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Audience aR6-T Power Conditioner Review

Power Corrupts More Than We Ever Knew -- Jack Roberts' Quest for Clean AC Part Two:

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Audience aR6-T Power Conditioner

So far most people who have heard the new T series power conditioners from Audience have been mightily impressed. Harry Pearson mentions in his column for The Absolute Sound that upon inserting the new aR-12 T for the original aR12 that “the transformation of that system was transfixing. Maybe even “staggering” and “astonishing”, according to the first impressions I jotted down.”

In the only review I have seen of one of the new Audience power conditioners, Greg Weaver of Positive Feedback said, “Where the original raised the bar and set a very serious standard, the Audience aR-12 T creates an entirely new benchmark. Further, in my experience, this degree of overall system improvement simply cannot be achieved with ANY other individual investment, regardless of the amount—$8,000 or $80,000.”

Maybe my first impressions would have been like that if I had gone straight from my aR1ps to the aR6-T. Truth is I had thought that the aR1ps were as good as you could get in the power conditioning game. That is until December of 2008, when the “Invasion of the Power Conditioners” began at my place. I should admit that I have tried a dozen or more conditioners over the years, but none nearly as good as the aR series from Audience, that is until this latest group of power conditioners invaded my system.

It all started when I discovered Synergistic’s Tesla PowerCell 10SE, then the MIT came in, and then the Audio Revives. The PowerCell had already changed my mind about what power conditioners could do for my system, so the real question as I plugged the aR6-T into my system was could it possibly be in the same league with the PowerCell. Well the answer is a resounding yes. The fact that two products could both produce such outstanding results when they approach the problem from totally different engineering techniques might be something of surprise, but it’s the truth.

Description

A pair of Audience’s aR1ps have been in my reference system providing power conditioning for a while. Many of you have read about, heard, or used either the aR-12, aR-6, or aR1p. These have been well received for several years. These original units used only the finest components, including a magnetic circuit breaker instead of a power switch in the aR-12 and 6, of course the aR1p didn’t need a power switch. By the way, there is no aR1p-T, but there will be a two-plug version soon.

The “T” versions of the Audience power conditioners look just the same as the originals on the outside. The only difference you can see or feel is the T in the serial number and the weight. They still come with a 6-foot 10AWG Audience powerChord. The conditioners use a low resistance, heavy duty magnetic circuit breaker power switch. Audience does not use any high resistance type of series inductors, but instead uses ultra-high efficiency filter components on every outlet. There is also double filtering between outlets for maximum component to component isolation. They are all hand wired with no printed circuit boards. The entire electrical circuity is cryogenically treated.

The only difference between “T” versions and the original ones is that the new ones use
Audience’s new “Aura-T High Resolution Teflon Capacitors”. That’s it, nothing else has changed, except the sound and oh how it has changed!

Setup

I simply put the Audience aR6-T on the bottom shelve and plugged everything in. It was pretty simple because I only have three things go plug in. I chose to use the Shindo’s Deluxe power cords for the Wavac EC 300B, the Shindo Masseto, and the Clearaudio Reference Wood CMB Anniversary turntable. The aR6-T of course was hooked up to the wall outlet with their fine powerChord. By the way, I used the Audience powerChords for my reference until I begin to use Shindo equipment which doesn’t really like three prone power cords, and along the way discovered the wonderful and fairly inexpensive Shindo Deluxe power cords.

Initial Observations

The very first thing I noticed when I put the aR6-T into my system was that the deep bass was deeper and tighter; the midrange was not quite as smooth; in fact the midrange was a little more immediate, and the soundstage was a little different, very wide, about the same in depth, and had this incredible way in the vertical realm. These were first impressions after it had been on for just one day. John McDonald of Audience had assured me the unit was broken in, and it probably was, but it still took about three days before I no longer noticed changes in my system’s sound. So, if you get a brand new one I would give it a couple of weeks to break in. While some of the initial observations would stay the same, others would change over the first three days. So let’s talk about how the Audience aR-T affected the sound of my system.

How did the Audience aR6-T affects the sound of my system?

Simply, more than I would have ever thought possible, even after hearing some of the fine units that have invaded my home in the last four months, among which, without a doubt, was the Tesla PowrCell as the cream of that group. After living with the original and superb Audience Adept Response power conditioner, I just wasn’t prepared for how much better the “T” version would be. Let’s break it down.

Bass

Like I said above it allows the deep bass to come to life. Not only did my system’s bass sound deep, tight, and powerful; it also had fast attack and wonderful decay. The bass has more weight and depth to it, it actually seems to occupy a real space. This last trait really adds to the believability of my system, and drums especially sound so real it’s hard to believe.

