Audience adeptResponse aR6 Power Conditioner Review 
Home Theater AC Power AC Power
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The product category of power conditioners is one that often stirs debate, for and against, in the audiophile community. Some argue that a properly designed power supply needs no additional components to perform well, while others believe that the quality of delivered AC determines the quality of the audio performance.  I have heard some audiophiles proclaim a conditioner is an indispensable piece of gear, and others claim it makes their systems sound worse. What makes this review interesting is that I have no experience with conditioners. I normally plug my tube amp directly into a high quality AC receptacle, and my preamp and sources into a passive power strip free of any surge protecting devices or fuses. So I am calling this the “clean slate” review.

To greatly simplify for the sake of everyone, a power conditioner is an electrical device that provides "clean" power to sensitive electronic equipment. A typical power conditioner for high end audio components commonly provides surge protection as well as noise filtering. Most people are familiar with surge protectors, which protect against damage due to sudden spikes in the electrical current that can occur for a variety of reasons. While surge protectors safeguard equipment, a power conditioner “cleans” the signal, eliminating anomalies that can compromise performance. I should note that it is a little known fact that power conditioning devices are used in a variety of areas outside of high end audio.  Sensitive scientific and medical equipment, mission critical computing environments, and data centers are routinely partnered with devices that deliver consistent, clean, and reliable power.

Adept front

One can then theorize that scientists, bankers, and medical professionals would not allocate resources to such products if they did not work as advertised. One can also argue, and I believe correctly so, that  a high resolution, state of the art audio component is also a delicate instrument that requires considerable attention to set up and high quality AC power to perform at its very best. I might add that some designers, like those at DNM, Siltech, and others have opted to remove power quality from the equation by using battery power instead of traditional power supplies.

The power conditioner under review here is the Audience adeptResponse aR6 Passive Power Conditioner, which retails for $3100. There is also a premium version available for $5000, which includes Aura-TO High Resolution Teflon Capacitors, which Audience says is a significant upgrade. My review sample was the standard adeptResponse, and it came in a very attractive black finish.  It is also available in silver. The build quality is what I have come to expect from Audience after reviewing their marvelous ClairAudient 2+2 monitors, and their excellent Au24e cables.

The aR6 is equipped with 6 individually isolated and double filtered Hubbell outlets, and a heavy duty magnetic circuit breaker power switch. According to Audience,  the adeptResponse performs partial power factor correction which enhances natural dynamics by bringing the AC voltage and current into a better phase relationship, resulting in a more efficient transfer of power. The unit is capable of delivering 1800 watts continuously, and even double that for short periods.  A six foot Audience powerChord e with Neutrik PowerCon® and Wattgate power connectors is supplied.  Lastly, the entire electrical circuitry is cryogenically treated. See my interview with John McDonald of Audience at the conclusion of the review for a more in depth technical discussion.

adept back

Set Up & Listening:

After checking the manual for tips, I was up and running in five minutes. Amplification is plugged in closest to the incoming power, followed by preamps, then sources. I started off plugging in the my tubed preamp, CD player, and its external power supply into the adeptResponse, leaving my Audio Research tube amp plugged into the wall as usual. I did this so I could evaluate any changes in presentation in stages. To keep things consistent, I also used Audience power cords throughout.

The first thing that I noticed, and it was immediate and as clear as day, was the reduction in sibilance, and high frequencies that were much smoother and more natural. It was one of the most obvious and distinct changes I have ever heard in my system with the addition of any accessory, bar none. Although calling the adeptResponse an accessory may be misplaced, as it is really a world class component in and of itself. I listened for several days running to make sure I was not imagining things, and sure enough, the purity of the treble presentation remained, and only improved as the adeptResponse started to break in, which Audience says can take around 50 hours.

After a few days I then plugged in my Audio Research 6550 based 55 wpc tube amp in to the unit, but with a bit of trepidation. I have always heard chatter that tube amps don’t “like” power conditioners.  And indeed, Audio Research generally recommends plugging their amps directly into the wall on a dedicated line. Well, to my surprise, the quality I heard from plugging the preamp and source in to the adeptResponse were only magnified, and then some. But there was more. I heard additional layers of music, depth, and yet even smoother highs. In a word, everything was better. Bass was tighter, and mids were even more liquid. I felt the adeptResponse was allowing my amp to shine and made its strengths even more pronounced.  It reminded me of the day I first heard the amp at my local dealer, and thinking back, I now remember it was plugged into a conditioner.


To provide some musical examples that really helped me understand what the adeptResponse was doing I will start with Nick Drake’s trio of sublime albums, Bryter Later, Five Leaves Left, and Pink Moon.  Joy Boyd’s magical production is pure analog bliss, and the digital remaster is stunning. It’s a rather delicate mix of Drake’s voice, nylon string guitar, jazzy rhythms, and orchestration. There are many layers to this music and a refined system can make one lose all sense of space and time when listening to Drake. With the adeptResponse in the system there was no doubt everything sounded more organic, holographic, and even more analog like.

