UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1

Device Type: Linear Power Supply
Dimensions: 110mm (4.33 inches) wide x 112mm (4.41 inches) deep x 30mm (1.18 inches) tall; Add 6.5mm (0.26 inches) for included rubber feet
Availability: Direct Online
Price: $395
Website: uptoneaudio.com

Crowds and Power
"The world's first bank-switching, microprocessor-controller, ultracapacitor-based, ultra-low-noise external linear power supply has arrived!" I purchased the UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1 from the UpTone website and it arrived last week. While this is a review, it is unusual in those two regards; I bought one sight unheard, and I wrote this review after about 7 hours of listening time1. Sometimes, that's the way I roll.

The UltraCap LPS-1 is the brainchild of Alex Crespi and John Swenson, a guy who knows whereof he speaks2, and I've been looking for a smart power supply for my microRendu ever since I heard Sonore's own Signature Power Supply (see review). The only reason I do not own that power supply is funds; $1399 was too rich for me. I knew Alex and John were working on this little number for some time, as Alex is very active on Chris Connaker's Computer Audiophile so I waited until I could click "Add to Cart".

photo credit: UpTone Audio

In brief, the UltraCap LPS-1 uses two banks of ultracapacitors—one powers while the other charges—to generate the unit's 1-amp output with user selectable output voltage of 3.3V, 5V, or 7 volts. Here are the main bullet points behind this design from UpTone:

  1. Speed and ultra-low output impedance over a broad bandwidth
  2. 100% galvanic isolation from the AC mains at all times
photo credit: UpTone Audio

See John Swenson's Tech Corner for a more in-depth discussion. Also inside mounted to the double-sided, 4-layer circuit board stuffed with 262 parts is the Texas Instruments TPS7A4700 regulators (0.004mV RMS noise) for the 1-amp output.

I'm going to jump right to the point of power supply for me; noise, or lack thereof. When I say noise in this context, I'm not talking about a tone or hum. I'm talking about noise that becomes part of the musical signal, or perhaps better stated as the unfortunate outcome where low level musical signals become part of the noise. This kind of noise is not steady-state or fixed-frequency. It is much more insidious. The thing of it is, you easily recognize it when it's gone.

That's the point of adding an external low-noise linear power supply to any device that resides anywhere in an audio system: Less noise, more music.

The UltraCap LPS-1 powered my microRendu, taking the place of my iFi iPower ($49) supply which I knew I would eventually replace because I heard what it adds, or takes away, from my music when the Sonore Signature Power Supply took it away or gave back. The rest of my system remains the same; the microRendu feeds my totaldac d1-six with a length of Tellurium Q Black USB cable, while a Tellurium Q Black XLR takes the analog out to my Ayre AX-5 Twenty which is leashed to the DeVore Fidelity gibbon X with the Tellurium Q Black speaker cable.

The Sound of Less and More
This is an easy one; out went the iFi iPower, in went the UltraCap LPS-1, I placed myself back in the Eames LCW, picked up the iPad and hit "Play" in Roon. What came out was the same music I'd been listening to, "Autumn Leaves" from Duke Ellingont's Indigos, but now it sounded like someone had climbed into the totaldac and done a handy clean-up job, making everything sound clearer, cleaner, more precise, more colorful, and, as odd as it may sound, done a particularly nice job improving bass response.

I then went through listening to some familiar tracks including Mal Waldron's Warm Canto where Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet had more body and Ron Carter's Cello more soul, Nico's "Chelsea Girls", Sharron Van Etten's ""Remembering Mountains", "Lady Jane" from the Rolling Stones, and more. Every track sounded better than it had and the improvement I heard mimicked what I described with "Autumn Leaves".

This is not a subtle, I have to try really hard to hear it kinda change. This is a, damn I'm so happy I bought this kinda change.

You know when you're in a restaurant and you're brought a dish and told not to touch it because it's hot? The UltraCap LPS-1 runs hot so I'd recommend not touching it (of course now you will).

Supplied
While there are any number of other options out there including those from HDPlex, SOtM, Jamco, and a host of others with more on the way as we saw at RMAF, I did not compare and contrast the UltraCap LPS-1 with any similarly-priced supplies. Why? Because I like and respect John Swenson, even though we've never met, and I went with the hunch that his UltraCap LPS-1 would deliver the goods. It does.


1 I have since listened for many hours and I would not change one word of what I wrote
2 See our three-part Q&A with John Swenson: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Also in-use during the UltraCap review: iFi iPower

Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
brucew268's picture

While the photo does show it, you might make mention of the important fact that input to the Ultracap is not AC power but DC power. So you still need a power supply to feed the Upton Ultracap, right? So you kept the Ipower in the loop but fed it into the LPS-1 which in turn fed the microRendu.

I look forward to some SQ comparisons with other LPS, if not from you then from others.

Of course if one were to need TWO low powered LPS, the Uptone JS-2 with dual output is about the same price as 2 Ultracap LPS-1 and 2 ifi Ipower.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
So out went the iFi altogether.
brucew268's picture

I've just been reading listening impressions on CA and they hear a significant improvement of the Ultracap LPS-1 over the Uptone JS-2. So forget my last paragraph.

mlgrado's picture

The iFi iPower is an outstanding little wall wart power supply, and is cheap. But, if you can afford a good linear power supply, I think you will be better off. Coupled with the fact you also get Galvanic Isolation with the Uptone, it really should be a much better solution.

