Sunday, August 26, 2012

Power: clean, conditioned and regenerated

A few years back I had an electrician run a dedicated line for my audio set up, a 20amp feed straight from the box at the back of the house to two outlets in my living room. He seemed skeptical when I told him also to use 'hospital grade' outlets but complied and I since replaced them with PS Audio outlets that grip power plugs like a vice. I cannot say it made a massive difference but it did clean up some of sonics and later, when I added a PS Audio Power Point Premier regenerator, I enjoyed very clean power free of pops from the AC kicking in (which is several times an hour in a Texas summer). When the PPP died (something I've experienced with more than a couple of the PS Audio components that I've owned over the years) I took advantage of an offer from the company to take it back on trade for a new P5, the latest generation of line regenerators (no mere conditioners!) from PS Audio. Have  to say, I like it. It looks good, works well and keeps most of my cables out of the way.

A couple of cords it does not hold however are those of my mono block amps which I've always plugged straight into the wall since using them with the earlier PPP tended to kick the fan in the regenerator on during particularly quiet pieces of music. For reasons that elude me now, I decided this week, when the system was powered down for a break, to try putting the Spectrons onto the P5 also, thereby running my entire rig from the one clean, freshly regenerated power supply which I can observe as a clean sine wave on the P5s front screen.

When I powered up I was surprised on several fronts. First, the display would not work but several restarts fixed this (though not without my worrying that I'd been struck by the failing PS Audio gear curse!) but second by the sonics. The music really did sound different with the amps on the P5 but it was not all good. Bass seemed to be greatly reduced while upper frequency detail seemed enhanced. I decided to leave everything on for a few days to familiarize myself with the sound but after two days I could not take anymore, it all just sounded too edgy, thin and lacking in body.  Putting the amps back on direct feed from the wall restored my pleasure but not before I'd discussed this with both PS Audio and with Spectron.

I think it's fair to say, there are significant disagreements as to what is happening here. PS Audio correctly view the power from the P5 as being cleaned up, therefore what I was hearing is probably a tonal balance shift. If the music is sounding worse to my ears and I cannot get used to it, there is probably something wrong elsewhere in my rig or, heaven forbid, I am really hearing what these amps sound like. Spectron tell me the problem is the P5. They do not recommend using it, or any transformer-based conditioner in fact, with their amps which are particularly fast and current intensive. They point out, also correctly, that if it the amps sound better without the P5, then that's all the evidence required to avoid its use. Two reasonable conclusions but two contradictory lines of reasoning.

All this has me wondering just what is happening here so I'm embarking on an exploration of various power treatment options. It won't surprise you to learn that said options are not cheap however I would like to get some of these into my rig to compare them on the same circuit and system. Stay tuned.


Part-Time Audiophile said...

I remember reading somewhere that "regenerators", generally, work best when the load is really light, where "light" = less than 10% of total capacity. The problem is that under even moderate load, so the story went, the output of these devices will distort. Put a lot of load on them (like an amp or two, running full-out), and that distortion can get quite pronounced -- and audible. I also recall hearing (more properly, "overhearing") someone talk about how awesome the new P5/P10 from PS Audio are -- when plugged into a passive conditioner! That is, your front-end gear is plugged into the PS Audio for "perfect power recreation", and that PS Audio (and your amps) get plugged into the passive. "Best ever" were the words I heard being tossed around. Its on my agenda of "things to try". Good luck, YMMV, and all that.


Part-Time Audiophile

Part-Time Audiophile said...

I remember reading somewhere that "regenerators" tend to work best when under a light load, where 'light' = "less than 10% of capacity". The reason given was distortion -- the higher the load, the more the unit distorts, and this becomes audible rather quickly. I also heard ("overheard) someone talking about the new P5/P10 units as being awesome -- when plugged into a passive power conditioner. Perfect, regenerated power went to the front end components (which load the unit rather lightly). The amps and the P5 were plugged into the passive. "Best ever" was what I recall of that conversation. It's something on my agenda to try out. YMMV, &c &c.

Part-Time Audiophile