Supra products for Electrical Distribution & Data [English]
Supra products for Electrical Distribution & Data (English)
The Logical Song
The good thing about reviewing all kinds of different products (there is always the other side of the coin but that is for another time) is that you never know how they are going to perform under your system conditions (system set-up, room acoustics, electricity grid). You see, there is always a small chance for surprise, and that makes things interesting. And interesting in the hi-fi business is always good (for the reviewer at least). And an interested reviewer is the foundation for an interesting review, which is always good for the product reviewed and for the reader of that review (reviews to me should always be informative but most of all fun to read, and I hope I achieve that goal most of the time).
The products from Supra are what I would call “down to earth” designs. The company addresses that point with the statement “No-Nonsense” which according to them has roots deep down to their Swedish heritage. Think Volvo and you will immediately get it. Their design and development is based on materials and laws of physics, not statements about breakthrough construction techniques and exotic materials that will empty your pockets, but at the same time will not have real effects. They use pure copper as the base metal, sometimes – when it is needed – it will be silver plated or tin plated, but you will never get from them the “spices” that accompany most of the products of the high end community some of which are stories about years of research (that I find most of the time at the least funny), exotic processes like cryogenic treatment or 9N purity conductors. This has a very powerful impact on the pricing of their products. What, you would ask? Well, they are affordable. But, do not make the mistake to think that, because of that fact, they do not perform well. As I said, they use a lot of science to create these products and science (not …sorcery) is what makes the difference most of the time in this field, not myths. Unfortunately the consumer demands most of the time to be told about a story and then things get out of hand…
So, this is a review of some (they have a lot more) of the Supra products that involve electrical power, plus a couple of data distribution stuff such as their extremely interesting (this is the age of networking, never forget that) Cat8 cable and their USB cable. There will be a review about their analog application cables (interconnects and speaker) along with some of their handy accessories soon.
How hard can it be…
… to persuade people that high fidelity products should be about performance and not about “aura”? You know that …“glow” that surrounds most of what is out there in the market which most of the time has very little to do about the performance of the product but a lot about the presentation and the chance that give you, the end user, to gloat to your friends. Yes I know, having just reviewed a full set of cables that cost around 65,000 euros does not help my case (and I do not insinuate anything, the people that can afford them, should, I would if I could) but products like that should not be the standard of the industry, products like what Supra makes, should. That’s my point. In the end, especially with cables, any kind of cables, the fact is that they should do a simple job, transfer the signal they get in one end as less affected as possible to the other end. And job done. The same applies to connectors, power strips etc.
And there is were Supra makes an excellent product. They present the end user with something that performs close enough to the ideal at the right (see affordable to most of us) price. Their power strips, fused or not, with a switch or not (they have so many options for everyone), are very well made in all aspects and do the job without fuss. Their power cables, two models, are not only very affordable but they perform very good indeed. The power connectors are so well thought of that using them on a cable assembly is a delight, not a pain in the neck. The Cat8 cable they have designed is a must for me if someone uses a network to transfer either music data or connect audio related devices. And last but not least their USB cables make an excellent alternative to the very expensive propositions that lately have flooded the market with questionable superiority over them. No, I haven’t lost my faith in high end design (and all that brings with it) but sometimes you got to stop and smell the roses. Right?
So let’s start with the power strip or Mains Power Distribution Block with optional filter, switch and surge protection as the company calls it. The model I have in my hands is the MD06-EU. It has an aluminum body, a 10A IEC power input connector with a fuse and six outlets. Two of them are non-filtered and four have what Supra calls NIF (Non-Intrusive Filtering), a mild transient filter which will not influence the transient properties of the equipment connected to it, and is developed by Ben Duncan Research in England. It is, due to its metal construction, fully shielded from radiated electric fields as the conductive chassis drains the interference down to ground but it has to be connected to an earthed socket with an earthed mains cable, in order to work properly. Nothing fancy, just proper construction. The power sockets are not even gold plated! But they grab the plug connectors with very good force…
The power strip or any other equipment, in order to work, needs a power cable. In my case I got one of each models Supra makes. The cheaper, LoRad Mains Flex mkII, the one with the light blue jacket – a company statement color – uses pure copper multi-strand conductors in two wire gauges (3×1.5 or 3×2.5 mm) depending on the current demands of your equipment, and the more expensive LoRad SPC (or Silver Plated Copper mains flex 40TH Anniversary cable) that uses 3×2.5 mm wire silver plated multi-strand conductors. Both of them utilize the LoRad concept, or Low Radiation principle which, as the company states, “protects both from alternating fields radiating from the cable as well as from pick-up of surrounding airborne noise fields, e.g. wireless and mobile phones, wifi, radio and TV broadcasts, etc. LoRad SPC is the newest development of the LoRad concept, developed to celebrate our 40TH Anniversary with efficient shielding, flexibility, bend-/fatigue-resistance and strength.
