Equipment Review No. 2  -  February 2003

PS AUDIO Ultimate Outlet
SRP: $299

PS Audio
4824 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301
(877) 772-8340 (voice)
(720) 406-8967
http://www.psaudio.com/
Purchase Here

Basic Description

Dual outlet power conditioner available as a 15A standard, 15A high current, or 20A high current unit; 110 or 220V; output options: US style 15 amp, US style PS Audio power port, Schuko, UK; detachable power cord; 3-year warranty; 5” W x 3.5” H x 7 1/16” D.


Equipment

B&W CDM9-NT speakers, Krell KAV-280cd CD player, KAV-300iL Integrated Amplifier, Audioquest cables.


Explanation & Setup

The Ultimate Outlet is another device in the PS Audio arsenal of power conditioning products. The unit is a relatively small box that offers two 3-prong outlets and comes in a 15 Amp standard or high current configuration (with an optional 20A as well). The unit under review was the 15A high current version that comes with a power port duplex outlet. The power port is offered separately by PS Audio and supposedly offers better performance than even hospital grade outlets. It comes with a detachable power cord that appears to be less than 3’. The unit does not get hot nor does it require ventilation. It can be mounted as well. The unit is fused, and if it blows (for protection) an indicator lights. It can be replaced easily.

The manual is in color and is flashy enough to be a product brochure. It describes the uses and functions of the Ultimate Outlet. For one, the unit is intended to clean up the power going to components. In addition, there is protection, but it does NOT limit power capabilities like the PS300, PS600, or other power plant products. The manual helps to distinguish the differences between it and the power plant: The Ultimate Outlet “was not designed to fix low voltage, regulate power levels, repair the typical clipped sine wave that comes out of a home outlet, or convert wall voltage to balanced power.”

The manual recommends using digital or analog components with a single Ultimate, but recommends against mixing components—supposedly this will reduce performance. To keep costs at a minimum, you could always use a good quality power strip along with the Ultimate Outlet to increase the amount of devices connected to it. The Ultimate will work in front of or behind a PS Audio Power Plant component, and PS Audio claims improved performance in either configuration.


Listening

In my main listening system, I plugged my Mark Levinson No. 29 amplifier directly into the Ultimate Outlet and left it this way for about a month. During this period nothing was amiss. At least twice (due to storms and who-knows-what) the power went out and came back on. I never heard any strange sounds or had any problems with operation. To conduct the testing, I connected both the Krell integrated amplifier and CD player into the wall outlet and then into the Ultimate Outlet and went back and forth again and again.

I began the testing with track 6, “Cherry Red,” by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson from Blues Around The Clock. With the components plugged into the Ultimate Outlet there was an increased sense of reverberation and seemingly longer decay. There was improved definition and separation between the instruments. With the units directly into the wall, there were adverse affects to the sound of the horn that came across as lesser defined.

Next up was track 10, “Later Tonight,” from the Pet Shop Boys’ Please. Direct into the wall, the voice was more sibilant and soundstage width was smaller. The strings that come in at 0:09 sound restricted and generic with no life. With the Ultimate in the system, the piano sound was richer and less veiled. Voice was much more open and it was easy to hear the voice trail off on different vocal notes. The voice in particular was more natural sounding.

The Queen Symphony by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was another good opportunity to hear the difference between using and not using the Ultimate. On track 3, Adagio, the music sounded sweeter and had better depth with it in the system. The natural acoustic that was created was much more believable. You could almost feel the texture to the sound and dynamics were a bit better. When I connected the units back to the wall the soundstage seemed to shrink. There was a slight edginess to the sound—a rough quality that detracted from the presentation.

To change gears I put on track 5, “And Don’t You Forget It,” from Hubert Laws’ The Laws Of Jazz. The immediacy and vibrancy produced by the flute on this track was pretty amazing. It was like there was fire searing the air as it came from the sound system—effortless and vivid. With the Ultimate out of the system, the sound was just not the same. The horn came across as being mousy and squeaky. The piano was clangy, but not in a good way. The hiss was more noticeable on top of the music.

Strangely enough, on track 5, “What A Fool Believes,” from The Doobie Brothers’ Best Of The Dobbies Volume II provided the most striking difference in sonic quality. With the components directly connected, the voice was spitty and the resultant sound was thin and unnatural. With the Ultimate plugged in, the space increased and voice was mellower and more distinct. There was just a huge difference in musical enjoyment that can’t be easily described.

Lastly, I put on track 9, “Let’s Play (‘Til Mom Calls),” from Layers by Les McCann. With the Ultimate in system, the bass was tight and full. The sound was so present it was hard to feel like I was listening to a stereo. With the units plugged in directly, the sound was slightly harsher and had more grain. There was a tizz and a “stik, stik” sound that was not present with the Ultimate connected.


Conclusion

In every case the Ultimate Outlet improved on the performance of the equipment under test. As always, the difference will vary with the system. I didn’t test the Ultimate with a video component although its effects should extend to improved video performance as well. Unlike the power plants in PS Audio’s lineup, the Ultimate Outlet is not power limited (within reason). It only has two outlets, but this was enough to work effectively with the entire audio system under review and improved the performance very noticeably. It is small and lightweight and should allow for easy setup in just about any system. Highly recommended.

- Brian Bloom
big_brian_b@hotmail.com

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