September 1, 2002
Combak Harmonix Reimyo ALS-777 Power Conditioner
Best be seated. Im using a Japanese line conditioner that lists for $4995 USD. Combaks American importer remarked over the phone that were ALS-777 a couple of thousand dollars less, he probably wouldnt be able to meet demand. As a subjectivist reviewer, Im here to attitudinize, but not, I think, about a components price. Not my place. The ALS-777 is an attractive, obviously well-made piece, and if what I have to say about it piques your interest or has you grinding your teeth, Ive done my part. Lets do try to remember that the space in which these words appear is called "Ultra Audio." Only on a good day, when ones lucky stars queue up where we need them and Mars is in the House of Mirth, does ultra coalesce with cheap.
My interest in the ALS-777 takes a roundabout route. Ive long been a fan of Bill Stierhouts Quantum Resonance Technology (QRT), having for several years employed three of his freestanding podlets in my sound system. I suspect that the audiophile press reluctance to award Stierhouts diminutive, unprepossessing boxes the prominence they deserve arises from a suspicion that theyre the work of yet another quack, of whom high-end audio has seen no few, not to neglect charlatans, mountebanks and flat-out delusionals. As with anything, the proof of QRTs effectiveness is in the listening. Further, in a world in which the sight of passersby talking into the palms of their hands no longer occasions alarm, the notion that one electronic entity affects the behavior of others absent visible connectors is no longer a novelty. Think of the commands we send vehicles in outer space. As best I understand it, QRT instructs electricitys atomic-level gnats to straighten up and fly right. Suffice that the relative obscurity of Stierhouts innovation, at least in the States, has been for me a disappointment. The fellow deserves better.
Imagine my surprise, then, on learning that a Japanese manufacturer proudly features Stierhouts QRT logo on its line conditioners faceplate. As the term "line conditioner" has become a trifle shopworn, Combak chooses to call the Reimyo ALS-777 a "power stabilizer." A rose by any other name .
Having reported nothing of substance about QRT, Ive naught to say, superficially or otherwise, about the signal-improving technique Combak calls Harmonix. For my part, safety resides in the observational. The ALS-777 weighs about what youd expect of a package this size -- i.e., less than a boat anchor. No backbreaking transformers or chokes within. (Nor is this an easy box to get into, and I havent tried.) The 1/8"-thick matte-finished aluminum backplate houses six high-quality outlets in three duplex pairs; on the 1/4"-thick, matte-finished aluminum faceplate, an on-off switch, a green light (no idea why it has to blink) and an amperage meter. Beyond 15 amps, youre in the red zone. Ive only the Mark Levinson No.390S CD player plugged into the ALS-777. An Acoustic Zen Gargantua power cord links the player to the Reimyo, and the Reimyo connects to the wall via a Gargantua II. The Levinson No.33H mono amplifiers captive power cords go directly into their dedicated 20-amp wall outlets. (Thats the electronics: a CD player with a volume control and a pair of amps.) Speakers are the venerable Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 7.
Were I to have plugged the amps into the Reimyo (in its own dedicated outlet), Id have sacrificed the advantage of their individual power lines. Not the problem it might have been. Because of its QRT aspect, the ALS-777 asserts itself throughout the system. "The ALS-777 employs unique and cutting-edge technologies," including Combaks aforementioned Harmonix "tuning technology" for a "smoother, more organic, more elegant sound."
Its one thing to quote from shipping-carton prose and quite another to report on what one hears. My ears tell me that theres more to this component than QRT. In a direct comparison of the ALS-777 absent assistance from outboard Quantum Symphony podlets with a Richard Grays Power Company 1200S into which Id plugged a Quantum Symphony Pro, the Combak device did significantly better. Lets just call it a smoother, more organic, more elegant sound. It would be easy to report that Im hearing superior resolution -- I am -- but Id feel more comfortable characterizing the ASL-777s contribution as a matter of refinement, the term to be taken in its literal sense. After having removed and restored the ALS-777 a number of times, the differences in the system appear to center on the sense of heightened air and a more convincing soundstage. "Thereness" puts it succinctly. To remain with refinement, an analogy: ten stacked screens, the coarsest mesh at the top, the screens below progressively less so, till we come to the bottom screen, which permits only the finest powder to pass. Im not suggesting that prior to the ALS-777s addition my system was a gravel pit. Were dealing in subtleties, which, for the true-blue audiophile, are anything but negligible. If what I hear is for the better, its important: A motto to spend by!
Upgrades, among which the Reimyo counts significantly, can elevate a CD-only system from good to better. Whence, then, this uninterrupted thumping among certain audiophiles regarding the congenital inferiority of the Red Book CD? If and when superior digital media dislodge the compact disc from its position of dominance, one would have to be a fool to belittle the event. But to look back to the vinyl disc as some kind of noble lost cause reminds me of the Gone with the Wind sentimentality surrounding the Confederacys defeat. Give it a rest. Neither the South nor the LP are likely to rise again.
Enough of that. In an e-mailed response to a question, Quantums Bill Stierhout had this to say:
Heres to passivity.
Call me a believer, but call me a listener too. With so-so recordings, the Reimyo unit affords a better appreciation of their mediocrity. Were the line conditioner to behave as a panacea, Id have gone to the fridge to see whether my good fairy also transmuted the ice cubes to diamonds. The perfect audio system compares (for another analogy) with a pane of clean glass that in no way colors or distorts the view. Perhaps you dont concur. Not everyone does. Besides, an audio system will always impose its character. One would prefer by inches to yards.
In any case, to keep the listening info graciously brief (because youve been such a lovely audience and deserve a break), lets just say Im reviewing a CD of two quite beautiful works by Georges Enesco, here rendered George Enescu, in keeping with his Romanian roots [Nonesuch CD 79682-2]. An octet, reinforced by a string orchestra, plays as a touch too reverberant, most likely artificially so. The piano quintet gets it a little better in the you-are-there department. Because I was familiar with its sound before the components arrival, I used this among a great many other recordings for my Reimyo-in-and-Reimyo-out comparisons. With the Reimyo in, I damn near see the rosin rising from the players bows. The ALS-777 is that good.
Reimyo ALS-777 AC Line Power Stabilizer
Harmonix Combak Corporation
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