|PS Audio Ultimate Outlet|
|Home Theater AC Power AC Power|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Saturday, 01 December 2001|
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The Sound and The Picture
I wasn’t really sure quite what to expect when auditioning the PS Audio Ultimate Outlet in my system. I tested it on a number of audio components, but found my Levinson power amp to be the most telling, as it is the most demanding item I have in my system. Installation was absolutely simple, especially considering that I didn’t connect the Ultimate Outlet to the wall socket. It was nothing more than plug and play from there.
When I was ready to do my critical listening, I started out with the Stevie Wonder track "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" from the album Talking Book (Motown). Without the Ultimate Outlet, the bass is strong and the overall flavor is warm, displaying vintage characteristics of a good mid-1970’s recording. With the Ultimate Outlet in the loop, the normally stellar vocals sounded even livelier. The soundstage seemed taller. The effect gave the instruments more room to breathe and spread out, as you’d expect to hear on a 5.1 mix, thanks to having the center channel mixed in, but in this case, I was listening to stereo.
People I know who own Ultimate Outlets claim a big improvement in their bass. While I don’t doubt them, I wasn’t able to get a noticeable improvement in the lower registers with the Ultimate Outlet plugged into either my Mark Levinson No. 336 or my Revel B15 subwoofer. The lack of substantial difference could be because my system components, including my subwoofers, are EQed but I am not too sure about this, as I could hear definite improvements in the vocals and soundstage, both of which are also EQed.
Another immediate advantage of the Ultimate Outlet is a lowering of the noise floor. With review gear coming in and out of my system on a monthly basis, I rarely exorcise the electrical demons that cause the slight hums and buzzes I sometimes hear in my system. Hum in your system can be caused by any number of problems that can take tremendous effort to effectively hunt down and eliminate. Normally, removing a review component does the trick. In this instance, rather than subtracting anything, adding the Ultimate Outlet helped noticeably. The overall noise wasn’t gone, but it was lower, which is all I ask. My system isn’t installed in a recording studio with dedicated grounds and its own AC transformer. I live in a condo and accept that a slight bit of noise will be a part of my system. With the Ultimate Outlet, it is endearingly lower.
I was able to find the same audio advantages on tracks like Steely Dan’s "Black Cow" from Aja (MCA). The best improvement is heard in the background vocals. The detail is increased and there is more air around all of the vocals and instruments. On more rocking music, the effects of the Ultimate Outlet are not lost. The descending wha wha-ed pickslide by Slash on "Mr. Brownstone" from Guns 'N Roses Appetite For Destruction (Geffen) sounds more three dimensional and upfront. I expected the more complex instrumentation and balls-to-the-wall mix would have left the effects of the Ultimate Outlet hanging out in the breeze, but I was wrong. It made a difference.
I believe AC maladies affect video more than audio. Unfortunately, I have been struggling though a very difficult and trying move from CRT to fixed pixel digital projection over the last few months. The results are just about to really come together after months of installation and professional fine-tuning. As this process was going on throughout entire time I was auditioning the Ultimate Outlet, I have not had a video system suitable for evaluating how well the Ultimate Outlet affects home theatre, but my guess is that it could be dramatic in some cases. Video processor, projectors, plasmas and even TV sets draw AC shamelessly. Giving them better power is never a bad idea.
The Ultimate Outlet is a very simple unit that does nothing more than improve the functionality of your wall socket. If it were ugly, I could have knocked it for that, but it looks pretty suave. As for sound, I liked it and couldn’t hear it do anything that took away from my musical enjoyment. If the Ultimate Outlet does its job, it provides better, cleaner power to your gear, which should make it sound like your gear simply performing better. At $299, I can’t even knock Ultimate Power for having a cheap removable power cord, although PS Audio does offer a hot-rod AC power cable at an additional cost.
AC power is one of the hottest topics in high performance audio/video. At $299, the PS Audio Ultimate Outlet gives you a way to upgrade the juice from your wall without all of the physical drawbacks of their more sophisticated and definitely more expensive Power Plant technology.
Giving cleaner power to your audio and/or video components is never a bad idea. Even if you have a modest home theater or a budding music playback system, the use of just one Ultimate Outlet can be a performance upgrade that leaves you thrilled with a $300 investment. You can justify the expense of the Ultimate Outlet by plugging, say, your power amp and your TV into the same unit (if logistically viable). At a mere $299, you can raise the money needed for an Ultimate Outlet by trading in all of the bad "audiophile" recordings that you were supposed to "die for" but you nearly died from when you heard how bad the performances actually were. With the Ultimate Outlet, you’ll hear the music and movies you want to sound and look better on your terms. For this reason, The PS Audio gets my thumbs-up seal of approval.