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Positive Feedback ISSUE49
Gold Glory Isolation Feet and the PRS-6 Power Distribution
as reviewed by Marshall Nack
"I thought it was more engaging before," was Lynn's first comment. My reaction was: "Really? But this is so much more natural. I thought it was hyped-up and artificial before."
And so it goes. I have calculated the probability of this kind of divergence to be 33 percent of the time. Is that about average for a husband/wife dispute? In this particular instance, we were discussing the effects of the Gold Glory Isolation Feet and PRS-6 Power Distributor from Weizhi Precision, a Taiwan-based tech company with a subsidiary in high-end audio. To me, the benefits were clear as day.
To Condition or Not
But first, let me give you my position on power conditioning:
a) It is mandatory. The no-conditioning option only works for the best, usually most expensive, components, which have it built-in. With lesser gear, whenever I plug directly into the wall or use a quality power strip, such as the Ensemble Mega PowerPoint or PS Audio Juicebar, I hear more noise, not to mention more general obscurity.
b) Passive conditioning is good. Devices like the TARA Labs PM/2 Power Screen, Furutech e-TP80, or the Shunyata Hydra have no electronic circuitry, but they do have proprietary noise-absorbing compounds. They get rid of noise, don't degrade dynamics and don't mess with the signal too much.
c) Active units are best, when used with front-end gear. They offer the most noise reduction and the cleanest presentation. However, these units can impart additive colorations or subtractive reductions. Sometimes they introduce frequency-response anomalies.
My reference is the TARA Labs IDAT active conditioner. IDAT stands for Isolated Digital and Analog Transformers. This unit has dual transformers and outlet banks, keeping digital and analog separate. It has stood its ground. Every venture away has been short-lived. In all cases, I had to high tail it back to the IDAT. That is, until now.
PRS-6 Power Distributor
Let me start with the Weizhi PRS-6 Power Distributor. We were listening to mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink accompanied by the period instrument group Musica Antiqua Koln, in Hasse Salve Regina (Archiv 477 6730).
Make no mistake, Bernarda sounds great on the reference system, her vocal power and range are exceptional. But something bothersome lingered in the back of my mind; something was not right. While the gender of the singer was never in doubt, I was picking up cues I normally associate with male tenors, such as chestiness. That shouldn't be there.
It is exactly this ambiguity that the PRS-6 resolves. Most components generate additive layers, unless they're completely neutral. The Weizhi products strip away these add-on layers, leaving no question that it's a woman's voice, albeit a deep mezzo. And thus, a good performance morphed into a stunning performance. I found myself newly appreciating the fine playing on this disc.
Let me do the A/B in reverse and tell you what happens when I remove my digital front-end from the PRS-6 and go back to my reference conditioner, the TARA IDAT. We'll use Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ performed by the Leipzig Quartet (MDG 907 1550-6).
With the TARA IDAT each bowed note throws a bigger, more massive image. Tone is darker and weightier. Body is more full. The IDAT definitely juices dynamics and gives the signal more bounce. What had sounded like a mezzoforté dynamic marking inflates to an f. It also imparts a certain kind of "bloom" and makes the acoustic space more reverberant.
But I've lost a fair degree of what a bow on a string should sound like. The "bloom" is more like a polish—it sounds good, but it ain't the real thing. And the wider dynamics are always in play, and so become a kind of exaggeration. Furthermore, transients are softened and rounded. All of these artifacts overlay and obscure the notes, leaving me to make assumptions. This applies to everything from a violin in its top register all the way down to a double bass plumbing the lowest. And the lowest notes sometimes suffer a rumble with a muffled aspect. The drop-off in verisimilitude is unmistakable.
This prognosis is not news to me. It's not the fault of the IDAT. My mbl Noble Line front-end does this even when plugged straight into the wall. I've been aware of these problems ever since I reviewed the ACCUSTIC ARTS digital separates. The Accustic Arts didn't have these issues—what I had thought endemic to the medium turned out to reside in my gear.
And now these anomalies are repaired, not by a $23,000 replacement front-end, but by a moderately expensive power conditioner.
Uncolored and Effortless
What the Weizhi PRS-6 Power Distributor does that the active IDAT doesn't is rein in your components' tendency to provide commentary. It stops the editorializing so your component can pass the signal along unmodified.
Of course, it takes care of noise. It is just as quiet as the TARA IDAT and just as detailed, more detailed than other passive units. Thus it has tons of inner life. And its dynamics are great—when the source calls for it. Imaging and the way soundstage dimensions are cued are done in a wholly naturalistic manner. All of these come through stripped of artificiality.
The PRS-6 is a passive conditioning product employing a noise-absorbing compound like other passive conditioning products, but it goes further. Rather than power conditioners, the PRS-6 reminds me of passive preamps. It shares their two main virtues: being uncolored and effortless. It doesn't pump up quiet signal levels or mess with timbre or bloom in any way, and it is very easy on the ears.
Gold Glory Isolation Feet
The other product under review is the Weizhi Gold Glory Isolation Feet.
Placed under my mbl Noble Line digital separates, I found their performance similar to the PRS-6.
The biggest bang is in stripping away the camouflage obscuring the signal. The GG are advertised to remove every last bit of stray resonance, to neutralize chassis limitations. I have to say they do this better than any isolators I've come across.
