Ansuz Mainz8 A3 & Mainz A2 power distributor and cables
Ansuz is adamant that power distribution should not involve conditioning, thus its Mainz8 distributors apply no filtering or regeneration of the incoming voltage. This is because doing so saps energy from the sound. Ansuz also believe that the mains distributor is the most important element in any system, which would sound biased if that was all that they produced, but the Mainz8 is one of dozens of products that this brand along with its partners, Aavik (electronics) and Børresen (loudspeakers), build at their facility in northern Denmark.
The Mainz8 name derives from the eight outlets on the distribution box, these are available with European schuko or North American plug connections, as yet there is no 13A version for the UK. If you use Ansuz Mainz power cables such as the A2 schuko type supplied for this review that isn’t a problem of course but it should be noted that this doesn’t comply with UK regulations. There are many who feel that schuko plugs sound better than 13A types by virtue of the fact that they don’t contain a fuse, the only fuse sound in the Mainz8 and Mainz A2 is in the 13A plug that connects the distributor to the wall.
Ansuz avoids aluminium like the plague in its casework, it’s one of the worst sounding materials that’s available in their opinion, so the Mainz8 has a wood composite case that is extremely well finished and could pass for machined and painted aluminium if you didn’t discover that it’s warmer to the touch than any metal. They choose this material because of its low mechanical resonance and the absence of hysteresis, something that is typical of aluminium.
Inside the box the Mainz8 employs star grounding where a there’s a point with the lowest possible ground impedance, this is designed to drain noise that comes in with the mains power and stop it being distributed to the connected components. The outlet with the white frame is the closest to the centre of this point and Ansuz recommend it be used for the preamplifier or integrated amplifier in a system.
In addition Ansuz employ a range of noise reducing devices that they call Tesla coils, you will find them its other components such as the Powerswitch network switches. The operating principle is similar to a balanced signal connection with voltage being carried through two coils wound in opposite directions, a voltage spike in one coil is largely cancelled by an inverse of that spike in the other so that the resulting current has lower noise. The more Tesla coils that are employed in parallel the greater the noise cancellation.
The type and quantity of Tesla coils within a Mainz8 distributor is what differentiates one model from the next, the entry level X3 has three passive cable Tesla coils and the same amount of active zirconium Tesla coils but none of more advanced variants on the theme. The Mainz8 A3 is the least expensive model to feature active Tesla coils as well as dither circuitry on all eight outlets. The latter is defined as analogue dither circuitry to differentiate it from the variety used in digital circuits and involves RADAR technology which is used to cut through noise in order to present a cleaner signal.
The last digit in the name Mainz8 A3 indicates that this is a third generation distributor, these have Darkz resonance control devices within them as well as zirconium anti-aerial Tesla coils. These incorporate a zirconium rod which is said to provide “unprecedented resonance control” and to deliver higher sound quality as a result. Exactly how it achieves this is not mentioned but everyone is allowed a few secrets.
The Mainz8 is a fairly large box considering its purpose but when you see what’s inside (above) becomes clear that space is required. It sits on four metal feet that are designed to be used with Ansuz Darkz resonators, a range of metal feet that use titanium or zirconium balls to interface with the feet on this distributor.
Ansuz Mainz A2
The Mainz A2 power cable is a natural partner for the Mainz8 A3. It uses silver plated copper conductors that are insulated and shielded with the ground connection made in a double inverted helix around each conductor. This is designed to keep induction as low as possible so as not to impede the signal. It explains why the A2 is so stiff, it has 13 ground wires and 25 power conductors within 36 double inverted helixes. These cables are terminated with anodised aluminium housings on IEC, Schuko or US plugs while the 13A plug is of more conventional construction. The Mainz A2 cables supplied for review were 2m long and being unusually stiff they are a little unwieldy to install, Ansuz prefers longer lengths however with 4m being optimum for the connection to the power outlet.
