Reviews

The World’s Best Audiophile Linear Power Supplies

Intro

So…I spent the last four months listening to the world’s best linear power supplies. If you’re looking for power supply upgrades for your gear, this review may help point you in the right direction.

Any audiophile knows: having high-performance linear power supplies is essential for an enthralling listening experience. Sure it can sound decent and engaging without one – but you simply won’t be able to achieve something closer to life. Check out the reasons why here.

But just buying any linear power supply isn’t always going to sound better. It has to be synergistic with your other components – and personal proclivities. The motivation for this massive survey is to guide you to a power supply that may work for you – and your gear.

Keep in mind, my favorite power supply might not be the same for you. Simply because my gear and goals might be different. And everyone connects to music in their own subjective way. Personally, I enjoy a richer, warmer, and denser sound. So consequently, my “Cons” may be your “Pros.” And that’s completely fine.

The Shootout

These power supplies were recommended by you, the Audio Bacon readers. I’m not very proactive on the forums so I’m not always aware of what’s out there. It’s interesting to hear about your preferences and what you have connected. I’ve asked every single one of the recommended vendors to send in at least a 5V supply (12V optional) and 95% of them responded. I believe they were curious to see where everybody stacks up. And I’m the only one crazy enough to make the comparisons.

First, I have to thank all the designers who were brave enough to participate in this shootout. I received no compensation for this review and the only ones I purchased were the SBooster and HDPlex 300W. This shootout was just done out of sheer curiosity. Also, a huge thank you to the fan who was gracious enough to loan me his Sean Jacobs DC4.

Secondly, know that none of these power supplies are perfect. Some will work better in darker, brighter, or flat systems. And some just pair better with specific equipment. Generally, my opinions here were very consistent across the various pieces of gear I evaluated. If one power supply were thick and dense with a specific DAC, it was also relatively thicker and denser on a USB PCI card. My goal is to help point you in the right direction.

Where are the measurements?

Many of these manufacturers like to boast about their power supply designs. Giving various (mostly engineering) reasons why theirs is better than the others. And they should! But like in all my reviews, I only care about how it sounds subjectively. You could talk about all the science you want – but if it’s not a sound the listener wants…what’s the point? It could have low noise and maximum current delivery – and still sound like shit to certain people. That said, if you want to see measurements, Audio Bacon isn’t for you. Try tofu bacon instead.

Setup

  • Software: Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, Euphony, Roon, PGGB (for upscaled files)
  • Evaluated equiment
    • 12V
      • Opto DX
      • Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler
      • RME ADI-2 DAC
    • 5V
      • Chord Electronics Qutest (orange/red filter)
      • JCAT USB Femto and XE cards
      • JCAT NET Femto and XE cards

The same generic power cord (one of the better ones) was used on all the power supplies. I figured most people won’t have fancy power cords they can hook up to each of their power supplies. Some of these power supplies will be more sensitive to power cords over another so if you’re looking for power cable recommendations, check out my review here.

Equipment

  • Snake River Audio Cottonmouth Signature power cables
  • LTA Z40
  • Danacable TruStream USB
  • FTA Callisto USB cable
  • Iconoclast UPOCC XLR and RCA interconnects
  • Emerald Physics 100.2 SE amplifier
  • Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler
  • Chord Electronics DAVE DAC
  • Synergistic Research Tranquality Base UEF
  • Symposium Acoustics platforms
  • SOtM sNH-10G Ethernet switch
  • SOtM iSO-CAT6 adapters
  • WAVE High Fidelity STREAM BNC cables
  • Innuos Phoenix USB reclocker
  • The Linear Solution Reference Ethernet cables
  • Innous ZENith Mk.2 SE server
  • JL Audio F110 V2 Fanthom subwoofer
  • LSA Statement loudspeakers
  • Audio Art Cable Statement e SC Cryo Speaker Cable
  • IsoAcoutics Aperta stands
  • Custom music server powered by a HDPLEX 400W (not part of review)
    • Ryzen 3600, 3700X, 3900X
      • The faster the CPU, the more grip and clarity. The slower, the warmer and denser it’ll sound.
    • Streacom FC-9 Alpha chassis
    • ASUS ROG Strix X480-I motherboard
    • AMD Ryzen 3900X CPU
    • Apacer ECC DDR4 wide-temperature RAM, 8GB
    • Intel Optane 58GB storage for OS
    • HDPlex 800w DC-ATX converter
    • Ghent Audio 24P-24P ATX cable harness (OCC 7N copper)
    • Ghent Audio M.2 to PCIe adapter
    • Euphony license (includes Stylus)
    • Mojo Audio Internal Regulator Module

Procedure

All my listening notes are subjective. For each piece of gear, I write my impression of each power supply with quick, full-day listens, and staggered listening (waiting a few days to listen again). I do randomize the order of the power supplies each time. During each session, I rank each according to detail, tonality, body, and personal preference. As I do with cables, I’ll occasionally swap back for stock power supplies as a sanity check.