If the sound the aR6-T produces in my system is the truth then it seems that some of the mid-bass warmth my system had prior to its arrival must have come from AC noise or phase distortion. There is no doubt that the mid-bass is tighter, more detailed, has better attack, more decay, and air. Yet, some of the warmth in the mid-bass is also gone when the AC is coming through the aR6-T. To me, this seems more accurate, but you will have to decide if this is truth for you. If your system is already a little on the thin side I bet with all the positives the Audience T version conditioner does for your system, you will hunt for where your system is lacking warmth, before you get rid of this gem.

Midrange

Transparency is the first word that springs to mind when it comes to describing what the Audience aR6-T does for my system’s midrange. With it, my system sounds like someone has truly flung a window wide open on the performance. It’s a kind of transparency I have never experienced from recorded music before. This transparency allows your system to let voices just come to life right there in your room. They have a rightness to them that is just uncanny whether it be male or female, sung or spoken.

The next words I would use to describe the midrange would be natural detail. I hear more inner detail more easily than I ever have before. This detail comes through by allowing instruments to sound more like the real things without any trace of increased edginess or brightness.

Treble

This is an area that I always expect a power conditioner to improve and I was not disappointed. The combination of good vinyl, the Shindo Masseto, the Wavac EC300B and the aR6-T play the most beautiful, most lifelike, and most extended treble from cymbals, strings, pianos, and other instruments I have ever heard except from live performances. Truth is I have never heard my Teresonics producing this kind of beautiful treble.

Micro-dynamics and the Pace Rhythm And Timing

Both the micro-dynamics and the PaceRhythmAndTiming are dramatically better. The micro-dynamics are so effortless and fast that at first I did not pay attention to how my system was significantly faster than before. This increase in micro-dynamics really aided my system’s ability to sound alive. This, combined with the way music now flows naturally, and the increased ability my system had in portraying pace, rhythm and timing, results in a midrange that is truly lifelike in its ability to reproduce a musical performance.

Soundstage and Scale

In my initial observations I said this about the soundstage, “the soundstage was a little different, very wide, about the same in depth, and had this incredible way in the vertical realm.” Well, after breaking-in the soundstage improved in every way that is important to me. That is, it produced the very best and coherent soundstage I have ever had in my system. By coherent soundstage, I mean one that is whole, a soundstage that is more like you are at the event than the event is in your room.

What really made this soundstage so unbelievably real-sounding was the way it handled the vertical dimension of a soundstage. Thinking back on my other reviews where I have talked about vertical soundstage, I think I have always been referring to the system’s ability to portray a more lifelike height than one that only seems as highs as the drivers in the speaker system. While my system does that better than ever before with the aR6-T in the system, that’s not what I’m really talking about this time when I say how much it improves the vertical dimension of the soundstage.

No, with the aR6-T my system does something I have never heard before. Oh, I’ve heard it a little bit, but not with this degree of startling reality. With almost all mono recordings, and with stereo recordings that are not heavy into the use of multiple microphones, I can easily tell the amount of vertical space that an instrument takes up and where it is located in that vertical space. You should hear this with cymbals, or an upright bass. This ability of my system via the Audience really caught me off guard, and it really adds to the musical realism of a recorded program.

Compared to no power conditioning

I reconnected my three components directly to the wall outlets to see how things would sound. It was quite a shock: the sound collapsed into a flat sounding stage that in no way sounded nearly as real as it had with the aR6-T in the system. Much of the beautiful space, reverberation, and micro-dynamics were gone. Simply put, I could never go back to raw, unconditioned AC.

Compared to the Audience aR1P

Then, I reinserted my aR1Ps into my system. They sounded very much like the aR6-T, but not nearly as transparent, nor did the music flow into the room like it did with the aR6-T. There was just a whole lot less of everything. The feeling that real instruments and voices were in my room just wasn’t the same; nor was there the same fullness, and harmonic correctness.

Compared to the Synergistic Research Tesla PowerCell 10SE

If you have now read both reviews, I know you want me to tell you which one is best, but I can’t do that. I especially can’t tell you which one you will like best, because I haven’t heard them both in your system. The best I can do is to tell where they sound different from one another in my system. Let me start by saying they sound similar in more ways than they sound different despite their very different technologies.

