Friday, 15 May 2015

FRANK PE-35 GROUND LOOP EMI FILTER - Get Rid of That Noise


The love hate relationship of Electricity/Power Supply and HiFi has been a debate in the industry as long as I can remember. There are believers and non believers. There are are abundant of scientific facts you can find in various forums or white papers to support and not to support the effect of power supply to one's hifi.  

There are so many devices out there to inject that extra zest to a sound system by controlling, filtering, stabilizing the power supply. So, how does electricity effects your HiFi system?

Quoted from Advance Electronic Limited: 'Electrical pollution or noise on the mains supply would cause that sound to dim, brighten and flicker, as your HiFi components tried to process the contaminated signal. HiFi source components are very sensitive to electrical pollution because the audio signal they produce is at a very low voltage, and this signal must be amplified in order to drive the speakers. Amplification is achieved by using the incoming mains supply to electronically boost the signal, and a polluted mains supply will prevent the electronics within your HiFi equipment from operating as intended. This causes a cascade effect within the electronic circuitry, resulting in a polluted amplified signal.... '

Some of the devices out there that can combat this issue may cost user an arm and a leg. Although there are cheaper alternative, I have yet to find that can really deliver what they are intended to do. Early last year, I have reviewed Magnet Isoclean 1000s which made wonders to my system especially for daylight listening. Since then, I am convinced that with the right power supply kit, it can provide a solution to certain electrical interference issues I may have with my system.

Then came Frank Voon's suite of products which I really fancy to have in my system. The first time I experience his famous power bank was during the RAVE System Launch Event back in 2013. Then, I also experienced the effect of power bank in a fellow audiophile, Sting's system. Both gave me such a wonderful experience that I yearn to have one in my system. However, given that I lost my man cave and my system is now in the main living room, I have to wait for Frank to visit my place and advice me on how the power bank can best fit into my system.

So, what exactly that I am unsatisfied with my system since I shifted from my man cave to the main hall? Lots  of it...:
  1. At times, my system sounds a little bit restricted to reproduce music especially during day time and particularly on my digital sources i,e, CD player, MD player, streamer and CAS.
  2. The liveliness in the digital sources seems not up to par to my analogue source.
  3. Power of all my 10 components are fed from my Belkin PF50 which acts more as a surge protector than any other function it claims to do.
  4. And this Belkin PF50 is plugged into an existing wall socket that share the same line with 2 other wall sockets. One of them is being used by the washing machine and dryer in the kitchen. Not ideal at all. 
  5. Less involving experience with metal music on digital format

So, I needed a solution that will not require another wall socket nor a bulky device to add onto my hifi rack. And then came Frank Voon with his latest product PE-35 Ground Loop EMI Filter.

A date was set on 25th April, and Frank and his staff came and install this unit in my DB.









BUILT AND SPEC

This EMI filter is relatively lightweight and a non intrusive device. As you can see in the pictures above, it fits nicely in any standard distribution box (DB). It is sturdily built from high quality plastic enclosure and weaved cable enclosure.

The installation was straight forward enough. Frank is very familiar with the electrical circuit of the houses in my residential area. It only took 5 minutes for him to figure out which fuse/line is my hifi set up is connected to the DB.

The whole installation only took 20 minutes or so.

For a full explanation on what this unit does, please refer to Frank's website

THE SETLIST

I already prepared the following test tracks to see how this filter can improve my listening experience:

1. Bad Moon Rising - CCR on FLAC 24/96 and streamed via AptX BT
2. Louisiana 1927 - Aaron Neville on CD
3. Maybe - Birdy on MP3 320kbps and streamed via AptX BT
4. Enter Sandman - Metallica on CD
5. Bamboleo - Gypsy Kings on MD
6. You Were Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson on CD
7. Classic and Jazz French internet radio

All tracks were fed into my Musical Fidelity M6 DAC except for the internet radio which is streamed over the net via Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC.

THE SESSION

As my issues is mostly due to my day time listening, the session was done between noon to 5 pm where the voltage in my system can peak up to 260 Volts.  Also, the session is done at lower volume than usual.

The old classic of Bad Moon Rising  was such a joy to listen to. Previously, the sound was a bit flat with very little life to the song. The guitar riffs was much more melodic even at low volume (less than 9 o' clock on the volume knob). The separation between the rhythm, lead and bass guitar was very evident, especially the bass guitar. Overall, the clarity and liveliness of this track was much more enjoyable than before.

Aaron's Louisiana 1927 was presented in a very emotional environment. The percussion on this track was subtle but extended especially on the snare. Did it match my analogue experience? not quite but much improvement can be heard and on my lazy days of spinning the black disc, I would be satisfied spinning the shiny silver disc instead.  The vocal was also very alive and emotional. Very entertaining.

Birdy's vibrating vocal on the Maybe track is very clear and non-mumble which previously can sound a bit muffled. Again, separation and clarity were the two characteristics that were very revealing and I like this. The sound stage remain similar to before but with this new found clarity and separation, I am much more convinced of how important clean power is to a system.

Metallica's Enter Sandman was the ultimate test as metal music is one of the genres that suffer most in my set up on the digital side. Playing this special edition fully autographed gold CD, I notice that Lars's hi hat was sharper than usual. While the bass drum was more cohesive into the overall music, Kirk's guitar solo was also livelier and the swirling effect was more evident. I particularly enjoyed the bass drum during the 'prayer' section. 



Just to push the envelope of separation, I played Bamboleo on my faithful SONY ES MD player. MD although was a smart medium for portability at that time, it can still sound compressed with its ATRAC format.  However, feeding this to the DAC and with the filter in place, the multiple guitars and percussion was presented in a layer by layer environment. Overall separation of each instrument was very clear that you can appreciate more the fusion of the different guitar strums and the percussion.

Willie Nelson's You Were Always On My Mind was elevated to a different level when it comes solidness of the overall sound stage. This track is quite famous of its big sound stage but at times, it can sound a bit too fluid and dispersed. This time around, I can feel that the presentation was more controlled and confined to my listening space with the right limit. I felt that I was wrapped in the music with no leaks around my hall. Excellent experience.

Last but not least, my favorite internet radio station, Classic and Jazz, based in France and broadcasting at 128 kbps. At the moment of this session, they were playing lots of Frank Sinatra's music.  The first character that popped up was in the low end section. The bass was more subdued and clear. At this broadcast rate, it can sometimes be more on the shrilling side due to the revealing treble. But the bass this time around just came up and provided a very involving radio streaming.

THE VERDICT

Did the PE-35 effect the music reproduction of my system? YES. 
Did it solve all the issues I face? ALMOST. I still feel I can extract more juice from my system. Need to explore other Frank's product.

In general, this EMI filter managed to  push my system to deliver more clarity and and separation of different layers of musical arrangement. It also brought out some of the lower end notes to a different level, more subdued and controlled manner. Overall presentation of my system on the digital side was livelier. It was expressed in a more emotional and enveloping environment.

Who can benefit from this filter? I believe, the one that will benefit most will be people without a dedicated power line for their hifi system or proper grounding system. It will be among the cheapest way to elevate their system to a different level without all the headache of reconstruction of their house wiring system.

One can order this unit from Frank Acoustics via phone +6012 2981011 and it is priced at USD650 excluding installation.

Special thanks to Frank Voon for his excellent advice and high quality workmanship.
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