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Discs used - Akiko Grace, Illume, JRoom/Columbia Music Entertainment, COCB-53546, CD; Art Blakey Quartet, A Jazz Massage, Impulse!/Universal Music Japan, UCCI-9043, CD; Basia, It’s That Girl Again, Koch Records/WHD Entertainment, Inc., IECP-10168, HQ CD; Ben Heit Quartet, Magnetism, Acousence Records/Linn Records, ACO80108, 24/192, FLAC 24/192; Ella Fitzgerald, Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!, Verve/PolyGram Records/Victor Entertainment, VICJ 011-4052, XRCD24; Frank Sinatra&Count Basie, It Might As Well Be Swing, Reprise/Universal Music Japan/Sinatra Society of Japan, UICY-94601, SHM-CD; Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD; Madita, Too, Couch Records, CR 20472, CD; Nine Horses, Snow Borne Sorrow, WHD Entertainment, IECP-10002, CD; Perry Como, Como Sings, RCA/BMG Japan, BVCJ-37258, K2 CD; Savage, Tonight, Extravaganza Publishing Srl/Klub80, CD001, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, CD.

Considering its construction and the manufacturer’s explanations, the new GigaWatt conditioner can be regarded as an advanced version of their PF-2 power strip which I’ve used for the last three years. It’s not the best power strip in the world but very even, predictable, solid and inexpensive. These are all important factors to me. I was very interested to learn what the PC-2 EVO might add. Because all my hifi components plug into this strip, I switched my entire system between it and the new conditioner rather than individual components only. First comparisons were made with a generic power cable to the wall socket, then with GigaWatt’s stock cord supplied with the conditioner, then the more expensive LC-2 MkII and finally the top LS-1.

Anyone who has participated in listening sessions around power filtering equipment—cords, strips, conditioners—knows how first impressions can be deceiving. This is related to a learning curve of self education. We deal with this process in all areas of audio if we want to learn but in the case of power distribution equipment, the process is lengthy and 100% dependent on experience. When comparing two amplifiers, we can indicate the better one with great probability or at the very least identify which we like better. With power delivery components it’s very much different. Starting with power cords, when we change from generic ‘computer’ cables to something shielded and with better conductors, it will at first seem as though the sound became less dynamic and too dark. Changing back returns shine and nerve. From experience I know how this is a deceit that’s usually subjective and not due to the actual cable action. Listening for prolonged periods of time to certain gear, we get used to how it sounds and that sound becomes our reference. Even comparisons with live sound don’t alter that because those are two different worlds. Transferring one to the other is at the very least problematic. What’s more, live sound is usually incredibly dynamic and any reduction of clarity there gets perceived as a backwards step which often also covers other aspects.

With better power cords we ‘clean’ the sound of obstructions that also cause hardened attacks which at first will be wrongly viewed as being more dynamic. At home we will never replicate live-level dynamics since physics won’t allow it. We need to strive for natural proportions in another way without brightening. A change of power cords becomes structural and deeper than merely a change of timbres. With a good power filter like the PC-2 EVO, this can be heard twice over. Switching from the very solid and proven passive PF-2 power strip, a few things could be heard immediately and added up to a completely different presentation.

First off, the sound became more vivid. This was related also to other aspects—everything is interconnected after all—but it was clear from the very beginning how this vividness would shape the entire perspective. The sound also became a bit warmer and softer but not in the usual flawed sense especially relative to tube amplifiers. Here it was a big asset. This effect was heard on every recording as a positive change. The PC-2 EVO allowed me to hear more meaning in the music. I better understood—or at least thought I did—the artists’ and sound engineers’ intentions. Individual sounds were far better differentiated. It might seem paradoxical but whereas in audio clarity is often associated with brighter, here it was exactly the opposite. Clarity improved because brightness lessened and hard transients softened away from being brutal jackhammer attacks.

With the GigaWatt conditioner the sound gained life not by overexposing the treble or boosting dynamics by treble brightening but with much better color saturation than the PF-2 and hence more natural timbres. The sound became more natural despite at first glance—there’s that learning curve again—seeming to go another direction. Instead of higher exposure of the recordings, it went against the stream. This warmth was not the usual sort. If it were, the already slightly warm Tenor Audio 175S would have sounded slightly muffled. Ditto the Audiomatus AS250 reviewed for the same Polish issue at the same time. Yet with the GigaWatt this did not occur. What for lack of a better word must be referenced as increased warmth did not bring with it the usual side effects but simply became more natural and coherent and avoided the tendency to dissect the whole into its constituents.