In this installment of our holistic system approach tests, based on the designs, in this case, of LessLoss Audio, we’ll introduce the LessLoss Firewall power filter.
It’s both intriguing and ridiculous to see people arguing about semantic labels such as "filter vs. conditioner" when we're dealing with nothing other than filtering procedures with regards to electricity.
Instantly, when we hear the word "filter," we associate it with some sort of degradation. I cannot recall any sane audiophile being thrilled by this word. It’s instantly connected with the word "coloration," a covering and muffling of the sound.
This is why many manufactures avoid like the plague using any term even remotely close to a mere "filter." Rather, they embrace the more safe and broad term "conditioner," in order to avoid the negative connotations around it.
Then again, what is the basic meaning and function of a power conditioner if it doesn’t perform the functionality of filtration? Money sticker?
The LessLoss Firewall is both a filter and conditioner (to satisfy the masses). When dealing with noise reduction, it simply cannot be called anything less or anything else.
We already discussed in length about the importance of pure electrical power. It may always remain a hot topic to discuss just what "pure" means in this context, but today there is no longer any doubt that it plays an important part in every high-end system. We often forget that it’s actually the power supply itself that audio designers spend much of their time refining in their extensive designs of high-end audio gear. In my last discussion with a hard core “audiophile” I asked out loud: “Do you know about the importance of pure power in the fields of medical equipment, laboratory measurement gear, high-tech military machines, etc.?” The answer was a long black silence. Isn't it strange that we so often find such elaborate rhetoric flaring up in the forums or discussions when we just merely mention electricity, cables, power supplies etc. in high-end audio? Why is it that it seems every other field on this Earth is dealing with nuances of electricity, micro vibrations, elimination of noise and resonances? Why should audio be an exception? Complete nonsense.
As science progresses, we find ourselves in the mind-boggling situation of things and their descriptions getting finer and subtler. With all the advancements of today, our perceptions and comprehension of life and the universe are changing rapidly, and we’re more and more inclined to marvel at the amazingly complex cosmos which infinitesimally small (or large, depending on vantage point) part we inhabit. Each new century and now even decade is offering new insight into the macro and micro cosmos. We’re discovering smaller and smaller particles that unite our surroundings. Stepping down from the atom and even the quark level is not even a grand idea anymore. Today we've come all the way down to theoretical "strings" that are just as close to "ideas" as the original atom was some thousands of years ago. How can we fully understand the physical and sublime laws to any exact measure when our journey of comprehension feels more like a continuum of constant discovery rather than an open book?
If even a quarter of the funds, passion and technology that is used in other fields of science would be applied to the audio world, what progress we could make! More or less, we’re dealing with old technologies here. I find that people in high-end audio quickly get uneasy by any advancement in high-end audio. It seems that chewing the chewed is the safe thing for many so called audiophiles. This goes down to the basic laws of psychology. We’re afraid of changes and moving out of our cranial comfort zone.
I’m enthralled by the companies like LessLoss Audio. They are going beyond and are pushing the conventional borders of our experiences and understanding around things high-end audio.
True, to be honest, our entire field of one of subtlety. The meaning of what we do lies in our own perception. That's the beauty of this entire art. I always try to stay out of the easy, sarcastic view of audio. Of course, there are products and companies that go into "voodoo" territory, yet we have to recognize the people and companies that truly try to push the boundaries further. Not just for the sake of some difference in results, but for actually tangible, clearly audible better results.
LessLoss Firewall Power Conditioner
Under the hood lies not your ordinary firewall computer program solution, but the advanced LessLoss Skin-filtering technology. We’ve seen and heard already that Louis Motek and the guys at LessLoss know their stuff. So far I managed to build more then just a balanced system with the LessLoss cabling solutions. It was suggested that the Firewall works very well together with a Furutech eTP-609E, so I got one. I used them in tandem in my system. The LessLoss Firewall has no appreciable current limit and it can be inserted directly before individual components or before a distribution unit such as the eTP-609. The LessLoss solution is a No Caps, No Coils solution, so be absolutely sure you use a distribution unit that is free of any traditional filtering elements such as transformers, chokes, capacitors, and even fuses, etc.).
So what's the buzz about all the traditional noise filtering methods that LessLoss is so adamantly persuading us to revisit and re-evaluate?
