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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 2
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ps audio

P-300 Power Plant, with comments on the UO and P-600

as reviewed by Roger McNichols, Pat Brady, Larry Cox, and Dave Clark,

 

 

 

ROGER McNICHOLS JR.'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Sonus Faber Electa Amators and Acoustic Energy speaker stands. NHT SA-3 mono power amp & SW-P subwoofer.

ELECTRONICS
Rowland Design Group Concentra integrated amplifier.

SOURCES
Rotel RCD-975 CD player. Fanfare FT-1 FM tuner and Terk FM antenna.

CABLES
Transparent Audio MusicLink interconnects and MIT 750 bi-wire loudspeaker cables.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)When I was in high school, our track and field team was hastily put together each year from members of the football and basketball squads. Having just a few weeks to prepare, our teams did rather poorly. Since I was one of strongest football players, I was always in a group of players asked to compete in the shot put. I’ll never forget one year. We began practicing the shot put, and all of us muscle-bound jocks could throw the sixteen-pound ball about 30 to 35 feet. We practiced and practiced, and when the day finally came for the track meet, we sized up the competition and no one looked intimidating. I remember fantasizing about having a really great throw and winning the gold medal.

One by one, the competitors stepped into the circle and put the shot. Everyone’s throw seemed to be in the 30 to 35-foot range, and my hopes were growing stronger and stronger. There were about five guys in front of me as I flexed my biceps and dreamed of the gold. Suddenly, a rather slim, average-looking fellow stepped into the circle, crouched down, spun around like an Olympian, and launched the shot. I can see the whole scene in my mind in slow motion. The shot went so high and so far that all of us stood there with our mouths open in shock. The little guy threw the shot about 61 feet! Suddenly, any dreams the rest of us had of winning came crumbling back to earth. This incident came to mind during the time I spent auditioning several components from PS Audio. Realizing I had encountered a new reference, I placed a metal figurine of an Olympic discus thrower on top of the P-600 Power Plant. The figurine symbolized the desire to improve, the dedication and struggle required to raise the mark, and the joy of setting new records.

This review started as an audition of just the P-300 Power Plant, but soon grew into a much more diverse experience. I ended up listening to four products from the PS Audio line: an Ultimate Outlet installed in my wall, a P-300 Power Plant for my Rotel CD Player, a P-600 Power Plant for my Jeff Rowland Design Group Concentra integrated amplifier, and the Mini Lab power cord to connect the amp to the P-600. The P-600 is large (17 x 20 x 9 inches) and would not fit inside my rack, so I moved things around and placed the P600 on the top shelf, where it looked quite impressive.

The experience began when I received the P-300 Power Plant and plugged in my CD player. I popped in Boca, The Best of College A Capella with the Stanford University Men’s choral group singing "Ave Maria." The song begins with a soloist centered and singing clearly and forcefully. Wow! Something was quite different. The singer’s voice had much more depth and realism. The reverb from the room in which they were recorded was so significant that I felt as if my living room had been transformed into a cathedral. The improvement was dramatic. As the rest of the group began singing, I relaxed and enjoyed the music in a way I never had before. I tried to play the reviewer’s role, analyzing what was happening, but the music was so pleasing, so much closer to reality, that I just eased back and listened with my eyes closed.

The P-300 Power Plant simply transformed how my CD player reproduced the music. There was a significant increase in detail, soundstaging, and the separation of the singers, all of which added so much to the feeling that the choral group seemed to actually be in the room. The sound was much more palpable. Gone were so much of the previous blurred sounds of the voices, and gone was any digital harshness that might cause musical fatigue. The P-300’s performance left me with my mouth open in shock, much the same as that day at the track meet!

I next put on Golden String Audiophile Repertory’s gold HDCD, Cello Crossover. This amazing disc is a jazz/classical crossover featuring Terry Perez on cello, with both the John Whitney Jazz Trio and the All Star Percussion Ensemble. It is a unique CD, a great recording of a bunch of musicians having fun playing nearly every sound you can imagine. I again sat listening to the very familiar tracks with my eyes closed. During one of the songs, I suddenly heard some creaking sounds that made me sit up, thinking someone was walking through my living room. I opened my eyes and looked around, but no one was there. I scanned back on the CD and there it was—something I’d never heard before. It sounded like the cellist during had leaned on her cello, causing the wood to creak. This is the level of detail revealed through the P-300.

