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
Rega Planar 3
Cambridge Azur 651 amplifier
Tellurium Q cabling
Nordost Qbase QB6 power block
Blue Horizon Professional Rack System
Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components
All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner
Dermot Bell23rd February 2018 at 7:13 pm
Terrific review and every single word is true. How come? I got the block my self only less than a month before! I was praying that you’d review it 😊 However it was your HFW colleague Jon Myles who first piqued my interest with his five globe review. Somehow he managed to convince a massive cable sceptic like me, especially mains blocks and power cords, to go for it, so to speak. After all it’s also made in my own country, well, up the road across the border, and it’s unbelievably affordable too. What’s not to like? I concur with everything you’ve said in the review even down to the power cable position. What were they thinking? Anyway my next move is to upgrade from the Tyco, which is one notch down from the Helios and just as affordable, being only £75 dearer. Can’t wait!
Paul Rigby23rd February 2018 at 7:16 pm
Thanks for your kind words, Dermot and I’m glad you’ve found the block of use. As you say, “what’s not to like?” [except that power cable position, hehe]
Dermot23rd February 2018 at 8:57 pm
Paul could you edit out my spelling typo? Should read piqued not peaked 😱
Paul Rigby23rd February 2018 at 8:59 pm
I must be flagging, I missed that one 🙂 Sorted.
ToniMoroni1st March 2018 at 3:00 pm
In your view, could a power block like this improve a desktop system?
Paul Rigby1st March 2018 at 4:00 pm
Hi Tonimoroni – do you mean a hi-fi surrounding a computer of some sort? Absolutely. There’s even more noise in this area. The problem with computers is that they’re busy being…computers and they don’t really care about your music needs. Music is just another job to them. The other tasks they undertake, continually – the non-music stuff – creates unnecessary noise.
ToniMoroni2nd March 2018 at 4:28 pm
Really appreciate your reply. I run an Innuos mini zen via an Ayre Codex DAC into a pair of Dynaudio active speakers. I’ve also got a PC connected that runs spotify, music files and online TV. Sounds as though it would benefit from this power block.
Paul Rigby2nd March 2018 at 5:01 pm
Not a problem – be interested to hear how you get on if you eventually purchase it.
Simon Price10th March 2018 at 9:17 pm
I borrowed one and with Helios cables into my cyrus x200signature power amps and cyrus dac xp signature, and pmc 25-23s and Helios into the mains from the Styx. The sound is terrifically fluid, dynamic, and better detailed. The amps just work so much better and it’s bringing a new lease of life. For around the price of the upgrade, it’s better soundvwise than an isol-8 mini sub power conditioner. Similar to an isotek Aquarius. That chocked the sound compared to this block and cables, which for half the price is a better upgrade. I was pessimistic before just trying a star wired music works block I gave back, but I had lesser speakers at the time. If you have a good system, and use the the mains block with decent mains cables to amplifiers, it can make a tremendous difference. No,longer a sceptic. Cheers for review Paul. Simon.
Paul Rigby11th March 2018 at 5:11 pm
Glad the Styx is working for you Simon, thanks for the feedback.
Tonimoroni18th March 2018 at 3:51 pm
I bought the Styx with a Tyco cable as a bundle and plugged it into my desktop setup once I listened to a batch of tracks I use to test all my acquisitions.
I was seriously, seriously impressed. Everything tightened up considerably with a richer, more integrated sound with more detail (which I wasn’t expecting). Silences are darker and deeper as well. Definitely worth a test drive, I’d say.
Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Paul Rigby18th March 2018 at 4:22 pm
Not a problem and I’m glad it worked for you Tonimoroni, thanks for keeping in touch.
Sam21st May 2020 at 12:49 am
You might choose not to publish this, but the Helios mains cable is available for a fraction of the price direct from China. Just possibly Titan have them manufactured to their own design in China, or possibly they import them as they are and then customise.
