|Fringe with Greg Smith
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VansEvers The Companion
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve the quality of my listening room because I stare at it a lot. A facet of my system's performance that I don't think about so much is the power feeding everything. I know the AC in my ancient apartment is bad; I lose a lightbulb or two every month because something in all the fixtures or switches blows them out regularly. This gives me little confidence in the rest of the wiring. Unfortunately, the power conditioning products I've considered in the past all seemed just plain too expensive to justify. So when I read dB's long review of the VansEvers Power Line Conditioners, one of the products mentioned really caught my attention. They offer an improved variant on the run-of-the-mill inexpensive power strip for $29.95. That's well beneath my "sure, I'll try that" threshold, so I borrowed the unit Doug had (he was busy playing with the bigger toys, anyway).
The Companion is the result of a research project Mike VansEvers did. After trying a variety of mass-market strips, he selected the one that sounded the best out of the box while having good potential for improvement. Upgrading some of the internal components resulted in a still inexpensive box that, he claims, outperforms any cheap power strip on the market in audio applications. I'm somewhat skeptical of such things as a rule, but this seemed like a sound strategy, and the final product was priced right.
My old power strip is made by some outfit called Power Sentry, Inc. I don't recall the full details, but I think it came from K-Mart or Woolworth's and cost under $5. Not exactly state of the art, but if you've got a budget system it's quite likely similar to what you're using right now. I dropped the Companion in its place.
A few rounds of switching between the two indicated a slight difference in sound between the two power strip configurations. The Companion smoothed out what was in comparison a somewhat grainy edge to transients on my old strip. The noise floor was a bit quieter. Overall, a number of things seemed somewhat cleaner and more pleasant to listen to.
Were any of these big differences? Nope. To put this improvement in perspective, changing interconnect or speaker cables provides a significantly larger alteration in how my system sounds. But at the point I'm at nowadays, cable changes are usually trade-offs where some things improve after a swap while others just sound different. The Companion was unquestionably a little bit better at everything, with no down side. Considering the modest $30 retail price, I can definitely recommend this VansEvers strip as a cost-effective upgrade for those who'd like better power but don't want either the expense or obtrusiveness of the more serious power conditioning products.
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