If this much improvement occurred with just one change to one component, what could be realized by supplying low-distortion, low-impedance, regenerated AC power to my integrated amplifier? What about improving the power cords? I got on the phone to PS Audio, and a few days later the UPS truck delivered a P-600 Power Plant ($2395), an Ultimate Outlet ($299), and a Mini Lab cable. Since the P-300 is designed primarily for low-powered components, I needed the P-600 for my amp. The Ultimate Outlet is a replacement for your standard wall outlet. It cleans the power and protects your system from spikes and surges. The Ultimate is bi-directional, so it can be used before or after gear to help isolate any digital or other contamination. I was curious to try the Ultimate Outlet both in front of the P-600 and between the P-600 and the P-300.


Ultimate Outlet

Since I now had so many variables, I concentrated on only two CDs during my further evaluations—the choral CD already mentioned and a great guitar CD, Taranka, featuring Obo and Jorge, two master flamenco guitarists. I plugged my amp into the P-600 with the Tice TPT PC-2 power cord that I had been using. I also plugged the Ultimate Outlet into the P-600 and plugged the P-300 into the Ultimate Outlet, so the power came from my wall to the P-600, then on to my amplifier, then to the Ultimate Outlet, and from there to the P-300 and finally to my CD player. The music took another large step in the right direction. The soundstage was now deeper and wider, the resolution increased, and my speakers disappeared. On the guitar tracks, the strumming and picking of the strings was much more detailed, while the overall presentation of the music kept great pace, remaining lively and pleasing. I could not identify anything that leaned toward musical fatigue. The two guitarists took their respective spots on stage and BAM!, the concert began. As I listened I just enjoyed the music for its own sake! I was often happy before, but I didn’t know how much more was there to enjoy until the Power Plants helped reveal it.


P-600 Power Plant

I had tried the Ultimate Outlet between the P-600 and the P-300 with the thought of isolating the digital source from the amplifier. I then moved the Ultimate Outlet to the wall, plugged the P-600 into it and plugged the P-300 into the P-600. After doing several comparisons between these two setups, I preferred the Ultimate Outlet between the wall and the P-600. With this setup, the P-300 seemed to stand on the P-600’s shoulders, helping my CD player to reproduce even more detail, always in proper balance with the music. At a hi-fi Show, I once heard Jeff Rowland discuss the great lengths that he had gone to have his amplifiers be silent, and the important contrast between silence and sound was dramatically improved with the PS Audio components. A few days later I tried another setup in which I removed the P-300 and both my CD player and integrated amp were plugged into the P-600. The resulting sound was much better than without using a Power Plant, but there was an ever-so-slight loss of detail. Plugging the P-300 back into the P-600 brought back the magic.

My last round of auditions involved the Mini Lab power cable, my Tice cord, and a stock Belden cord. I rotated all three cords between the P-600 and my amplifier. The stock Belden had the worst results, the Tice power cable was definitely better, but the Mini Lab was the best. The Mini Lab is about two feet long, compared to six feet with the other two. The diameter of the Mini Lab is also dramatically larger also.

The build quality of all four PS Audio pieces rates an A+, and they are designed with great looking style. This review could easily be three times longer due to so many possible variations, but since I haven’t the space to discuss the many frequency settings, I’ll just recommend SS1. PS Audio’s Power Plants can significantly improve your system. Regenerated power may be that magical improvement that you’ve always longed for. The four units worked together synergistically to take me further and further down the road to musical paradise.

By the way, the discus thrower figurine will never have to move because the P-600 Power Plant and the other three PS Audio units are not being returned. I have to go now, as I have a lot of music to listen to! Roger McNichols

 

 

 

DAVE CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer Tetons.

ELECTRONICS
Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amplifiers. E.A.R. 834P phono stage. Blue Circle BC3 preamp w/Amperex BB tubes, and BCG3.1 power supply. Taddeo Digital Antidote Two.

