Black Box Super Conditioner
Three-way surge protection and mains filtering components
The Black Box Super Conditioner provides two functions in one compact yet powerful package - it offers protection against small-to-moderate mains spikes and surges, with our highly-specified components protecting three ways from Earth to Live, Earth to Neutral and Live to Neutral. The Black Box Super Conditioner also removes any high-frequency noise from your mains supply, which 'cleans up' the sine wave of the AC current flowing into your hi-fi. The components used are of the finest quality, and are specified such that they remove the greatest amount of noise without hindering the flow of current, when this happens your system can sound less dynamic and less expressive, giving a restrained and 'closed in' feeling to the sound.
Note that we don't guarantee that this will give any protection against massive power surges, such as lightning strikes. If you require this protection then you should also invest in a specialised protection unit as well as the Black Box Super Conditioner.
The Super Conditioner module can also be built into our PowerBlack Distribution Block and Solid Silver Distribution Block if required, and can be added on special request to other PSUs (contact us for details).
(This review was very kindly carried out by a loyal customer, who went through the trouble of providing us with a very thorough and professional review)
Avid Diva II turntable, fitted with Rega RB300 arm and Denon DL110 cartridge
Graham Slee Communicator II phono stage
Naim NAC82 / NAPSC / HiCap / NAP180 amplifier
Dynaudio Contour 1.3mkII speakers
All connected with manufacturer-supplied power cables into wall sockets / standard plastic-bodied 4-gang extension lead.
The ring main that powers this system also powers a few usual suspects for noise generation (namely laptop and TV). If you've already gone down the route of dedicated ring main or have other mains devices, note that this review applies to a setup with no other attention to the mains power supply. Not to say that the filter will not still have an effect on these setups of course!
I was advised before receiving this device that it would be best to leave it plugged in for 24 hours or so before it would sound at its best. I can't comment on the validity of this as I dutifully plugged it in and went out for the evening. The next evening I tested it.
The test began with Verdi's Requiem (Solti / Decca). The dies irae is a challenging passage, combining big percussion, high brass/strings and a full chorus. Without the filter in place, the drums had all of their presence and echo, with the top end hard to pick out, as usual. With the filter, the picture was rather different. There was not much tangible difference down at the already pleasantly fat low end, but the upper registers were almost a revelation. Brass loses its harsh, almost grating quality and becomes as bright as it should be. The chorus is easier to follow, as one can now hear what is being sung rather than aware that something vocal is going on behind a screen of music. It was rather as if a veil had been removed from between ears and speakers.
Next up was Beethoven's Fidelio (Klemperer / Columbia). This is a fantastic, lively recording, and the first duet and aria seemed as good as any to try. This is musically extremely simple, much more so than the Requiem, with only a strong voice and a light instrumental accompaniment. Tone is beautifully captured on the record, and Klemperer's grasp of the music is without match. Here there was slightly less difference with or without the filter. The voices were a touch purer with the filter in place, though it was not as obvious as for the previous test with the Verdi. With Beethoven, it takes an A/B listen and some concentration to tell the difference.
Moving back to something dramatic, Orff's Carmina Burana (Jochum / Deutsche Grammophon) fits the bill. DG (especially from the mid 70s onwards) were better known for the quality of their performers than their recordings. This is demonstrated here - the recording is rather gritty and tends towards harshness, though clearly it's an impressive performance. Listening to one of the later passages, without the filter, the top end is once again rough. To the point of setting one's teeth on edge. As in the Requiem, the top end becomes cleaner, more open (and, in this case, just about bearable) when the filter is introduced. It doesn't make the quality of the mastering any better (of course, this is just not possible!) but seems to make the very best of it.
Another Verdi is next, the opening scene of Otello (Karajan / Decca). This harks back to Decca's golden age of recording, and it shows. Tonally this is much purer, sounds are fuller and more natural and stereo imaging is wonderful. The first scene is somewhat muted, with a constant low organ note indicating the power of the storm, and a rather manic chorus singing over the top. It sounds pretty good with mains power as it comes, with even the top brass notes sounding much clearer than in the later Decca recording of the Requiem. With the filter in place though, things are again much clearer. Otello's opening speech seems more powerful, as it is becomes more prominent. Once again, everything becomes cleaner and clearer. Here you could keep turning up the volume, and your neighbours would complain before your ears. Bliss.
Next in line was Mozart's Haffner Serenade (Hlavacek / Supraphon). This is a Czechoslovakian label (from the days when Czechoslovakia existed, anyway), which can be a little hit-and-miss in quality. Fortunately, this record was one of the former. The strings in the opening passage are crisp and clear, though there is a hint of screech on some notes. Again, the filter brings much more clarity, and makes some of the gentle, shimmering stringwork in the first movement more prominent and easier to track with the ear.
Finally, the obligatory non-classical piece. I've thus far used classical music as it includes a huge variety of musical styles and is often fantastically well-recorded (later DG stuff aside, though it's still better than a lot of non-classical vinyl made at the time, and even more CDs produced this century). However, foot-tapping, gripping pieces are comparatively few and far between, so the Rolling Stones have been brought out, with Paint It Black. This is on the album 'Rolled Gold +', a recent audiophile pressing release. The opening guitar sounds good whatever it's played on, but with the filter in place it sounds even better. More striking though is the cymbals once the song really gets going. They usually sound flat, one-dimensional and frankly become a distraction once the singing starts. With the filter in place though, they sound like cymbals and become a joy to listen to instead of an irritation.
In conclusion, this filter is extremely good at clearing up the top end. If your tastes lead you to very simple music, say voice and piano only, you may not hear as great an improvement as you would with more complex pieces – you will still appreciate the difference though. If you do listen to anything that's more involved and has more going on, or has a lively top end, you really, really should get this filter. Value for money wise, it is probably the best £80 you’ll ever spend!
The case we use for the Black Box Super Conditioner is made from a tough ABS plastic, and is narrow enough to not to interfere with plugs plugged into adjacent sockets on an extension socket. It is fitted with a UK plug as standard, but if a different plug is required then we can build the Super Conditioner module into an alumimiun case and add a short mains cable to allow any type of mains plug to be used, including silver-plated versions. This case can be supplied with IEC outlet sockets, or made into a complete multi-output distribution block. Please contact us for full details.
Case Dimensions: 78mm x 52mm x 52mm (HxWxD)