|Transparent Audio PowerIsolator 8 Power Conditioner|
|Home Theater AC Power AC Power|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Saturday, 01 April 2006|
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Music and Movies
Yes’ multi-channel DVD-Audio version of the classic Fragile (Warner) kicked off my evaluation. I started with the first cut, “Roundabout,” which is one of the all-time great progressive rock compositions. This song starts with a harmonic pluck of the guitar string, followed by another harmonic strum. After playing this intro several times with untreated AC, it was time to connect to the Transparent PI4. I connected my Mark Levinson No.436 monoblocks, the Proceed HPA3 that drives my center and rear channel speakers and my Meridian G98/G68 player and preamp.
The first thing that I noticed was the absence of any notable noise. The instruments were more present, as if they stepped from behind a curtain into my listening area. The harmonic decays were considerably more detailed and natural, with much more depth, and the size and width of the room were all the more apparent. Jon Anderson’s voice had a more natural texture and again there was more information. Perhaps the biggest difference was in the air surrounding Anderson’s voice and accompanying instruments. After switching to the PowerIsolator 8, there was an immediate difference. The first thing that I noticed was that the already lowered noise floor from the PI4 was again improved. Perhaps most surprising was how much more natural Howe’s guitar had become. When we evaluate components, we talk about detail and soundstage prowess. Often overlooked is the sheer palpability and sweetness of the instruments being reproduced. Howe’s 1953 Martin 00-18, a small-body acoustic guitar known for its immediate attack and superb projection, was closer to me than it had ever been before. This level of improvement was outstanding. I could almost smell the tone-woods in his guitar.
There was improved decay brought on by the complete absence of background noise. This is something that I found again and again throughout my evaluation. In the song “The Fish,” Chris Squire’s bass lines were more distinguishable than I had heard from the PI4 and untreated AC tests. During this song, there are a lot of things going on all at once and the low drawl from Squire’s bass can get lost in the mix. Initially, I wasn’t sure this was possible and A-B’d this piece a few times before I concluded that the bass had a more immediate presence; it was the leading and trailing transients that were providing the necessary detail to bring this instrument out from relative obscurity. The PowerIsolator 8’s ability to delineate such subtle low frequency information proved to be amongst its strongest assets.
To test for vocal purity, I selected Alison Krauss’ 1995 release, Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection (Rounder Records). Although Krauss’ record is usually found in the country music section of your local retailer, her voice is so pure and inviting that it transcends far beyond this genre label. Having owned this CD for the better part of 10 years, I’ve heard it on many of the components that I have evaluated and every power product I’ve reviewed. Stepping back to wall-power, I first listened to the song “Oh, Atlanta,” one of purist vocal cuts I own. Changing to the older Transparent PI4, there was improvement very typical of earlier evaluations. There was reduced noise and grain and, simply put, more audible information. Krauss’ voice took on a new life and imaging was much tighter. With untreated power, her voice was well located and concentrated, yet with the PI4, her voice was considerably more focused. Again connecting through the PI8, her voice amazingly took on a whole new level of focus. Perhaps the most impressive part of this cut is the acoustic guitar solo. Although simple in nature, the PowerIsolator 8 was able to delineate the subtlest changes in texture and strumming attack. This level of improvement proved to be absolutely infectious. This was undoubtedly the most impressive audition of this cut that I have heard on any system anywhere. It quickly became obvious that Transparent’s less-is-more design philosophy had clearly succeeded in producing the finest-sounding AC power product that I have heard to date.
It is difficult to evaluate not only specific aspects of your music, but also the overall spectrum of the music from top to bottom. Many AC products improve areas of your music, but supply less than desirable qualities in other areas. The Transparent PowerIsolator 8 improved every aspect of my music. It provided separation between instruments, but moreover, it provided much greater instrument decay, which physically brought the instruments into my room. We’ve all heard it before: “It was like they were standing in my room.” With the Transparent PI8, Alison Krauss was literally breathing on me.
Switching gears, I loaded up DTS’s 2006 demo disc Alive! (DTS Digital Entertainment). This DVD has a series of short clips from well-known movies and serves as a great demo for anxious guests. The segment from “Fantastic Four” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) serves up some extreme high and low frequency information. It showcases the scene where Thing (Michael Chiklis) runs into a distraught and suicidal man on the bridge. When this man sees the orange rock-like figure, in a moment of panic, he falls down on the deck of the Brooklyn Bridge during daytime traffic. Thing drops down to protect him and takes the impact of a semi truck as it folds around him, followed by a multi-car pileup. Again, I ran through the three different power scenarios, finishing with the PowerIsolator 8. The difference in detail was very similar to that of my music evaluations. The low-frequency information became more legible and had much greater impact. There was a huge difference in clarity, which gave the scene an eerily lifelike impact that had me riveted to my chair. The sounds of crunching metal and breaking glass were abundant and crystal clear. I found the center channel information to be particularly improved. There was the slightest of grain with untreated AC that was long gone with the PI8.
I wanted to test for any potential improvements in my video picture when plugged in to the PowerIsolator 8. I plugged my Vidikron Vision 2 eight-inch CRT projector into one of the PI8’s isolated outlets. I project onto a 76-inch-wide Stewart Filmscreen Studiotec 130. This projector is known for its extreme black levels and filmlike picture. With the PI8 in place, the picture was indeed improved. There were improvements to the edge detail, making images look much more 3D. Although black levels were improved, this change was small but nevertheless alluring. Colors were perhaps the most improved, as such films as “Moulin Rouge” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) provided eye-widening candy-like colors that had my guests in awe. The moral of this story is simple: if you own an expensive video device, it deserves this level of improvement.