Product of the Century

Dr. William Gaw

Excerpted from
September 1, 2001

Sound Application CF-XE Line Conditioner

I felt just like I was listening to analog , and matched how I felt while listening to SACD at the shows with none of that digital tenseness. Analog sounded even better with all of the curtains up, with perfect pitch stability, with the hall sound extending behind me even with the surrounds turned off. At 11 in the morning I was hearing what I usually don’t at night. I think I’ve finally cured the electricity problem with this one unit since over the past three weeks the sound has consistently been as good as I’ve ever heard from those previous unusual peaks. The unit also worked synergistically with the Walker Ultra Links, as one cleaned up the AC and the other the junk picked up and produced by the equipment, interconnect and speaker wires.

I know this is supposed to be an audio column, but I must mention that there was also a tremendous improvement on the video side. I receive the direct HBO and Showtime C-band HDTV 1080I feed, which is the best available signal in the world, short of sitting in the studio, and project it with an Electrohome 8500 projector onto a 10 ft. 16 x 9 screen. I can say without reservation that my video is now better than anything I’ve ever seen demo’ed at any showroom or show. Colors are more vibrant; the image is more three dimensional and film-like. I watched the Jurassic Park II DVD on my home HTPC at 960P, 72 Hz., and then went to the premier Friday noon at my local megaplex of III, and can honestly say, that the home reproduction of the audio and video far surpassed what was being reproduced in the theater. Except for my addiction to the artificial butter-coconut oil on the popcorn (I’m not a cardiologist), there is no longer any reason for me to go to the movies.

I have found two problems with the unit, one of which I’ve solved, and the other that I’m going to need some help on. The first was a 60 cycle low level hum from my Marchand tube crossover for the center channel. I’ll discuss this one below. The second one is going to be a little more difficult. An hour after I had put the unit into my system, and was half way through the Beethoven third, I heard some unusual room noises that I hadn’t heard before in the recording and thought WOW, surround information without the rear speakers. Then I realized they were coming from behind my chair. Turning around, I actually found my wife sitting there. She had sneaked into the room behind me and was actually listening to the music. She never comes in while I’m listening! Says it hurts her ears. Women are like that — much better at discerning high pitched anomalies- probably relates to listening for whining babies — something genetic — which thank G-d men don’t have. Anyway, she now loves the way the stereo sounds and has come in several times since to listen but unhappily also to talk. This is the first time she has ever asked me what I had done to the system to make it sound so good. Thus, I guess this is the first piece of audio equipment I’ve had that got an A for the WAF (wife acceptance factor). So be forewarned! If you like the solitude that your audio system offers you, don’t buy this thing. On the other hand if you want or need a chick magnet, well this is cheaper than a Ferrari. Play a little mood music and see what happens.

The final experiment, for now, was to run my uninterruptible power supplies off of the unit, and use one for the video equipment, one for the digital, one for the surround amps, and the analog and amplifiers directly from the CF-X. While the UPS’s total wattage plus the analog stuff probably exceeded the 50 amp limit of the CF-X, the special circuit I have running to the room is rated at 60 amps, and I figured the UPS’s wouldn’t be running full out anyway, I thought what the hell. Let’s see if the unit can actually deal with high loads. So first I turned on all of the analog, then the UPS’s and switched them on to battery, which actually continue to draw wall current, warmed up the system, and listened and watched.

Again, there was a jump in level of all of the above improvements. I am truly a happy camper. At mid-day and evening, the normally worst times for listening, the system sounds better than the best I’d ever achieved. Happily, there is no improvement beyond this at night. Conclusion? Maybe I’ve actually reached the Mount Everest peak of noise suppression in my system. While this is the most expensive tweak I’ve placed in my system over 21 years, it is actually the cheapest in total cost considering the time and money I’ve spent in AC tweaks that have failed. Jim claims that two work synergistically, especially if one is used to isolate digital from analog, and I’d have to believe him. Thus, I have a second on order.

Most highly rated tweak I’ve used and for me PRODUCT OF THE CENTURY.