Audiophiles are typically divided when the subject of power conditioning comes up. On one hand, many audiophiles will tell you that power conditioning—or more accurately, the entire electrical chain associated with a stereo system, including the in-the-wall wiring and outlets—is the foundation of an audio system. The theory behind it is that if you don’t start with pristine power delivery, everything that comes after—meaning everything—will be compromised.
On the other hand, there’s another group of audiophiles who will tell you that power conditioners are the icing on top of an already tasty cake. To their way of thinking, if the components in your system are well designed and your power service isn’t horrendous, a power conditioner won’t alter your system’s core sound. But it may subtly enhance it.
I was actually somewhere between the two camps for many years. These days, I’m definitely closer to considering conditioners a necessity, though, partly because I hate noise coming from my audio system. I don’t want to hear even a hiss when my ear is pressed against the tweeter on one of my speakers. I don’t actually listen to music with my head this close to my loudspeakers—that would mean I’d lost my mind—but I do want to know my stereo system is performing at its absolute best, and that starts with deathly silence between notes. So when I’m building a great stereo system, I budget for a good power conditioner. Thankfully, my systems are usually single-source affairs with stereo power amplifiers instead of monoblocks, so I don’t need a huge number of outlets. This reduces cost and allows me to get a better power conditioner for my money.
I’ve had a long history of using Shunyata Research products. You’ll find a Hydra Alpha A12 power conditioner anchoring my Ultra Reference System along with all sorts of Shunyata cables. So when the time came for me to set up my newest audio system—the Compact Reference System—I naturally wanted to use a really good Shunyata conditioner there, too.
Denali 6000/S v2
The Shunyata Research Denali 6000/S v2 retails for $6000 (all prices USD)—not cheap, but this is one of their best conditioners, topped only by the Everest 8000 ($9900). The Denali measures a compact 17″W × 10″D × 4.4″H and weighs a bricklike 17.5 pounds. I love the form factor: it’s relatively small, with just six outlets. I received a sample with a black faceplate (silver is also available), which is raked back slightly when you look at it from the side. The Denali sits on four substantial isolation feet—they look good and provide a firm footing.
Clean and minimalist but decidedly high end, the Denali 6000/S v2’s chassis is made of steel and aluminum, and it’s obviously well damped—there’s no ringing or clanging when you lightly tap it. “DENALI” is engraved dead center on the brushed-aluminum front panel. At the bottom right of the front panel is the power-on rocker. A small blue recessed LED at the bottom center of the faceplate illuminates when the unit is turned on.
As nice as it is from the outside, the real magic is on the inside.
Shunyata is a tech-heavy company with ongoing research and development and a growing list of patents to their name. The Denali 6000/S v2 has many technical features. Let’s start with what Shunyata calls their QR/BB module. According to the Shunyata website, this module “acts as an electric charge reservoir, meaning it stores and releases energy in a manner that improves a component’s access to instantaneous current.” Reportedly, this improves the conditioner’s ability to respond to a component’s moment-to-moment needs, and it’s especially good for power amplifiers and integrated amplifiers, which can suck the life out of many power conditioners. The QR/BB works hand in hand with the company’s Dynamic Transient Current Delivery (DTCD) design—your components will never be starved for power if they’re connected to a Shunyata power conditioner that’s fed by a healthy AC line.
The Component-to-Component Isolation (CCI) filter reduces noise generated from one component in your stereo system that might find its way into an adjoining component. According to Shunyata, the Noise Isolation Chamber (NIC) is able to absorb high-frequency noise before it enters a connected component. The Chassis Grounding System allows you to connect up to four components so that they all share a common ground, again, to help reduce noise even further. Are you sensing a theme here?
The Denali’s six outlets are arranged in three pairs along the back panel, and each pair is surrounded by a double Shunyata Cable Cradle. The Cable Cradle is especially helpful if you have thick, heavy power cords that are prone to sagging when connected to an outlet. Other technical features chosen to enhance performance and extend life through better construction methods include Sonic Welding instead of simple soldering, electromagnetic circuit breakers instead of fuses (which are much cheaper), ArNi conductors made of the finest Ohno single-crystal wiring, and cryogenic processing. The Monolithic Construction feature ensures long life by the potting of subassemblies, thereby hermetically sealing them against humidity and oxidation.
