Isoclean Power’s 105F II Power Socket & Accessories
|Isoclean Power’s 105F II Power Socket & Accessories|
Going down an unexpected path
I don’t mind telling you folks that I was not expecting to do a review - of any kind - on power line conditioning products. Not that I don’t respect and admire them and what they do, but two things come to mind when I think about power conditioners. First, there are some electronics manufacturers that prefer reviews of their equipment be done without the use of power line conditioning. They feel, as I have felt, that some power conditioners impart their own sonic signature on the music, or that they simply are not necessary and potentially can do more sonic harm than good. Second, I think about how very expensive they can be, and in many cases cost more than a speaker or equipment upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, several friends whose ears I trust use power conditioners in their systems and they all speak highly of the virtues of them. So it’s not that totally down on them, I just always figured I would stay oblivious to the power conditioner debate. But now I’ve decided to step into the land of the plc to find out just what it is that I may have been missing.
This new adventure started out innocently enough, when I approached Brian Ackerman, president of Aaudio Imports, about doing a review on a piece of electronics from the excellent Einstein lineup. I recalled hearing the Einstein electronics driving the Bosendorfer loudspeakers at this year’s T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas and thought they would be a good fit for my system. Aaudio Imports represents an excellent stable of electronics, speakers and power conditioners. Brian and I spoke for about an hour on this first occasion, discussing the lines that he imports and his experiences going through the review process. I don’t recall exactly what it was Brian said to me or how we got on the subject of power conditioners, but by the time I hung up the phone, I was scheduled to do a review on, of all things, a wall socket and a power line conditioner from one of the companies that Brian represents, Isoclean. I sat there for a moment scratching my head and wondering, “How did that happen?” I had a limited amount of experience with power conditioners and was not quite certain how I would approach this review.
About Isoclean Power
Isoclean products are designed and hand-built in Hong Kong. The equipment Isoclean produces is quite diverse and varied and includes an audio grade breaker panel, isolation transformer, power filters, power cords, speaker cables, isolation platform, wall sockets, gold fuses and many other accessories. Isoclean has a lot to offer that will make your stereo system more enjoyable to listen to. From what I have been able to gather thus far, Isoclean’s accessories are well designed, carefully manufactured and solid to the touch. They use only the best components and are really quite beautiful to look at. The pictures on the Aaudio Imports website, or that you would otherwise see on-line, do not quite grasp how gorgeous Isoclean’s equipment looks in real life. The 105F II Power Socket looks like a large chrome and copper colored ingot. It’s highly polished and has a near mirror finish to it. I felt ashamed to have to put my fingerprints on it while taking it out of the box. The 105F II utilizes a polished copper chassis and will surprise you with its look and feel and weight when you go to pick it up the first time. Its four sockets are 24K gold-plated at the contact points and its Furutech IEC socket is Rhodium-plated. The unit comes with four non-magnetic spikes for that extra bit of rigidity. The 105F II uses an audio grade filter to cut down on any unwanted noise that may find its way into your audio or video system.
The ICP-003G wall socket just doesn’t feel or look like your average, every day wall socket. It has a lovely gold finish, is quite solid to the touch and also uses 24K gold plating on its socket’s contact points. It has a unique feature in that you can take the wires coming out of your wall and crimp them on to highly polished and conductive connectors (supplied), that you can then tighten the screw upon to get a solid connection.
The Isoclean Focus power cable works especially well between the wall socket and the 105F II Power Socket. It too, has the 24K gold plated and polished contact points and makes a nice tight fit going into the sockets, without being too tight. The Focus power cord has nice size to it, being neither too big or bulky that its weight puts a strain on whatever it’s plugged into, but being substantial enough to give you confidence that whatever current is flowing out of the wall is making it to the power socket. It is constructed from high quality European 6mm copper cable. Externally, the Focus is tightly wrapped with 3 layers of Nylon, anti-static and single layer heavy-duty copper shields for added external and internal vibrations, and protection from harmful airborne RF absorption. Focus power cords are terminated with WattGate IEC and AG plugs in a clear acrylic housing.
