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LessLoss Firewall Power Distributor: Follow-up Review

What happens when you use three Firewalls

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LessLoss Compact FirewallIn the April 2009 issue I reviewed the LessLoss Firewall power distributor. If you read that review you know I really liked the Firewall. In fact, I purchased one after the review.
In that review I noted that the Firewall not only worked great on my front-end, but also seemed to have an even greater effect on my amps. Because of my setup, which involves three separate power circuits (one 15 amp for my front-end and two separate 20 amp circuits for high power monoblocks), I wrote:

“I began to wonder what my system would sound like with two, or even three Firewalls. It was impossible for me to try and plug everything into a single Firewall because I didn’t have power cords that were long enough. Of course, even a 20-amp outlet needs to work hard to provide enough power for my entire system, so two Firewalls would be better. I may need to ask Liudas if he’ll send one more with some additional DFPCs. (If I were totally insane I’d ask for three Firewalls so I could continue to plug each monoblock into its own 20-amp outlet!)”

Well, one thing led to another, and I am now the owner of three (yes – three) Firewalls. One powers my entire front-end, and the other two each power a monoblock. All three draw power from separate circuits. How this occurred is detailed in a separate review of the new LessLoss DFPC Signature, which is LessLoss’s new top power cord and a step up from the original DFPC. I suggest you take a look at that review because it will help flesh out my description of the sonic effect of the LessLoss power products. However, the main thing that led me to acquire two additional Firewalls was the effect they had on the high power amps that I’ve used in my system.

The LessLoss DFPC was designed to work well with digital components. Its effect on such components is very positive, fleshing out performers and adding natural body to their presentation. The LessLoss Firewall multiplies this effect, so naturally I used it to power my front-end, which includes 4 digital components in the chain. However, I couldn’t forget the very positive effect that the Firewall had on my amps. As a result, when I purchased the second Firewall I couldn’t help but try them on each of my monoblocks. I won’t say I was “stunned”, because I already had an idea that they would work well. In my setup, they actually made an even bigger difference when used with the monoblocks than with the digital components. Acquiring the third Firewall and then also inserting some of the new LessLoss DFPC Signatures got me to a place that I had long thought impossible – I added both detail and body in significant amounts without any loss of speed or PRAT – and I did it without changing any of my other components. I’ve known for some time that power was very important for any high quality audio system, but I’m now just about convinced that the order of importance for any serious audiophile is really (1) the room, (2) sufficient power and power conditioning and (3) the actual audio components.

I have now had the three Firewalls in my system for several months. During this time I’ve had several review components in my system, and I’ve been able to test them with and without the Firewalls. However, I have only had one other conditioner available for direct comparison, so I could only substitute a single conditioner for a single Firewall, which I already did in my prior review. I have no way to substitute 3 for 3, so any comparison is by its very nature unfair and limited in the conclusions one can reach. The best I can do is extrapolate from what I hear.

First, let’s talk about what 3 Firewalls don’t do. They don’t slow the pace or timing of any kind of music. They don’t negatively affect the tonality of the music. They don’t narrow the soundstage or shrink its depth. They don’t roll off the top- or bottom-ends. “So what?” you ask. Well, every power conditioner I’ve had in my system, with the possible exception of the Walker Velocitor (prior version – I understand that there’s a new one) detracted from the music in one way or another. Granted, the improvements they brought usually outweighed the losses, but they all had negatives. I say that the Velocitor “possibly” was an exception because I couldn’t decide if it caused a slight artificial loss of weight or the “loss” was just my personal prejudice. The Velocitor is superior in instilling speed and PRAT, in addition to audibly cleaning up noise.

What the Firewalls do well, in addition to eliminating hash and noise, providing a more realistic soundstage, and the other usual things we want from power conditioners, is provide more extended top- and bottom-ends and the most natural tonality I’ve ever heard. The best conditioners that I’ve encountered in the past provide a clarity that allows musical details to come through. However, they didn’t do much to improve timbre or palpability. Oh, it’s true that there have been occasions that I’ve been impressed with the conditioners that have brought me closer to the “live” experience, but after extended listening they all stopped short of that elusive quality. In my mind, this has been a shortcoming of even the best conditioners – the feeling that, despite the reduction is hash and the ability to discern more details and nuance, the music fails to sound truly natural. I had begun to assume that “natural” would have to come from the signal-producing components, interconnects or speaker cables, and that the only thing you could expect from power conditioners was the elimination of grunge and noise. The Firewalls have shown me that we can expect more.

What I said in my April 2009 review has been multiplied at least twofold by using additional Firewalls to feed my amplification. Combined with several of the new LessLoss DFPC Signature power cords (read my article on the new DFPC Signatures to see what the addition of those babies has done), I now have an absolutely unprecedented level of natural realism in every aspect of the musical presentation. That realism comes, I believe, from adding a large amount of natural-sounding detail, including a reproduction of texture and timbre. Snare drums and cymbals are a great example. Several years ago I found a great disc to test how these instruments sound on a system. The disc is an outstanding digital version of Jan Morks’ Jazz Mates Strike Up the Band, which opens with an extended rolling snare before Jan Morks’ clarinet starts up on the melody. With the multiple Firewalls in place in my digital system I can hear every touch of the snare drum, but the texture sounds just like it did years ago when I heard it on a very high-end vinyl system. Another great example is the timbre of human voices – yes, voices. I had already worked pretty hard at reproducing the timbre of certain musical instruments, particularly piano and violin since my wife and daughter play them and we have them in the house. I’ve got these reproduced pretty well in my system, but human voices are so varied that I never felt I got them absolutely right – I’d get Placido Domingo dialed in but realize that Springsteen no longer sounds as gruff as he does live. Well, I’m not sure how or why, but the multiple Firewall system now gets those nuances right.

Electronic musical instruments have benefitted just as much. The power chords emanating from Pete Townsend’s guitar on Pinball Wizard have never sounded so explosive or immediate, and George Thorogood’s guitar on Bad to the Bone has never growled this aggressively. Another example is Joseph Zawinul’s synthesizer on Birdland, which is now so much more expressive and three-dimensional.

The use of multiple Firewalls has improved my musical experience so much that it really deserves a longer and more detailed review. However, the original review is still recent, and Constantine Soo needs to make room for the many new products we’re reviewing, so I’m keeping it short. Moreover, I understand that LessLoss is now planning to introduce smaller and less expensive versions of the Firewall to accommodate those who only need to connect a few components. That would certainly have made sense for me. My three Firewalls provide me with 24 premium outlets. I only use 4 on my front-end, and one each for my amps, leaving 18 unused premium outlets. That’s quite a lot of wasted audiophile hardware and money. I’ll be very interested to see if LessLoss can provide the same outstanding performance in a smaller and less expensive enclosure that makes the benefits of multiple Firewalls more accessible to the average audiophile. Stay tuned.

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