LAB12 Gordian power multifunctional distributor conditioner review


The LAB12 gordian power is a multifuction power distributor/conditioner that is a very cleverly constructed from the beginning showed a great sonic potential. According to the developer, Stratos Vichos, it is "basically a unit that is designed to clean up your mains supply without affecting the dynamics of the system" - which I can fully confirm.

Gordian incorporates an industrial grade power analyzer which lets you inspect all the aspects of the AC power signal. Among other things it provides data about:

• Frequency (accuracy 0.0005%)
• Total Harmonic Distortion (THD - accuracy 0.005%)
• RMS Voltage/Current
• Power Consumption
• Power Factor
• FFT (Frequency analysis)
• DC Voltage

and more…

THE POWER FOCUS


Story behind the Gordian is very interesting. First prototype was actually designed for the LAB12 own needs in their lab. Athens seems to have really bad electricity and this goes in peek  especially in the summer months. 

In trying to remedy his situation Stratos borrowed many other filters on the market. In practical situation he found out that they all try to project great success with noise killing, but while doing it most of them destroyed the highly important parameters of the power. 

So the design focus with Gordian was simple. As first, to avoid the usual hubris and secondly to brig the beneficial, workable solutions that would actually work. While some other power filters can lay down their story on the white paper with better db ratio of noise suppression (it is easy to add big chokes with meters of copper) it is not so easy to keep the power dynamic intact or adding unwanted additional things into the power. 

If there are two main important factors to be highlighted about the Gordian then certainly analyzer and the adaptive filtering. These two takes the prime role…

Gordian analyzer is consisted of 8 discrete sensing modules that continuously track your mains power and adapts the filter configuration for optimal performance, maximum power factor and zero compression of dynamics. Current, Voltage, Power, Frequency, EMI noise level, DC voltage, Ground resistance and polarity check are some of the characteristics being continuously tracked. A Powerful processor in Gordian uses this information on the background to compute the frequency content of Voltage and Current (FFT transformation), the power factor (how efficiently does system absorb electrical power), the level of EMI noise, the total harmonic distortion of voltage, current and other crucial indicators of electrical power quality.

All the above information is inspectable through a big and eligible OLED display and a convenient user interface in the front of the device. However, magic flows behind the Gordian’s face plate! All the technical details that are collected from the analyzer are not there just for the end user eyes…


Informations are also used as input to the automatic filter adaption module. This module is responsible for adapting the filter configuration up to 2 times in a minute to ensure that filter perfectly matches the characteristics of power line and given system. That means adequate filtering results and no dynamics compression happens at all. “A single coat is good for the winter, but choosing the right clothes according to the current temperature is much better and saves you from sweating if it’s a little warmer or freezing if it is a little colder.” That’s the difference between a conventional power conditioner and Gordian. Believe it or not. Everyone mains power variations may be much more erratic than the weather at anyone’s place…

Of course if you like the experiments you can get the control of the filtering configuration and manually select among 16 different setups. The same applies for the Power Factor correction circuit. From all the aspects Gordian comes as innovative device that offers something new, smart and effective a d distinguish itsef from the majority of competitive products. And taking the price into the consideration, this package surely looks like a no brainer…

INSPIRATION BEHIND THE GORDIAN


Putting it simple. It more or less known to audiophiles and music lovers, how sound of high-end audio system is not only dependable on the power that is delivered from power network, but its in its own way modulated into the sound signal. Even the best power supply designs cannot stay unaffected from the quality of power.

In order to responsibly set up the system, first demand and needed thing is to take care of the power in one way or another. Especially with anyone wanting to label himself as true high-ender/audiophile…


Over numerous experiments and R & D Stratos realized that almost all power conditioners available on the market are designed in particular two headed way. One one hand they would bring the positive benefits and sadly the second impact introduces their own set of problems. 

All in all, we’re really in no abundance of proper power analyzer in high-end audio market. Yes, you can found quite some complex analyzers in other industries, but they usually approaches the electrical power in much different way then what’s typically needed and associated with the high-end audio logic.


So the idea was almost born! Stratos wanted to create an accurate (really precise and detailed) power quality analyzer, specialized for high-end systems. Basic idea was to provide real world measurements of power quality. In this way one would get a clearer idea and could much easier detect where the biggest problems resides. In such was, when located and isolated inside the power network/high-end audio system the specific problem could be pinpointed, targeted and remedied. 

This, translating into the non-technical words means that there are many kind of power pollutions. Some companies try to cure them with a filtering device (different kind of filtering approaches permanently attached to the audio system) usually resulting in the over damping of the dynamic along with many other negative paraphernalia. 

