The gordian from Lab 12 is hand built in Greece and is a multifunction power distributor/conditioner with a host of functions to measure the quality of your power supply. It costs 1398€ and Stuart Smith bought a special Hifi Pig edition for this review.
I first met the guys from Greek company Lab 12 a couple of years ago at the Munich High-End show and have been following their progress and products with interest since then. They make a valve integrated amp, a couple of tube power amps, a DAC, a preamplifier, a headphone amplifier, a passive attenuator and the subject to this review, the gordian “multifunction power distributor/conditioner”.
gordian is basically speaking, and this will of no surprise, a product that will supposedly clean up the juice getting to your rig as well as offering distribution of the power to several pieces of kit. But it’s a little bit cleverer than that and that’s why I ordered one at last year’s Munich show…in Hifi Pig pink no less. The Designer’s Notes after this review will tell you more about the techy bits and pieces, but basically what you have here is a unit that is designed to clean up your mains supply without affecting the dynamics of the system. It also cleverly analyses your power supply and gives “live” readings via the front mounted OLED display – this is great fun. It measures frequency (accurate to 0.0005%), THD (accurate to 0.005%), RMS Voltage/Current, Power Consumption, Power Factor, FFT (frequency analysis) and DC Voltage and you can play with the amount of filtering the unit is applying too…or you can let gordian get on with it all on its own. gordian will also let you know if your ground/earth and polarity are in order.
On the front panel you have two large knobs. The one on the left navigates you around the various parameters you can play with, whilst the knob on the right controls the display itself. Both are chunky and responsive and feel purposeful and solid. Round the back you have four filtered outputs and two “mains” out sockets that are also filtered but intended for kit that is more power hungry. The sockets are industrial looking and, as you’d expect, very well made with the feeling that the unit was built to industrial standards…this is a good thing for a product like this I reckon. At the moment gordian is available with European and US sockets with a UK version planned in the very near future. At this point I ought to mention that gordian is CE and RoHS certified/stamped which again is important for this kind of unit. gordian comes with a well made 20A KNACK power cord measuring 1.5M. Overall it is a sturdy and well made unit that feels carefully put together by Lab 12.
I had a play with the various filters and messed with the degree of filtering gordian applied, but to be honest I found that the best results were to be had with the unit in automatic mode where it continually analyses your electrics and kit and filters accordingly. Again, read the Designer’s Notes after this review as I’m no scientist and interested only in the end result and the music that comes out the speakers.
I had amps plugged into the high output sockets and DAC, CD, phonostage and (when using an active pre) preamplifier in the remaining sockets.
We live in a very old house and the electrics are a bit wayward, we also live at the end of the line with farm buildings before us and the “quality” of the juice coming into the house has always been a bit of a concern at the back of my mind…and this is what led me to buy gordian from the off. And so what does gordian do? Well it does what it says really, with there being an immediate sense that unwanted noise in the system is lowered, which in turn allows you to hear more of what is going on in the music.
In quieter sections of music there is a feeling that you are able to hear more of the micro detail present in a recording. It’s difficult to describe but there’s also a sense of there being more spatial information available… this is most evident on acoustic tracks like my copy of Concerto De Aranjuez, with guitar feeling a touch more lifelike and “there” in the hall… like I say it’s hard to describe, but it is certainly a “better” effect/sound than with the unit out of the circuit.
One of the main criticisms of units that claim to “condition” the power being supplied to your system is that dynamics are affected, but I can categorically state that this is just not the case with gordian. The system still feels as fast and lithe as it always has and nothing in the frequency spectrum feels constrained or limited.
There’s not really a lot to say about the unit in all honesty other than this reduction in the overall “noise” on the line and the sense of you being able to hear more detail and more of what is going on in the track with a “cleaner” sound overall. I could warble on about a whole host of tracks that I listened to but the effect of gordian in the system remained constantly positive and consistent and so I see little point in doing this.
I’ve had the unit in the system for around three months now and in the first month I occasionally removed it for a few days to see what happened and found I consistently missed it being there. Basically gordian is a fit and forget bit of kit. Yes you can play with the settings which I’m sure many will want to do, but whack it on autopilot and let it do its thing and you’ll be well happy.
