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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 7
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equi=tech

ET1.5Q balanced power AC unit

as reviewed by Danny Kaey, Dave Clark, and Ed Morwaski

 

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DANNY KAEY'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer McCullough and matching subs.

ELECTRONICS
Cary Audio CAD808/Rocket 88 amplifier and SLP88 preamplifier.

SOURCES
Cary Audio 308T CD player.

CABLES
Analysis Plus interconnect and speaker cables.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)It was Ivor Tiefenbrun of Linn who made it evident that if the sound emanating from your source is corrupted, no amount of engineering can return the missing information back into the audio signal. One might argue that it is necessary to extend that premise one step further, to the electricity running your system, the implication being that if your electrical system isn’t running at its best, your source won’t have the proper electrical foundation to run properly.

Thus, when Positive Feedback contacted me about reviewing a product by Equi=tech, a respected manufacturer of power line conditioners, I was very interested. The top of their product line, the Model Q, arrived a couple of days later. The first job was to get the unit to my house, which turned out to be quite the workout, as the ET1.5Q weighs seventy pounds! I was immediately drawn by the build quality of this product—clean cut, with a beautifully machined solid aluminum faceplate, two cool blue LEDs, and a voltage meter. I proceeded to plug all of my electronics into the ET2Q, turn the power on, and watch those way-cool LEDs light up.

The brochure and website say that you will hear: "… a wider soundstage with more precise stereo imaging, more detailed instrument and vocal textures, smoother highs, a midrange that doesn’t blare and a deeper, more well defined low end than you have ever before heard from your loudspeakers." To find out whether this was true, I armed myself with my usual test CDs and gave the thing a listen. I could immediately hear a noticeable improvement! Like a little kid in a candy store, I grasped for words to describe this newfound level of bliss. Imaging, resolution, dynamics were all taken to new levels. I never thought that such a product would have such a profound impact! Going through my fab-five collection of bass demo CDs, I couldn’t help but notice that the bass was tighter, more controlled, and more forceful. Likewise, the air on top opened up more—not like, say, turning up the treble a notch or two, but a natural extension of what was already there. The midrange was improved as well, with a greater sense of that "being there" feeling. Dean Martin took on life. It may be because the electrical system in my house is ancient, but I noticed an immense difference with the Equi=Tech unit plugged into the chain.

This is one of those rare components (IS it a component?) that really works like magic. If you decide to purchase this fine piece of equipment, I can safely say that what you will hear is indeed what their promotional material describes. Danny Kaey

 

 

 

DAVE CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons (with the Hi-Vi Isodynamic Planar tweeters and series crossovers).

ELECTRONICS
Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amplifiers. E.A.R. 834P phono stage. Blue Circle BC3000 preamplifier w/Tunsgram tubes and BCG3.1 power supply.

SOURCES
Cary 306/200 CD player or Sony 777ES SACD/CD player. Transrotor 25/25/60 Leonardo turntable with a Clearaudio Virtuoso wood MM cartridge. Sony RCD-W1 and Magnum Dynalab MD-90 tuner. Sennheiser HD540 headphones and Audio Alchemy headphone amplifier.

CABLES
JPS Superconductor+, Audio Magic Clairvoyant, or Silver Sonic Revelation interconnects, and JPS NC or Audio Magic Clairvoyant speaker cables. Sahuaro Slipstream XP (digital), Elrod EPS2 (preamp), Blue Circle BC63 (phonostage), and JPS Kaptovator AC cables (amps and Stealths).

ACCESSORIES
Two Audio Magic Stealth Power Purifiers (one for analog, except BC3000 preamp, and a Digital unit for the digital sources), Blue Circle BC86 Noise Hound (amplifier circuit) and Audio Prism QuietLines (throughout the house). Dedicated 20 (amps) and 15 (everything else) AC circuits. Tons of Shakti Stones and On-Lines and Original Cable Jackets (frig's AC and on DSL phone line). Various Marigo VTS Dots used extensively throughout the system and room (window behind listening seat). Echo Buster acoustical treatments and Shakti Hallographs. BDR cones and board, Blue Circle Cones, DH Jumbo cones, Vibrapods, Mondo racks and stands, and Townshend Audio 2D (speakers) and 3D Seismic Sinks (CD player and preamp). Walker Audio Ultimate High Definition Links. Various hard woods placed here and there along with numerous Peter Belt treatments.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)Equi=Tech was one of the earliest champions of balanced power for AC applications. They have been at it far longer than anyone else, so have many years of perfecting this technology. I leave you the task of visiting their site to read the material they have published on the topic. Be prepared to spend a few hours, as the information is quite exhaustive! I have never auditioned one of their products in my system, though I have some experience with an earlier model, as I have a friend who uses one in his home theater setup. While the older model does a yeoman’s job of cleaning up the audio and video, it produces a hum that is audible from across the room, courtesy of the unit’s massive transformer. I therefore approached the 1.5Q with a bit of trepidation, figuring all I needed was to remove noise in the AC line only to add a butt load more via the component’s audible operation. Not to worry. The 1.5Q (by the way, the "Q" designates Equi-Tech’s best transformer) is dead quiet, is very stable, and can supply gobs of current as quickly as it is needed.

