PLiXiR Elite BAC 400 Power Conditioner Review

Overall Score 99/100
Sandu Vitalie Accessories

My video review:

When I reviewed the Keces BP-600 Isolation Power Conditioner last week I got a glimpse of what clean power could bring to the table. The difference with and without it was quite big with few of my audio sources and just marginally better with upper-class audio equipment, just because those already had great toroidal transformer-based power supplies inside. However, I felt I just scratched the surface with such devices as a friend of mine introduced me to PLiXiR Power – a Singaporean company that is using literally the best transformers money could buy, that in theory should further improve my listening experience.

James Soh of PLiXiR has a very different approach to power conditioners than KECES or other manufacturers for that matter and ensured me that his Elite BAC line of products will work excellent even with power amps and will improve the sound of high-end electronics as well.

My curiosity levels skyrocketed and I was already inquiring for a review unit in the moments that followed.

The general idea is that if you living in a flat where lots of people are using multiple electric consuming devices at the same time (dimmer switches, LED, incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs, TVs, air conditioning, vacuum cleaners and so on) the AC line will be polluted and voltage could fluctuate to unreasonable levels that will directly impact our very sensitive audio equipment and will degrade the sound quality. That is the sole reason why at night time music will sound much more engaging, it will flow easier, the background noise will be quieter and all the harshness would flee away.

If you are feeling the same, I think it is time to further investigate the problem and quite possibly the noisy AC line will be the problem that would need to be addressed.

I am listening to the Elite BAC 400 for quite some time now and it further improved my listening experience compared to the KECES BP-600, not only with entry to mid-level equipment but with higher class audio gear as well.

Before I tell you exactly what was changed, let’s check first what makes this one so different compared to others.

Technology inside PLiXiR Elite BAC 400

It looks really small in pictures, it is the smallest device I have on the table, yet it is also the heaviest one too, quite unusual isn’t it?

It measures only 230 x 160 x 130 mm but has a whopping 10 kg of weight!

Most of the time the key to good sounding equipment is not in the specs, in the chips being used but often times it comes to simple things like how good was the power supply integrated into that device. Affordable audio equipment more often will rely on switching power supplies, on El type transformers since toroidal transformers or R-Core ones will cost so much more. The later ones will be spotted only in top-class equipment.

Elite BAC 400 is relying on a custom-made and top-of-the-line Noratel XQ (eXtra Quiet), this is not your typical power supply but something much more advanced.

Let’s have a peek inside and understand what makes it interesting:

  • First of all, as I mentioned above it uses the highest-grade power transformer from Noratel – the most appreciated manufacturer when it comes to power. It was custom made according to PLiXiR Power requirements and carries a proprietary noise attenuation technology. This type of transformer provides the best noise isolation, power conditioning and optimal systems grounding for HiFi systems in a single package
  • This is a single-winding transformer, so it is a dedicated one for 120VAC or for 230 VAC input/output, each transformer has only a single winding for their intended application for the best performance possible.
  • It is highly efficient, as the toroidal transformer inside has a 90% or higher efficiency and at idle power consumption is less than 1.5% of max power
  • As all toroidal transformers it has a very low magnetic field so you could stack it with other Plixir power supplies or you can put anything near it without fearing of a hum leak inside your HiFi chain.
  • Same can be said about mechanical noise since the transformer inside is noise-less and you could not hear it doing its job.
  • Electrical connections are done to the furthest extent by using point-to-point direct soldering, basically minimizing the use of sound-degrading connectors and joints.
  • It has an optimized system grounding with a balanced AC power transformer. Eliminating ground loop currents, loop areas and noise from the power supply. It also reduces hum and hiss from the system and increases resolution naturally.
  • It uses a 5 mm thick aluminum extruded case. On top and bottom thick metal plates will provide am ultra-rigid casing that will guard against sound degrading effects and mechanical vibrations and will also protect the transformer from external damage.
  • Each individual Elite BAC power conditioner is master-crafted individually and hand-built.

Besides all the tech inside you should also understand the PLiXiR power concepts, the problems and solutions James is offering with their products. More on that please visit this page and take a good long read. In simple words, James aspired to Pure Tone or more exactly to the accurate and natural reproduction of pure tones. I will just quote few words of the manufacturer:

“From concept to design, the goal for our Plixir products has been clear: the accurate and natural reproduction of PureTone. A violin should sound like a violin, the magical interaction between wood and string. A trumpet exhibiting the glorious metallic tones of the brass from which it is crafted. Whether it’s a bright and brassy musical passage, or the sharp tones characteristic of a vocal singer, PureTone accurately and unbiasedly reproduces all the nuances in timbre – nothing more, nothing less. PureTone is all about going back to the fundamentals of music – when music starts to convey its meaning and stir our soul, so that we begin to understand and emote with the music, no matter the system resolution. And without artificial sweeteners to smoothen and colour the sound. This is our goal, the pursuit of Pure Tone.”

