Monarchy Audio AC-Regenerator
|Monarchy Audio AC-Regenerator|
A couple of evenings back, I was listening to my audio system and frankly, it was sounding quite good. But my trusty Parasound C/BD-2000 transport was becoming increasingly temperamental, exhibiting track reading errors, failing to access certain tracks, and intermittently cutting out (usually when first turned on). All these issues brought me to the point where I felt it was time to give the old workhorse a rest and install a different transport for the sake of reliability.
My best option, at the time, was to use my old California Audio Labs Icon II CD player as a transport hooked up to my Bolder Cable-modified ART D/IO converter. After playing a couple of tracks from Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Fairytales CD [Everloving Records 422860994-2], it became apparent that the midrange and high frequencies had become more irritating and edgy than I’m used to. “This won’t do,” I thought to myself.
Enter the Monarchy Audio AC Regenerator
In the back of my mind, I recalled an earlier instance when I had used Monarchy’s 100-watt AC Regenerator in conjunction with the Dignity Audio 300B amps. While the power requirements were at the limits of the AC Regenerator’s maximum output capability, I remembered that it smoothed the sound of the system. At the same time, it became more natural sounding and with better-controlled bass. Recognizing that the CAL CD player and the ART D/IO together would require less power than the Dignity amps, I installed the Monarchy AC Regenerator on my rack and plugged both digital units into its AC outlets.
Setting the AC Regenerator for 117V, 60Hz operation, I put in a CD, not knowing quite what to expect, and began to listen. The disc was Jamie Cullum’s Catching Tales[Verve/Universal 80005599-02]. I was surprised at how taut the bass was and how immediate and natural Jamie’s vocal sounded. Seriously, I had never heard my TAD-803 tube amp exhibit so much articulation and control in the bass. I was on to something here. The sound was definitely smoother and more natural sounding. The presentation became captivating with the AC Regenerator supplying the juice, and that was an accomplishment that the CAL Icon II had never before managed on its own (even as a transport). Hmmm.
Okay, it was a definite improvement. In fact, it was a considerable improvement. Now, I felt connected to the music. I further found that when I changed the frequency of the AC line there were other audible changes. Moving up to the 120Hz setting seemed to make the sound even more immediate and made the instruments sound more solid, emerging from a dead-quiet background. I think it also caused a slight tightening or decrease in bass energy, but overall, I preferred the 120Hz setting with my equipment.
Curiously, lower frequency settings seemed to favor slightly stronger, more extended bass, while higher Hz settings favored instrumental solidity and purity. A couple of other things I noticed were that the 400Hz setting made the Monarchy AC Regenerator emit a mechanical tone somewhere around that frequency. Despite the good sound, I didn’t care for that tone droning away in the background. And when I used the 50Hz setting, the sound was quite good and the bass was extended and punchy. However, the 50Hz setting caused the power regenerator’s fan to come on (at its lower speed), which was somewhat distracting between tracks, though less of an issue with music playing. So I settled on the 120Hz setting for my application. I felt this yielded the quietest and best all-around sonic performance.
Some of you may recall that a few years ago, I favorably reviewed the PS Audio P300 Power Plant. The only small negative I could point to at the time was that the presentation became a little brighter. I’m happy to report that the Monarchy AC Regenerator does not add any brightness that I can detect, nor does it limit dynamics. Instead, it removes the nastiness in the highs by feeding your components much purer power.
Audiophiles have long praised the sonic benefits of using stable, highly-regulated power supplies (in active components), and have touted the merits of running dedicated AC lines and using high-quality AC filters and wall outlets. Running dedicated lines can result in audible improvements because higher-quality wiring can be used, and it is a way to isolate your system from the interference of other electrical appliances and lighting within your home. However, running dedicated AC lines does nothing (zilch, nada, zip) to get rid of the RFI, EMI and other AC impurities that preexist on the AC line where it enters your home. Components with highly regulated power supplies are normally much more expensive, and as with conventional AC line filters, the power regulation and AC filtering is not entirely effective/successful.
A power regenerator, on the other hand, virtually reconstructs a pure AC power source while providing total isolation from the RFI/EMI interference that rides on your incoming AC power line. This way, you get excellent protection and isolation in addition to an extremely pure source of AC power. And yes, you can hear the difference!
The Monarchy AC Regenerator is based on a high-quality analog power amp that can deliver about 150 watts. The amplifier is used to drive a selected pure sine wave (at 50, 60, 120, or 400Hz) through a toroidal transformer that feeds the AC outlets. The power dissipation of this amplifier results in some heat, which vents through openings in the chassis. When the heat build up surpasses a preset limit, a fan turns on to aid in the cooling process.
Using the Monarchy AC Regenerator on just my transport and DAC made my admittedly bang-for-the-buck components perform like true high-end components. Considering that the Monarchy unit sells for only $750, I’d call that an extremely cost-effective upgrade.
I also tried the regenerator briefly on my Musical Surroundings Phonomena phono stage. For whatever reason, while there may have been some small sonic improvements, the improvements did not seem nearly as dramatic as those for my digital gear.
Good Points and Caveats
- More distinct bass with greater perceived impact and improved pitch definition
- Decrease in nastiness, edge, and etching
- Purer, more natural midrange performance
- Greater sense of immediacy
- More natural (less trashy) high frequencies; Cymbals much more convincing
- Greater separation, distinction, and clarity of the instruments
- Quieter background
- More open soundstage
- 100-watt maximum power draw will limit use to one or two source components, though higher-power models are planned.
- Only 2 AC outlets (though prudent due to limited power output)
- Noisy fan—unit tends to run warm, requires adequate ventilation, fan is noisy when on’
- When switched off, settings are not retained (no memory backup)
- Unit made audible whining noise when used at 400Hz setting.
I used to believe that all I needed to address the quality of my AC power was a well-designed AC line filter that performed its function without adding negative traits or limiting dynamics. The simple truth is that using the Monarchy Audio AC-Regenerator has opened my eyes to the need for supplying pure AC power to my source gear (if not all my gear). Frankly, I was amazed at the level of sonic improvement the Monarchy AC Regenerator imparted to my system with only my transport and DAC plugged into it. Monarchy claims the unit has merit for video monitor applications as well, but one would have to check the power consumption of any device or monitor connected to the Monarchy AC Regenerator, as the regenerator can only supply 100 watts.
After evaluating the Monarchy unit and hearing the extent of the improvements it affords, I’m convinced that its use is not an option—it’s a necessity. The Monarchy AC Regenerator is now an integral part of my audio system; thank you very much!
380 Swift Ave., #21
S. San Francisco, CA 94080
Monarchy Audio AC-Regenerator
Maximum Power Draw: 100 watts
AC Output Frequencies: 50Hz, 60Hz, 120Hz, or 400Hz.
Output Voltage: 110–120 volts, adjustable in 1-volt steps;
or 200–240 volts, adjustable in 2-volt steps
Dimensions: 17”W x 12”D x 4”H
Net Weight: 24 lbs
Shipping Weight: 30 lbs.
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