The old dictum correlating power and responsibility is one that is much apt for the audiophile’s personal space as well. For the sheer range of electronic gadgetry that we surround ourselves with ensures great corruption that infects the dynamism of your well thought-out system. As an audiophile, your key priority while setting up your personal audiophile system with carefully chosen components is to address every nuance, every note, to be carried forth from the moment of creation. Which is where the need for a competent power conditioner comes into play, to improve impacted aspects of sound reproduction including imaging and dynamism. Which makes a product like the Forte V8 power platform crucial to the equation.
Originally founded around a vision to making loudspeakers with an artisanal design and development approach, Audience first introduced power conditioner products back in 2005. It’s line of Adept Response power conditioners were distinct in staying away from industry-standard components like high DC resistance transformers, metal oxide varistors and current-limiting thermal circuit breakers. The product on hand today is the entry-level Forte V8 power conditioning power strip, which Audience debuted at Capital Audiofest 2018. One key aspect of the Audience portfolio of power conditioners is that they have something at multiple budget-points. So this ranges from the $895 Forte V8 to the flagship Audience Adept AR12-T4 power conditioner which retails at a mere $11,400.
The first impression of the forte V8 is of course that it looks pretty distinct, far from the generic silvers and blacks that plague most conditioners in the industry, this is a bold red piece, very solidly built from aluminium. The V8 has eight audiophile-grade outlets on board, each of which is grounded in a star pattern. I combined this with the F3 power cable [currently included with the Forte V8] from Audience.
Starting off, I knew Cat Stevens would be an obvious choice, with his multilayered songs that blend melody with a strange approachability. The album, almost obviously, was Tea for the Tillerman, his fourth studio offering. Acclaimed as much for its ageless folk songs as for the quality of the recording, it’s in many ways perfect for the moment. To top it all, I chose one of the most prized vinyls in my collection, Analog Production’s 2015 remastered double 45rpm 200g release. As an aside, this was the first record pressed at Quality Record Pressings in their Kansas facility and was mastered by no less than the late great George Marino. All set for a journey into Cat’s personal world, his interpretation of the simple life and one’s search for values, I set out my test system: the Pro-Ject 2Xperience turntable, the Pro-Ject Pre Box RS Digital preamp and the Bel Canto e.One Ref500S stereo power amp, with the Klipsch Heresy IV as the final point. Connectivity was ably handled by the Audioquest MacKenzie RCA cables, Final Touch Audio’s Callisto USB cable, AudioQuest’s Rocket 33 speaker cable and a pair of PS Audio’s AC-5 power cables.
I start off with Father and Son, a beautiful song that speaks of leaving, of emotions that travel through time and space, outwardly, yet personal in the way only Cat Stevens songs tend to get. At this point I decide to introduce the Forte V8 into the equation. I realigned the power plugs, connected the devices, and sat back. A positive difference was to be expected, given Audience’s many years in the line, but what I heard was a totally more vibrant expansion of the soundstage. The simple act seemed to add even more vibrancy to Cat’s unique ability to breathe life to seemingly disarmingly deceptive simple songs. Switch to Longer Boats and its call to hold on to innocence, the key to the door, and the calypso funk strains sounded truly uplifting.
Now totally inspired, I switched to a recent investment, a UHQR limited edition cut of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis Bold As Love. An easy choice was the truly inspired playing on Spanish Castle Magic, with Noel Redding on a then-rare eight-string Hagstrom bass. While one could argue that the track was a close second to the version on the Winterland live album, Hendrix’s brilliant, even frantic playing comes shining through. Move to the bluesy, meditative and inspirational Little Wing, and I was engrossed in the moment, impressed by the experimental, yet ballady approach.
Borne out of a 11/2 year-long development cycle, the Forte V8’s secret lies in the fact that all parts of the electric circuit have been treated by cryogenics as well as the brand’s proprietary Extreme High Voltage Process (EHVP). The 8 high quality hospital grade duplexes are separately wired to the buss bars in a star ground configuration with high purity 14 AWG copper internal wiring. Proprietary powerline conditioning technologies aside, the V8 also includes standard Audience RF filtration, though not including surge or overload protection. [Audience AV advises that the V8 can be plugged into any free outlet from any other Audience power conditioner, like one of the aR2p models, for extra noise filtration, surge and overload protection.]
In conclusion, the Audience AV Forte 8 makes a very distinct difference, adding much to the articulation, while beautifully defining the mid-range and soundstage. Truly, as the tagline mentions, every great performance deserves an Audience.
The Audience AV Forte 8 power conditioner retails at $895 (including the F3 power chord), while the F3 power chord alone retails starting at $295.