Is messy mains mucking up your Mahler? Richard Stevenson turns main conditioning and regeneration convert with Isotek’s eye-wateringly priced flagship EVO3 Super Titan 20A (£9 995) (A super Titan 32A is available at £11 995) and EVO3 Genesis (£18 495) models. Is £28 500 a buck too far for perfect power? Probably not…

CONSTRUCTION & FEATURES  

You know a piece of audiophile equipment is ‘serious’ when it arrives on a pallet pulled by a middle-aged man with a face puce from effort. In fact, I struggle to think of many audio components that qualify quite as mind-boggling ‘serious’ as Isotek’s flagship mains conditioning system, the EVO3 Super Titan in top-spec 32A output guise and the EVO3 Genesis. To you sir, £28 500. Gulp.

The Super Titan is also available in a slightly lower-output 20A guise for systems with less current thirsty equipment, saving you £2,000. While we were rummaging through Isotek’s jewellery box, we also borrowed a Corvus 8-way mains distribution strip at £695, and an EVO3 Ascension mains cable at £3,000 for the 2m length. I am going to have to open a really fine wine to complement this review.

The 32A EVO3 Super Titan is probably the world’s most powerful mains conditioner, boasting the capability to supply 7,360W of continuous power to its four outlets. For the UK version, these are 3-pin UK mains configured although 110v US and 220v Euro versions are also available. The rear panel also houses two heavyweight RCD breakers and looped in/out 20A connection to supply another Isotek component such as the Genesis.

On the inside of the Super Titan, Isotek eschews isolating transformers in favour of four seven-stage filters in a series parallel combination in what the brand refers to as its Direct Coupled Design. Additional circuits reduce crosstalk and improve isolation between components attached to each outlet. The result, says Isotek, removes both differential and common mode noise, improving sonic clarity and definition, without restricting transient ability of the current supply.

The Genesis is a high-current mains regenerator. This creates a clean 50Hz synchronous sine-wave and amplifies it to 230V RMS with a high-end design Class A/B amp and enough reserve to supply a 300W demand. Two such generators are built into the Genesis, delivering 300W + 300W across two groups of two 3-pin outlets. Various decoupling techniques are deployed to ensure no distortion or artefacts from the original incoming mains are present in the buff-new outlet supply.

The Super Titan and Genesis share a very similar anti-vibration chassis design, with the Genesis sporting more ventilation for cooling its amplifier sections. The chassis design is a heavyweight, extensively milled aluminium box, point-clamped between two laminated panels. These are 8mm thick Corian plates with a proprietary resonance damping layer in-between. The Corian laminates are themselves supported by four hefty aluminium pillars on stainless steel spikes.

Isotek refers to this as Independent System Isolation Support, or ISIS. Its purpose is two-fold. First, it claims to reduce the effect of airborne vibration and microphony, subsonic vibrations and resonances within in the device itself. Secondly, its shape, strength and resonance-damping abilities provide a superb platform on which to place other components up to 20kg. The design also means the Super Titan and Genesis can be stacked.

The idea of holding a £10k of very heavy and seriously spikey audio component above £20ks worth of polished Corian and finely finished aluminium, while trying to line up the spikes into the receiver cups, seemed like an Only Fools and Horses sketch waiting to happen. I bottled out, keeping them side by side on the floor using spike cups to protect the soft-wood covering.

Interestingly though, I latterly tried an all-analogue pre-amp sat directly on top of the Super Titan’s upper Corian plate. The effect compared very favourably with some of the best isolation platforms I have tried even if A: that wasn’t exactly Isotek’s intended use for it and B: it looked rather odd.

The front fascia panels of the two units vary in cosmetic design and, rather more annoyingly, colour of their respective display and indicator lamps. The Genesis has a quite vivid blue display to show the Isotek logo plus instantaneous Voltage, Distortion and Current draw for each output group at the touch of a fascia button. The Super Titan has a non-illuminated logo and four blue LEDs that are a marked colour hue difference from the blue of the Genesis display. That irks my Hi-Fi OCD.

The units were supplied with Isotek’s Intense mains cables and Evo 3 Optimum link cable, all terminated with top-end connectors up to the high current task. You plug the Super Titan into you mains and use a second Intense cable to loop into the accessory input. That then supplies clean mains to the Genesis via the Evo 3 Optimum link cable. You can of course power up the Genesis directly from your wall-socket mains if the Super Titan wasn’t on your shopping list.

