GigaWatt. Interview with Adam Szubert – the founder and main constructor of the company GigaWatt by Jacek Kłos:
J.K.: We saw each other during last year’s Audio Show. What new products were presented since?
A.S.: The conditioner PC-2 Evo and the new versions of the cables: LC-2 Mk2 and LC-1 Mk2. Although the names suggest only a small face-lifting, in fact the changes were fundamental. We use new plugs, conductors and isolators of higher quality, modified geometry and improved shielding. Instead of woven thin strings we use now solid wires from pure copper. In the LC-2 Mk2 we added a sheath from a plastic material. It damps vibration, so it does not transfer onto the conducting wires. This little improvement had a very positive influence on the sound. The energy transfer was improved. The plugs – both the Schuko and the IEC ones – are by Oyaide, from the basic series. Possibly in the future we would like to use our own constructions. It would be a cheaper version of the one we use in the LS-1. The initial costs of the investment tame our enthusiasm a bit, but in time such a thing will appear. Talking about the conditioner, the Evo series should be regarded as a revolution and not evolution. We completely changed our way of thinking about power devices and in effect a completely new product was created. Until recently all the Gigawatt conditioners had a filter, where there was galvanic separation at its output. With other words: they had transformers inside, separating the devices connected to the sockets. In the PC-2 Evo there are no transformers, and the function is based on three independent filters. In the older models, it was actually one circuit. Here we have three separate branches, which power separate sections of sockets. The filters use new components, like metalized polyester capacitors with low inductance, and are powered from common power rails. Those rails are slabs from metallurgical refined copper. In this process 4N (99.99%) copper purity is achieved.
Departure from galvanic separation is a surprise. For years you used that method as an effective remedy for the power shortcomings.
Transformers are fine in terms of damping interference – there is no doubt about that. They are effective, but the price is, unfortunately, limited load capacity. It is a direct derivate from their power and size, so we can increase the size of the transformer. But we cannot do that indefinitely, because the bigger the transformer, the harder it is to produce it. Also increased cost is an important factor, but the main problem is the precision. If the core will not be made precise enough – the whole will start to hum. In home gear we will develop the technology used for the first time in the PC-2 Evo. It is so promising, that we plan to carry it over to other models: PC-3 Evo, PC-3 SE Evo, PC-4 Evo and even PC-1 Evo. Galvanic separation will be available in professional models, which we are also planning.
What is the superiority of the new filters over galvanic separation?
They do not have current limitations.
Well, this may be true, but for digital devices we do not need big transformers. The current draw is limited. Don’t we lose anything, resigning from the transformers in the low current outputs?
No. It is true, that digital sources, or even preamplifiers, have lower current draw than amplifiers. But listening tests showed, that even here the direct filtering gives more. The PC-2 Evo is made from six modules. The first one has a phase control circuit, anti-overvoltage elements, a circuit controlling the buffer and the initial filter. From here we have three common power rails with big diameter, which power the filters. Please note, that each of the filter branches is optimized for the devices it will power. So we have the Digital, Analog and High Current branch. The filter for the digital devices is different to the one powering the analog or the amplifiers. Digital devices have more noise, so they need effective filtration most of all, and not that much a quick impulse. On the other hand to the High Current outputs we will plug in amplifiers, so there the impulse response is most important. The asset of the Evo, compared to the previous conditioners, is also the capacity of the filters, and the buffering circuit is doubled. On the output of the filters there is also a system of power bars leading the current to the output sockets.
What will be the difference between the PC-2 Evo and the upper models?
The name “Evo” stands for the concept, while the differences will be in the execution and used parts. In the PC-3 Evo we will use two sided PCBs with silver plated traces and even higher cross-section. It is worth mentioning, that the PC-2 Evo has them three times as thick as the older conditioners. In addition the PC-3 Evo will have better capacitors, silver plated internal cabling, a more powerful filtering circuit and noiseless voltage indicator. In the PC-3 SE Evo there will be a better power cable, the LC-2 Mk2, and in addition the Carling electro hydraulic switch, an even bigger buffering circuit and silver plated power bars. We noticed that this improves the propagation of the power and allow for an optimal electrical contact.
And the 32 Ampere Neutrik connector?
This is reserved for our top PC-4 Evo conditioner. Our flagship conditioner has twelve sockets, so to provide enough current and impulse power we decided to use this connector. 32 ampere is a very high current, so even a very loaded filter will work exactly as it should. Due to the higher capacity of the individual outputs we will have to design new circuitry on the PCBs. For production we will use twice the copper we had in the PCBs to date. Higher amount of copper will increase the energy output and will lower the operating temperature. Beside the components mounted in the PC-3 SE Evo, the PC-4 Evo will have more effective filters using nanocrystal cores and better capacitors, a more potent buffering circuit and the new power cable LC-2 HC Mk2 (with the PowerCon plug). Also the size of it will change. The PC-4 Evo will be shorter than the 4 currently in production, and inside the cabinet there will be more elements made from aluminum alloys.
How will the conditioner protect the attached gear?
This is where the anti-overvoltage elements kick in: varistors, plasma sparks and in the PC-3 SE Evo and PC-4 Evo additionally the Carling switch, which works similar to over current switches, mounted typically in the house fuse boxes. But it is much more complicated, as it has to take into account the specifics of hi-fi gear. Let’s imagine, that there is a voltage surge in the power grid. The attached gear must stay untouched, so the whole surge is absorbed by the conditioner. The surge protection elements work in a way, that under normal conditions they are transparent. But after borderline parameters are crossed – they work as a short-circuit. This on the other hand blocks the conditioner input and the house over current protection kicks in, or, in the PC-3 SE Evo or the PC-4 Evo, the Carling switch. In both cases, the attached gear remains safe.