At the end of the review, I compile all my notes (took a couple of weeks) and ensure everything was consistent. If there are any discrepancies (which one had more bass, bigger soundstage, etc), those power supplies are reevaluated in a heads-up comparison. Luckily, there weren’t many and the major ones I did find were because I wasn’t using the same DC cable. All of this is to ensure consistent impressions across a multitude of equipment and configurations. If you don’t see a specific comparison here, then I probably didn’t make them directly. But the holistic summary should be sufficient.

Since this is a power supply review, a lot of time is spent powering on and off these components. I have to wait for the OS to boot or the amplifier to completely shut off (when evaluating DACs). So in many ways, much more time-consuming than the power cable shootout I did a while back. Ranking them was also very difficult. Some power supplies had a very similar level of bass so required more listening. This also goes for resolution, soundstage, etc.

This experiment involved a large number of permutations and was an enormous undertaking. I’m only human so if you see any inconsistencies or errors, please let me know in the comments or via email.

Final Thoughts

These power supplies are in no particular order. If there are LPSUs you’d like to see here, please let me know and I’ll add them at the bottom. I might add them to this list and in the sortable ranking table.

As far as the “best” power supply, I honestly couldn’t settle on a specific one. Over time, I actually swapped between many of them and enjoyed them all for different reasons. For instance, I really liked the Paul Hynes SR4-12 and Fidelizer Nikola2 for their tone, the Sean Jacobs DC4 for its “live” molding, Mojo Audio Illuminati v3 for its spatial realism, and UpTone JS-2 for its fun energy and treble. I’m also consistently impressed by the technical abilities of the Plixir Elite BDC and seduced by the intimacy of the JCAT Optimo.

Rankings

As with all things audiophile, you can’t have it all. Each of us has to decide on a balance that works for us. But I’ve created a table where you could sort by what’s important to you. One thing becomes clear though: Most of them will sound much better than your stock power supply.

Without further ado, check out the criteria and personal rankings here. I do prioritize a warmer/darker tone, so my personal rankings will reflect that. But they might not be your preference (I know many of you prefer transparency or soundstage over tonality).

If you have any experience with these power supplies, please let me know in the comments. This is just one man’s opinion and it’d be interesting to hear what you think as well.

Want to hear for yourself? Get the Linear Power Supply Sound Pack: Recordings of 14 power supplies, 7 music snippets each.

Buy the Linear Power Supply Sound Pack

Want more comparisons like these?

The only reviews that actually matter are comparative ones. And I have a reputation for taking them to extremes. I felt power supplies are so critical in elevating a sound system – that this was a worthwhile endeavor. My hope is that this advice is actionable and it’ll save you time and money.

Although it was worth it, I burned out. It also took away precious time with friends and family. No sane person wants to spend this amount of time listening to the same 30 seconds of tracks on repeat, across permutations of 14 power supplies, every day…over the course of months. Not to mention photography, videography, and all the editing.

So if you’d like to support the work I do, here are a few ways. And leave a message on what you want to see in the next shootout. I’m thinking amplifiers.

Support Audio Bacon

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Subscribe to Audio Bacon on YouTube!

I plan to focus primarily on videos from this point forward. Helping me grow my channel will help tremendously and make what I’m doing more sustainable.

Also, the video review will be up soon which will include sound clips of the power supplies. Make sure you subscribe and hit that bell to be notified when it’s up.



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Jay Luong

Mr. Audio Bacon himself. An open-minded electrical engineer and software developer by trade. I have an obsession with the enjoyment of all things media - specifically in the realm of music and film. So much heart and soul (and money) go into the creation of this artistry. My aim is to find out which products get me closer to what the musicians and directors intended.

View Comments

  • Well Jay, you have only just gone and done it again. Another mammoth review. Don’t you ever sleep!?

    As a Dave owner I was lucky to obtain the first production version of Sean Jacobs DC4 and have been using that ever since with a big grin on my face every time I use the Dave. It has possibly been the biggest improvement to the sound of my system (with the possible and honourable exception of my own Wave High Fidelity STORM dual BNC cables of course!).

    However all of that is about to change because Sean has been kind enough to loan me a prototype of his new ARC6 version of the DC4 power supply. Having had the Dave all this time I was not aware of any deficiencies. That was until I plugged in the ARC6. As you say in your review the DC4 is a master at revealing the texture of instruments but now the ARC6 version has a transient speed to go with that textural information. It is a quite uncanny combination. The bass is also deeper and more powerful and yet manages to more detail and information in it at the same time.

