We find power supplies in our tiny cube-shaped iPhone charges, laptop power bricks, and in every wall wart. They help convert mains AC (120V) into usable DC power (12V) for our sensitive electronics.
Power is just power, isn’t it? Unfortunately, not all power supplies are made equal.
There are primarily two types of power supplies: switch-mode (SMPS) and linear (LPS). The general tradeoffs are noted below.
Switch-mode vs Linear Power Supply
Due to cost and size, the majority of power supplies you’ll see are switch-mode. Taking a look at the low-noise benefits of an LPS, you’ll expect to get better sound from an LPS.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get great performance from an SMPS. In fact, some manufacturers have found an LPS to be noisier than SMPS. I also reviewed the SOtM sPS-500 (a highly filtered SMPS) which faired very well against the UpTone Audio LPS-1.
Check out this power supply comparison, along with the Paul Hynes SR7 here.
So What’s Inside a Linear Power Supply?
The layout of an LPS is deceptively simple:
AC Mains –> Transformer –> Rectifier –> Filter Capacitor –> Linear regulator –> DC Mains
Obviously different topologies will have different requirements but this is the general layout of an LPS.
Let’s break down each piece.
Now that you have a better understanding of how an LPS works – what does this mean for sound?
A speaker provides tone, impact, shine, and texture. A DAC will give you a foundation of resolution, transparency, and air.
A better power supply will reward you with:
- A lower noise floor
- Tighter outlines and a more fleshed out sound
- A much smoother, refined, and gradational sound
- A more natural soundstage in both size and atmosphere
- Improved timbre
After breaking down and rebuilding multiple systems, I’ve found one can’t achieve a truly “lifelike” sound without a better power supply at every part of the chain. There isn’t a piece of audio gear that won’t benefit from a better power supply. I even have one powering my modem and router to improve Tidal and Spotify streams. Unfortunately, most audio products (DACs, amplifiers, servers) will require a custom solution.
In essence, a better power supply will sonically “align” the complex analog and digital signal into something that’s properly outlined and shaped. This alignment is responsible for the tighter lines and an overall more insightful listening experience. Without a proper power supply, there are “gaps” and “jumps” in the sound.
Simply put: Music is less artificial, less rough, and more live.
A few popular audiophile power supplies
Keep up to date with our shenanigans! Follow Audio Bacon on Facebook!