I sell the Jena Labs outlets which I am crazy about, but am biased. Others to consider are the PS Audio and Acme. They all make quite a difference.
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PS Audio's Power Port duplex wall outlets sell for $49.95 ea. These are the best that I have seen in the marketplace. They are polished, nickle-plated over copper contacts with triple blade wipers for the best electrical connection possible with very little corrosion over time. The are worth every penney! Go directly to the PS Audio website or they are available mailorder from Music Direct and AudioAdvisor.
When I installed a pair of 20 amp lines I went with the Arrow-Hart hospital grade outlet. Frankly, I didn't expect a change in sound and in my subjective opinion I didn't get one. What I do like though is the greater tension applied to the plugs. When using a stiff power cord I've experienced some tendency for the cord to pull the plug partially out of the socket. The greater tension offered by the hospital grade outlet helps keep the plug fully seated.
I too am a big believer in good quality outlets. I've used audio grade Hubbells @ 2 for $25. from The Cable Co., also Acme silver plated for $30. each-- these can also be cryo treated. I also recommend Pass and Seymour hospital grade for their quality construction and good gripping capability-- available at most electrical supply stores for $10-12.
Good outlets help lower noice floor thus improving dynamics and detail, ie "silences" are more silent. It took the silver plated Acmes a full 30 days to breakin and start sounding good (they were too bright and had glare when new) and Michael Brinkman at Acme will tell you that-- and will refund your money after 30 days if you're not satisfied.
But you should realize that outlets aren't everything. They are best when used with a dedicated AC system and good quality power cords. Cheers. Craig
A good quality wall outlet should provide (1) greater surface contact area, like Creeper said, (2) better grip, like Beowulf said, and (3) be physically stronger to resist cracking from strains from heavy cable and from impacts. If the surface area is small, any corrosion or pitting would result in some slight voltage loss, some impedance to easy current flow, or possibly electrical noise from arcing. A better grip is important to keep the plug properly set in the socket to maintain full surface contact (as well as prevent electrical shock from exposed contacts or unintended disconnects). I have had cheap outlets crack from wear and impact from repeated use with vacuum cleaners, portable electric devices, etc. Of these three issues, perhaps the most important is better surface contact, because it is invisible but affects the electronics and could be audible.
I noticed an improvement when going to hospital grade outlets. Even commercial grade 20 amp outlets at 3.50 each are much better than stock, as noted above, much better grip and greater contact area.
I would certainly love it if someone could explain to me the difference between a good hospital grade outlet at 15.00 (from your local electral supply house) and PS Audio's and the other "audiophile" grade 50.00 ones. I can't see any rational at all in spending that much money on an outlet. But maybe someone out there as done a direct comparison and could enlighten us. Remember, when buying the hospital grade receptacle, DON'T tell them you're an audiophile :)
To me money would be much better spent by installing a 20 amp dedicated circuit or two. Cost for materials, including 2 hospital grade outlets, for a 50' run is about 60-70 bucks each circuit, and that is using 10 gauge romex instead of 12 gauge. No part of any system is greater than its weakest link. It is more important to look at the complete circuit and all materials used than any one single part.
I have just upgraded to the PS Audio Power Port from Hubbell hospital grade, on my amp only. I have a dedicated 20A line for my amp, and a JPS Labs Power AC. I bought only one Power Port, Tubegroover, because I am a skeptic, and I figured this was unlikely to make an audible difference. But I'm also a sucker for cheap tweaks, and while $50 is a ton for an outlet, it's only $50. The jury is still out, but I think I'm hearing a bit blacker backgrounds, and a bit more depth. No earth-moving epiphany, for sure, but it's only been a couple of weeks. If I decide it's worth it, I may another in front of my front end line conditioner.
Any PS300 owners who upgraded to Power Ports?
Hi Whknopp, I wanted to try the JPS AC wire for my dedicated line, but at $18 per foot for a 55' run I went for an alternative. Getting 8AWG into the power port was a
(probably unnecessary) pain in the arse. If it looks like there's a good possibility that the JPS is better than the twisted silver plated, stranded, teflon insulated stuff I used it shouldn't be too tough to replace. The outlet and the AC wire got changed at the same time, so the improvement I heard (inreased clarity, quieter background)can't be entirely credited to the outlet.