In this report, the effects of a power line conditioner, the PS Audio Power Plant Premier, is evaluated. Part 1 of this series is here. Part 2 is here.
There are many options available to the audio/video enthusiast for power conditioning. Most of these products are designed for commercial, professional audio, and laboratory applications. Many are considerably less expensive than the "audiophile/videophile" power conditioning products offered by such companies as PS Audio and Shunyata. Others are much more expensive. Typically, the audiophile/videophile oriented power conditioners offer a range of features, convenience, and aesthetic appeal that is unavailable, at any price, from products oriented toward the commercial, professional audio, and laboratory markets. The PS Audio Power Plant Premier (PPP) has an MSRP of $2195. It can be found on the used market for as low as $1000. There are high quality commercial power conditioning products that will do basically the same thing the PPP does for hundreds less than the PPP's lowest used market price. Unfortunately, most of the commercial class power conditioners have little to no aesthetic appeal and would become eye sores if placed in any type of residential living space. Aside from the aesthetic drawbacks of commercial class power conditioners, which can be considerable, there may also be issues with heat generation and noise. After all, the manufacturers of these products did not have the audiophile and videophile in mind when designing them. The high performance audio and video market is far too small of a niche to be of interest to such companies.
Figure 1. The Power Plant Premier was a welcome functional and aesthetic addition to my home audio system. It made a significant improvement in my system's spatial rendering performance.:)
The PPP is a low profile 17" wide component and is available in black or silver face. It can be placed on a standard audio equipment rack shelf. It weighs 35 pounds and is ruggedly constructed. It has two quiet, bottom mounted fans which typically do not come on unless the PPP is stressed. In my home audio system, the four components connected to it (SACD player, preamp, phono preamp, and turntable battery charger) have a combined power draw of 140 watts and a combined current draw of 1.2 amps. Since this is less than 1/10th the 1500 watt capacity of the PPP, I don't expect that the fan will ever come on while in operation, although the fans do spin briefly when the unit is first turned on.
The owner's manual is well written and is printed on high quality gloss enamel paper and illustrated with color photographs.
The PPP is plugged into one of the outlets on the original dedicated audio circuit. It shares that circuit with my wireless networking equipment. Two additional dedicated 20A circuits serve the Parasound Halo JC 1 amplifiers.
You might think that placing the PPP between two class A idling amps would be stressful due to the heat generated. Fortunately, the heat coming off the JC 1's heat sinks flows straight upward. The space between the amps is at room temperature. In fact, I have to place my fingertips as close as 1/4 inch from a heat sink side in order to feel any heat radiation, even though their idling temperature is 108 degrees. Of course, the space above the heat sink stays toasty warm. The sides of the PPP remain cool at all times. The vented center portion of the case top remains at 94 degrees at all times, no matter how long or how hard I run the system. I ran the PPP fully loaded in my home theater system for over an hour and the case top only reached 103 degrees. That was 1 degree cooler than the idling temperature of my home theater preamp/processor.
Figure 2. I did not like the relatively dim numeric voltage display.
The PPP features an alpha-numeric display that shows input and output voltage, input and output total harmonic distortion, and a few other things. The display is actually dimmer than it appears in figure 2. The brighter appearance is due to the long exposure time (4 seconds) of the photograph. The center portion of the display where the numbers appear is very dim compared to the words (e.g. "input", "output") that appear in areas around the center portion of the display. I initially thought something was wrong with my unit's display because all the advertising photos show the center numeric display to be bright. Perusing the PS Audio forums revealed that other purchasers had the same concern and that the numeric display is designed to be dimmer than the words. PS Audio does not give a reason for this.
Figure 3. I see you. The "secret" trim pot for adjusting output voltage (the little blue thing).
I am not a big fan of "hidden" features. In fact, I despise them. The PPP is adjusted at the factory to provide the appropriate output voltage (120v/230v). The output voltage can be adjusted, if necessary, by turning tiny potentiometer on the case bottom near the front. This potentiometer is not mentioned in the manual. Its location and function is discussed on the PS Audio forums. The voltage for North American models can be increased up to a maximum of 135 volts. Maybe PS Audio didn't mention it out of concern that some people, possessed of a "more is better" mentality, would want to set the output voltage on 135 thinking that if 120 volts is good, 135 volts must be better.
The output voltage of my PPP would fluctuate between 120 and 121 volts when first turned on, then settle down to 121 volts. I did not feel compelled to fiddle with the trim pot because my house voltage is usually 121 volts.
The display functions can be accessed/changed by the remote control. The unit can also be turned on and off from the remote.
Figure 4. Come on in Mr. Power Plant Premier. We've been expecting you.
Input and output power waveforms were evaluated with a Tektronix model TDS 2012 oscilloscope. The PPP was first evaluated in my home theater system and then in my home audio system. Each vertical dot on the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) plots represents 10 dB of magnitude. Each horizontal dot represents 10 Hz of frequency.
Figure 5. This is actually a picture of me being mean.
The plasma TV, Blu-ray disc player, preamp/processor, and three power amps were plugged into the PPP. Those six devices represented a total potential power load of 1525 watts. This was 25 watts over the PPP's maximum power spec. The Blu-ray version of "Casino Royale" was used to evaluate audio and video quality.
The home theater system is on a dedicated 20A circuit. There are 15 other devices on the circuit: plasma television, thirteen devices in the HT equipment cabinet, and the powered subwoofer across the room. When watching movies, only the three power amps (Adcom GFA-5500's), TV, Blu-ray player, preamp processor, and subwoofer are on. I really need to add another dedicated circuit.:(
Figure 6. Sine wave plot of the power coming out of the wall with all HT components turned off.
Figure 7. FFT plot of the power coming out of the wall with all HT components turned off.
Figure 8. Sine wave plot of the power coming out of the wall with all HT components turned on and playing. Voltage would dip down as low as 117 volts.
Figure 9. FFT plot of the power coming out of the wall with all HT components turned on and playing.
Figure 10. Sine wave plot of the PPP's output with HT equipment on and playing.
Figure 11. FFT plot of the PPP's output with HT equipment on and playing.
Figure 12. Sine wave plot of the PPP's output during an explosion scene from
Figure 13. FFT plot of the PPP's output during an explosion scene from "Casino
Discussion Of Home Theater Test Results
Turning on all of the HT gear resulted in severe deformation of the sine wave peaks (figure 8) due to harmonic distortion. Comparing the FFT plots in figures 7 and 9, we see a 2 dB increase in the DC component, a 2 dB increase in the 3rd harmonic, a 5 dB increase in the 5th harmonic, a 6 dB increase in the 7th harmonic, and a 3 dB increase in the 470 Hz utility company control tone. In addition to the significant increase in noise magnitude there was also an increase in noise density.