Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tributaries T200 Power Manager Review

Tributaries® Cable is the parent company of Claris Sound of Orlando, FL. While the Clarus line of products is undoubtedly the company’s high-end line, the Tributaries line is quite good many regards, well suited for those audiophiles and videophiles on a modest budget. This review evaluates Tributaries T200 Power Manager (MSRP of about $500). This unit was allowed to “burn in” for 48 hours before final evaluation.

The T200 comes standard with a rack mount kit, telephone cord, RG6 coaxial cable with gold F connectors, and a novel USB gooseneck white LED light.

Tributaries T200 Power Manager

When plugging in the power cord to the wall, a blue LED in the plug indicates power at the plug and a polarity sensor on the front panel detects proper wiring of the neutral, ground, and hot wires. If the outlet is mis-wired (neutral and hot wires reversed), a red warning LED turns on the front panel. If the ground wire is missing, this same red LED flashes. This is a great feature to assure that the wiring in that power receptacle is proper, a requirement for any line conditioning or surge suppression device by any manufacturer. Kudos to Tributaries for adding this great feature!

The rear panel has 12 electrical outlets, 4 of which are always on, 4 of which are switched by the front panel switch, 2 of which are switched after a delayed start (for high-current use such as a power amplifier), 2 of which are selectable via a rear panel micro-switch to be either always on or switched by the front panel switch. The rear panel also has protection circuits for three in/out DSS/CATV gold-plated male F-connectors, and phone/data in/out provisions. Also on the rear panel is a protected USB jack used for charging cords (not provided) and a 12V triggered control used to control multiple T200 units from the same power switch.

T200 Rear Panel

In every review I write, I pop the cover and see what’s inside. Below are a few photos of the inner workings of the T200. Note the screw-terminal connectors and 14AWG wiring used on the AC outlets.

Interior Workings

Another plus in this design is the single-point ground wiring scheme employed from the outlets and the electronics. This technique (see picture below where all ground wires are connected to the same chassis stud and green nuts) reduces noise incurred from ground loops within such a device. Many other well-known manufacturers have yet to discover the benefit of this superior wiring technique.

 Single-Point Ground Feature

Another issue I have run into with other line conditioners is loose connections. Loose connections cause drops in voltage and potential fire dangers from high-current flow. The T200 had very tight connections on all of the high-current wiring points.

In comparison, below is a picture of the inner workings of my reference line conditioner, a modified PowerVar ABC1200-11 Power Conditioner (ground loops removed, all terminal lugs soldered, noise filter upgrade). The technique used in this type of line conditioner is a balanced power system via a large toroidal isolation transformer.

 PowerVAR ABC1200-11 Power Conditioner

All evaluations were done in the evening after the sun had set for at least one hour, all window shades drawn, and all furniture in the same position.  Everything that could have influenced change from external sources was eliminated so that “apples were consistently compared to apples.”

My 2-speaker audio system currently consists of hand-made 1-meter RCA interconnect cables, a McIntosh MC-2100 highly modified power amplifier, and highly modified Bozak B-302A speakers that are bi-wired to the McIntosh amp via my own hand-made Litz speaker wires. For those of you who have been following my 20 months of tweaking these speakers and crossover network, I am finally happy with them and have no plans to change them in the near future.


For me, electrical power conditioning began in the high mountains of Colorado as an attempt to safeguard my high-end investment by protecting it from lightning strikes. I began with a 20-Amp variac, a hand-made spike arrestor made from fast MOVs, and noise filter made from extreme voltage capacitors. This damped incoming surges and allowed me to manually adjust the varying line voltage experienced in the rural mountains of Colorado. As time went on, better noise immunity was needed in my homes in the suburbs of Tennessee and after moving to Florida I decided on the PowerVAR for its balanced-voltage approach to surge protection (plus and minus 60 volts, center tap referenced to electrical ground). Its hefty toroidal construction gave me a good base from which to improve its already excellent noise immunity. Adding high-quality noise filtering capacitors on both the primary and secondary side and changing the daisy-chained grounding scheme to a true single-point ground lowered the noise floor even more. I like this unit because it is able to deliver a lot of noise free power very quickly which translates to deep powerful bass and extreme transient response.

 PowerVAR Rewiring and Supplement Capacitor Modifications

Without as yet connecting anything to the T200, I anticipated that this was going to be a very quite unit. However, when I plugged the T200 into my system, I immediately noticed a change in the sound different from what I anticipated. What changed? Well, read on!


I am a person who is interested in results rather than sales or marketing hype. Statistics, while useful in eliminating some mediocre gear, does not always tell the entire story and I rely a lot on my own subjective evaluations accompanied whenever possible with my own measurement data. There is nothing that compares to hearing or seeing something change and being able to substantiate it with real data. However, such subjective observations cannot always be objectively confirmed and must be described with etheric and inconsistent words. Whenever possible I attempt to correlate these subjective and objective details and hopefully from this approach you can judge for yourself if you wish to consider this reviewed piece of gear as a viable option to your own system.


When removing the cover to examine the interior, I noticed that the cover had an area below the center rear screw that was removed to complete what is commonly called a Faraday Cage. This means that the metal chassis and cover serves two purposes: aesthetics and function. If the paint were not removed from this area, a low-resistance connection between the cover-and-chassis could not be made. However the paint was removed on both the cover and the chassis. Since this is a good thing so how can this be a COMP (compromise)?

