Are we lazy or just chilled? Excited or simply obnoxious? Framing is all. How we relate to sun and shade depends. One gal's vigorous sound is another's needle bed. A pipe 'n' slippers chap grooves to different notions on 'relaxed' than a hormone-challenged pimpled youngster who simply yawns. After swapping Japanese passive for British active, I tried on different mental frames for size. The sound definitely felt softer; as though something had eased off or stepped back. Of course it was early hours still. That's simply when one catches the most unfiltered first impressions. Was this sound lazier so less exciting? Or more relaxed and in the flow so less forward and energetic? I knew what I thought. Anyone else might flip the script and rate the very same observation with another choice of words. Suffice to say there was a difference. But would it hold up after a week?

The forward sub placement compensates its 2.5ms digital latency.

Of course to net eight NCF-enhanced passive outlets with Furutech, I'd need two of my GTO units so €2'400; plus a second 3m LessLoss power cord so another €2'300. At €699 including protection, the iFi played a very different game; and in a rather more rural than cosmopolitan league. That's an important qualifier for what comes next; namely that with its active circuitry, the PowerStation also filtered out or siphoned off some vitality, overtone gloss and dynamic spikiness. The opener from the Indialucía fusion group's Acatao album by Polish flamenco guitarist Miguel Czachowski represents uncut vitality pretty much from the opening bell. High violin registers, buzzing sympathetic sitar strings, unhinged hoarse Flamenco vocals, rapid mass-paralleled arpeggios and more all dish out charge like one of those electric eels. My purely passive power spur let more of that energy through. The iFi damped/clamped some of it down.

I heard the same with Branford Marsalis' wailing soprano sax on his Ulotne album with Anna Marie Jopek. With the Furutech that had more bite and overtone gloss. The iFi rendered it tamer. In my setting then which arguably eclipsed the PowerStation's target hardware, I was already working beyond its reach where to equal or exceed my stuff takes rather deeper pockets. No shame there. Reality simply bites on occasion. Alas, even on the disproportionately dear gear I plugged into the people's power bar, I could appreciate how its filter action also attacks glare and brightness which would clear my Japanese box. That's the flip side of how I tune my systems these days. To capture more release of energy, I willingly take more risks with edgier fare. It seems fair to think that on price-appropriate gear playing overcooked Pop especially at higher levels, the damping of excess bite, nervous energy and general cringe will be much welcome. Of course rather than comparisons looking up, of more interest and relevance was assessing the PowerStation's impact against wall direct. Our home's wiring always only puts one duplex within reach regardless of room. A direct comparison thus relied on a mini system of just two components. As it happens, my upstair headfi complied. Each piece runs a generic cord into a shared wall duplex. Now I used the same generic cord to loop in the PowerStation, then two US-style generics out from it into the kit.

Time to cop to conditions. I used to live a 2-minute walk off the Beverly Wilshire hotel where Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman plied her trade. Urban population density. Plenty of upscale retail shops. Garages with heavy equipment. Now we sit on a very rural stretch of river frontage on Ireland's west coast. It means a very spotty single line of modest houses and cottages on either side of a remote road interspersed with and backed by open farmland. Zero industry. Zero commerce. Zero apartment complexes. Just one cemetery sans proper parking. It's the opposite of population density. It's a mystery that we even have fiber broadband. It disappears a few homes down from us before another spur covers the small town of Kilrush ten minutes later by car. The Gaelic name Cill Rois meant church of the woods. It paints the picture. Our power delivery is minimally loaded down and then only by small-scale residential users. It's not the stuff of extreme AB comparisons on the AC. Avoiding wall direct is foremost about generating more in-range outlets. It's not about baking into those extreme noise containment. With this headphone system then, I couldn't tell a difference. Had it meant four not just two components for more self-generated noise, perhaps I might have? It was time to enter iFi's power cords into the equation to step up from generic throwaways. For a reality check, our UK-style wall outlet can deliver 3kW into a mobile AC heater. The captive cords on 3'000-watt heaters like our backup Dimplex Cadiz are no thicker than my generics. Improving upon those shouldn't really be about extra conductive mass to 'transmit more current'. But there's still lower impedance, noise-cancelling geometries, field containment from better shielding and whatever effects generally superior materials might have. Crystal/Siltech's Dutch laboratory measures superior conductivity from molecularly 'gapless' silver or copper drawn by special processes. Titan Audio Labs hired a measuring facility at a Belfast university which tested likewise for long-grain conductors. Ditto Furutech who promote Mitsubishi's proprietary D.U.C.C. copper for lowest transmission losses. iFi's SupaNova then adds one more wrinkle: that inline filter inside the central barrel. Gimmick or gimme gimme? If G2, would digital respond different than analog?

Gimme. With the D300Ref powered by super capacitor which acts like a virtual battery to isolate circuitry from AC, I really only heard the effect of one power cord;  that on the DAC cum headfi amp. Just so, swapping generic for Nova was clear as day. The generic sounded like a dullard by contrast. With Nova virtual lumen exposure increased. That really lit up the same scenery. Gimme². Replacing Nova with Supanova toned down some of the top-end gloss to feel somewhat darker then further enhanced ambient recovery for a still keener deeper sense of recorded space. Like a 2-stage booster rocket, proceeding from generic to €299 to €499 cord marked audible steps. The first was bigger than the second. Perhaps more surprising? The first really mattered whereas in this minimalist setting, going from wall direct to active power filter had not. The embedded takeaway? Better power cords can trump a power bar. To expand that conjecture, the show now migrated to the upstairs main system to involve iFi cords on the DAC, preamp, active crossover and amplifier. If one power cord was readily noticeable, wouldn't four up that ante? Of course here competition wasn't generic but posh 1st-gen Crystal Cable specimens so wildly costlier.