Category: Accessories REVIEW
POWER PORT PREMIER DISCLOSURE
I was in the right place at the right time. About a month ago I entered a competition announced in PS Audio's monthly newsletter. Ten lucky and wide-eyed contestants would each win a Soloist In-Wall Power Conditioner
if their names were drawn from a cyber-hat. All they had to do was to agree to supply a few photos of the installation and write a couple of paragraphs about what they thought of the device--good or bad.
I've never had much luck with this sort of lottery, and lo, this time was no exception... I got confirmation of my ongoing haplessness in a "Dear Loser" mass-mailing from PSA's VP of Sales & Marketing, Dave Kakenmaster. There was a chink of light however. Mr Kakenmaster went on to say how astonished the company was at the overwhelming response to the competition. Back at PSA HQ they were wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth in remorse over disappointing so many people, he said (more-or-less). He continued: would we--The Inconsolable--be interested in a half-priced Soloist as a token of comfort?
Well it just so happens that I've been hankering after a Soloist for some time now, so my grieving soon evaporated. Unfortunately this hankering clashes with my new position in life. Perhaps you've heard of me? I'm the living embodiment of the credit crunch. I'm the guy without a job who wakes up in a lathery sweat to stare at the ceiling for a few hours each night. I'm the one whose hair is singed by the white-hot heat of his blazing savings. But enough about me; let's get back to the story...
I ask Vice President Dave if there's a time-limit on the Soloist offer because I'm a little cash-strapped at the moment. I also mention that--in a convoluted sort of way--the half-price deal's better for me because I want to modify the Soloist by replacing its on-board Power Port with an Oyaide duplex
that I'd heard (and was impressed by) on a friend's system. If I'd won the competition, I'd've had to install the Soloist as-is to make my appraisal, then my inner sloth would've kicked-in and the socket would've stayed in the wall 'til doomsday. With my Losers Compensation Package, I could get the Soloist and the extras I needed for mods for just a little more than the stock price of the Soloist itself, and I could take my time and do it right. This caught the interest of Our Man. He turned all cloak-and-dagger and confided that PS Audio were just about to launch the Power Port Premier
, and because I'd said the right things at the right time, he'd like to send a complimentary receptacle for me to assess. I complained long-and-hard about the inconvenience and the indignity, but I eventually relented because he'd used complementary
, one of my favorite words in the English language. I was duly sworn to secrecy.
So that's my disclosure. It's not exactly collusion and I'm not quite in the pocket of my PS Audio Paymasters, but I have been given this product free--to have and to hold--by the company that makes and markets it, and you must filter my review with this knowledge if you suspect that somewhere a Koolaid detector might be flashing red
. In fairness to PS Audio, no-one asked me to write a formal review--they just wanted to hear what I thought of their new product. I, myself, am only stirred to write reviews when a product suitably impresses me--and I am
very impressed with PS Audio's Power Port Premier. Thus:IN THE BEGINNING
I've been using the Power Port Ordinaire since it was introduced in 2003. Back in the day, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of widely-available competition: it was either a hospital grade outlet or the PP. Nor was there much sympathy for the duplex pioneer: slated and reviled by A-Volt-Is-A-Volt
bully-boys, it was generally something you kept quiet about unless you wanted to be the target of belittling laughter. I artfully reconstituted the truth when telling my wife how much I paid for my original PP, simply to avoid an evening of hard stares and head-shaking. The PP was a decent receptacle (and it still performs quite well) but it could be a little brittle-sounding in certain situations, and required careful cable matching. Nowadays the market is broader and the lynch-mobs have dispersed enough to allow more socket obsessives to come out of the closet.
I'm by no means au fait
with the full gamut of the market stall, but the Power Port Premier (henceforth the P3) is quite the loveliest AC receptacle I've ever seen. It may seem odd to fetishize such a utilitarian object, but it's obvious a lot of thought and care has gone into its design and manufacture. The in-depth details
can be found on the PS Audio website, but to summarize:
- Every piece of metal is machined from the highest purity non-ferrous material available (pure copper and beryllium for the contacts).
