Power conditioning is hardly a new concept in hi-fi and AV circles. The IsoTek Evo3 Genesis One takes the process one step further by actually regenerating AC power, rather than simply filtering it. But does it make an audible difference?
You’d be surprised how variable the quality of the mains power emanating from the average home’s wall plugs is. And that’s not just a South African problem: it’s a global phenomenon.
The mains supply in a household suffers from contamination from the various appliances and devices hooked up to it. But that’s not all: there’s also Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) to contend with.
Considering that electricity is the lifeblood of any audio or home theatre system, it doesn’t require rocket science to understand that poor, dirty power can have a direct and audible impact on system performance.
Just how marked that impact is depends on several factors, primary among which is the ability of the components in an audio system (or a home theatre, for that matter) to deal with contaminated AC power.
Because it’s such a widespread and acknowledged problem, many components have some form of power conditioning or filtering built in, together with a resilience to voltage fluctuations. But those measures are typically aimed at ensuring reliability, as opposed to addressing any sonic artefacts.
Which brings us to the role of power conditioners. They’re nothing new, and are produced in various sizes and capacities by several specialist manufacturers.
Without getting too technical here, there are two basic types of power conditioners – those that filter out noise and interference, and those that actively recreate the incoming power. The IsoTek Evo3 Genesis One belongs to the latter group.
AT FACE VALUE
The Genesis One is described by its maker as a state-of-the-art single-cell sine wave generation system with extremely low THD. And because it effectively regenerates AC power, it gets rid of all AC line noise in the process.
The Genesis One is meant to offer power regeneration for just one component, and a source component at that: in other words, it’s been designed to look after the power requirements of CD/SACD and universal disc players, pre-amps, phono stages, network streamers/players and the like.
You can daisy-chain multiple Genesis One modules together to service several components – or, of course, you can opt for a unit like the Mosaic Genesis, which can provide enough clean power for five components simultaneously, including high-current outlets for power amps.
Back to the Genesis One. It’s a slim and smartly finished device that’s just 75 mm wide, which means you can locate five or even six of these next to each other on a standard component shelf.
The extruded aluminium casing is subtly grooved, which not only looks attractive, but provides some heatsinking functionality. Not that it’s necessary in this case: in operation, the Genesis One gets luke-warm at best.
Our images show the Genesis One with an optional LCD status display, but it adds hugely to the cost, and the unit I tested made do without the display, which seems sensible enough for a component that is effectively a plug in-and-forget device.
The front is devoid of any switchgear and only has two status indicator LEDs. The rear features a single Schuko two-prong power outlet, an IEC kettle-type power input socket, an on/off rocker switch, and a linking outlet for daisy-chaining multiple Genesis Ones.
UNDER THE COVERS
The Evo3 Genesis One regenerates incoming AC power by comparing the incoming AC sine wave, and recreating a clean, corrected version using a Class D amplifier with a linear power supply. In the process it rids the incoming power of up to 85 dB of noise, all the way down to 0 Hz.
Internal wiring is solid-core high-purity oxygen-free copper which has been silver plated, while FEP air tubers are used to emulate an air dielectric.
Total rated output power is 100 watts – more than sufficient for source and front-end components, but clearly not enough for more power-hungry amplifiers.
The Evo3 Genesis One was tried in several different applications in the AVSA listening studio, in turn delivering its regenerated power to a Valve Audio Whisper phono stage, a Bryston BDA-3 D/A converter, a Lumin D1 network player and a Primare PRE32/MM30 pre-amp.
In each case, the sound was evaluated with and without the Genesis One in place. I usually employ a Tice power conditioner and an IsoTek Evo3 Aquarius power conditioner in the system, but for the sake of this comparison, I bypassed these two units completely.
The Genesis One was connected to a conventional AC wall socket using IsoTek’s premium Evo3 Ascension power cable (it comes with an Evo3 Premier cable as standard), while I used our regular Premifleks power cables to feed the various system components.
Of the components I hooked the Genesis One up to, the Valve Audio Whisper phono stage was the greatest beneficiary – and not surprisingly so, given the inherent fragility of a low-output moving coil cartridge’s signal.
However, the trends I noted in the phono stage context also rung true, to a lesser extent, in the case of the other components, with the Primare arguably benefiting the least.
In general terms, the most noticeable difference was in the reduction – read total absence – of background noise. Not that the AVSA system is typically noisy, but with the Genesis One in place, there was a fullness of tone and a clarity of content that allowed other key parameters to shine through more succinctly.
The soundstage seemed both more expansive and better defined dimensionally: individual elements were now more precisely positioned, with a greater sense of air between the instruments, aiding that overall impression of enhanced clarity and definition.
It also became easier to define the ambience of the recording: be it the arena audience of Sting’s Live in Berlin, or the more intimate but expressive atmospherics of the Cowboy Junkies on Trinity Revisited.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Genesis One can’t make poor recordings sound good, and it can’t fix the shortcomings of the system it operates in. But it can unveil and contextualise finer subtleties and details that can be obfuscated by poorly regulated power.
In that sense, it’s also likely to be deemed to be more effective in those systems able to showcase those finer aspects in the first place.
That said, it’s pretty obvious that any front-end component will benefit from the Genesis One’s efforts – how much depends on the individual component, and the inherent lucidity of the system as a whole.
As always, advanced and effective technology doesn’t come cheaply, while the weak state of the SA currency only makes matters worse. But for those seeking to optimise the performance of a system already representing a significant investment, the IsoTek Evo3 Genesis One will undoubtedly add further value.
Number of outlets: 1x Schuko + linking outlet
Output (sine wave generation): 100 watts
Mains inlet: 10A IEC C14
Mains voltage: 240 V
Mains frequency: 60 Hz
Dimensions (WxHxD): 75 x 125 x 470mm
Weight: 10 kg (boxed)
Revolve TT/Graham Phantom II/Van Den Hul Colibri record deck
Valve Audio Whisper phono stage
Lumin D1 network player
Marantz SA-KI Pearl Lite SACD deck
Primare PRE32/MM30 pre-amp
Parasound Halo A21 power amp
KEF R500, KEF LS50 and B&W 702 loudspeakers
Sting – Live in Berlin (Decca/Universal)
Mary Black – Full Tide (Curb/Pure Pleasure)
Paul McCartney – Egypt Station (Capitol)
Cowboy Junkies – Trinity Revisited (Diverse)