Thanks for the review. I am currently feeding my Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1 LE with the Uptone Regen and a 'no name' LPS that outclasses the iPower by a nose. The DAC-1 LE has onboard galvanic isolation, but before I owned it I used a iFi IDSD Micro that GREATLY benefited from a USB Galvanic Isolator. Real world drop in noise that anyone could hear. It may be overkill, but the isolator is still in the system. It gives me the peace of mind that NO extraneous EMI is getting into the DAC at all, even if the I2S is internally isolated in the W4S.

Bottom line, CLEAN POWER and GALVANIC ISOLATION make real audible differences and are a MUST for any computer audio system!!

Thanks again for the review!!!!!

eddie v's picture

the Ultracap/microRendu duet and I concur, the music continues to be more and more engaging with each tweak. I moved my ifi power supply over to one of the TP Link converters. I find the Ultracap gets a slightly warm as does the microRendu but never hot. I can't heat up my tortillas on it!

chipl3's picture

Michael, are you getting this improvement, with the power supply for the LPS-1 plugged into a power conditioner or "the wall"?

bobflood's picture

Alex does supply a power cable to connect the LPS-1 to your device (mRendu,Regen or other) but he also has available a handmade 1.5 meter heavy gauge cable with metal ends in the proper configuration. It is the same one they give with the JS-2. It can be ordered by sending him an e-mail. When I purchased mine for use with my Regen it was $60 plus shipping. It is really well made and I thought it was worth the price.

Just ordered my LPS-1 for December delivery so be prepared to wait.

bobflood's picture

that Sonore (Mfg of the microRendu) will be offering a custom power cable that will be produced by Cardas.

e2mweb's picture

Dear Michael, very intriguing article. Sorry to sound like a nit-picking troll - You're rational for purchasing the UpTone is affordability. I quote "The only reason I do not own that power supply is funds; $1399 was too rich for me."

Might I therefore assume the rest of your system is on loan? Again, not tolling, just price consideration alone doesn't make sense in the context of your system.

If you said '$1399 seems like a poor value-proposition when a $395 component will do the same job', well that make for a better argument.

Thanks for all fish.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
However, if you assume the rest of my system is on loan, you'd be wrong.
R1200CL's picture

Assuming you are using the supplied smps with your TP-LINK MC200CM, feeding the MicroRendu, how about Y-split the DC out, and power one of the TP-LINK MC200CM from the LPS-1, and you probably get even better sound.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...iFi Micro iUSB 3.0 Power Supply on the TPLink feeding the Rendu.
JR_Audio's picture

Hi Michael

Is the sound you described with the LPS-1, when it is disconnected from mains or still connected to the mains and charging the second bank?

I am asking, because also the SOtM mBPS-d2S does have two independent charging banks inside, and you are listening always to the power bank, that is full and not been charged when connected to the mains, but the connected SMPS does still have an influence on the sound (and measurements) due to stray coupling capacitance between both power banks (I hope you understand what I mean).

How long with the capacitor bank have current, when suppling the Micro Rendu?

I would like to hear a comparison of the LPS-1 and the mBPS-d2s (both disconnected from mains).

Juergen

Lxgreen's picture

Looking at the picture of the iFi Micro iUSB 3.0 Power Supply, I can't figure out how you power the TPLink with this. It looks like it is for a USB connection. How do you use it? Thanks

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...includes a USB "Power Only" output and a USB to female coaxial (barrel) connector.

limniscate's picture

Does anyone know how the LPS-1 compares to the HDPlex at 9V?

gorkuz's picture

Did you note the supercap's voltage rating in these units? I took interest in these years ago when they showed up but the highest rating available then was all of 5V, limiting for the applications I was interested in at the time. Using series/parallel combos and techniques available was unattractive so I did not experiment with these. Am now curious to know if these caps are rated higher or is this a series/parallel bank(s)setup?

Blowing up the photo to fuzzy sizes did not help as the ratings are not at the top, visible area. TIA for the info.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
"In brief, the UltraCap LPS-1 uses two banks of ultracapacitors—one powers while the other charges—to generate the unit's 1-amp output with user selectable output voltage of 3.3V, 5V, or 7 volts."
gorkuz's picture

Michael, thank you for replying, but that much I read in your article about this interesting item. This does not answer the question asked, however.

What I am asking is what the rating of the caps *inside* is. To output up to 7V, the capacitor bank needs to be able to withstand more than 7V to account for the V drop at the regulator(s), generally at least 1V higher than that (depending on the regulator model). This means that the caps in question must handle at least 8V and probably more - where the highest rating I used to see was only 5V in individual caps just several years or so ago. If the individual caps cannot do that, then a series/parallel combination can be used to up a 5V rating to 10V, for example, which will do the trick.

I have been waiting for higher voltage capable supercaps (not the limited series/parallel banks of them that had barely started to appear then), and that is what I am looking to determine as I have not noticed any being offered yet. Oops, I guess it's been a while since I looked for them. Just looked, am I behind the times... There sure are some around, all looking like factory-made series/parallel banks of higher voltages, now, though, but are they pricey! Especially the extra-low output impedance rated ones. Some of these make V-Caps look like a bargain, not to mention sizes to make an audiophile's heart race, if you are into bigger is better.

Judging by my quick survey, the Uptone folks have made some good choices, then, to turn out such a product for just $400! I have to think they had to compromise a bit on the output impedance of the caps they chose to keep this so small and the cost reasonable. An interesting product. I should have looked myself, first, but thought you might have the answer at hand. Tx for the article, made me catch up on what's available.