First, a question for you: what's your budget? Prices for power conditioners vary widely, so first you need to decide how much you can spend. Let the readers know, and it will help them to formulate helpful advice.
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I want the cheapest thing that works well, but would pay $3000 if it was worth the improvement. I was thinking of a Power Plant 300, but am totally open to suggestions. I want to optimize the perfomance of by Transort & DAC. I did buy a $3,000 digital interconnect (Stealth) so if a conditioner made a real difference I would be willing to invest. I just feel a bit sceptical about the product category, but I'm open to new ideas on the subject. Thanks.
I would not use the Power Plant 300; had one, too noisy, and blew fuses too often. For my digital front end, in two systems, I now use Ensemble Isolinks. I have one Isolink Duo, which can handle two components; and several single Isolinks which handle one front-end component apiece. This power conditioning provided the single best improvement I've ever made to both my "big" system and my living room system. I bought the Isolinks used on this site and they are a great great addition to my two systems. I also use Ensemble power cords with them, and Ensemble interconnects as much as possible in both systems. I have tried many brands of cables but Ensemble provided the absolute best value and sound for my wallet and tastes. They are a Swiss company and their products are built like one would expect from the Swiss! Perfectionist.
I do hear about complaints with certain aspects of the Power Plant - noise from the fan being one of them. The idea of a pure 117V, 60 hz current sounds appealing, but I do wonder if there is a price to be paid for all the "processing" of the current - but I just don't know. I'm going to take a look at the Audio Excellence and Ensemble products and learn more about them. I find this product category difficult to hands around, and where there is generally little consensus. Thanls for your input.
Pubul57: With just a transport and DAC you will barely be using 50-80watts on a Power Plant 300 and will not need the fan.. if you get over about 160watts you will need the fan which can be replaced with a quiet bearing computer fan. Some tube DAC's use more power, but I haven't run into that problem running Wadia, EAD HT processors, Meridan, Gamut, Theta, etc.. I have never had any problems then again I have never had mine over 120watts over since I bought it.
There are three camps... and these are my finding as I own all three styles.
Regeneration: PS Audio (PS Audio can also increase the volts to 120 which add some slam and dynamics to your digital front end and of course the noise floor drops in a huge way.) If your system is bright and overly dynamic this might not be the answer for you. Exact Power makes a quasi Regenerator that only regenerates the difference of good to bad power using Class D amplification so it can run 1300watts, but doesn't offer the texture differences that the PS Audio Multiwave (I,II,tubewave, etc..) provide. Regenerators are awesome for Plasma and Projectors!!!! PS Audio Premier PowerPlant supports up to 1500watts with their new amplification but can only correct -5 volts (I have 125-126v at my house which causes transformers to hum in most gear unless it is on a regenerator)
Balanced Power: Exact Power (other model), Platinum Power PP1, BPT ,etc... - Sound quality is silky smooth and a little more delicate on balanced power (some preamp can't be run on it especially tubes depending on the design (Aestheix, etc..)) Usually they can't power amplifiers (except for the Platinum Power PP1 which has huge transformers and 20 amp input, The large BPT might also)
Passive Filters: Running Springs, Sound Applications, Shunyata, PS Audio Power Director's, PS Audio's Ultimate Outlets, Tice - if you have good power coming in and dedicated outlets you might be able to get away with the least amount of filtering... the less is more crowd. Once again most filtering works best at dropping the noise floor (video term... black than black settings). Also Isolating digital contamination from analog devices is critical in all the above designs.
First spend money on making sure your house is grounded correctly, Drop in at least 2 dedicated 20amp lines with an audiophile outlet (20amp hospital grade at least), and then finally look at conditioning. Then get crazy with powercords when your done...
Cytocycle has given you some great advice:
First - run at least one to two dedicated lines with grounding
Second - power conditioning
Third - better power cords
For me, my system benefitted the most from the dedicated lines that were grounded. The power conditioner was next in offering the most benefit. Lastly, the power cords offered a small amount of benefit.
Great advice from Cyto- also agree 110% with sc53- bought my Ensemble Isolinks years ago, and for digital front-end only, I have not found better. However- note- I had some small issues when 'daisy-chaining' them into a larger blaanced power unit (BPT 2.5). They seem to like being fed from a passive strip better- perhaps some issue with too many transformers in the path.
