PS Audio P600 Power Plant AC Regenerator 
Home Theater AC Power AC Power
Written by Bryan Southard   
Wednesday, 01 November 2000

A friend once said to me, "I have several known problems with my audio system, and you are suggesting that I fix one that I didn’t even know I have?" He had a good point except for the fact that sometimes you need to get rid of a problem to appreciate that you ever had one. So, who has these power problems and for that matter, what the heck is a power problem? What does your power have to do with the quality of your sound?

First of all, just about every audio system suffers from poor power. The power to your home runs through power lines that are shared by many others. Each home is most often connected to a power transformer that is shared with at least several houses. When these houses use appliances, noise is transmitted through your power and into you A/V gear. Some may say that if they cannot hear the noise, then it’s not a problem.

You must first understand that for each frequency of noise, music is cancelled in the identical frequency equal to the level of the noise. What this means, in simple terms, is that your power is unquestionably responsible for losses in many aspects of your music.

Power Mania
There are many products available today that are designed to improve your power source, and they all do something to your power. There is much debate within the industry as to which ones work and which are best.

There are a few primary types of power products on the market. One type is a product designed to improve your power without the use of electronics. These products merely use better quality cable, better connections, and better quality outlets, often with machined and gold-plated components to limit impedance and induced noise.

Another type of product is a power conditioner, which uses electronics to often filter-attenuate the power line noise. This system was popular in years past but was found to limit dynamics and cause musical compression. Yet another type uses passive electronics designed to work outside the audible range, thus limiting any sonic compression and loss of dynamics.

Inside the Power Plant
The PS Audio Power Plant series takes a fresh approach to the age-old problem of bad power. PS Audio claims to have the definitive solution in what they call a power regenerator. This is achieved by converting the AC from your wall to DC, then back to AC to feed your components. Does this design sound familiar? If it does, it’s probably because I’ve just described a simple amplifier. Eek! An amplifier to reduce noise? To most people, that phrase makes little sense. Many in the industry have smirked at the thought of this being the answer. What needs to be understood is how it works. The P600 takes the imperfect power from the wall, converts it to DC and regenerates the sine wave without distortion. Additionally, the P600 gives you the ability to increase your sine wave frequency and the ability to vary the output voltage.

The Power Plant series currently comes in two sizes, with a larger unit planned for the future. The P300, which is numbered for its maximum power output of 300 watts, is for use in equipment with smaller power requirements, such as digital front ends like CD players and D/A converters.

The P600 was designed for medium-to-large power consumption products, such as power amplifiers with an output of 720 watts. For most of my auditions, the P600 was just enough to supply my power amplifiers. I concluded that if you have a monster amp such as the Levinson No. 336, the Pass X350, The Krell FPB 600, or any number of other larger powered amps, the P600 will be on the very fringes of supplying the necessary power to drive them. In these cases, you might look into the near future for the release this month of the P1200, thus giving you the room to add additional components to your system.

As of Nov. 1st, the P600 includes MultiWave and retails for $2,195. For those with units that were not supplied with MultiWave, this option is available for $250 to original owners.

The Sound
In my initial test, I was using my Sonic Frontiers Power 2 and found that it drew no more than 400 watts, according to the meter on the front panel. Later, when I re-inserted the recently reviewed Pass X350, I was able to find the end of the P600’s power supply and an eventual stoppage of music due to the safety circuitry in the P600. This happened at a very high volume, but led me to the conclusion that the P600 was not enough for use with this amplifier.

Initially, I received the P600 in its standard configuration, less the MultiWave option. I have been running the Richard Gray Power Company since I reviewed it for several months back, so I first listened to music straight from the wall to grab a baseline of untreated power.

I connected the P600 to my power amplifier with the output voltage set at the default setting of 117 volts and a frequency of 60 Hz. I heard definite sonic improvements. As I varied the output frequency to 90 Hz, I heard improvements again. The stage was considerably more defined and had much more air between the instruments. I was instantly intrigued. However, after some extended listening in this mode, I felt that, although the sound was considerably better in many areas, I wasn’t sure that the improvement didn’t come at the cost of a compromise. The sound wasn’t merely improved - it was different. I soon determined that my system had become a tad thinner. At this point, I wasn’t sure if this was merely due to the addition of information and resolution. I tested a huge variety of settings, going back to standard power and then back to the P600. I finally determined that the midrange and top end were a tad leaner, but overall every other aspect was improved. Images were much more defined and considerably more focused. Then, after running into Paul McGowen, founder of PS Audio at CEDIA 2000 and informing him that my review model didn’t have the MultiWave option, like magic a package arrived at my door as if it were Christmas.

Installation of the Multiwave hardware is quite simple. You would not know this by using the instructions, however. The supplied booklet requests that you read the entire instructions manual prior to starting the project. Once started, it became painfully clear that the instructions were written for a person who just recently escaped from beneath the rock that her or she had been living under, and not for the person who had already mastered the round and square peg principle at an early age. The task included removing the top cover, removing a PC board and replacing it with the new Multiwave board, and replacing a chip on the front panel display board. The task took about 20 minutes and was quite simple.

The Multiwave feature gives you additional waveform options. The majority of power to your components comes from the top of the sinewave. In the standard sine, the peak is thin and rounded. It is easy to understand that a square wave could offer a longer duration of power, therefor allowing your capacitors a better opportunity to charge. However, most transformers cannot handle this waveform because they have limited bandwidth. Through much experimentation, the engineers at PS Audio discovered a way to create square waves with rounded peaks that your electronics can handle. This was achieved by using multiple sinewaves in varying frequencies.

The above is a very simple description of the technology/ I therefore encourage you to visit the PS Audio website to read further about the technology behind this product. A link is provided at the end of this review.

I was now ready to audition the newly-upgraded P600. The Multiwave board comes with 9 new waveform options while maintaining the original choices in pure sine waves. They are arranged in the order that PS Audio felt provided the best sonic improvement. The basic theory behind this is to find the best sounding waveform for your system. I tried the first setting and immediately heard a distinct transformer buzz. The instructions informed me that this problem was a possibility and recommended the second setting as a remedy. The second setting fixed the buzz. I sat down to some music and immediately found staggering improvement over the original version. Wow! The top end was considerably improved, with an even greater sense of air in the recordings. The thinness that I had found with the prior version was gone and the instruments were considerably more unveiled. Soundstages were deeper with better focus.

The Downside
The P600 is a very large component, as big as a large amplifier with a weight to match. If you are like me, you may not have any extra room for extra components. In this case, the only place I had was behind a speaker. Let’s face it, it’s another darn component, something that most of us weren’t really looking to situate in a permanent location. It’s also another heat generator that gets quite warm during operation.

The P600 will power a moderately powered amplifier. The P1200 will likely power any amp, but at a cost of $3,950 it is one-and-a-half times the size of the already very large P600. I recently received a set of Sonic Frontiers Power 3 amplifiers for review and the P600 clearly would not power the pair. In case anyone might be afraid to ask, the P600 or higher is not rack-mountable.

As a music enthusiast, I want the best and most realistic sound that I can obtain. In case you are not sure if you have a power problem, let me help you. You do. You cannot begin to reach sonic perfection until you deal with this problem. There are many products to choose from, and I suggest that you give them a listen. The PS Audio P600 is the best power product that I have heard to date.
Manufacturer PS Audio
Model P600 Power Plant AC Regenerator
Reviewer Bryan Southard

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