Better than the original

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With yesterday’s announcement of the P20 Power Plant’s launch, inevitable questions fly. One that piqued my interest is “how could any device improve upon the pure output of a power generator?”

It’s a great question and one that requires a bit of explanation.  In yesterday’s post, I had offered a bit of history when developing the Power Plant. The original idea for an AC power product that was not a simple conditioner had been a suggestion from my friend and former partner in Genesis, Mark Schifter. Mark knew I didn’t want to restart PS Audio by launching the same types of products I had in the past. He suggested AC power might be a place where breakthroughs were ready to be made and he was right.

I designed a small version of what your public utility has to produce power. A generator.  It didn’t take long before I abandoned that idea. Terri hated the thought of some spinning mechanical contraption in the home and I too had my objections. No matter how clean the power at the generator’s output, it did not solve the problem the equipment it powered presented. Peak energy demand.

If you look at how equipment accepts AC power you realize it’s not pretty nor clean. Unlike a light bulb or electric heater, most stereo equipment gulps power in quick chunks of current. The size of these chunks can be classified on a scale, called Power Factor. A power factor of 1 means the voltage and current are being consumed at the same time. This is what happens with a light bulb. A lower power factor, say 0.7, means the current is delivered in the aforementioned chunks. The lower the number, the shorter and more aggressive each chunk. The problem with these chunks is generators are not designed to feed them, thus, when they occur the voltage levels drop, robbing equipment of much-needed power.

A big power amplifier, for example, can be very demanding. These chunks of peak current can be as high as 50 amps, a demand that far exceeds what your home’s power can supply. The net result is a loss of needed power and audio performance suffers. Which is why a regenerator like the Power Plant is needed.

Our designs store more energy for quick release than is available through the home’s wall sockets, typically limited from 10 to 20 amps. When peak demands exceed the home’s limit every 1/20th of a second, performance suffers. Add a Power Plant to the mix and this problem goes away because Power Plants can deliver up to 70 amps of peak current (depending on the model). Add traditional conditioners or transformers to clean the AC power and the problem gets worse, not better.

Which is why we measure distortion on the Power Plant’s front panel. These nasty peak current demands show up as increased distortion. In fact, it’s what caused the distortion in the first place.

Now you know.