|Ultralink Powergrid PGX-500 Power Isolator|
|Home Theater AC Power AC Power|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Wednesday, 01 October 2008|
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Music and Movies
Since this is a power product review, I dispensed with the usual two-channel, multi-channel and movie repertoire and just started playing around with different sources and material, starting with the DVD-Audio disc of Metallica’s Black album (Elektra) and the track “Enter Sandman.” Right off the bat, the noise floor was dramatically lower, although not completely absent. The added reduction of noise from a few feet away from the speakers themselves breathed new life into dynamic swings and transients. Impacts were more visceral and explosive and the high frequencies gained a bit of sparkle on the top end. Skipping ahead to “The Unforgiven,” it was more of the same. With a bit of the sonic junk gone from the recording, notes seemed to hold a little longer, with added clarity. Vocals were a bit more natural and possessed an added sense of breath and weight. Soundstage definition also improved with the added clarity given to the recording space. High volumes did little to distract the PGX-500. Even during peak hours, in the hot California midday sun, it helped dish out one hell of a musical performance.
Next I cued up Gavin Rossdale’s latest solo effort, Wanderlust (Interscope), which I purchased via Amazon’s new MP3 service and played back through my Apple TV. On the track “Forever May You Run,” the lower bit rate transfer was of little concern to my system with the PGX-500 in the mix. The music was clean, lively, dynamically sound and surprisingly musical, given the 256kbps transfer. Again, AC noise was diminished, giving the somewhat dynamically limited track an added sense of oomph and weight. This also made for a more taut bass experience and improved the high frequencies as well in terms of spaciousness and air. Rossdale’s vocals were clear and well-pronounced, with little to none of the usual MP3 shortcomings in terms of naturalness and weight. Like the much more expensive Transparent PowerWave 8 I reviewed earlier in the year, the PGX-500 allowed the music and notes to flow a bit more naturally and smoothly from one to the next.
Wanting to see what the PGX-500 could do for video, I went ahead and fired up my Vizio LCD HDTV, which I use as a second or set-up monitor in my reference rig, and turned my Dish Network service to the Democratic National Convention. I had previously had my Vizio plugged into a simple unprotected or filtered wall outlet. Now, with the PGX-500 handling the power, there were subtle but noticeable differences. For starters, the somewhat noisy Vizio picture was a bit more composed. Edge fidelity, when viewed at a close distance, seemed crisper and less feathered. Colors were a tad punchier, although this depended on the channel at times. With the added boost in saturation, I also noticed that warmer tones, i.e., reds and oranges, were a bit more dimensional and less prone to excessive bleeding around the edges. Again, this was when material was viewed at close angles and was less perceivable when seated at a proper viewing distance. The most surprising thing was that, as I turned on other gear in my rack, these slight improvements in picture quality never faltered.
I ended my time with the PGX-500 and 400 with the Blu-ray edition of Live Free or Die Hard (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). I chaptered ahead to the tunnel sequence where McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is trapped in oncoming traffic amidst a blackout. The crunching metal and squealing tires had all the flair and texture an action movie fiend like myself could want. Bass was tight and punchy, while the treble shed a bit of edge and replaced it with composure. Again, I don’t want it to sound like the addition of the PGX-500 made a night and day difference, for it didn’t, but it did have subtle and welcome effects. Again, with a mega-watt McIntosh amp running full bore and every source in my rack powered on and the volume throttled, I was unable to tax the PGX-500’s internal ASP.
My housing development is notorious for spikes, sags and otherwise “dirty” power, with the best listening and or viewing hours being between nine and midnight without waking the neighbors. While these hours still proved to provide the best performance overall, the PGX-500 didn’t stumble when called upon at other times of the day and never left my system out to dry, which is more than I can say for some of the other power products elsewhere in my home.