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As for my little outlet survey, the $150 Wattgate 381 was initially the winner in my book. Music was more full-bodied, with greater bass definition. The presence region was slightly more forward along with extended yet very sweet highs. The soundstage seemed larger. Backgrounds were quieter, offering up more ambient and musical information. Instruments and voices sounded a little more natural and lifelike. The Wattgate also edged out my very first foray into audiophile outlets of a few months ago, the $180 Isoclean outlet I flipped over then.

With the Isoclean, I noted a warmer midrange that was perhaps a little too toasty and difficult to ignore once I'd identified it. The Oyaide -- which has recently garnered kudos from outlet-savvy 'philes -- was probably the most balanced of them all without any one characteristic standing out. However, I did note greater upper band detail and a more dimensional soundscape. After several weeks, I grew to prefer this one overall in my system because of the aforementioned balance. The cryo-treated Hubbell was not as successful but offered decent extension on both ends of the spectrum as well as slightly less haze and glare. The Arrow-Hart 5362 came in last but was still superior to the average home duplex.

When I compared the various PPCs with their corresponding wall outlets, I obtained identical results as noted already but with slightly less grit and glare yet. Perhaps the copper chassis was responsible. No doubt the connecting power cables also contributed and perhaps made this a questionable exercise. Let's just say I did prefer my system plugged into a PPC rather than the stock Leviton outlets elsewhere in my home. Again, not huge differences but worthwhile considering the very reasonable prices of the PPCs.

Things got really interesting when I tried the top-of-the-line PPC with Wattgate 381s plus all the fixin's (ERS cloth, isolation cones and Bybee Quantum Purifiers). This dramatically stood out from the other models. The Stillpoints ERS cloth is a thin, grey-colored polyester-coated Carbon material designed to dissipate electro-magnetic (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI). ERS cloth is also an upgrade option for BPT's Ultra Isolator and Clean Power Center products. BPT lines their interiors with this material to banish high frequency nasties from entering.

Jack Bybee's Quantum Purifiers are small black cigar-sized devices that can be installed inside various components such as loudspeakers, digital players and PLCs. As with the ERS cloth, the Purifiers are an upgrade option. As you can see, they connect in series between the IEC inlet tabs and power outlets. The Bybees work their magic by reducing quantum noise. Apparently, this noise results from the flow of electrons through the crystalline molecular structure of metal conductors such as copper and silver. The folks at Bybee claim their various Purifier products are non-reactive and offer a stable low-impedance load.

The Bybee/ERS upgrades certainly had a very positive and synergistic impact on the Wattgate PPC. Music playback had greater coherence and focus along with reduced glare and hash. Instruments and voices were now more focused and palpable. Subtle musical lines, beats and rhythms were easier to follow - less confusion and blurring. Playback exhibited a more natural flow without any dynamic compression. There
was also an injection of adrenaline in the dynamic department as if those energetic little electrons just did their thing with less impedance (cough, cough). The overall effect allowed me to enjoy my music more than running power cables directly to the wall. This was not at all what I expected from a 'lowly' passive power strip.

To my ears, the resultant effects on music playback with passive devices such as the turbocharged PPC is quite different than with active PLCs as offered by Audiomagic, Isoclean, API, Chang Lightspeed or the now defunct Audio Prism. Those offer considerably darker and quieter backgrounds with little or no trace of grunge or line hash. However, one could argue that in some systems, they remove some light, life and drama from the music. The souped-up Bybee/ERS PPCs -- probably not unlike Walker Audio's Velocitor S -- display a more potent or tactile backdrop and major on jump factor, speed and dynamics while perhaps not offering as much noise reduction.

While I have not heard all manner and breeds of PLCs, I hypothesize that products like the PPC and Velocitor are better suited to what our editor calls adrenaline junkies who lust after edge-of-seat excitement and lightning-fast reflexes. The Audiomagic, Isoclean and equivalents are more for the space travelers who fancy huge, dead quiet, airy soundstaging with bags of spatial details. I would have difficulty choosing between either since I believe there are no absolutes in audio. I indeed hear positive effects with both. Why can't we have both?

If forced to choose, I'd likely lean towards the adrenaline junkie effect as being more in line with my personal listening bias. That is, I thrive on the emotional connection with music. Products that get me closer to that connection tend to perk up my ears and have me willing to sacrifice elsewhere. However, many audiophiles have different hot buttons to build their systems accordingly. I merely mention this because space travelers will probably not get their fix with the PPC. By all accounts, BPT's Balanced Power Conditioners should do that trick as well as up the ante in the image density department. However, if you are happy with your existing PLC but are short a few outlets, the PPC will solve the problem. Perhaps one could reap the best of both worlds by linking a Bybee/ERS PPC to one of BPT's conditioners?

I compared the Wattgate/Bybee/ERS PPC to the GutWire Maxcon, both roughly similar in design and price. In my system, it was no contest: the PPCs won by a mile. While the MaxCon significantly reduced hash and glare, some of the life drained from music as though a blanket suffocated my speakers. This surprised me. I do not recall the MaxCon ever having this effect. It was only when I inserted the PPC that I noticed this. The fully tricked-out power strips allowed music to emerge with greater overall coherence and dynamic thrust.

Incidentally, BPT's power cables were no slouches either. They offer excellent value. As with their Ultra Isolator units and PPCs, BPT offers a plethora of upgrade options to suit your needs. If you desire quieter backgrounds and warmer richer sonics, the L-12 or L-9 with the Super Shield option will do the trick. If you want a faster, leaner, more dynamic presentation, Chris has a newly redesigned L-12 sans shielding that really impressed me. At approximately half the cost of the Audience powerChord, I thought it held up quite well. In fact, it performed so well, I'm buying a couple. Perhaps the L-12 may be a better choice depending on partnering equipment. There was no trace of lumpiness or bloat with this cable at all. I'll have more to say about BPT's cable offerings in the near future.

