Installing a PS Audio Soloist In-wall Line Conditioner

I’m pretty much a Miami, Florida, native, having lived here since 1962. My wife and I bought an old house in Miami in late December 1991, eight months before Hurricane Andrew hit. We still live in it, happily, even though we are out of space with all the stuff a married couple accumulates, including a baby boy in 1995.

The house proper is very well built. Built in 1949, it has sheet-rock/block/sheet-rock construction for all of the outside walls. The Miami old-timers knew how to build houses to withstand hurricanes. The previous owners converted the old screen porch in the back into an additional room. We call these rooms “Florida Rooms.” My Florida Room is not as well built as the rest of the house; it’s basically sheet-rock, 2x4s, and drywall on the inside. The sound of the winds coming from that room during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005 were, to say the least, disconcerting. But it’s still standing, thank God.

This is the room that I use as an office and music room since my son was born. I’m a little cramped in here, what with all my CDs, LPs, books, my Mac, etc., etc., but I love it. It’s my refuge, my own little “Man Cave,” unregulated by SWMBO and very libertarian; I smoke cigarettes in here and cigars — when I feel really brave.

My two-channel music system has been plagued by line noise for the longest time. I’ve tried a lot of inexpensive solutions — better power cords being one solution — to attempt to reduce the hum and noise, but none have really done the trick. I was always particularly annoyed when playing my Linn Sondek turntable. The hum and line noise were very bad.

When PS Audio‘s Paul McGowan mentioned in his August 2008 newsletter that he’d give away a PS Audio Soloist In-wall Conditioner to the first few to reply by email, I jumped at the opportunity. My only duty was to write this and report on improvements in the sound, if any. This was to be my experiment in determining whether the AC in my house is FUBAR, or whether an individual AC component solution would be the best bet.

Installation

The biggest concern I had about installing the Soloist was in the construction of the Florida Room for the reasons I mentioned above. I was right to be concerned since I discovered once I had removed the old outlet, I had metal tubing through where the lines were run that had were connected to a metal junction box. Not good. With a drywall saw I cut around the opening to expose the edges of the metal junction box. I spent the better part of an hour removing the metal box and freeing up the space in the wall. It was a bigger opening than I had hoped for but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. That’s why they make plaster, I guess.

I then attempted to install the blue plastic Carlson junction box that comes with the Soloist. Unfortunately, I had to hacksaw the rear half of the junction box off in order to run the wires with enough length so that I could then splice them to the Soloist. I cut the wires (white/white and black/black) and joined them with linesman pliers. Using the yellow wirenuts provided, I joined all three white wires together, then the three black wires together. I did not have a ground wire in my box so I left it unconnected from the Soloist. I screwed all four screws from the Soloist to the junction box, and I was done.

All in all, the Soloist installation was very easy. My total installation time was about two hours. In a prepared, exposed metal double-gang outlet with the wiring all done and pretty, though, the installation shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, thirty tops. All the extra work you’ll have to do depends on the condition of the AC lines and walls in your home.

My current system

  • Classé Audio Model Thirty Stereo Line-Level Preamplifier
  • Clearaudio Basic Stereo Phono-Stage Preamplifier
  • Bryston 3B-ST Stereo Power Amplifier
  • Oppo BDP-105 Stereo Digital Universal Disc Transport with Digital-to-analog processor and digital upsampler
  • Linn Sondek LP12 Belt-Drive Turntable
  • Grace G707 Radial Tracking Tonearm
  • Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO-III Stereo High-Output Moving-Coil Cartridge
  • Apple iMac Personal Computer with 1.25 TB external Firewire hard drive allocated for music files and spoken word
  • PS Audio Soloist IC AC Power Conditioner & Cleaner
  • PS Audio Juice Bar II Passive Power Strips
  • Power Cords: TBD
  • Nordost Blue Heaven Flatline Unbalanced Interconnects, Better Cables Silver Serpent II Balanced Interconnects, Mitch Cotter Triax Tonearm Cables
  • Monster MCX-1S Speaker Cables (1 bi-wired pair)
  • Bowers & Wilkins 804S Dynamic Loudspeakers (1 pair)

Listening

The first thing I noticed when I played a very well recorded Scott Hamilton cut I love is how much lower my noise floor is. Very impressive. I cranked each of my preamp inputs to max (without any sound, of course) and the [expletive deleted] hum I had heard on all outputs before the Soloist was pretty much gone. The sound is more open, as well. I am very impressed how much this little improvement has made.

My Linn Sondek, unfortunately, still has a ground loop somewhere that hums when I touch the tonearm. However, that said, the table’s output is much, much quieter than before. The only change has been the Soloist. I listened to uncompressed digital Apple Lossless files from my Mac, two LPs, one CD, and one SACD I am very familiar with, one jazz, one rock, and two classical.

  • Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me – EMI LP 180g remastering
  • Shostakovich Symphony No.8 – Previn/LSO – HMV LP ASD-2917
  • Beethoven Symphony No.5; Symphony No.7 – Kleiber/VPO – DGG CD 447-400.2
  • Peter Gabriel – So – SACD

The improvement I heard on all of the recordings was not paradigm-shifting but it wasn’t subtle either. The reduced noise floor and total lack of hum greatly improved the sound of the system. The biggest improvements have been the output from my Mac and the turntable. I can’t overstate that the Linn output was very, very noisy before the Soloist. No more. Only the ground loop remains to be dealt with.

I have more listening to do, but I can heartily and unreservedly recommend this very inexpensive upgrade for anybody who may have less than the best AC power.

(Updated on August 20, 2013)

About The Mighty Thunderer

We write about music, audio, and technology. Like the namesake of this blog, Ludwig van Beethoven, we are hammer of polite society. We will point out the absurd and educate on the sublime...
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1 Response to Installing a PS Audio Soloist In-wall Line Conditioner

  1. Pingback: The Perfectly Realized Illusion: why high-end audio matters | The Mighty Thunderer

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