Design & Specs

PLiXiR Elite BAC line is having 7 different products: BAC 150 being the smallest and most affordable one, followed by BAC 400 that I am testing today, BAC1000, 1500, 3000 and 3000V (for vertical) and a BAC 3000 Pre-Conditioner. The numbers on their product names is the maximum power in watts they can supply. BAC400 will supply maximum 400W of total power on its outputs.

I think the smallest one – BAC 150 should work really well with headphone-based systems where a DAC and a headphone amp will work in tandem and will dram much less than 150W of power. Even low-powered speakers and a DAC can work with that unit.

BAC400 that I am testing today offers 4 AC outlets, so I can compare much easier multiple audio sources without rearranging my test setup too often. BAC400 will also work with low to medium power amps. My active KEF LS50W worked really well with it, but I tried not going higher than 60% volume wise to not stress it too much, LS50W are having dual-mono 230W amps inside, a DAC and a streamer- mostly because of that.

In a desktop environment BAC 400 is just excellent as any streamer, DAC, headphone amp and powered monitors will draw less than 400W in total.

I think BAC 400 looks handsome, sleek yet very simple. There is just one On/Off button on the right panel, an AC inlet on the back and 4 AC outlets.

It is very important to know that all outlets are labeled from 1 to 4 because outlet 1 will have the best isolation and sound quality, followed by 2, 3 and 4. It is advisable using sensitive gear like streamers, DACs, turntables, digital servers on the 1 and 2 outlet, and high-voltage drawing equipment on the 3-rd and 4-th outlets - please keep that in mind.

Test Setup

Most of my listening was done on the Matrix Audio Element X or on Matrix X-Sabre Pro connected to the Benchmark HPA4 and to the Meze Empyrean, Quad ERA-1 or to Sennheiser HD660S headphones just because it is so much easier picking all those differences in a very transparent and detailed headphone-based setup.

I also did a lot of listening to it via the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ directly connected to aforementioned headphones. Was really curious how the Aune stack consisting of S6 PRO and S7 PRO with fare with it. Later in my living room I connected it to the active KEF LS50W for a final touch.

My gear was powered by Isotek EVO3 Premier cables and the cable that powered the Elite BAC 400 was a custom DIY cable made by me using OCC copper conductors of 7N purity with Mundorf Supreme silver solder.

Sound Impressions

The biggest surprise I had was powering both Matrix Audio Element X and X-Sabre Pro as I really didn’t suspect I would hear much of improvement with both of this DACs. Why you might ask? Well, because both are using a Noratel toroidal transformer inside (not XQ, but still a Noratel) and I really didn’t expect much of a change. Oh boy, how wrong I was!

When I reviewed the Element X and X-Sabre Pro I mentioned that both don’t have the fastest kick and transient response, I would consider them quite fast but not lightning fast. Being powered by Elite BAC 400 something immediately changed as the overall performances is way faster and those bass notes started slamming me like hammers. These two traits I never experienced with the KECES BP-600 and that is a bit strange.

Firing Infected Mushroom – Guitarmass I realized how fast the transient response could be and those fast-executed bass notes kicked and slammed me like it was nothing. The point is, I never heard both Matrixes sounding this way, so fast, so much energy awakened in them, such an impressive transient response was hiding somewhere inside these two.

The same thing I was hearing on mid-range equipment but to a much higher degree. For example, Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ transformed into a transient beast. It was already among the fastest audio sources I have tried, but now it became a transient and bass monster. I was never particularly impressed by the bass performance of Mytek, yet with Elite BAC400 it is like it was always there but was just awakened from its deep sleep. I cannot go back listening to music without the PLiXiR in my audio chain. For fast executed music where transients are everything, PLiXiR is something that needs to be heard to be believed… just wow!

Listening to Led Zeppelin – Trampled Under Foot it is like Led Zepp suddenly stopped playing classic rock and moved to hardcore. I hear so much more energy, more vibration, guitar plucks become so real, with clear leading edges. It infused so much joy and energy into this song, I don’t even recognize it anymore. There are many other small things that also impress, like the treble is much clearer and the drums and cymbals have more weight with each slam and hit.

Listening just to Element X via its internal music player via USB host input, on the 4-pin XLR headphone out was a revelatory experience. In my Element X review I mentioned that the internal headphone amp section is just a tad leaner and not very dynamic or hard hitting. Powering it with Elite BAC 400 I guess I should redact that article as my claims are not valid anymore. Hard hitting notes are back, dynamics kicked-in and shown tremendous impact and so much air mass is being carried with every note. It is just a different sounding device whatsoever.

