If you are looking to improve your mains connections, Titan Audio may have what you’re looking for as Paul Rigby reviews the Styx power block
A basic power block that you can pick up on the High St – the cheap and cheerful type that you can grab for under a tenner from a hardware store – is not designed for hi-fi use. Featuring super cheap components, its main claim to fame is actually producing and introducing a heap of noise. Now, if you’re powering your Dyson, then this is not a major issue. But what if you’re bringing your valve amp to life? Yes, that’s a different matter. The basic power block merely infects your hi-fi, masks lots of lovely music and reduces your musical enjoyment.
Offering six connection points, the Styx tries a different approach. It’s aim is to give you the music without the noise. But does it deliver? Especially at the price?
Using aluminium side panels and acrylic side panels, “…to reduce magnetic and RFI interference,” plus screws which attach the acrylic panels, are, “…torqued to reduce vibration and are made from Japanese high tensile steel.” As a unit it is pretty light in weight and doesn’t take up too much space, although it does ask you to plug its main cable, not in one end as you might expect, but on the top of the block itself (see image above). Yes, this allows the block to be pushed agains the wall for space reasons but the messy nature of a mains cable lifting vertically and then bending over towards the main socket almost negates that benefit. I feel that unnecessary strains are also placed upon the mains cable termination plug too.
Stabilised by an acrylic isolation foot on either end of the aluminium chassis, Titan is keen for you to know that the Styx doesn’t use busbars (that is, each socket is connected via solid metal bars) a source of poor sound quality. Each socket is independently wired with Oxygen-free copper cable and the plugs have been cryogenically frozen
I used a Titan Audio Helios mains cable to hook the block to the wall socket.
Tests began by comparing the Styx with one of those basic hardware shop-type power blocks to see if there really was any real difference between it and the Styx. I began with a vinyl version of Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ Inbetweenies from the LP, Do It Yourself (1979).
The sound quality of this track, using the basic power block, was not horrendous. How could it be that bad? I was feeding a superb hi-fi system.
What was most obvious, once the Styx was in the system, was how much livelier and sprightly the entire sound behaved. Imagine rising out of bed after a late night’s heavy drinking session. Then imagine arising after an early bed time after imbibing nothing, the night before, but refreshing Buxton water (other brands are available, I hasten to add). The hardware store power block sounded like the former (i.e. furry-tongued treble, bleary-eyed mids, stodgy sounding bass and a lurching, retching soundstage) whilst the Styx sound output fairly flew out of bed, did 50 press-ups and sang The Hills Are A Live at the top of its voice before tucking into to a hearty bowl of muesli. That was the relative difference here.
In terms of specifics, both the midrange and the bass offered far more precision and focus with bass having a greater organic response. Midrange benefitted from new tonal realism instead of the smearing mids that smudged their way across this song from the hardware-bought power block.
There was also the treble issue. For the hardware block, imagine grasping a cymbal between two fingers and hitting it with a drum stick. Yes, it sounds like a cymbal but a restricted example with sound that is chopped and almost claustrophobic. The Styx sounded like you’ve physically released that same cymbal and hit it again. Reverb bounded from the cymbal now while the same expanded its insight and dynamic reach while offering a rich and informative response.
I then turned to Nordost’s Qbase QB6 power block and played Barbra Streisand singing I Can See It from My Name is Barbra (1973). Of course, the shoe was now on the other foot. The Nordost, priced at £1,200 should walk all over the Styx but I wanted to see how the Styx coped and if it could give a good amount of itself.
And, by jove the Styx did just that. More so, actually because the Styx raised both eyebrows. Yes, there was a slight glare over the vocals from the Styx compared to the Nordost, a tad less precision in this area but the overall focus and low noise output from the Styx worried the hell out of the Nordost power block. The Styx produced a sense of clarity that allowed the complex backing orchestra to produce a swathe of detail. The punching brass effects, the subtle bongos, the normally shy guitar…all of these areas were easily illustrated by the Styx, giving the soundstage a sense of precision but a fulfilling sense of musicality that pulled you into the song, giving the performance a real sense of emotion. Streisand herself was effectively illuminated by the Styx, her delivery brought forward from the stereo image with great effect.
Not only does the Titan Styx power block produce an admirable low noise performance, being both astute and discerning in how it delivered detail to the ear, it also does so with a supreme sense of clarity. There was real airy freshness in the soundstage from the Styx. Above all, though, is the real value for money that the Styx offers, especially when faced with high end competition. Frankly, if you’re looking for quality mains performance at a low price, you can’t go wrong with a Styx power block.
TITAN AUDIO STYX MAINS BLOCK
GOOD: value for money, midrange detail, bass precision, open soundstage, small footprint
BAD: power cable position
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