I did initially enjoy being able to see the analytics of the power supply (particularly the power draw when turning on bits of kit) and having a play around with that and I’m sure this will be a useful tool for those interested in knowing this kind of thing, but for the last couple of months Gordian has just sat there, quietly getting on with whatever it is that it does and I can heartily recommend it.
Sound Quality: 8.75/10 (difficult to quantify this really but definitely positive!)
Value for Money: 8.75/10
Build Quality: 9.0/10
Fit and forget
A great tool for seeing what is actually going on in your system and with your power supply
Positive effect on sound
No UK version at the moment
gordian combines a powerful industrial grade power analyzer, a smart and adaptive power line conditioner, a power factor corrector and a robust power distributor. It aims at providing valuable information about our main power supply quality and gently improving the quality of our system’s power without affecting the positive characteristics of our system (e.g. dynamics) .
The analogue part of its powerful analyzer consists of 8 high precision measuring modules that continuously monitor frequency, AC voltage, DC voltage, high level current, low level current, EMI noise, ground resistance and power connection polarity. The output of these modules is routed to 8 ADC components which gather 256 samples per cycle for each measurement. As a result the main processor of gordian is fed with 2048 quality measurements per cycle of your power line.
Based on these measurements gordian also performs frequency analysis (Fourier transformation) of your system’s voltage and current. In other words, it analyses your system voltage and current and finds out the amount of noise that lives in various frequency ranges. Furthermore, it calculates the total harmonic distortion (THD) of your system’s voltage and current. THD is the most fundamental indicator of our power quality. It reveals how “pure” and sinusoidal our power signal is. Moreover, it calculates the power consumption and power factor of your system which indicates how effectively your system absorbs power from the electrical network.
All this valuable information (Frequency, AC Voltage, DC Voltage, Current, EMI Noise Level, Ground Quality, Connection Polarity, Frequency analysis, THD, Power Consumption, Power Factor, THD) is accessible through a big and legible OLED display and a simple and convenient menu navigation knob. Especially for the frequency analysis, the owner of gordian may observe a nice plot with a moving cursor for exploring the noise content in the various frequencies of the voltage spectrum. This is a really cool and unique feature that cannot be found in other power conditioning systems of this category. If you find the OLED display disturbing in the night you can adjust its brightness, turn it off or let Gordian detect when your system is inactive and automatically switch off the display.
All this impressive functionality is only about the power analyzing part of gordian. We have not touched yet the power filtering capabilities of this great device. Behind the scenes an adaptive network of passive elements (capacitors and inductors) undertakes the critical work of gently cleaning up your power. And it really IS adaptive and genteel. Every single piece of information that the analyzer gathers is taken into account for automatically adjusting the filter configuration to match the characteristics of your power line optimally. The filter can be configured in 4 different setups. It can be soft or aggressive, it can target to noise that lives in both our phase and neutral wires (Common Mode Filtering) or to noise that lives between the wires (Differential Mode Filtering) or to both of them. The correct decision will be taken by the gordian main processor or you can experiment with the different configurations and manually select the preferred setup. This is equivalent to having 4 different power conditioners and always using the one that best matches the characteristics of your power line.
gordian also performs power factor correction! Our audio or multimedia systems tend to behave like inductive loads. Inductive loads usually demonstrate a low Power Factor. This means that are not good at effectively absorbing the power of our electrical networks. This can be fixed by connecting a “bank” of large capacitors to our load and make it behave more like a resistance than an inductor. Some, power conditioning systems offers this functionality as a feature but it also can be a real disaster for our power quality, because if the connected capacitance is larger than the required one, this can damage further the power factor of our system. However, Gordian will automatically calculate and connect the optimal amount of capacitance to get the Power Factor of our system to the maximum feasible level. It will automatically detect the best capacitance option among the four available but the owner may also experiment and manually setup the Power Factor Correction module. Last but not least we have to add the overvoltage protection that Gordian incorporates to protect our devices from high voltage peaks.