Protection for connected components is provided as well. The Denali 6000/S v2 is said to offer maximum transient protection of 40,000A at 8/50μs. This provides owners of expensive stereos with peace of mind.
Overall, I found the build quality of the Denali 6000/S v2 to be exceptional. It’s not fancy on the outside, but it feels as solid as a rock and the finishes are flawless.
My main reason for adding the Denali 6000/S v2 to my system was to feed power to the Rotel Michi X5 integrated amplifier-DAC that serves as the centerpiece of my Compact Reference System. I used a Siltech Explorer 270P power cord to connect the Michi to the Shunyata. A Shunyata Sigma XC power cord tethered the Denali to the wall. When I placed the Denali and the Michi side by side, the two looked stunning together atop my tea-green media console. The Michi powered a pair of Sonus Faber Maxima Amator loudspeakers connected via Siltech Explorer 180L speaker cables, and it was chained to an Apple MacBook Pro laptop with a Shunyata Sigma USB cable. I listened to music from Qobuz and used Roon music-management software. An SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofer handled bass duties.
Once I hooked the Rotel Michi up to the Sonus Faber Maxima Amators and connected the SVS subwoofer, my initial job was to integrate the following: speakers to room, sub to room, and finally speakers to sub. Once that was accomplished, I listened . . . and listened some more. I needed to establish the setup’s baseline sound to determine whether the Denali 6000/S v2 made a difference once integrated, and if so, just what that difference was.
First things first. I needed to assess what the sound was like before adding the Shunyata. Generally, my Compact Reference System’s sound could be characterized as fun. No, it wasn’t quite neutral—as you can see from the frequency response graphs in the link above—but it did produce a detailed sound that was robust in the bass, never irritating, and expressive in the midrange, while also producing a solidly rendered soundstage. I wouldn’t consider this system hyperdetailed in the way many of my systems have been through the years. Across the audioband, I can’t say the setup was the most resolving I’ve owned either. This stereo produced a more forgiving, less pretentious sound. Though the bass could sound exceptionally powerful and punchy, it wasn’t the last word in articulation or nuance. The midrange made magic, though. All in all, I loved listening to this system sans power conditioning. However, I wasn’t convinced I was hearing as much as I could.
In goes the Denali 6000/S v2. Whoa. There was no denying I could hear a difference and that what I was hearing was an improvement.
The title track on Alison Krauss & Union Station’s 2001 release New Favorite (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Rounder / Qobuz) emanated from the Sonus Faber Maxima Amator speakers with striking clarity, especially in the midband. Krauss’s vocals were as smooth as butter—just like they had been before. But with the Shunyata Denali 6000/S v2 now in the system, I heard and experienced a more rounded image of the vocalist dead center on the soundstage. It was as if Krauss’s image was drawn in space with an outline around her that was just a little more finely etched. It made the soundstage seem less congested and actually added a touch more depth to the stage. The background seemed just a hint blacker too, removing any doubt that my system was reproducing music unhindered by noise.
As I listened to more tracks, this impression evolved into a theme in my notes: a better-defined soundstage. Usually, when I insert a power conditioner, I hear sound that possesses a touch less noise, which translates into a little more retrieval of fine detail. And yes, I did hear that too, though it was more obvious with some tracks than with others. What surprised me, however, was how the soundstage improved. Whether the music I played contained vocals or instruments or both, good recordings sounded better because the images contained on the soundstage were just a hair more defined—or less diffuse, if you prefer that description.
Now, there are some soundstages that sound fairly unnatural to begin with. Like the title track on Californian Soil from London Grammar (16/44.1 FLAC, Metal & Dust / Ministry of Sound / Qobuz). In this case, the electronically produced soundstage just grew more vivid with the Shunyata in the system—individual sounds within the soundstage stood out more in the mix, and the dimensions of the soundstage grew just a touch in each direction. Put another way, I could hear deeper into the soundstage because what was there was more clearly rendered. Now, not by a lot, mind you. We’re not talking a night-and-day difference, people. It was noticeably better, though, and the improvement was significant enough that I would not want to lose it from my system. As images became clearer, I realized that the space around each image was more palpable—I chalk this up to that slight reduction in noise.
