NOVARIS EXCALIBUR EX20U8-60 power line surge filter/distributor
+ Generously equipped with eight universal power outlets; hefty, well-finished build; industrial-grade protection against lightning strikes or similar; display provides all the info you need and more power-wise.
– Does not provide voltage regulation; outlets are very closely packed together.
A guide to the ratings
NOVARIS, the company, may not be a common name in audiophile circles but when the product in question is the Excalibur power line surge filter, that’s actually a good thing. The company, in fact, chiefly manufactures surge protection products for industrial use – “railway signalling, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), power systems, process control, data networks, CCTV, security and communications systems”, according to its website.
That said, this is not Novaris’ first foray into audiophile territory – its PP10 plug-in surge filter has been, and still is, used to protect audio aficionados’ gear. So it wouldn’t be a stretch describing the Excalibur as the mother of surge protection devices.
To be clear, the Excalibur is not a sine wave generator/voltage regulator like some products from PS Audio or Torus Power devices, for example. The Novaris website doesn’t provide much information how or why it benefits hi-fi systems – all you get is a data sheet that clearly states it does give “filtered power… ensuring the maximum level of protection is achieved at all times”. (Scroll down to end of review for a more detailed explanation from Novaris.)
The Excalibur comes in a black, powder-coated aluminium chassis measuring 147 x 330 x 330mm (h/w/d) and weighs 11kg. Build quality throughout is top-notch and the internal components are nicely ordered. With the lid removed, the first thing that catches your eye is a huge inductor with thick copper coils. A circuit board is placed towards the front, and a very big reservoir capacitor to the left. Towards the back of the chassis, there are thick bus bars with red insulators that remind you of its industrial roots, and large-gauge wires leading out to each socket.
Overall, the unit has a nondescript appearance, with nothing much on the front panel except for a blue LED display that gives you all the information you need about the power coming in from the mains and what is going out to the hi-fi system. You will know the mains input voltage, frequency (in Hertz) as well as what the system is using in terms of power (watts), current (amperes), energy (kw/h) and the power factor.
All useful information, but I must admit ignorance over what “power factor” is. I was told, however, that this is essentially the energy efficiency of the component the unit is powering. That said, a low (you could even say “bad”) power factor is not something audiophiles should be concerned about – those running tube-based or mega-watt power amplifier systems, for example, can hardly expect to see a five-star efficiency rating!
There are no settings for the Excalibur – just plug into one of the eight outlets, which are all packed quite closely together in two rows of four sockets each. Novaris very cleverly offset the top and bottom rows by half a socket’s width, so the wires – if using UK (IEC Type G) plugs or similar – from the top row lead between the plugs on the bottom. However, it is still quite a tight fit and those using large plug heads and thick wires may find things somewhat cramped. But then again, not many will use all eight sockets at one go and it’s normally a plug-in-once-and-forget thing. Also, the Excalibur is rated for a maximum load of 20A, which most systems will not come close to approaching.
On to the most pertinent question – does the Excalibur improve a hi-fi system’s performance? The answer is yes, if compared to power straight off the mains. There are audible benefits in every aspect across the hi-fi spectrum – highs are sweeter, bass is tighter and weightier, mids are more luscious; more detail is eked out; and the soundstage is deeper and wider, and more. However, does it match up to other manufacturers’ power-purifying solutions? Well, not necessarily – but pricing is a crucial factor to judge relative performance levels.
In my system, there are four dedicated mains lines running from the fuse box to the hi-fi system. One goes to an AVIA Powertrans 4kVA transformer-based unit used solely for the preamp and monoblocs while other less-power-hungry components are connected to the other lines, one of which boasts another much smaller transformer-based unit (a no-brand type, no specs available). To cut a long story short, the Excalibur does not match this combination in performance – and it costs more than both combined. There was a slightly darker and quieter background to the music with the transformer-based units in play.
What I did discern is that the Excalibur fared better with less power-hungry components like the preamp, turntable and digital sources. Used solely this way, audible benefits came close and even matched aspects of what I was getting with my smaller, anonymous unit. Adding the monoblocs to the Excalibur (as well as powering just the pair of power amps alone) did better than a direct mains connection but a notable step beneath the AVIA. Perhaps plugging the entire system into a single line is not advisable and since all eight sockets are connected in parallel to the bus bar, I suspect there could be some cross-contamination happening there – this is the paramount reason why I have multiple power lines anyway.
With Novaris’ pedigree in industrial applications, there seems little reason not to believe that any hi-fi system will be clad in a coat of armour to repel any potential nasties coming in through the mains. The Novaris Excalibur may not have absolute performance levels of other types of power products from other manufacturers but if protecting the investment into the hi-fi system is paramount, its value becomes evident.
Sources: Sony HAP-Z1ES high-resolution audio HDD player; Toshiba notebook with JRiver Media Centre; M2Tech Young DAC; Chord Mojo DAC/headphone amp; Technics SL1200 Mk3 turntable with Hana SL cartridge; triple 12AX7 tube phono stage with step-up transformer / Amplification: Odyssey Audio Tempest preamp; Odyssey Audio Kismet monoblocks / Speakers: Magnepan .7 / Cabling: DH Labs SilverSonic USB cable, Clear Day Double Shotgun speaker cables, an assortment of pure silver interconnects / Power Conditioning: Avia Powertrans 4kVA.
Malaysian price: RM12,500
Malaysian distributor: HI-WAY LASER (03-9200 3220 / 019-281 3399) / Find your distributor.
We asked Novaris a couple of questions on what the Excalibur is all about. Johns Mathew, Novaris Business Development Manager – Asia, replies:
1: Can you describe what the Novaris Excalibur does exactly? What form of mains power filtration is done and how is this achieved?
Excalibur is designed with surge protection as the top priority. Equipped with multiple stages of metal oxide varistors and gas discharge (transistors), Excalibur is designed and tested to withstand and protect against lightning surge currents up to 50,000 Amps.
To offer the best protection to your hi-fi equipment, we have used our 30 years of experience designing and building industry-grade surge filters in a compact form like Excalibur. It is improbable you will come across a device like Excalibur in the hi-fi industry due to the technology packed into it.
One of the biggest challenges of building a surge protection filter for hi-fi is ensuring the filter itself is silent and does not generate vibration and noise. This is why Excalibur uses inductors and capacitors to create a low-pass filter for AC mains.
The 230V AC mains in Malaysia is supposed to be 50Hz; however, due to the inherent nature of power distribution, noise and harmonics will get into the power supply. These noises or disturbances are of higher frequencies than 50Hz. An ideal filter should be able to filter all signals other than 50Hz, as your amps and preamps do not need anything other than 50Hz to function. Excalibur with its transverse mode and common mode filters can roll off noises above 360Hz (-3dB) thanks to the high-quality open magnetic path inductors and capacitors. Excalibur will not regulate or regenerate AC power. It protects your equipment from damage due to surges as well as removes noises/disturbances in the power line.
2: The display has a reading for “Power Factor” – what is this exactly? I am getting a 0.61 reading, for example.
Excalibur, using a current clamp-on transformer, is constantly measuring the key electrical parameters, which is then used to calculate the derivatives like power and power factor. Power and power factor depend on the load/equipment connected to Excalibur.
A reading of 0.61 means your load connected is not efficiently using the power it is demanding. Taking the analogy below, your loads connected to Excalibur utilise 61% of the available power, and 39% is wasted as heat or other forms. When the amplifier drives the speaker load hard/loud, the power factor may change compared to idling. Do play around with it.
However, a power factor of 0.61 is due to light loads that use switching mode power supply (SMPS). It could be (components such as) your DAC and preamp.
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