Ngjockey: I used some APC and Tripplite computer voltage stabilizers and battery backups with horrible results... the sound stage completely compressed and folded in... I would recommend staying away from anything computer grade. Plus the Triplite flamed out the powerswitch after 3 years (that wasn't fun)
Cytocycle, thank you for an excellent assessment and analysis of the power product landscape - it is real helpful in clarifying the issues. I have dedicated lines and Virtual Dynamics power cords that I believe are good enough. I need two outlets for my transport and dac that will isolate their "digital noise" from the rest of my equipment without doing any harm. I'll look into the isolation transformer products - I don't even know what they are at this point. I have CAT amplifiers and was told emphatically that they should be pluggued directly into the wall. Thank you all for your repsonses so far.
I understand your reluctance to spend money on a power conditioner, but if I'm reading you right, you'll spend it if it's worth it. That said, if you can find some way to audition a "Walker Velocitor" it might be what you're looking for. Call Lloyd; he might know someone in your area who could help.
Thank you Phaelon. I'm going to invest sometime researching some of the pieces that others have had some sucess with. My leanings are toward believing that what will work best is a high quality passive power strip with good wire, connectors, and outlets - that is what I would compare any of these active approaches to them. My sense at this very early stage is that active devices can obviously affect the sound as a tone control might. I get the sense that as such, how good a piece is might be very dependent on the system it is used with. I'm not sure if I'm right, but if I am it really requires more experimenting than I have thought it might. I assume that like other components, active power conditioning and/or filtering will tend toward the musical versus neutral divide - if you know what I mean. My system is on the neutral side with CAT amp, Placette Active pre, and Merlins. I suspect I would need to choose power conditioning the leans towards "relaxation" and "warmth".
Alan will send a Power Wing with all three types of Oyaide outlets for audition. He is very helpful in assisting in the selection process.
I do have my amp (CJ MV60SE) plugged into the Wing. It actually sounds slightly better (a touch more resolving and dynamic) than directly into the wall. And I have three dedicated lines with Hubbell and Oyaide outlets.
What is the primary benefit of good clean power? Is it less extraneous noise? or does it affect that actual sound staging, tonal balance, etc? that is, does it remove errors of comission? I don't know if I'm clear with my question. I find it easy to describe the different sonic signatures of amps, preamps, source, and speakers - but I'm not sure what clean power does. I assume the disigners of those "core" products are making voicing decisions. Does that kind of thing apply to power? If I'm not clear, I'll try to reworded it, but I'm hoping my questions are not too obscure.
I have owned the P300, Exactpower units and Power Plant Premier. I have also used a Power Wedge and homemade parallel filters. My experience is that both regeneration/correction and isolation are very important to good sound. Power cord quality is also important even between the wall and the power unit.
The primary benefits of clean power I have experienced are improved focus, image stability, smoother treble and lower noise floor. In a dialed-in surround sytem, clean power can enhance the holographic effect.
Even with regeneration there can be some day to day and time of day variability but sound quality is much more consistent than without regeneration.
In comparing the EP-15 and the Premier, the improvement with the Premier was very noticable. I am passively biamping my system with linear power supply Icepower amps. The isolation features of the Premier are apparently working much better than the outlet filters in the EP-15. The Premier has each duplex isolated to inhibit noise produced by a component from backfeeding into other outlets. This is not intended as a plug for the Premier - other products can be used to isolate components. There just seems to be a great potential for system induced power contamination regardless of the initial power quality coming out of the wall.
Some components may sound better directly connected to the wall outlet. Most days, my player sounds better directly into the wall than through either the Premier or the EP-15.
Thanks for your comments Bob. It is the very fact that you sometimes think your system sounds best direct into the wall that makes me wonder about the affect of conditioning. They obviously protect the equipment from spike and surges (or should) and that certainly has some value to it. I would also think that if you had very dirty electricity coming into your house that you might need some conditioning. But I can't help but thinking that putting all these filters and electronics between the straight power from the socket to your equipment might come at a price. I have consistently been told by manufacturers of amps I have owned to plug it directly in the wall - now I do understand that the current demands of an amp are much greater than for my pre and digital gear, but it still makes you wonder. I am curious about these products and will give them a try, but I do so cautiously.
Why not try this experiement, which is totally risk free. Contact Robert at Ridge Street Audio and buy a few of his Z-der blocks. These units perform power factor correction. If you're using dedicated lines and want to continue to take advantage of plugging your gear into the wall, the Z-der blocks may be a better solution than filtered power conditioners. I think they are about $300 each. I use one on my transport and I could tell the Z-der block made a difference. I'm probably going to get one for my DAC.
