PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20 AC regenerator Jason Victor Serinus May 2019

Jason Victor Serinus wrote about the PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20 in May 2019 (Vol.42 No.5):

The last thing I expected to rave about was a PS Audio Power Plant AC regenerator—not when, over a decade ago, I'd tested an early model, the Power Plant P600, and it shot 18"-high flames and acrid black smoke into my living room. And after reviewing two Power Plants for other publications, I concluded that, for all the good they did, they tended to homogenize the sound of my system.

Nonetheless, in fall 2018, after trying four power conditioners that either buzzed and hummed far too loudly, lacked transparency, exacerbated brightness, or squashed dynamics, I decided to give one of PS Audio's latest line of Power Plants another try. PS Audio loaned me a DirectStream Power Plant 15 ($7499), aka the P15, for my dCS front end. After plugging the P15 into the wall with a 15-amp Nordost Odin 2 power cord, I connected all of my dCS components to a Nordost QB8 power distributor, then plugged the QB8 into the P15. The P15's MultiWave function, which allows the user to vary the normal 60Hz waveform in an effort to increase the charging time of power-supply capacitors, was disengaged—I wanted to hear what the Power Plant 15 could do in its purest state.

When the P15 had fully settled in, the artificial shine it had at first brought to my system was replaced by an extremely transparent, detailed, and neutral sound. Not only did the P15's meters declare that it was removing from my electrical line more than 2% of total harmonic distortion, my ears told me that the sound was extremely natural, with less edgy treble and more tightly focused bass than I'd heard from my system in a long time.

Being an audiophile, I also wished to address the quality of power fed to my reference Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Progression class-AB monoblocks, which deliver up to 1000Wpc into 4 ohms—the nominal impedance of my Wilson Audio Alexia 2 loudspeakers. PS Audio's Bill Leebens postulated that I'd need either two P15s ($7499 each), one per monoblock, or a single Power Plant 20 ($9999).

Two P15s requiring two power cables—or a single, taller, heavier Power Plant 20 with the same footprint? No contest. When a broken-in P20 arrived, I had just enough time to power it up with a 15-amp Nordost Odin 2 power cord, plug everything in, and ascertain that it worked with the D'Agostinos—before Paul Manos, of High Fidelity Services, arrived to install the Verity Audio Monsalvat Amp-60 stereo amplifier that I review elsewhere in this issue. Manos and I first plugged the Monsalvat Amp-60 into the wall, and connected everything else to the P20. After noting the sound, we connected the Amp-60 to one of the P20's high current outlets and discovered that it then sounded fuller, warmer, smoother, and more controlled.

I continued my review of the Verity amplifier without the P20. But once I had submitted my review to Stereophile home base, I reinstated the P20 to see if it squashed the Amp-60's dynamics? To find out, I'd previously asked Keith Johnson and Sean Martin of Reference Recordings and Morton Lindberg of the Norwegian label 2L to send me their most dynamic high-resolution tracks. I ended up choosing Dance of the Tumblers, from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden, from Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra's Exotic Dances from the Opera (24-bit/176.6kHz WAV, Reference RR-71), and Vox in Rama, from Andrew Smith's Lux, with Anita Brevik leading the Trondheim Soloists (24/352.8 MQA, 2L 2L-150-SABD). Using the dB Meter Pro app on my iPhone, I found that the dynamic range of Vox in Rama was an astounding 51dB, and that it remained so whether the Amp-60 was plugged into the wall or into the Power Plant 20.

Further tests, conducted with audiophile friend Steve Zettel, confirmed that the P20 was not squashing the Progressions' dynamics. However, when I tried the P20 with my power-guzzling Pass Laboratories XA200.8 class-A monoblocks, the P20 quickly shut down without tripping my circuit breakers—even when I powered up the Passes one at a time.

Searching for a solution, I plugged one XA200.8 into the P20 and the other into the wall. That worked. The wall-powered channel sounded a bit hard, edgy, and color-deficient; the P20-powered channel sounded smoother, warmer, more three-dimensional—and far more musically satisfying. Next, on the advice of PS Audio's Paul McGowan, I slid open the little door on the P20's rear panel to reveal its 20-amp IEC receptacle, and switched to a 20-amp Nordost Odin 2 power cord. The P20 powered both XA200.8s without a hitch. Even when I listened to a huge orchestra playing at full tilt at maximum volume level in my 20' by 16' listening room, the XA200.8s sang away.

As for homogenizing the sound, I found that the P20 did the opposite. Differences in these very different amps' dynamics, detail, tonal balance, and overall quality, bass extension and control, soundstaging and air—all were easily audible. Nor were those differences exactly as I'd expected them to be from prior listens. PS Audio's DirectStream Power Plant 20 has proven to be an opener of mind and ears that I hope to keep in my system as an essential reviewing tool and source of listening joy for a long time to come.—Jason Victor Serinus

PS Audio
4865 Sterling Drive
Boulder, CO 80301
(720) 406-8946

volvic's picture

Yes, you can run out with only 10 outlets, by my count I would need at least 14. With one of these you could control the frequency of current going to your TD-124 and keep it nice and steady at 33.4 rpm. I wonder if my 40 year old outlets would suffice for one or would I need a complete re-wire to make something like this financially viable. Great products.

Long-time listener's picture

Another reason late-night listening sounds better than daytime listening is that our hearing is sharper at night--we hear more texture, color, and detail. Evolution (or a higher power, depending on your point of view) has equipped us with hearing that that becomes more sensitive during hours of darkness, peaking at about 3:00 in the morning.

I used to have a PS Audio Power Plant ('Premier,' I think). I loved what it did for my DAC, but it broke down constantly and I got tired of taking it in to be fixed, so one day I left it out with the trash.

Best regards, LTL

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It may also be due to something to do with the different kinds of 'electromagnetic' radiation the Sun emits during the day light hours ........ Some are invisible and can penetrate everything .......... During the night time they are markedly reduced and/or not there ..........

Wonder how audio systems would sound inside NORAD mountain complex? :-) ............

May be a 'higher power' is affecting our hearing :-) ..............

MvC's picture

I don't agree with the 'level playing field' argument. An important quality in an audio component is it's rejection of mains noise. A really good amp should not be affected by mains quality at all, or at least as little as possible. By ignoring this important property your reviews will be less relevant for real world audiophiles, not more.
Anyway, for most of us the question is not how much difference it makes, but how much difference compared to investing the same amount of money in your system.

dumbo's picture

It seems each company with the release of each new product tries to out due their competitors previous obscene price for a similar product. I fear there will be no end!

Anyway, I've yet to find any power conditioner, no matter how big/fancy, that did nothing but damage to the sound of any amp that it was feeding. Less demanding source gear, well that's a different ball of wax and there are plenty of gains to be discovered there by using power cleansing devices.

There is obviously a trade-off involved with these products. One must choose having protection or unrestrained dynamics/power. You cant have both! Spending $10K on a product that touts the ability to run one's whole system without compromise seems damn silly to me. Its like shooting yourself in the foot

Amps Goto Wall Directly
Source Components Goto Power Conditioners
The End :)