Martin Riggs? For his brazen disregard of the rules, the Lethal Weapon cop character was popular enough to launch four movies. My hardware reshuffle could conjure up his evil twin Mel Rigged. But reviewing needs context. After walking the beat for more than a decade, one's investment in hifi is deeper. It's one of the job liabilities. Hence the yardstick resets. When at that stage a loaner from a lower/earlier price sector shows up, by right and reason it ought to bed into a matched hardware context. But how many power conditioners does one keep around for just that eventuality? With the Furutech e-TP8 usually powering the bedside headfi, I had a sane stand-in. Likewise the £2'000/pr monos in the foreground. Those were closer matched than a $6'500 Pass Labs XA-30.8 or the €5'000 Linnenberg Allegro monos.

This reasoning soon made sense. Without doubt, the Furutech played the class D amps brighter, leaner, crispier and more forward. With the Gordian, bass was more powerful and black. This saturated the entire colour palette. The presentation also grew in gravitas similar to swapping in a more powerful amp. The overall gestalt was mellower and more laid back. The sonic scenery was grander, image density had more mass. It was all win, no loss.

With efficacy and right context established, it was time to skip auto pilot. Navigate some of the Gordian options manually. This quickly duplicated digital filter options on D/A converters. Most are subtle at best. Whilst one does tend to develop an eventual preference, explaining why one can be vexing. Routinely it becomes the omniscient yet utterly nonspecific "it sounds the most right". For personal enjoyment, that's all it ever needs to do. For review purposes, it fails completely. But that was me. In the end I played the lazy man's hand by going back to 'auto'. Those of sterner stuff can amuse themselves endlessly. Changes are made mid-tune. There's a small relay click and the new setting is in effect. Letting smart software handle corrections in real time instead, I enjoyed the tunes. I took note of how the very transparent and quick Audio Physic speakers betrayed none of the potential 'digititis' that can stir up terms like flat, pale, rigid, overdamped, steely and grey whenever class D meets unhappy mates. Here we recall that my lovely results may still have been slightly sub par due to those Swiss adapters. Here I'll also acknowledge that an earlier review criticism—about Lab12's lightweight chassis on their tube amp—has since been addressed across the range. The sheet metal is now nearly twice as thick. In fact, this change was implemented between my first and second Gordian sample. It became very self-evident and with it, more confident.

Cutting the Gordian knot. Like audiophiles and reviewers, hifi designers tend to claw their way up the food chain. Only the rarest start at the top. Time is needed to gather knowledge, experience and exposure. On AC delivery, Lab12 are still newer than most their specialized competitors. This shows in a basic build. It shows in value pricing not click bait for the 1-percenters. Finally one suspects that the designer is most familiar with more price-matched ancillaries. Hence the Gordian had to be judged in proper company. At first, ours had already moved beyond it. Once that got sorted, Stratos Vichos' active Gordian showed a passive Furutech a clean set of heels, no ifs or buts. Now we had relevant competition and results. Whilst the Japanese had the more stylish cosmetics, the Greek made better sound. Then chances are high that its bag of tricks still factors more not in a remote new house that's decidedly no town and all country (our closest neighbours are sundry four-leggeds). Instead envision a city block whose utility transformer supplies residential, retail and a car repair shop. Pick any flat inside that block. If in an old building, add funky AC wiring to the walls. That's when your cards should really be stacked against pure power and light loading. That's when the Gordian knot should come asunder with an even bigger tear.

Lab 12 website