The Rotel Michi X5 is capable of outputting 350Wpc into 8 ohms. Now, my Sonus Faber Maxima Amator loudspeakers don’t require that kind of horsepower, but I still wanted to play something loud to see if I could detect any kind of compression of dynamics. Would the Shunyata starve the Michi and thereby hold the Sonus Fabers back? I cued up the single “Look Alive” by BlocBoy JB and Drake (16/44.1 FLAC, Ovo / Warner Bros. / Qobuz) and cranked the volume. I knew the badass SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofer was going to hold down the bass, but the Maximas and the Michi had to keep up, and that would depend partially on the Shunyata. I played “Look Alive” louder and louder, and lo and behold, it sounded just as rowdy as it did without the Shunyata powering the system. So, the answer, is no, I could not hear compression or a lack of dynamics with the Denali. It appeared to supply the big Michi with all the juice it needed, right when it needed it.
By now, I’m quite sure some of you are raising your eyebrows at what you may consider a glaring problem with this review: I’m using a $6000 power conditioner with an integrated amplifier-DAC, the Rotel Michi X5, that’s priced at just $7499. That doesn’t even factor in the cost of the Shunyata power cord connecting the Denali to the wall. “That’s ridiculous, Jeff,” I can hear you say. Okay, okay, I see your point. I have an answer, though. Actually, two. The first one’s a bit tongue in cheek—this is SoundStage! Ultra. We’re damn-near crazy over here. I’ve reviewed speakers that cost well over six figures per pair. Heck, I’ve reviewed amps that cost that much, too. In many of these scenarios, the prices of the components don’t match the costs of the associated equipment. The stickers on boutique audio products have never been easily digestible, so why start trying to justify them now? It just is what it is.
Seriously, here’s the thing, I think the Shunyata Research Denali 6000/S v2 is priced fairly. You get a really great-sounding product for a not-unsubstantial sum of money. That’s a square deal in my book. The optics are off in this case, not because the Shunyata isn’t a good value—it’s not overly expensive—but because the Michi X5 costs way less than it should for what you get. This 95-pound integrated amplifier with built-in DAC is the sort of screaming bargain you just don’t see much in high-end audio these days. The X5 could easily cost 20 grand or more, and no one would bat an eye. In terms of price, I can see how someone would think this pairing is madness, but put it into perspective. How many integrated amps priced in the four figures have 3000VA power supplies and weigh close to 100 pounds? Um, maybe just the Michi. So pay little attention to the price conundrum in this case. These two—Shunyata and Michi—are a solid pairing along all relevant parameters.
The Shunyata Research Denali 6000/S v2 is packed with proprietary technologies designed to keep your system safe and performing at its absolute best. It does this in a beautifully crafted package that comes with a lifetime warranty. Yes, six grand is a lot of money for a power conditioner. However, if you want to extract the best performance from your stereo—in my case, less noise and a more well-formed soundstage—I don’t think there’s any way you can go wrong if you buy the Denali.
I think the Shunyata Research Denali 6000/S v2 is a buy-it-once-and-forget-it component. If you get one of these, you can rest assured that the connected components are getting exactly the power quality they need. Then instead of worrying about power delivery, you can spend your time obsessing over the other gear in your system. That’s what I’m going to do now because the power conditioning is taken care of for good.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- Speakers: Sonus Faber Maxima Amator.
- Integrated amplifier-DAC: Rotel Michi X5.
- Music server: Apple MacBook Pro.
- Software: Qobuz, Roon.
- Speaker cables: Siltech Explorer 180L
- Power cables: Siltech Explorer 270P.
- USB link: Shunyata Research Sigma.
- Subwoofer: SVS SB16-Ultra.
Shunyata Research Denali 6000/S v2 Power Conditioner
Warranty: Limited, lifetime.
26273 Twelve Trees Lane NW
Poulsbo, Washington 98370
Phone: (360) 598-9935