- Each metal part is machined, polished, direct gold plated, and polished again.
- The body is cast out of PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate): a semi-crystalline material that has an extremely low dielectric constant, and is rated to insulate from spikes of over 20-thousand volts.
- They are 15 or 20 amp ready.
- Each unit is hand crafted.
I know a certain amount of soft-focus, feel-good, promotional rhetoric is necessary to raise public awareness favorably, but to me 'hand crafted' conjures visions of a cottage industry of dusky-haired maidens lovingly assembling P3s on their inner thighs. Admittedly, some Freudian leakage of my own may have permeated this image...IN THE HOLE
Installation is easy. It took me 15-minutes, and that included 5-minutes looking for a screwdriver. I finished up and checked my handiwork with a Sperry Circuit Analyzer
and thought I had a problem: I couldn't plug it in. I squinted down the holes to see if there was a blockage and saw nothing, so I tried again, and a little harder. With what seemed like an alarming amount of force, I finally got the tester home. Back in 2003, the original Power Port used the slogan: "The Grip of Mickey Mantle" to describe the clenching-power of the outlet on the plug's blades. Five years later, the P3 is more like Mr Mantle on steroids after a large oatmeal breakfast.IN THE MEANTIME
The P3 is a real pig when you first connect it. The sound is traumatic. It is glassy; there is no bass; there are no dynamics; there is a virtual absence of inner detail and texture to individual instruments; there is a midrange gloop where indistinct things mush together; but worse... much
worse is something I can't even talk about because it seems to be inaudible. Every time I entered the listening room during those early days there was a feeling of stressful panic. I can't explain it better and there's no other way to describe it. It would start with me realizing that I was screwing my face up to try and ward off some unseen nastiness. Then my shoulders would tense up and my back would tighten. Physical reactions to hi-fi?! Lord help me! I put my Isotek burn-in CD
on repeat, fled the room, and scheduled an exorcism. I returned periodically throughout the next 48-hours to check on the progress and sprinkle holy water, but only slight differences were noticeable. Time to call in the big guns!
I'm using the P3 on a 2-channel system with a moderate power draw. I can run my whole rig off one P-1000 Power Plant
, that is, I only really need one socket of a duplex to make everything work. To bring this misery to a swifter conclusion, I decided to run a long extension cable and route my fridge
through the new duplex: the fridge claimed the bottom berth, and my hi-fi sat up top: music & coolin' 24/7! Can you tell my wife was out of town?
Be in no doubt that this works! Some deft plug-juggling showed that when the sockets were switched, the one that had been feeding the fridge sounded consistently superior to the one that had fed the hi-fi. Another unexpected side-effect was that when the fridge was powered by the P3, my beer stayed colder longer and tasted less fatiguing, while salads seemed more dimensional and had greater inner detail. Whodathunkit?
All joking aside, with nothing much else to do but sit and wait, I enjoyed some quality navel-gazing. I got to thinking that it might not be a bad idea to periodically run the fridge from my new duplex--not simply to drive the P3 harder, but to give the romex in the wall a bit of a workout. I'm sure it could benefit from the occasional conditioning just like any other cable. I plan to make it part of my regular maintenance schedule.
All-in-all I ran the fridge for 14-days through the new P3. The ugly part of the break-in time is about 21-days and the last 7-of those are bearable, but it's still a bit of a beast. Walk this path of trial and tribulation with diligence and patience, however, and your rewards will be multiplied manyfold. IN THE END
I'd love to be able to tell you that I've tried a wide range of receptacles from the far-flung corners of the globe, but the truth is that my experience is pretty limited. I've heard the Oyaide R-1 on a friend's system, and while the improvements he's enjoying on his system seem to parallel those that I'm experiencing with my P3 on mine, a head-to-head shoot-out is obviously not possible. My history is as follows: back in 2002 (or so) I tried a Pass & Seymore hospital grade receptacle and found it to be a great improvement over the disposable widget that came with our house. PS Audio's first Power Port came next for me, and that was a sizable step-up over the Pass & Seymour. I am delighted to report that 6-years later, PS Audio's new Power Port Premier is so good that it takes the original Power Port over its knee and soundly spanks its arse (and I don't expect to see that
quote used for promotional purposes anytime soon). It's not even close! But I sense you need a more objective, less figurative set of comparisons to better envision the merits of the P3...
