PS Audio Ultimate Outlet

By Ari-Martti Pohtola

Published 31st March 2004 

Me and the noise

Situation in the beginning: My setup was originally working pretty well, then I acquired a new Universal player and a plasma television. You could ask me, what harm a 42” plasma and universal player could do to audio listening. Well, it can do some harm, because the problem became obvious quite soon. Earlier in my setup the DVD-A player had a proper well-shielded transformer, and there was no problem either with the earlier TV-set, which had a built-in tuner. Now, the new player’s transformer was not so good nor so carefully shielded and there was a noisy power section in my new plasma TV’s separate tuner box. 

So I now had two new digital components, a universal player with far better Burr-Brown DAC´s than the earlier player had, and a very good Plasma television. Unfortunately my equipment (power amp, preamp, player, plasma with tuner) were all on same mains line, and the noise coming from these dear “SOTA home theatre” components was increased in great amount.  

Before starting this evaluation, the first step for me was to get a clean audio-only dedicated mains line for my amps and player. Getting this kind of dedicated mains line was a very good move, and I strongly recommend that kind of installation to everyone. The soundstage will be more relaxed and stable after getting all of the other household devices out of the same mains line where Your High End equipment are. I also have a star-grounding scheme via my preamp to the other components in the audio chain.

Power filtering solutions in the market

So how to get started?

I went thru all possible solutions that came in to my mind:

UPS: A lot of distortion, noise and compression/lack of dynamics, Large UPSes are big, ugly, expensive devices and after getting that kind of device, You will realize that there is still distortion, and You may discover that You then have some new interesting problems with your setup.

Computer noise suppressors: Some EMI/RFI damping shown in their technical specs, in real life testing, no positive effects neither to sound nor to the picture.

I tested one of the APC surge arrest devices. After reviewing that unit, I soon understood that this kind of device is no good for High End audio purposes.

Audio noise suppressors: Not widely available in the Finnish market. I tested one DIY-based suppressor in my setup; this solution reminded a bit the PS Audio UO (without the Balun). The soundstage was good and the instrument placement was pretty good also, but the high frequencies were not as sweet as with the UO, and the low frequencies were more restricted.

Isolation transformers: If You get an isolation transformer, you can separate Your digital equipment from the other devices with it, but to get an isolation transformer large enough for Your power amp, without compressing the sound, You will soon realize that these units can be very expensive. Depending on Your power needs, the size of the isolation transformer can vary from modest rack sized unit to the size of a small fridge. Believe me; these devices can also be very ugly. Besides, they mainly provide isolation from the other components, but not noise suppression to any great extent.

Richard Gray Power solutions: mixed results, our publisher Mikko Mattila had a Richard Gray power solution with his Mark Levinson setup, and he was not very impressed. I have heard that some users have achieved good results with Richard Gray power solutions.

Transparent: Transparent is making some black boxes and like in many cases regarding Transparent, You do not have much information on how these units are working, because Transparent does not tell much about the technology applied to their solutions. These units are not the cheapest ones either in the market.

Trichord: An other nice looking isolation transformer.

PS Audio: Hmm. I suddenly remembered that I had browsed through their site several times, reading about their technology, and I have been thinking about making a review and test their products. I quickly browsed to their site to see the Ultimate Outlet specs again, and lo and behold, they had published more technical specs and pictures of their products. No voodoo stuff, no nonsense, and just pure facts about their solutions. Beside this, the Ultimate Outlet was not even very expensive.

The Solution: PS Audio Ultimate Outlet

I had asked earlier PS Audio’s representative in Finland if I could get one unit for review purposes, but this Finnish dealer informed me that they have a policy of not lending products for any reviews. Ok. I fully respect their policy.

I then quickly contacted Angie at PS Audio, and she said that there is a distributor for the Scandinavian markets, located in Sweden, called the Golden Age Music ( ). Soon after contacting the Golden Age Music, things really started happening.

