IsoTek EVO3 Super Nova Review
David Price auditions a stellar new ultra-high-end mains power conditioner.
EVO3 Super Nova Power Conditioner
Despite there being no shortage of people who have an opinion on the subject, there’s still a relative scarcity of high-end power products. It’s down to one of two reasons, I’d say. Either they simply don’t work, or not enough people know that they do. Having once held the former view, I underwent a sudden conversion to the latter when I ran a demonstration at the Sound and Vision hi-fi show in Bristol UK eight years ago. I had to put together a system, set it up and get it to sound good to demonstrate the difference between Red Book CD and hi-res digital. The addition of an IsoTek power conditioner worked wonders – although it still couldn’t cure the dem room’s appalling acoustics!
The new EVO3 Super Nova is IsoTek’s flagship power conditioner. Premiered at the Munich High End Show last May, it’s taken a while for full production to ramp up due to you-know-what. The company describes it as “the most sophisticated (passive) front-end source component power cleaning system developed so far”. Its purpose in life is to remove both common mode and differential mode noise from the mains, and to do this it offers eight medium-current outlets, all rated at 16A.
IsoTek says it’s designed for primary components that have a constant current draw, such as CD players, streamers, preamps and phono stages. Inside it’s built like a tank – the wiring is ultra-pure OCC with IsoTek’s VAD (Virtual Air Dielectric) technology, and double Oz copper is used for the circuit boards. The result is said to be “total isolation of each output socket from mains noise”. There’s also an electronic protection circuit to protect connected components against spikes and power surges, giving 100,000 amps (1840 joules) of instantaneous protection for each socket. Super Nova is currently available with a choice of UK, US, EU, ANZ and Swiss sockets.
The unit is beautifully built – as per all high-end IsoTek products – and sports a lovely anodised aluminium case that’s been strikingly styled, akin to a high-end monoblock power amplifier. Measuring 500x300x500mm (W x H x D) and weighing 45kg, it isn’t just something you can tuck behind the sofa; it takes its rightful place in any esoteric hi-fi system with no apologies sought or given. It works from 100 to 240V, 50 to 60Hz, with a quoted total output wattage of 2,300W and a transient power peak of 14,720W.
I ran the Super Nova in an appropriately high-end system comprising a Musical Fidelity M1 CDT disc transport, EMM Labs DV2 Reference DAC, Luxman M900 power amplifier and Sonus faber Amati loudspeakers. It certainly made quite a difference, with the big IsoTek bringing about a noticeable smoothing of the sound – something that the highly transparent Sonus fabers were well able to signpost, time after time.
For example, thanks to its shiny nineteen eighties production, Everything But The Girl’s Driving can grate on a poor and/or unbalanced system. With the Super Nova powering things, the upper midband and top end sounded a lot less metallic, while Tracey Thorn’s vocals were less brittle but gutsier; the track seemed less ‘digital’ sounding, with a more realistic instrumental timbre.
This was especially noticeable on Keith Jarrett’s The Melody at Night. With You; without the Super Nova, there was a touch of brittleness to the piano, and a slight sense of it sounding processed. Getting the IsoTek into the system brought a more natural feel to things, the instrument’s ringing harmonics having more purchase. The body of the instrument was better resolved, with nicer timbre too. In effect, there were fewer distractions and the result that I found myself much better able to concentrate on the music, rather than the recording.
The bouncy soul of Searching by Luther Vandross was fun without the Super Nova but sounded tidier and more ordered with. There was definitely a sense that it let me dig deeper down into the mix and hear all its differing strands; it was as if the hi-fi’s window on the recording had just got a fresh wipe down with detergent and distilled water. The song sounded less impactful, but this was down to the grit being removed from the glass, so to speak, as things were more finely resolved and less edgy. Yet with some recordings, such as Mozart’s Serenade in B flat for 13 wind, the IsoTek actually added more bite; timbral resolution was clearly much better, with wind instruments having more body. The soundstage seemed wider and deeper, thanks to less general hash and mush.
IsoTek’s new Super Nova is an incredibly impressive new power product, one that makes a clear improvement to high-end systems. Yet there are two caveats; firstly it’s designed for really expensive, exotic set-ups, so those with more ‘real world’ systems might like to consider the smaller and more affordable EVO3 Mosaic Genesis. Secondly, its effect varies with the quality of the mains going into your building; there’s more sonic gain to be had in electrically noisy environments. That’s why I’d strongly urge you to audition one if you’re lucky enough to afford the sort of system it can benefit.
David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.
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