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Pulling the plug on comprehension. To compare Three 11R and Granada literally meant pulling the plug on the entire system to swap over power leads in the proper sequence. To salt the battle ground I also left in three small battery-charging SMPS wall warts for components I wasn't actually listening to.

This would inject the usual HF nasties into the grid to add real need for protection. With nothing else changed, volume control untouched, the Granada sounded plainly louder. I repeated this a few times to eliminate wishful thinking or temporary insanity. It was perfectly repeatable. And it was far from subtle. Good grief. Feeling flummoxed, I listened into the perceived loudness advantage to tease out a few key strands. In no particular sequence these were

  • higher sound-to-silence index for which the usual term is contrast ratio
• enhanced mass and colour density
• more powerful slammier wirier bass

Tonality and detail were completely untouched. On the usual detail count so popular with reviews which stress lowered noise floors, I heard nothing direct. It's like controlled directivity for loudspeaker waveguides. Have you ever actually heard controlled directivity? To my way of thinking, lower noise isn't heard per se. We hear what the removal of a noise barrier reveals. The increased contrast ratio pointed at that. What didn't—or at least not in ways I found suggestive—was the improvement in bass impact and overall colour saturation and meatiness. That's why the overriding and instinctual reaction to the change called it louder.

Translating Gordon Gekko's greed-is-good mantra into basic math of more must be merrier, I subsequently pulled out my passive GigaWatt power bar on the amps and subwoofer and replaced it with the benched Three 11R when the Granada fed the source stack. Here you ought to know that due to a lack of wall socket between the speakers, the rear-end part of my system taps into the first outlet of the front-end's stack via a long cord. Thus everything hangs off a single wall outlet. A side effect is that it eliminates ground differentials between various domestic spurs.

Gordon Gekko imploded, my filtering greed caused suffocation. Putting two of Cliff's potent DC filters in series (the Three 11R on the amps/sub multiplying the Granada's filter action on the source kit to which it was connected) was clearly too much of a good thing. The sound lost its vibrant pumped-up fullness. Though only the FirstWatt SIT1 and Zu Submission suckled on the 11R to be affected directly, the sound turned paler. It showed more monochromatic gray and exhibited flatter dynamic relief. Replacing the Three 11R with my usual GigaWatt outlet multiplier promptly removed this constriction. As the earlier swap of Vibex on just the front end had done, this felt a bit like opening and closing water faucets to regulate irrigation.

Returning to the Granada's whole-system contribution, its primary effect was hifi's take on moving a slider in Photoshop's saturation controller up and simultaneously the black slider in its level controller to the right. See my first sample of the Sheraton Resort in Nadi/Fiji where good audiophiles go after they die. What did not happen? The next sample's sharpen command with its edge limning. The higher contrast between sound and silence came from colour intensity, not outline sharpness. Compare the water ripples in the right versions. The upper one shows more shadows and depth. The lower one injects more white to wash out and get shallower. The upper transformation clearly has more drama and heft. Voilà, Granada. 

That these results came from enhanced DC filtering and what must be extreme vibration attenuation in the same device was an ear-opening reminder that apparently little things can matter very much if you figure out where and how. It would seem to take a certain doggone persistence and relentlessness driven by joyful curiosity to have anyone delve this deep into any one solitary aspect of hifi. We must be thankful to extremists of Cliff Orman's caliber for letting us share in the fruits of their lonely labours.

Alhambra of Granada

At only €100 more than his Three 11R and subtracting just 3 outlets in trade, the Vibex Granada improves demonstrably over what's been my reference conditioner. The kicker, again, is that it does so by going after DC blocking, not customary AC filtration. I'm fond of saying that hifi hawks many cures for imaginary ailments. If you haven't tried it yet, DC filtering of especially low-level components could seem exactly that. It's not. Not only is it real, to my ears it is far more effective than traditional AC filtering. If you decide to wrestle with this subject, I know of no more formidable opponent than the Granada. If you thought vibration attenuation for cables was weird—yet nearly all top cables address physical resonances—it could sound even wackier for AC power. Given that the Granada not only doubles up on the prior range topper's DC blockade but goes all out on the elastomeric hunt after micro vibrations, there's clearly more to it than most of us would think or admit. As a late-blooming transistor man—since divesting myself of my tube amp inventory, I now only tolerate valves in low-level circuits—I have no issue admitting it. What on a whole their glowing lot tends to do better is exactly what the Granada improves. Getting tube-type colour saturation and chunkiness from solid-state amps plus of course their native low noise, wider bandwidth, greater control and lucidity... well, that really is one of those most fortuitous yin/yang affairs. Award time!
Vibex comment:
Dear Srajan, what a great review. I think you've really captured the essence of the Granada. As one of my importers just told me, "the Three 11R seems broken when I compare it to the Granada". The Three 11R was his personal reference before the Granada. By the way, the Granada has a very important addition that you must have a listen to: the Alhambra. As I say, what would Granada be without the Alhambra! The Alhambra is a new power filter. This way you can choose whether you need filtering or not. It's about half the size and plugs directly into the Granada with no additional power cable needed. It is far more powerful than the power filter inside the Three 11R. Many thanks again, I really appreciate your comments and the great way you have of communicating to the reader what a product is capable of doing. Keep up the good work!
All the best,

Vibex website