Lars-Ola from Golden Age Music immediately sent me two PS Audio High Current Ultimate Outlets. I wanted to have at least two of the Ultimate outlets, because my idea was to connect the first UO to my preamp, and the second unit to my Universal player and the Plasma TV’s separate tuner box.

I decided to go with this kind of test setup because I am mainly listening to music in 2-channel mode, so the Tuner box of the Plasma TV is turned off during 2-channel listening. This way I could separate the preamp from the mains line as well. Basically it is not a good idea to connect many digital devices to one UO, because then you cannot separate the digital components behind the UO from each other.

One of my testing options was to try the results from separating my Mark Levinson No.332 power amp with one dedicated Ultimate outlet. If you are connecting a powerful power amp to Ultimate Outlet, please do not connect any other devices to that same unit. Further on in sound section about this test.

So I got two UO´s rapidly delivered from the Golden Age Music, but unfortunately the other unit was broken, and I sent it back to Sweden. Golden Age Music promised to send me a new unit, but I decided to do the review with only one unit, testing it with different components in my audio chain. Btw, the service and response from the Golden Age Music is very good, they are very customer oriented.

Before starting, I was not looking for miracles; I just wanted to see if these devices could make any real life improvement to the sound. And yes, indeed, the sound was better with the UO.

About the Ultimate Outlet Technology 

These PS Audio Ultimate Outlets are based on a type of transformer called a balun. This balun-technology was invented already at 1930´s and PS Audio started utilizing this technology to clean up the noise in AC applications.

According to PS Audio, this balun-based Ultimate Outlet reduces common mode noise by up to 40 dB, and it also handles differential noise. PS Audio states that with this solution the cleaning should happen at all frequencies, not only at the very high frequencies attended to by typical power filters or conditioners.

Inside the newer version of the Ultimate Outlet there is a Ceramic resistor. Because of this new ceramic resistor, newer devices are a bit warm when running, compared to the older UO units (verified by one friend of mine, who has an older model of the UO).

I do not believe in long burn-in times with passive components, but then again, there are more components than just one balun inside the unit. Therefore, I decided to give the unit some 60 hours to burn-in before I started the serious listening tests. Just to be sure. By now I have tested this unit for three months, and the unit has been switched on the since then.

There was a slight difference in sound after the burn-in period, but not to any great extent. If you are that kind of person who believes that burn-in is good for all kind of equipment, you could let the UO run for several days before doing any serious listening tests.

One important thing is that the UO´s fuse, located on the back of the unit, is not in the signal path. Behind the unit there is also a LED that lights only if the fuse is blown or if there is a malfunction in the unit.

So in summary, the UO separates the audio components from the other components in the mains line. It also reduces common noise and in case of spikes etc. it also secures the equipment connected to it. PS Audio says that the UO also works bi-directionally, thus preventing the digital noise from falling back to the mains line from the devices behind the UO, which in my review was a very important feature.

For the spike protection PS Audio is using a SOTA “Transzorber” instead of a traditional MOV (metal oxide varistor). If there is a problem with the Tranzorber, or too much current tries to get through, a relay will open up and the Ultimate Outlet protects your equipment behind the UO.

According to PS Audio, when comparing UO´s to normal isolation transformers, the UO can handle the isolation without the size and power issues of isolation transformers.

You can also connect power-hungry devices to the traditional isolation transformers, but then you have to spend a lot of money to get an isolation transformer that is large enough and you should prepare yourself to the fact that in the worst case there is going to be a 20- 70 kg transformer in the corner of your listening room. So the choice is once again yours, I quickly decided to give a chance to this small unit.

UO benefits if it is connected to grounded mains. If You are living in an old house that does not have a ground pin in the wall outlets (there are still some old houses in Finland with that kind of mains to the apartments), the UO still works, but not as effectively as it would work if it is connected to a grounded mains wall outlet. 

