Audioplan Powerstar SIII, Powerplant 10, and Finefilter S power products
Audioplan is a long-standing German company, known for its loudspeakers, cables, and power products. In the early 1990s, when the British audio world was going through one of its insular phases, Audioplan was one of the few loudspeaker brands from Continental Europe to succeed in the UK market, and the company doesn’t ‘churn’ its products regularly. All of which makes the absence of the company’s power products in our list of reviewed products something of a mystery; we’ve tried and loved the company’s loudspeakers and cables, and these products command similar respect within the wider community and among our reviewers.
We’ve three products in Audioplan’s power product line-up here, and it’s worth taking them in turn to describe who benefits most from each one, because although they work together, I feel they also have different potential customers. Central to the Audioplan power concept is the PowerStar SIII, a drum-shaped power distribution block fed by a 20A ‘C19’ power socket, with an additional 4mm grounding terminal above the inlet. There are seven sockets on the black top plate of the PowerStar SIII, which sits on three Delrin feet. These are removable, and there’s also a keyhole-shaped recess on the back panel, allowing the PowerStar SIII to be wall-mounted. The PowerStar SIII is made from 5mm thick Delrin-coated aluminium, and the block is both relatively light and not cold to the touch.
No failing of Audioplan at all, but the L-angled commonly plugs used in UK 13A systems don’t look quite as aesthetically pleasing when arranged in a circle: seven power cords rising straight and tall from the top of a giant hockey puck look organised, but the same turned through 90° and laid out not to clash with one another looks a little messy. Fortunately for those of us with more delicate design sensitivities, a lot of audiophile power cords intended for the UK come supplied with top-end plugs, and aesthetic order is restored as a result. There are matching PowerCord S and U designs, which we used throughout, and these will be the subject of a later review.
The layout is more than just for aesthetic purposes. The PowerStar SIII is styled this way for optimum star-earthing properties. Inside the box, the cabling is equidistant to the socket, in the way no conventional bar-shaped power distribution block can be. The only stipulation is the central socket is designed for use with either integrated amplifiers or preamplifiers. Star-earthing makes the PowerStar SIII almost perfect for Naim systems, because the company goes to great lengths (pun intended) to ensure ground lines are the same distances internally, and this has demonstrable effects on the system’s noise floor. Extending that precise grounding from the fusebox to the power inlet helps, too, and given a distribution block can add a metre or so of extra cable between one device and another, this kind of defeats the object. Traditionally, the options open to the user have tended to be captive designs, or custom made ‘hydra’ power cords made up of multiple cords and a lot of electrical tape. With Naim now supplying all its new products with Power-Line Lite with floating pins in the plug, stripping out these plugs to go captive loses out on the benefits of the floating pins, but using a conventional power strip loses out on the benefits of star earthing. The Audioplan PowerStar SIII addresses both without compromising either.
Audioplan’s FineFilter S and PowerPlant 100S are easy to describe, because they share a lot of common design elements: both feature a short captive lead entering a rectangular box with a single power output socket on the top. The 16A capable FineFilter S has two toggle switches flanking the captive lead input, the right one switches the earth filter in or out, while the mains filter has a low and high pass filter, as well as a neutral position. The PowerPlant 100S, meanwhile, is a 100VA power transformer and a filter.
The PowerPlant 100S is great for decoupling smaller digital audio devices from RF interference, as that transformer acts as a buffer. The larger the device, however, the more the transformer seemed to filter a little too much high frequency energy, so it’s not recommended to be used with the more power hungry streamers and SACD transports. In a relatively RF-filled environment, however (such as a modern house filled with Wi-Fi routers and switch-mode power supplies), the PowerPlant 100S is surprisingly good at reducing background hash in a good DAC. People often wonder why a digital device can have background noise at all, neatly forgetting the ‘to analogue’ part, and it’s that section that most benefits from the PowerPlant 100S.
The FineFilter S is perhaps the most difficult of the three to pigeonhole in this way, but is equally effective. Used in some components it can add a sense of authority, weight, and body to the sound, and in others it can add some much-needed lightness and air. And, it must be said, in other systems it can seem to make the soundstage seem deeper and wider while only trading tiny amounts of dynamic range and rhythmic fluidity in the process. On its own, I found it worked particularly well in with headphone amplifiers, adding a sense of even-handedness and air to lateralised sounds, and when I removed it, I missed it, which is always a sign of great performance.
Using all three components together is interesting. Placing the FineFilter S before the PowerStar SIII, and then putting a PowerPlant 100S in the line before the digital device worked well, reducing the noise seemingly inherent in the system without the attendant dynamic range reductions normally found when filters are given a relatively heavy load.
Audioplan adopts a ‘first do no harm’ approach to its power products, and that is hugely refreshing. Each product here addresses a specific need, and addresses it well. Although the PowerStar SIII has an additional bonus for Naim Audio users, all three come highly recommended.
Audioplan PowerStar SIII: £495
Audioplan PowerCord S: £195
Audioplan PowerCord U: £625
Audioplan FineFilter S: £575
Audioplan PowerPlant 100S: £525
Manufactured by: Audioplan
Distributed in the UK by: Ikon Audio Consultants
Tel: +44(0)7956 476299
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