AC and speaker filters
as reviewed by Dave Clark, Lauren Stephens, and Larry Fisher
The Enacom "filters" are interesting products. The AC Enacom is claimed to reduce EMI and RFI in your household power lines by means of parallel filtering. Parallel filtering or conditioning refers to units that are plugged into an AC receptacle, but do not feed power to another component. That is, none of your audio gear is plugged into these devices. They do their magic by being plugged into the wall. These products range from the simple Quietlines by AudioPrism to the recondite ElectraClear EAU-1. An in-line device, or power line conditioner, allows your components to be plugged into its AC receptacles, feeding your gear with "cleaner" power. There are numerous approaches to the design of in-line conditioners. All will produce a change in your systems sonics; whether this change is good, bad, or even evident is up to you. They will all do something, but only you can decide whether it is worth the fee. The speaker Enacoms, it is claimed, reduce speaker/amp load resistance distortions as well as RFI that may be evident in your listening environment. These attach, via black and white pigtails, between the positive and negative binding posts on your speakers. If you bi-wire, two per speaker (four total) are suggested.
The Enacoms are actually high-quality capacitors housed in nice black and gold barrels (no values are given). This is really nothing new. The idea of using capacitors across terminals or AC lines to reduce noise has been around for quite awhile and has a good track record. Magnan, Muse, and other manufacturers either offer suggestions on how to do this yourself, or offer this in their products. My recently-departed Muse 150 amplifiers had an internal capacitor network across the terminals for just this purpose. Using these devices may be compared to taking aspirin. If you do not have a headache, taking aspirin will not cause you to have less of one. If your head does hurt, taking aspirin may be helpful. Then again, for some people, aspirin has no effect and they require other medication.
So do I have RFI or speaker/amp load resistance distortion problems?
Well, using the AC Enacom caused no perceptible change, good or bad, in my system. Now, I do use two dedicated lines, one 20 amp with 10 gauge copper wire for the ampsplugged in directlyand one 15 amp with 12 gauge wire for sources. Additionally, I use a home-brewed AC power line conditioner for sources and other sundries and an ElectraClear EAU-1 to treat my AC. These do make a difference, so perhaps, not having a "headache," the Enacom had nothing to cure.
The speaker Enacoms were a different story. Here, while I seem to have a slight headache, the Enacoms made things better, but using too many, like aspirin, can make things worse. That is to say, employing one Enacom per speaker removed a slight trace of brightness or grain. It was readily apparent to Carol, immediately after I had placed an Enacom across the tweeter terminals, that the system had taken on a more relaxing musical character. The treble was a touch smoother and more natural. However, adding another Enacom per speaker (across the woofer terminals) caused the music to take on a slightly "hollow" character, almost sounding like a distortion artifact (a load resistance distortion?). Carols response was that the sound had taken on a objectionable, non-musical trait.
do I have speaker/amp load resistance distortion and RFI lurking around in my system?
Perhaps, but I would be hard pressed to say unequivocally that these were the problems
that the Enacoms addressed. Maybe this is something new, and not really addressed in
current designs. The speaker Enacoms did work as claimed, so what can I say? They are not
exactly inexpensive, but then again, $100 in todays audio world is not unreasonable.
If you feel that your system just couldnt get any better, they may be the icing on
the musical cake. I will continue to use just the two across my tweeter terminals, and
will report if my perceptions change.
I am probably one of the most ill-equipped people to be reviewing a "tweak." I like to tinker a bit, probably more than most chicks, but youll never catch me leaning over a soldering iron or fidgeting with a carburetor. It takes an awful lot of patience for me to try minute adjustments to my system, but to date Ive been baptized by sand, pelted with buckshot, pierced by spikes, pinched by connectors, and mummified in wires. I admit that some "tweaks" change the way the a system sounds. Putting sand in my speakers was a great idea, and the Vibrapods under my components make a big improvement. It took some convincing for me to even try these things, but when I heard the results I felt a little sheepish. When a tweak works, its exciting.
I figured Id better open my mind a bit, so when I was given the Combak Corporation Enacom Audio Noise Eliminators to review, I said to myself, "What the hell, why not? They might do something great to my system." So when I tell you that I didnt hear them do anything, youll know it wasnt because I had a bad attitude. The poorly translated Enacom brochure quotes a happy buyer as saying that he/she could "almost see the movement of each player in the orchestra..." I dont know where these players were going, but I wanted to hear em go. The brochure also claims that "classic" [sic] music will have wider soundstaging and better detail. Thats what we all want, right?
look like "C" batteries with two wires attached, terminated by banana
connectors. They hang off the binding posts on your speakers. There is also an AC cord,
that I plugged into my existing power strip. After I happily installed the things on my
speakers, I listened and listened, but unfortunately I cant tell you what, if
anything, they did. I unplugged them. Nothing. I removed the high frequency components,
leaving the low ones on, and then swapped them. Still nothing. I really wanted to hear
what Combak Corp. claims about their product, but didnt. Sorry, guys.
