Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15 metres with gabled 2-storey ceiling and stone-over-concrete floor
Review component retail: €10'000

Mónico Sánchez Moreno—who died two years before I was born—was a Spanish inventor in the fields of radiology and electrotherapy. Having at an early age sailed from Cadiz to the US to study, he had by 1909 invented a portable X-ray machine in the new world. This device weighed less than 10kg, not the then customary and rather unwieldy 400kg. France acquired sixty of his units for its field ambulances. During WW1, wounded soldiers soon dubbed them petites Curies after Mme Curie. From those to curries as England's favourite food, then back to Spain gets us at one Clifford Orman. 30 years ago, he left the UK for the Iberian peninsula, not to study but to marry. In due course, he established the Cosmos Hifi import shoppe in the township of Ciudad Real. The Vibex company dedicated to power and anti-resonance devices followed later. The former helpfully bootstrapped the latter. Today Vibex is Cliff's main business but he continues to run his distribution firm on the side; multi-kulti in best expat fashion.

When time came to apply the already proven R&D which had birthed his piès de resistance footers [upper left] to his then top-line Granada + Alhambra double-DC/AC filters, their functionality pooled into a single chassis. The form factor is the same 'rounded-over equilateral triangle' shape which he pioneered in the footers and which also migrated into his Calatrava modular equipment stand. The new flagship Vibex filter is christened Mónico to honour the inventive Spaniard who was born in the small town of Piedrabuena located some 25km outside of Ciuadad Real. Know thy neighbours. Outfitted with 3 banks of power sockets bored directly out of the Krion top plate to only use commercially sourced Rhodium-plated contacts whilst chucking their stock housings, in standard configuration two banks across sockets F1-10 are comprehensively filtered for both DC and AC. Sockets D1-5 are direct wired, hence pure power distribution. However, the exact configuration of F and D sockets is customizable to a client's needs.

The Germans have one of their typical compound words in Materialschlacht. 'Schlacht' means battle. But the verb 'schlachten' also means to butcher à la abattoir. Combined, it gets us at material excess. When it comes to power distribution for upscale (translated: hyper revealing fussy) hifi gear, the 350g plastic strips sold at Electric Avenue with a red indicator LED just won't do. As many audiophiles and suppliers of aftermarket power strips have learnt, mechanical resonance attenuation for AC is a big deal even where there's zero filtering involved. Whilst there are economical and perception issues against going too overboard—can one go partially overboard; or just enough?—heavier very solid power blocks invariably sound better. Let's leave the why to the armchair experts and accept the anecdotal evidence. This segues straight into what, at first glance and otherwise, should smack of Materialschlacht. Cliff's weapon of vibration butchery is Krion, a distant Spanish cousin to DuPont's Corian. That makes it powdered aluminium suspended in resin. Krion not only shows up in all of his power blocks and filters. It was also adopted as cabinet material of choice by his friends of Kroma Audio, Spain's newest loudspeaker house out of Granada.

The Mónico ups its blood letting of resonances with zebrawood as does the Calatrava stand. Cliff's proven viscoelastic not only bonds these constrained layers without screws, it applies strategic damping to retune them. All filter parts and power distribution wiring are housed in individual chambers or canals machined directly out of these solid layers. Due to the Mónico's greater thickness over the Granada and Alhambra, many of those parts now install vertically. That clusters them more tightly for a reduced footprint. Still, this tri-pointed triple-footed affair is about the size of De Falla's three-cornered hat if not quite a Mexican sombrero. And because it's hand polished and finished to the Nines, most users will likely keep it in plain sight. Show it off next to your rack. At €10'000, the Mónico costs more but weighs less than my Pass Labs XA30.8 stereo amp. It's an over-the-top boutique product. It's the very best Cliff Orman knew how to design after a few decades in the biz. Having used his previous best as the only power solution for our big system—and a Vibex One 11R in the media room—I was keen to learn how far he had managed to push himself beyond the Alhambra/Granada duo. I first learnt about the Mónico during a small industry event in Granada hosted by Cliff and his Kroma Audio friends Javier Millan and Miguel Castro. Above you see one of their demo systems anchored by the Vibex Calatrava stand with Kodo turntable and Greek Ypsilon electronics all plugged into the Mónico. That's the pedigree of "ancillaries" one expects to surround it ...
... to be continued...

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