GigaWatt is not widely known in North America, but Mark Sossa, of distributor Well Pleased Audio Vida, hopes that will soon change. Founded in Poland in 2007, GigaWatt’s history stretches back further, to 1998, and the founding of Power Audio Laboratories by Adam Schubert, a young electronics engineer with a passion for high-quality audio. P.A. Labs remained obscure until the Audio Video Show of 2002, where Schubert and his products gained wider recognition from attending audiophiles and the press. After that, P.A. Labs created GigaWatt as a separate brand, with Schubert at the helm.
As I write this, I’m perusing GigaWatt’s printed catalog of current products. The heart of their output is a line of power conditioners, but they also make power strips and power cords, wall sockets and circuit breakers, bulk wire, even anti-vibration feet for components. As happens with so many of the audio manufacturers whose products I now review, I made my first contact with GigaWatt at Munich’s High End show, in this case several years ago. I was again reminded of GigaWatt at High End 2019, where their power conditioners were being used in MSB Technology’s room. Intrigued, I contacted Sossa to ask him for a review sample.
Sossa delivered to my home GigaWatt’s flagship conditioner, the PC-4 Evo+, which comes with the company’s LC-3HC power cord (1.5m) and retails for $9999 USD. Costlier GigaWatt cords can be ordered along with the PC-4 Evo+ -- the company says that they will further enhance the sound quality -- but Sossa believes the LC-3HC provides great sound while keeping the package price just shy of five figures.
The PC-4 Evo+ measures 17.3”W x 6.3”H x 15.75”D, weighs 46 pounds, and looks not unlike an Esoteric disc transport or a midsize power amp. Its nonmagnetic case is made of austenitic stainless steel, with an aluminum front panel in black or silver and a top plate stamped “GigaWatt” -- one of only a few adornments on this understated model. The front panel displays the incoming voltage in red characters (or white, green, or blue characters, selectable at time of order). Unlike with most audio components, which ring when rapped, a light tap on the PC-4’s case produced no ringing at all, only a dull thud. Sure enough, I learned that, inside, it’s damped with a mat of bitumen-polymer composite.
On the rear panel are 12 silver-plated, cryogenically treated outlets -- enough to power almost any high-end system with outlets to spare. These are divided into three independently filtered groups of four outlets each, these groups labeled (from left to right) Digital, Analog, and High Current. The PC-4 receives power through a 32A PowerCon AC connector. Its feet, GigaWatt’s own design, feature their Rolling-Ball Isolation System, designed to absorb mechanical vibrations.
Filtering is accomplished through the use of audio-grade EMI suppression capacitors and what GigaWatt describes as “RLC type filtering blocks with HF (high flux) core filters” and a “starting block with an initialfilter and surge protection based on plasma spark-gaps and UltraMOV varistors.” Current is distributed by massive distribution rails of silver-plated copper. Peering inside, I saw wiring of silver-plated oxygen-free copper (OFC), and dual-layer circuit boards fitted with very wide traces that, GigaWatt claims, contain 15 times the amount of copper of typical PCBs. I’m a sucker for neat and tidy internal layout and construction, and GigaWatt features some of the best I’ve seen in a power conditioner.
GigaWatt also says that the PC-4’s maximum impulse response is enhanced by the use of audio-grade compensation batteries made by Miflex. Two-pole, hydraulic-magnetic circuit breakers from Carling Technologies are used for overload protection, as are two-pole, 25A power relays with a breaking capacity of 6500VA.
To say that the PC-4 Evo+ is electronically robust is an understatement: GigaWatt specifies that it can output a maximum of 3680W, and can absorb an impulse current of 22,000A. In fact, Adam Schubert stated,
The internal components of the PC-4 -- wiring, connectors, PCB path cross-section, relays, breakers, DC Offset Blocker, and filtering circuit components -- are designed to handle even 70A continuously. That way the power conditioner can avoid compression, and is even able to increase the current output temporarily in peak to allow for almost unlimited current-carrying capacity for power-hungry amps -- unheard of in other competitive passive conditioners, and not reachable by active conditioners at all. The impulse capabilities of the PC-4 surpass even the values of a clean powerline -- regardless of the local standards (i.e., 230V/16A or 120V/20A).