Tip of the iceberg, or rather I’m aware this is quite a subject. I’d love to know your views if you want to email me.
Paul Rigby21st May 2020 at 9:57 am
Hi Sam – be afraid and suspicious. The hi-fi industry, like many many other industries, is the subject of cheap fakes that not only provide substandard build and component quality but can be dangerous. Several cable companies (and others) have talked to me about the fight they have with counterfeiters. I was talking to my wife about this recently and she was telling me that the beauty industry (as just one example) is rife with it. Products that look like perfect copies at first glance, that you’re supposed to put on your skin but tests have shown to contain those skin friendly ingredients such as mercury and mouse droppings…lovely. So no, ignore this, stay away from it, run to the hills, etc. There are a few excellent documentaries out there that look closely at this practice, covering a gamut of varied industries from clothing to perfume, hifi to beauty and many more.
sam21st May 2020 at 12:22 pm
It doesn’t help UK consumers I know that. It creates confusion, damages confidence.
On the one hand I wouldn’t feel safe buying any Hifi gear from the other side of the world, just in terms of it arriving safe and sound. Like you, I’ve also read stories of products not as described. Even dangerous as you say. On the other hand it does make you feel ripped off paying about 8 times more in the UK for what appears to be the same product.
And a great percentage of American and UK Hifi brands ARE manufactured in China anyway. In the case of this mains cable, it’s interesting that the Chinese manufacturer gives more details of its construction than Styx does. It’s my belief that’s there’s also some sleight of hand going on with US and UK manufacturers. “We” are not actually manufacturing the gear, we may be designing it, we’re definitely marketing it, we’re then successfully selling it to people prepared to pay the high ticket prices. Or just as commonly, small companies in the West are importing Chinese components and then assembling here – cables particularly. I know of one big UK retailer that stocks a brand which is actually a UK individual doing exactly that. When a friend emailed the retailer to provide more info about the brand, he didn’t receive a response – no they’d rather hide behind the pretence that the product is wonderfully esoteric and is worth £500 when the individual concerned sells the same product for approx £100 here in the UK – and admits he is just importing the components from China. Components made in China, assembled here. Think about it, where are these big UK plants actually making high end cabling in the raw?
In America at least, many Hifi buffs are only too keen to attack Chinese Hifi as poorly made knock off. With more than a hint of convenient racism thrown in. But some of the most prestigious US brands are manufactured in China again.
As I said in my first post, it’s quite a subject. When it pops up in discussions on Hifi forums, like the subject of cables itself, there are always naysayers who simply won’t think outside the box, but there are also posters who’ve bought from China and have been delighted with the products.
I fully understand that the Hifi business in the West has a vested interest in maintaining the current status quo. I can see many Hifi mags playing the same game. Just read a copy of HiFi Choice from 25 years ago, then read a recent copy. Funny thing, it’s turned into a series of adverts just like What HiFi. In simple terms, everything costs far more than you’d think and apparently it’s all brilliant. How very cosy.
Fancy some nicely polished support pods for £1000 each? I wonder where they’re made?
Paul Rigby21st May 2020 at 12:54 pm
Hi Sam – there’s a difference between genuine hi-fi products being created and built in China, genuine indigenous Chinese hi-fi gear and counterfeiters. Genuine Chinese hi-fi offers pretty good value. I’m about to post a review of one of them in about five minutes time, actually 🙂 Also, there are genuine resellers all over Asia, selling the real thing. I would avoid buying hi-fi from certain Chinese-based internet retailers, though.
Sam21st May 2020 at 4:06 pm
I understand what you’re saying Paul. But how do we tell the diffrence?
I recognise some Chinese sellers on Ebay as active sellers on Aliexpress.
I’ll try to find your new review.
Paul Rigby21st May 2020 at 4:33 pm
Hi Sam – you buy from authorised sellers instead of those offering deals which are too good to be true – then you don’t have to second guess.