Smart power supplies for turntable


I've read a number of threads on Audiogon that address the importance of having an appropriate power source to maintain turntable speed. I live in an area with terrible power stability, at the end of a utility company's service area. We have lots of little blips, evidenced by audio equipment, tv's, etc. shutting off. I have a power conditioner (Niagra 1000) to deal with noise in the dedicated circuit for my turntable and other audio gear and a conditioner/UPS for my computer equipment.

My question is whether devices like the Clearaudio Smart Power 12v and 24v battery power supplies are a good approach to maintain turntable speed stability. Are there other conditioners or devices that can be used for a broader range of brands that perform a similar function?

Your feedback is sincerely appreciated.

sameyers1

Battery power supplies are great for turntables, phono stages, and all kinds of low power components. They all run on DC anyway. The trick is to get the right voltage to the right place, something they don't tend to make very easy. But it is worth doing even if you do have pretty good AC. Simply because the battery supply is disconnected from and eliminates all the RFI and noise riding on the AC.

Sbooster and Farad both make very high quality power supplies. Sbooster is AC, essentially just a higher grade power supply. Farad is virtually a big super cap battery supply. Going with batteries you could just buy litium ion batteries in the right voltage and figure out how to hook em up. Use a charger with a relay designed to stop charging so the unit is disconnected from AC when playing music.

I had a battery supply just like this for my Teres turntable motor. It was a nice improvement over AC, and consisted of little more than a motorcycle battery and a charger on a circuit board. 

The trick isn't really the power supply. Those are easy. The trick is getting the power supply connected. Not that hard, it can be done, but usually not plug and play. 

If your local AC is truly "dirty" and unstable as to line voltage, then you might consider a power regenerator, like any of several made by PS Audio.  These devices are like amplifiers; they run off your line AC, convert it to DC, and then put out a pure sine wave at 60Hz.  The PS Audio P3, which makes 300W of pure AC, is probably sufficient for your TT.  DC supplies made from batteries are fine also, if your TT uses a DC motor. You fail to specify what kind of motor is in your TT and what DC voltage it requires, if in fact it is a DC motor.  Meantime, your Nagra conditioner ought to be at least helping the situation, although conditioners and filters cannot control the magnitude of the AC voltage; they can only clean it up.

Forgot to mention the key fact that AC power regenerators deliver a rock stable clean 120V, as well as pure 60Hz. 

@millercarbon ​​​​@lewm Thanks to you both for your responses, which confirm I am on the right track. 
 

To clarify, I have a Clearaudio turntable with a 12v DC motor. Clearaudio indicates  that their DC power supply is voltage stabilized, yet they sell a separate 12v battery power supply. This suggests the stock power supply has some limitations. 
 

My APC S-20 power conditioner and UPS which I use for computer and video gear has a voltage display that clearly indicates variations from 120 to as low as 113 volts, with changes at seemingly random times. I suspect this may have an effect on the turntable speed, but haven’t checked with a strobe or other device. If I can confirm that is the case, then the question is whether to get a battery power supply like the Clearaudio or a regenerator or similar device that can power multiple devices. The Farad LPS suggested by @millercarbon is for a single device, but is a lower cost alternative to the battery supply. Will it work as well?

As to EMI/RFI, I am confident the Niagara 1000 is doing a good job there, as my wife and I both can discern a very noticeable improvement in resolution and detail with the digital sources, pre-amp and amp plugged into that unit. 

Any further thoughts you may have are sincerely appreciated. 

I have dirty and unstable AC coming into an old house with mostly ungrounded plugs.  A vacuum cleaner will dim the lights a bit.  I bought a used PS Audio regenerator and it made a big difference.  I’ve got everything plugged into it except two small REL subs.

To clarify, I have a Clearaudio turntable with a 12v DC motor. Clearaudio indicates  that their DC power supply is voltage stabilized, yet they sell a separate 12v battery power supply. This suggests the stock power supply has some limitations. 

Every design has limitations, they just don't tell you about them. "Voltage stabilized" can mean all sorts of things. But there are guys with $50k UPS regenerators who still hear differences with time of day, running off AC vs regenerator, etc. None of this stuff is perfect. Not to the degree we can hear.

A battery is a chemical process. It has been a while you may not be old enough to remember but the old lead acid batteries would fizz out explosive gas when charging. Might even see the bubbles sometimes on some of them. Newer batteries work on different molecules but the idea is the same. None of them produces power as perfectly smooth and silent as we want.

Then the power has to go from where it's stored to where it's needed. At low voltage this gets real important real fast. What I'm getting at, there is no silver bullet. Just a whole bunch of things that can be done better or worse. Study enough of them, you might well be able to make a better battery supply than CA.

The good news is they already have a battery option for your motor. This means it will be real easy to convert to battery. Probably all you need to do is connect to where the option would connect. I would use lithium ion and make sure to use a charger that not only cuts off when playing records but that disconnects from AC as well. Without this feature RFI will ride right across the battery and this noise will detract from performance. Been there. Done that.