Placing the unit on an amplifier stand (it weighs a hefty 55lbs) and substituting it for the way-tweakier Audio Magic Stealth, I discovered that not all well-designed components are universal. While the 1.5Q worked fine with my digital sources, my Blue Circle BC3000 preamp tripped the unit’s breaker as soon as the power switch was flipped. No doubt the BC3000, which has AC filtration as an integral part of its power supply design, is doing something that the 1.5Q found to be a bit too odd. This is more of an issue with the BC3000, not the 1.5Q, but "Buyer Beware." If your components contain their own AC filtration, the 1.5Q may not work.

With the preamp out of the loop, I limited myself to comparing the 1.5Q to the Stealth in feeding AC to the Cary 306/200, the Sony 777ES, the Magnum Dynalab tuner, and my analog rig. This was not really the best approach, as I wanted to try it with the entire system, but it did show that both Equi=Tech and Audio Magic are winners despite the fact that they address AC matters from two different directions. The Audio Magic presents music with a bit more excitement and vividness than the more "sedate" 1.5Q. When I say "sedate," I am not inferring that it sounded boring or bland, just that there was less visceral snap. An analogy I have used before, and that fits here, is that the Audio Magic renders music like a ride in a Porsche while the 1.5Q is a ride in a Mercedes sedan. Both get you there, just in different ways. As it happens, my system benefits from the added excitement. Another may not. Both units allowed the music to flow, and to fill the room with far greater involvement than getting AC direct from the wall.

What the 1.5Q did was positive and intoxicating. Music had considerably less "noise" (grain, grit, etc.). The treble was clean and extended, the mids warm and rich, with a nice touch of "you-are-there-ness." Bass was considerably more solid and palpable, with greater extension and control. Images stood out from a deeper, wider, and "blacker" background. The improvement was sufficient to make the 1.5Q a nice addition, but compared to the Stealth it was a bit too relaxed. This is mostly a matter of taste, so don’t let my opinion deter you from auditioning the 1.5Q. AC components can be an enigma. What works here may not work there, and even if it does, the results could be worlds apart. Different grids, different issues.

How does the 1.5Q stack up to my the PS Audio 300 unit I used to own? Well, while they both offer balanced power along with the 300's added plus of regenerating the AC, I would day both offer a very similar sonic take when cleaning up the grunge on the grid. Except the 1.5Q generates no heat, does not cause my tube gear to stress out, nor makes any transformers motor boat, etc. I would say the 1.5Q does what the 300 did with no trade-offs.

After listening to my audio system with the 1.5Q, I looked at the aging API 115 Power Wedge used in my home theater rig and a light went on! When I bought the API 115 about fifteen years ago, it was the ticket, and even now is way better than getting AC from the wall. The API has served me well, at least until the 1.5Q came onto the scene. The 1.5Q is a whole ‘nother beast, and it made the API sound rather dated. Plugging my Hitachi Cinema Vision 32-inch television, Toshiba SD3109 DVD player, and Adcom GFA545 amp and GSA700 preamplifier/processor into the 1.5Q was quite a revelation. Images became considerably crisper and cleaner, with the color requiring a not-so-subtle degree of recalibration. My home theater rig had been transformed! I had thought that the color was right on, with an impressive level of saturation and naturalness (not like the color one sees in so many showrooms, which has been hyped up to make poorer televisions look more impressive). The 1.5Q turned things up several notches, making images jump out of the screen with fantastic clarity and a considerably greater sense of  "3D magic." There was also a removal of video noise and the ghosts that had previously plagued the set. Whether this is the fault of our local cable provider or of the set, I am not sure, but the 1.5Q minimized it so much that it is no longer an issue. It is still there, but is hardly noticeable.

While the video was much improved, so was the audio. Sounds and music came across with greater clarity, more punch, and less edge. Dialogue was easier to decipher, effects were brought up a level or two, and even the subwoofer seemed to enjoy the 1.5Q. Really cool—so cool that I am making the 1.5Q a permanent addition to the HT system. Whether your mileage will vary is dependent on whether you have the same AC issues that I have. All I can say is that the 1.5Q works, and that I am a happy couch potato! Dave Clark

 

 

 

ED MORAWSKI'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Magnapan MG12.

ELECTRONICS
Plinius SA-102 amplifier and either an Audible Illusions Modulas 3 or E.A.R. 864 preamplifier.

SOURCE
Resolution Audio Opus 21 CD player, Aries turntable w/ JWM 10 arm and a Dynavector 20X cartridge.

CABLES
Empirical Audio Clarity 7 speaker cables, Holophonic-PC interconnects, power cords.

