Mix and Match

Long story, but I thought I’d share. This story represents over 6 months of experimentation!

Over the years I’ve accumulated several power conditioning/correcting/regenerating components. Tossing aside passive components (exception: High Fidelity MC-0.5), the list:

  • Two Exact Power EP-15s (power correction)
  • Two Exact Power SP-15s (balanced Isolation Transformer)
  • One PSA PP12
  • One PSA PP3
  • Three High Fidelity MC-0.5s

I recently updated a few key components (Phono preamp, DAC/Streamer) that lead to rethinking my power arrangement. At the same time, my PP12 went on the fritz. I had been using the PP12 in my main audio system, and an Exact Power unit in my secondary home theater setup. I couldn’t live without my audio system; so, I swapped in my Exact Power unit to temporarily replace my PP12. Sorry PS Audio, but the Exact Power unit gives very similar benefit to my system as the Power Plant. Added bonus: the EP works with my power amps (JC-1s)!

My original setup was front-end components on the PP12, and power amps straight into the wall with MC-0.5s on each duplex outlet – note that my audio system is on a dedicated 20A circuit with three outlets on the audio side of the room.

A characteristic of my new phono pre and DAC/streamer is more energy in the audio “presence” region; hence, noise reduction is critical to getting full benefit from the new sound (a little power noise makes certain instruments playing certain notes sound shrill).

Long story short: after several power device configurations – one involving picking up a second EP15 on the used market – here’s the setup:

  • On an SP15: Main preamp and phono preamp (both all tube, including rectification)
  • On an EP15: JC-1 monoblocks
  • On the PP12: new streamer/DAC; modded DS DAC I

I’ve found that my tube-rectified components are negatively sensitive to power manipulation; so I used minimal noise reduction (SP15 BIT). In addition to a blacker background, I’m hearing better punch and dynamics and no shrill (it took a while to determine that the preamp on a PP12 or an EP15 produced shrill).

My weakest link was always my power amps; the High Fidelity devices helped, but the EP15 does wonders!

The PP12 gives me single-switch turn on/off (12V triggering), isolation, and works well with my digital components.

The second EP15 I bought powers my home theater system (original configuration).

Where did the PP3, the second SP15 and the three High Fidelity MC-0.5s end up? The MC-0.5s are spare (anyone in the market for these let me know), as is the SP15; the PP3 powers my headphone system in my Class B motorhome!

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Learnings from this odyssey:

  • My tube equipment thrives on balanced power – no other power tweak had a positive effect (that I noticed anyway)
  • Digital devices (DACs, controllers, etc.) do NOT like balanced power. Using balanced power on my one box streamer/controller/DAC noticeably muddied the sound
  • Physically and electrically separating digital and analog equipment is important – the more separation the better
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More learnings:

The PSA power plant (p12). Does wonderful things for digital equipment. Since my PP powers only my digital components (Cary DMS800 PV, PSA DAC I), I’ve been able to clearly hear what the PP does for digital. My latest adjustment? Switching to MW, level 3.

This setting smoothed the sound. Detail and openness is still there, but now there’s no grit — just like live, unamplified music.

In the past, when the PP was powering everything, Methinks the digital goodness was masked by other components that didn’t like MW (or any power processing for that matter).