Shunyata Research Hydra Typhon QR Power Distributor

SoundStage Ultra! 15 November 2018

Howard Kneller 

Aware of my interest in master word clocks, Scott Sefton, Esoteric’s marketing specialist for the Americas, recently e-mailed me to ask if I planned to audition the Sigma Clock-50, a new clock cable from Shunyata Research, based in Poulsbo, Washington. Most audiophile clock cables are specified at 75 ohms; the Shunyata cable is interesting due to its 50-ohm specification. Copied on Sefton’s e-mail was Grant Samuelsen, Shunyata’s director of marketing and sales, whom I’d not spoken to in years. When Samuelsen received the e-mail, he contacted me directly.

Next thing I knew, Samuelsen was headed my way with no fewer than four power distributors and 14 power cords, all made by Shunyata. Not having a home big enough to accommodate all that gear in addition to my own, I insisted that he not return to Poulsbo until we’d established a review plan.

Samuelsen and I agreed that I would review Shunyata’s newest reference product, the Hydra Typhon QR power distributor ($9000 USD). Shunyata calls their power components distributors, not conditioners, because they filter AC power passively, not actively.

The Typhon QR is not a traditional power distributor or conditioner in the sense that you plug it into your AC wall outlet, then plug your components into it. (Although, after some minor modification by Shunyata to its power cord, the Hydra Typhon QR can operate that way to power a single amplifier or other high-power component.) Rather, along with the Hydra Triton v3 ($9000) and Hydra DPC-6 v3 ($5000), the Hydra Typhon QR is a specialized member of Shunyata’s three-box Hydra reference stack of power-distribution components. According to Samuelsen, the Typhon QR uses patented Shunyata technologies to provide passive electrical filtration in addition to that provided by the Triton, and acts as an AC reservoir or coulomb-charge circuit, to deliver instantaneous current to an audio system’s components far more effectively than an AC wall outlet can.

Always fascinated by the relationship between high-quality power and high-quality sound, I anticipated that this review would be interesting.

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
-- Socrates (ca. 470-399 BC)

Caelin Gabriel, Shunyata’s founder and product designer, knows a thing or two about power delivery and filtration. As a military research scientist for the NSA, he developed top-secret devices capable of extracting extremely faint signals from environmental noise. He’s also worked in the computer industry, particularly with high-speed networking products such as Ethernet devices, routers, bridges, and fiber-channel components.

These experiences led Gabriel to formulate several theories concerning AC power, most of which arise from his assertion that, since power supplies draw current in rapid bursts rather than linearly, AC delivery is a nearfield, high-frequency occurrence rather than a low-frequency (50-60Hz) one.

One of these theories relates to something that Gabriel calls component-to-component interference (CCI); that is, electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio-frequency interference (RFI) that’s created within an audio system by its components’ power supplies. CCI is transferred between components, Gabriel asserts, not only through radiated waves, but also via conduction and inductive coupling, which occurs through power cords and interconnects.

Gabriel claims that CCI is more harmful to a system’s sound than are external anomalies such as grid-borne high-frequency noise and voltage surges. Interestingly, a somewhat similar theory, relating to vibration management, asserts that vibrations created within an audio system are more harmful to sound quality than are external air- and ground-borne vibrations.

According to Gabriel, power conditioners that use low-pass filters or inductive devices block some grid-borne anomalies from entering an audio system by virtue of those mechanisms’ inductive reactance. However, he states, such conditioners can decrease certain aspects of sound by trapping CCI within that system. No such filters or devices are used in Shunyata products. Instead, for example, on each of the AC outlets on Shunyata power distributors, Gabriel places a small-value circuit that isolates that distributor, thus providing a second stage of noise isolation behind Shunyata’s similarly isolated power cords.

Another of Gabriel’s theories is that the unimpeded and instantaneous flow of AC to a component’s full-wave bridge rectifier or digital switching power supply, which he calls its dynamic transient current delivery (DTCD), is of key importance to a system’s sound. Gabriel states that the reason that many electronics manufacturers have traditionally discouraged the use of power conditioners is because, in addition to trapping CCI inside an audio system, low-pass filters and inductive devices restrict current, thus adversely impacting dynamics.

These theories must have some merit. Gabriel founded Shunyata Research in 1997; now, 21 years later, it’s one of a handful of companies that always come to mind when the subject of audiophile power products comes up. In that time, Shunyata’s product offerings have expanded to include signal cables, connectors, and vibration-control accessories.

