Article by WL Low
I have always admired the Audience brand of cables & power line conditioners, but never had a chance to try them out, as the brand was not represented in Malaysia, until recently that is. Myhifishop, the new high end audio saloon located at Jaya One, Petaling Jaya is now opened for business, in which Audience is one of the brands they represent. About 3 months back, John McDonald, head honcho of Audience was here to launch the brand in Malaysia. I took the opportunity to arrange some of the company’s products for review. This review is the result.
Having practically experienced most power line conditioner products in the local market, I was looking forward to see where the Adept Response aR6 stand. I am of the opinion that our power supply is corrupted by the time it reaches the wall sockets of our audio dens and power line conditioners are somewhat a necessary evil to varying degrees. Some locations are better than others, rural areas tend to have it better, and those residing near industrial estates tend to get the worst out of their power supply. Add in the wide range power fluctuation and lightning spikes or off peak hours surge to make things worst, the power line conditioner also adds a certain amount of protection to the life span of your audio components.
The Adept Response aR6 has been in the international markets for a few years now, so it’s an already matured and well tested design by the time it reaches here. It’s a small aluminium shoebox design with rounded off corners for that clean, elegant look, with nothing but just a blue LED and silk screened logo on the front panel. The rear panel is all business with 3 pairs of American style(NEMA5 std) output sockets clearly marked for digital, analogue and power use. Also on the rear panel is an 15 Amp circuit breaker for protection and a twist-lock(similar looking to those Neutric Speakon connectors) input for an Audience SEi supplied power cord to the wall. The Adept Response aR6 unit looks well built and weights rather substantial for it’s dinky size.
The Adept Response series of power line conditioners are passive design, meaning capacitors, chokes, MOV surge protectors and bus bars are all part of it’s intricate components. However, what differentiates the Audience Adept Response series power line conditioner is that no MOV was used in the making, as they wear out and become ineffective with time, causing grungy sound as result. Instead John employs gas discharge tube system, which remains invisible to the in coming power, until there is a surge that is dump to ground. However my past experience with passive design PLC is that they tend to be less musically intrusive, but can have a tendency to soften dynamic peaks some what when it comes to sound quality. John assures that his design will surprise me, during his visit here. Let’s see?
I used the Audience aR6 PLC to power my whole audio system, effectively taking over duty from my Torus Power RM8A unit. All my digital & analogue source, phono stage, pre amp and power amps are driven by the Audience aR6 only which takes power from the wall, via a Shunyata socket. Under the most challenging of musical conditions, my system can draw up to nearly 4 amps at peak, which is as demanding as class AB amplifiers go. Full on high power rated class A amplifiers will need more juice all the time(My former Pass Aleph 0 mono block based system was drawing close to 5 amps all the time!).
Upon firing up the system via the Audience aR6, I heard crystaline clarity in sound and a total absence of noise, which is good. The total absence of noise here is not of the darker variety found on most other PLC’s sonic palette, but the aR6 presented aural back grounds more well lighted than most. It’s kinda hard to explain in words(no, bright isn’t the word here either!), but I felt it that way. The stage was well lighted with the vocals, and backing instruments all spot lighted. There’s an extra perk to the music when powered thru the aR6. Having said that, the Audience aR6 remained truly neutral in it’s tonality yet never white washing tonal colour, texture and harmonics of any given musical instrument or vocal performance. In fact metallic bits like high hats, cymbals or that triangle are given an extra “zing…….” treatment. Good or bad? I can’t tell, but it certainly adds a some excitement and drama to the music. Having said that however, the highs never sounded peaky or harsh, instead a fully extended airiness is the order of the day. Dull sounding systems will certainly benefit from this effect.
Mid range seems to be the least interfered part with the Audience. Mid range remain pure, unadulterated and open, with heft and palpable imaginary presence. With the Audience aR6, the bass gets grippier, yet retains it’s full voluminous self, diving just as deep yet kicking harder than ever. Kick drums kick harder, bass guitar grooved tighter. Dynamic range widened and transient speed jumped too, which is very uncommon sonic trait for a passive design PLC. Now I know why John MacDonald was so confident that his design should surprised me.
With a spotlighted staging and lack of noise floor means the highest resolution possible, all presented in the most coherent fashion, not disjointed, pokey, or in anyway distracting from the whole musical experience. Staging and imaging remained as before in my system, up front and immediate when rocking & rolling, yet backing off slightly behind the speaker plane when I am playing Jazz or Classical repertoires. I find that the Audience aR6 remain rock solid in it’s presentation, even with the most demanding sections of music at the highest playback volumes possible(does 104db in room sound impressive?). Where other passive design PLCs start to give up, by breaking up of the overall sound presentation, fraying around the edges of a musical or vocal image, or just straining to maintain the whole sound stage together, the Audience aR6 remains steadfast and pushes on without any of the flaws mentioned. No other PLC of passive design proved better than the Audience aR6 is this regard. Active PLC designs don’t suffer from this issue, but they bring along other sonic traits which one may find complementary to their system synergy or otherwise.
The overall impression that I got was that the Audience aR6 got out of the way and put music to the fore, most of the time. Little musical details never got lost in the mix, yet presented as an integral part to the music as a wholesome experience. I felt that the aR6 added slight extra perk & energy to all the music played, which may well as should have been in the first place. Most passive PLC devices do add a certain amount of bloom & colouration to the music at the expense of transient speed and dynamic range. Perhaps we audiophiles have gotten too used to the sound signature of most other passive PLC products that we have forgotten how real music should sound like? I think the Audience Adept Response aR6’s bold musical presentation may just be the thing to shake up and ol’ jaded audio system or over smoothed audiophilia aural sensory. The Audience Adept Response aR6 is priced at RM$16550.00/unit, and comes equipped with an Audience SEi power cord(to match the twist-lock termination on the end of the PLC). I’ve been told that there’s also an up graded version of the same product with premium audiophile grade capacitors installed, called aR6 TSSOX priced at RM$21,260.00/unit.
With our currency’s falling exchange rates means the Audience does not come cheap, but in my books, it’s certainly deserves to be sitting right up there amongst with all the best PLC products in the market, passive design or otherwise!
Audience is sold by Myhifishop, contact Isaac Ho at 016-5550516 or 03-79321883 for details or enquiries.
Article by WL Low