Mainz8 A3 & Mainz A2 sound quality
The first system that the Ansuz power distribution system was applied to turned out also to be the ‘biggest’ inasmuch as it included the Quiescent T100SPA power amplifier and Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3 loudspeakers alongside the regular elements in the system. The Ansuz components took over from Russ Andrews Classic Powerkords driving the Melco server, Auralic Aries G1 and iFi Pro iDSD DAC of the streaming system as well as the Living Voice power lead on the Quiescent power amplifier. All of the latter being plugged into the wall rather than a distributor. It’s worth noting that there is also a CAD GC3 ground cleaning device connected to the mains earth in the system, this has a significant effect on the noise floor and the system is hardly buzzing with interference to start with.
The immediate effect of switching to Mainz8 and Mainz cables was that the sound became massively open with higher energy, greater image height and increased authority in the bass. Image depth increased dramatically as a result of the extra detail revealed by a much lower perceived noise floor. I was really struck by the vitality and realism that was revealed across the board, and noted that timing became clearer at the same time. It’s like the proverbial removing of a veil and quite a thick one at that. With quieter more introspective music it encourages reverie, makes you float away with the sound to the extent that when an unexpected sound appears it seems to pop out of nowhere. The low noise floor that the Ansuz elements deliver gives the sound far greater immediacy.
High notes take on a shine that suggests they were being masked with the regular cables, and this transparency applies across the board, giving even familiar passages a dynamic energy that they don’t usually have. On Radiohead’s Decks Dark you can hear the layers in the production and discern more clearly what the background sounds on this usually murky mix are, it feels as if you can hear right into the recording. I loved the way that the bass line on Babylon Sisters (Steely Dan) becomes so much clearer. It’s a case of more musical information being presented in a more coherent manner, which is usually what happens when noise is reduced significantly but it’s hard to do this to a whole system in the way that these Mainz components do. It makes you realise that power distribution is extremely important.
The way that the Mainz8 and Mainz cables manage to find so much space in recordings is remarkable. Mains conditioners that I’ve tried in the past have tended to calm things down and reduce perceived distortion by darkening the presentation, the Ansuz approach opens it up to let more signal through with less noise. It really makes it seem as though the system itself has been comprehensively upgraded.
Mainz8 in a smaller system
In a system consisting of the Melco N10, Lumin U2 Mini (with onboard Network Acoustics Volt DC), iFi Pro iDSD Signature, Townshend Allegri Reference, Moor Amps Angel 6 and Vivid S12 loudspeakers the results were very similar if a little less stark. It was clear that introducing Mainz8 and Mainz cables cleaned up the high frequencies right from the start, and that this allowed for more precise dynamic tracking, upscaled imaging and increased bass weight. I like the way it gets rid of the noise without undermining timing or changing the tonal balance, this is pure noise reduction which leads to greater realism of both voices and instruments.
I also tried these cables in place of Naim and Living Voice cables straight into the wall on the turntable and phono stage, a Rega P10 and Tom Evans Groove. Here Tom Waits’ Shore Leave became more languid and relaxed, the vocal image was stronger and it seemed as if there was more time to enjoy each note. As if reducing noise was allowing the turntable’s power supply to deliver a more precise signal to the motor, but there was no sense that the speed had changed, just one of hearing more of each note’s envelope which allowed the full depth of the soundstage to be portrayed.
Ansuz Mainz verdict
Even though the Mainz8 A3 and Mainz A2 are not even halfway up the Ansuz price list within their respective categories they are not inexpensive, yet they can upgrade an already very good system in a clear and repeatable way, and improve it a lot. If you have a decent system already and can afford it I highly recommend the Ansuz power distribution system. By taking this part of the system so seriously this company have revealed that power distribution is a weak link in many systems, they have also proved that conditioning is not necessarily what’s required. What you want is for each component to get as much amperage as it requires in as clean and noise free a form as possible, the Ansuz Mainz system does that better than most.