Vibex and Fadel Art Line Conditioners
Two very different filters, tested under identical circumstances
Regular readers are probably aware of my aversion of powerline filtering. It’s just that they just never did good things for me in the systems I tried them in. Would these two change my opinion?
What we have here are two line conditioners about which little is known. Especially Vibex is very secretive about the ingredients of their filter. I tried opening it but found that the entire case had been filled with some sort of resin. The same goes for the Fadel Art: you can unscrew the front plate but behind it is merely a big block of resin.
Above: Fadel Art inside
Vibex Reference Powerfilter Copper
The Vibex is a relatively lightweight unit. It is much lighter than the Fadel Art for example, and about just as heavy as the Vibex powerblock. From what I can deduct, there is no big transformer inside because that would have made the unit much heavier. It has a very high power rating of 3700 watts. So I am tempted to conclude that it is a parallel filter consisting of some capacitors and a small coil. This would suppress HF noise but in my experience filters built this way also slow down the rhythm and soften transients and attack.
Alas, the Vibex is no different. I tested it in combination with a Wadia 27ix GNSC DAC and a Mark Levinson no 360S DAC. In both cases there was a distinct mellowing of character. Not unpleasant by itself and quite useful if your treble is a bit bright otherwise. The rhythm was largely intact, better than with other parallel filters I have tried and the softening of transients wasn’t terrible although I did feel like there was some dynamic constraint. The music was just nog that outgoing anymore and the performance felt withheld. But there was more going on. Apart from the usual filter-effects, I also heard what I can only call an artificial timbre added to the sound. A coloration that made Wadia sound as if it had swallowed some Sony XA50ES DNA. Gone was its full, rich color, replaced with sepia greys.
Fadel Art PC-800
The Fadel Art may not look like much, but it may well be the heaviest component I’ve had yet in such a small package. The 1000-watt transformer inside is what’s causing this. It is about as heavy as the Jeff Rowland Synergy preamp!
The Fadel Art is an extremely heavy unit. It’s as if it is heavier than it could be were it made from solid lead! Screwing the front plate off, it is revealed that inside it is filled with some sort of resin. Again, as with the Vibex, I cannot find any info about what’s inside. But the sheer weight of the unit hints at the presence of a huge power transformer. It is rated at 1000 watts and at the output both phases are hot, indicating that indeed the power is balanced by means of a transformer.
The Fadel Art sounds extremely different from the Vibex. It should do of course, when the power goes through a transformer. The sound is very rich and colorful, extremely smooth and fluid and relaxed in the bass. It has full and deep bass, but with softened edges, much like what you hear in a typical tube poweramplifier with transformer outputs. There is however something about the sound that makes you lean back and relax. I can see why the previous owner liked it in combination with the Wadia 27ix GNSC dac: the typical Wadia-dryness has completely vanished.
But it is not all praise and glory. Along with the positive smoothing, there is just a little bit too much rounding-off going on. Dynamics are restrained, although not more than with the Vibex above but more importantly, the tempo is down. A lot. And that’s fine for easy listening but not so hot when listening to more uptempo music. PRAT is not so good here. And I’m only using a fraction of its permitted maximum power-load.
The Vibex wasn’t liked in my own setup. I also tested it in another completely different setup but with the same result. I find that it doesn’t add anything good, instead, only takes away. Maybe if my power had been terribly noisy…? But then again, maybe my power is actually noisy, and these kinds of filters are just not the right answer? I can only guess. But so far, still, I don’t like powerline filtering.
Although the Fadel Art provides a luxurious, seducing sound reminiscent of what a typical tube amplifier with transformer outputs does, it is ultimately quite a bit constrained in the PRAT department. The Fadel is only recommended for easy listening then, or for systems that are otherwise on the harsh or aggressive side.