The Enacom speaker and AC filters are easy to install. The speaker filters attach across your speaker terminals, and since I had four, I placed one pair on the tweeter/midrange terminals on my Ryan Acoustics MCL-3s, and the other pair on the bass terminals. The AC filter simply plugs into any available outlet. I used a spare outlet on the AC conditioner for my source components. I only used music Im very familiar with to evaluate these filters.
Using the Enacoms reminded me of listening to music via headphones. While I do not like the closed-in feeling that headphones give me, or the way that it seems Im listening to two speakers sitting just outside my ears, Ive always enjoyed the micro-details I hear. For the most part, these details are audible when listening to my speakers, but it often takes using headphones to realize that they are there. I might hear two distinct instruments playing where I thought there was one, hear a drum or cymbal sounding slightly different with each hit, or be able to distinguish and follow along with a background instrument. I will often hear extra-musical sounds like picks on strings, fingers on fretboards or keys, breathing, mouths smacking, movement in the studio or on the stage, and so on. The results depend upon the quality of the recording. To me, these qualities make a recording more lifelike, as if I was in the studio during the recording process. I was able to experience this sensation on most recordings while using the Enacoms. After removing them, the sensation was either diminished or completely gone.
While using the Enacoms, notes emanated from and faded into a very dark background, at least on good recordings. Acoustic string instruments, from violins and cellos in classical music to stand-up basses in jazz, had bodies that vibrated, as opposed to sounding like strings vibrating in space, as they did when the filters were out of the system. Woodwind instruments benefited in a similar way. One problem I encountered while using the Enacoms was a wavering of instruments in the soundstage. I traced this to my subwoofer, which I turned off for the rest of the review. I also noticed a slight compression in the horizontal and vertical height of the soundstage, along with an occasional sensation of artificial 3D imagingsounds suddenly emanating from inappropriate places in the room. None of this detracted from the listening experience to a degree worth discussing, however.
I chose the following music on CD for this review: Branford Marsalis, trio jeepy, "Housed from Edward" (Columbia); Johnny Cash, American Recordings, "Let the Train Blow the Whistle" (American); Tommy Bolin, Teaser, "Wild Dogs" (Epic); and Concert, Robert Schumann, Piano Sonata in F, Op. 14, played by Robert Silverman (Stereophile). The first test track I played with the Enacoms in place was "Housed from Edward." I noticed a slight narrowing of the soundstage and a compression of its height. The walking bass line had a more woody sound, and the drum parts possessed a lightness and quickness that were apparent because of all the extra little details. Each woodwind note rose and fell in a manner that made it sound more lifelike. The benefits of the Enacoms were really apparent.
They were less evident on the Johnny Cash track, which is a minimalist recording done in someones living room. The illusion of one person playing and singing was better with the Enacoms, and I swore I could hear background room noise and the sound of a wet mouth opening and making a smacking sound before some verses. Not musical, but contributing to a "you-are there" experience. In addition, most notes appeared to fade away forever. Nice improvement.
The Tommy Bolin track is one of those multi-everything rock songs from the mid-seventies, in which three people sound like ten. Ive listened to this song at least three hundred times in the last twenty-three years, yet never enjoyed it more. Aspects of the layered sound that had been muddied and indistinguishable were now adding to the interplay of song elements. My new standard for this song, though the drum part was just slightly less true.
I was in attendence on one of the nights the Concert CD was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and consider that evening one of the great musical experiences of my life. Ive heard this CD on quite a few systems, but none have been able to recreate the rich, full sound I remember from that night. I can distinctly recall how the sound seemed to come at me in waves, and actually filled my ears with sound from the inside out. The acoustics of the church and Robert Silvermans technique (once described to me as Teutonic) probably had a great deal to do with these sensations, but I have not experienced them since. With the Enacoms in the loop, my system took me part of the way there, but still left me short.
The fact that
they were pointing me in the right direction is good enough for me to want them, however.
Given that the positive impact these filters had on my system far outweighed the
negatives, and how easily they can be installed or removed, I dont see how I could
go wrong. Anyone who asks me "Whats new?" in the next few weeks is going
to get an earful about the Enacoms.
Enacom AC and speaker