that, because it is so good at what it does, you will clearly hear differences among the better cords out there, darn, more things to buy, and more listening to music to decide which ones!
The Eclipse does require substantial break-in, burn-in, warm-up, settling-in, settling-down, getting comfortable, feeling welcomed, or whatever you want to call it before you are going to hear it at its best. Unfortunately, the rumor has it that a good 500 on up to 1000 hours of decent current draw to get it where everything is clicking. That is serious current draw—like on a space heater or something of the like. I was fortunate to get one that Jerry had stressed for a few weeks prior, but even so, it did seem to improve over the next few weeks. So be patient. If you hear that silvery presence or too much energy, well there is apparently a fair amount of silver wire inside and silver wire does like to see some time on it before ones gets to where it doesn't sound silvery. At least that is my experience—YMMV.
I ended up buying the unit as it just did so many thing right in my system. It is simple and very effective. Whether this approach is universal, well that's is up for the market to decide. I do find the Eclipse to be a real winner. Even at the price of admission, when compared to other units in the same class, it is a good buy. Is it the PLC for you? Well that is the fun with AC. See what works for me may or may not work for you—different providers, different locations, different differences. Heck, different systems, different biases, different wants and needs, etc.. You have to try one and decide. Sorry, but like everything else in life, you have to make the call. I can only report on what it did here and what I heard, so if it works for you, be happy. Dave Clark
Eclipse Power Purifier