In 2016, Gabriel formed Shunyata’s sister company, Clear Image Scientific, Inc. CIS designs, manufactures, and markets power products designed to eliminate unwanted environmental noise not in home audio rigs, but in high-resolution medical imaging systems. According to Samuelsen, the idea to start CIS occurred after a heart surgeon who was also an audiophile plugged his heart-monitoring equipment into a Shunyata power distributor. The result, Samuelsen says, was that the patient’s heart images and signals were much easier to read. Now, with 18 employees and a growing customer base, CIS products are being used in dozens of hospitals and other medical facilities worldwide.

“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space. Everything else is just opinion.”
-- Democritus (ca. 460-ca. 370 BC)

In Greek mythology, Hydra, the child of Typhon and Echidna, was a water monster with as many as 100 heads, one of which was immortal. Typhon, born of a union between Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus (a section of Hades reserved for punishment of the wicked), was the Father of All Monsters, and the most ferocious. A merman and demigod, Triton was the son of the sea god Poseidon and his wife, Amphitrite. Clearly, whoever named these products has an infatuation with water.

To understand how the Hydra Typhon QR works, you must understand the history and function of the other two members of the Hydra power-distribution stack, the Hydra Triton and the Hydra DPC-6 v3. The Triton was originally envisioned as a one-box reference power distributor. However, it soon became apparent that its size and cost would be problems. In 2011, Gabriel divided the Triton’s original design into two separate components, which became the first production versions of the Triton and Typhon. The first version of the QR, simply called the Typhon, was introduced in 2012.

Today, the Hydra Triton and DPC-6 are both in their third versions. The heart of the three-box reference stack, the Triton v3 provides AC distribution and passive filtering for up to eight audio components. The DPC-6 v3 electrically firewalls and passively filters the incoming current of up to six digital sources, such as a computer or other music server, processor, network device, and/or video monitor. As noted, the Typhon QR serves as a pre-filter to the Triton and as an on-demand AC reserve.

In the world of Shunyata Hydras, all roads -- or necks -- lead to the Typhon QR. An audio system’s components plug into either the Triton or the DPC-6, depending on whether such components are analog or digital. The Triton plugs into the Typhon QR via a specially designed 20-amp Sigma Typhon power umbilical (included) comprising six-gauge hot and neutral conductors and one eight-gauge ground conductor. The DPC-6 plugs into the Triton via a separately purchased, 20-amp standard power cord. The Typhon QR, in turn, plugs into the wall via a standard 20-amp power cord, purchased separately; Samuelsen recommends Shunyata’s Alpha NR ($1500) or Sigma NR ($3000) 1.75m cords.

If your budget doesn’t include the $23,000 to buy all three members of the reference stack, the Typhon QR, like the Triton and DPC-6, can be used alone or with one other Hydra component. Used alone, the Typhon QR can directly power an amplifier or other high-powered component, though its umbilical must first be terminated by Shunyata with a connector, typically 15A, that matches the amp’s IEC inlet. In such instance, the standard 20-amp power cord plugs directly into the AC wall outlet.

The Hydra Typhon QR’s front panel is as plain as that of the other stack members, containing only the series and model names and Shunyata’s logo. The rear panel is similarly low-key, containing only a low-impedance, 30A, electromagnetic breaker switch and two Hubbell 20-amp (C20) IEC power inlets.

Chosen by Shunyata for its external current-sensing circuit and lack of heat generation, the breaker switch is not a master on/off control and shouldn’t be used as such. Instead, it protects the Typhon QR from current overload. Many power strips and conditioners protect against this with inexpensive fuses or thermal breakers. Samuelsen states that when such devices are under heavy load, they can cause voltage drops, contact-point impedance, and signal noise that results from excessive heat at the contact point.

The Typhon QR’s two IEC connectors have large electrical contacts that strongly grip a plug’s blades. This is unlike some power conditioners, Samuelsen states, which use inexpensive, computer-grade, 15-amp, C14 power inlets. The Typhon QR’s inlets accept, one each, the power cord that runs from the Typhon QR to the wall AC outlet, and the included power cord that runs from the Typhon QR to the Triton.

The Typhon QR and the other members of the Hydra reference stack include a number of Gabriel’s proprietary technologies:

Dynamic Transient Current Delivery (DTCD): Gabriel developed this technology, which Shunyata uses to measure the passage of AC through conductive materials, to minimize AC impedance and maximize contact integrity.

Noise Isolation Chamber (NIC): A passive copper circuit developed and patented by Shunyata that provides the Typhon QR with much of its passive filtering abilities. It contains ZrCa-2000, a proprietary, nonreactive, ferroelectric crystalline material that is the subject of a patent separate from the one granted for NIC. According to Samuelsen, this material absorbs high-frequency power-line noise without the frequency-response anomalies often associated with transformer, choke, coil, or other ferrite-based power conditioners.

