I wanted to know if "perfecy" power would also sound perfect. So I set the PPP up in my system and put it through a series of tests. Without giving away the end result I can tell you that the outcome makes for mixed emotions...
The PPP is PS Audio's first really efficient powerplant. Its predecessors were all notoriously powerhungry and got extremely warm. The PPP doesn't break a sweat, even when it drives my entire system including the poweramps. What is does basically, is to break the AC down to DC and then build a perfect new AC waveform. It is like a poweramp that only does 50hz. At least, that's how its predecessors worked. The PPP is different. But just how it is different technically I don't know. But it is, and that's why is is so efficient. But it also sounds different from the older generation P1000 power plant. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Just like the older generation powerplants, the PPP has reserves and can add or cut voltage depending on the incoming voltage and the output voltage that you can specify and also lowers the distortion that's inherently present on the mains.
The voltage on the mains in Europe can range from anywhere between 215-230 volts and depending on the industrial activities in your neighborhood the distortion on the line can become audible. The electricity company is costantly adjusting the voltage in an attempt to compensate for and even in advance compensate for heavy usage or drop in usage. This is no easy task but they've grown quite good at it, hence our power is pretty stable. But not totally so. This is where the PPP comes in. When you set a desired voltage it can actually keep that voltage, no matter if the incoming voltage drops or rises.
The distortion on my mains was pretty low: 1,5%. More or less the same as at the home of th owner. It does rise and fall slightly but never much. I guess that in Holland the powergrid is pretty stable.
The specs make it seem ideal: isolated outlets, guaranteed low distortion, stable voltage, a lot of reserve (1500 watts) and no heat. But how does it perform? The review continues below.
Here we have what theoretically is the best method of conditioning the power from your mains: rebuilding it! So, does the PPP deliver?
The easily readable display is very informative: you can read incoming voltage and distortion, outgoing voltage and distortion as well as the difference between the two. The software also has the option to switch to different waveforms like clean wave and multiwave but sadly I had no remote and couldn't select them. We did play with the output voltage. The higher you set it, the more efficient my system seemed to become. It got more dynamic, tighter and faster but also drier. Turning the voltage down towards 215v made the sound more fluid but also a lot less dynamic.
What was also of amazing influence on the sound was the phase. By this I mean the orientation of the schuko connector in the wall outlet. When using the proper phase connection like I always do (see IEC connectors and phase), the sound was most lively but also most "technical" sounding. With phase reversed, there was a change that you couldn't call subtle anymore. It was a larger difference than exists between some cd players. The sound now became much more relaxed and fluid and gained colour.
I first tried one output and then connected my entire system to the PPP. Of course I made sure to use the same powercables to the PPP and from the PPP into my components. The PPP had been in full use for a year before I tested it so running in will not have been a factor.
The PPP does add something to the sound. Although, strictly speaking, it doesn't colour the sound but it does make it different. Better? Well, let me postpone that conclusion just a little longer. First I want to describe what it does exactly. First I listened to my system connected to my regular extensionblock.. Then I connected the CD player to the PPP, with the PPP connected to the same extensionblock with the same cable. So in effect, all differences would be attributable to the PPP itself and not to any differences in cables. The difference that the PPP makes is not subtle. In fact it is huge. It really transforms the sound. Even with only the CD player connected you immediately notice how the bass has firmed up, focus is tighter and everything is more lively. But I also felt that I lost something in the process: musicality. Of course this term is completely relative but for me, the PPP sounded technically better, but not emotionally. While it improved focus, stability and speed, it decreased fluidity and high frequency air. The sound was impressive and some people might actually find it more dynamic because the sound was more forward but to me it was less dynamic. This is because it had a tendency to lift the low level floor. It was as if the difference between soft and loud sound had become smaller so in effect the sound was now less subtle. It did make a large difference how the phase was connected. Connecting the entire system to the PPP did the same thing, only more so: in addition to sounding less colourful and less fluid it also became dynamically constrained. This was with the PPP still connected to my own extensionblock. I do use a very thick cable: 5mm per phase! But plugging the PPP straight into the wall outlet made a huge difference. The dynamics were restored and the sound now was actually enjoyable. Somehow my own extensionblock was just too much for the PPP. Of course this makes sense: why use extensionblock into an extensionblock? The PPP itself is also an extensionblock and as always, you will want to minimise transitions. But my own block and cable normally sounds very colourful and dynamic so I just don't know exactly why this was a mismatch but just so you know: better plug the PPP straight into the walloutlet. With the PPP straight int the wall outlet my feet were tapping again and it was just engaging. But I still felt that I was missing fluidity and colour. I experimented with phase, powercables and outputvoltage. While this all did have effect, none of these measures made for more fluidity or air.
Back to basic
So out went the PPP. All components were plugged back into my regular extensionblock. Well what do you know. Back was the colour, the fluidity and air, and most of all, the swing. Listening through the PPP continually made me feel like I was listening to a processed sound. There was something artificial about it. But going back to my regular extensionblock also made clear that it wasn't all bad what the PPP did. Far from it. Now I felt that the speed was lower and I could less easily follow basslines. Subtle changes in tone were more masked now. But still I prefered the sound without the PPP. Mostly because now it was sounding like real music again. Overall I felt that the PPP made music sound like a CD whereas without it it sounded like lp. Even though lp has its pitfalls and its sound certainly isn't perfect, it does have much charm. And I'n not talking about colourations or warmth. I'm talking about a properly setup turntable with a highend cartridge playing through a highend phono preamp. There's just a magic quality to analog sound done well. It can be both fast and dynamic and relaxed and fluid at the same time. I feel that I have approached this ideal with my digital setup as best as I can and the PPP is working against it. So, for me it is not something that I want. But I can still imagine many people liking it for what it does well: improving stability, focus and drive as well as cleaning the mains.
PPP versus BPS and a word on the P1000 Power Plant
We made a comparison to a Jeff Rowland BPS. A Battery Power Supply. This is an add-on that many Jeff Rowland (pre) amps used to have which allow the amp to operate while being uncoupled from the mains and you could think that the PPP would do more or less the same. But this is not the case. Where the BPS makes the amp sound even more mellow and free of artifice, the PPP actually adds artifice. I guess that as long as the mains is connected and feeding the circuitry, no amount of processing can make it sound like it isn't processed. I've written a few words about the older P1000 power plants above and I want to add that the P1000 also added foundation and drive to the system but I cannot remember it making the sound more synthetic. This is a long time ago and it was in a different setup but I vividly remember that the P1000 actually made the setup sound more musical. Not less so. Maybe this was because the P1000 really was a big analog amplifier and the PPP uses some switching technology. But that's merely guessing.