Compared to the original Power Port, the Premier casts an image that is:
- Bigger, better, wider, more focused and more powerful. There is a useful but hackneyed hi-fi adage which likens any perceived change in soundstage to the proximity of the listener to the musicians at a performance venue. This analogy works here, and I can equate the change from the PP#1 to the P3 to moving from seats in row G-or-H, to front row center. Front row center is normally closer that I would care to sit in a real-life concert, but happily the sound is never 'in your face', and there's a curious intimacy with the performers which I've never experienced before. This is not to say that you lose all sense of room ambience: all the information is presented beautifully, it's just that you seem to be closer to the action.
- Cleaner and more detailed. Oh come on! You knew you were going to hear at least one of these sooner-or-later:
The drawback of clichés is that you can feel the reader's eyes rolls heavenward as you write. The advantage of clichés is that everybody knows what you're talking about and you don't have to re-invent the wheel. So for the sake of brevity, let's just consider the aforementioned grimy, noisy, veils laundered, and move on. What always surprises me is that there is even room for improvement here. I have a very revealing hi-fi. I can hear bucket-loads of inner details and ambient cues. When something comes along that significantly improves what I had before, I'm always a bit amazed and excited. For example, every audiophile is familiar with that happy experience of discovering new details on familiar recordings when they make positive changes to their system--extra nuances, more distinct harmonizing and the like. Well it's been a long time since I had that happen to me, simply because my rig reveals most things already, but with the P3, I'm happy to report a couple of new-found instances that bucked this trend!
- It was as if a veil was lifted; and/or
- It sounded like a few layers of grime were removed; and/or
- The noise floor dropped to vanishingly low levels.
It would be wrong to place too much emphasis on these incidentals since they imply that the sound became more analytical--nothing could be further from the truth. Things just became more transparent and natural. Just be thankful I didn't mention the window on the recording studio...
- Towards the end of the break-in period, I was playing Jon Balke's Kyanos and the track Nano drew attention to itself because the percussion seemed to lack a bit of punch as compared to the rest of the album--then it became clear the drummer was playing his kit flat-handed, bongo style (I'm sure there must be a musical expression for this, but flat-handed, bongo style will do between you and I). I'd never noticed this before. Cool!
- As a some-time bass player, another rare discovery for me was found in Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow's album Songs With Legs. With the P3 on board, you could tell that when the trio upped the tempo, bassist Swallow switched from picking every note with his right hand, to picking every alternate note with his right, and hammering down with the fingers of his left for the others. I know I've just exposed myself as a sad, friendless, bass geek, but that simple revelation sparked a marathon practice session. I haven't been driven or motivated to do that for years!
- Slightly warmer. PP#1 lies nearer the lean, if not quite chilly side of the sound spectrum. I wouldn't say the P3 is warm, it's just more luscious in its presentation as compared to PP#1. The P3's actually pretty neutral, but compared to the PP#1 it's also more lovable...
