I can understand the skepticism surrounding power infrastructure tweaks (power cords, audiophile outlets, power conditioners, etc.). I still struggle with forking over the cash for these types of tweaks even though I clearly hear the improvements they bring. Even more than that, I have been able to measure the performance of power infrastructure gear and gain some quantitative insight into the improvements I hear. Even though I have a fairly good theoretical grasp of what's going on, part of my mind intuitively wants to use the AC receptacles that came with my house and the power cords that came with my audio equipment and the dirty, filthy, yet very expensive, power that I get from the utility company. It can mess with your head a little bit when you try to grasp the concept that changing something in the wall...something far outside the direct signal path...would have even a subtle effect on sound quality. Furthermore, it just seems so unfair to cough up thousands of dollars for a nice audio system and then find out that you also need to cough up yet more $$$ to keep the utility company's power line gremlins at bay so that you can hear all (or as practically and financially close to all) of the resolution, detail, sound staging, imaging, and bass slam that you paid for. I'm not complaining. I knew going into this hobby that the audio rose garden doesn't come cheap.
My interest in a higher quality AC receptacle was piqued after the good results I achieved with the original Power Port (hereafter P2). A number of former P2 users have reported good results with the Oyaide R1 ($130, $145 cryoed). Like many P2 users, I was glad that PS Audio had finally provided a higher performance alternative. I did have some concern about the gold plating used on the copper base metal of the P3. Evidently, PS Audio had some concerns also. This quote is from the original Power Port overview page on the PS Audio website:
"We first considered simply gold plating the contacts of the brass, but quickly rejected that notion when several facts became apparent: gold is soft and will be quickly scraped off of the high spots of the contact area unless a gold plated male plug is inserted, and unless the surface is highly polished beforehand the problem of low surface contact area will not be addressed."
I noted that the Power Port Premier uses extensive gold plating. I assumed that PSA realized gold wasn't so bad after all, since Oyaide and Furutech seem to be using it on their higher end AC receptacles to good advantage. Live and learn. Hence, this question to PS Audio concerning the Power Port Premier's gold plating:
"I have some concern about the durability of the gold plating on the internal blade connectors. Considering the tight grip of the Power Ports on cable blades and the softness of gold, what is the maximum number of insertions/removals before the gold plating begins to deteriorate?"
"I have no idea, but you are right to be concerned about this, of course, as with any quality connection it is important to be sure that things are clean and free of grit to avoid undue scratching and wear, and to try and do the least amount of plugging in and unplugging. If you are planning to use a given outlet for components that will get plugged in and un-plugged many times, the standard Power Port with nickel plating will be a better choice."
Some companies would have asked me to send my power cables to them to have the connectors gold plated, for a modest fee, of course.:) I do not do a lot of plugging/unplugging at my audio and video equipment receptacles. Plus, I am sure the smooth, highly polished nickel contacts of my Premier SC power cables will go easy on the gold plated beryllium contacts of my P3 receptacles. I also dug out my 20+ year old Yamaha C-85 preamp which has gold plated RCA jacks. They are still smooth and bright and shiny, despite my not always using cables with gold plated RCA plugs.
Figure 1. Mmmmmmm...gold...even on the carton. This is no mere box. The P3 is
packaged in an elegant white carton with gold embossing. Nice packaging is an
important part of the audiophile experience.;)
Figure 2. The P3 features a semi-crystalline polymer body and lots of bright shiny
gold plating over smooth creamy rich sounding copper. The "poor cousin" P2 is just nickel plated brass in an ordinary plastic body, but it sounds worlds better than a regular residential grade outlet.
Figure 3. The two-tone effect makes it easy to identify which
outlets are capable of providing Such Good Sound.
I was impressed by the tight grip of the P2. The P3 takes things up a notch to where it takes some effort to insert and remove power cable connectors. What I do is grip the connector housing with four fingers and use the thumb of that hand to push the cable out of the receptacle. If this one-hand method is not efficient for you, I would recommend bracing the wall plate with one hand and slowly removing the cable with the other. Over time, I expect that simply grabbing the cable connector and yanking it out of the receptacle, without bracing, will weaken the retaining screw threads to the point where they will fail.
Even in the best of times, luxury items like $99 AC receptacles can be a tough sell. When times are hard, some $ incentive usually proves beneficial to manufacturer and customer. The price of the Power Port Premier is $99 for one or you can buy a 5-Pack for $399, which drops the price per receptacle from $99 to $79.80 (20% off). I just happened to need five P3's: three for the two channel system and two for the home theater.
In order to keep current P2 owners from migrating over to the likes of Oyaide and Furutech, from now until the end of December 2008, PS Audio is offering a trade in promotion allowance of $25 for a P2 that is traded in for a P3. This dropped the effective price to $54.80, which I could comfortably afford.:) It also saved me the trouble of having to sell my old P2's. Twenty five bucks is about what they sell for on the used market (new MSRP $50, average street price $35).
I was planning to order a pair of Oyaide R1's for evaluation but Paul McGowan took a cue from Marlon Brando and made an offer I couldn't refuse. Let's see...$54.80 for the P3 copper/gold/beryllium/PBT receptacle or $145 for the R1 copper/gold/beryllium/PBT receptacle?
Figure 4. The home theater system received its fair share of P3's.
The Sound: First Day Impressions
Some P2 users complained of initial harsh, bright, brittle sound. Some users said the harshness diminished over time but never went away, even after the recommended 300 hour break in. I never experienced such unpleasant sound with the P2. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a particular accessory just doesn't play well with what you have. It is not necessarily a bad reflection on either the accessory or the system it was used in. The results from these kinds of tweaks are highly system dependent.
My Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblock amplifiers are each fed by a dedicated 20 amp circuit. The source components are on another dedicated 20 amp circuit and are fed regenerated AC from a PS Audio Power Plant Premier. Prior to this evaluation, the amplifier AC circuits and the third dedicated circuit for the source components were terminated by P2 receptacles.
The right channel P2 was replaced with a P3 and monophonic program material was compared between the left and right channels. The right side was apparently a little louder, indicating a lower noise floor, and the bass was more tactile and defined. Bass instruments had a heavier and more articulate "growl" component. The midrange and treble was also a little clearer.
The P2's of the two other AC circuits were replaced and evaluation was done in stereo mode. In addition to the improvements noted above, now the midrange and treble was noticeably heavier and there was an enhanced sense of depth between images in the sound stage. The sound stage width and height did not change, but images at the far sides of the stage were apparently louder.
PS Audio recommends a break in period of 300 hours. I'll follow up after that milestone has been passed. This was an auspicious beginning, therefore I expect more good sound after break in.