I then moved on to some classic John Coltrane, spinning his monumentally influential album Coltrane, from 1962. This CD was meticulously remastered by original recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Coltrane’s horn was naturally brassy, bold, and even piercing, exactly how he played live, as evidenced by loads of available authorized and unauthorized live recordings. The piano, bass, and drums were also superbly rendered with the natural woody tones and body one would expect. In a word, as good as I have ever heard this disc.

In the end, every disc I loaded up clearly sounded better with the system plugged in to the adeptResponse. I really could find no down side. Of note is the unit ran cool to the touch.  The adeptResponse is also virtually maintenance free. Audience wisely suggests cleaning the outlets with a contact cleaners periodically, or simply plugging in and unplugging the power cords on occasion which will also work.

Adept in black

Conclusion:

After spending several months with the Audience adeptResponse  aR6 I can safely say, without hesitation that it absolutely works as advertised. Without a doubt, the adeptResponse removed electronic hash, line noise, and created a cleaner canvas for the music to take center stage.  I have no doubts about how the adeptResponse  positively affected my system. I certainly cannot say it will work with every single component out there, but I would bet it would benefit all but the most esoteric of designs.

audience adept backAudience also offers a variety of power products, as well as several configurations in the adeptResponse line, along with their excellent power cords.  I am very glad I got to hear what power conditioning products can do for my system, and If I was privileged enough to have the resources, I would invest in conditioners for all my systems, and maybe even separate units for amplification and sources. But I found one adeptReponse aR6 to be more than sufficient and would gladly make it part of my reference system going forward. I would strongly urge an audition if you feel the full potential of your set up has not yet been unleashed. Even though I have a dedicated 20 amp line and a premium AC receptacle in my listening room, the difference was immediate. I can conclude that in essence, the adeptResponse has no sonic signature of its own, rather it allows you to hear the true character of your sources and amplification.  If you have invested a decent sum, I believe the Audience adeptResponse is the finishing touch. Well done Audience.

Interview:

Avrev: Recently I heard an audio engineer state basically the quality of the AC power defines the sound. Can I get your thoughts on this, and what would you say to the "a properly designed power supply" is all you need.
 
JM: With regard to the relation of AC power defining the sound it is important to understand that all of our electronics are simply modulators of AC power. Transforming this AC power into useful forms doesn’t change this basic fact and the end result can only be as good as the power that we start with.
 
All but the very best power supplies will pass some line noise and generate their own as well. However, even the best power supplies will benefit from having AC supply with low impedance at high frequencies. This helps prevent high frequency noise from gaining access to the system.
 
Avrev: Looking at the AdeptResponse without the cover, the quality of the parts and workmanship is very impressive. What in the actual design and implementation sets the Audience conditioners apart?
 
JM: There is nothing mysterious or out of the ordinary about the basic design of the Adept Response. However, implementation is what sets the Adept Response apart from all other power conditioners. Extraordinary attention was given to every detail as well as selection of the very highest quality parts possible.  
 
Avrev: As I stated in my review, I previously had no experience with high end power conditioners, and also no preconceived notions. I now believe it is an essential ingredient in allowing your system to perform at it's very best. Is the AdeptResponse one of those products you have to win over listeners one at a time?

JM: It isn’t different than any other product except that a great many people, probably most people, still do not realize the great benefit of using a good power conditioner. This is very understandable due to the fact that most power conditioners bring something negative to the audio signal. When designing the Adept Response, the first and foremost rule was to do no harm.


Playlist

  • Nick Drake: Bryter Later, Five Leaves Left, Pink Moon, 2003, Island Records
  • The Church:Forget Yourself, 2003, Cooking Vinyl Records
  • John Coltrane: Coltrane (1962 album),2007,Impulse
  • Seal: Commitment, 2010, Reprise
  • Junip:Fields, 2010, Muse
  • Pharoh Sanders: Elevation, 2005, Universal

Specifications

  • Power Outlets:  6 Hubbell high conductivity power receptacles
  • Dimensions:  10.5”W x 4.75”H x 8.25”D
  • Weight:  aR6: 9.8 lbs/4.5kg  /  aR6-T: 11.1lbs/5kg
  • Finish:  Grained and satin anodized aluminum Silver or Black
  • Price:  aR6: $3,100.00 USD  /  aR6-TS: $5,000.00 USD
  • Main Power Cord Included:  Standard 6 ft. 10 AWG powerChord by Audience with Neutrik 20A PowerCon® and Wattgate power connectors.
  • Made in USA
  • www.audience-av.com

Reviewer System

  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16, McIntosh MA6600
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
  • Speaker: Thiel CS3.7, Spendor S35R
  • Cables: DH Labs, RS Cables, Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)/Element Cable, Shunyata, Pangea, Audience AU24e interconnect and speaker , Audience powerChord e. AC cords.
  • Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands, Timbernation platform, CablePro Noisetrapper





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