July/August 2003

Monster Power HTPS 7000 Balanced Power Unit

I've been fascinated by how certain tweaks like high-tech custom power cords and cables, common to high-end audio, can have a profound effect on the resolution, articulation and imaging of amplified instruments. Often the brightness we associate with amplification is not so much a matter of whether we employ vacuum tube or solid-state designs but rather a byproduct of the line noise and high-frequency grunge endemic to urban power grids.

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Monster Power HTPS 7000 Signature Power Unit

Guitarists might want to consider a balanced power-system solution. The folks at Equi=Tech championed this approach in the early '90s, and their products are presently a "must have" adjunct to top recording studio and professional sound reinforcement rigs. Other electronics manufacturers have taken up the balanced power torch, and now Monster Power is offering a variation on this theme, with the introduction of the Standard ($1,299) and Signature versions ($1,499) of their HTPS 7000 Home Theatre Reference PowerSource with Dual Balanced Pure Power Isolation Transformers. And what relevance does a product designed for home theater have to do with electric guitars or vacuum-tube amps? Consider this: normally when you plug in you have a positive lead with 120 volts and a negative lead with zero volts, both referenced to ground. With balanced power you have 60 volts on both leads, inversely phased, referenced to ground, and in this manner you cancel out noise artifacts.

When I cranked up my modified 1988 Gibson L-4 through a 20-year old Mesa Boogie Mark IIB Simul-Class Vacuum Tube amp, the overall sound was significantly warmer and more full-bodied, with a rounder, more percussive character to the picking attack, increased transient speed and a wider dynamic range-with greater low frequency extension, sustain, string-to-string character, definition and distinction. And in A/B-ing the response with and without balanced power at jazz-fusion volume levels, things sounded much bigger and clearer-though not necessarily louder-because it significantly reduced the edgy high frequency glare that makes sensitive souls wince when we are trying to be heard over a drummer. Better yet, by reducing the veiling of complex harmonics and overtones, relaxing the highs and increasing midrange layering, I found myself slowing down to linger on each note as an event unto itself, because strummed and arpeggiated chords now revealed greater dimensionality and acoustic complexity, even at low volume. For electric jazzmen who want to shout, without necessarily screaming, the HTPS 7000 might prove to be a revelation. And the Signature version offers a choice of balanced power or isolated power, where you float the ground, which might prove handy in some venues.

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