Richard Gray's Power Company 1200s Power Conditioner 
Home Theater AC Power AC Power
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Tuesday, 01 May 2001

The Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S is the $2,000 follow-up AC power product to their breakthrough $750 400S power enhaser. The 1200S has 12 Hubbell outlets for your audio/video components, as opposed to four outlets on the smaller and vertically-oriented RGPC 400S. The 1200S, which is the perfect width to fit into a standard 19-inch wide three-space-high rack shelf. The RGPC 1200S uses two of the U.S. patented choke inductors like the one found in the RGPC 400S and is hard-wired with two 20-amp fuses.

How Does the Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S work?
The principle behind the Richard Gray’s Power Company product is very simple. RGPC’s patented technology is based around a gigantic power inductor made of hundreds feet of copper wire, which is connected to a hefty iron core. This stores and stabilizes the power that comes from the wall and distributes it to your AV gear via the 12 outlets on the back of the 1200S. What the inductor actually does is store up energy for instantanious release, which results in smoothing out dips and/or absorb surges that you get from your AC signal from the street, even on a dedicated circuit. The concept is to give your audio and video components the most stable current you can from the RGPC 1200S as your reserve, instead of trying to pull significant AC current all the way from the power transformer on the street.

In the case of the Reference System, I use a Mark Levinson No. 336 power amplifier, which pumps out 300 watts per channel Class AB into eight ohms. For nearly every listening application, I use very little of the amp’s power reserve, perhaps 30 to 40 watts, if not less. The same effect applies in your system, even if you have a far smaller power amplifier. The times when you use all 300 watts will be during big musical crescendos and/or dynamic theatrical blasts. These peaks soar with incredible current draws from the wall, which make your amplifier beg for tremendous amounts of AC juice. The RGPC provides you with a healthy source of power in front of all sorts of noisy AC components in your home like your refrigerator, microwave, HVAC and/or anything else on or near the circuit. If you have dedicated circuits fed to your system, you have an advantage but you are far from out of the woods. In my case, I have an archaic AC power system in my building, which was constructed in 1964. There is so much audible noise in my AC that it isn’t even funny. The RGPC collects the noisy AC from the street that is routed through my building’s electrical system and addresses the dips and surges, giving my high-end AV gear current similar to the clean power found in the laboratories where our favorite gear is designed and tested.

The Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S on Tube Gear
While I am not currently using tubes in my system, I did just get Audio Research VTM 200 power amplifiers and an Audio Research Ref 2 preamp for an upcoming review. At trade shows like CES, you’ll see Richard Gray’s Power Company products in use in displays from tube companies like Audio Research, Balanced Audio Technology, Cary, VTL and others. This is primarily because the power at a trade show is far from excellent, but the RGPC products have a secondary effect on tube gear. Because the RGPC inductor concept helps AV gear run more efficiently, reportedly tube gear tends to run cooler and sound better when running an RGPC product parallel to the AC line. In the case of the Audio Research VT200’s or Bryan Southard’s Sonic Frontiers Power 3 mono amps, of getting more tube life is a matter of saving thousands of dollars while getting better sound at the same time.

How AC Power Affects Your Video
The Richard Gray’s Power Company product has garnered much attention from the audio community, but it is an even better video performance enhancer. Although this is not widely publicized, video products are AC whores. They are so demanding of clean and copious power that the RGPC’s reserve makes a more noticeable difference when feeding a plasma monitor, a video processor (aka, a line doubler or quadrupler) or some sort of projector (CRT, DLP, DILA). It is a common misconception that all you need to do to make your TV look great is to plug it into the wall. This is far from the case. AC power can be as important an element to achieving video excellence as setting your color temperature or converging your picture.

The RGPC 1200S as a Surge Protector
Many of the best AC products on the market are marketed as surge protectors first. The RGPC 1200S is a performance product at heart, but its design makes it one heck of a surge protector and, at $2,000, it very well better be. Most surge protectors are what are known as PLCs (Power Line Conditioners), which address noisy, weak sauce AC with a number of solutions like Ferrite rods, air core chokes and isolation transformers. According to Richard Gray’s Power Company, while some of the solutions in the PLCs can be successful, they can also sometimes add in new audio/video maladies when trying to cure the root problem. For example, many PLCs limit your available current because their isolation transformers aren’t as big as the transformer you have at the street. Therefore, when your amp is really calling for some serious juice, many PLCs can end up limiting your current. PLCs do a pretty good job of dealing with most AC surges, but the design of the RGPC 1200S allows it to take an enormous whack of 280 volts and still keep going. The concept here is that a surge has to be so incredibly large that you will saturate the massive iron core in the RGPC 1200S before the secondary protection (MOV-fuse) kicks in. While Richard Gray’s Power Company doesn’t offer actual insurance against the failure of your components, as many mainstream computer PLCs and surge protector companies do, the fact that RGPC has yet to have a warranty return with over 3000 units installed is a pretty bold statement.

Why Would You Use More Than One RGPC Product Concurrently?
It seems like a marketing ploy to hook up more than one RGPC product in your system, but if you consider how the technology works, the more power you have in reserve, the more likely you are to be able to provide your components with rock-solid current. The RGPC products are parallel devices that simply add more current storage as you add more units. The RGPC 1200S is a well-packaged way to reap the advantage of the power of two RGPC 400S inductors in a single rack-mountable component. You can mix and match 1200S units with 400S units as your system demands. Richard Gray’s Power Company reports that their dealers frequently will come out to a client’s home to audition more than one RGPC product in the system, so that the customer can hear and see the effect that each component has on the system. This helps to determine which component(s) make the most sense within a particular set-up. Bryan Southard has experimented with as many as three RGPC 400’s in his music system and claims that the noise floor drops significantly with each unit. In a quiet room with excellent audio equipment, this effect can be stunning – not too different from what you’d expect to hear from switching from unbalanced to balanced cables.