Powered up there is a few seconds boot-up time before you are ready to go. Hefty current draw units like big Class A power amps are connected to the outlets of the Super-Titan, while lower demand source equipment should be connected to the Genesis.

PERFORMANCE AND SOUND

Thirty-something years of Hi-Fi pursuit and I had barely given mains power a second thought until a few years ago. Given the huge power supplies and stepped down voltage of most audiophile components, I didn’t think ‘mains conditioners’ could make much difference. Some early mains conditioning filter units I tried actually made things worse, flattening dynamics and detail. I was a mains-conditioning sceptic.

Then the distributor of PS Audio turned up with some power amps to review and left a Power Plant Premier (PPP) mains regenerator to try. Long story short, it worked. I ended up buying two PPPs’ for my system, feeding source, amplification and even a cinema projector, all of which benefited from subjective performance improvement. Sadly, they were purchased in an era when PS Audio was having quality issues, and both units were eventually resigned to the scrap heap after several failure and repair cycles.

Probably no surprise then that the Super Titan and Genesis combination blew me away. It really is quite incredible improving the subjective performance of pretty much any audio component connected to it. And I am not talking notional Hi-Fi n’ths here. With source components in particular, there can be a dramatic uplift across a broad range of perceived performance criteria, most noticeably in spaciousness of the soundstage, cleaner less-gritty top end and reduced high-volume listening fatigue. I will go into more detail, but let’s look at a ‘why’ first.

Back when I first got hold of the PPP’s one of the main reasons there was such a dramatic performance improvement in my system transpired to the quality of the incumbent mains supply. Or rather lack of it. The same is just as true today. Living on a farm in rural East Sussex with miles of aged and tree-chaffed overhead power cable supplying the entire village, what we get is barely within the government’s legal framework. 255volts in the dead of night is not unusual and 215v is equally common when the entire village makes tea after Eastenders.

Quality is even worse than the voltage with regular flickering, pulsing, current dips, surges and the 50Hz wave coming with THD between 3% and a staggeringly grim 10%. There are phase errors, frequency deviations and equipment on neighbouring farms punt a whole load of harmonic currents into the mix. There is clearly a lot of room for improvement. The Super Titan / Genesis combination makes the most of that potential.

According to the display on the Genesis, during the first test (an innocuous Sunday afternoon) it was receiving mains at 238volt and 4.1%THD. Output voltage measured within 1 or 2 volts of 230v every time we got the meter out over several weeks. Push one of the two buttons on the fascia and a snapshot of the current draw and output THD for each block of two outlets is shown on the display.

Output THD was low. Very low. It ranged from 0.08% attached to just a very small load from a pre-amp (20w) up to 0.4% THD supplying a big Class A/B power amp drawing 200 Watts. Even supplying a heavier load to multiple components, that is a 90% reduction in mains supply THD. For lighter loads such as source equipment, the improvement is upwards of 95% and a staggering 98% in our first test running the pre-amp alone. If your mains is bad to start with, the Genesis will absolutely deliver performance gains from any audio equipment attached to it. No question.

Set up started with the Super Titan supplying bi-amped Sony TA-N1 power amps and the loop input for the Genesis. The Genesis fed a NAD Masters M50.2 streamer and M12 preamp, Michell Orbe PSU and Primare R32 photo stage. Straight off, the difference is palpable and expensively addictive.

The system sounded bigger, more engaging and it polished the occasionally harsh charter of the horn-loaded compression tweeters in the Westminster Royal GRs. Nils Lofgren’s Keith Don’t Go live (CD via streamer) sounded notably more spacious and ‘live’ with ambient details of the venue and audience playing a greater role in the mix. Nils’s aggressive playing had all the bite and attack you could ask for yet felt more natural and less ‘engineered’. The result was a desire to go large with the volume for real live concert SPLs rather than back down when the notes get aggressive.

Switching to vinyl, there was a notable upgrade in performance across the board. While the Westies trade a good deal of absolute accuracy for the ability to image like few other speakers on the planet, the clean-mains fed Orbe/R32 seemed to gain even greater space between instruments allowing more thorough articulation of the notes. This was most starkly obvious on piano, with Elton’s John’s version of Candle in the Wind (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) sounding incredibly natural and expansive.

