Breaking in. Things started off thin, pale, pinched and with absentee bass like bad digital with a cold. With our washing machine and refrigerator built into ultra-tight cabinetry to defy access to their power cords; plus our automated central heating equally inaccessible to nix a high-suck 1'500-watt space heater addition... I had to bite the bullet. It meant wearing down newness the old-fashioned way. Listen to bad sound until it matures (or we get used to it as the cynics swear). Of course I swapped back to Vibex to track my progress. Not that most cynics acknowledge AC power audibility to begin with. Ha. Given just how much our sound suffered at first, the hardiest of doubters would have done the Damascus, albeit in the negative. To hasten the transformation, I left my class A Pass Labs XA30.8 on during the night to pull a solid 375 watts at idle. The class D Submission sub is useless on that count. So are the low-draw line-level components.

GigaWatt PF-2 on long Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cord hanging off the PC-4 to provide power for the Pass Labs amp and Zu subwoofer.

To start out with, I had just three components on tap: the iMac, the COS Engineering D1 DAC/pre and the XA30.8. Each plugged into a different quartet of outlets. As a standard component and to make reaching it convenient, the GigaWatt parked on a top shelf in the usual rack. Its display moved between 222 and 228V, i.e. slightly lower than the Swiss 230V spec. The Zu Event and Sablon Audio Petit Corona power plugs seated with conviction to demonstrate proper bite of Adam Schubert's custom outlets. After about a week, sonics were back in the ballpark. It was time to lend a serious ear whilst wet January snow fell over our mountain ridge, the lake below blanked out by dense cloud cover.


No such white-out troubled the system however. I could once again begin at low volumes without needing to get loud for the curtain to rise.


Breaking away. Comparing Vibex to GigaWatt, the former had the undeniably higher bass amplitude. With the Submission sub back in the game, I actually had to turn it down a few clicks to equal its behaviour with the Polish active. The two Spaniards also had the higher contrast ratio and with it, a more complete recreation of decays, reflections and recorded space - that which audiophile discourse groups under ambient recovery. This meant more depth, more teased-out scope of various distances from the listener, more acute separation and spacing, more breath and hall sound.


As a presenter, the GigaWatt was the more damped and dry. It cast slightly bigger but very robust images yet also with less mind-walkable space around, between and behind them. If paintings, photographs and things can be viewed as either the item per se or as that against which they arise to occupy space—to get all mystic, Buddhist emptiness or shunyata—then the perspective of the presentation differed between these power providers. The GigaWatt focused on the virtual performers for a very chunky meaty presentation. The Vibex presented them in and against space. It's easiest explained when you view, say a leaf on a Maple tree. First you watch it as usual, a green shape with veins and textures and color transitions and a very distinctive outline. Then suddenly your brain switches. It becomes aware of the empty space around which defines the leaf as a discrete entity and limns its edges. In audiophile lingo to describe the negative space perspective, prior reviewers have hit upon the distinction of 'I'm there with them' versus 'they are here with me'. The GigaWatt was here. The Vibex had me there. In essence, that was the qualitative or flavour difference. On the purely quantitative level, the Vibex duo had more bass down low, more air on high and more microdynamic expressivity in the middle. In sum, the Spaniards acted as musical energizers, the Pole was a noise damper, concretizer and robustnik.

Polish cooperation with the AbysSound ASP-1000 fully balanced transistor preamp for now four components plugged into the GigaWatt.

Breaking down. To revisit our minting of believers in the negative, how about direct utility power? Given my dearth of outlets where needed, I replaced the GigaWatt with a passive Furutech block. That strings together six sockets with hookup wiring and stuffs it all into a natty metal box. It's a very serious step-up from plastic-molded strips with backlit power switches purchased at the usual computer emporiums. Even so it applies zero filtering. It's about pure power distribution, turning one outlet into half a dozen. Here the off-the-wall version had more in common with the GigaWatt gestalt but played it in a rather lower octave of refinement. I was unwittingly hosting a G summit of grunge, grit, gravel and glare. All of these are insidious qualities. They register far more keenly being suddenly MIA than when—because we've acclimated to their constant presence which made them an inextricable part of everything—they no longer telegraph as extra elements that shouldn't be there. Replacing the GigaWatt with the Furutech added that bad bunch in a single injection. That was lamentably audible.


Breaking up. At this juncture, I thought my job done. But Adam Schubert informed me that my setup was sub-optimal. Actually, he called it "fundamentally flawed". That's because I'd plugged his PF-2 power bar into a high-current outlet of the PC-4. He insisted that the XA30.8 and Submission plug directly into his conditioner. Only then would I hear the full dynamics and bass it is capable of. Unfortunately I don't own 5m power cords. Hence amp and subwoofer won't reach the side wall's main 'power node'. That is further locked into position by also having to reach the iMac via a 3m cord. I thus need an intermediary power distributor for my amp stack. It's why in my equipment listing, it's always said GigaWatt PF-2 on amps/sub, Vibex on source stack. Having the option of PF-2 and a Furutech RTP-6 for this outlet extender function, in this location I've always preferred the former. Hence that's become the reference setup. Given that I compared Vibex and GigaWatt conditioners in exactly the same fashion, you might also say that they both 'suffered' the same. According to Adam however, it invalidated the review for his component. He said that a PF-2 added to the PC-4 over-filtered big power amps to impact their dynamics and bass. To be fair, I had to revisit the subject. Adam offered to promptly fire off two 5-meter power cords. I also contacted Zu Audio to order three more 5-meter Event power cables for future mono amps plus sub use should eliminating the PF-2 perform audibly superior. It'd also stock up my existing Zu power cord loom regardless to accommodate loaners of powered or semi-active speakers.