Describing the sound with Isoclean
Not only are the look and feel of the Isoclean products first rate, their performance is exceptional. Before I get into the sound of the Isoclean system, and it should be viewed systematically, I need to share a few things with you. Nearly two months before the Isoclean equipment arrived, I had 20-amp service installed to the main receptacle that I use to plug most of my equipment into. I had just purchased a 1985 vintage Krell KSA amplifier (something I had always longed for since first hearing it) and felt that in order to take full advantage of the amplifier, the 20-amp service would do the trick. It did. I noticed improvements instantly in the Krell that were bought about by the installation of the 20-amp service. Not as much as I had hoped for, but more than enough of an improvement to where I was happy I had made the enhancement.
Now we come to the Isoclean system. And remember that these are comments coming from someone who never really thought much about power conditioning. The improvements brought about by the Isoclean were subtle at first. In part, this was due to the necessary break-in on all three products. Initially, I did notice that there was a quieter background from which the music would emanate from and improvement in my bass performance. Jumping ahead three or four weeks, the improvements were even more pronounced. Before installing the Isoclean components, I already had what I considered to be good upper end frequency extension and air, but now it possessed a greater amount of information and detail. I felt I had tight, deep bass before, but now it sounded more real. My bass did not seem to go any deeper but had noticeably more impact, more power to it than before. I did not notice much of a change in my stage dimensions. However, performers had a greater sense of presence and space in my listening room. None of the improvements I heard were dramatic, but all of them were clearly evident and enhanced my level of musical enjoyment.
The first time I played Andy Bey’s CD,American Song [Savoy] after I inserted the Isoclean gear, I thought I had unknowingly made an equipment change in my system. Bey has always had a sweet, smooth baritone voice, but for some reason, it had become deeper, its tone somewhat sweeter and with more presence. One of my favorite tracks on the disc is, “Prelude to a Kiss”. After the first two choruses are sung, the band comes in and plays their extended bridge. With the noise floor lowered, the musicians appeared to have better focus; the instruments had better separation across the stage and were more tonally correct. On the Jacques Loussier disc, Jacques Loussier Plays Bach [Telarc Jazz], the Allegro section from the track, “Concerto in D Minor”, contains a drum solo performed by Andre Arpino that was conveyed with more weight and impact than I had recalled. The real treat was listening to the DVD-audio recording of Laurence Juber’s Guitar Noir [AIX]. This is a wonderfully recorded disc and doesn’t have any tracks on it that I didn’t feel totally caught up in. Little niceties, such spatial cues, openness, instrument separation, transient response, all were there in spades and to a greater degree than I remembered hearing before the Isoclean gear.
Winding things up
This review was an important learning experience for me because this was the first power conditioner I used that did not have any deleterious affects on the sound of my system. The Isoclean Power products neither added anything to the music nor did it take anything away. It allowed me to hear more of what my system sounds like, which is all that I could ask it to do.
The person who will be looking at this level of high-end audio accessory will be looking for something that has impeccable build quality, is reliable, and whose performance will be worthy of the electronics he or she has in their system. That person, who has what they already consider to be a good sounding system but wants to get that extra level of performance that a “good” power conditioning system can provide, is who likely will be looking at Isoclean.
For me, the Isoclean really shines during those late night, absolutely quiet in the house, three o’clock in the morning listening sessions. I had been using a Blue Circle BC606 power strip with hospital grade power cord and I liked it better than I did the Chang Lightspeed or any of the Tice products I’ve listened to. But the BC606 does not have quite the resolving power, or let as much music through at low volumes, as the Isoclean does.
I have come to enjoy the Isoclean power conditioning products for their beauty, reliability and sonic attributes. Brian says they will even have a good an affect on your video system as well. Also consider this: the 105F II Power Socket is considered one of Isoclean’s “entry level” products. They have power conditioners that are bigger, more beautiful and perform even better than the products reviewed here. The Isoclean products are “Highly Recommended” and well worth seeking out.
Isoclean Power 105F II Power Socket - $1,130
Isoclean Power Focus Power Cord - $1,000
Isoclean Power ICP-003G Wall Socket - $180
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