    You will gather that I like the ARC6 upgrade to the DC4 for the Dave. It is a huge upgrade to the Dc4. I understand that existing owners of the DC4 can have theirs upgraded to the ARC6 version by returning to Sean or to one of his agents in the USA or EU.

    But that is not really why I was minded to put pen to paper in response to your review. A few months ago I did my own private shoot out of power supplies powering the Qutest. These included the Sbooster with Ultra Mk2 upgrade, Farad Super3, Allo Shanti, MCRU, Sean Jacobs DC3, PowerAdd battery, iFi, a cheap LPS from China and of course, because I could, the 5V rail from a DC4. Broadly I agree with all your comments and in the end I used the Farad Super3, not because it was the best but because it was a reasonable amount of money to spend for the performance gain with a Qutest. One thing to say about the value for money Allo Shanti is that if one has the necessary skills it takes a leap forward in sound quality if the supplied captive leads are removed from the circuit board and GX16 sockets are installed allowing after market DC leads.

    I have more recently listened again to a DC4 powering the Qutest and although first time around I rejected the idea of a single rail £4,000 DC4 powering a £1.200 Qutest as being any where near a sensible decision I have now begun to wonder whether in fact it brings the £5,200 combination up to a level of similarly priced DACs and I think it might just do that. Such is the benefit of the DC4 with a Qutest.

    So, thanks once again for the huge undertaking and it is nice of course to see you still using my WAVE STREAM cables with your Dave. 👍

    Nick.

    • I would be curious to hear the ARC6! Is there a tonal color difference between DC4 and ARC6? More shine?

      I agree, the Farad Super3 is a great value, especially if you enjoy that more liquid and smooth sound. From memory, I thought the Mojo Illuminati V3 paired well with the Qutest. And I could definitely hear the potential of the Shanti, the price is incredible for its performance (but critical listeners won't be happy). GX16 sockets with custom cabling would be interesting.

      Have you tried batteries?

  • I run my RME ADI-2 fs DAC and streamer on pure LiFePo4 cells (without any battery management electronics of course). The DAC uses 4*3.2V 20AH cells in series, and the streamer 2 of the same in series. The batteries last more than a day so I charge at night when sleeping.

    It would be interesting to know how batteries like these compares to the better power supplies.

    • Yeah, I was thinking about including batteries as well. Which specific ones would you like to see?

      • I think the more "pure" cells you use the better, and not small AA or similar batteries. Here is the ones I use:
        https://shop.gwl.eu/LiFePO4-cells-3-2-V/LiFePO4-High-Power-Cell-3-2V-20Ah-Alu-case-CE.html

        Of if you want one ready made for RME DAC, this one works (its just 4 cells in series), should be similar available in NA if that's where you live: https://shop.gwl.eu/LiFeYPO4-batteries-12V-1-1/Lithium-Battery-LiFePO4-12V-20Ah.html

        But basically you want low internal resistance in combination with pure cells. For example, a power pack used for mobile phones sounds a lot worse (they have switched DC regulators inside to get to 5V).

        It also important to stay away from "battery management", even if you risk damaging the cells if overcharged or undercharged. Those battery managements are filled with switched cheap electronic.

        I then have 18 awg OCC coppar cables with cotton sleeves as only insulation, soldered to a DC connector of copper.

          • Yes, it is. I like the sound of my LiFePO4 batteries though, and LPS manufacturers often use batteries like those as "reference" to compare with (or so I have heard).

            It's also worth mentioning that Stromtank (a really expensive HiFi power gear) uses LiFePo4 cells for their "magic", but enough of them to also drive power amplifiers.

      • Amazing post Jay. The table of results especially. I'd also love to know where the Hypsos ranks if they ever send you one.

  • great work - thanks a million!!

    comment to the Sbooster PSU: i kind of relate to your findings (using mk 1 version), adding (now unavailable) Padis fuse and Furutech Absolute Power adds LIVE to it. yet, possibly also to all other PSUs tested here

  • Hi there,
    I know you cannot review everything under the sun, but I’ll selfishly propose you review the ISOL-8 Prometheus LPSU. Their power conditioners are great and I would be curious to see how their power supply compares with the others.

    Amazing amazing review; very well done! Thank you!

  • My Farad Super 3 is custom modified, but I think it performs very well. Along w/ Jay I am factoring in price and its incredibly diminutive size.

    I am also curious about the remarks in comparison to other PSUs, which cable was used: silver or copper?

    • Listening was primarily done with the copper cable. Still great for the price, especially if you enjoy a full bodied and smooth sound.

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