ACCESSORIES
Dedicated balanced power with Brick Wall Surge Supression.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes)Power conditioning has the potential to provide the biggest improvement in your audio system's sound then any other upgrade. It also may easily be the absolute most bang for the buck since most high end power conditioners sell for less than the cost of a audiophile CD player.

Consider all the possible power problems:

  • Power Surges - when the current and voltage fluctuate during the course of a day due to high demand or weather. Surges can occur right in your home. Do your lights dim when the washer starts spinning? Think what havoc this is playing with your audio equipment's power supplies trying to maintain a steady output.

  • Spikes - the voltage raises well above the normal for a brief instant. This amount can be into the hundreds or even thousands of volts during a storm- and destroy delicate solid state parts, especially anything with a microprocessor.

  • Noise - generated by all kinds of other equipment like motors and fluorescent lights can travel right through to your speakers.

  • Low Line Voltage - most equipment is designed to function on 120 volts. If your local voltage is less you are not getting the full potential of your equipment in some cases.

Another little known fact is that those surge suppressors you prided yourself on getting are slowly degrading to little more than fancy receptacles. Most surge suppressors use MOVs (Metal Oxide Varistors) to "clamp" down on surges and channel them to ground. They work great, the problem is every time they do; they wear out and lose more effectiveness. Eventually, they can't work any more and you are totally vulnerable.

Scared enough now to consider power conditioning? Okay so the perfect unit would address all the above; trouble is there's always more than one way to skin a cat (sorry, I really like cats). Another factor which must be mentioned: whenever you start messing with AC power you are playing with danger- both personally and legally. Sure you could build some of these devices yourself. Assuming you don't kill yourself; if your house burns down due to an electrical fire, you're screwed from an insurance point if they find out So remember part of the cost of these units are all the approvals like UL, they spent big bucks getting. In fact I'd make that a prerequisite before buying, make sure it is approved by somebody!

One technology getting lot's of attention is Balanced Power. Without getting too technical let's just say this is a way of splitting the incoming AC power so that each half does some work instead of just one side as is common. Typically HOT does all the work and NEUTRAL is the return. Balanced Power shares the load and therefore tends to cancel out noise on the line. It also is generally completely ISOLATED from the incoming line through a special transformer. This helps prevent other equipment's noise and spikes from coming through.

So now to the review. I received the Equi=Tech Model Q for evaluation. Equi=Tech is a pioneer of Balanced Power in AC Power Technology. Not only have they been building Balanced AC products longer than anyone else, but they also wrote the balanced power standards in the National Electrical Code that have been adopted across the U.S. (1996 NEC Art. 530 Part "G" and 2002 NEC Art. 647.)

Surge Protection is built in with a UL listed surge protection device rated at 240 joules. Unlike many other products, it has a useful indicator light that tells you when your system has taken too many hits from nuisance voltage spikes and the time has come to replace the surge protector. Though they typically last for many years, the surge module is easily replaced and inexpensive to do. As a backup line of defense, grounded electrostatic shielding between transformer coils routinely shunts dangerous voltage spikes for additional surge protection and piece of mind. It has plenty of outlets, even a GFI equipped one (don't use this for audio equipment in my opinion) and a coax cable protector circuit. It is also monstrously heavy, 70 lbs. to be exact! So it's not something you want to be moving around too much. Decide where it's going and leave it there.

The start up is rather complicated as it has many, many switches. Three on front and two more on back to be exact. You have to fire up each one in sequence (including the GFI reset which I wasn't even using) to get power out of the thing. The Equi=Tech does have some useful indicators, namely voltage in and voltage out by way of a digital display. I was surprised to see the voltage at my place was about 123 volts, somewhat higher than normal. Of course, I do live in a relatively new neighborhood; far, far away from any industrial plants or other noisy power plants. And I have installed dedicated circuits into my listening room with Brick Wall filers and surge protection at the main distribution panel. Even though I had taken these steps I was anxious to hear if the Balanced Power technology would further improve the sound.

After plugging in my Opus 21 CD Player and Plinius CD-LAD pre-amp I was ready to listen. My Plinius SA-102 appeared to be too great a load for the Equi=Tech so I didn't try it. I left all the units on over night for a good warm up and was ready to go the following day. Well, to make a long story short, I could not really detect any change in the sound at all. While their was no improvement, there was no adverse effect either. This leads me to believe the balanced power was working and since it did not cause any degradation in my sound it could be quite beneficial in a room which did not already have good power.

While I was hoping for a startling improvement, it probably was not fair to expect such in my already clean system. The Equi=Tech is certainly a quality, well made unit by a very reputable individual so I will have to defer to the other reviewers who live in more dirty power prone areas to give the Equi=Tech the workout it deserves. Ed Morawski

 

ET1.5Q
Retail: $2195

Equi=Tech
web address: http://www.equitech.com

 

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