LAB12 system technology first analyze everything and only then determine the minimum required processing. This active process operates every second by monitoring power/system combination and automatically attach only needed filters. 

As far as I know there is no such power conditioning device with similar array of features in high-end audio, that combines the analyzing power and adaptive filtering in this particular way. That makes Gordian special and very different from other power conditioners.

IN OPERATION


The biggest problem with power conditioner “in motion” is/was always the side (d)effects. Dealing with electricity is tangible thing and every thing matters to the bone. Sometimes, all surrounded reminds on the uber sensitive high-end audio vinyl system, where every nuance can affect the sound. 

I’ve demonstrated countless times how even the simple power chord exchange from the main outlet to power distributor can change the outcome drastically. The more you play around power, cables etc., the crazier it gets. 

Next step from power cable is power distributor. And it gets even more complex. Its like changing the car tires on a great car and each time you need to recheck out the handling, curve grip etc. 

I’ve experienced some drastically changes with certain exotic power distributors that changed my perspective completely. For sure I wouldn’t call myself a non believer, but I can be labeled as safe side objectivist anytime. Nobody want’s really wants to be the biggest sucker, especially it you’re in the position of reference where people are not only judging you, but also follow the conclusions, ask for advices and non the less trust in your summaries enough to go out and spent their hard earned money. 


So… I did my healthy dosage of testing over the years and the difference comes both subtle and most drastic way. From fractional improvements to eye and ear opener surprises. 

Measuring Frequency, Total Harmonic Distortion, RMS Voltage/Current, Power Consumption, Power Factor,FFT (Frequency analysis) and DC Voltage serves the data part. What’s next?

You can use this data to trace the AC signal of your provider, inspect the power consumption of audio system, investigate problems on your local electric network (find household devices that affect the quality of your power source) or/and choose the optimal filtering mode.

During listening tests Gordian immediately smoothed out some rough edges and provided a sense of natural warmth which was actually the absence of any "cold" sounding artifacts caused by the industrial and other pollution, in the electrical network and surrounding "air".

Throughout several days of use the display showed the distortion spectrum varied greatly but the LAB12 gordian ensured a consistently high performance levels. Nothing important was taken away except for the "grunge" which is very positive. The sense of vibrant energy in the music was absolutely enhanced and this helped to portray a very believable sonic picture. The micro and macro dynamics were notably better which is an excellent sign.


The inner resolution of instruments and voices was lifted to another level and one could hear the details very deeply into the back of the recording venues. The transparency was also improved by a substantial margin and all this without a hint of any harshness or stridency. 

To fully appreciate what LAB12 gordian does to your system, one needs to remove it to experience the sad situation which we usually confront with unfiltered electricity. Depending on where you live, the results may vary but in my case the effect of cleaner and more stable electric power was impossible to overhear.

What is very interesting with this conditioner is that the filtering topology is highly configurable. The end user can choose between several modes of operation or just let Gordian choose the optimal configuration for the characteristics of the power line based on the metrics that has been gathered by the power analyzer. The same applies for the power factor correction as well. It is quite impressive to see Gordian automatically adapting its filtering configuration when the quality of the power changes for some reason (e.g. when noisy appliance gets into operation).

MUSIC


Quality of power closely correlate with not only overused audiophile naming, but in a much broader spectrum. It’s not always simples job on the earth to convey physical/listening experiences on the paper. Still, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Two of the attributes, keep popping out of my testing/listening notes was density and dynamic impact. 

Taking on the “tour” of the usual array of well know and essential testing tracks my prolonged mission of testing and comparing began. Insertion into the system for some time comes as mandatory first step. In that period nothing is changed and one gets accustomed to the device’s role and impact. Good or bad :). Next step, after few weeks its time to remove newcomer from the system. Mind resolves in pattern recognition, after 20 operational times of anything being repeated. So in general, it takes at least two dozen of listenings before our inner clock readjust to the new setting. In this way our modus operandi is obliged and we can move from the stress zone. After this period actual and objective conclusions can be drawn. 

The last step is alway re-insertion of the device under the test. Yes, it takes additional readjusting, but this also produce the best and no nonsense conclusions. 

Digging into my listening notes resolved with very interesting constant. My first remarks were matched with my last ones. For example…

Sade’s Diamond Life is always a great asset when something is under the scope review. Not exactly an easy album to reproduce. Pop genre, yes, but what a record! To get fully impacted with Sade’s inconceivable sense of melachony and expertly produced songs system needs to be both unabridged in performance and set properly by default. Easy right!? By all means, NO!

