Starwiring or standard brass strips? Plastic or Aluminium housing? What are the differences?
The big problem in reviewing these extensionblocks is that there are many variables. in addidtion to the powercable, the material used for the internal strips, the internal cabling and the housing all contribute to the sound. But we tried our best finding the red line. The differences turned out to be huge.
Originally this review was very lengthy but I decided to make it shorter and more to the point, so here are the conclusions that have been drawn:
Teflon turned out very quickly to have a sound signature we didn't like:
It was easily the most detailed and tight, snappy presentation.
But it was also by far the most dry, un-fluid and dark sound of all extensionblocks.
The strips inside make a huge impact on sound
Pure Brass strips:
Surprisingly, the pure brass (copper-colour) strips had the most open sound.
But they are also more grainy and harsh than the other strips or star wire.
Galvanised metal strips:
Still to our surprise these strips turn out to be much more gentle and fluid sounding than the pure brass strips.
But they are also less forward, in a sense could come across as perhaps less lively.
Starwiring does remarkable things for the sound:
The obvious advantage is that all positions now sound the same. In case of standard strips only the first position is best, further to the back you lose power and attack. When the internal strips are removed, the plastic block lost all of its hardness, grainwise now performing just as well as the aluminum block with strips. There is absolutely no hardness, harshness shoutyness or grain present anymore, only total fluidity. And the bass is very full and warm. The sound signature of the cable used becomes more strong. In Lapps case the sound becomes more typical "Lapp", this means a full and deep bass, a rich, colorful presentation with a very fluid, grainfree treble.
But the starwiring also lessens the attack because everything is now so unforced. And it becomes clear that metal strips add spark to the highs that, in some setups, can work very well.
The powercable makes a large difference
The 5 conductor Lapp cable sounds very different from the 7 conductor cable in that it is more relaxed, fuller and has more air. On the downside it has less PRAT and less detail and focus. It is friendlier, less analytical. But since internal strips in extensionblocks already tend to shoutyness and possess a hard quality, the 5-conductor Lapp made a very synergistic match if used in combination with a standard (not starwired) extensionblok.
blok 1 - Starwired
type 1-HE (netkabels.nl Prototype)
Lapp 5-conductor cable
blok 2 - Starwired
type 2-HE (current commercial netkabels.nl model)
Lapp 7-conductor cable
blok 3 - Standard pure brass strips
Lapp 5-conductor cable
blok 4 - Standard galvanised metal strips
Lapp 5-conductor cable
To see what audioble differences there are in practice, for this review we compared 4 different extensionblocks to each other.
The goal here is not to proclaim an overall winner but to find out which elements are most responsible for extensionblock-sound besides the cable and finally to point out what constitutes a good extensionblock.
The starwired extensionblock with 7 conductor cable
The aluminium block with 5 conductor Lapp cable still did not match the starwired extensionblock for fluidity and fullness in the bas and mids but it is slightly more airy and in some setups its more upfront and more analytical quality could be needed even if it means more hatdness in the treble. Both blocks are equally well served in the detail and focus department. It boils down to either fluidity, ease and fullness or more forward and lively but also more dry.
It is mostly up to the application and taste which block will suit best, but overall the starwired block was best liked, together with the standard aluminum block, as long as it used the 5-conductor cable.
Fully Lapp-starwired extensionblock
After trying many configurations, the extensionblock above is the final production-version of the Lapp-starwired extensionblock. I decided to have it manufactured for me on specification for the netkabels.nl webshop.
Although this article may sound like one large advertisement, I assure you it is not. All components and cables I review are items that I am personally interested in and that I review in an as much as possible objective manner. The products in the webshop are a spinnoff of my findings during my research.
Standard extensionblock with 5 conductor Lapp cable
The extensionblock on the left is a standard block with 5x 2,5mm2 Lapp cable attached. This turned out to be a very good combination, middling the results of a standard extensionblock and a starwired extensionblock.
In the end I found it had slightly more open highs, at the expense of more edgyness and a less meaty bass but in my system I could use the extra air so this turned out to the block that I use. For most systems however, this will probably not be the best solution.