My system is simple -- I have only two components that require power -- so setting up and installing the GigaWatt PC-4 Evo+ was also simple. The only problem: I’ve placed my Boulder 2060 stereo power amplifier smack dab between my Vimberg Tonda loudspeakers, and my Hegel Music Systems HD30 digital-to-analog converter is off to the right, sitting on my new SGR Audio equipment rack. I had to place the PC-4 Evo+ between and equidistant from the power amp and DAC, to be reachable by both power cords, which put the GigaWatt directly behind the right speaker. No sonic tradeoff here, only an aesthetic one. I plugged the Boulder into an outlet in the PC-4’s High Current bank, and the HD30 into an outlet in the Digital bank. I used the Boulder’s stock power cord because it has a massive 32A connector on the amp end; the Hegel HD30 was connected with a Siltech Explorer 270P power cord.
Before running my system’s power through the GigaWatt PC-4 Evo+, I listened to five tracks I’d organized into a Roon playlist, and jotted down what I heard with each. I then immediately plugged the Boulder and Hegel into the PC-4, listened to the same tracks in the same order at the same volume level as before, and wrote down any differences I heard.
First up was “New Favorite,” from Alison Krauss & Union Station (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Rounder/Qobuz). The reproduction of Krauss’s voice was smoother with the GigaWatt in the system, but with no loss of fine detail, as sometimes happens when a component’s or system’s sound has been “smoothed.” It was as if a fine grain that had accompanied her vocals had been washed away, to leave a purer reproduction of her voice. At first I heard this smoother quality as less texture, but I soon realized that the sound was actually just a little cleaner -- perhaps what you’d expect from a power conditioner. The GigaWatt fulfilled those expectations.
I next loaded up some hi-rez, in the form of a track I’ve listened to through every system I’ve had in the last decade, in this house and my last house. Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony’s Crown Imperial, with pipe organist Mary Preston (24/176.4 WAV, Reference HR-112), was recorded in summer 2007 at the Meyerson Symphony Center,in Dallas, Texas. With the PC-4 powering the system I could more easily hear the acoustic profile of the Meyerson itself -- I could better hear the hall. The low-end power of this recording helps create a spacious sound with just the right amount of natural reverberation -- with the PC-4 in the system, I could hear slightly deeper into this space.
I moved on to “I Alone,” from Live’s Throwing Copper (16/44.1 FLAC, Radioactive/Qobuz), a 1994 release I began listening to a few years after graduating from college. This music didn’t reveal as dramatic an improvement in sound as the previous two tracks. The compression and busyness of this rock track as it gets cranking didn’t give the GigaWatt much to work with. But while I had a hard time pointing to any specific improvements, “I Alone” sounded as good as I’ve heard it through this system. That’s the nature of high-end audio: Some recordings are more revealing than others of improvements in a system’s sound.
The same could not be said of Astrud Gilberto’s voice in “The Girl from Ipanema,” from Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s Getz/Gilberto (24/96 AIFF, Verve/HDtracks). The PC-4 Evo+ made her sound less thick, her delicate inflections coming through more clearly than before. Her voice floated in the right half of the soundstage, completely detached from the right speaker. The same smoothing quality was in effect that I’d heard with the Alison Krauss track -- the PC-4 Evo+ was again removing some very fine grain from the sound. Overall, the GigaWatt made a subtle but definite improvement in my system’s reproduction of this classic track recorded in 1963.
I’m finding these days that my musical selections are often influenced by the tastes of my 14-year-old daughter, Abigail. And sometimes we independently happen on the same music, even when those discoveries were made a decade or more apart. Recently, in the car heading home from jiu jitsu class, she asked, as she often does, if she could play a song. I fired up the car’s JL Audio-enhanced audio system to check out what she was listening to that week -- usually something I’ve never heard before. But this time it was “Chasing Cars,” from Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open, released in 2006 -- a song I’d heard hundreds of times. I was fascinated that she’d only just discovered and was enjoying this “new” song recorded the year before her birth. I always appreciate such moments, when I’m reminded of how music migrates ahead to the next generation for seemingly no rhyme or reason other than its inherent quality.