Set-up was about as simple as it gets with a new component in my system. I installed a three-unit rack shelf in my Middle Atlantic rack and slid the RGPC into the spot where it fit damn near perfectly. Most components I use require custom faceplates made by Middle Atlantic, so that they smoothly integrate into the rack without making the room look like a sloppy recording studio. The 1200S doesn’t need a custom faceplate. It also comes with rack ears that allow you to support the considerable weight of the 1200S in a rack with appropriate stability.

One important note about the set-up of the 1200S is this: Richard Gray’s Power Company recommends that you plug your amp directly into the wall on the circuit that the RGPC is plugged into. This way, you can avoid having a secondary fuse in line with your amplifier, while enjoying the performance benefits of having the Richard Gray’s Power Company parallel to your AC line at the same time. You do sidestep the surge protection of the RGPC product by doing so, but nearly every amplifier manufacturer recommends that you plug their amp directly into the wall and not through a power conditioner. With the RGPC 1200S, you can have the best of both worlds.

The Music and Movies
On Prince’s cover of the Bonnie Raitt tune "I Can’t Make You Love Me" (EMD-Capitol), the RGPC 1200S – ice-cold, right out of the box – improved the inner details of this super-tight R&B tune. The claps and snaps were much more clear and present with the RGPC 1200S plugged into my entire front end and parallel to my amplifier on my main AC circuit. On the third time through the cut, I noticed that the lowest register in the bass seemed slightly faster and hit a bit harder, yet the new midrange clarity was really most noticeable.

On "Let Love Rule" by Lenny Kravitz (Virgin), you can hear an even better example of the improved resolution in Lenny’s lead vocals and, even more impressively, in the increasingly detailed and smooth background vocals. The organ sounds warmer and the strumming of the acoustic guitar has a more energetic, three-dimensional sound. I got the feeling that I was hearing more of what the producers and engineers intended for me to hear with the RGPC 1200S in the loop.

On more complicated musical material, you can hear the increase in resolution positively affect the layering of tunes, making them sound much deeper and more emotionally engaging. On "When I’m 64" from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band(Apple – Capitol), you can hear decay on the bell that Sir George Martin mixed into this poppy ragtime tune with an energy that I have never heard before in any other system.

For me, the little details were where the 1200S truly cleaned up. The effect of the unit wasn’t jaw-dropping, but that is probably only because I am plugging it into the circuit of some of the best gear known to man. Much as with an F1 race car, making a few very small changes to the set-up can make a huge difference in performance. The 1200S showed me sonic improvement without an audible downside that I could find.

As for video, I wasn’t able to always plug my Sony 1252 projector into my 1200S, due to of the logistics of the 1200S being installed in my rack and my projector being hung on my ceiling. For test purposes, I strung AC power cables all over my room. Video requires heavy draws of current. My Faroudja LD 100 is a clear-cut example of this. I saw an improvement in color saturation and black levels, albeit slight, with the RGPC in the loop on source material like the helicopter scene in Tomorrow Never Dies (MGM-UA DVD). The RGPC made the flames burned brighter and the oranges look more livelier.

Much like an acoustical room treatment, the positive effects of the RGPC unit are best tested by actually removing the unit from your system and doing your listening and viewing tests again without it. Unlike changing speakers, which provides an obvious and immediate difference in sound, the RGPC simply helps your components achieve their design goals better. Removing it from your system is thus the best way to illustrate the value of the performance improvements.

The Downside
As compared to the PS Audio power products, which attack many of the same AC power maladies from a completely different design philosophy, the RGPC 1200S can seem technologically behind the curve. The PS Audio products (see Bryan Southard’s review) use an amplifier to recreate the AC current without many of the glitches that you get from AC power that comes from the wall. This is a very advanced way to deal with real-world AC power problems and has many very compelling advantages. Yet, in some cases, simplicity can be best, especially when using an AC power product for your power amplifier. Bryan Southard’s PS Audio P600 (they do make a new, more powerful and physically huge unit called the P1200) couldn’t always keep his 200-watt-per-channel Sonic Frontiers fed with reconstructed AC, with the result that the PS Audio anti-climatically shut them down. The RGPC doesn’t have that sort of downside and thereby gets the nod for being more reliable for power amplifiers. The PS Audio unit, on the other hand, looks and is built to an entirely different (and higher) standard than the Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S. The PS Audio gear is far more lust-worthy than the more physically utilitarian RGPC 1200S. It wouldn’t be blasphemy in my book if you had both an RGPC 1200S and a PS Audio product, as they both address a serious AV problem with two very different yet valid approaches.

The Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S comes with a 6 foot removable AC power cable, a good design element as the standard length of AC cable is far too short to make it to my dedicated circuit. RGPC will provide a custom-measured length of cable, which is something you will want to consider before you order a 1200S.

We have all made significant investments in world-class audio/video components. Just as we wouldn’t gas up a Ferrari with 87 octane fuel, we shouldn’t consider running less than excellent power to our components. The sheer convenience of the 1200S, with its 1200 inputs, makes it an easy "yes" just from a logistical standpoint. As a surge protector, The RGPC 1200S is a healthy insurance policy against almost every jolt you might ever experience this side of a bolt of lightning. And, God forbid, if your home was struck by lightning, your homeowner’s insurance will send you back to the stereo store with a big wad of cash in your pocket. Last, yet far from least, the Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S gives you a performance boost in audio resolution, bass impact and mostly video resolution. If you are interested in having your high-end audio/video system perform up to its potential, consider a Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S for both logical and impulsive reasons.
Manufacturer Richard Gray's Power Company
Model 1200s Power Conditioner

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