I try to attend at least one live performance a month – for enjoyment, and for a sanity check. There will be many mentions of “tonal accuracy.” My definition of tonal accuracy is how something sounds in the real world to me.
After many, many blind tests with other audiophiles, I understand not everyone hears or describes what they hear the same way. Our brain, at times, will play tricks on us.
The only way to do it right is to listen over time – at least a few days. What I consider “smooth” some will consider “warm” or “dense.” I also know many audiophiles who prefer an elevated tone, even though it doesn’t sound anything close to natural – but that’s OK. Anyway, I’ll do my best to describe what I hear.
I’ll be using the High Fidelity Cables CT-1 Ultimate power cord on the SR4 for this evaluation.
Kodo – Kokyo
The most immediate differences between the LPS-1.2 and SR4 (at least with the CT-1U) is tone. The LPS-1.2 has a more warm-blooded and superbly organic tone. The SR4 is silkier and “cooler” in its overtones. As the cymbals come in, the SR4 is able to produce more nuanced and better metallic gradations while layering out the voice a little further back. The LPS-1.2 is more forward with a sweeter treble but more “blended” as far as depth and resolution.
When the taiko drums come pounding, both power supplies are explosive and punchy. There aren’t any signs of softness. The SR4 has more perceptible flex in the drum skin from the drumsticks bouncing off it whereas the LPS-1.2 has more growl and grandiose rumble – almost like a tubey bloom. The SR4 layers out the technical rhythm, dynamics, and transients more clearly while the LPS-1.2 is portrayed more holistically – keeping mostly the characteristically “musical” parts.
The SR4 has more dynamic extrusion into the listening room – while the LPS-1.2 stays warmer and closer together. It’s a little easier to perceive the size and shape of the drums with the SR4. The SR4 exhibits more balanced between the drums, gongs, cymbals – while there’s a slight low-end emphasis on the LPS-1.2.
Overall the SR4 is cleaner, smoother, and more nuanced while the LPS-1.2 has natural coloration and thump. Timbre is fantastic for both power supplies – you could still tell which instrument is what.
Charles Lloyd New Quartet – Nu Blues
One of the strengths I mentioned in the Paul Hynes SR4 review was its uncanny ability to shape out the music. With the complex interactions between the crowd and players in this recording, the SR4 is surely strutting its stuff. The bass, drums, piano, and saxophone are not only separated and have well-formed outlines, but it’s also utterly convincing from an imaging standpoint.
The LPS-1.2 has wonderful coloration and tonal contrast while the SR4 has more dimensionality, texture, and palpable shape. During the bass and drum solos, you hear what’s being plucked and struck more clearly with the LPS-1.2 – while the SR4 demonstrates the complexities of how those instruments are being played. It articulates directionality, speed, and artistic strength and energy in a more visceral fashion.
Another track that makes this difference obvious is Hocus Pocus by Focus. The SR4 offers up a more holographic and coherent presentation. It feels like you’re watching a live show. The LPS-1.2, on the other hand, have instruments playing more forward on the same plane but has a more convincing tone – especially with the tires screeching and shouting.
The LPS-1.2’s lusher tone is cozy and inviting. The SR4’s technical ability provides a more 3D listening experience.
Eva Cassidy – Take Me to the River
I think the warmblooded tonality of the LPS-1.2 sounds truer with this recording. Although the outlines of the LPS-1.2 are more “overlayed” rather than tight, they’re not bloomy, fuzzy, or rough. It still provides a richer atmosphere that compels rhymic head-bobs and toe-taps. Tonally, the LPS-1.2 will be considered more musical due to its more organic presentation. Once again, the SR4 is more performant in the technicalities -, especially with this specific power cord.
The SR4 exhibits better coherence, imaging, resolution, articulation, texture, quietness, and soundstage. The SR4 sounds holistically more convincing with its lifelike three-dimensional performers playing in front of you. Instead of just hearing the drum, you could hear how the drumsticks hit the drum. Instead of hearing a flat voice, you’re visualizing the emotion. You’re able to pinpoint the relative distances and size of Ms. Cassidy, strings, and percussions.
The SR4 is more of a listening experience whereas the LPS-1.2 is more about keeping things fun and intimate.
Sara Bareilles – (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay (live)
The LPS-1.2 still provides a more melodic and warmer tone that’s probably more aligned with the intimate atmosphere of this recording. Her voice, the audience, and piano sound true to life and have the proper color and grunt. If it isn’t clear by now, the LPS-1.2 is very musical out-of-the-box.
In comparison to the SR4, the LPS-1.2’s image seems to be painted on a flatter canvas. The LPS-1.2 has broader, more high-level strokes – you miss out on the details but you get the bigger picture – which isn’t a bad thing.