- More musical. I'm a fraud: I'm not an audiophile at all. I don't generally suffer gear lust, and component shoot-outs are a chore rather than a happy pastime. Give me a good tune and the equipment's forgotten. All of the above analytical observations are well-and-good, but how these bits-and-pieces coalesce into a musical performance is the most important thing for me. And since I've been bandying personal disclosures around, let me throw in a few more: I'm not prone to hallucinations, delusions, or flights of fancy. I take no recreational or prescription drugs, nor do I think I need to. I am not under medical supervision of any kind (but I haven't got medical insurance, so take that how you will) yet lately I've found myself highly animated in front of my stereo, whoopin' and hollerin' in appreciation of the performers. I've been applauding solos and (heaven forfend) dancing! I'm not simply marveling at the technical ability of the players--although brash bravura is not masked if it is naturally present. It's the virtuoso musicians that have caught my ear, with their mature, assured, capable expression. With the P3 in the chain, my system delivers a performance that is light years beyond the notes and the spaces. It is so involving that it virtually channels emotion; my brain is bypassed and my heart is pierced directly. Yeah, sure that's over-the-top, but my enthusiasm for what has happened to my set-up since the inclusion of the P3 has brought out the excitable side of my nature; I'll take a deep breath... Musical expression is the be all and end all for me, and the P3 delivers it in spades. It gels, it sings, it swings, it's laugh-out-loud fantastic... This thing's got soul!
My time with the P3 has shown me that no true audiophile can afford to ignore the socket that feeds his system--the benefits of upgrading are too profound. There are a few manufacturers of quality products out there vying for your cash and consideration. I've heard some, but I can only speak authoritatively about the Power Port Premier... and its performance is stellar!
Given that you can buy a rattly 99¢ sparker at Home Depot, the one-hundred times
more expensive Power Port Premier may appear to be audio-extravagance in the extreme, after all, a volt is
just a volt, right? Well, patently not. Obviously the premium parts aren't just empty bling, and are chosen for practicable purposes. The fact that the performance delivered is way
beyond the capital outlay, kinda turns the whole audio-jewelry notion on its head--in fact dollar-for-dollar the P3 may be the greatest value improvement I've ever heard in my system. An outrageous blandishment you think? I can go further! The P3 might be the perfect antidote to upgraditis
in these recessionary times. Need to get your your hi-fi fix, but can't afford that shiny new unit and
a clutch of mortgage payments? A Power Port Premier may be the only change you'll need! In performance terms it easily equates to a major component upgrade. The P3 is not a flamboyant extravagance--it is a bloody bargain!
The P3 need not be considered a refinement to your system, although it functions superbly in that role. Rather, it should be seen as a foundation; a fundamental; square one
. If you get the basics right, everything else will fall into place naturally, and the evidence of my time with the P3 seems to suggest that fitting a high quality duplex should be the starting point
of your hi-fi journey. It elicits the best out of everything connected to it. For me, all downstream components seemed to benefit, including my Power Plant, which I'd previously considered to be the top of my electricity chain. No leap of faith is required to understand why you are hearing such first-class sonics: it's simply down to good design, high quality materials, labor-intensive craftsmanship and pride in manufacture. PS Audio should be rightly pleased with themselves... even a little smug!
The Power Port Premier is one of those how-did-I-ever-live-without-it
products that has forced me to re-evaluate what I think is important in hi-fi. It should be on every serious audiophile's audition list, and if I'd paid any pennies for it, it would've been worth every one! But you don't need to take my word for it. Like all of their products, PS Audio will let you audition a P3 for 30-days, and if you don't like any aspect of it, you can ship it back to them for a full refund of the retail price... I bet you keep it though!IN THE FUTURE
Creeping doubt is the inner bugaboo that stalks even the most outwardly tranquil of audiophiles, and while I like to think that I'm only in it for the music (and to hell with the equipment), the notion that something better may be just within reach
froths my fragile serenity. So now I gotta get me a Soloist, mod it with the P3 and get the whole package cryo'd! I've got $12.56 saved towards my half-priced deal. I hope this recession ends soon... Associated gear
Amplifier: Rick Cullen Stage-2 modified PS Audio GCC-100
Source: Modwright Sony NS-999ES CD/SACD player with Signature Truth Mods and PS 9.0 power supply
Speakers: Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 powered loudspeakers & Infinity Intermezzo 1.2 powered subwoofer
Cables/Interconnects: PS Audio/Acoustic Zen
Power Conditioner: Rick Cullen Stage-2 modified PS Audio P-1000 Power PlantSimilar products
Oyaide R-1, PS Audio Power Port