iFi PowerStation

iFi PowerStation

30 May 2021 0 By Petros Laskis

The Art of Silence

Pros: PowerStation

– Kills mains noise no strings attached
– Greatly improves clarity and definition
– More natural timbre
– Tight and controlled bass
– Finer articulation
– Equally effective at the whole frequency range
– Doesn’t hamper dynamics
– Earth/Ground polarity detection
– Grounding cable ready
– Build like a tank
– Removable cable
– Available for all socket types

DC blocker

– Kills toroidal transformer noise
– Improves sound performance no matter the type of the transformer
– Small and easy to use
– You can plug it to the PowerStation
– Doesn’t hamper dynamics
– Rated at 7A continuous and 10A max current

Cons: Nothing of note

Introduction

The iFi PowerStation was originally reviewed for hxosplus SOUND and Vision printed edition.
The unit was a loan provided from iFi Greek distributor and I liked it so much that I ended up buying it at full retail price with a 10% discount.
Now I am translating and adapting my original review for Headfi , further expanding the test by including a second PowerStation and two iFi DC Blockers that were loaned to me by iFi UK.
I also ended up buying the second PowerStation and both DC Blockers.
This is my honest and subjective evaluation that I would like to share with the community.

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PowerStation – technical specifications

The PowerStation is an audiophile extension block that brings super quiet mains power to a sound system.
It comes in 4 variations – UK, EU and AU with 6 individual sockets and USA/JAPAN with 8.
The PowerStation uses iFi’s Active Noise Cancelling II to actively eliminate noise across the frequency range, even across the lower frequencies.
Active filtration is much better in the lower frequencies, at -40dB.
Passive filtration is only truly effective in the very top-end of the frequency range.
The Wireless Purification System (WPS) is a complex circuit that reduces power line noise without audible or measured side-effects.

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This is important because other solutions while attempting to curb noise, also hamper dynamics.
Each outlet has also added passive filters to also eradicate noise from the very highest frequencies.
Each outlet is independently isolated in its own chamber to prevent cross-contamination, with the addition of vibration-damping EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate).
99.9999 percent pure OFHC (oxygen-free high-conductivity) continuous-cast copper is used in all internal wirings for its superior conductivity.
This includes 13 AWG, heavy-gauge internal wiring with multi-layered polymer insulation, solid busbars and the conductive elements of the outlets themselves.

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The PowerStation has inbuilt earth/ground and polarity detection.
No earth/ground can lead to annoying buzzes and hums.
The LED indicators show Polarity and Earth detection.
A 4mm banana socket is added to the PowerStation so a grounding cable can be used to create a ground/earth when one isn’t present.
The supplementary ground/earth connection will not introduce a ground loop even if the system is already earthed.
Of course a max. 30,000A @ 1,000V/10uS surge protection is also included to shut down, protecting downstream equipment from peril.
The original AC purifiers can still be used with the PowerStation in order to separate the digital and analogue devices for even less noise contamination.
Specifications

DC Blocker – technical specifications

Many sound devices with toroidal transformers have a really annoying mechanical hum (emitted from the toroidal transformer itself).
We can hear it when we place our ear close or next to the chassis.
This is caused by a small amount of DC voltage in the mains which makes its way through to the mains transformer which will become ‘saturated’ and start to hum.
The DC Blocker is a device that we can place at the IEC (at the rear power inlet) and as its name implies, it stops DC from getting into the transformer therefore eliminates hum.

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The iFi DC Blocker blocks incoming DC up to 1,200mV with a voltage rating from 90-240VAC and has a continuous current rating of 7A maxing at 10A so it is suitable even for larger power amplifiers without hampering dynamics.
Of course experienced users , as we are going to discover later on , still now that DC offset is not only responsible for the mechanical hum but it also affects sound performance negativity be it toroidal or traditional transformers alike.
Specifications

Listening set-up

We have performed the listening tests in the reference 2 channel system which is placed in a dedicated , treated and measured room plus the headphone listening system.
The 2 channel system consists of the Audiophysic Step 35 reference speakers , Denafrips Venus II dac fed by an Allo Digione signature and amplified by Kinki Studio EX-M1.
The headphone system is built around the Denafrips Ares II (kindly provided on loan by KVS Audio) and various high end headphones and amplifiers.

In order to have the best results we have used a branded star wired – aluminium shielded mains block free of any treatment cycling between this and the iFi PowerStation.
Only a few and well known tracks were used taking notes at each session without performing any kind of blind tests so everything noted next is purely subjective.

The Sound of Silence

The audible differences started to emerge from the very first listening sessions and you don’t need to have a trained ear in order to appreciate them.
We are not talking here night and day differences but rather an experience that is gradually growing inside the listener who starts to feel all the small changes track by track leading to a well lasting impression that gets stronger and stronger without diminishing as time goes by.

