It’s not so long ago that power conditioners were not a ‘thing’, especially in the UK and many European audio circles. We used to pride ourselves on having ‘clean’ power, as the juice coming into our homes was not fed through as many local transformers as happens elsewhere on the planet. So, while American manufacturers were developing power conditioners and regenerators for an ever-increasing local audience, many Europeans dismissed the notion as gilding the lily. That all changed as we added an increasing number of switch-mode power supplies into the home, whether they be inside home computers, LCD televisions, or the endless cavalcade of phone chargers left dangling on any nearby power-strip. This not only awoke a whole continent to the need for power products but required a change of thinking on the part of the power conditioner providers: rather than inoculate the system against power evils outside of the home, now the enemy was within.
Power conditioners, until very recently, tended toward one of two compromises. They cleaned up the power and made the sound more refined and open, but either did so at the expense of dynamic range, or by adding a boat anchor to the music. In other words, ‘big and slow’ or ‘fast and thin’. This is why, despite obvious advantages in the midrange, treble, and soundstaging of a system, and the lowering of the overall noise that a good power conditioner brought to the party, many decided that the price paid elsewhere in the musical presentation was too steep.
Transparent was wisely late to the power conditioner game. It has a four-strong line-up of power conditioners, of which the Reference sits below the two-output Opus and XL models and above the multi-output PowerIsolator. The Reference PowerIsolator comes with eight outlets if you are based in America, seven if in the EU, and only six if you live in the UK. This is because the large UK 13A three pin plug has the advantage of large contact area for the live, neutral, and earth pins, and its design makes it impossible to invert AC polarity, but it takes up more real-estate on the PowerIsolator’s back panel… and UK fire safety regulations require anything that carries a current be fused (power cords included), which adds even more size to the UK three-pin plug.
The Reference PowerIsolator (whatever the socketry at the rear) features a quartet of separate noise-isolated parallel filter banks. It also features power factor correction, and – as a mark of how our industry is changing concerning digital audio – a Gigabit Ethernet isolator with surge protection. Unlike many such boxes that merely use a fuse, the Transparent uses a parallel hydraulic circuit breaker, which suddenly becomes all the more advantageous in UK circles, because our systems often have twice the number of fuses than in other countries because of that additional fire safety requirement for a fuse in every power cord. The amp-heavy, curved, and very dark grey box features extruded aluminium side-bars and cross bracing holding a rigid polymer shell, and – like the contents of the filter boxes in Transparent’s higher-end cables, including the Reference power cords recommended for use with this PowerIsolator – are epoxy-loaded to reduce vibration and resonance, as well as add mass to the overall unit.