Power Receptacles - Review and Comparison

Once I started comparing power cords on the various equipment in my system, it was undeniable that the power receptacle has a tremendous influence on the resulting sound from each power cord. Switching between the Porterhouse Audio Power Port, Oyaide SWO-XXX, Oyaide R1 with the GPC-Z cover, and Synergistic Research Teslaplex consistently produced significantly different results with each power cord I auditioned. I am amazed at how much each receptacle influences the performance of a given cord and, more importantly, the sound of my system as a whole.

Over a period of months, I compared each of these receptacles, using several different power cords on each of my components, beginning with my Ayre CX-7e CDP and K-1xe preamp. I eventually concluded that I preferred the Synergistic Research Tesla T2 power cords with the Teslaplex receptacle on my front end equipment.

So now for the amp. First, I compared the Oyaide SWO-XXX to the Porterhouse Audio Power Port on my Krell FPB-600c with the SR Tesla T3 UHC power cord. The SWO-XXX provided a little more apparent detail, but I found the Power Port to be much more musical and it provided what I feel to be more realistic soundstage ambience and more natural upper-frequency purity.

Next up was the Oyaide R1. While I can see why so many folks are impressed with the R1, it seems to impart the same sonic signature on every piece I try it with. It has a very refined sound, with impressive detail, good tonal balance, and lovely harmonic bloom; but, in my system, it has much less air than the Teslaplex or the Porter Port and the soundstage is not as expansive. Instruments seem to move forward in the soundstage and vocals have a much more ‘hi-fi’ quality about them. I never get the ‘live sound’ magic from the R1 like I do with the Teslaplex or the Porter Port.

Many audiophiles keep a special component, interconnect, or power cord over the years whose sound they know to be truthful and use it to evaluate new equipment in their systems. The Porter Port is such a product. It is my opinion that it is the most neutral of this entire group and should be the standard by which to baseline power cords and receptacles. This is indeed impressive considering the $36 selling price of the Porterhouse Audio Porter Port.

The Synergistic Research Teslaplex receptacle is somewhat of a paradox to me. When comparing its appearance to the Oyaides, it seems very unlikely that this hot-rodded Leviton will be able to make a mark against those exotically-plated Japanese beauties. Looks are deceiving! This receptacle is revelatory in its ability to generate a seemingly unbounded soundscape that is so transparent it actually seems to breathe. Anyone who has tried the SR Tesla power cords knows what I mean by this. The ‘thereness’ of vocals and percussion is just uncanny. I suspect much of this is a result of Ted Denney’s Quantum Tunneling treatment. If you are unfamiliar with this process, visit the Synergistic Research website for a recorded demonstration. One thing I know for sure is that it enhances his products in a most remarkable way.

The Teslaplex may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Its sound is so transparent and delivers such spectacular clarity that I suspect that many audiophiles will find it to be overwhelmingly different from what they have become accustomed to. Perhaps it is, but if the reproduction of air and limitless soundstaging are your audio drug of choice and your system is up to it, I think you will find this receptacle to be quite amazing. Highly recommended!
I also hear differences in AC outlets. Now to really confuse you, describe the sound of various outlets in combination with a variety of PC's, just like seasoning food.
Another outlet to try is the Isoclean ICP-003. It hasn't gotten much press for some reason.
Dear Al,

Here is my best attempt at addressing your questions/concerns:

Q: Were the differences you perceived typically immediately recognizable, on the first recording you listened to after switching receptacles, or did they only become apparent after listening sessions that extended over weeks or months?

A: The difference in the sound when switching between any of the receptacles was immediately recognizable. The purpose of having an extended listening period was simply to ensure that my perceptions of each product would remain consistent over time.

Q: If the former, did you switch back to the previous receptacle to confirm your perceptions?

A: I switched back and forth numerous times in each comparison, sometimes several times within the same listening session and sometimes after listening to one receptacle for an extended time (days) before switching to another.

It is not hard or time consuming for me because I have two 30 amp dedicated lines for my amp and two 20 amp dedicated lines for my front end. Thus, I could have any two receptacles installed and powered up simultaneously for each position. The switching process between any two receptacles only took about 90 seconds, most of which was the 'boot up' time of the equipment after powering down.

Q: If the latter, the same question applies, and also how do you know that the differences were not due to things like ongoing aging or burn-in of system components, seasonally-related temperature changes in the room affecting component performance, changes (also possibly seasonally-related) in line voltage, or in noise levels on the ac line, subtle wear in your record grooves due to repeated playings, etc.?

A: Again, the differences in the my system's sound with the change of receptacles were immediately discernable. This is true when using both LPs and CDs (I am not aware of any wear factor on CD). This time of year (October - November) in my part of Texas yields very consistent temperatures. My Krell runs pure Class A at all times and ensures that my listening room temperature stays about the same (HOT!). I have dedicated lines and the time of the listening sessions varied enough that, over iterative comparisons, I am certain that AC quality was not a factor in my observations.

Al, it seems that you might think that my perceptions were largely psychosomatic. I can assure you this is not the case. This is an excerpt from a message I sent a friend of mine during the comparison:

"Over the years, whenever I was trying out interconnects, speaker cables, digital cables on various CD front-ends, etc, I would always ask my wife to listen while I swapped back and forth. She nailed it right away every time. She can hear like on owl and knows what good sound is. It would always take me a lot longer to figure it out, but after a while, I always concluded that she got it right. Every time."

"Well, last night I asked her to listen to my system while I started with the SR Teslaplex receptacle and then switched to the Oyaide R1. She was totally unaware of what changes were being made as I moved the Tesla power cords to my CDP and preamp from one receptacle to the other. After listening to the whole 8+ minutes of track 11 of the Shirley Horn CD, "You Won't Forget Me", with the Teslaplex, it only took her about 30 seconds with the R1 to say "That sounds totally different. This one (the R1) makes her voice sound 'recorded' and the instruments are much more forward. On the other one (the SR), her voice sounded much more natural and the instruments were much farther back".

'Nuff said.

The good news is that you need only risk $36 plus shipping to hear the Power Port for yourself. Why not give it a try? I would sincerely appreciate hearing your opinion after installing any one of these receptacles compared to the one you currently use.

Best of Luck,

It would indeed take some effort to cover all the combinations and permutations of each power cord with each receptacle.

I'll make you a deal though: You tell me how you built those hug honkin' DIY tubes traps in your listening room and I'll try to hit the high points of the power cable/receptacle combos for you ;o)
Dave -- Thank you for your comprehensive and persuasive answers, which fully answer my questions. Again, I was not questioning your characterizations and assessments of what you were hearing, which I think is what you were referring to when you used the word "psychosomatic." I was only questioning whether the methodology adequately controlled other conceivable variables, so that what you heard was correctly attributed to the receptacles.

The dust hasn't yet settled here on numerous major changes, upgrades, and repairs that my system has undergone recently, and unfortunately my house is older and has two-prong outlets(!), but I hope to explore the whole area of power cords, receptacles, and possible house wiring upgrades in the not too distant future.

-- Al