I've been stricken with something I like to call an "audiophile illusion of grandeur" for quite some time. It started long ago, when I first discovered that the AC power supplied to my stereo system was less than adequate. This wasn't too difficult to figure out, because in the daytime my system sounded lousy, at least compared to how it sounded at night. This continues to this day. This is because my home shares the power my electric company provides with many customers, including commercial establishments, homes, and more. As a result, the sound of my system suffers.
At about 6:00 PM the system begins to sound better. After 9:00 PM my system sounds even better, and can transport me to sonic nirvana, as if I can aurally detect the source of the recording, as if I've traveled in some sort of sonic time machine. Listening to my system late at night, I am a fly on the wall of the studio that John Coltrane is laying down tracks. I am in the 10th row of an empty Kingsway hall in 1957 as the London Symphony Orchestra belts out Shostakovich's First Symphony conducted by Jean Martinon. You get the idea. Don't get me wrong, as I might be exaggerating a bit, as my system sounds pretty darn good during the daytime hours. I've worked hard to make that happen. It's just that at night it is the only time that it sounds as if it is reaching its fullest potential. And that is maddening.
For the last 25 years or so I've tried countless "power conditioners" in an attempt to alleviate the difference in sound quality between daytime and nighttime. These power conditioners have all improved the sound of my system in one way or another, all using slightly different methods to "condition" the power. The best power conditioner I've heard so far calls itself a "power regenerator", since it converts the AC to DC, and the DC back to AC as a perfect sine wave with the frequency of my choice. Other conditioners that I've had some luck with have had cabinets filled with transformers, condensers, and other electronic parts in an attempt to at last silence the noise that comes through the power lines.
I've also used conditioners that I've had no way of knowing how they might work other than the hyperbole on the manufacturer's website, and with those components I often there was no way I couldn't open the cabinet, I suspect for fear that the manufacturer fears that I will share their proprietary methods. No matter how well or not these conditioners worked, the limiting factor has always been that they required me to plug the component into my AC wall socket. And so, the difference in sound quality between daytime and nighttime remained. My audiophile illusions of grandeur had me imagining that I can somehow do away with the power line that runs to my house that terminates at the circuit board in my basement. I've dreamt of striking a bargain with my local power company to have them install a power transformer in my front yard, and having them run a cable from one end of the transformer to my home, and the other end of the transformer connected by a cable that runs directly to one of the power company's sub-stations.
Another audiophile fantasy included filling my basement with scores of rechargeable car batteries, or perhaps lithium ion batteries, or maybe nickel-cadmium aircraft emergency batteries, or even uninterrupted power supply battery towers used by hospitals. I would then have an industrial power inverter convert these batteries' DC power to a usable 110 Volts AC for my system. I've used components that have been battery powered, including preamplifiers, DACs, and the like. But to have my entire system powered either by being the power company's only customer, or my entire system be powered by batteries remained a dream.
Stromtank At Shows... And My
The Stromtank S2500, like its big brother the Stromtank S5000 is able to remove one's system from the power grid, delivering a pure sine wave of 110 Volts (and of course can be ordered for 220V systems). Stromtank's S2500 has a storage capacity of 2500-Watt hours (as opposed to the S5000, which has a storage capacity of 5,000Wh and the specification obviously the basis for the models' monikers). Both contain lithium-iron-phosphate-cells. These LiFe-PO4 cells are safe, environmentally friendly, very cycle-resistant and relatively lightweight. The main difference between the two models is how long each will be able to go without a charge, and the amount of power that they can deliver to a system. With the S2500 one is able to listen to music for up to 4 hours without a charge.
If the batteries charge is depleted during operation the Stromtank will automatically go into charging mode, yet the listener can still enjoy music during the charging process. This is the beauty of the Stromtank – even when connected to the AC power for recharging, the current that comes forth from the Stromtank is not taken from the grid, as this power is absorbed by the batteries. Plus, in "AC-connected mode" the Stromtank creates a stable AC-supply and has much less interaction between the grid and one's setup.
Even though the Stromtank S2500 is the smaller of the two models offered, it is still quite large and heavy. I was lucky when it was delivered to my home because the freight delivery driver was quite nice, and when he discovered what was in the large create he became even nicer, helping me lift the crate up to the front porch of my house and beyond the front door. I can't guarantee your driver will be as friendly, however, if you order the Stromtank from a local dealer I can bet they will help you install it into your system. Good thing, too, as the un-crated Stromtank S2500 weighs 134 pounds, and is 19 inches deep, 17 inches wide and a foot tall. Moving the Stromtank into my system wasn't that difficult since D'Agostino's director of sales Bill McKiegan helped me carry it upstairs into my listening room, and we both slid it across my listening room's industrial carpet into position.
After connecting it to the wall current with a standard power cable (the quality of this power cable doesn't affect the Stromtank's performance since it is only used to charge the batteries), I was shown how to use the Stromtank S2500. Operation is super simple. It's large circular front panel display glows blue when in charging mode, and green when in "off the grid" mode. There is a switch on the front panel to toggle between the two, so I simply switched the S2500 to blue charging mode when I wasn't listening. I never ran out of power when listening, as I didn't have any listening sessions that lasted that long. Plus, the battery life depends on how much power is drawn from the unit. If it sitting idle it uses much less power is drained than when the volume of one's preamp is on 11. Even if I did complete drain the power, I could have charged the Stromtank when taking breaks, then turning it back on when I continued a listening session.
The only "problem" I ran into was that I couldn't connect my 350 Watt per channel Pass Laboratories X350.5 power amplifier to the Stromtank S2500 and play it at excessive volumes. If I did, the Stromtank would shut down because it would become over-heated. This only happened once during my time during the Stromtank's audition period. After it shut down I had to wait a while so the Stromtank could cool down. After that the Stromtank operated perfectly, and I could listen to music again, being fully aware that if I was to connect my power amp to the Stromtank, I should be very careful about how high I turn the volume of my system, and for how long I listen to a louder than absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the Stromtank performed as advertised, and without any problems whatsoever.
It operated better than advertised, actually, because I've never experienced sound like this from my system, other than during those occasional midnight listening sessions. Admittedly, what I consider "excessive volume" might be a bit too loud for many listeners. That being said, I think that only a few listeners might have problems using the S2500 for their high wattage power amplifiers. Those with large systems and especially those with large home theater setups would most likely be better off using the Stromtank S5000. If I had a choice, I would, too, so I didn't have to worry about the unit shutting down. This is a first world problem if I've ever heard one.
Unless one lives in an area that shares a power line that comes from the power company with no one else, I can't imagine one being disappointed with the performance of the Stromtank. And I'd bet even those audiophiles will hear an improvement in their systems because of the pure sine wave of battery power that the Stromtank delivers. The Stromtank cannot be compared to other power conditioners on the market because it isn't a power condition. It is power. Period. And that's the beauty of the Stromtank. Recommended? Are you kidding?
Output AC parameter off grid
Battery power unit
Typical charge current: 8 Adc - factory setting
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