With the SR4, at around 3:25, Bareilles gets the crowd to whistle along. The piano key presses and holds have better transitional gradations. The whistle and laughter are also more nuanced and dimensional. There’s a better sense of textural envelopment – you feel as if you’re part of the audience whistling along. The SR4 also has a more coherent, dynamic, and less piecewise approach to imaging out the soundstage.
The LPS-1.2 colors the atmosphere for musicality but the SR4 does a better job with the lower level details.
Paul Hynes SR7
I’ve already compared the SR4 with the SR7 in my previous review. With the SR7 at more than quadruple the price of the LPS-1.2 – it isn’t meant to be a fair comparison. But I know I’ll be asked about this, so here it is.
When used with the Vovox Textura power cord, the SR7 is in every way better than the SR4 and LPS-1.2. This includes dynamics, articulation, bass definition, soundstage, and body. My first thought when doing the comparison was “this sounds frickin’ real.”
As I play A Love Supreme Part II: Resolution by John Coltrane, with the SR7 you not only hear more of the music, but you also hear the skill involved with the music. The delicate nuances of cymbals, the vibrancy of piano notes, and brassy textural exertions. You’re immediately drawn in by the spacious yet controlled scene with supporting PRaT and coherence.
Long story short, the SR7 power supply is still in another league.
I’ve touched upon UpTone Audio’s LPS-1 and ISO REGEN more than a year ago. If you have the original UltraCap LPS-1, you should upgrade to the LPS-1.2. The LPS-1.2 is richer, smoother, and fuller in comparison. For lack of a better word, it’s more musical.
So, with the release of the UpTone Audio’s LPS-1.2, the choice between that and the Paul Hynes SR4 is made more difficult.
Which one you decide on depends on a few things.
The case for the UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2
- You have limited precious outlets on your power conditioner. The LPS-1.2 sounds better, at least in my case, directly from the wall. With the growing number of required digital components (USB conditioners, clocks, networks gear), this could be a really good thing. As a side note: I wish more power conditioners had at least 8 outlets instead of 6. C’mon guys.
- You don’t want to deal with buying a power conditioner or better power cord. The LPS-1.2 seems to sound best with its stock power cord on the SMPS – at the wall. Although I do recommend a better DC cable (check out Zenwave Audio).
- You’re looking for something more compact. It’s about 1/5 the size of the SR4.
- You’re powering devices that require 1.1 amp or less.
- Sound: If you enjoy a bolder, more forward, and warmer sound. It won’t have as much depth, focus, and resolution, but tonality is something some find to be nonnegotiable. You get this out-of-the-box without any tweaks – whereas, with the SR4, you’ll need to tune with cables and conditioners.
The case for the Paul Hynes SR4
- You have a power conditioner. The SR4 seems to scale very well when plugged into one.
- Depending on the power cord used, the SR4 could sound a bit glamoured, light-hearted, and silky. In order to better the tonality of the LPS-1.2, you’ll need to spend $350 for a cable like the Vovox Textura or find a more suitable (warmer) power cord. When using the Vovox Textura power cord with the HFC MC-6 Hemisphere, the SR4 is, to my ears, is tough to beat. But yeah, it’ll cost you.
- You want the flexibility to be able to tune to taste. This includes changing out DC cables, power conditioners, and power cords. The LPS-1.2 seems to sound best the way it’s shipped.
- If your devices require more power – the SR4 offers 2A continuous and 20A transient. I haven’t tried it yet, but you could technically split power between a modem and router. It’s tough doing that with an LPS-1.2
- Sound: The baseline gains for the SR4 are numerous. Particularly when it comes to shaping and layering out the music. There’s no smearing of instruments or singers. It’s a very lifelike and three-dimensional presentation. My impressions of the SR4 still stand. It reveals what my sources are capable of without being clinical. It also provides insightful tangibility and gravitational presence to all recordings. Something I’ve yet to hear from other power supplies. For those reasons, I think it’s the “more audiophile” power supply between the two.
Everyone’s palate (and wallet) is different – so the choice is yours.
I’ve purchased at least four UltraCap LPS-1s last year – so the much improved LPS-1.2 comes with a high recommendation. The straight out the gate performance of the UltraCap LPS-1.2 is very compelling. Without spending more than $435, you’re getting great sound – in a small package.
The beauty is that you don’t need to buy a power conditioner or expensive power cord to get a rich musicality. Its raw and warmer character is also highly addictive and keeps you nodding with approval. It’s also the sleekest looking power supply on the planet.
Do you have experience with both the SR4 and LPS-1.2? Let me know your thoughts below.
Purchasing: UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2