Silence is the first to notice , a pitch black background that at late night listening sessions was so spooky and immensely rewarding.
We were able to tell every last breath , lips whispering and instrumentalists fingering the strings , touching the keys and moving the sheets , giving us extra insight into the venue like we were present at the time of the event.
You don’t need to have a highly resolving system in order to appreciate it because every combination we have tested benefited from the extra clarity and the absence of audible noise maximizing the performance.

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Timbre master

Keep switching between the PowerStation and the unfiltered mains block and you start to notice that everything sounds finer and more natural.
Higher and middle section notes are more refined with better articulation and roundness absent of any roughness without losing their bite and energy.
On the contrary they do sound more live and engaging while the whole effect resembles something like a rough wooden surface that was smoothed by an expert carpenter.
Decay gets noticeably better and percussion instruments fade away in a more effortless way while there is an improvement regarding stage positioning and precision with the effects stretching to affect width and depth layering.

Dynamics and bass under control

Of course this wasn’t the first time to experience such a beneficial sound changes from a mains conditioner but it was one of the few instances to hear them fully extend into the lower registers.
Bass with the PowerStation is heard more tight and controlled with extra definition and layering plus you can hear a significant gain in articulation and clarity.
Lows sound fuller with added presence and the best part is that there isn’t the slightest loss of dynamics but on the contrary the listener can sense the full swing of the orchestra in the most persuasive manner.

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What about other power conditioners?

The only other conditioner we have tested and was equally effective at the lower register was not a filtered mains block but rather a balanced isolation power conditioner with a large 1:1 mains transformer.
Simple filtered mains blocks are not effective at all regarding the lower octaves and somebody needs to resort either to a power regenerator which is very expensive or to a transformer coupled isolator.
And while the latter is an excellent solution it is still haunted by three main disadvantages.
Output power in VA that need to be at least 1200VA and higher in order to accommodate power hungry amplifiers without hampering dynamics and while you climb up the ladder they become very expensive , bulky and weighty.
The iFi miraculously has solved the problem by employing this highly successful active noise cancelling technology.

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And what about the DC offset?

As you may have already read at the intro section the mains power is almost always contaminated with DC offset.
This DC offset is mainly causing the toroidal transformers to saturate resulting in the audible mechanical hum which also affects the sound in a negative way , something that every experienced user is aware of.
Of course we have been using DC blockers from the stone ages so it was very easy to tell whether the iFi DC blocker was performing as promised or not.
We have removed the resident DC blocker and substituted it with the iFi DC blocker.
Sometimes it was plugged directly into a certain device like the integrated amplifier and some other times it was plugged just before the PowerStation mains input in order to affect all the connected electronics and this is a very cost effective solution.
It is safe to do it because the DC blocker is rated at 7A continuous with 10A peak current so it can handle the most power hungry amplifiers without restraining current delivery that would potentially affect system dynamics or even blow the DC blocker.
The mains line in the main listening room is mildly suffering from DC offset and without a DC blocker there is a slight audible hum noise in all electronics equipped with toroidal transformers.
Plugging in the iFi DC blocker and everything becomes instantly silent but that is not the only benefit.
As is the case with all the DC blockers we have tested there is a slight but very audible improvement regarding the overall naturalness and clarity of the sound with a global effect to all connected electronics.
It feels like lifting a veil , the wind blowing and scattering the fog so notes sound more clean and well defined with better contrast and saturation.

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What is better than the iFi PowerStation?

Well , two PowerStations one for the digital sources and another for the analogue equipment!
It is well known that digital equipment can contaminate the rest of the equipment with noise and that is why iFi suggests to separate them by using the original iFi AC iPurifier in a spare socket between them.
This is the best and cost effective solution but hardcore purists and users with a lot of equipment without spare sockets can try to use two PowerStations
Don’t expect a huge difference but purists may experiment and come up with their only conclusion regarding if this scenario is beneficial to the sound or not.
If you ask us we have long opted for this solution and whether it is a placebo or real effect it is to be debated but we feel happy with it and after all we have to accommodate a dozen of different devices.

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Cable madness

Prior to finishing this review , iFi came up with two new power products and namely two high end power cables.
The Nova and the SupaNova
Unfortunately we haven’t managed to get a couple of them in our hands but cable believers are encouraged to ask for demo samples and experiment in order to determine if further improvements are achieved.

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At the end

The iFi PowerStation aided by an iFi DC blocker is an excellent and really effective solution to kill mains noise and greatly improve your listening experience.
The best part is that compared to the competition , iFi’s solution comes with benefits but without any drawbacks while it is offered at a very competitive price.
Both the PowerStation and the DC blocker are highly recommended without any reservations and honestly everyone should start improving from the mains power as this is the driving force of every music system.
Best money ever spent.

Test playlist

Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021