They both brought about an incredible improvement to my system’s transparency, though with the Audience my system was more immediate and with the Tesla PowerCell it was a little warmer and fuller sounding. They both also improved my system’s bottom-end albeit in different ways. Through the PowerCell, my system has more mid-bass, and more natural mid-bass warmth. Through the Audience aR6-T, the bass in my system was deeper, tighter, and has somehow still had more air around it. In the midrange the PowerCell was smoother and more liquid sounding in the very best way. The midrange of my system through the Audience was so clear it’s almost disconcerting at times. With the Audience, the ability to hear both attack and decay is simply amazing.

When it came to the effect on my system’s soundstaging, there was a clear difference. The Tesla PowerCell did something that allowed my system to produce a more cavernous, holographic and palpable soundstage. The Audience, on the other hand, produced a soundstage with the most lifelike scale I have ever heard. It also let my system unravel the acoustical space on a recording in a way I’ve never heard before. It was in the area of soundstaging that there was a fundamental difference in how the two power conditioners affected my system.

The PowerCell’s effects on the soundstage of my system are pretty much there with every recording. Of course, the soundstage varies somewhat from recording to recording, but my system basically produced a more holographic soundstage than it did before, and I would think that for the majority of audiophiles that’s a good thing. Your system’s soundstaging, of course, is dependent on your room, equipment, and speaker placement. Still, I have now heard the PowerCell in four different rooms each with different systems, yet every time it brought out a consistently more holographic soundstage.

By contrast the, Audience aR6-T’s effect on my system’s soundstage was as I described earlier: It has a very coherent, whole soundstage. It is a soundstage that is more like you are at the event than the event is in your room, and as I said above what really made this soundstage so real is the way it handles the vertical dimension of the soundstage. Another difference is that the soundstage varies tremendously from recording to recording. That too can be a little disconcerting for some listeners. Still, I expect that through the Audience the system is just letting you hear the differences from recording to recording. The Audience also has an uncanny ability to let the system reveal the different size of different instruments in the soundstage.

Conclusion

I’ve tried so many power conditioners that I won’t try to list all of them. With most of them I could hear a difference, but most of what I heard from them were incremental refinements. Not so with the last two remarkable power conditioners to come this way; the Synergistic Research Tesla PowerCell and the Audience aR6-T. No, with these two conditioners the improvement is dramatic, very dramatic, and the result is to make music come to life in ways I have not heard before.

I want to close by saying that I don’t know of anything at anywhere near the price that has improved my system like either of these two power conditioners. In the end, I am a firm believer in the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle when it comes to audio design. Just look at my system, it only has three power cords, and one pair of interconnects plus the tonearm cable. That combined with the value I place on transparency makes the Audience a clear choice in my book; but if I valued more warmth, and a huge, cavernous soundstage then I would go with the PowerCell. Either way it is obvious that with the Audience aR6-T or aR12-T we really have a great breakthrough in Power Conditioning.

Hold the Presses!!!

Just a couple of weeks after I turned in this review, John called and said they had a new powerChord. According to John the Au24 powerChord “is more than an improvement, it is a whole new product.” Well, that is obvious just by looking at the two powerChord models. At first glance they might look a lot alike, but the new power cable is larger and has a dark red tint under the outer covering, but the fact they don’t look alike is not the issue, is it? The question of course is how much better does it sound. The answer is, John’s right, it’s a whole new power cable. The new Au24 powerChord costs a little more than three times as much as their original powerChord.

According to Audience, the new Au24 powerChord is comprised of high purity OHNO copper (mono crystal copper) strands like the ones they use to make the Au24 cables. They claim that allows your system to produce large amounts of micro information and ultra high resolution. If this was their design goals, they have succeeded beyond what I would have thought possible from a power cord.

What I can tell you is that the addition of the Au24 powerChord completes the aR6-T. The aR6-T brings to your room the most lifelike transparency I have ever heard, bass that seems to occupy real space, and all the other things I said above. The addition of the new power cord gives you more. I know that’s not a very audiophile thing to say, but it’s exactly what you get. In my reviews of the different Shindo preamps I talked about this same effect. As you move up the Shindo line, each preamp gives you more information and with greater resolution. This is exactly the same effect I heard in my system when I added the Au24 powerChord to the aR6-T.

The one other thing I clearly hear with the addition of this single cable into my system is an increase in soundstage and spatial information. It’s too early to give a full review of the new Au24 powerChord, all I have heard so far is the one power cord from the wall to the aR6-T. I can’t wait to hear what adding these new power cords to the rest of my system will sound like, but I’ll have to wait, because Audience is sold out of the first run of these cables, but I’ve been promised them for my system in about a month. So, stay tuned.

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