Frank Acoustics' UB25000 AC line enhancer
When I first read about Frank Acoustics’ PB15000 Power Bank Storage device in a review (here) by our own Stephen Yan, my first thought was, "Just another revamped Richard Gray." The problem with the Richard Gray Power Company device was that, although it delivered better dynamics, ease and power to my system, as my tastes evolved over the years to favor a more transparent presentation, I could detect colorations that I suspected were coming from the RGPC. Removing it confirmed my suspicions. That was nearly 20 years ago and I haven't looked back.
Stephen Yan's review of the PB15000W citing improvements to an already well-heeled setup (reviewed here) got my attention. Additionally I was intrigued to find that that the unit was installed on his electrical panel. Stephen mentioned that the PB15000Ws had created an enhanced sense of reality — especially to piano. But what sold me was that he found the PB1500W to be far less invasive because of its installation location.
Intrigued, I kept Frank Acoustics' website under my favorites list and looked there occasionally to read all the comments from new owners. I became more interested the more I found super elaborate systems achieving the same sonic improvements Stephen had written about. My only fear was having to hire an electrician to install it. I was hesitant to take that risk because my home's electrical panel had been upgraded in 2005. I wanted to know more about Frank Acoustics and continued keeping a close watch on their website.
Some months later I saw mention of a new Frank Acoustics Ultra Bank PB25000W (hereafter the UB25000) designed specifically for folks like me who wanted to plug and play and avoid the need for an electrician. I immediately got in touch with designer Frank Voon in Malaysia and asked for a review sample. Voon was obliging. He also mentioned that mine would be the first Frank Acoustics product to be reviewed in the USA. Frank Voon has been designing high-end audio components in Malaysia since 1998. One of his first and most beloved products—the Pipit phono stage—won considerable admiration in the late '90s.
I had the rare opportunity to visit Singapore in 2000 (the city where Stephen resides and where he and I first met). Singapore's Adelphi building contains a six-story mall with more high-end audio emporiums than you could find in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined! Every one of those audio dealers/distributors had only high end products showcased in their brightly lit window displays. Names like B&W, Rowland, Wilson, Levinson, Gryphon and Linn were to be found. The name Frank Voon was entirely absent. Recognition in high end circles has always been a matter of hard work and patience
Today, Frank Acoustics is designing and manufacturing some of the most intriguing high-end audio products we in America have never heard of! And now, with the introduction of the UB25000, we at Stereo Times finally get the chance to hear this highly praised product in the flesh.
Stephen Yan entitled his review with the contrarian notion, "Inductance is our friend." He also emphasized that playback quality is solely on the shoulders of a component's power supply. (I couldn't agree more and think perhaps his article owes another view HERE for those who have not done so.) In essence, the UB25000 is designed to provide more storage and instantaneous power to each of your components power supplies, allowing them to perform better than you ever believed possible.
At nearly 100 lbs, the UB25000 has the heft of a powerful Class A amplifier rather than a traditional AC conditioner. It is heavy and it is cumbersome. Getting it into your rack space or even on the floor next to an AC outlet is going to take some nifty footwork. Due to space constraints, my review sample went face down on the floor behind my loudspeakers—resting upon its rack handles—with its rear end facing up for easy access to its IEC plug and two AC outlets.
I powered the unit up using an inexpensive OEM cord connected directly to a wall outlet. Immediately it was installed, my spider senses started to tingle. I could detect an ever-so-slight improvement in the delicacy of the sound. But I decided it would be wiser to follow instructions and just leave UB25000 running for the next six hours before attempting any serious evaluation. So around 10 PM I returned, anxious to sit down and listen.
Cueing up Boz Scagg's melancholy I Just Go from "The Essential" in the Laufer Teknik Memory Player. A hot cup of Columbian coffee in hand, I immediately noticed a more percussive swing and a slightly wider and deeper soundstage. Dynamics took on greater ease and control, and seemed to reach further at both frequency extremes. Surprised, I reached for my favorite test CDs for solid confirmation. Mark Isham's first straight-ahead jazz album entitled "Blue Sun" has been in regular play here since it was released in 1992 or thereabouts. What a great musical treasure it is to me, and to almost everyone else that hears it! This entire disc is loaded with wonderfully blended chords and instrumental melodies much like Isham's hero Miles Davis. Each song is a winner and boasts remarkable musicianship. Though Isham is better known for his many movie scores and Windham Hill sessions, That Beautiful Sadness and Lazy Afternoon demonstrate his great skills as a jazz trumpeter. The UB25000 added yet more musical value to this disc. The bass seemed to get tighter and more articulate, while the overall character of this song got richer and weightier without showing any hint of excess. Cymbals had more shimmer, delicacy and color, while Isham's trumpet seemed more relaxed and at the same time more dynamic. Go figure.
