Component Reviews, Part 2 of 2
Published on November 1, 2004
November 2004, Review 1 of 3 
Power Harmony 1000 by Element
Size – W-17” X D-10” X H-5.25”
895 B Street
Hayward, CA 94541
The Power Harmony 1000 claims to deal with power supply problems in a different way than most power conditioners. Most power conditioners simply try to filter power line noise from the incoming AC power. Unfortunately the more perfect the voltage waveform is, the worse the current waveform gets. The Power Harmony is designed to improve the behavior of rectified power supplies. It maximizes the power transfer through a rectifier (either solid state or tube) and at the same time virtually eliminates the noises caused by rectified power. Power Harmony’s strength comes from its patented circuitry that optimizes the power factor of the load, removing the current harmonics that can stress the power lines ability to deliver power and degrade the sonic performance of your system. The power factor is the ratio of the actual power being drawn by the load to the energy required to provide that power. The ratio if perfect should be 1:1. Most electronic devices have a very poor power factor and big amps with enormous filter caps are among the worst offenders. It is a passive technology that does not add electronic artifacts.
The unit I got is supposedly a prototype unit. I received very little technical information on the unit. The unit is 19 inches wide, 10.25 inches deep and 5.0 inches high. It is heavy for its size, weighing about 42 pounds. The unit has four plugs and 8 amps or 1000 watts total current. It has a nice looking silver faceplate and seemingly good build quality. Its use is very straightforward – just plug it into the wall and plug your components into it. Element says that the unit can be plugged into another line conditioner also.
How It Performs
My first chance to use the unit was in a friend’s video system. The system is very modest, and consists of a very high quality passive preamp, two custom mono main amps, and a $200 Pioneer uni-player, two 6-inch TBI subwoofers with two TBI amps and two Cambridge Audio small speakers. The audio system had two dedicated twenty amp circuits. There were also two Tripp-Lite LC 1200 power conditioners. The system is a fairly big over-achiever as far as sound goes, being low audiophile listenable. We first played a couple of tracks with the regular setup. We then played the same cuts with the Power Harmony plugged into one of the Tripp-Lites. We then plugged the two sub amps and the Pioneer into the Power Harmony. We started to play the first track again; it took me about three notes to here that a big improvement had been made. The bass was tighter, more defined and more solid. The rest of the soundstage was also somewhat improved. We decided to try plugging in the two mono main amps into the unit. We figured that the Power Harmony could handle the four mono amps current-wise. We plugged the Pioneer back into a Tripp-Lite. Again there was a great improvement in the sound of the system. Everything in the soundstage was more defined, deeper and more separated. There was much more sense of control of the sound. It sounded like a whole new system. I have not until then, heard any audio component make this kind of a difference in a system. When I told my friend how much it costs, he cursed me for bringing over a unit that gave that amount of improvement that he could never justify the cost of. He knew that whenever he played his system from then on, he would be disappointed after hearing what his system could sound like.
A week later he invited me back with the unit to show some friends how his subwoofers sound. There were four other people at the session. We played the system with and without the Power Harmony. Everybody agreed that it was hard to listen to the system without the unit, after hearing it with the unit. Everybody in the room would have loved to own one or two of the units if they could have afforded them. The next experiment was to try them in my main system, which has more audiophile pretensions. I have been using two API Power Wedges with my two dedicated 20 amp circuits. I did not feel I could plug my main amp into the unit, because of its large current draw. I plugged my center channel mono amp, preamp, Marantz DV8300 and sub amp into the Power Harmony. What I immediately noticed was a stronger sense of control of the soundstage. There was less artificial bloom to the instruments. There was a stronger sense of dynamics. The bass was tighter and more defined. The differences were not nearly a great as when it was used in the other system. I feel this is because I could not plug my main amps into the unit and the better power supplies in my electronics. I would say that there was about a 15% improvement in the sound. In the other system I would have to say the improvement was more than 100%. My editor had it plugged into his system with a Parasound 220 watt per channel AV amp. This is the very edge of the unit’s comfort range. He said the unit was a bit noisy. When I talked to a representative from Element he said that the unit does get noisier when it gets near its comfort limit. With my approximately 600 watt load the unit was perfectly quiet. I then plugged my four units into a Chang $1000 Light Speed power conditioner. The sound came from a darker background, but the extra sense of control, dynamics and image positioning were gone. I plugged my high definition monitor into the Power Harmony with very little change noted in the picture quality.
This unit does something that most line conditioners do not do, that is to make the sound field more realistic. Most line filters just give you more detail and a quieter background. If your main amp is below 400 watts per channel stereo this unit becomes a much more recommendable product. Amps seem to get the biggest improvement from the unit. You can probably even add a couple of line level pieces into the unit at this level. The price of the unit is $2495 is a little steep for four plugs and 1000 watts limit. Their technology seems to work very well but suffers from its limited capacity. They say that they are thinking of coming out with a twenty-amp unit at a higher cost. I feel that this unit is in an awkward position. Many people that can afford the unit will have too big of an amp for the unit. People that would be most positively affected by the use of the unit may not have the budget for the unit. If you have a smaller perfectionist amp and the budget for this product, this unit may be a sonic revelation for you. Even not being able to plug my main amp into the unit, I will miss not having this unit in my system. I hope this technology will find a place in the high-end market.
- Clay Swartz