In addition to the physical shield incorporated in the cable design, the leads are spun in a short pitch, counteracting the magnetic alternating field that according to the physical law of inductance always surrounds a lead that carries a current. The benefits are less noise picked up by the cable and less noise that affect adjacent cables such as low level interconnects.
LoRad SPC incorporates Supra’s unique Carbon/Nylon shield concept. Semiconducting Carbon/Nylon shield displays improved properties, bending strength, environmental immunity, higher tensile strength and less microphonic effect. The Carbon/Nylon shield is connected to a drain-wire along its total length, efficiently leading noise stuck in the shield to ground. We have tested and evaluated all known types of screens for making such a good cable as possible. Supra’s semi-conductive Carbon/Nylon shield was the only that passed the rigorous safety requirements and, moreover, its shielding properties was the best ever. LoRad MkII is tested and certified by Intertek Sweden, meeting the European safety regulation HD21.5 S3.” And that’s about it.
All of the above make these cables appropriate to use in demanding environments such as the Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Science (SKL), the Swedish Air Force (JAS Project), a lot of Hospitals and the majority of European air traffic control towers. Of course the cable must be connected to a wall socket with a ground terminal for the full LoRad effect. These cables (both models) can be purchased terminated in standard lengths or unterminated in custom lengths.
The cables, if bought unterminated, can be fitted with special power plugs (schuko and IEC in my case) that are of approved hospital and audio grade design plus approved for use in airport control towers where an interference jammed e.g. airplane radar would be disastrous. These connectors are also gold plated and make a very tight fit with the schuko and IEC sockets that come on the power strip and/or other equipment. As I have mentioned above, they are a joy to use with the two power Supra cables and with everything that has IEC and Schuko sockets.
Next comes the new powerline DC filter MD01-16-EU. This stops the DC component that is present in all pretty much power lines due to some devices connected in our households, up to 3.6 Vdc, and that eliminates the problems that this component creates on power transformers in our equipment. These problems include, hum noise (mechanical), and increased losses in the form of heat in the core of the transformers as also increase in the life expectancy of our equipment due to this heat reduction inside them. I am a big proponent of the usage of DC filters in power lines for many reasons, mostly because of the impact it has on the final sound quality, and the fact that someone has produced something like that with an affordable price tag is relieving (there are other DC filters –DC blockers as they are called- in the market but come at really high prices that do not justify their cost, considering what it takes to create a good DC filter –sorry the engineer in me sometimes takes control). It uses the same aluminum body as the power strips, has a 16A (special type) IEC input socket that delivers power to one schuko socket on top. All in all a very sturdy construction.
One of the stars of this review is the Cat8 cable, a very specialized cable that reduces the leakage of RF (radio frequency) into the LAN lines between our equipment. The quality if the construction is top notch and the price very, very reasonable (sometimes I laugh when I am faced with the out of this world extreme prices so other similar cables have in the market). The Cat8 cables come preset in various lengths and for me is a must if you use a LAN cable in your system.
Finally here come the USB cables. These are very nicely constructed cables that offer very good performance with a very, very friendly price and come in various lengths. And of course the smaller their length the better the sound (that is something you should follow always with any USB cable).
The main characteristic of the Supra products, if I had to sum it up into a few words, would be “nice, fun and mostly musical”. They do not go for the absolute last drop of detail (exception for the Cat8), but they do make the perfect companions for systems that are built to play music and not “crazily nervous” audiophilia. Not that they could not be the partners of expensive, high resolution equipment, but their omissions in that department are minimal and “musically” not that important. I mean take the USB cables. They got the flow of the music nailed down! They will not compete with other cables that cost like 10 or 20 times more in the “see through” department (they are close but not as good as some of the better examples in that way higher price range) but they will convey the rhythm and flow of each song easily, with no pain from the side of the user. Yes, “flow” is the term that comes to mind when you live with these Supra products, and that is usually what you miss when you remove them for products at the same price range or even higher, a lot higher. Plus some of them do not have real competition out there (DC blocker, Cat8)
So instead of getting some other cables, power distribution units, or whatever, that will require from your side way more attention into system matching, “audiophile tweeking” or spending unreasonable amounts of money, try these Supra products. You will probably be surprised with their ease of use and most importantly their ability to make the music flow in a most relaxing way through your system. And all of that without breaking the bank. Highly recommended!