So the conditioner emulates a short circuit in the power line and allows the fuses to blow in the house box?
You can call it that way. If it will be an older type fuse – it will blow. The conditioner is designed to work correctly with the house electrical installation. We resigned from using traditional fuses in our gear, because they throttle energy. The thin wire inside the fuse is a barrier damping the current flow. Yes, blowing that fuse is a simple way to protect the gear, but it influences sound too much.
So exchanging a traditional fuse in the amplifier or CD player to a golden version makes sense?
Yes. Companies like AHP make such elements precisely. The wire inside remains thin, but the contact with the connectors is better, what translates in better sound. So when there is no other option – it is worth using those.
Is it necessary to burn in a conditioner?
It will sound from the very beginning, but reaching full potential requires at least 70 hours. To be completely safe it is worth playing it for two weeks. After that time the unit will be fully burned in. Similar timeframe is for the power cables.
LS-1 is your top power cable. It costs not much less than a conditioner. Was the price set after comparing to the competition, or is it related to costs of the components and work?
The basic assumption for the LS-1 was simple. We wanted to make an absolutely uncompromised power cable. With no limits in terms of finance. The price reflects the work needed for each cable to be made. The conductors are manufactured especially for us, according to our individual specs. Similarly the plugs are also made only for us, so we needed to pay for the moulds used to cast them. The LS-1 has a nanocrystal filter. This is the passive module visible on the cable in the aluminum casing. It has very small particles, what makes them very dense. Already a very small element has excellent magnetic capabilities. Those are used instead of ferrite rings, which are gradually phased out. Nanocrystal filters are better, they positively influence the sound, but are also more expensive. This is the reason, that we use them only in the top conditioner PC-4. Currently the price does not allow to implement it in the lower models. The LS-1 is very difficult to manufacture, because it is fully handmade. This is not a cable from a spool, which you just need to cut to appropriate length and attach the plugs. Here everything starts with the individual conductors. We take one, then another, and another and we put them in the right geometry. We add the isolator, then a distance, shields, then another layer of isolation and finally the external cover. The construction of the LS-1 is so difficult, that the maximum length we can offer is 2 meters. We once took an order for a 2.5m length, but never again. Pulling the cables through isolators at such length is a true acrobatics. 2 meters is the borderline length. And still making one cable takes many hours of hard work of a skilled technician. This all translates into its price, but I think, that its sonic value is worth it.
What else are you working on?
We designed an installation cable. It turned out to be so good, that the first run was sold immediately. There is lot of interest in it, so we are working on an improved version. Currently we offer the 3x4mm2 version, but there will also be a slightly cheaper 2×2.5mm2 one. This cable is available in any length. The version 3×4 costs EUR 29.00/m and the 3×2.5 – EUR 20.00/m.
For an electrical cable to put in your wall it is not a low price.
This is the price for a non-standard approach and manufacturing to an individual specification. If something is produced in kilometers, then the price may fall, but when it has to be made exactly as we imagine it, then each change to the standard version results in a dramatic increase in the costs. We could say this is a whim, but we thing, that this is just a pursuance of perfection. Here we come to the basic question: there is no installation cable with a construction as proposed by Gigawatt. Our project consists of three working wires, surrounded with a tight shield from laminated aluminum foil, which does not allow any distortion to pass. Alongside the shield there is a runoff lead, which allows it to be connected. The whole is surrounded by a plastic damping material, similar to the one used in the LC-2 Mk2. And atop of that there goes an external cover. The copper is very pure. The conductors are not solid core, but cords, and the whole is covered by a dense shield.
And there is really no similar product at a lower price?
There is… at a higher one. One of the American companies proposes a similar cable, but you need to pay for it USD 25.00 per foot. And I do not even want to mention Acrolink, because that is purely stellar. And besides please look at this from a different standpoint. Usually you do not need vast lengths of installation cables. How far can it be from the fuse box to the hi-fi system in an average home? A few meters? Maybe a dozen? Even in case of our more expensive model it is not much, especially that the whole system profits from that. This is a very effective upgrade. We spend a few hundred złotys and all elements of the system sound better. Because you have to take into account, that the cable in the wall also has an effect on the sound.
So we have the installation cable, power sockets. So can we expect a fuse with Gigawatt logo on it?
You know, this is an interesting idea! We did not plan for that though, but I am thinking now, that this makes sense. Until recently all Gigawatt products, and previously Power Audio Laboratories products, came from the idea, that they are needed. I had the need to create a high-end power strip, conditioner, power cable. But a fuse? Why not? But currently we are busy with previous projects. We will introduce an economy strip PF-1E for users, who would like a Gigawatt product at home, but at the same time spend less than EUR 400. We announced it quite some time ago, and probably we will be able to close the project soon. We also announced the LS-2 cable – a tab above LS-1 – and filters, as a cheaper alternative to the conditioners. There will be one common filtering branch inside a conditioner enclosure. A circuit more advanced than a strip, but simpler than in the PC-2 Evo, thus cheaper. I can officially say, that in 2011 we will have the PC-3 Evo conditioner and the power strip PF-1E. We plan also to start working on the LC-3 cable. Will there be anything else? Probably yes, but at the moment I cannot speak about them.
So the only thing left for me is to wish you luck. Thank you for this conversation.