Richard Gray's Power Company 400s Power Conditioner 
Home Theater AC Power AC Power
Written by Bryan Southard   
Thursday, 01 June 2000

So often when we contemplate music and video playback systems, we think about their components, components such as amplifiers, preamplifiers, CD players and DACs, and let’s not forget cables. Then there are lists of accessories: racks, stands and dozens of other items that can aid in the pursuit of playback perfection. Rarely do we consider the word "power," although many of us know that there are significant advantages to improved power.

For some reason, many think that bad power is somebody else’s problem. We continue to spend big bucks on equipment to improve the sound of our playback systems, while neglecting power. The problem with the average household’s power is that it is shared, in most cases, with many others, including your neighbors, their computers and appliances. These things cause noise in your power that will greatly reduce your system’s ability to accurately recreate music and theater sound. Additionally, with fluctuating amounts of available current, your components are often robbed of their true potential.

Power has been the source of many debates in this industry. There are not many in the know who would dispute the existence of sonic maladies caused by poor, inconsistent and noisy power. Dozens of products are available that supply filtering, conditioning and a variety of other manipulations to your power, but often at the expense of other aspects of your musical reproduction system. These products can reduce sound dynamics and create other less than desirable effects.

I have long known about this hazard but fall into the group of people who don’t want to get suckered into all of the industrial hype nor want to compound a problem in trying to fix it. The optimal answer, although highly impractical, has always been to have the utility company supply you with your very own dedicated transformer to supply your audio and video gear.

I have known for some time that my audio system’s performance is much greater after 11:00 in the evening when many have gone to bed. The power becomes much quieter, allowing soundstage depth to increase and improve overall spaciousness.

I have tried several line conditioning and filtering products and, although I heard some level of improvements, felt an unacceptable loss of many aspects of my sound system. As I read the fine print in the Richard Gray’s POWER COMPANY literature, I would classify myself as being apprehensive, or perhaps at least a tad skeptical.

Before my fears could fester, two Richard Gray POWER COMPANYs had arrived at my doorstep. Each POWER COMPANY has a height of nine inches, is five-and–one-half inches wide, and four-and-three-quarters inches deep. Each one weighs just over 20 pounds, a box with a simple black finish. The POWER COMPANY has a main power cord connection on the upper side and four electrical outlets on the top. POWER COMPANYs sell for $700 each.

The basic purpose of this product is to supply much-needed current as your components demand it. The POWER COMPANY works much like a flywheel, making additional power available for your system’s needs. It does so by creating an inductive circuit with the use of a large choke. In an inductive circuit, voltage lags behind 90 degrees. This lag is what creates a reservoir of current available to the circuitry supplying power to the unit. With patents pending, many details of the POWER COMPANY’s makeup were not disclosed, and in all honesty I found myself a bit mystified as to why and exactly how this product works.
Being curious about what is really going on inside this unit, I removed the four screws that held the top cover on. I found that the entire enclosure is potted with polyurethane to protect the secrets of the internal workings. I suppose that’s fair.

The Music
It was recommended that I try the Richard Gray’s POWER COMPANYs in a variety of methods. Since the units have parallel circuitry, and claim to have no sonic degradation whatsoever, the use of multiple units in what is called a cluster was recommended.

The first recommended test was to merely plug one POWER COMPANY into the circuit that the components were connected to, without plugging anything into the POWER COMPANY itself. The theory behind this is that available current from the POWER COMPANY will bleed back into the line and into your components. I found modest although definite improvements. There were increased dynamics and an audible improvement to the openness of the midrange. I then plugged all components into one POWER COMPANY and found increased performance over the previous test. Improvements were substantial in the midrange, upper mids and highs. These improvements were similar to, but much greater than, the improvements that I found when listening to my system during the late evening hours when neighbors were asleep and power demands were down.

I next tried the cluster theory, which was recommended by the manufacturer. This set-up refers to plugging multiple POWER COMPANYs into one another, thus increasing the overall available current. The thought of this made me uneasy, due to my feeling that if there were any negative sonic characteristics, they would be multiplied or compounded. During this sound test, I looked very carefully for sonic signatures rather than sonic improvements. The reasoning behind this was that if there were any sonic colorations, they would be twice as obvious. Intriguingly, they introduced no obvious degrading artifacts. I played with plugging different components into each other, separating the transport from the DAC, then trying the power amplifier on its own. In each of these experiments, I found sonic differences, each much improved upon the untreated power.

The Nitty-Gritty
I found improvements to the overall image focus. The images had a more complete three-dimensional make-up. I found a greater sense of separation between the physical instruments and acoustical surroundings, such as hall or studio reverberation, within the recordings. The presentation had increased coherence, which made recordings unquestionably more palpable.

These improvements were made to my reference system, which has few flaws and is extremely revealing. When I auditioned the POWER COMPANY in my mid-fi second system, I found the improvements to be noticeable but not overwhelming.

Many of the improvements that this product can provide are based on several variables. One of these is how good your untreated power is, which depends on many factors, such as the number of houses that share your transformers, along with the type of appliances that you and everybody else have connected. Then there’s wiring and so on. Performance also depends on how good the power supplies are in the components that you are connecting to it. Seemingly, the better the power supply, the less improvement that you will achieve, although this is a Catch-22, because the better the power supply, typically the better and more revealing your system is, and the more evident improvements are. The manufacturer suggested that possibly the best plan was to buy a slightly less demanding component and connect it to better power for better overall performance. All I have to say about that is, it’s a call that you would need to make personally. One thing that I do know is that the best power in the world can’t make an Adcom sound like a Krell. The manufacturer laid many claims that I did not have either the time or the opportunity to evaluate. One assertion was that the POWER COMPANY will make your system run cooler and, for tube owners, make elements last longer. It is said to improve the picture of your TV and/or projection TV, making it brighter and better. I tried this with my 35-inch tube and found no visible improvement. I would guess that Richard Gray's Power Company works better on a CRT projector, or a system with a better video front end. plans to test this in our new reference system in coming months.

The Downside
Just as you thought you had a grip on what would make your system right, someone else comes along telling you where else you need to spend your hard-earned cash. For those who own these $40,000-plus monster systems, what’s another $700? Although $700 is a seemingly reasonable cost for a product that competes with others that cost as much as two and three times more, it may appear to be just another overpriced tweak to many consumers. Is this just another product targeted at rich audiophiles or, as the manufacturer advertises, the product for all who want more out of their components? After auditioning, you tell us. I think the former rather than the latter.

I have addressed virtually every aspect of my playback system, including room treatment, vibration damping and even proper cable organization for best performance. However, for whatever reason, I have fallen in with the masses and ignored my power, even after recognizing that I had a problem. So here we are with the golden question:

Does the Richard Gray’s POWER COMPANY work? Yes it does, and well.

A couple of major electronics manufacturers I spoke with endorsed the product and recommend it with their equipment. Is it the best product of its type? There are dozens of products that claim to improve the quality of your power and the sound of your system. This one has a design philosophy that seems right.
Bad, inconsistent power is everybody’s problem. Although $700, or perhaps even $1,400 for two, isn’t mega-dollars, it’s enough for me to recommend that you test-drive the product first before you buy. If you are someone who is always looking for another way to improve your system’s sound, try one or more of these. They work.
Manufacturer Richard Gray's Power Company
Model 400s Power Conditioner
Reviewer Bryan Southard

Like this article? Bookmark and share with any of the sites below.
Digg!Reddit!!Google!StumbleUpon!Yahoo!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!
Joomla SEF URLs by Artio