Listening to Pink Martini – Până când nu te iubeam I was impressed by the sounds of bells and tambourine as o this song those were so clean so outlined. Piano and violin had an incredible liveliness and weight to their notes – a heavier tone, like the one you feel in real life, guitar plucks were so natural and real, I felt like I was there in front of the stage and everything happened only for me. On this particular song I felt that it sounded effortless, incredible and wide spread. Interesting is also that all my sources shown a higher dynamic range, the difference between a lower volume note and higher intensity note was much higher, the jumps were higher and emotions risen higher as well.

The name of the game is background noise and it lowered so much, that I was hearing the musical performance in its purest form possible. When it lowered, every note had a clearer image, its texture became real and very life-like, hidden micro-details became normal sounds that you are hearing without stressing too much. If there is a veil in the recording it will be lifted and transparency will drastically increase.

I then moved the Elite BAC 400 to the living room and powered my active KEF LS50W and resumed my listening session. I was basically powering its internal streamer, DAC and dual mono 230W amps.

I immediately noticed a huge increase in dynamics, in pace, rhythm and timing. If on Keces BP-600 music became smoother and effortless, on PLiXiR they became effortless but incredibly snappy, very alive and joyfully sounding. Dare I say they had the best dynamics I encountered in my living room. Every song had more of everything, more bass, midrange and treble without sacrificing anything they do right.

Their limitation was every time in terms of scale and dynamics, as a single coaxial driver can’t do wonders in a 30 mp (320 square feet) room. Yet, LS50W sounded bigger, wider and deeper and in the same time meaner with lots of natural textures.

Listening to the last song by Pink Martini, the background became so quiet as every note had a clearer body, a clearer outline and moved more air mass. The notes had a little bit more air between them, this is not how I remember them sounding. The voice vibration became pure and clear, free of any grain or digitus. This lack of any harshness and noise unleashed the true nature and texture of every musical note.

There is no point in comparing the KECES BP-600 to the PLiXiR Elite BAC 400, because PLiXiR does exactly what the former one does but at a much higher degree and adds explosive dynamics, liveliness and life to music.

Conclusion

If I sounded overly excited and joyful, that is because I never heard a better tweak in my audio system. If I add ALL the improvements of all my analog, digital and power cables (more than 10 cables) those improvements are nowhere near the performance intake the PLiXiR Elite BAC 400 brought alone in my audio chain. I can listen to my music with crappy cables all day long, but I won’t do that without a PLiXiR in my chain. It spoiled me too much.

I again remind you that a simple expensive cable swap, be it analog, digital or power cable will not have such a big impact how a high-quality power conditioner will. Since PLiXiR Elite BAC series of products are relying on the highest-performance and custom-made toroidal transformers and nothing less, I believe it will make a very big or just a big performance gain in your audio chain. PLiXiR reminded me that there is still more bass, deeper bass, more layered even, deeper sounding voices, more vibration in the cords, much more treble information, a much better sustain of the notes and a natural decay of those. There is more nuance, more air moving, more of everything.

The smallest PLiXiR Elite BAC 150 with 2 AC outlets goes for 599 EUR here in Europe, BAC 400 that I am testing today goes for 1099 EUR, BAC 1500 is 2799 EUR and BAC 3000 goes for 4299 EUR. Please contact your local distributor for prices in other currencies.

PROS:

  • Snappiest pace, rhythm and timing I had in all my audio systems, it awakened the transient response to unimaginable levels
  • Deepest, hardest hitting and most layered bass I encountered
  • Vibrant and soul reaching voices
  • Super extended treble area without a hint of harshness
  • Extended the soundstage and depth naturally on all axes
  • Natural timbre of wood instruments, life-like guitar plucks
  • An amazing flow and natural tone
  • Adds naturalness to your tunes
  • Adds focus and a lot of transparency
  • Shuts down unwanted noise, hiss or hum
  • Background becomes pitch black

CONS:

  • Only the price

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:

  • DACs: Matrix Audio Element X, Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro, Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, Benchmark DAC3 L, KECES S3, Aune S6 PRO, Burson Swing & Playmate
  • Headphone amps: Benchmark HPA4, Aune S7 PRO, Erzetich Bacillus, Headamp Gilmore Lite Mk2
  • IEMs: FiiO FA7, KZ AS16
  • Full-sized headphones: Meze Empyrean, Quad ERA-1, Sennheiser HD660S
  • Loudspeakers: KEF LS50W
  • Interconnects: QED Reference XLR, Aune AL3 XLR
  • Power Cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier
  • Balanced Power Conditioner: PLiXiR Elite BAC 400, KECES BP-600

Overall score 99/100

comments powered by Disqus