SOURCES
EAD T1000 transport and EVS Millenium 1B DAC with Audient Technologies’ Tactic and Audit, JPS digital cable. Linn Axiss turntable with K9 cartridge and Basik Plus arm.

CABLES
JPS Superconductor+ interconnects and speaker cables. Sahuaro, Blue Circle, Custom House, and Clayton Audio, and JPS AC cables.

ACCESSORIES
Homebrewed ac conditioner for sources and the Coherent Systems Electraclear EAU-1 parallel conditioner. Dedicated 15 amp ac circuit for sources and 20 amp ac circuit for amplifiers. Mondo racks, BDR cones and board, DH cones, Vibrapods, various hard woods, etc. And a bottle of Rancho Sisquoc Merlot.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)The PS Audio P-300 should not be new to our readers, as it was introduced several years ago, and has been reviewed by quite a few other magazines and e-zines. So what can I say about a product that has been around the block so many times? Let's look at it from these angles: (1) "Do you need an AC regenerator rather than a line conditioner?" (2) "Will AC regeneration make any real difference in your musical enjoyment?" and (3) "Is there a universal silver bullet that will kill all the evils in your AC?" The answers are yes to questions one and two, but perhaps no to question three. I'm sorry to inform you that there is no Silver Bullet, or at least that it isn't the P-300.

I have dedicated AC lines, one 15 amp for sources and one 20 amp for the amplifiers. I ended up using the P-300 on the 15-amp circuit, feeding AC to the EVS DAC, the Taddeo Digital Antidote II, and the Audit and Tactic pair. The BC3000 preamp sounds slightly better running directly into the wall, possibly because it has its own AC filtration based around capacitors, resulting in a load that the P-300 does not like. Using the P-300 wrought significant improvement to my system, in all the areas that audiophiles cherish-pace, clarity, bass slam and extension, midrange and treble purity, palpability, soundstaging, etc. Images took on way greater solidity and clarity within a cleaner soundfield. Music was less artificial. It also seemed "bigger," with considerably more impact. Almost like a turbocharger for one's system, the P-300 was not subtle in its ability to allow my components to work at their best.

What really improved was simply the solidity to the music. More power and slam with a notch or two at the top and bottom. More bloom and more presence with a greater sense of ease. Major improvements? Compared to the wall, yes. Compared to other products, perhaps not. See my review elsewhere on the Audio Magic Stealth (www.positive-feedback.com/Issue2/amstealth.htm). Each has it strengths and weaknesses—or trade-offs—and which will work best for you is an issue only you can best decide. I prefer the Audio Magic unit as it has more outlets, can support more of a draw, does not get hot, and here at least, does more to improve the music across the board than the P-300 did. Yes, it does not regenerate the AC, but I did not find that to be an issue ti make we prefer the P-300 over the Stealth. Anyhow read the other review where I spend a bit more time comparing the two products.

With the P-300's Multiwave function, the finicky audiophile can fine-tune these areas even further, though in more subtle ways. I did not hear jaw-dropping differences between the ten settings, but the effects are real and useful. Going from one Multiwave setting to another will allow you to change soundstaging depth and width, add or remove a bit of warmth, and open up the music to some degree. I found this useful on bright or dark recordings. Ditto with respect to components here for review. One can almost use the Multiwave function like a tone control or soundfield control. But like I said the changes are not that much of a revelation—at least not here.

Drawbacks? The P-300 has a noisy fan-though I was told by PS Audio that since I am operating it well within its capabilities, I could disconnect the fan and everything would be fine. Two, only 300 watts can be drawn-sources and preamps only, please. Three, there are only four AC outlets, and four, the unit produces a lot of heat. I don't find the fan noise objectionable in my environment, the heat is not really an issue in Long Beach—at least not during the summer, and having only four outlets allowed me to use my woodworking and electrical abilities making additional outlet boxes! Turning the fan off caused the unit to get very hot by the way, so I left it on—which meant that it never turned off for any significant period of time. And I was only feeding sources—no preamp. A bit too impractical for me to live with, but it may work for you. Perhaps the P-600 with more outlets is a better path to follow, but that is a lot more money.