The Isotek system also made me realise the Westies might not have been the only facet responsible for my vinyl systems often ‘colourful’ presentation. A romp through the superbly remastered Led Zeppelin Mother Ship boxed-set turned into an engaging, foot-tapping, head-banging evening. Both Page’s guitar and Plant’s vocals sounded more natural and realistic that I have ever heard them on my set-up. Again, the lack of grain at the top end really urges heroic use of the volume knob and, before the evening was out, sheep three fields away from the house were nodding along to Whole Lotta Love.

Given the Genesis’s prestigious output I tried a strip-down system using the regenerator alone. Plugging streamer and preamp one side and one of the TA-N1 stereo power amps the other gave a High Res Audio streaming set-up running on fully regenerated mains. Touching 250Watts on the power amp side, the Genesis didn’t break sweat although a very quiet fan did engage internally to keep things cool.

The effect was sublime making me debate the benefits of a Genesis and single power amp over bi-amping with straight-out-of-the wall mains. Arguably the Genesis system had greater detail and certainly sweeter HF extension which resulted in better HF detailing, and lower fatigue. Switching back to bi-amping with both power amps run from wall sockets felt dirtier but perhaps subjectively more dynamic. The natural conclusion was a Genesis for each power amp and another for the source components. And a mortgage to pay for it obviously.

I was lucky enough to have the Super Titan and Genesis on test for several months and it was nothing less than a privilege. Lots of high-end kit comes and goes through these doors but few components depart leaving such an obvious hole. At my house, with its frankly howlingly bad mains supply, the Isotek combination delivered marked performance improvement to everything I plugged into it.

CONCLUSION

I suspect that if your mains supply is a whole lot better to start with, the Isotek pairing’s relative upgrade in performance is likely to be less marked. Yet given the dramatic difference witnessed I can’t help thinking that the Super Titan / Genesis combo would wash its face in the context of any high-end system, wherever you are. Down in rural East Sussex, from budget vinyl players to high-end analogue pre-amps and affordable streamers to eye-wateringly complex AV processors, the effect of the Super Titan and Genesis pairing was uniformly, unequivocally positive.

AT A GLANCE 

An effective, universal high-end system upgrade, the Isotek’s high-tech mains conditioning and regenerating magic, outstanding build and sumptuous looks go a long way to justify the eye-watering price ticket.

Build Quality:  Gorgeously crafted from acres of chucky aluminium, Corian sandwich isolation and the highest-grade connectivity terminals, the build quality of both units is beyond reproach.

Sound Quality: The dirtier your mains the greater the effect but the Istook’s key strengths translate to a more refined sounding system performance majoring on a smoother top end, improved soundstaging and fatigue-free listening.

Value For Money: Well, that rather depends on your point of view. If you already enjoying an ‘ultimate’ sound system then dropping 30 grand on mains conditioning to hear it at its very best is undeniable value. If your system is topping out at a £500 integrated amp… probably less so.

Pros: Staggeringly effective at bringing a high-end system to peak performance with clean high-current power from the Super Titan and unrivalled regenerated mains current supply (2 x 300watts) from the Genesis. The tech is clever, the operation faultless and there are plenty of outlet sockets for a comprehensive system. The cosmetic design is a triumph of heavy-metal engineering that delivers real pride of ownership.

Cons: There is only one major con, that clearly being the breath-taking price tag. Somewhat less of an issue is that overall system enhancing performance is likely to be inversely proportional to the incumbent quality of your mains supply. Being picky, the blue of the Genesis’s display is not the same hue of blue as the indicator LEDs on the Super Titan. Hey, you are allowed to be picky at this price!

Price:

Titan 20A – £9,995

Super Titan 32A – £11,995

Genesis – £18.495

 

Richard Stevenson

Review Equipment.

NAD Masters M50.2 streamer, NAD Masters M12 Pre/DAC, Michel Orbe turntable, SME309 arm, Goldring1042 cartridge, Primare R32 phono stage, 2 x Sony TA-N1 power amps (bi-amped), Tannoy Westminster Royal Gold Reference loudspeakers, Chord Signature XLR cables, QED Super Genesis loudspeaker cable, Isotek EVO3 Ascension mains cable.

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