PS Audio P3 Power Plant - power regenerator

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by SamS, Jun 15, 2013.

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  1. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas
    So I've had a few adventures with audio power products lately, and I decided I'd share the story of the PS Audio P3 Power Plant.

    A few months ago, I got an itch to upgrade my Panamax Max-5300 power conditioner. I've had a few versions of this model over the past 10-12 years. It does OK, but is basically an 11-outlet power filterer. I was thinking my A/V system could use something a bit more sophisticated. I started out with the Panamax M7500-Pro, as Crutchfield was running a special, <$700 for this $2K MSRP product. When it arrived, I was impressed with the heft and build quality, it was my first power regenerator. This particular unit has a big internal toroid transformer used to regenerate a perfect 120V signal. Upon plugging it in, I knew immediately I was in for trouble. I heard a constant buzz/hum coming from the unit, which I knew was the toroid. Didn't sound like anything was broken, rather I learned that DC leakage into the AC line would cause the type of buzz I was hearing. Drats. I kept it in the system for a few weeks while I figured out what to do. I had all my components hooked into it (except for my McIntosh and ATI amps, which are on their own 20amp circuit, and my plasma- also on a dedicated circuit).

    I really liked what I heard. Definitely a change in the sound. Less grainy? Something was definitely 'cleaner' about the sound. Too bad about the buzz! The unit was on its own 20 amp circuit, so I knew it wasn't dimmers, etc. on the same circuit. I looked into products that could remove the DC leakage. I read good things about the PS Audio Humbuster III, but being discontinued, it was hard to find for a reasonable price. So, I tried the Emotiva CMX-2 for $99, which was supposed to do the same thing as a Humbuster. Unfortunately, it made no change to the buzz, so back it went. I ended up being able to track down a Humbuster III, but it too made no noticeable difference to the transformer buzz :(

    Ultimately, I decided to return the Panamax, as much as I enjoyed the sound that was a result of the AC regeneration. The buzz was just audible from my listening position, and once you hear it, you really can't get it out of your head. I knew I couldn't go back to my "old" sound :) I came across the PS Audio P3 on Music Direct who was (are) having a 'trade in special'. Basically they give you $1000 off the $2499 MSRP of the P3 with the trade in of virtually any power conditioner. I had an old Panamax unit not being used, so off it went, and in came the P3.

    The P3 is a pretty substantial unit, and it's made in Boulder, CO. I chose the silver version. The front panel has a read out of the incoming voltage. Mine typically reads 122V. Six of the eight outlets output a perfect 120.0V, but you can actually raise or lower the voltage, in 1V steps. The other two outlets are for high-current devices. I connected my Denon AVP-A1HDCI processor to one, and my Seaton Submersive HP to the other. The front panel also reads out how many watts the connected units are drawing. With all components on standby/off, the draw is about 35watts. Listening to stereo, it bumps up to ~185w.

    The P3 has some interesting features. One of those is the web control interface. You connect to it via LAN cable, and can monitor things like THD on the incoming AC (mine is 3%, filtered out to <0.1%), among other things. There is also a 12V trigger input/output. After searching through the manual and online, I was unable to figure out how to use these triggers for any of the 4 outlet bank pairs. I called PS Audio, and after some internal discussion, they called me back to basically confirm that the 12V triggers where effective useless for triggering any of the outlet banks. I'm still not even sure what you can do with them.... I believe they said something about how the entire unit can be triggered on/off, but that kind of functionality seems to have dubious usefulness, at best.

    So, I'm left with a good-looking unit, that has two filtered outlets, and six with supposedly very clean and distortion-free 120V current. For whatever reason, there was zero transformer buzz from the P3. Completely silent! After connecting all my gear, I settled in with lots of LP listening, as well as some streamed digital music. I could absolutely hear improvement over my previous Panamax units. The P3 was a serious upgrade to the non-regenerator Max-5300 unit, and even a step-up vs. the buzzy M7500-Pro. The audio differences are difficult to describe. I hate to use the audio cliche of "blacker backgrounds", but it certainly sounds like the music just floats out of a dead-silent space. But it doesn't sound lifeless or constrained. Just very smooth and neutral.

    Is the P3 worth $2500, or even $1500 via trade-in special? That's a tough call. I'm at the point now where any upgraded audio component under $5-10K probably wouldn't be an upgrade in my system at all, so the power side of things was a nice thing to explore. I am certainly keeping it. I think it gives me an extra 2-3% sonic improvement towards that last 10% that many of us are chasing. If anything, I no longer feel like I'm missing out on the capabilities of some of my nicer components by feeding them sub-optimal or distorted voltage. In other words, the P3 helps me maximize the sonics of some of my favorite pieces of gear, like my turntable or processor.

    Anyways, there's not a lot of talk about this unit around here, so maybe I can answer some questions about the unit for those who might consider it one day.

    Cheers!

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  2. newanvil

    newanvil Member

    Location:
    Central IL
    I recently purchased the same unit from Music Direct, under the same trade-in deal. I'm running a PrimaLuna ProLogue II with KT88s, a Music Hall mmf-9 with a Lyra Delos cart, and Focal 726 floorstanders. The PS Audio P3 Power Plant is, hands down, the best thing I've done for my system in a long time. Soundstage imaging is now immense, instruments are precisely located across the stage, bass is more taut and integrated, there's a more pronounced sense of both macro and micro dynamics, and the background is blacker and deeper. It just seems to make everything in my system work better. IMHO, it's true what they say: your system only produces quality based on what's put into it. I don't have a ton of experience with line conditioners, but I can say with confidence that the PS Audio unit does a fantastic job of cleaning up the (admittedly horrible) power coming into my Chicago apartment. A spinning buddy of mine with tube equipment and vinyl got the same deal from MD, and reported much the same results. I now can't imagine being without it. Of course, YMMV.
     
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  3. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    Just get a big old industrial control transformer and stick it in a plastic bucket of dry sand. Feed the power conditioner with that. It will block the DC. Find one that can be strapped for 1:1 or see if the conditioner can be modded to run on 230V, or feed the ICT 230 and let it step down 2:1.


    Will the conditioner feed out variable frequency? That'd solve the belt drive speed issue we were discussing on another thread.
     
  4. Lonson

    Lonson The Unbooted Character, square and going nowhere

    Location:
    Chardon, Ohio
    VERY happy user of the PS Audio Power Plant Premier here. Got mine as a B stock for 1000 dollars and it's the heartbeat of my system. In two residences now it's helped my system to shine.
     
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  5. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas

    No, it doesn't/can't change the frequency, only voltage.

    Interesting idea about the transformer in a bucket of sand. Not sure I'd be up for that project, nor the decor effects ;)
     
  6. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    Surely any creative person can cover or disguise such a project tastefully for any decor.
     
  7. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas
    A five gallon bucket filled with sand?

    No space for that in my room.
     

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  8. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    Put the transformer in an ottoman. No sand, just some padding inside.
     
  9. dbturbo2

    dbturbo2 Active Member

    Location:
    PA USA
    Congrats SamS on the P3. I added a P10 awhile back and love it. Have you looked into upgrading the power cord or fuse in your P3?
     
  10. newanvil

    newanvil Member

    Location:
    Central IL
    dturbo2 - do you have any info you can point me to on the upgraded fuse for a P3?

    Thanks, if you do.
     
  11. dbturbo2

    dbturbo2 Active Member

    Location:
    PA USA
    I have tried the Hi Fi Tuning Supreme and the Synergistic Research Quantam fuses with the P10 and preferred the SR which I still use.
     
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