Highly recommended, especially as PS Audio offers a thirty day money-back guarantee. Will it work for you? Try one for yourself. Dave Clark

 

 

 

PAT BRADY'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Magneplanar 1.6 QR and an Audio Pro DP40 subwoofer (modified).

ELECTRONICS
VTL Super Deluxe preamp with built in phono stage (MM/MC) and 60s-vintage matched RCA tube set. Electron Kinetics Eagle 400 monoblock amplifiers.

SOURCES
Cal Audio Delta CD transport and Alpha DAC with 50s-vintage matched Telefunken tube set. VPI HW 19 Mark IV turntable with SAMA (stand alone motor assembly), Audioquest PT-8 tonearm, and Benz Glider and van den Hul MC One moving coil cartridges.

CABLES
Transparent Audio Power Link Ultra power strip and Power Link Plus power cords and MIT 330 CVT and 330 interconnects and 750 Plus speaker cables. Audio Works Datalink digital cable.

 

 three.jpg (8484 bytes)When I was asked to review the PS Audio P-300, it was like being asked if I wanted a slice of New York cheesecake. Like so many in the audiophile community, I have read, heard, and wondered about all the praise heaped upon PS Audio's Power Plants. I've had less-than-optimal electrical conditions in several places I've lived. To alleviate some of the problems in my current home, I hired a City of Los Angeles electrician when I purchased it. He installed a separate 20-amp circuit for my system using heavy-gauge copper wire and hospital-grade receptacles. He also checked and corrected improper grounding, phase relationships between plugs, etc.

Several years ago, I spent a fair amount of time evaluating various power conditioners and power cords. I ultimately purchased Transparent Audio's power conditioner and power cords, which have performed well, truly improving my system's fidelity and realism. These products made it possible to remove some, though not all, of the grunge associated with contaminated AC. I frequently encounter periods of weak AC power. I can literally see this, as all of the lights in my home become dimmer; the sound of my system also becomes anemic. Whenever this occurred, there was nothing I could do, until now!

The PS Audio approach to cleaner AC is to recreate it. In essence, your AC is converted to DC and then converted again to high-grade, stable AC. The P-300's voltage and frequency output are adjustable by the user. After some experimentation, I retained the default settings of 117 VAC and 60 Hz. As the P-300 produces only 300 watts, I was limited to feeding my preamp, CD transport, and DAC, leaving my amplifiers subject to my local utility's AC supply. The P-300 performed best without any of the Transparent Audio components installed. I ended up using no-name generic AC cables for the components that have detachable cords.

It is difficult to describe what the Power Plant did to enhance my enjoyment of recorded music. Whether the source was poorly recorded or at the top of the sonic masterpiece list, I perceived improvement. Listening to Dean Peer's CD Ucross is a revelation under normal circumstances. This album, recorded in 1991, consists of Peer playing a fretless bass guitar. It's an awesome, state-of-the-art recording. On a good system, it can get you thinking this guy is in your room! When I played it using the P-300, I literally had goose bumps, and on some passages I could feel my hair tingling from sheer excitement. Believe me folks, this doesn't happen very often. Music had increased dynamics. The sense of space and air improved dramatically, and most if not all previously-perceived harshness was removed Female voices, trumpets, flutes, and percussive instruments of all sorts were smoother and more life-like than I'd ever experienced. Every disc I listened to was rendered with a liquidity that reminded me of a well-played Gibson Les Paul fed through a tubed amplifier. This particular combo can sound extremely accurate and articulate and still drip with honey at the same time.