Well, therein lies the rub. When metal is exposed to the air without a protective layer of some sort (e.g., paint, grease, oil, etc.), it oxidizes and rust forms over the unprotected surface. When removing the cover, I discovered that these exposed surfaces had rusted on both the cover and the chassis. Rust increases the resistance of an electrical connection and compormises the valuable effect of the Faraday Cage design.

Fortunately, this is a really easy thing to resolve. A thin coat of oil such as “tuner wash” or a good high-end contact preservative applied to a cleaned surface (#400 sandpaper) resolves this minor issue.

Rusted Cover Area


As I already said, when I first plugged in this unit, I immediately noticed a change in the way the system sounded different from what I anticipated. There was more inner detailing and what appeared to be an extension in high-frequency response unheard in my system until this time. This really surprised me but I also know that first impressions must be tempered so now begins the part of equipment evaluation that is somewhat frustrating: the waiting game. After an hour of playing time, strange anomalies crept into the sonic signature of my playback system. At hour number two, there appeared a screeching in the vocals that left me puzzled as to its source. However, such anomalies were expected since all electrical equipment undergoes an essential burn-in time to permit stabilization of internal electrical components.

The manufacturer has no recommendation for an adequate burn-in time for this piece of equipment and after just 6 hours there have already been 3 complete changes in the way my system sounds. Patience…patience… After a total of 20 hours of play time, the dynamic changes noted during the burn-in period had completely vanished.

Because of its high-frequency extension the edges of the sound stage widened providing better far-corner definition and improved low-level echo and reverberation nuances. Images that once drifted slightly left and right are now rock solid in their position in the sound field and the overall tonal balance shifted slightly louder from about 300Hz and up. This is a good thing for my system since it is a little weak in the top octave.


And now on to the part I really like: measurements that confirm if I am absolutely bonkers or still sane. Let’s see what the before and after measurements are between my reference line conditioner and the Tributaries T200. As an aside, know that I do not make these measurements until after I write the subjective evaluation and I do not change what I wrote in my subjective evaluation after making these measurements.

A note to explain the apparent bass loss measured in my system: my RTA has absolute inaccuracies in the frequencies below 125Hz, however, the relative differences are measureable and on these relative differences is what one should focus. One day this problem will be a distant memory.


As subjectively heard, the bass region under 300Hz (actually under 350Hz) was in general slightly suppressed with the T200, consistently under 100Hz. The other subjective observation was in the last octave where the sound stage opened up revealing more ambience detailing. This is the strange part where what I heard did not correlate to what I measured. As shown by the green values, the T200 indeed measured louder but the PowerVAR measured slightly louder above 5KHz overall. The T200 was about +3dB louder at about 7KHz but this is the only place a significant difference was noted.

I make no claims as to why these anomalies exist between RTA measurements; I leave this up to your own speculation. I just present the facts as I have measured them and leave you to your own conclusions. What is interesting is that the subjective evaluations I observed correlated well with the measurements I later took.


There is a lot of debate about the audible effects of inserting a quality line conditioner into a high-end audio system. Most people buy such units based on an “insurance policy” claimed to offer a dollar amount in the event that their equipment fails and as a result your equipment also fails. While reassuring to know, insurance values to me are the least important feature in any piece of line conditioning equipment.

Line conditioners are supposed to – at an absolute minimum – assure clean line-voltage to power your connected equipment. Lightning protection is a nice feature if properly designed and implemented and other features add value such as intelligent voltage and current monitoring. Additional features beyond this minimum are pure gravy.  From these requirements, the Tributaries T200 does its job very well and offers plenty of switched and unswitched outlets for the typical user.

The T200 also goes beyond what a typical line conditioner offers in this price range. For example, and its master/slave feature it can turn on multiple T200s for those users wishing to control from one power switch more than 12 pieces of gear. With its delayed turn-on feature, you can bring up your system in a controlled manner thereby maintaining better line voltage during initial power-up and decide which pieces of gear remain on or are switched from its master power switch. You can plug the supplied LED lamp in the rear USB charger port to easily check connections in a typically dark area. And it offers a 13th outlet on the front panel allowing you to quickly plug in a temporary or a permanent piece of gear.

If you are astute listener, you will undoubtably notice the sonic gains achievable with better line conditioners. The Tributaries T200 can do an excellent job in advancing the sonic gains in your system by creating a uniform sound field with highly accurate details. Its sleek appearance and solid design puts this budget-minded unit in a class above its modest price range.


Is the Tributaries T200 the absolute best line conditioner you can buy? Probably not. Is it a really good line conditioner for the money? Yes, it definitely is. To many folks on a limited budget (myself included), getting the best bang for the buck is really important. If you are currently unhappy with your mediocre line conditioner, I believe you will be very happy with the addition of the Tributaries T200 in your personal home theater or audio system.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

My other titles include:

·  Extreme Audio 1: House Wiring ·  Build an Extreme Green Hot Water Solar Collector
·  Extreme Audio 2: Line Filtering ·  The Extreme Green Guide to Wind Turbines
·  Extreme Audio 3: Chassis Leakage ·  The Extreme Green Guide to Solar Electricity
·  Extreme Audio 4: Interconnect Cables ·  Meditation for Geeks (and other left-brained people)
·  Extreme Audio 5: Speaker Wires ·  Althea: A Story of Love
·  Extreme Green Guide to Improving Mileage ·  Build an Extreme Green Raised Bed Garden
·  Extreme Green Organic Gardening ·  Build an Extreme Green Rain Barrel
·  Extreme Green Organic Gardening 2012 ·  Build an Extreme Green Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder
·  Build an Extreme Green Composter ·  Extreme Green Appliance Buying Guide

Copyright © 2015 by Philip Rastocny. All rights reserved.

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