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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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