Typhon QR/BB Noise Reduction: A passive copper circuit, developed and patented by CIS, that allows the Typhon QR to provide components with instantaneous access to an AC reserve or coulomb charge. By eliminating the inductive reactance inherent in standard AC power conditioners without the use of low-pass filters or inductive devices, this circuit is said to enhance dynamics.

VTX Conductors: The Typhon QR uses these six-gauge, “hollow-tube,” internal conductors of 99.99%-pure copper (OFE C10100). As suggested by their name, these are circularly arrayed to form a tube, which is said to minimize skin effects and eddy currents.

Electrical grounding for the Typhon QR is provided through the Triton, which contains connections for Shunyata’s Chassis Ground System (CGS). Samuelsen says that a Typhon QR connected to a Triton QR together provide a common grounding point for all components of an audio system.

For four days, Shunyata subjects the Hydra Typhon QR’s conductive parts to its proprietary Kinetic Phase Inversion Process (KPIP). According to the Typhon QR’s manual, KPIP “eliminates much of the drama” involved in the burn-in process, as well as the issue of signal directionality. Shunyata states that, aside from some settling in after shipment, a KPIP-treated product will sound the same on the day that you take it home as it will for the rest of its life. Shunyata also cryogenically treats a number of these parts.

The Typhon QR measures 17.25”W x 6”H x 17.13”D and weighs 42 pounds. Like the other members of the Hydra triad, it’s housed in a case of 16-gauge, powder-coated steel with a 3/4”-thick faceplate of anodized aluminum, all in black or silver. Sheets on its interior walls and many of its internal surfaces provide constrained-layer damping. Vibrations are further damped with gaskets around the outlets and a special compound that is used around its electronic components. It sits on four proprietary SSF-50 footers of stainless steel. According to Samuelsen, these contain energy-absorbing polymers to help manage internal and external (i.e., floor-borne) vibrations.

Like the other Hydras, the Typhon QR is not only an exercise in minimalist design but gorgeous to look at. I couldn’t find one ill-fitting seam, one cheap-looking part or material, or one distasteful detail on the matte-black review sample. Shunyata offers a limited lifetime warranty on the Typhon QR and its other power distributors, which covers labor, parts, and materials. Kudos to Shunyata for so strongly standing behind its products.

“Make the best use of what’s in your power and take the rest as it happens.”
-- Epictetus (ca. 55-ca. 135 AD)




I had repeatedly cautioned Grant Samuelsen that my system was complex. An experienced industry workhorse, he shrugged off these warnings. It wasn’t until it was time to prepare the work order that he began to appreciate the magnitude of our undertaking -- but only when he arrived did he fully grasp the task at hand.

Even stripped of its many accessories, my system’s active devices are many: a stereo amplifier, a two-box preamp with two power cords, a four-box digital front end, speakers with active bass modules, two subwoofers, and an external subwoofer crossover. In short, I needed to plug in a lot of power cords.

The Hydra reference stack provides a total of 14 AC outlets -- theoretically enough to power my system, but not in practice. A part of my system’s digital front end is some 18’ away from both the DPC-6 -- too long a distance to run a power cord. Samuelsen therefore decided to power the remotely located boxes with a Hydra Denali D6000/T power distributor ($5000).

The final list of Shunyata products I received was considerable: Hydra Triton v3, Hydra DPC-6 v3, Hydra Typhon QR, Hydra Denali D6000/T, and 14 Sigma NR ($3000), Alpha NR ($1500), and Delta NR ($700) power cords, each 1.75m long.

Clearly taken aback by my system’s size and complexity, Samuelsen suggested that we listen to some music, then get to work. Several hours later, there was still much to do, and we focused on the job’s completion. He politely passed on my many suggestions that we break for lunch or water.

Since my Symposium Acoustics component racks lack three open shelves, we stacked the Hydra trio on one floorstanding Symposium Ultra platform. As Symposium’s Peter Bizlewicz pointed out to me, this configuration is suboptimal: each component would likely benefit from its own dedicated shelf or platform. However, Samuelsen was unbothered by the configuration, which may be the one used by many owners of the Hydra troika. Listening tests confirmed that using even one platform significantly improved the stack’s performance.

Almost seven hours after we’d begun, all was set up. After Samuelsen left, he called to apologize that we’d been so pressed for time, assuring me that he rarely seeks to contribute to anyone’s starvation or dehydration.

KPIP treatment notwithstanding, I ran the Hydra stack for many hours before doing any critical listening. Determining the effectiveness of the treatment was tricky, as this run-in period was interrupted by a long vacation and several periods when it was too hot to run a big audio rig. However, I didn’t hear the dramatic change in sound that occurs with some power conditioners following run-in.

