I’m not proud to admit that I arrived a little late to the party for AC power conditioning. I was not a skeptic per se, but at the time I was so intent on assembling a reference system that line conditioning had dropped off my radar. This is not uncommon. We put AC power concerns on the back burner, kind of like room acoustics. Let’s face it: As long as you’re plugged in and, uh, current on your electric bill, everything should be okay, right?
Not necessarily. Line conditioners perform a couple of critical housekeeping functions. First, they prevent cross-contamination from the other components within your audio system, including digital components. They remove EMI and antennae noise (RFI) that originates within your home from computers, Wi-Fi, appliances, and dimmers. No less important and as unlikely as it sounds, they isolate the system from the upstream EMI/RFI that gets dragged in from everything else outside your home that’s connected to the grid. Hard to believe that some of the grunge in your line is caused by a 1600-watt hair dryer in a next-door neighbor’s bathroom, but that’s what “sharing the grid” means.
More recently I read with interest colleague Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of the IsoTek EVO3 Sigma power conditioner in Issue 254. His remarks caught my eye, especially in the context of his state-of-the-art system and the bespoke environment of his discretely grounded, electrically and acoustically optimized listening room. His system, a Wilson Audio WAMM/Ypsilon/Continuum/dCS Vivaldi 2.0 rig is pretty much the definition of resolution and transparency in the here and now. Yet, Jacob’s conclusions showed that even under such elite conditions the IsoTek was still capable of furthering system isolation and reducing the noise floor. I figured if IsoTek could do that for such a system, what might one of its lower-priced versions accomplish in a more typical setup and listening environment?
Enter the IsoTek EVO3 Aquarius, a more affordable version in the EVO3 series from this British-based company. The rack-width steel-and-aluminum chassis houses six outlets—two high-current outlets, rated at 16A, suitable for power amplifiers, active loudspeakers, or subwoofers, and four medium-current outlets. Aquarius benefits from much of the innovation and technology of the uptown Nova and Sigma conditioners in two unique areas. Primary is KERP (Kirchoff’s Equal Resistance Path), which “ensures equal resistance and equal power delivery to all outlets.” There’s no daisy-chaining thus no outlet gets power before the next. This means that noise created by your system’s electronics will not migrate to the next output socket. Equally important is that each outlet is assigned its own dedicated filter network, which ensures optimal isolation between outlets. Additionally, the medium-current outlets auto-sense the requirements of the load based upon power draw. IsoTek asserts that its technology removes both differential-mode cross-contamination (appliance noise) and common-mode (RFI) noise, with a reduction of 60dB. Aquarius also features IsoTek’s unique sequential protection system boasting 67,500A of instantaneous protection from surges or spikes. Internal wiring is solid-core, silver-plated, OFC copper with a virtual air dielectric technology plus an outer dielectric of FEP/Teflon.
Aquarius is supplied with an IsoTek EVO3 Premier power cable. Cords are an important part of the system equation in that they also minimize noise and don’t limit current delivery. All the contact points from the AC wall outlets and power cords into the electronics are of equal importance, which makes it imperative that power cords and even premium duplex outlets, such as the Furutech GTX (Issue 291), are considered. In my system these elements magnified the dimensional and immersive effects of the IsoTek. Returning to stock power cords and a standard wall outlet diminished these properties.