Plugging digital components direct to the wall here can result in contamination if the others are not isolated. This was obvious playing vinyl - it used to sound better when a CD player with a switching power supply was unplugged. An AudioPrism noise sniffer easily identified the noise it was dumping into the line which went right through the EP-15A.
In my case the bass is firmer from my current player when plugged into a power unit yet the player sounds a bit more open when plugged direct to the wall. Every other component I tried sounds better plugged into the Premier. With the EP-15, one of the amps sounds better direct to the wall (on a good power day). You really need to experiment with what you buy.
It may be that the reason my player sounds better direct to the wall is that greater isolation is achieved in my particular system than if it is plugged into the Premier or EP-15 and everything else is plugged into the power unit. It also may have to do with the difference in outlets used. PS Audio stresses the multiple layers of nickel plating on its outlets but I know I have not liked nickel when used in interconnects or binding posts.
I don't think the Premier or EP-15A power units are current limiting the player. Some people liked to load up the old P300s which would current limit far short of the load required to shut it down. This was fairly easy to identify with demanding recordings.
Thank you all for your input. I've done a lot of research since I first asked the question and have come to choosing between the Running Springs Haleys and the BPT 2 Ultra +. I currently have a CAT AMP that I would plug into the wall direct, with all else plugged into the line conditioner. I'm contemplating selling my separates and going with a 30 watt integrated (Ars Sonum)which I would plug directly into the conditioner - I don't think there would be any current limitation issues. So, that is where I am at the moment. Thanks again.
Holy ^%&%! It did not take long to hear the improvement the RSA Haley brought to my system. I was hesistant to plug in the CAT JL2 into the conditioner because it can run at 900watts, but the Placette and Accustic Arts only run 30 Watts between them and the Haley is rated for 1800 watts. Well they are all plugged and everything is better. Amazing improvement in micro detail. You hear it in all things percussive - piano keys, drums, snares, the singers breath. Bass seem to have more room filling bloom and tuneful. I'm starting to think of this thing as a component upgrade, not simple power. It brings out a considerable improvement in the perfomance of my system. With the Mongoose power cord this thing lists for $1,600 - it is worth every penny if you have a system that has fairly expensive components. Let's put it this way, I like it alot. With only five hours on it, I expect it will only get better with some more burn in.
Thank you Clio09. I'm a snake oil sceptic, but "good" power conditioners are worthwhile - I suspect there many out there that do more harm than good - the RSA Haley is not one of them - I recommend that everyone at least try one. If you electrical situation needs one, this is a good one. I suspect the BPT is as well.
Wow, great to hear you found a product that brought an improvement. Did you try just the front-end alone into the Haley? .... and did you try just the CAT amp into the Haley? I would be curious to know where much of the benefit came or if it was fairly equal in both places. The reason I ask is that I have a pair of JL-3's and I too have heard about the RSA's possibly working with large amps. In my case, I would get a Haley for each amp and another PLC for the front end.
Just saw this thread and read it to see if anyone would recommend running springs. I was thrilled to see that you found exactly what I found...WOW. I had tried a full (and very expensive) Shunyata set up with 5 pythons and a Hydra 8. I plugged that Harley in and never looked back. I will still say it was the best single improvement to my system so far. And I already has 5 dedicated 20amp lines at the time. I now have 3 dukes(power amp, sub, and digital front end) and a Jaco (theater). There is no compression whatsoever on the high current devices and nothing but great microdynamics on the front end. There may be better conditioners out there, but I think everyone should at least try the Harley before choosing a conditioner as the price of entry is fairly reasonable.
Jafox, I did not try a lot of permutations. I started off with the front end in the Haley and the JL2 direct. I would say this provided most of the benefit. I then begrudgingly plugged the CAT JL2 into the Haley - no harm done! At least that I could tell. I did not notice much of an improvement either when plugging in the CAT - I think Ken uses an isolation transformer in the power supply and suspect the CAT has very good built in conditioning - but it is nice to have everything plugged into one box with a common ground for all the pieces.
The Jaco can allow 2400 Watts of current draw and Haley 1800 Watts, which may be the same thing as saying 15 amp/ 20 amp - otherewise the same units. You would probably need the Jaco if you were using HT, or had two, very large monobloc amps - otherwise, the Haley should provide enough current for most applications - assuming 6 outlets would suffice.