PS Audio Ultimate Outlet just got the CE-certification in Europe, so even that CE-certificate profiles and separates PS Audio products from some voodoo-devices on the market. And it does not hurt to know that these devices are CE-marked, even if you do not appreciate that fact much. 

PS Audio has a wide range of power products (and amps as well) and these Ultimate outlets are at best with higher power hungry equipment. For the front end equipment the Power Plants (e.g. P300 and P600) devices are reported to provide even better results. PS Audio also has the Power Director in their portfolio, which is basically several independent Ultimate Outlets built into one chassis (with some added features). I think that if the money is not an issue, the best solution would be a mix of Ultimate outlet(s) and Power Plant(s). Remember, that in Europe the PS Audio products are not as cheap as on the US-market. 

If you are considering whether you should buy an Ultimate Outlet or a new better power cable at the same price, I would buy an Ultimate Outlet first.

PS Audio states that the UO will further benefit if it has a very good power cable before the unit, and I can verify this. I tested the UO (instead of my Supra Custom power cables) with the new Siltech SPX-30 power cable. In this test, the effect was dramatic. I did not believe it before the testing, so I hate to admit that the UO really benefits to have very good quality power cable from the mains to the UO. I got much more clarity and punch to the midrange with SPX-30 cable.

If you can hear differences in power cables, the cables are always system dependent and it is up to the listener, what cables he or she prefers. I liked the SPX-30 very much before the UO in my Levinson-Audionet-Dunlavy setup. 

It is not what you hear, but what you do not hear

Let me explain. Have you ever wondered why the sound is sometimes very good and why on another day your setup just sounds miserable? 

Stop blaming yourself. Of course, one reason could be that you have had a bad day at work or you are tired etc. but in many cases, it is just about what the mains connection is delivering to your components.

One thing that you might not hear anymore to such a great extent with the UO connected in Your setup, is that digital glare in old eighties cd-recordings. I mean that when the UO is connected in, you can listen to those old, dreadful-sounding CD-recordings for longer periods without getting a headache instantly.

I am not going to go to the mantra “the blacks are blacker now”, but the thing is simply so that the UO is cleaning up the sound, and the cleaning means that instead of adding something there, You are really taking the garbage out.

Sound in Details

I tested one PS Audio Ultimate Outlet in my setup, using it with all possible variations in my audio chain. I achieved the best results when connecting the UO to my preamp only.

From the beginning there was more clarity in the sound, the soundstage was a bit deeper and the instruments were placed tighter in the sound field. Also, the shape and size of the instruments were more defined.

The overall effect in the sound could be described by saying that my setup now sounded more like good pure analog set.

 Upper frequencies became clearer; the sound was not so edgy in some recordings that used to sound a bit edgy earlier. I found the whole soundstage more relaxed than earlier. With the UO connected, I could also spot more details in the upper frequencies, but in a way these details were just there without making a statement. Therefore one could also call the sound more polite, showing upper frequency details without underlining them every time.

I also noticed immediately a difference in the bass region. The lower region sounded deeper, but at the same time it sounded more controlled.  In some cases, if you are testing only different kinds of power cables, you may get more deep bass, but at the same time you could loose some bass control. Not in this case. I mentioned earlier in this article that I tested one DIY filter, and in this test against the UO, there just was deeper bass present with the UO. DIY-filters are easy to build, but to get everything right sound-wise, that is not an easy task.

The timing of the bass region took some more time to understand. At first I thought that the bass attack was not as fast as earlier, but then I realized that it was better in line with the timing of the other frequencies.

If You like to use wine terms, the bass was more mature now. To put it other way, the bass was earlier a street fighter and now with the UO, it sounded more like a gentleman with broad shoulders.

