UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1
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
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".
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:
- Speed and ultra-low output impedance over a broad bandwidth
- 100% galvanic isolation from the AC mains at all times
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).
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.
Also in-use during the UltraCap review: iFi iPower