“It is not easy to determine the nature of music, or why anyone should have knowledge of it.”
-- Aristotle (348-322 BC)

Providing an audio system with very high-quality power is rarely cheap, and that’s particularly true when the system is complex. The Shunyata gear reviewed here costs a total of $56,800: $28,500 worth of power distributors and $28,300 worth of power cords. Typically, when you drop this much coin with a well-respected manufacturer of power products, you more or less get everything when it comes to performance. That was certainly the case with the Shunyata products.

But that doesn’t mean that all power products, including ones from well-respected manufacturers, sound the same. Like so many other categories of audio gear, power products from different manufacturers typically exhibit different sounds. Shunyata’s Hydra gear emphasized harmonic texture, warmth, and richness, as well as image solidarity and fullness -- aural meat on the music’s bones. While these products didn’t cause my solid-state amp to sprout a pair of vintage Western Electric 437A tubes, they did impart to music an analog-like quality.

That’s not to suggest that the sound of the Shunyata products suffered from the shortcomings often associated with tubes, or other analog products that can sound warm and rich: poor bass control, limited high-end extension, clumsy timbral delineation, and skewed tonality. It didn’t. Rather, the Shunyatas delivered those things at extremely high levels. Further, particularly with the DCP-6 and the Typhon QR, but even without them, the Hydra suite excelled at reducing noise, and at reproducing leading-edge transients, retrieving details, and rhythmic timing -- other characteristics for which warm- and rich-sounding gear is not generally known.

Still, like pretty much all other power products, the Shunyatas’ sonic emphasis was readily apparent when I compared them to power gear from other manufacturers. For example, there is no shortage of power products that favor leading-edge transient speed and dynamic range over a complex diapason of harmonic textures backdropped by a pleasingly warm frequency response.

What did the Typhon QR contribute? Well, some things that complemented the Triton and DPC-6 quite nicely. I first heard the Typhon QR’s effects in the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5, in the recording by Alfred Brendel, with James Levine conducting the Chicago Symphony (CD, Philips 456 045-2). As the orchestra takes over the theme presented by the soloist, the leading edges of violin notes were more brilliant, cello notes cleaner, climaxes more spirited and dynamically extended. Nowhere was this improved sense of forward thrust and effortlessness more evident than in the coda, where, after a heavily muted exchange between piano and timpani, the concerto concludes in a final brilliant apogee.

Speaking of drama, the beginning of the introductory chorus of Act I of Verdi’s Nabucco, with Bernhard Klee conducting the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Czech Philharmonic Chorus, and the St. Florian Boys’ Choir, from Great Opera Choruses (24-bit/96kHz FLAC, Chesky), begins with a brief line in the winds and numerous powerful tuttis, all of which, in typical Verdi fashion, lead to a striking choral section. With the Typhon QR, the tuttis had improved transient attack and were more deeply penetrating.

Ondekoza’s “Fujimama,” from YG Acoustics’ Test CD II (CD, YG Acoustics), is one of the best-recorded drum pieces I’ve heard. With the Typhon QR, the recording’s background, already seemingly dead quiet, was even “blacker.” Transient impact and image solidity also improved -- heavy percussive pops startled and stunned me even more than when I used the Triton and DCP-6 alone.

In the cadenza of the first movement of Brahms’s Violin Concerto, performed by soloist Joshua Bell with Christoph von Dohnányi conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (16/44.1 FLAC, Decca 000420402), the Typhon QR caused the brief pizzicato string motif to bristle with more snap and focus.

In the final allegro of Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor, Op.28, with Vladimir Fedoseyev conducting the Moscow RTV Symphony Orchestra (16/44.1 FLAC, EMG Classical), the Typhon QR improved the solidity, timing, and bite of solo violinist Sergei Stadler’s spiccato passages, in which the bow is bounced off the strings.

The Typhon QR reduced noise, improved imaging, neatened the leading edges of notes, and imbued symphonic climaxes and other large dynamic swings with enhanced extension, drive, timing, and effortlessness. Although the Triton and the DPC-6 didn’t patently lack these qualities, the Typhon QR turbocharged them.

As if that were not enough, the Typhon QR improved my system’s sound in other ways. In the chorus from Verdi’s Nabucco, the Typhon QR not only honed the tuttis, it decongested everything. For example, it provided a layer of air, not fully present with the Triton and DPC-6 alone, that separated the sounds of cymbals from those of the timpani and other percussion.

