A reader, Lim called me up recently to enquire about his options in the Power Line Conditioner purchase decision. He got me in unprepared that day, while I was in the middle of some work, I didn't think I was very helpful that day.

My apologies to Lim, after sleeping over it for a while, I'd like to provide some options and a quick take from my limited experience with each product. Hopefully, it'll provide Lim and others, if any, in a similar position a quick shortlist. As Lim did not state his budget and preferences, I'd run it through over three popular price points in the market available.

Up to RM$1,000.00

Bada LB-3300



I've experienced this in a friend's place, rather rudimentary, but better with than without. The said entry level CDP, pre-power system sounded more silent with less background hash when plugged in thru the Bada. The sound staging also appeared slightly deeper and wider. It didn't seem to inhibit dynamics of the 30W per channel class A/B power amp in the system. Build quality looks decent for the price and what is essentially a China made product. Certainly a good starter experience for someone getting in to power conditioning products on a budget.

Sold by Audio Synthesis, tel: 03-7956 7024

Up to RM$5,000.00

Soundstage SER-5500




This is an all in one product where it combines an AVR with various filtering options. The nice fluorescent blue display indicating input/output voltage and system current draw in amperes is very informative and useful. In the entry level high end system that it was used with, I had a ball of a time just playing with different filtering options, each resulting in subtle if noticeable difference to the sound. In the system using pre-power amp rated class A/B 250W per channel, I felt it ultimately did restrict the dynamics of the system somewhat. Despite having various filtering options, none were as effective as the class leaders in this price range. Note the picture above is of an older model, the new model sports a fancier display.

Sold by Tong Lee Co., tel: 03-2141 4366


Isotek GII Mini Sub




With it's Noise Gating feature, it affected the sound of my system to a certain degree by giving it a relatively darker background and very much free from grain and hash at the high frequencies. It made each musical note just that little bit more distinct. Sound stage is a little more laid back and imaging is more solid. However, when I used my 75W class A mono block power amps thru the Mini Sub, the result was dynamics and power transient limitation. I much preferred it just used with source and pre-amp duties.

Sold by Center Circle Audio, tel: 03-7728 2686

Audio Magic Mini Stealth Reference




The Mini Stealth Reference made my system sounded quieter but not darker. Sound staging is somewhat a little more forward too. It's also tonally a little on the lean side of neutral. When used with my power amps as per mentioned above, the dynamics was explosive. It never limit the current supply, but even enhanced the power delivery when the musical performance called for. This PLC likes to be current loaded!, and performs best as an all in one solution.

Sold by Audio Creations, tel: 012-331 5669

Shunyata Hydra 4



This is possibly the most popular choice of PLC at the price point. It's very effective in it's noise elimination role and somehow always manages to sound harmonically rich, textured and life like. Music has a natural flow with it. Staging and imaging properties are usually improved upon too. While in Maggie Lurva's system, it did not sound like it was limiting current to the 120W mono blocks tube ARC power amps, but in another system using power amp rated at 500W class A/B stereo, it did show signs of holding back. It's probably the best all in one system solution at the price range but does not seem to like powering too big a power amp. Hey! that's what it's higher ranges are for.


Sold by Audio Matic, tel: 012-322 2698

Up to RM$10,000.00

Isotek GII Sigmas




It improves upon the strengths of the Mini Sub, it made my system free of background noise. It retained all the tonal richness in my system. Sound staging is more enveloping and imaging is denser too. Despite the Adaptive Noise Gating feature, my power amps were still somewhat restricted on the dynamics front, though not as badly as the Mini Sub. I only use it for my sources and pre amps.

Sold by Center Circle Audio, tel: 03-7728 2686

Audio Magic Stealth XXX




To appreciate Audio Magic's abilities, I feel the Stealth XXX is best place to start. It's again very quiet like the Mini Stealh Reference, but only now, the slight tonal leanness is gone. It's as full bodied sounding as the Isotek Sigmas. The staging is very open and airy minus the slightly forward quality of it's little brother. The power delivery will make your power amp sound like on steroids, but yet maintained poise and refinement. The best all in one solution at this price point.

Sold by Audio Creations, tel: 012-331 5669


Above RM$10,000.00

PS Audio Power Plant Premier.



It's the most silent power conditioner available, only because it's a re generator. It has two modes of filter choice, each subtly different. The area most impressive is gives the power amps absolute control over the bass frequencies. Because it's so eerily silent, every musical details and nuances are brought out, but sometimes presented analytically. In the 300W class A/B rated power amp based system, it did not show up any current restriction or limitation. However, I am not sure if that could be a problem with higher powered class A rated power amps. Very impressive!

Sold by A&L Audio, tel: 03-7958 2884

Torus Power 4A - 8A



In my experience, this has gotta be the most state of the art power conditioner in the market today! I tested the 4A in my system, powering my power amps, and it took my system to a whole new level I never knew possible until then. The sound stage totally opened up the room boundaries, the imaging is so good, the singer's in my room, all very believable! There is so much details in the bass of the music never heard before. The system's tonal colours, harmonics are all flushed out and presented in a very organic fashion. Music is so alive. I totally did not expect this from a PLC. I also heard the higher range, more expensive 8A performing the same miracles on to a system already so well acclaimed, which Maggie Lurva visited recently. It just brought that system several notches up the performance ladder, as per Maggie Lurva's posting of the home visit. My only gripe with the Torus Power PLCs, you'll need to make sure your system current draw does not exceed it's rated spec, and lastly, why can't it be more affordable?

