In an industrial park about 15km outside Hamburg, I was shuttled via taxi to Listan HQ in Germany. This was right after CeBIT and I was there to test PSUs and meet the people behind Listan
. The company oversees several others - including Be Quiet!
for PSUs and Revoltek for coolers and chassis.
Many of Listan's employees came from competitors such as Enermax and Maxpoint (Tagan, Seasonic
etc) just down the road - by PSU industry standards Listan is relatively new, however it's more recently got its act together and made big strides supplying some great Be Quiet! PSUs for the UK market. (On the other hand, the Revoltek brand is... well, it needs development still, in my opinion. It's certainly not to our UK tastes in terms of aesthetics and ownership desirability.)
Generally at Listan, from three to nine people work in each department. The design room is small and simple, and looks over many white boards. It's focused on developing a few key products rather than spamming the market with clones.
Listan's warehouse is, as you'd expect from the Germans, immaculate. Clean, efficient... and then I turn up and sprawl a dozen PSUs across the desks, floor, and most places where they'd left space. Ha!
It's the German distribution hub for several popular brands: Aerocool, Chieftech, 3RSystems, as well as Revoltec and Be Quiet!
In house they have an automated Chroma machine for PSU testing, solder desks as well as a few engineers testing and checking PSUs.
Chromas are enormously expensive, so when it comes to PSU testing we have to borrow time on someone else's - although, for our own PSU testing, we always insist on being left in peace and quiet to get our own numbers, and that we be allowed to do everything ourselves (for the sake of fairness and consistency). This goes both/every way though - the fierce competition in the PSU industry creates some quite bitter rivalries and this forces us to go out of our way to stress and make sure it's all fairly acquired and tested.
When it came to testing Be Quiet!'s own PSUs, the lead developer for the range was so confident of his product he pulled one straight from a pallet in the warehouse for us to test rather than producing a specially selected one from a special drawer.
The lone engineer for the core PSU and cooling development, Chistian Rex, Technical Consultant to Be Quiet!, has an office that's modest
in size, but again, focused on core design work alone. Going by past experience, this strategy seems to either to work great or go devastatingly badly: the P7s of 2008 were fantastic and we/you were happy to recommend them, however the P6s in 2007 were far less satisfactory.
Since most of the design for Be Quiet!'s products is from this German office, we got a sneak peek at the next generation P8 design but were forbidden from taking pictures then, since most of it was still in the patent application process.
From the looks of the P8 though, Be Quiet!'s design is going from strength to strength. The popular (truly) silent fluid bearing fan from the current P7 series remains the same, but the shell is something altogether unique - there's no fan grill to speak of, for example.
Internally, from the limited information I was given, the P8s will retain most of the same core as the current be quiet! range, but be tweaked for greater efficiency again. Against a significant market trend, it's not
DC-DC though - Christian was dismissive of the topologies already on the market for PC use, however much we disagreed. Regardless, for the kind of efficiencies be quiet! were talking about, for a non DC-DC product, it should certainly be impressive.
Retail P8 power supplies will arrive in the UK in Q3, however an early sample should be available soon and we'll be sure to cover it in a first look.