HB Cable Design is imported to the U.S. by Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports. Brian has a ear for finding exceptional sound equipment from all over the world and bringing it to the American market. HB Cable Design is a very high end cable and power distribution design company from Germany. They make three passive power distributors, of which the PowerStar Horizon ($3,995) is their entry level; the two other models are the PowerSlave Acrylic (at $6,995) and the reference, PowerSlave Marble ($8,995).
HB Cable Design focuses on high quality individual outlets, for which they use heavy gauge wire, silver solder for connections, and a special IEC connector. According to Brian, this IEC connector is of medical grade, and it features a special mounting at the back of the socket for HB Cable Design’s own custom made, gold plated copper bus bars which bring all the outlets together into the socket. This allows for direct contact and maximum energy transfer. It also uses “special” materials as wraps around the wires for RFI and EMI shielding, and vibration isolation.
The Horizon is made of highly polished black acrylic glass and has six receptacles. These are the most impressive receptacles I have seen, if looks and size mean anything. There is no doubt that part of HB Cable Design’s appeal is its incredible build quality and attention to detail. Having said that if you look inside you’ll see it’s about far more than looks alone. I’m not going to spend time writing about the inside design when there is a perfectly good video that will do that for you — Just click on http://www.aaudioimports.com/video.asp?hBrand=26 and in a little over three minutes you’ll know and have seen all about the inside of each unit. It’s kind of nice that they actually show us what’s inside, don’t you think?
Of course, there is no more to using this unit than there would be with any power bar, but that’s where the analogy would end. Yes, I guess you could call this a power bar, but man, would that be an understatement. There is a school of thought in audio that most power conditioners change the sound and usually in the end not for the good. If this has been your experience, then these units may change your mind.
At first, I simply replaced the Shindo Mr. T and plugged everything back in. It was pretty simple because I only have three things that plug in. At first, I chose to keep the same power cords I was using with the Mr. T; the Shindo’s power cords for the Wavac EC 300B, the Shindo Giscours, and the cable that comes with the AMG V12 turntable. The one thing that had to be different was the cord from the wall to the Horizon. I could not use a Shindo power cord, because the Horizon requires a high end, grounded connector.
I tried several setups with different power cords, and I even tried leaving the Shindo Giscours plugged into the Horizon. It was very easy to hear the difference in each change, but in the end the best sound came by using the HB Cables Design’s PowerDragon power cord($5,400) from the wall to the PowerStar. Then, I used the Audience AU24 power cables($2,200) out to the AMG V12 turntable’s power supply, and another AU24 to the Wavac EC300B amp. For the Shindo Giscours preamp I stayed with the Shindo power cord(free). The review was done using this combo, unless noted otherwise.
Break in and how my system sounded with the PowerStar
Let me warn you, this thing gets a lot better with over 100 hours on it. It doesn’t sound bad right out of the box, but it will be at least 100 hours before you truly hear what it can do. It will continue to improve for the next 300 or so hours.
Let me start by talking about power cables. The PowerStar Horizon’s sound is highly dependent on which power cables you use with it. This is another way of saying it really doesn’t seem to have any sound of its own. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the sound of the power cord going into the unit or the ones going from it to your other components. The Horizon makes the differences in power cables much more apparent. It was very easy to hear the differences in the stock Shindo power cables, the Audience aU24 power chords, the Sablon Gran Coronas and HB’s own PowerDragon.
Another thing I noticed was the effect the Horizon had on hum. When you have 103dB efficient speakers you can hear any hum or noise that is in your system at any point along the way. Up until now the least hum and noise when my system is at idle came from the use of Shindo’s Mr. T. I assumed this was due to the grounding scheme of the Shindo Giscours and the Mr. T being designed to work together. The combination above is the quietest I have used. Something may match it one day, but none will better it, because there was dead silence with my system on and in the phono mode, with at very low output moving coil.
Compared to no power conditioning
I reconnected my three components directly to the wall outlets to see how things would sound. It is no longer a big surprise as I heard the sound collapse into a flat sounding stage that in no way sounded nearly as real as it does with good power conditioning. Much of the beautiful space, reverberation, and micro-dynamics were gone. As I have learned at this point in my audio journey, I could never go back to raw, direct AC.
Compared to the Shindo Mr. T
Next, I reinserted my Shindo Mr. T into my system. The difference here was profound. As I mentioned already with the Horizon my system had really, absolutely no hum, less noise. It sounded fundamentally better, had a bigger soundstage, and it equaled the Shindo Mr. T in musical flow and P.R.a.T.
The biggest differences came in the power of the bass. It’s a little hard to describe in words, but basically my system sounded more powerful. I could swear my system went deeper with the setup of cables I described above used with the PowerStar. After proper break in there is also a sense of solidity to the sound that is quite captivating.
I’ve tried so many power conditioners that I won’t try to list all of them. In the end, I am a firm believer in the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle when it comes to audio design. Just look at my system, it only has three power cords, and one pair of interconnects plus the tonearm cable. The HB Designs Power Star Horizon fits right into that principle. I can’t wait to get the Acrylic and the Marble in for a listen. Well done, Brian for bringing to the U.S. another great sounding product that most of us had never heard of.
Aaudio Imports (U.S. distributor) Comments:
Many thanks to Jack Roberts for his review of our entry level HB Cable Design Power Distributor.
We really liked that Jack was direct to the point and seemed to understand the concept behind the product. The fact that the PowerStar Horizon showed exactly how the power cord feeding it was doing is a testament of the unit’s purity and transparency! This defines the manufacture’s design goals to clean the power line without adding a sonic fingerprint.
The HB Power Distributors are non-current limiting and are designed to handle the entire system, even large amplifiers.
We look forward to Jack’s upcoming reviews of the PowerSlave Acrylic and PowerSlave Marble.
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