In my playlist for the GigaWatt, however, was a song that Abigail passed on to me: Dean Lewis’s hit single “Waves,” from his 2017 EP Same Kind of Different (16/44.1 FLAC, Universal Australia/Qobuz). The guitar opening immediately reminded me of the theme from the TV show Friday Night Lights -- I liked it as soon as I heard it, and listening to it over my home stereo system made me appreciate it even more. With the GigaWatt in the system there was more separation between notes, and the compression was less intrusive -- I could hear the sounds of the musical elements separated more clearly with space between. The voices about 12 seconds in are subjected to some fairly heavy reverb -- I could hear this more clearly with the PC-4 in the system.
Infiltrating noise exfiltrated
My second audio system, set up along another wall of my listening room, consists of a pair of Monitor Audio Studio stand-mounted loudspeakers driven by a Coda Model 11 stereo power amplifier and fed by an Oppo BDP-103 BD player, with which I control the volume. I use this system, wired with AmazonBasics interconnects and speaker cables, to watch streams from Netflix and Amazon Prime via a Roku device. For smooth video streaming, I have an Extollo Ethernet-over-powerline adapter connected to the Oppo via Ethernet and fed by an AT&T Fiber setup downstairs.
Unfortunately, I’ve found out that running Internet over your powerline introduces a lot of noise into a connected audio system -- at least to the circuit it’s directly connected to. In my second system this noise is a surging, low-level buzz from the Coda’s large (2kVA) power transformer: the buzz appears, subsides for a minute or so, then reappears. There’s no buzz when the Extollo is unplugged from the wall outlet, but when it’s plugged in, I can easily hear it from my listening seat. It’s so annoying that I was more than curious to hear if the GigaWatt PC-4 Evo+ would get rid of it. I moved the PC-4 over to the second system, plugged the Coda into it, and waited. And waited.
I sat there about five minutes. Absolutely nothing. The GigaWatt had completely eradicated the surging buzz caused by the Extollo. I can’t tell you how important this is. Well, of course I can: It completely validates GigaWatt’s claim that the PC-4 Evo+ cleans up the powerline, in this case in a very specific application. I’d love to have this level of noise elimination in my room at all times -- when I use my main rig for serious listening, I have to unplug the Extollo to ensure that the room’s power delivery is completely silent. If I had the Coda 11 plugged into a PC-4 Evo+ at all times, I could avoid this inconvenience.
Based on what I heard in two different systems, each with its own challenges and performance envelopes, I can unequivocally say that the GigaWatt PC-4 Evo+ works: It improved the sound of my main audio system by washing away a subtle grain that I could again easily hear when the GigaWatt was then removed from the circuit. My second system, with far worse noise caused by an Extollo Ethernet-over-powerline adapter, was treated even more successfully: the noise vanished entirely.
With exemplary build quality, and its ability not only to power large amplifiers and associated electronics with apparent ease, but to improve the sound of a system by eliminating noise, the GigaWatt PC-4 Evo+ really does do all that a power conditioner can be asked to do. It will meet the requirements of most audiophiles looking to clean up the power feeding their audio systems. I know it meets mine.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- Loudspeakers -- Vimberg Tonda, Monitor Audio Studio
- Amplifiers -- Boulder Amplifiers 2060, Coda Model 11
- Preamplifier-DAC -- Hegel Music Systems HD30
- Sources -- Apple MacBook Pro computer running Mojave 10.14.5, Roon, Qobuz streaming service; Oppo BDP-103 BD player
- Cables -- AmazonBasics interconnects, speaker cables; Siltech Explorer interconnects, speaker cables, power cords
- Rack -- SGR AudioModel III Symphony
GigaWatt PC-4 Evo+ Power Conditioner
Price: $9999 USD.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.
P.A. Labs Company
Marii Sklodowskiej-Curie 1
Phone: +48 42-7-150-153
Fax: +48 42-2-560-280
Well Pleased Audio Vida
1934 Old Gallows Road, Suite 350-R
Tysons Corner, VA 22182
Phone: (703) 750-5461