Tapping power from the grid

After my recent visit to Nova Hi-Fi at Jaya One (see http://hi-fi-avenue.blogspot.com/2011/05/jaya-one-hi-fi-hotspot-pt-2.html ) I went home with an ORB 4GG Power Tap.

The ORB Power Tap from Japan looks like any other power distributor even though it is more solidly-made than others.

The ORB Power Tap looks small but is quite heavy.

ORB Power Taps are made of a special 7mm thick steel case and 5mm thick aluminum front panel which are supposed to cut off noise and create "transparent and speedy sound".

ORB’s seamless bass bars are gold plated of 99.9% pureness and they achieve direct and fast transmission, the manufacturer claims.

The 4GG Power Tap on review measures 75mm wide by 100mm high and 386mm long. It weighs 3.2kg which is not surprising given the amount of steel and copper used.

It is a passive unit - there is nothing inside but thick gold-plated copper bars instead of wires to link up all the plug outlets. And the box is made of thick steel and aluminium . That's all to it. There are no circuitry, no EMI/RFI absorbing compound, no isolation transformers. Nothing.

The gold-plated copper bars inside the ORB Power Tap.

Yet when you plug your system into it, there is a difference in sound.

How does it work? I really don't know.

What I do know is that it changes the tonal balance of your sound system - it brightens up everything. Which is a good thing if your system sounds dull and boring, but if it is already a bright-sounding system, then it could be a case of too much of a good thing making the situation worse.

It so happened that I still had the Ayre QB-9 USB DAC and I could easily use it to compare with the resident Benchmark DAC1 Pre. Doing this revealed the effect of the ORB Power Tap on my sound system with the rich, full and smooth-sounding Ayre QB-9 USB DAC and the lean, edgy and analytical-sounding Benchmark DAC1 Pre.

I removed all the plugs from the resident Furutech e-TP60/20 power distributor (passive with a layer of EMI/RFI absorbing compound) and connected them to the ORB Power Tap.

With the Ayre USB DAC in the system, the sound became brighter, clearer and more transparent throughout the frequency range. More details could be heard and micro-details in the treble region were highlighted. In comparison, the Furutech was quite dark sounding.

However, with the Benchmark DAC1 Pre replacing the Ayre QB-9, the sound became even edgier and a few Fleetwood Mac songs from the Rumours album featuring female vocalists singing background 'hardened up' and cymbals were quite jarring.

Initially I used a normal power cord to connect it to the wall plug, but when I switched to a Supra LoRad, the treble was less harsh.

Thus the ORB Power Tap, which retails at RM4,400, is system-dependent. It is fantastic for dull and overly-warm and slow-sounding systems as it will bring out the details and clarity missing from such rigs. You can also 'tune' it with power cords.

So it is advisable to audition carefully before buying.


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