Shunyata Denali AC Power Conditioning System


Equipment report
AC conditioners
Shunyata Research D2000T,
Shunyata Research D6000S,
Shunyata Research D6000T
Shunyata Denali AC Power Conditioning System

The qualities that have made me a Shunyata user for the past ten years were taken to new heights by the Denali system. I didn’t need to listen carefully and pick out small differences between the new and old conditioners; the Denali rendered an immediately apparent wholesale improvement to my system.

The best single word to describe Shunyata’s technology in general, and the Denali system in particular, is “organic.” That is, the music has a natural ease that makes it easier to forget I’m listening to electronics and speakers. The Denali removes a fine scrim of grain, etch, and metallic hardness that overlays timbres, washing them clean. If you’re used to the sound of your system without good AC conditioning, you may not identify this whitish grain specifically, but it nonetheless diminishes the natural tonal colors of instruments, and fosters that familiar feeling of listening to the music as filtered through electronics. It’s only after hearing the system with this distortion removed that you recognize this distortion for what it is.

More important, however, is the effect on the listening experience. The cleaner rendering of timbre confers many benefits, including richer and denser tone color by virtue of absence of the electronic patina. The Denali allows the instruments’ natural beauty to shine through, unencumbered by a tincture of sterile artificiality. Instrumental and vocal textures become more like music and less like electronics. The sound is richer, more deeply saturated, and timbrally vivid.

This impression is amplified by the another salubrious effect, the dramatic lowering of the noise floor, and with it the threshold for hearing musical detail. To use a visual analogy, compare looking at the night sky from a major city with that same view from a pitch-black wilderness. The city’s light pollution obscures the faintest stars, and reduces the contrast between the still-visible stars and the blackness of space. The night sky from, say, Death Valley, is awe-inspiring. From Manhattan, not so much. Similarly, the Denali’s reduction in background noise allows a wealth of fine detail to emerge. This detail may be the micro-texture of tone colors that imbues the sound with a more vivid sense of the instrument and the mechanism by which it creates music. This micro-texture, when resolved, makes it easier to cross the threshold into that zone of forgetting that you’re listening to a reproduction. Moreover, resolving this tiny component of the sound not only provides greater richness of timbre; it also allows you to better differentiate individual instruments in an ensemble. On Dick Hyman’s From the Age of Swing on Reference Recordings the unison phrases by the brass and woodwinds sounded like many differentiated instruments playing together rather than a synthetic continuum.

It’s not just very low-level timbral detail that makes instruments sound more lifelike, but also the resolution of very fine transient information. I’m talking about the finest micro-transients, components of the signal that you may not think of as transients but that, nonetheless, provide the brain with richer cues about the sound’s origin. A reed moving back and forth, for example, or the series of very fine, closely spaced dynamic impulses created by a bow moving across a string. Without any AC conditioning, these extremely fine but vitally important signal components are simply buried. The delicate brushwork on Jimmy Cobb’s snare drum on Jazz in the Key of Blue was much better articulated, with a more vivid and realistic rendering of brushes moving across the drumhead. The Triton was for me revelatory in how it unearthed fine details, but the Denali is, surprisingly, significantly better at resolving these low-level cues. The more experience I have with cutting-edge audio, the more I’m convinced that it’s the resolution of the very finest musical information that vaults a system from outstanding to musically transcendental.

Another manifestation of the reduction in the noise floor is the ability to hear the fragile spatial cues that, together, allow our minds to create a believable soundstage. Soundstage depth, width, the sense of hearing back into the hall, and of individual instruments separated by space is staggeringly better with the Denali. To borrow one of Jonathan Valin’s wonderful visualizations, it’s like looking at a diorama compared to looking at a painting. Early in The Rite of Spring [Reference Recordings] the contrabassoon in the back row plays a prominent, almost solo, passage that lights up the surrounding acoustic and reveals the orchestra’s depth and the hall’s size. The Denali brings these spatial details to vivid life. The more realistic portrayal of spatial cues also has the effect of making the loudspeakers more fully disappear. Without Shunyata’s conditioning, the speakers do a good job of floating images and fostering the impression that the sound isn’t coming from two transducers. But the Denali takes that impression to another level, and in a way that’s hard to describe. The soundstage and the instrumental images within it are more tangible, solid, immersive, and detached from the speakers.

The Denali’s combination of deeper background blackness, resolution of the finest spatial and textural detail, utter liquidity of timbre, and powerful impression of immersing you in the recording venue’s acoustic presents the music with a heightened sense of occasion and drama. When a piece of music starts, it feels as though I’m about to experience a momentous event that deserves and demands my full attention. Any component that fosters this feeling is special, indeed.

Shunyata’s new Denali AC conditioning system significantly improves upon the sound quality of its stellar predecessor, the Triton. In every sonic criterion, the Denali establishes a new benchmark of performance. In addition to cleaner timbres, lower noise, greater resolution of low-level detail, and a more expansive and dimensional soundstage, the Denali system goes a step further in recreating the illusion of musical realism.

In addition, the D6000T’s new vertical orientation and cable support system make it fit more easily into any system. And if you have shelf space, you can save $1000 with the D6000S and still get the same performance as the D6000T. Although $4k or $5k for power conditioning isn’t inexpensive, I consider the Denali products a tremendous value not just in relation to competing conditioners, but also in the context of your entire system investment. Before you “trade up” to a different power amplifier, for example, you should hear what state-of-the-art AC conditioning can do.

Specs & Pricing

AC inlet: 20A IEC connector
AC outlets: Six, divided into three zones
Noise suppression: Zone 1 to Zone 2: >60dB (500kHz–10MHz), >24dB (100kHz–30MHz); Inlet to Z1 or Z2: >25dB (500kHz–30MHz); Inlet to Z3: >15dB (100kHz–30MHz)
Dimensions: 7.75" x 17.75" x 17.25"
Weight: 24.1 lbs.
Price: $4995

AC inlet, outlets, and noise suppression specs identical to D6000T
Dimensions: 17.25" x 4.5" x 12.15"
Weight: 12.3 lbs.
Price: $3995

Outlets: 2 high current
Noise suppression: >15dB (100kHz–30MHz)
Dimensions: 7.75" x 9" x 17.25"
Weight: 17.7 lbs.
Price: $3495

26273 Twelve Trees Lane
Poulsbo, WA 98370
(360) 598-9935

Associated Equipment
Loudspeakers: Magico Q7 MkII, EnigmAcoustics Sopranino self-biasing electrostatic super-tweeters
Preamplifier: Constellation Altair II
Power amplifiers: Constellation Hercules II and Berning 211/845
Analog source: Basis Inspiration turntable with Basis Superarm 9, Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge, Moon by Simaudio 810LP phonostage, Klaudio KD-CLN-LP200 ultrasonic LP cleaner
Digital sources: Aurender W20 music server, Berkeley Alpha USB USB-to-SPDIF converter, Berkeley Alpha DAC Reference
Support: Critical Mass Systems Maxxum equipment racks (x2), Maxxum amplifier stands (x2)
Loudspeaker cables: MIT ACC 268
Interconnects: MIT MA-X SHD, AudioQuest WEL Signature and AudioQuest Wild
Digital interconnects: Audience Au24 USB, AudioQuest Wild Digital AES/EBU, AudioQuest BNC
AC: Four dedicated AC lines; Shunyata Sigma power cords
Acoustics: ASC 16" Full-Round Tube Traps (x2), ASC Tower Trap (x1), Stillpoints Aperture Panels (x 12)
Accessories: Shunyata cable lifters, Stillpoints UltraSS and Ultra6 isolation