I unplugged the CD transport and DAC and plugged in my 27-inch JVC monitor and Sony Hi-Fi VCR just to see what clean, stable power could do for TV picture quality. The results were fantastic! Picture quality was so good I had doubts about the need to get a DVD player. Images were much sharper. The sometimes fuzzy transitional edges between different objects on the screen were instantly rendered with distinct outlines. The scratchy and wavy grain that is all-too-often present was practically eliminated, and in its place was a smooth and solid image. Colors appeared to be richer and purer, with no artificiality whatsoever. Low-light scenes had far more detail and greater contrast. Also, audio from the monitor and VCR was blessed with the same sonic virtues I had observed during CD playback. The Power Plant was superior to any AC filtering device I have ever used. I can only imagine what could be gained using PS Audio power cords and AC outlets in conjunction with the P-300. As a note to those that are conservation-minded, I contacted PS Audio to discuss my concern with the unit's efficiency. The person I spoke to stated that this unit operates at 60-65% efficiency, so keep in mind that you will be paying a higher price for the pleasure this unit provides. For me, the improvement is well worth the additional expense. I only have one other problem. How can I convince my wife I need a P-300 for my front end and a P-600 for my amplifiers? Pat Brady

 

 

 

LARRY COX'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ATC SCM 20.

ELECTRONICS
Majeel Labs Pristine S-10 amplifier. E.A.R. 802 preamplifier.

SOURCE
Pioneer DV 525 dvd or CAL Audio Icon Mk.II CD players.

CABLES
Quattro Fil interconnects and speaker cables made from Belden 1219A wire.

ACCESSORIES
API Power Pack and ACPEAM line conditioners.

 

four.jpg (6893 bytes)Since my last reviews, I’ve gotten married and I’ve moved. My new place is a block from the Pacific Ocean and on a noisy thoroughfare, so my listening room has gotten noisier and subtleties aren’t as easily discerned. I expect that this means my reviews of products like the PS Audio P-300 Power Plant, which lowers noise levels, may be of limited value. However, if I can hear the noise reduction, then the product really works.

The Power Plant is essentially another amplifier for your system, except that it is reconfiguring the sine wave, in a way not explained in their brochure. The PS300 needs stilts if you have a carpeted floor—there is a downward-facing fan on the unit to keep it cool. The hum of the fan is quite low and sort of Mae West-like in tone, rather than, say, Rosie O’Donnell. During music replay it was functionally silent. It will power four products, including amplifiers if they are of the low-power variety. I tried it with the 50 WPC 47 Labs Gain Card, but not with the 100-watt class "A" Majeel Labs Pristine amp. If you want to power a beefcake amplifier, you’ll need a P-600.

My reaction? The P-300 really drops the noise level. I could easily hear a difference, in several settings. My system is already relatively quiet, but the Power Plant offered a whole other level of quiet. Signals emerged from a blacker black, so to speak, and this allowed for a more easily discernible, maybe even louder presentation. There was deeper silence between notes. The sound wasn’t more expressive, it was simply easier to listen to. I didn’t have as much time to listen to the Power Plant as I would have liked, so I’m going to add a follow-up, but for now I’d give it at least one thumb up. I had a physical reaction to it, a distinct relaxation of my whole body and a sort of snuggling into music in a way I’ve previously associated with extraordinary tube products. This is a desired experience for me.

Where I’m a little confused about this device is that it offers a slew of multiple sine waves operating at different timing intervals. The setting the unit ships at was nothing special for me. The "1" setting, however, was very nice, and the one that PS Audio recommends. This setting seemed to make music a little louder, a little more forward (something I usually hate), in the sense that the immediacy of the instrument was increased. Music was simply more dynamic, and I like macrodynamics.

On the down side, the quieting of the noise floor took with it a sense of decay and shimmer, the small details of music and recordings that give you the impression of a live experience. I’m not sure what I think about this product because I’m not sure if what I’m "missing’ is an added artifact.

The P-300 is about the same price as Ensemble Audio’s Mega Power Point, which we reviewed last issue. The Power Plant quiets the back ground more, but because the alteration is so substantial I’m not sure whether the Power Plant is "better " or is adding coloration. My conclusion is that while the Ensemble Product may be subtler in its effect, it is, to my ears, more "neutral.’

I’ll say the P-300 is recommended. Although expensive, it delivers the goods. My questions about whether it is coloring the sound will take time to answer. More later. Larry Cox

 

 

 

P-300
Retail $1245

PS Audio
TEL: 877. 772. 8340
web address: www.psaudio.com
e-mail address: customerservice@psaudio.com

 

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