ULTRA AUDIO -- Archived Article

September 1, 2002

Combak Harmonix Reimyo ALS-777 Power Conditioner

Best be seated. I’m using a Japanese line conditioner that lists for $4995 USD. Combak’s American importer remarked over the phone that were ALS-777 a couple of thousand dollars less, he probably wouldn’t be able to meet demand. As a subjectivist reviewer, I’m here to attitudinize, but not, I think, about a component’s 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, I’ve done my part. Let’s do try to remember that the space in which these words appear is called "Ultra Audio." Only on a good day, when one’s 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. I’ve long been a fan of Bill Stierhout’s 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 Stierhout’s diminutive, unprepossessing boxes the prominence they deserve arises from a suspicion that they’re 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 QRT’s 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 electricity’s atomic-level gnats to straighten up and fly right. Suffice that the relative obscurity of Stierhout’s 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 Stierhout’s QRT logo on its line conditioner’s 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, I’ve 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 you’d 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 haven’t 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, you’re in the red zone. I’ve 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. (That’s 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), I’d 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 Combak’s aforementioned Harmonix "tuning technology" for a "smoother, more organic, more elegant sound."

It’s one thing to quote from shipping-carton prose and quite another to report on what one hears. My ears tell me that there’s more to this component than QRT. In a direct comparison of the ALS-777 absent assistance from outboard Quantum Symphony podlets with a Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200S into which I’d plugged a Quantum Symphony Pro, the Combak device did significantly better. Let’s just call it a smoother, more organic, more elegant sound. It would be easy to report that I’m hearing superior resolution -- I am -- but I’d feel more comfortable characterizing the ASL-777’s 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. I’m not suggesting that prior to the ALS-777’s addition my system was a gravel pit. We’re dealing in subtleties, which, for the true-blue audiophile, are anything but negligible. If what I hear is for the better, it’s 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 Confederacy’s 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, Quantum’s Bill Stierhout had this to say:

"The Reimyo ALS-777’s ability to ‘broadcast’ the QRT effect into the environment is even greater than the Symphony Pro’s. Quantum Resonance Technology is a material treatment system utilizing quantum electrodynamic field theory in a proprietary manner to enhance the transfer function characteristic of conductive materials. The treated components comprise the electronics of the unit, consisting of two microprocessor frequency generators. The quantum scalar field they generate is a more efficient means to influence existing emf (electromagnetic field) signals in the space occupied by the appliances, including a stereo system. This influence has the effect of inducing a correction in the erratic and random behavior of small-signal (audio, video, data, analog/digital) current as well as the AC current. The ALS-777 generates sufficient QRT clout for an entire stereo system, even if the amps are plugged directly into the wall. In other words, it may be used passively."

Here’s 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, I’d 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 don’t 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 you’ve been such a lovely audience and deserve a break), let’s just say I’m 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 component’s 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 player’s bows. The ALS-777 is that good.

...Mike Silverton

Reimyo ALS-777 AC Line Power Stabilizer
Price: $4995 USD.

Harmonix Combak Corporation
4-20, Ikego 2-chome, Zushi-shi
Kanagawa 249-0003, Japan
Phone: 0468-72-1119.
Fax 0468-72-1125

E-mail: harmonix@combak.co.jp
Website: www.combak.co.jpg

US distributor:
May Audio Marketing, Inc.
2150 Liberty Drive, Unit 7
Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Phone: (716) 283-4434
Fax: (716) 283-6264

E-mail: info@mayaudio.com  
Website: www.mayaudio.com

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