Panzerholz, carbon fiber, aluminum, etc. Contemporary state-of-the-art materials in the right alchemical proportion? We’ve seen lately that many ultra high-end companies and products involve quite a few elements in their products. Panzerholz is a building block of the new wave Clearaudio turntables (Ovation, Innovation etc.). Its unique structure and the way it deals with resonance signatures is pushing the boundaries of micro vibration control. Carbon Fiber is not exactly this week's news, but it is clearly becoming more and more of an integral part of high-end gear. Not as a mere aesthetic pleaser, but as a high-tech material that deals with vibrations in a certain way. Just look out how DalbyAudioDesign is using a mixture of materials in their D-7 CBF feet. Ultra high-end extremists are going crazy about those. I can only add my positive remarks about this. With my reference turntable I was experimenting with many different materials. In the end, the best results were always with a combination of materials. Now, this is where the actual art begins. What, where and how much? As with any object within state of the art labeling, nothing is exactly straightforward and simple.
LessLoss seems to be not just jumping onto the wagon, but seems to be there beforehand and is completely up to the current pace of things in high-end audio. For this, there must be a vast arsenal of creative energy and broad thinking behind their decisions. Louis Motek, for sure, is a man of lightning speed and can grab from the most disparate realms to combine logical ties to what might normally appear disassociated randomness… I’m in no need to throw petals at any feet, but it is always inspiring for me to be in touch with people who seem to live in creative perpetual motion.
First encounter of a third kind
I didn’t hear any "revelation" at my first sole meeting with this power conditioner. I’m so-so when it comes to power conditioning. Lot’s of times they do good, or some good, but not without side (d)effects. You might benefit in blacker blacks, yet in most cases I have experienced before, you loose the pace, impact, dynamics and finer nuances from within music. I’m not going into the brand names, but you know you’re way around.
There was a suggested burn-in time for LessLoss Firewall and I agree that at least a few days of constant partnering with electricity does things in favor to the Firewall's performance.
We have to agree on the already mentioned importance of any amplifier's, preamplifier's, phono-stage's, or DAC's built in power supply. I talked a lot with many renowned audio designers and, more or less, they all agree that you have to be careful with the insertion of an additional stand-alone power-filtering device. It is a matter of how certain systems are build and put together, yet when it comes to refinement and final customization of high-end and ultra high-end systems, in most cases, I experienced this and came to the same conclusion. For truly great performance, power conditioners (or "filters", or "regenerators") are not to be used blindly inserted into a system. You can lose a lot of nuance that way and be tricked into admiring a mirage of false coloration.
The LessLoss Firewall is a different bird. The Lamm LL2 preamplifier already had joined my system for quite some time beforehand, and with Antelope Audio Zodiac Golden DAC, Lampizator Level 4 DAC, Gryphon Audio Atilla, the New Valve Order Audio NVO SPA-II phono, and my new Reference turntable all being under the scope, I’ve got quite a heavy arsenal on my hands.
What surprised me most upon using the LessLoss Firewall was the change. With the Firewall inserted before the passive power distributor, it felt more like adding a preamplifier rather than a power conditioner. Gain, fluidity, a blacker ground, dynamics, and a sense of space all seemed added. Something natural happened. Everything had more to do with the sense of an analog feeling of reproduction in a way that is not easy to describe, but I'll try.
The sense of space and depth of the music entered into a new positive realm. Allow me to make an analogy. With the Lamm LL2 in my system, I cannot talk just about a typical tube type sound. The Lamm is darn neutral and one of the most musical and less tube sounding preamps around. The LessLoss Firewall's effect was somewhere between a tube and solid-state preamplifier feeling. What avidly stood out was the grain-less sense of music and event. Articulation, timbre, pace… Everything worked and clicked more realistically.
Road to neutrality
As the LessLoss Firewall works neither as a capacitor nor as an inductor, it opens up a door to neutrality. It is the same feeling as with both the Anchorwave Interconnects and the DFPC power cables. In combination with my full-blown LessLoss cabling now comprising the veins and nerves of my top system, I can authoritatively sum up that the addition of the LessLoss Firewall to my reference system has been a prolonged study in neutrality.
Everything so far seems like logical steps in our system approach review series between Mono & Stereo and LessLoss Audio. It’s a fresh wind, which shines with the breath of music. On his last visit, a good friend and experienced audiophile of some 30 years confirmed my thoughts regarding the Firewall. I do trust my ears (which are checked yearly), but it’s nice to get your findings confirmed every once in a while by someone else. Dynamics, a natural timbre, and a prolonged sense of space were as they should be, and as a scholar and classical musician himself, he confirmed my impression that the bloom, articulation and liveliness were distinct merits and not mere colorations.
Stay tuned for our next installment. For some, an esoteric universe. We’ll climb up the final ladder of ambient field conditioning with the LessLoss Blackbody ambient field conditioner.