During the review process, Chris emailed me about trying out Clearaudio's Magix magnetic isolation footers under the PPC. He claimed significant results and offered to ship me a pair. Lay it on me. How could I possibly turn down an offer to play with yet more toys? Sure enough, a $400 pair of Magix plus a PPC outfitted with Oyaide outlets, ERS cloth and Bybees soon arrived on my doorstep. The latter resulted from my curiosity to compare the Oyaide and Wattgate PPCs with otherwise identical optional configurations.

Resonance control is of greater importance than many audiophiles currently believe. The impact on music playback is really quite staggering and I will investigate this subject further with Grand Prix Audio's forthcoming wall-hanging Monaco-derivative turntable support. Having said that, I was not expecting the Magix would do much for a power strip, certainly not enough to warrant $400. Well I'll be damned. With the Magix, I noted a more expansive soundstage, smoother highs with less sibilance, greater spatial definition but most importantly, greater overall integration. This was not at all subtle. I also tried Grand Prix Audio's Apex footers under a maple cutting board with the PPC on top. I more or less obtained identical results.

It was during this period that I declared a clear preference for the Oyaide/ERS/Bybee PPC. As with the matching wall outlet, I thought this was the most copasetic match in my rig. With a system littered with vacuum tubes, I hardly lack midrange warmth. Therefore, the slightly rosy aroma of the Wattgate PPC was just a trifle strong for my nostrils.

The fully tricked-out Oyaide and Wattgate PPCs stood head and shoulders above the stock PPCs. They provide an ideal balance between high-octane dynamics and noise reduction. Spending nearly $1200 for a power strip with fancy add-on footers may seem reason for a sanity check but I can honestly report that it would be money well spent. The $749 Wattgate/Bybee/ERS PPC and $649 Oyaide/Bybee/ERS PPC might just be the perfect powerline accessory for audiophiles with small systems built around an integrated amp, CD player, turntable and phono stage. Get one of these turbocharged PPCs, throw in a handful of power cables and you're all set.

Plainly put, there isn't an AC-related product I have tried or am aware of that offers this much performance at anything near this price. In fact, it is difficult to refer to either Pure Power Center as a mere audio-grade power strips. These two really are in a different category. All I know is that I'm buying one.

On a tight budget? Consider the $149 PPC fed by BPT's L-12 power cable. You'll reap the benefits of star grounding plus the effects of a decent power cable for all your connected components. Bearing in mind how you can easily blow $5,000 on a power conditioning device that may or may not enhance your listening enjoyment, $400 seems like a reasonable risk. It will also allow you to extend the number of outlets for an existing conditioner without adversely affecting its sonics as a $20 plasticized power bar will. If you are so inclined, higher quality outlets are available at various price points.

I enthusiastically recommend the highly customizable Pure
Power Center from Balanced Power Technologies especially when compared to cheap power strips and wall outlets. BPT offers something for all audiophiles regardless of wallet size. Bravo.
Manufacturers’ reply:
Thank you Paul and 6moons for going the extra mile to evaluate the various versions of our new power strip. The unit is designed to fit the needs of existing BPT customers as well as any audio or home theater enthusiast. As you noted in the review, it can be configured for a basic low-cost system or "tricked out" for the very finest high dollar systems. Existing BPT customers will appreciate that the unit can be configured with the exact same outlets and using the same powercord as their existing balanced power isolator for a no-compromise 6-outlet extension with identical sonic performance.

Regarding the construction of the unit, I would like to point out the unique features that give this unit its performance advantage. The 18-gauge pure copper chassis provides the absolute lowest impedance path to ground, resulting in the highest attenuation of RFI possible. (We can even extend the noise rejection up into the Gigahertz region with the ERS cloth option.) The chassis IEC connection is the best-sounding available, with a pure Teflon body and heavy contacts that are either gold or silver/rhodium plated. The wiring is our 12 AWG custom high-purity oxygen-free copper Litz wire.

High purity oxygen free copper provides a lower impedance path while the Litz design ensures that the timing of the AC signal is fast and coherent (no skin effect). These construction features combine to create a neutral sound with superb transients that must be experienced to be appreciated. Paul reported that the Gutwire Maxcon "...sounded as though a blanket suffocated my speakers...It was only when I inserted the PPC that I noticed this... (the PPC) allowed the music to emerge with greater overall coherence and dynamic thrust." This is exactly how most any other power strips or power conditioners will sound once you've heard the perfect timing and tonal balance of the Pure Power Center.

One other point that bears mentioning is system compatibility. Paul is quite right to point out that each of the outlets available have slightly differing sonic flavors though not huge differences. I believe the reason there is much debate and opposing opinions about the sound of various AC power conditioners are the differences in the sonic characteristics of the audio system it is used with and the amount of noise inherent in that particular AC line. No one doubts the effectiveness of power conditioners at reducing noise in the AC line, but they vehemently disagree on the overall sonic performance and whether or not the advantages of lowered AC noise outweigh the possible disadvantages of tonal changes.

This brings us back to the passive purist nature of the PPC. It puts as few parts as possible in the AC line while providing additional outlets. Those few parts are the best available chosen specifically for a neutral tonal balance and correct timing. Still, system compatibility can be a consideration. This is why the PPC and all BPT products are offered with a 30-day return policy when purchased at the manufacture's suggested retail price.

Thanks again Paul, for the fine evaluation and the best recommendation a reviewer can make:"All I know is that I'm buying one."

Chris Hoff
Balanced Power Technologies
Manufacturer's website