The company portfolio contains the mains conditioner PC-4 (9550zl), PC-3 (5950zl), the power strip PF-2 (2450zl), PF-1 (950zl, this is the product, that the winner of the Cover of the Month 2007 contest received – reportage HERE) and the power cable LC-1 (400zl), also included with all other Gigawatt products. The company materials state, that the design of the PF-2 took two years. Its construction is based on a non-separated filtering section of the conditioners of the company. It is equipped in six sockets of the Shuco type, directly silver plated. The sockets are connected in a parallel way, in pairs, by means of thick copper rails. The enclosure, a double chassis, was made from thick sheet metal plate. The strip is equipped in a passive filter, composed of capacitors, circuit breakers and coils. This circuit is assembled on a PCB below the sockets. The current to the PCB and back is lead by silver plated copper cables isolated with Teflon. Near to the IEC sockets two LEDs were placed – a green one that lights up when the strip is powered and a red one indicating reverse polarity and no grounding. PF-2 is supplied with the LC-1 power cable that costs 400zl when purchased separately.
Mains related changes are most difficult to observe. Many things influence that: localization, time the listening tests are done and the devices used. With localization I mean things related to how many devices are connected to the same power line after the medium voltage transformer converting it to 230V. The more impulse power supplies, motors, computers, the more the current worsens. This is also related to the time of the listening sessions – in the evening, when the offices are closed and the computers are off, or on Saturday and Sunday – the current in the mains socket is better. At those time only home appliances, computers and TVs can harm us. Also very important is our audio equipment. Solid state devices react differently than tube devices, and even in the same ‘family’ there are more and less susceptive devices. Anyway, regardless of the what and the who the power devices always, and I repeat ALWAYS influence the sound. As the Krakow Sonic Society meeting devoted to the mains plugs (reportage HERE) even so insignificant changes in the path are audible and modify the sound of the connected components. No – I am no lunatic, or madman and I think I can analyze what I hear, and furthermore I try to verify my observations with my friends and I base my statements on that. Those are no dogmas, but within my experience I base on those.
Anyway, exploring issues related to power is especially troublesome. First of all, I listened to the PF-2 for many days, during various periods of the day. And really, in the evening the sound with and without the power strip was better, with a deeper background, without that metallizing fog somewhere on the border of perception, that being delicate still reaches our ears. So it would seem, that the influence of filters, power strips, etc, on the sound would be smaller in the evening hours. This is not the case. Every time, in any case the changes were equally significant. In absolute terms I would say, that in the morning the change was about 10% (just a value) and in the evening about 5%. But the absolute figures are not trustworthy – every time when the system, the sound of the system gets better, a change from further to closer perspective occurs. The same elements are seen closer, and although the changes in those, seen from the same point are different, they have the same meaning. This is also true for the hi-end: although crossing a certain borderline the increase in quality is less and less related to the increase in price – the price increases relative to the quality exponentially – but still every time the change is equally important, and if it goes in the desired direction, it gives the same big satisfaction.
Like I mentioned before testing the Gigawatt took much time and energy. The methodology was quite straight forward, although I proved it in some other cases and it really works. I compared this power strip not to a run of the mill strip but to the Audionova Powerstation, taking into account, that such an expensive product like the PF-2 will be purchased by people that already have some kind of power protection, and besides that, I very well know the Powerstation, because I have used it for quite some time. In my system there are three devices (this time I did not listen to the analog): the CD player Lektor Prime Ancient Audio, the preamplifier Leben RS-28CX and the Luxman power amplifier M-800A. This allowed for evaluation of the influence of the power strip on every element of the system alone and the system as a whole. Going from a weaker to a better element the changes perceived are smaller at first than when going the other way round. With this kind of test I do not assume at the beginning that something is better or worse, but I have to have some guidance. So I assume, that a more expensive product is theoretically better than the cheaper one. This can be easily verified when going to something cheaper does not bring the desired effect, the case is clear. I assumed this order of listening also in this case: first I connected all devices to the Gigawatt strip, listen to a dozen discs and then switched all components to Powerstation and listened to the same discs. Later I switched all devices to the Gigawatt again and listened to the discs again. After such a listening session I was exhausted, so to eliminate that element from the equation (or at least minimize it) I repeated the procedure changing the order of the re-connections. And finally I made a series of comparisons in short sessions – listening to about 30s of a piece, changing the connection and returning to the original configuration. And that a few times.
