Sinfo Power Distribution
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
Let me make one thing clear at the outset: the Fono Acustica Sinfo Power Distributor, at $9995, is the most expensive power distributor available in the USA. In preparation for this review, I reread my review of the Armonico Cables from a few months ago. I was looking for an indication of a house sound that might transfer to the Sinfo. The Armonico cables are richly textured, fabulously detailed, and a bit reticent. I am quite certain the Sinfo, after extensive listening, is designed to magnify the attributes of those interconnects and speaker cables, counteracting the slight slowness in their overall sound. And that's good news: the more powerful, uber-detailed, and transparent Sinfo will startle and amaze the audiophile who has grown accustomed to rather lean and rolled off power conditioning.
I chose my power conditioner, the World Power Wing by Alan Kaftan of audio excellence az because it did no harm and did not strip away musical nuance and colors. I have heard and refused to review four other high-end power conditioners, because they improved by subtraction. The Sinfo improves by addition, even out performing my reference with bolder dynamics. It is the first of its breed to do this as a passive device, in my experience.
Clarification! The Sinfo is a power distributor and not an active processor. There are no active parts on board, nor is there any surge protection. The manufacturer says all surge protection parts reduce dynamics. [I am not sure that I would agree about this, by the way.] The casing is tank wood made and processed by the Kaiser factory in Germany. It is a processed wood so dense and protective from EMI/RFI that it is only made in that one German factory. It is finished in Spain at the Fono Acustica factory, and hermetically and permanently sealed. There are no lights or switches. There is a single IEC connector and six tip-top of the line OYAIDE platinum/palladium plugs included. The inside wiring is their proprietary ultra-heavy gold/silver/palladium wiring. The magic is in the wire itself and it passively enhances and refines the sound. It is available in two glorious finishes at present. I reviewed the black laquer Sinfo.
It has been said it is the last six feet of wiring to your system that counts, and I tend to believe this. The Sinfo is plugged into the system wall with a superb Kubala-Sosna Emotion power cord, and the wall plug is a double cryo'ed Oyaide Gold/Gold connector. After that, crap Romex abounds. The Sinfo is designed to not limit voltage in any way, or filter or degrade, ever. The wire's unique formulation and extravagant composition does the work. The connectors are the very best Oyaide and chosen for their sound. My ears tell me that live music is the model by which all Armonico products are created and produced.
After placing the Sinfo into my far-field reference system, I was in for quite a ride. It took a day of warm-up to hear 100% of the goodness of the Sinfo [which had been run-in before I received it.] I heard a jump in dynamics, of musical energy and snap; very interesting for passive circuitry. It was not enough to need to lower the gain, but it was significant and gorgeous. The music became less restricted and more voluptuous. Bloom improved. The sense of in the room awareness of instruments and voices seemed enhanced. I began to think less about the cost of this pretty piece of gear and more about what it was doing for the system.
Something Quite New
I now became aware of something quite new to me, as I continued to listen. I was now truly aware of distances within the musical stage in front of me. Vocalists either moved behind or in front of instruments. I heard instruments that were forward now move back and over to the left or right. The Sinfo shook things up including me. Image specificity was improved, and dynamics increased. My reference CDs and LPs took on new soundstage perspectives and there was, at least initially, a greater sense of listener involvement. While not a gigantic change, the Sinfo was more than subtle for sure. Any high-end system should be enhanced and improved if these changes are compatible with your cables. I can state with certainty you will hear sonic differences with the Sinfo.
With the world filled with power distributors and conditioners, the results of using the Sinfo instead of what you now have will vary, but the Sinfo should never strip away musical content. If you use Armonico cables, look no further than the Sinfo. It is the proper companion for these wires, and will bring out their maximum performance. My reference power distributor, which has no specific limiting on board, was still less dynamic than the Sinfo. You never know what you are missing!
A good friend of mine with a fantastic system used the PS Audio Premier AC Generator until he plugged his system into the wall on a dare by a listener. He never used the active power generator again. I wonder. Maybe the Sinfo is on to something quite basic. It certainly is wonderful, and so very musical. The Sinfo gives the recording a sense of ease, with subtle and delicate dynamics I have never heard before.
I heard numerous improvements across all frequencies. The bass is slightly deeper with added bloom and power. The mids are also faster and more realistic, with greater dynamics and ambience. The highs are airier, but a tad less focused. Imaging of most instruments seems to grow slightly in size, which is nice with jazz. I love what the Sinfo does for most vocals, and the added weight it brings to them.
OK, so nothing's perfect. Here are a couple of drawbacks to keep in mind with the Sinfo:
1. Price (how about trying Corian or stainless steel?)
2. No surge protection. If not in the conditioner or distributor, you will have to rely on your house circuit breakers for protection. Good luck if your house is struck by lightning.
Meet the Major
Saturday afternoon, my good friend Major Major came by to hear the Sinfo. He has an exotic system with ML electrostatics and Krell amps. Having Major Major around is quite handy as he handled nuclear weapons for the Air Force, assembling and disassembling them as required for actual use on board jet fighters and bombers. He is great at handling delicate gear, and I needed him to disconnect the Sinfo for comparison with the Power Wing. The Sinfo folks wanted nary a scratch on the Sinfo or I would own it. Yikes!
We spent four hours listening to reference quality CDs, SACDs, and LPs with the Sinfo in place, just like I had done for the last week. We were initially enthralled by the voluptuous sound and bloom, just as I have been in my solo review listening. We were less excited by enhanced ambience, ambience that did not seem to have any source or purpose. We also heard some coolness in the mid-range plus a gentle lack of bass detail though the bass drive seemed expanded by the Sinfo.
Bottom line: Major Major and I became aware of sonic embellishments and bloom produced by the Sinfo that were not appropriate for my system's needs.
The only way to verify this was to remove the Sinfo and replace it with the Wing. I supervised as Major Major carefully did the deed. We then repeated the software using all my source gear. It was confirmed. The Sinfo is both revealing and is adding to the ambience, dynamics, and power of the musical material, sort of like a mid-range wide band presence control of yore. I totally understand why this would enhance the recessed-sounding Armonico cables. It was just not a good match with the Jorma Origo and Kubala-Sosna wires, though it may be magical in your system. (System synergy always rules!) Major Major and I preferred the more realistic and neutral sounding Wing to the Sinfo on most material in my system, as wired. I had no Armonico cables to retry. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway!) that you would only buy a $10K power conditioner if you first auditioned it in your specific system.
Made as exquisitely as human kind can do, the Sinfo is one of the very best power distributors I have ever tried in the last 45 years. It enhances dynamics and ease of presentation, lets the music swell and breathe, and enhances imaging and soundstaging on both LPs and digital sources. All this improvement is done smoothly and elegantly. It relies on expensive metals and difficult to make man made woods to do the job, no active circuitry. The Sinfo is 100% passive and an overall work of high art.
Would I recommend that you buy it? If you have $9995 bucks to enhance that $50k amplifier and $25K preamp with power conditioning fantastico, and you can test drive it first as you would with any expensive component, absolutely! All other conditioners and distributors, active or passive, cost less, and often do less. The Sinfo costs more and does more sonically in my reference system, and just may be the proverbial magic bullet for your high-end rig. Congratulations to Fono Acustica for creating and producing this true complex gem in the Sinfo power distributor. A truly significant product…welcome to the USA! Robert H. Levi
Sinfo Power Distribution