Review By Rick Becker
The Noise Destroyer jumped out and grabbed my attention at the New York Home Entertainment Show in May. Quite literally, in fact, as I was beckoned over to the table set up in front of the main elevators for an incredible demonstration. A Noise Sniffer was plugged into a house circuit and the white noise grunge was amplified almost to conversational level. Then a small Noise Destroyer was plugged into the same power strip and the noise completely vanished. Needless to say, I was impressed in a big way. They had completely sold out of these wall-wart size power conditioners at $250 apiece, so it was a month before I could try one out on my system at home.
Walking The Dog
Ultra Systems, the importer, thoughtfully sent along an Entech (Monster Cable) Noise Sniffer and I immediately replicated the demonstration on my regular house circuit and each of two different dedicated lines. Of course, the volume on the Noise Sniffer was cranked way up for maximum effect. Not only did the Noise Sniffer reveal noise in the electrical circuits, but also radiated noise and RFI when used with its internal battery. I decided to walk this puppy around the house and let it sniff out various sources that are commonly known to be culprits.
At my CD player (used as a transport) and separate DAC, I found noise even when both units were turned off. When I turned them on, the white noise became slightly louder and shifted in frequency. Note also that both the DAC and CD player are heavily treated with EMS paper and my own tweaks that substantially improve the audio quality when listening. In comparison with CD front end, the Noise Sniffer was very loud when I approached the microwave oven. Even as I walked around the house with the Noise Sniffer on battery power, there was some slight noise everywhere.
The rotary dimmer switch on my dining room chandelier was noisier than the slider-type dimmer on my kitchen track lighting. Interestingly, the rotary dimmer was most loud when the chandelier was dimmed to low light, while the slider-type dimmer had a consistent noise volume when it was adjusted. But the dimmers were not in the same noise league as the microwave, the TV, or my computer, which registered very loud on the Noise Sniffer. Frankly, if they are not on the same circuit and not in close proximity to your gear, I wouldn't sweat the dimmers at all. The relaxation induced by lowering the light level, if not turning off the lights completely will lead to greater musical enjoyment.
Coming full circle in the house, the separate power supply of my CAT preamplifier was quite loud, even though it is encased in a heavy chassis. Thankfully, it sits on the floor, well away from the signal carrying chassis. My digital tuner, surprisingly, did not put out much noise at all, thought like my CD player and DAC, it contains a large sheet of ERS paper. And finally, my Manley Mahi tube power amps generated some noise up close, but when I backed off about a foot, most of the noise was gone, suggesting that I should spread them a little farther apart.
Another surprising effect occurred when I plugged the Noise Sniffer into my JPS Labs dedicated line without any components on that circuit. The Sniffer acted as a radio, picking up a faint signal. When I added components to the circuit the radio signal was recognizable as a Spanish language program on 1050 AM, WROC, a 50kw station. Unfortunately, I didn't think to try the Sniffer in the proximity of a cell phone. The Noise Sniffer had to be returned in short order, so several opportunities were missed that didn't occur to me until after it was gone.
Getting back to the Noise Destroyer, it dropped the amplified noise level of the Noise Sniffer on the house circuit and unoccupied dedicated lines to silence when I plugged it in, just as it had done at the New York show. But how does that compare with the PS Audio Soloist I had on hand, configured with a plug on its wires instead of being hard wired into the wall as it was designed to be? Same results! Dead silence.
The true value of the Noise Destroyer would be revealed in the listening to music. Since I cannot plug my entire rig into a single dedicated line, I chose to evaluate the Noise Destroyer and compare it with the Soloist on the Romex dedicated line using just my digital front-end components. Listening to CDs, I had to be very attentive to detect an advantage to using the Noise Destroyer. There was some improvement, for sure, but nothing of the magnitude suggested by the demonstration with the Noise Sniffer. The background became a little darker and the tonality of the music improved slightly, but that is about it. Remember, however, this is with a rig that is pretty highly refined and running on dedicated lines with the local transformer perhaps 1/8 mile from my house. Your position on the grid may be considerably different and you may realize significantly different results.
In listening to CDs with the digital front end plugged into the PS Audio Soloist, I realized more substantive gains as I reported in my review of that component. It is also notable that the transport and DAC were plugged directly into Soloist, while the Noise Destroyer must be content to merely be plugged into the same circuit as the transport and DAC. Likewise, the Soloist is designed for permanent installation, while the Noise Destroyer is conveniently portable. So it is not really an "apples to apples" comparison.
The build quality of the Noise Destroyer is like a rock. Removing the four screws did not permit entry into the rugged metal housing and I resisted the strong temptation to chisel it open. The graphic label suggests a simple circuit on the inside, but coming from HiFi-Tuning.com in Germany, the people who bring us high quality fuses, I suspect the contents are quite a bit more sophisticated. The spec sheet mentions four stages for maximum performance, but doesn't articulate them. They describe the Noise Destroyer as a parallel or shunt filter with advantages of simple, reliable construction with a "high degree of flexibility" which presumably relates to its small size and portability. It is also claimed to have no dynamic restrictions, and I certainly did not notice any restriction of dynamics in my listening. They also acknowledge its downside as being less efficient than serial filtering, by which I think they mean "less effective." Actual current consumption is 0.25mA, the equivalent of only 0.0275 Watts at 110 Volts.
That it did not perform audible miracles in my rig does not mean it is not a worthy product. In a section of the electrical grid with more pollution than I seem to have, it might reveal more obvious benefits. Its portability is hard to beat if you travel with a small road rig, and it is certainly robust. But buy it with the understanding that it can be returned if it doesn't meet your expectations and circumstances. In the grand scheme of high-end audio, $250 is not a lot of money. For about the same money you can buy an entry level power conditioner with surge protection and for less than twice that amount, you can purchase a more functional, full fledged power conditioner that might ultimately serve you better. Even if you already have a power conditioner, you might still give the Noise Destroyer a try, as it is said to work as a stand alone unit or in conjunction with other line conditioners.
Type: Power conditioner
Filter Stages: Four
Filtering: Parallel (shunt) filter, fast reaction speed, EMI and RFI
Filtering Range: Upwards of 1GHz
United States Distributor