The Gigawatt strip clearly changes the sound. Although my system costs a lot, I think that this is the level, where the PF-2 can show what it can. In general the sound with the Gigawatt is much more resolving, and at the same time more palpable, one could say “warmer”. This last statement is not fully true, but this is the perception of the changes at first. The biggest benefit is for the CD player, although the preamplifier was surprisingly close. But I will start with the power amplifier, the element that – as it may seem – should not react to the change. After changing the Gigawatt for the Powerstation the upper midrange was a bit stronger. The movements of Herbie Hancock on the chair at the piano, audible in the piece Lonelytown from the disc Courage of Paula Cole (Decca, B0008292-02, CD) were emphasized, as if the resolution would increase. A similar effect could be observed with the incredible intro to the track Gumboots from Paul Simon’s Graceland (Warner Music Japan, WPCR-12417, CD), where Simon’s vocal sounded clearer, and its reverb was clearly different than from the choirs, what indicated, that it was recorded in different surroundings. And this is the way the change of the PF-2 will sound in an audio shop, where we do not know the room and the system. But be vigilant: this is just a “transition shock”, something that pops like a soap bubble; when we listen in our system, one that we know, then we will hear the same, our ears do not lie, but we will also immediately know that something strange has happened – after unplugging the Gigawatt we get a set of random sounds instead of a coherent sound stage. I exaggerate somewhat, because on the long run the differences wear away, but repeating the experiment after some days immediately showed the same, and even led to a better understanding of the character of those changes.
Quite unexpectedly, but after plugging the whole system to the cheaper strip, the shine of the disc In Rainbows Radiohead (XL Records, XLCD 324, CD) just disappeared. This is a fantastically recorded disc, with many artistic choices, like the character of the vocal, as if it would be recorded by means of a box. This results in a very warm, devoted of the treble voice, that ideally composes with the strong guitars and a very clear, clean brass. Nothing is brightened, everything has its place, but under the condition that those, so different elements, are glued together. Unfortunately, the Audionova, at least in comparison to the Gigawatt, had no chance and showed everything is a kind of chaos, I mean maybe clearer – this is the mentioned emphasized midrange – but at the same time worse, with less defined attack and definition of the sounds. The same was audible with the new, beautiful disc with XVII century violin music La Voce Nel Violino performed by Imaginarium Enrico Onofri (Zig Zag, ZZT071102, CD), where the delicate sounds of the violins were sounding in a more organic, full way with the PF-2. Interesting was also the effect when the pre and power amplifiers were connected to the Audionova and I plugged the CD there, some of the voices jumped forward. On one hand this can be attractive, but actually was a part of the “unglued” sound I talked about. PF-2 shows everything in a very coherent way, without departing from the speaker line, but giving more freedom to the sounds within their space, without making the impression, that every detail “lives” in its own world. And that was true for every disc listened to.
I confess, that although I am not a fanatic lover of peripherals like cables, strips, absorbers, etc, because I think that those are much too expensive, but I experience the need of using them. Like with the Gigawatt. This is an expensive peripheral, but if one hears how the system sounds with and without it, it will be difficult to sit down quietly. So I recommend not to try it, unless we are prepared for such an expense. Power strips of the kind of the Audionova or Artech, that I tested at the occasion, are inexpensive and work well, what means, they harm as little as possible. But they cannot do some things. Already the exchange to the power strip from Supra brings improvement, that is appreciated more when the system is improved. Gigawatt goes in similar direction as the Swedish products – the sound gets more organic, coherent, slightly warmed, but this comes from erasing the metallic “emulsion” between the sounds, from deepening them rather than from underlining any of the frequency ranges. It does not have a negative impact on dynamics, it even allows for stronger playing than with a common strip, due to the full transfer. And it gets rid of the slight underlining of the midrange, that can easily be mistaken for higher resolution. I think, that only the most expensive power strips from Fadel, a leader in this area in my opinion, can fight the PF-2. I will try to compare those two brands some day. For now I am fully convinced, that this kind of expense is fully justified.
I mentioned the construction of the strip in the introduction, so I repeat it now. The construction of the PF-2 power strip is based on a non-separated filtering section of the conditioners of the company. It is equipped in six sockets of the Shuco type, directly silver plated. Those sockets allow the plugs to be plugged in two ways, so it is worth to check both settings. I checked the proper setting by means of the polarization touch plate indicator on the Luxman, that indicates if the plug is properly plugged. Looking at the strip from the side, so that the LEDs and the IEC socket are on the left hand side, the hot pin is on the right side in every socket. This means, that European plug should be plugged with the hole for the grounding pin facing the top. The sockets are connected in a parallel way, in pairs, by means of thick copper rails. The enclosure, a double chassis, was made from thick sheet metal plate. The strip is equipped in a passive filter, composed of capacitors, circuit breakers and coils. This circuit is assembled on a PCB below the sockets. The current to the PCB and back is lead by silver plated copper cables isolated with Teflon. Near to the IEC sockets two LEDs were placed – a green one that lights up when the strip is powered and a red one indicating reverse polarity and no grounding. The whole looks very aesthetic and solid. It is also very stable, no thick cable will lift it from the ground.
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