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The key to how successful a mains conditioner might be - if, of course, it makes any difference at all - inevitably comes down to the quality of its filtering systems. And here Isol-8 seems to have gone a bit further with the VMC1080 than we might have expected for its money. For it combines differential and series mode filtration, the latter of which is an unusual find on an affordable conditioner, and should help deliver - to put it all in more layman-like terms - really substantial levels of noise reduction.
Given that the Isol-8 has been designed to either fix to or sit near your TV or projector (cable ties and even wall mounting eyelets are provided with the unit), the VMC1080 obviously also needs to be well screened to prevent electronic interference seeping out of its body while its innards work on your mains. With that in mind, the VMC1080 is reassuringly solid. In fact, it’s a brick of a thing, weighing in at 1.3kg and looking like the biggest, and frankly most boring power pack you’ve ever seen.
The VMC1080 is rated to handle 5A currents, so don’t try and use it with any devices more power hungry than that. There are a couple of other installation limitations you need to be bear in mind too. First, it should be positioned with at least 20mm of clear space above its top edge. Second and more alarmingly, it only supports kettle lead cables.
If your TV uses either a two-pronged lead or a fixed cabled connection, as many LCD TVs actually do this year, then basically the VMC1080 isn’t for you. Instead you’d have to look at the VMC1080’s bigger brother, the entire system-handling, £369 Powerline 1080, with its 4 x 13 amp sockets.
So much for the background, um, noise. Let’s now get to the main event: finding out if the Isol-8 actually does what it says on its chunky, profoundly serious-looking tin.
To get a handle on the scope of the VMC1080’s potential, we tried it with Sim2’s Mico 40 projector, Panasonic’s 65in P65VT20 plasma TV, and finally, to see if there’s a difference with a smaller screen, Humax’s 32in 32DST LCD TV.
If you’re wondering why we chose the rather aging and unimpressive Humax, it’s simply because at the time of writing, in a salutary reminder of possibly the VMC1080’s single biggest failing, it was the only smallish TV in our crowded storage room that still used a kettle lead connection.
Starting with the projector, we have to say the results we witnessed completely caught us by surprise. For slipping the VMC1080 into the Mico 40’s power feed really does deliver a performance boost that’s strong enough to be immediately apparent.
The single greatest beneficiary of the mains cleaning appears to be contrast. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360, for instance, looks more solid and dynamic due to a clear extra divergence between the image’s darkest and brightest parts.
Possibly because of this, or maybe because the filtered mains feed reduces interference, the picture also looks slightly crisper and more detailed.