Interestingly, when I put them under my mbl Reference Line 6010D preamp, the improvements were only slight. How come?
I once compared the specs of the mbl Noble and Reference line digital front-ends. I was surprised—they line up to the dime, except for size and weight, the Reference Line being much bigger and nearly twice as heavy. The assumption is the additional expense went into better power supplies and chassis design. This would jive with what I'm hearing. Will the Weizhi GG make your mbl Noble Line 1521A transport into a Reference Line 1621A? What an intriguing thought: I wish I had the 1621A in-house to see how close it comes.
Design and Ergonomics
Speaking about quality of materials and rigor of design, go to their website. Look over the pictures and read the explanations. You get the impression everything Weizhi Precision makes is extreme and much of it is groundbreaking. What's more, their solutions are logical and make sense to a layman like myself.
Take graphite, for example. It is commonly used in audio, but did you know there are many different types of graphite? Its sound is characteristically fast and clean, but also dry. Weizhi sampled the different varieties. That's how they chose top-grade German graphite.
They also noticed that the molecular structure of graphite is loose with a high proportion of air-filled gaps. Weizhi hit upon the idea of soaking graphite in liquid compounds to fill in those micro gaps. Lo and behold, graphite soaked, then dried, became less porous and its color changed to deep black. And the sound changed. The persistent dryness disappeared. It became more flexible and elastic sounding.
Glory Isolation Footers
You can buy Weizhi Glory Isolation Footers made from this graphite (MSRP $495). Its design is identical to the top-of-the-line Gold Glory under review, with one significant twist in materials.
This is a multi-tiered design with many discrete metals and isolation principles at work. The top part of the Glory footers is a removable stainless steel plate with an elastomer ring embedded in it. The elastomer ring is slightly raised so it touches your component's chassis, providing a degree of damping. The underside of the top steel plate has a cup-like recess. Then there's an identical steel plate that goes below the top one. A Zirconia ball bearing is held in place between the two plates. The lower plates' elastomer rests on a cube.
These cubes are big. They measure 2.17" x 2.17" x 1.85" (WxDxH). Make sure you have at least 2 ¼" of clearance on your shelf. They are heavy. The set of four come in at 1.59 lbs.
The twist in the Gold Glory Isolation Footers is that the cube is made from a new compound formed by adding purified red-copper to the German graphite. They have a deep reddish tinge..
After placement, give the GG a day or so for the elastomer to settle to hear its true voice. The Glory products are not cheap—they don't even look cheap. One glance should suffice to confirm that.
The PRS-6 is a passive conditioning product, albeit a luxuriously outfitted one. It is deceptively plain looking.
The parts speak for themselves. The chassis is CNC cut from a solid block of the finest Swiss-made, aerospace-level, Super Duralumin, a special type of aluminum, selected for its good sound properties. Highest quality Oyaide R1 duplex outlets are fitted inside a hollow cut into the chassis.
A Super Duralumin cover goes on next, followed by a Carbon Fiber top plate. The IEC jack is a Furutech FI-09G. Internal wiring is uni-crystal 6N silver. All interior and exterior surfaces have a special Nanotech coating.
Incoming positive and negative conductors go right to the posts on the duplex outlets. However, the ground wire is first routed to a proprietary Graphite Grounding Module, a special form of graphite that functions as a ground noise trap, before continuing on to the duplex.
There is a break-in period. At first listen, it seems a bit dark. Then after about four days it seems light. It needs a week to settle. The PRS-6 can be oriented with the outlets facing up or sideways.
Note: the PRS-6 comes without a power cord. Swapping power cords makes a big difference, bigger than you would expect—the differences seem magnified. It also has very small stick-on bumper feet that detach easily. They appear to be an afterthought intended to protect wood floors and such. After two of them fell off, I started using a quartet of Vibrapods. Then I put a CORE Design constrained layer walnut platform under the Vibrapods. I used this sandwich to support the PRS-6 for most of the audition. I would have liked to place the PRS-6 on my TAOC rack, but didn't have the space. Experimenting with footers and isolation platforms is a fertile area to investigate.
Up on their website, I noticed Weizhi's lower-priced Classic Power Distributors come with well-made spike footers. Why not put something like them with the PRS-6??
Weizhi Precision, a Taiwan-based tech company with a subsidiary in high-end audio, brings extreme products to market. It is evident they take the high road, both in concept and materials, and what's more, their solutions make sense even to a layman like myself.
The PRS-6 is a passive power conditioner, albeit a luxuriously outfitted one. It is deceptively plain and ordinary looking and gives no clue of what's to come. Listen to it and take its measure. Bask in its natural and effortless presentation. Then you'll want to go back and take its parts inventory, to see how it accomplishes what it does.
The Gold Glory isolation footers neutralize chassis limitations, allowing you to truly hear the quality of your components circuits. They do this better than any isolators I've come across. The improvements of the GG are similar to those of the PRS-6 power distributor, and used together, the effects are additive. What they do reminds me of the good aspects of passive preamps. It is the opposite of boom and sizzle. Together, the Weizhi PRS-6 and GG fixed the anomalies in my digital front-end. Marshall Nack
Gold Glory Isolation Feet
PRS-6 Power Distributor