I found myself going through song after song, album after album for the next few hours to determine how consistent these sonic improvements were. From Jazz to R&B oldies, from Blues to Pop, the UB25000 infused each and every song with a new level of vitality, dynamics and musicality. In the end, the UB25000 won me over with the spark of life it had infused in my system. Keep in mind, dear reader, these improvements occurred while the UB25000 was plugged straight into the wall. Nothing was plugged into it!
I contacted Voon and informed him of my experience and he wrote, "That is what everyone experiences, and the UB25000 will only improve after the usual 200‑ 300 hour mark." He suggested I try plugging my amplifiers directly into the UB25000 as another option (above illustration).
So on the next night I moved my Behold BPA-768 amplifiers from the Bybee AC conditioner to the UB25000, rebooted the system, and listened for further improvements. Although the Beholds sounded good plugged directly into the UB25000, nevertheless, I preferred the sound with the amps plugged into the Bybee. For some reason—maybe the unit needed the extra hours of burn-in—while speed and dynamics remained intact, leading edge and transients became stifled and somewhat more muted compared with the Bybee. Overall the sound had lost that open airiness that suggested a recording venue rather than my listening room. All the things I had admired the night before were missing.
In many ways, the impressions heard with the amps plugged directly into the UB25000 were reminiscent of the Richard Gray units, and reminded me why I finally removed them from my system. Plugging the unit directly into the wall with nothing plugged into it restored the musical enjoyment of the previous night.
Now I wondered what would my system sound like with the UB25000 removed. I unplugged it from the wall socket a played the sensational rendition of Sunny, sung by Frank Sinatra with the Duke Ellington orchestra from the 1967 recording "Francis A and Edward K". Once again that wonderful sense of vibrancy and immediacy. While this nearly 50 year-old recording can never sound as good as more recent releases, the UB25000 did provide more of the BLAT from the orchestral brass and more dynamic prowess overall. Unplugging the UB25000 left the music feeling smaller, less defined and without that vitality and life I’ve mentioned.
Experimentally I pulled out dozens of CDs and repeated the test and each time heard the same loss of vitality, soundstage and dynamics. It's probably impossible to understand the level of impact the UB25000 provides without experiencing it. What typical AC conditioners do in general practice is provide a cleaner and a more stable flow of electricity to your system (and in some cases protect it against power surges). What the UB25000 appears to do is quite different and unique, because it acts like a storage reservoir. In doing so, it offers up instantaneous power on demand. I had no idea my system was in such desperate need of this reserve power. I am aware that there are products on the market that make the same claim as the UB25000, but this is the first one I’ve heard that works without requiring you to plug your equipment into it!
The improvements wrought by the Frank Acoustics device were nothing short of extraordinary. Improved dynamics, ease of flow, natural hues and a lowered noise floor makes the UB25000 perhaps one of the greatest add-on products I have encountered in my 25 year audio odyssey. Highly recommended.
Specifications: FRANK ULTRA BANK STORAGE UB-25000Ws
Price: $5800.00 US
AC Output outlet: AC outlets by ABL SURSUM CRYO UL12500 Germany With L EMI ground filter.
Voltage: 100VAC -275VAC 50/60HzAC
Input/Output Current Capacity:15-20 AMP (Power Line Conditioner ) for any high end audio system. Input and output Loop true only.
Transformer: Dual core low loss Shunt Autotransformer
Regulation: NO Voltage Regulation
Features: Cool running and noise free technology allows placement in critical listening environments.
Charging time: 5 to 6 hour to full performance level.
Dimensions: 190mm H x 486mm W x 405mm D
Standby Power Consumption:10 Watts
Operating Temperature: −25°C to 80°C
Made in Malaysia: Damansara
*Specification subject to change without notice.