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Good example of this when I installed BPT BP-3.5 power conditioner...

You ask a good question, and one that everyone must grapple with.

If you find a change to your system is a trade-off, then you can be sure something is wrong... not necessarily with the change you made, but perhaps something else. Then, you must experiment to find out which or what it is. This can take a lot of time, and perhaps several borrowed products. It gets easier the closer your system comes to the ideal, like many panes of clear glass in a row... you can quickly tell which is dirty. But, if they are each a bit filmy and have their own tints, it can be harder to tell when a change is truly for the better.

The key for me is to listen for when details of the sound are starting to "make more sense." For example, many people find Peter Gabriel's Up album to be muddy. In my car's stock audio system, it certainly seems that way. At home, the CD sounded better, and the bass sounds (not really instruments, but processed and reconstructed samples of various sounds) started to make themselves clear. After several improvements to the acoustics and the system, and a switch to SACD, the individual sounds were clearly isolated, and the arrangment made a new kind of musical and sonic sense. I could hear Peter's full intent for the first time.

I had an even easier time of it when I installed a BP-3.5 power conditioner. I gave it time to break in and didn't focus on the sound for a day. At first, it seemed just about the same in terms of overall tonal balance. But, gradually, it became clear that many aspects were much improved. Flatter frequency response, more extended extremes, more focused and realistic images, deeper soundstage, and so on.

The difference was so large that it forced a re-evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of everything in my system. For example, I found that turning up the feedback on my tube amps was a good thing. (They have triode/ultralinear switches, and a separate feedback switch to use in concert with this.) Previously, I think it was not a good thing, because the front-end was not sounding quite good enough for me to want to hear every detail, good AND bad, it was sending to the amps. Now, it was clearly better in every respect.

One example during this process: I had already found that the SACD of Cantate Domino was sounding great... I could make out the organ's sound and sensed the hall's size, and the choir seemed almost realistic, with well-focused images. But, once I turned up the feedback, I began to hear images of the pipes themselves. The last (?) layer of vagueness disappeared, and the image sounded damn close to live-witih-eyes-closed. The vocalists' images firmed up, and for the first time, the sibilance from their fricatives merged in space with the sound of their heads and bodies. (With the feedback lowered, their was a slight forwardness on sibilance that dismembered their "s" and "f" sounds from that of their heads.) When details lock into a realistic presentation like this, it makes it easy.

I had fun having a friend, Serge, over, with his great ears and musical knowledge. He is a faster judge then I, but he has different perceptions and goals. My goal is more accuracy and detail while remaining solidly musical. He is more concerned with being musical, and often prefers a bit of euphony if it is like what he is familiar with. Or, so it started out... he was not in agreement about flipping this feedback switch. But, after listening for a while, and adding a couple of pillows at key locations, he agreed that it was both subjectively AND objectively better.

I wrote a bit more about listening to this BP-3.5 (below), and can't recommend it enough. I suspect a lot of other people will have their perceptions and preconceptions revolutionized and their musical enjoyment elevated by such a non-intuitive upgrade. One doesn't expect the power line to be as significant an effect. I suppose we have overestimated, even over-idealized, the performance of power supplies inside of components.

General Asylum - I've been testing the BP-3.5, & can confirm what was written on 6moons.... - Jim Stoneburner
6moons audio reviews: BPT BP-3.5 Signature
Head-Fi - First impressions of BP-3.5
Head-Fi - Monster vs. BPT
SoundStage! Equipment Review - Balanced Power Technologies BP-2 Ultra Edition and BP-Jr. Balanced-Power Isolators (1/2002)
BPT sounds as good as Equi=Tech
BP-2 Ultra and BP-2.5 Ultra, Positive Feedback
Balanced Power BP2 review at Positive Feedback
6moons audio reviews: BPT BP-2+

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  • Good example of this when I installed BPT BP-3.5 power conditioner... - Jim Stoneburner 20:53:11 11/17/03 (0)

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