PMC Fact.8. Ex-Demo in Rich Walnut. £POA
Cambridge Audio CXA 60, integrated amplifier
Matrix Audio X SPDIF 2
Matrix Audio Quattro II
DEAL OF THE DAY
PMC Fact 12 speaker in graphite
2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
Kevin Fiske reviews the HFIT Mains Block
Review of HiFi In Touch Mains Block
If you have an audio system and it requires mains power from more wall sockets than you happen to have nearby, then there’s the gold standard: you pay an electrician to chop your listening room plaster away and install sufficient further sockets to feed your need, so to speak.
The alternative is to buy a mains extension block that plugs into a single wall socket and has sufficient outlets to power your multiple audio components.
Guess which option most people choose?
When I rewired my current home 20 years ago I did go as far as setting out a dedicated mains ring from the consumer unit to feed the listening room, but lacking sufficient foresight I failed to install in the room more than four twin sockets. And guess what? None of them is very near where I ended up siting the audio kit table. Now appreciating what a mistake this was, and at the same time being unwilling to move furniture, roll back carpets, attract justifiable wifely grief and not to mention put up with Phil the electrician whose jokes are bluer than a very blue thing, I use a mains extension block.
Many years ago I fed my first ‘serious’ audio system with a cheap-as-chips six way extender from, oh, probably B&Q or somewhere, I later switched to a Toblerone-shaped eight-way by a well-known audio accessories company. Over the years I’ve stuck with the thing, even though its blue coating has flaked away and even though on a rainy Sunday a few years ago I had it apart and took the side cutters to the feeds for the integral Clarity Mains and Ultra Purifier Modules. Just to experiment, like you do. Wouldn’t you know it? With the internal modules disabled my system sounded better; more open, less muddy, more dynamic.
It would be wrong to say I have been wholly faithful to the Toblerone; other fancies have come and gone. Several times in recent years I’ve borrowed mains extensions by other companies only to find them deficient. Some have been three times the retail price of the Toblerone. Mostly what has killed them is the designers’ misguided belief that filtering and other buggeration adds sonic value. Not for most people it doesn’t. If you have the misfortune to live next door to a machine shop then the pollution on your AC supply may be profound and you may find that filtering and whatnot does make your system sound better. But if you don’t have such neighbours, then I recommend that you try bareback, so to speak. You may be pleasantly surprised.
And so we get to the HiFi In Touch powerblock, this being the device that has finally booted my old Toblerone mains distribution block into touch. HFIT is an audio sales portal owned and operated by Trevor Crowder. Trevor and his son are not just Web site operators, but audiophiles too. And they too have travelled the Toblerone route, wire cutters and all, thinking all the time: “Uh, there has to be a better way than this.”
The result of their exploration is, in my view – and you can test this for yourself, just order one of their mains blocks on approval – really very satisfactory; pleasing from an electrical perspective, an aesthetic perspective, and, crucially, a sonic perspective too.
For me it ticks all the boxes. It is made to a very high joinery standard from solid oak, and weighs in at a substantial 2.5kg or thereabouts. Crowder’s use of oak is not serendipitous, but knowing. I really like the resonance that an oak rack gives to audio equipment, especially tubed components. It might or might not make a difference sonically to a mains block, but why not use it anyway and achieve something that is aesthetically pleasing? There’s plenty enough ugly in the world.
The block is not daisy-chained as most rivals are, but star wired and star earthed in expensive very high purity continuous cast copper cable sheathed in high purity Teflon. It uses very high quality German mains sockets that not only have a fierce contact grip on mains plug prongs but are cryo-treated too. The IEC inlet socket is a 10 Amp Furutech (you can specify a 16). What the block doesn’t contain is any kind of filtering or ‘enhancing’ device. Buy one and you won’t need to resort to the side cutters on a rainy Sunday.
Crowder says every element used in the build of the block is there regardless of cost and following extensive listening tests. The Furutech IEC inlet, for example, costs some ten times more than a regular version. The solid oak chassis – again costly to manufacture – is the result of several years of design and prototyping. Is this an extreme example of audio-nervosa? Crowder says not. “It just sounds better. If it didn’t we wouldn’t do it.”
Right out of the box the HFIT block announced itself in my system with a change in the depth, grip and tonality of bass that was startling and which also removed the nagging always-there hint of overall hardness that the Toblerone added. Although the HFIT block uses copper wire and imparts some of the warmth and glow that informed listeners will recognise as a characteristic signature of the metal, it sounds tighter, more detailed and more tonally complex than anything other than well-executed silver. Initially the extra bass weight was overwhelming. In order to restore equilibrium to my system I was forced to move my speakers into the room a tad further than their Toblerone position. Having done so I was rewarded with a balance that retained most of the extra bass power but at the same time allowed a richer and more tonally satisfying mid and top end to surface. The next day as a sense-check I went back to the Toblerone and the original position of the speakers. Flat or what? The system sounded grey, less dynamic and harder. That’s the way it is with properly sticky upgrades. Retracing steps emphatically highlights the gains made.
If ever a mains block could be thought of as disruptive, then the HFIT product is an exemplar. HFIT has combined some well-founded principles, come up with a product that exceeds expectations – and is now selling it at a price that just makes many rivals look shockingly poor sonic value.
Frankly, I cannot think of a thing I’d change. If I was HFIT I might offer customers the option of feet on the side instead of the bottom, so that mains plugs can be fitted with their cables rising vertically rather than horizontally, but that’s it as far as meddling me is concerned. I’m done.
I cannot commend the HFIT mains block to you more highly.
HiFi In Touch
6-way mains block as tested – £530
Other sockets counts also available
It certainly felt like we were in the presence of star wars technology yesterday (May …