Sold by AV Designs, tel: 03-2171 2828




This list is not the most comprehensive, as there are notable contenders which I never had the chance to experience, namely the Transparent Power Banks and the Audience Responce PLCs. PLCs are also difficult products to evaluate, because their results may not be consistent depending on the following factors:

1) The local power supply quality, this is highly variable.

2) System compatibility, different systems places different strains and demands on to the PLC.

3) The purchaser's point of reference and expectations.

Your experience may not agree to what I've just posted. The final and summary caveat is the ever popular "Your mileage may vary!" in the choice of PLC for your system.

Lim, if you've not already made your purchase, I hope this helps.


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16 comments:

Naz said...

Panzer,

Thank you very much for the write; it isvery comprehensive and extremely helpful!!!

Shiv said...

Fully agree with your observations about Torus PLC.In my Experience of PLCs only the BURMESTER exceeded it, even then not by much.

It certainly is significantly better than the Shunyata V- Ray, Audience and PS audio PPP..having A-B them last year.

Cheah said...

Panzer,

No Richard Gray?? The most PLC in Ipoh for sure...

K E See said...

May I propose this to be the article of the month??

This is what we need from our reviewer.

Unfortunately, we do not have access to all ,but articles like these will help the common folks shortlist the candidates..I also like the fact the contact info were given.

Thank you Panzer. Good job,well done !!!!

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

great post, panzer!
keep up the good work!

hifikaki said...

Panzer,

You made me green with envy for the opportunities you had to listen to so many PLCs. What an excellent writeup!

HS Lam said...

Richard Gray is certainly IMO the most popular of all the PLC,but having been a hardcore users I could vouch that t6he Audio magic make better ones;more natural...so I finally say goodbye to RG

Anonymous said...

Dear panzer, thank you very much. I didn’t expect that you would put up this review on PLC…. Very good work and thanks for sharing your journey in Hifi. The info is very very very helpful, I have not committed any PLC yet as this month is a busy month for me to sit down and compare product. I will keep your observations in mind when I do the comparison.

My price point is RM3-5K.

Best Regards,

Lim

GCK said...

Panzer, did you get to listen to the Audio Magic XXX? I got the first unit from Audio Creations and is very satisfied with it's performance. It does its job in cleaning the power very well and sounded very natural. Use their power cord from wall to unit to get better performance. I use the Illusion 4D.

jose said...

i know burmester makes killer electronics,but to me it is their power conditioner that is their best product.

the rolls royce of plc,imo

Panzer said...

Shiv,

I've always admired Burmester products, but never knew they made killer PLCs. Thanks for the heads up.

Cheah,

RGPC was very popular a few years back, when I was just starting out on the hi-end journey. But have not seen them at all lately.

Hifikaki,

Don't be envious, just join in the fun next time!

Lim,

I am only too happy to help.

GCK,

I did heard the Audio Magic Stealth XXX in your place, it's in the write up too! Too bad I already got the Isotek by the time Audio Creations got your unit in.

jose,

Now you really make me wanna.... hunt for that Burmester PLC to experience for myself!

And to everyone else, thanks for the very kind words. I am already happy if it helps in your PLC shoping short listing.

GCK said...

Getting old already I guess. Could not remember your last visit was with the XXX or not. Thanks for the reminder. Yes, at that time, did not get the Cable cooker yet. That XXX is a tough one to run in! With Cable cooker, running in cables and PLC is not a chore anymore.

Anonymous said...

agree gck,

with your hep, i also cooked my shunyata hydra on the cooker.a definite ,noticbe, improvement

Freddie said...

a few of the recenty launched plcs are whetting my appetite;

1]bybee pc-designed by john curl ,the
real man behind mark levinson amp.

2]synergistic researchs plc

3]audio magics gorgeous referance plc

currenty running my electronics through the little known Sound Appplications plc,and have yet to find anything that could better it amongst the usual suspects....But I suspect the above short list[ just based on reading-no actual demo yet]could give the Sound Applications a serious run for the money.....;;;

Ken said...

Panzer,

Just wondering how long you took to review all the plc hardware you wrote about. I think you may have used some of the plc before but having reviewed audio gears before, I think what you did is almost superhuman.

Having auditioned the Audio Magic Mini Stealth Reference before, I would concur with most of what you have posted. The AM MSR certainly did not limit the current to my system. In fact the sound was just as dynamic as my RGPC600S. If I am nitpicking, I would say that the HF is not as extended with the AM MSR.

YMMV

Panzer said...

Ken,

I am no superhuman. I had a good 7 months or so compiling audiions before I finally commit to the current item.

And yes, I did had a few of them in my system for an extended period.