Gordian acted beyond dutifulness. All the Diamond Life’s embellishments were projected with fuller scale having LAB12 power conditioner inserted. Or to put it in a more palpable way. It all made sense and songs were reproduced as whole harmonic compositions rather then bland sum of recorded parts. No wickedness intended. Even with studio produced songs one can feel totally disconnected when things are not set right…

Next on. Júlio Resende - Fado & Further 

Great late discovery of wonderful piano playing. Uma outra Mariquinhas comes as intimate, involving and with a great sense of space where notes can manifest into the acoustic space. It takes some stand out addition to any system to push this song to the next level and remerge all the smallest particles back into the potent reconstruction. Reaching deeper into the tone and harmonic overlays was an instant positive benefit with the Gordian insertion and it was the same with harmonic decay, delays and reverb points. Surprising change!  

Pierre-Laurent Aimard BACH The Well-Tempered Clavier
This particular two hour journey might not be everyones cup of tea. Still, you don’t want to loose a second of the attention while still having all the fun with Bach. Again, record that shows contextual simplicity. Its always the hardest thing to reproduce the pure primary focus and attributes. For that synergy and potency is needed.


So, when the difference comes to place, that can be called a true step forward right? Well, only when music is affected at its core… 

I’m not talking about quasi audiophile jargon, but about tempi, tone, timbre… With this recording the absence of Gordian great amount of musical energy flow was gone. Instead of radiant delicacy of piano harmonic and lyric structure, Bach sounded austere and bland. Gordian resolve with a condense nature of no small effect!  

Even the minusculus rise of these attributes gets my attention and Goridan rather marched with grand impact then acting with the subtle changes. For a device at this price point, this is no small victory.

CONCLUSION


First and foremost. There are heck a lot going on under the hood of this mighty machine. I’m guessing, that if you made so far through the review you already figured that out :). 

Inner workings of electrical power are much more complex to handle, then most would like and love to admit. Like with everything in high-end audio, serious approach and non the less factual results demands an elaborated dedication and proper know how. Its one thing to theorize about it, putting it into effective, working concept (in motion) is completely another subject matter. And this is where LAB12 and its proprietor Stratos comes in the spotlight.


Stratos Vichos comes as the different small venture high-end audio manufacturer. He’s among the younger, contemporary generation, that brought his passion, DIY explorations and dedication into the operating venture, that managed to grow to the point where he got more then just recognition. Following from industry and end users elevated him to the plane where he can operate as a brand. Small, but affective. 

Stratos is honest, down to earth guy with hearth and mind at the right place. His vision encapsulate high-end products that matters, come with the stand out functionality and with the down to earth pricing. How can one not respect such determination? In the era where majority of companies wants you to shell into the deepest abyss of your pocket to get a meaningful performance, it s encouraging to see such kind of mentality being both fruitful and manifested into a success story. 

LAB12 Gordian comes packed with abundance of features, that would easily push it to the price range usually charged for a small car if sold and promoted by some of the renowned brands. I’m happy and enthusiastic about products like Gordian, where performance, working technical concepts and price comes hand in hand. 

LAB12 Gordian has proven itself to act where its most crucial; the music! With less then just subtle ability to shift up the performance and bringing one closer to the epicenter of the music, Gordian comes as an objective proof regarding electricity and power being constitutional for any proper high-end audio system.

For what it represent and how it can effect the high-end audio system I’m happily awarding LAB12 Gordian with Mono & Stereo Best Buy Award.

Products like Gordian needs to be cherished and recognized. This renders positive light on our industry and the needed progressive young minds. As most of you, I wish that our beloved industry develops and constantly moves forward. Without people like Stratos there would be a big, blank gap that is needed to be filled mandatory. 

Not to forget… LAB12 comes with the Gordian power cable, that is usually sold separately for 200 EUR.

Text: Matej Isak

PRICE


1400 EUR for EU version.

TECHNICAL


• 20A KNACK AC power cable included
• Adaptive EMI RFI filtering
• Adaptive Common and differential filters
• Adaptive Power Factor correction
• Overvoltage protection
• FFT analysis
• DC voltage analysis
• THD analysis
• Power consumption analysis
• AC voltage, current analysis
• 2 High Current filtered outputs
• 4 Low Current filtered outputs
• Auto On / Off display system (system current monitoring)
• 20A High Current Input

CONTACT


Lab12 - Handcrafted High-End Audio
Lachana 12 Neo
Irakleio
14121 Athens
Greece

Tel: +306972234227