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  • Writer's pictureJim Cathey

More clean power, please...

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

My exposure to the importance of power came in Tokyo. 100V is the standard and it was clear the equipment suffered when compared to Taiwan performance. I experimented with some appliance grade step-up transformers and yes they improved the performance of the system but they had a 'hum' and introduced noise into the stem. I eventually had a custom CSE step-up transformer made that would take the 100V from the wall to 120V and around 35amps. It worked great and the system woke up with the power and detail I was used to. If you look through the gallery for Japan and you can spot the large grey box at the base of the rack; that was custom-made by my friends at CSE (the company is no longer operational) in Japan. This helped and I got the performance increase because power is the main commodity of the stereo; more and cleaner is better. The custom CSE step-up power transformer also had the ability to take 200V and convert to 120V.

Everything I had read about power always supported a higher feed and to step the power down so I had a custom power cable made with Furutech connectors that would allow me to use the 200v supply. In the kitchen, there was a 200v plug, I made the cable reach that source. It was not a pretty solution, and again in the japan set-up photos, you can see that large green power cable snaking its way out of the room to the right. As expected more improvement with the system performance. At this point I was fixated on power; I had plenty but now I wanted cleaner power and ultimately focused on power regeneration avoiding all the filter/conditioning products. If the power regeneration worked as advertised theoretically one would have a perfect sine wave and little to no harmonic distortion and one had to believe there was plenty of that in the Tokyo power grid or any grid for that matter. PS Audio quickly became the front runner especially when they offered to reprogram the Japan versions to the US standards, bring 3 units to my house and allow me to demonstrate the system for 2 weeks. The local distributor brought 2 P20s and 1 P12. We connected all 3 to the custom power supply with 1 P20 for 2 MC275 amps and the P15 to supply the front-stage components. As the power regenerators warmed up you could monitor the total harmonic distortion coming in and going out as well as the sine wave. As expected the incoming power had distortion and the sine wave was truncated and that was after the CSE power transformer. The P20s and the P12 repaired and send perfect power to all components. The result? Within 10 min of listening, we shook hands (of course this is good old days before the pandemic hit us) and said I will buy all 3 and we all continued listening for another 3 hours. The final P20s were delivered to me later that month and were signed by Paul McGowan.

P20 signed by Paul McGowan

P20 in action

The P20s and P12 are with me in San Diego connected to dedicated 20amp breakers/power supplies for each. Unfortunately, the custom CSE power transformer was left in Japan; its use is dedicated for 100V/200V to 120V hence that’s where it should live., I had no use for it in the USA. The local stereo shop sold it to another Audiophile who needed the same. I would have liked to see his expression when he plugged that in.

An interesting side note is the vintage MC275 amps and the C22 Pre Amp are old; 1960’s. I had several long discussions with the Japan shop that maintained my amps. I run the amps at 120V’s and the shop owner had pressure on me to reduce it to 115V; the voltage on the PS Audio Power Regenerators is user-adjustable within a range. This sparked a deep discussion regarding what had to be upgraded and would it impact the sonic performance and the amp would not be 100% original as a result. This went on for what seemed hours all through the interpreter. Finally, we made adjustments so the amps could weather that voltage, and today they are still running strong at the 120V and the sonic performance is at its peak. Ultimately the shop owner agreed after an audition and a full restoration of all 6 amps and the 3preamps. The extra 2 amps and 2 preamps are backups.

There is a lot to read online regarding power, equipment requirements, filters, conditions, regenerators, battery banks, capacitors, etc. There is what seems to be an endless discussion on this but in the end, I went the power regenerator route; it made sense and for me, it works and I shoot for a minimum of 2x supply to the equipment requirement. I might mention that PS Audio allows for demo units to come to your home and if you are not impressed you can send it back. Nothing to lose on that potential investment and it’s the main resource your stereo uses; POWER.

Leaving you with some useful links in case you want to know more about clean power


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