Update: After a decade of experimentation with power cables and conditioners I have sold all my Shunyata gear in favor of Oyaide Electric Company. Building power cables, outlet wiring, and distribution has led me down the path of passive power conditioning. Read more here
My personal experience involving after market power cables came at a young age. While playing my electric guitar at friend’s studio I noticed some curious looking power cables and inquired. We quickly decided that an evaluation must commence. After I plugged my amp into the AC socket with a high current power cable the rest was history. The first note I picked rang out of the tube amp with a greater sense of responsiveness that startled me. It was as though the efficient delivery of power allowed my amp to react more quickly/accurately when picking a guitar string. I felt a greater connection to my guitar because the amp was now able to mirror my playing movements with better accuracy and ease. I was hooked!
Getting hi-fidelity sound starts at the source. Whether you play musical instruments that are electric, record audio, or just listen on the Hi-Fi, proper power delivery is essential. In essence, all the sound these devices reproduce comes from alternating current. More specifically, the AC from your outlet is converted to DC by the audio equipment’s power supply. This direct current is the electrical force that drives loudspeakers and powers audio circuits. Providing the cleanest and most unhindered flow of electrical current will allow your audio gear to sound its best.
A few design principles seem to be shared by various high end cable manufacturers. Larger gauge conductors are used to maximize current flow, while radio frequency interference and electro-magnetic interference are addressed by the shielding or geometry of the conductors. Treating the conductors with cryogenics or using specially extruded copper are also known to improve conductor integrity. After listening and evaluating a variety of power cables, I was most impressed with those produced by Shunyata Research of Poulsbo, WA.
No, It’s not a substation on the television series Lost. The Hydra 2 is Shunyata’s smallest power conditioning unit. With special filter networks to remove noise produced by equipment sharing an AC circuit, the Hydra furthers improvements brought by specialty power cables alone. This device excels at current delivery, noise suppression, and even has special surge protection. Small systems will only require one Hydra 2*, while larger audio/video systems may want a 6 outlet Hydra.
I experimented with two Hydra units in order to separate my digital and analog equipment. My system’s background noise was greatly reduced and sound emited from a black back drop. Micro dynamics and the full extension of bass notes were rendered clearer. Even as I turned the volume up, the resolution maintained. The strain I associated with my sound system was removed once efficient power delivery was introduced. Be prepared to hear a clearer, wider, and deeper soundstage – you can’t help but be fully immersed in the music!
Shunyata does not recommend placing their power conditioners directly on carpet. While special carpet piecing spike can also isolate the Hydra 2, a solid rack shelf is prefered. In order to isolate my Hydra units from external vibrations, I use Black Diamond Racing support systems. These carbon fiber cones and disks reduce the transference of mechanical vibrations. The resin/carbon cone coupled into the cabon fiber disc is a great starting point for those wanting to experement with this improvement.*Hydra 2 has been replaced with a new version called the “Hydra-a or alpha.” These newer Hydra power distributors only provide spike protection on the larger Hyrda Alpha 4 or 6 outlet units. All photos by: Vahan Baladouni