In the Brahms cadenza and the Saint-Saëns allegro, the Typhon QR did more than just improve violin notes’ forward edges. In the Brahms, it freed those notes of a layer of thickness, thus rendering them more naturally flute-like. Nor was this harmonic cleansing overwrought -- the Typhon QR simultaneously let my system better reproduce the notes’ complex structures. With the Typhon QR, flute notes now correctly seemed much more gaunt and simplistic. In the Saint-Saëns, the Typhon QR better reproduced the scratchiness of string drags at the bow’s contact points. Also more evident were open-string resonances, now silenced only by bow impacts.

The opening harpsichord notes of the middle movement, Adagio molto, of Autumn, the third violin concerto of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, performed by Joseph Silverstein, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa (CD, LIM UHD 054 LE), sparkled with more delicacy and coruscant life with the Typhon QR. In the Allegro from Winter, the sounds of the lower orchestral strings improved in weight and textural thickness.

The 1962 recording of Puccini’s Tosca, with Herbert von Karajan leading the Vienna Philharmonic, is not one in which the soloists merely stand there and sing (16/44.1 FLAC, Decca). The Typhon QR better revealed the various distances at which, for example, Cavaradossi (Giuseppe di Stefano) and Scarpia (Giuseppe Taddei) hover around Tosca (Leontyne Price). It also added somewhat to the soundstage’s depth and width.

The Typhon QR also improved the sounds of the church bells in Act III. Specially manufactured for this recording and precisely tuned to pitches specified by Puccini for bells that he’d heard, they were deployed so as to suggest the increasing distances from which Puccini wanted Cavaradossi to hear them. With the Typhon QR in the Hydra stack, the bells’ volume didn’t only grow fainter as the act progressed, they seemed to farther decrease in physical proximity.

Brôma theôn

I may have not yet auditioned Shunyata Research’s newest clock cable, but this review did not leave me wondering why the company is one of a handful that immediately come to mind when one thinks of audiophile power products. From my listening chair, the company has earned its membership in that august group.

Nor did this reviewing experience leave any doubt that the Hydra Typhon QR is an integral part of Shunyata’s Hydra reference power-distribution stack. The Typhon QR improved pretty much every aspect of my system’s performance -- perhaps an unsurprising result for those who are perennially thunderstruck by the relationship between high-quality power and high-quality sound. Further, by enhancing timing, leading transient speed, dynamics, low-level detail retrieval, and spatial cuing, the Typhon QR helped create a particularly satisfying listening experience. These aren’t qualities that the Triton and DCP-6 conspicuously lack, but the Typhon QR proved to be those distributors’ perfect companion.

Nero is said to have characterized the poisoned mushrooms with which his mother, Agrippina the Younger, murdered Claudius as brôma theôn -- “the food of the gods.” Nero was not referring to the audio gods -- they undoubtedly prefer a diet of very high quality, on-demand AC power. And that’s what these Shunyata products can feed them.

. . . Howard Kneller

Associated Equipment

Amplifier -- Esoteric Grandioso S1
Preamplifier -- Esoteric Grandioso C1
Sources -- Windows 10 music server with JPlay player, Linn Kazoo control software, JCAT USB and Ethernet cards, JCAT USB Isolator, HDPlex 200W linear power supply, and Apple iPad mini 3; Esoteric Grandioso K1 SACD/CD player and Grandioso G1 Master Clock Generator
Other electronics -- JL Audio CR-1 active subwoofer crossover
Speakers -- YG Acoustics Kipod II Signature
Subwoofers -- JL Audio Fathom f113 v2 (2)
Interconnects -- Synergistic Research Galileo UEF
Digital links -- Synergistic Research Galileo LE (USB) and Galileo (BNC), JPlay JCAT (USB)
Speaker cables -- Synergistic Research Galileo UEF
Power cords -- Synergistic Research Galileo UEF and Atmosphere Level 3
Power conditioners and distribution -- Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE and QLS power strips
Isolation devices -- Silent Running Audio: VR fp Isobase. Symposium Acoustics: Osiris Ultimate and Standard Racks, Segue Platform, Roller Block Series 2+ Equipment Support System. Synergistic Research: MIG 2.0s, Tranquility Bases.
Room treatments and correction -- Synergistic Research: Acoustic Art System, Atmosphere XL4, HFT, and FEQ room-treatment devices. WA-Quantum: Quantum-Sound-Animator.
Misc. -- Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block, Blue fuses, Electronic Circuit Transducers; Mad Scientist Black Discus Audio System Enhancers, Graphene Contact Enhancer; Hi Fidelity MC-0.5 Magnetic Wave Guides; Telos Quantum connector caps, f.oq damping tape.