R. Daneel Olivaw

There was a fairly long thread about the Clearaudio optional battery supply, and the OP eventually bought it, for $1200, even after he received tons of advice on alternative approaches for fewer dollars.  You might want to check out that thread. IF you were to rig up your own battery supply so as to save money over the Clearaudio optional supply, then you would need to know some very specific info about the Clearaudio TT motor and the onboard components of its existing power supply that runs off wall AC, apparently.  See the older thread for that information.  Like sryeager mentioned above, an AC power regenerator would solve your problem and probably supply enough AC watts to take care of some of your other components, which must also be suffering if your line voltage gets down as low as 113V.  You can buy a used PS Audio P10, which makes around 1200W of pure 120VAC, for between $2000 and $2500.  I use a P15, the current version of the P10, really, on my basement audio system, and the results are superb. What's more, PS Audio takes good care of its customers.

@millercarbon I will not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just looking for a reasonable solution. 
 

@lewm I will look for the thread on the CA battery supply. Its relative cost to serve just one device is why I started this thread. The power regenerator seems like a better option given its ability to run multiple devices. 
 

Thx again for the advice. 

That's the spirit. I've done what you're contemplating, convert motor to battery supply. Many years ago, didn't know near what I do now. Also my AC was dedicated line, well above average. Battery was several feet away, long wires. Even so the battery was a worthwhile improvement. Later on I modified the motor pod to enclose the battery. Nowadays, better batteries, should be even better. 

Rens Heijnis in The Netherlands is modding my strain gauge to lithium battery, along with some other things. It is a sound approach and in your case a good candidate for DIY as well.

To clarify, I have a Clearaudio turntable with a 12v DC motor. Clearaudio indicates  that their DC power supply is voltage stabilized, yet they sell a separate 12v battery power supply. This suggests the stock power supply has some limitations. 


To me it suggests they can sell it and make money. Expectation of performance is almost as good of a consumer motivator as validated performance.

The operating range on the ClearAudio AC supply makes it sound like a switcher?  That is not inherently bad. It will mean it will handle your 113V or pretty much anything you throw at it without too much issue. Depending on how it is designed, the output voltage may be totally independent of the input, or slight variation.  The turntable also has active speed control based on a speed sensor, so that is ultimately setting the speed, and will also adjust up and down as needed.  I don't think you would see any variation in turntable speed if you tried to measure it. Not even a tiny bit. You would need a wow and flutter meter. Realistically, the bearing are causing more speed variation, not to mention non perfect placement of the record hole, etc. etc.


I would be far more concerned about just general "noise" which you seem to have addressed at some level. Maybe you can borrow a power regenerator and see if it meets your needs.

 

Good points to consider from candy.

So sorry, I meant "cindyment", not "candy".  I mistyped "cindy".

How about just go with Cin. That would be more accurate.

Anything you want.

cindyment makes a great point about off center drilling. It is rampant and clearly audible. If you take a test record and widen out the center hole just 1 mm and play a 100 Hz tone you will clearly hear the pitch change. If you focus on a fixed visual reference in line with the finger lift of the tonearm you will see it wander back and forth on at least 50% of the records you play. If you can see it chances are you can hear it on sustained notes. This does not mean that turntables should not be accurate but this requirement has to be put into perspective. Just a 0.5 mm displacement will produce more wow than any modern audiophile turntable that is not defective. What is even more disturbing is there is not a pressing plant alive that can reliably drill a centered hole!  The hole that centers the grooves (stamper) is punched after a cursor is visually lined up on the runout groove. The standard for this is within 0.2 mm. This requires a lot of care on the part of the operator and a machine that is properly calibrated and maintained. 

Clearaudio does not make shabby turntables and the stock power supply probably does all the filtering and regulation required for acceptable performance. Spending even more money on an outboard power supply is not likely to make an audible difference that can be heard reliably. Your brain will think it heard it only because you spent money. Don't feel bad. My brain does the same thing.

I am the OP for the earlier thread mentioned above for the Clearaudio Smart Power 12V supply.  I eventually bought Clearaudio's very expensive power supply.  I wouldn't stake my life on it but I believe I am getting a little quieter signal out of my Performance DC Wood TT with the Smart Power 12V than I did with the pitiful looking little switching wall wart supply which came with the turntable.

Thx to @cindyment for describing issues not well addressed on Clearaudio’s website or in their documentation. I am not interested in spending $1200 for their battery power supply unless I can try it and return if there is little or no improvement or if there are better, more cost effective alternatives. I know the voltage in my house bounces around unpredictably. Even had an electrician attach a device to my panel to graph the voltage over 24 hours. The graph was relatively stable for periods of time and then would show a precipitous drop to around 113v and then move around over time, trending back to 120v. Trying to time my turntable use with voltage variations to find out if I can hear a difference is almost a fool’s errand. Seems to be time of day oriented to only some extent - summer air conditioning season when people come home from work, but other times seemingly random. I will see if I can audition a regenerator at the time of year when voltage is most likely to vary to find out if I notice any improvement to the table’s sound quality. 
 

Thx to all for your responses. 

