The power supply is the heart of any audio component, it pumps electrons rather than blood but without it amplification and processing can’t happen. One of the biggest differences between components is the quality of the power supply, certain companies make a very good living by offering power supply upgrades that bring sound quality benefits to their products. Other companies, usually those trying to keep costs under control use relatively basic power supplies and many of these are switching types. If your wall-wart supply doesn’t weigh much you can be sure it’s switcher, and while perfectly capable of delivering the required voltage to a device they also produce high frequency noise that gets overlaid on the AC and undermines not only the potential of the device that they supply but also everything else in the system too, because the noise goes back into the AC network. By replacing these supplies with a linear alternative you not only improve the chances of the powered component but of the whole system.
SBooster makes linear supplies for components that run off of anything from five to 24 Volts and their BOTW P&P Eco is the latest incarnation of the company’s technology. SBooster is a Dutch company that started out making power supplies for Squeezebox streamers in 2008, developing the first BOTW (best of two worlds) supplies the following year for use with wide a range of products. In fact just about anything with a wall-wart or plug-top supply can be upgraded. The P&P Eco version came about in 2013 and can be used with any mains voltage worldwide, has greater efficiency and is said to allow better sound quality from the products it’s used with. The SBooster website lists compatible devices, there are five pages of products for the 12V – 13.2V model for instance, and encourages visitors to submit products that aren’t on their lists so that they can advise on which model to use. P&P doesn’t stand for postage and packing BTW but power and precision.
The neat but hardly fancy plastic casework of this supply was chosen primarily to keep the price competitive but being a non magnetic material plastic is actually a good thing for audio electronics. Inside the box there is a dual stage mains filter and an earth line choke to clean both the current and ground prior to the transformer, which has electrostatic and electromagnetic shielding to keep pollution at bay. Thereafter power rectifiers and an anti oscillation circuit further smooth the power prior to a proprietary split current system housed in an inline case. The latter is SBooster’s USP and designed to improve the speed of the supply by splitting the current into average and high frequency pulses to deal with demand more quickly. Six connection plugs are provided to suit pretty well any component, and the supply has an IEC power inlet so it’s easy to upgrade the supplied mains cable.
The 15V – 16V BOTW supplied for review can be used with everything from a Martin Logan ElectroMotion ESL loudspeaker to a iFi micro IPhono2 phono stage but it also works with the Auralic Aries LE that I have been using for streaming duties of late. The Aries LE is supplied with a typical plug-top switching power supply that you can upgrade with a supply from Auralic at a similar price to the SBooster (£249), but the SBooster is somewhat more substantial affair.
Switching from the standard supply to the SBooster with the Aries LE connected via USB to the CAD 1543 MkII DAC provided a substantial improvement in terms of stereo imaging, there was considerably more space and depth in the soundstage, the various instruments opening up and revealing more of their character. Musical flow also seemed to improve, the Aries LE proving itself to be more adept in terms of timing than I had come to expect. Combine this with a cleaning up of the high frequencies and I had an upgrade that there was no going back from, it really made the standard supply sound coarse. Almost regardless of recording the same improvements were manifest, but the better the recording the more there was to enjoy. With Amandine Beyer’s Bach Partitas (Sonatas & Partitas BWV 1001 – 1006, Zig-Zag Territoires) the depth and shape of the acoustic around the violin was expanded and developed to an uncanny degree. It felt like the image went from being flat to three dimensional, which meant the music itself also gained life and energy. This is not a small thing.
Having made the above observations in the first few days of using the supply I spoke to SBooster creator, Wiebren Draaijer, and discovered that it takes at least four weeks for it to burn in and that maximum results are not likely until six months have elapsed! Which is all well and good unless you want to publish a review, so for the meantime I will let you read this and make additional notes if there is a clear change in a few weeks time.
For certain components the BOTW P&P Eco can be augmented with an SBooster Ultra which provides extra filtering and is designed to remove any residual noise that gets past the BOTW device. I added it in between the supply and the Aries and found it tightened up the focus, cleaning the highs a little more and delivering a slightly leaner more precise sound. This apparently also needs more burn-in but going back to the regular supply from the BOTW and Ultra combo is shocking enough already, it really sounds blurred and crude by comparison
The SBooster strikes me as a good value upgrade to any switch mode DC power supplied component you have in the system, it really does provide the ‘best of two worlds’ by delivering clean current to the hardware and not polluting the mains with high frequency noise. If you are really keen to get the best from a streaming system it would be worth putting these on the router and NAS drive, such things have the most basic supplies and replacing them with something cleaner is quite a major upgrade if you have a high resolution system. One of the main differences between an audiophile server and a NAS drive is the quality of power supply so it’s not such an extravagance if you’re aiming high. The SBooster BOTW P&P Eco is a useful weapon in the armoury against noise in the modern hi-fi system, one which lets you hear a lot more of the music and a lot less of the grunge.
See website for product compatibility
Weight HxWxD: 75 x 130 x 240mm
BOTW P&P Eco 15V – 16V £260
Ultra 15V £57
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