Terry Brent, the National Sales Manager of Equi=Tech, very kindly delivered to me to audition a brand new Equi-Tech 2RQ. The Equi=Tech 2RQ employs an isolation transformer and a balanced power circuit to, among other things, cancel common mode noise. The 2RQ is rated at 2kVA.
The 2RQ is not large -- it is flat and short (16" X 16" X 3.5") -- but it feels as heavy and as dense as lead (72 pounds). It is extremely well-built and solid, and beautifully screwed together. There were no scratches anywhere on the case. It worked perfectly from the moment we turned it on.
Please see more details about the 2RQ here at Equi=Tech's website: https://www.equitech.com/model-q-shelf-or-rack-mounted-chassis-systems/
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ISOLATION TRANSFORMER/BALANCED POWER VERSUS POWER REGENERATION
I have often wondered about the sonic differences in a particular system between PS Audio's power regenerator products (P10, P15 and P20) and isolation transformer/balance power devices such as those made by Equi=Tech and Torus Power. Invariably an audiophile buys a PS Audio regenerator or an isolation transformer device, and inevitably loves the one he/she buys. Virtually no one buys both a PS Audio regenerator and an Equi=Tech or a Torus and compares them directly in his own system, and makes a conscientious, thoughtful decision as to which sounds best in his system according to his ears. It is one of the comparisons in our hobby that rarely, if ever, is destined to happen in real life.
I have assumed that I would purchase a PS Audio regenerator or an isolation transformer/balanced power device for my front-end components. Who does not want to minimize audiophilia nervosa
about the quality of the AC power swimming into the power supplies of our components by buying one of these devices?
Knowing that JeffreyT -- who lives within walking distance of my temporary rental house in Long Beach, California -- recently purchased a P10, I immediately accepted Terry's offer to try an Equi=Tech. I knew Jeff would be as curious as I am to compare an isolation transformer/balanced power device to his P10.
Another friend of ours, Jimford, has a P20, and he, too, was curious to hear the differences between a P10 and an Equi=Tech.
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Jeff uses M2!5 loudspeakers made by Peter Noerbaek of PBN Audio. The standard version of the speaker uses the JBL D2430H mid-range/tweeter compression driver, with dual-diaphragms and waveguide atop two JBL 2235H 15 inch woofers. Jeff requested a woofer - wideband driver - woofer (M-T-M type) configuration, so the compression driver is in the middle of the woofers. I think this is a brilliant request, and it is how I would’ve ordered the speakers myself. I call this version of the speaker the "Jeff Tyo Special Edition."
Jeff has a full suite of Lamm electronics: the LP2.1 Deluxe phono stage; the LL2.1 Deluxe line stage; and the ML1.1 80 watt per channel mono amplifiers. A skeptic of very expensive cables, Jeff has settled on Belden 8402 interconnects with Switchcraft RCA connectors, made by Jeff Day, after comparing them to Kimber Cables. Power cables are Ching Chengs from David Karmeli of Vintage Audio Specialties in Cedar City, Utah.
Jeff’s turntable is the Acoustic Signature Ascona sitting on top of its matching stand. The machining quality of the plinth is fantastic. A van den Hul Colibri Stradivarius cartridge rides on an SME 3012R tonearm.
We listened mainly to:
“Send in the Clowns" by Bill Henderson, Live at the Times
(Jazz Planet Records/Classic Records)
”I've Got the Music in Me" by Thelma Houston, I've Got the Music in Me
(Sheffield Lab 2)
"Body and Soul" by The Thelonious Monk Quartet, Monk's Dream
(Mobile Fidelity Ultradisc One-Step)
Each of us noticed that subjectively the Equi=Tech sounded louder than the P10. I was using the SPL meter on my iPhone X, and, sure enough, the meter was reading about 3dB be higher with the Equi=Tech. But how could this be? How could a mere AC power device subjectively make the sound coming out of the stereo noticeably louder?
To me the Equi-Tech sounded a little bit more dynamic than the P10. Jeff and Jim disagreed, saying that because the Equi=Tech sounded louder I was mistaking that increase in amplitude for greater dynamics.
Near the end of "Body and Soul" by The Thelonious Monk Quartet, there is a piano piece. All of us heard that the piano keys sounded less full and more "tinkly" with the 2RQ than with the P10. To me the 2RQ sounded a little bit more transparent and more neutral in tonal balance. I thought it sounded a little bit more exciting than the P10. I feel like the 2RQ turned up the contrast.
Overall the P10 sounded warmer and fuller than did the Equi-Tech. String instruments and piano sounded more resonant and with longer decays on the P10 than on the 2RQ.
Was the 2RQ cleaning away common mode noise, leaving the sound with a more crystalline quality and pure sound, or was it bleaching the sound, leaving it thinner? Was the P10 eliminating distortion and harshness allowing the music's natural richness to be revealed, or was it bathing the sound in some kind of warm glaze? I truly do not know.
I suggested that the 2RQ made the test tracks sound like the speakers were being driven by a solid-state amplifier, whereas the P10 made the test tracks sound like the speakers were being driven by a tube amplifier, and Jeff and Jim agreed. Put another way, in terms of tonal balance -- neutrality versus fullness and warmth -- the 2RQ made the system sound like it was fronted by a Lyra Atlas cartridge on an SAT tonearm, and the P10 made the system sound like it was fronted by a ZYX UNIverse Premium on an SME 3012R.
I was shocked and not at all prepared for the very different sounds created by these two different power devices. I literally went into this comparison wondering if I would be able to discern any differences at all.
This comparison raised more questions than it answered. Why and how does the Equi=Tech make the system sound materially louder? If all these devices are doing is cleaning up the AC power, why does the system sound so different on each of them? And which sound is correct: the cleanliness and excitement of the Equi=Tech or the warmth and smoothness of the PS Audio?
Is power regeneration versus isolation transformer/balanced power another morass of subjectivity wholly dependent upon the idiosyncrasies of the current sound of one's system, one's sonic preferences and one's mains power quality? Apparently, the answer is a firm "yes."
If I owned Jeff's system, which power device would I buy? I don't know. I would need to spend a lot more time with both devices.
If I bought the P10, I might feel like I am missing out on the transparency and excitement of the 2RQ. If I selected the 2RQ, I might worry that over time I would find the 2RQ slightly fatiguing compared to the warm and smooth sound of the P10.
I wish we had had time to compare the sound of Jeff's system with the P10 and with the 2RQ to the sound of Jeff's system powered directly by his outlets. We can't be certain, logically, but all three of us would be willing to bet that we would've preferred both the P10 and the 2RQ to mains power directly.
Thanks to JeffreyT for hosting the comparison!
Thanks very much to Terry of Equi-Tech, and to Randy, Equi=Tech's West Coast dealer, for the opportunity to audition the very impressive Equi=Tech 2RQ!