Comparing different instruments and different recordings, I found that the snare drum sounded better now, especially when there was a sharp hard hit to it. With piano, the hard attacks of the high tones were more natural and clear with the UO. The shape of the singer was in many cases more defined and the singer was placed more in the spot, without moving a bit in the sound field. The same effect applied to the instrument placement as well.

The smallest effect was in the mid frequencies, so clearly this unit’s strengths are in the bass and high frequencies as well as in the timing.

When testing the UO with other components, it really did not work with my universal player. Using the UO with the preamp only had the best positive effect in my setup. When the universal player was the only component behind the UO, the sound was more “dirty” and when the universal player and the preamp were connected to the same UO, I also noticed that the sound was dirtier and some micro details were missing. So please; when connecting digital components to the UO, according to my experience, do not connect them to same UO or you’ll have all of the digital units interfering with each other. So separate units for digital components.

PS Audio says that you can use UO´s with very power demanding power amps, but I did not find any big improvement with my Mark Levinson 332. Perhaps with smaller power amps you get better audible results, but I still think the Ultimate Outlet works best with less power hungry amps. It did not compress the sound, but to be honest, the best audible effect was when the UO was connected only to my preamp.


Now you are asking, is this unit worth of the money? The simple answer is yes. If you have a good High End setup, and you really want to get all of the potential out of the equipment, there is no other modestly priced alternative solution to the Ultimate Outlet. I am buying my review sample, the effect in neutrality, timing, easiness, as well as in the bass and high frequencies are so evident in my setup that really I have no other choices.

It is good to review a product that I have nothing bad to say about.

Price: 447 € (28.3.2004),

Representative in Scandinavia: Golden Age Music, Sweden

Golden Age Music contact information:
Golden Age Music AB
Kungegårdsgatan 9
441 57 Alingsås

Tel +46 322 66 50 50
Fax +46 322 66 50 51

Associated Equipment

  • DVD-A/SA-CD/CD Player: Pioneer 868AVi, placed on Ceraballs, all unused RCA´s covered with Cardas RFI Caps
  • Preamp: Audionet MAP, placed on Ceraballs, all unused RCA´s and XLR´s covered with Cardas RFI Caps
  • Power AMP: Mark Levinson No. 332, RCA´s covered with Cardas RFI caps.
  • Front Speakers: Dunlavy SC-IVA standing on Superspikes and granite plates, Analysis Plus Oval 12 Cables
  • Center Channel Dunlavy SC-IAV, Analysis Plus Oval cables
  • Rear Channels: Dunlavy SC-I
  • Interconnects: All Analysis Plus Copper Oval, XLR and RCA
  • Power cables: Custom made Supra LoRAD cables
  • Digital Cable: Furutech/Furukawa PCS glass fibre
  • Room tune: 25 m2 room, 4 Plate resonators, 1 Helmholtz resonator, 6 Asc tube traps, 1 Svana Acoustics tube trap, diffusor in front wall, symmetrical room, large bookshelves on both sides of the listening room, heavy rug behind the listening position, a carpet, 2 sofas and some ceiling treatment. The whole listening frequency range is within +-3 dB in the listening position
  • Speaker setup: normal wide Dunlavy setup

CD,  SA-CD and DVD-Audio reference recordings used in evaluation

  • ·         Steely Dan: Everything must go DVD-A
  • ·         Fourplay: DVD-A
  • ·         Alison Krauss + Union Station: Live SACD
  • ·         Burmester: CD-03
  • ·         Kari Bremnes Gåte ved Gåte
  • ·         Jenifer Warnes: The Hunter
  • ·         Sundance: Stunt records Vol. 6
  • ·         Eva Cassidy: Songbird
  • ·         High Fidelity reference: cd no. 43 
  • ·         Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba 
  • ·         Julee Cruise: Floating into the night 
  • ·         Loussier: plays Satie
  • ·         Chet Baker: Baby Breeze 
  • ·         Joe Sample: the best of 
  • ·         George Duke: After Hours
  • ·         Gladiator Soundtrack







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