I used a VPI frequency generator on my VPI for many years and I believe it to have been a sonic improvement even though my power was very stable. My very best experiences with audio have never come with an eye to reducing cost or saving money. Nothing wrong with that, but $1,200 to enhance the sound with technology often proved is not the path to great sound. 
 

Some of the best sound I have heard Is battery generated.. audio circuits most common… my Aurender Streamer now, I would be pretty unhesitatingly ing trying a battery source. You have occasionally leap to verify you have tried. 

$1200?!

Be careful with the advice so far, I would just about bet the only other one that speaks from experience is kingharold, and he "wouldn’t stake his life" on there being any difference at all. $1200 in my book should be "Yes indeed obviously better now let me list the ways." Everyone else, would love to see them chime in again only this time letting us know what experience it is based on. (Would LOVE to see the guy admit his platter is 1mm off center!🤣🤣🤣)

I’ve run the same motor off AC, battery, and battery connected to and disconnected from charger. Heard distinctly the difference in each case- AC good, battery better, disconnected best of all. This was with a lead acid motorcycle battery on a Teres motor. Roughly equivalent, if not superior, to your CA. Solid experience in other words.

Battery power on my Teres brought a more relaxed nuanced and detailed sound to the music. Dynamics weren’t so much greater but were rendered with a lot more subtle shadings making them more lifelike. No one thing stands out as being different, yet the whole effect is to draw you more into the music. None of this speed stability BS. If people actually tried and heard it they would know. The errors people are talking about - 1mm - are just absurd. By the time you can hear it clearly enough to identify as a speed problem you are already beyond lost. Vintage 35 year old $350 Technics are better than this.

Since your CA is already designed to run on their optional 12VDC supply this means all you have to do is get a 12V lithium battery and charger and wire it up with a switch. Flip the switch to disconnect the charger when playing, flip it back again go charge when done. I was looking into these for my Soundsmith Strain gauge before deciding to go with Rens Heijnis and there are really good lithium battery rigs made for electric bicycles that are compact and already set up with wires and charging circuit. Couple hundred bucks and should be a piece of cake to adapt. Run your rig for days on a charge.

 

Whether it works better with battery all comes down to implementation.  The CA with active feedback is going to be more immune to supply variance. 

 

Electric bicycles are typically 24-48V not 12. The nominal 12V lithium vehicle batteries are as high as 14.8 fully charged draining down to 10. A 12.6V LiPo for RC may be more appropriate. You could test it with an 8x AA battery holder and some dollar store batteries.

 

A large Milwaukee M12 battery would probably run a turntable for 4 hours at least.

Just have two, one in the table the other in the charger. It would require a voltage regulator as cindyment remarked the voltage is anything but stable. It drifts downward as the battery discharges. 

Kingharold, In the context of your thread, wasn't it mentioned that your Clearaudio has a voltage regulator on board the chassis, feeding 12VDC to the motor?  Either that, or the $1200 option includes a regulator at its output.  Because of the voltage regulation, which is a very good way to go by the way, it is likely that the battery itself puts out more than 12V, because any VR itself drops some voltage from its input to its output. In fact, the voltage drop is necessary for good regulation. So, if one wants to build a less expensive version of a batt supply for the Clearaudio TT, one has to know precisely how the PS circuit is actually implemented, including precisely what is the voltage output expected from the battery to keep the voltage going into the motor stable.  It was at that point, I think, that you decided to spend the bucks on the OEM supply offered by Clearaudio.  Just hooking up a 12V batt (if it's a 12V motor) would be a bad idea, I think we all agree.  (I would still favor trying an AC power regenerator that has the capacity to supply AC power to other components in your system as well as the TT.)

@lewm Same as my conclusion. Absent knowledge of how my CA table regulates incoming power, better to try a regenerator and get clean, constant power for multiple devices. While I’m not averse to trying a DIY solution, I’m not interested in damaging the turntable by using what turns out to be an inappropriate power source. And if I did end up with damage to the table, the repair could cost as much as CA’s battery supply. I will stick with my plan to audition a regenerator at home to determine if it brings an audible improvement that both my wife and I find worth the investment. We both play instruments and know how they should sound. Our two sets of ears have helped us make other equipment purchase decisions, as when we got the Audioquest Niagara 1000. 

Their battery supply lists the output as 12V, but it also says NiMh 12V, 5000mAH. As a guess only, it is a 10x series NiMh, 12V nominal, but to as high as 13.2, goes down to 10.  This then supplies the turntable that has the DC motor controller with servo speed feedback back on optical sensor.

The output of the fixed supply is 12V. This was my point with the wide range of just using a battery. Odds are it will work, properly, if reasonably designed to a volt or two below or above 12V, but the only one who can give a correct answer is ClearAudio.

millercarbon wrote: I would just about bet the only other one that speaks from experience is kingharold, and he "wouldn’t stake his life" on there being any difference at all. "

For the sake of fairness I should add that I am seventy-two years old, and my hearing is not as acute as it was in years past.  Sharp eared younger audiophiles might hear more difference between the wall wart supply and the Smart Power battery supply than I did.