DC-116 Regulated Power Supply
External power supplies for budget digital products are all the rage now. The Squeezebox Touch alone has several aftermarket power supplies designed for it. I reviewed the Channel Islands Audio VDC-SB for PF a while back, and continue to include it in my reference system. Unless you have been hiding in a cave, those who follow the digital market will see that the hottest market in audio these days are budget DAC units. There has never been more high quality sub $1000 digital source components to choose from. I don’t think anyone is complaining about that!
As good as some of these budget DACs and digital players sound, there of course have to be some compromises. Most often it is in the form of a wall-wart power supply, which is generally not the best solution for any audio component. Ergonomics also rule the day. Most budget DACs tend to be housed in half sized, or even micro sized casing, eliminating the possibility of an internal, linear power supply. Of course, a hot new trend right now is battery power for computer audio related products, but these solutions have their drawbacks and limitations.
All this leads to an interesting product I received for review called the KECES DC-116 Regulated Power Supply. It is a dual output (12V/3A + 9V/3A) design which can power two components at once. KECES is based in Taiwan and makes an entire suite of components including amplifiers and DACs. They are also an OEM, supplying many basic parts that go into high end audio components.
I have two items in my second system that are prime candidates for use with the DC-116. The first, is the aforementioned Squeezebox Touch, and the second is the Musical Fidelity V-DAC II. Setting up the DC-116 was real simple. The unit is really well made by the way, and the case work is excellent, so no need to hide this from site, it will fit right in. It has an IEC connector that allows you to you use the power cord of your choice. I used the DH Labs Encore power cable. The whole system is plugged into a CablePro Noisetrapper, which is in turn plugged into the excellent Audience aR2p power conditioner with a Pangea AC-9 power cord.
The DC-116 come equipped a full set of umbilical cords and adapters for use with a variety of inputs. I selected the appropriate cables for the Squeezebox and the V-DAC II. The Squeezebox input specifies 5V, while the V-DAC specifies 12V. It was as simple as that. The rest of the system, by the way, is comprised of the McIntosh MA6600 integrated amp and the Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers. Interconnects were Kimber Hero Ag, and speaker cable was QED Genesis Silver Spiral
Once I powered everything back up and started listening to some familiar music, it was obvious that the DC-116 was making a world of difference in a variety of areas. First, the old, well worn cliché of quieter backgrounds applies here. I often experience this with high quality power conditioning products and power cords. The DC-116 was even physically quiet, with no hum or mechanical noise detectable from the chassis. The same can’t be said for all the external power supplies I have encountered.
Secondly, high frequencies were cleaner, with more nuance, and less fatiguing on brighter recordings. Not that my system sounded lacking in this area before, mind you, quite the contrary, but it was taken to a new level. I was able to make this determination as the Squeezebox Touch optically connected to the V-DAC II has been a constant for almost a year now, so I am intimately familiar with the pairing.
On the other end of the spectrum, bass was cleaner, punchier, and more articulate. It was not necessarily deeper, but tidier. I have always felt that when you remove hash from the treble, and add articulation to the bass, it allows the midrange to blossom, and that is exactly what happened here. I was actually marveling at just how darn engaging a $350 DAC and $300 streamer could sound when relieved of their wall-warts.
I can highly recommend the KECES DC-116 for audiophiles with DACs, streamers, or other components that run off of wall-warts, as it will maximize the sonics of these products with zero downside. As noted above, there has never been more excellent choices in the budget source component market. These products can be elevated in performance for a relatively modest investment in the KECES unit. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even use something like the Shakti Onlines on the umbilical cords, and some sort of cost effective resonance control under the DC-116. These tweaks will probably extract the last five or ten percent from your setup.
To wrap up, I am highly impressed with this Taiwanese built external power supply. It runs super quiet, powers up to two components simultaneously, is voltage selectable, and is built to a very high standard. KECES makes a variety of other interesting components that I may get a chance to review. The KECES DC-116 is a classy upgrade for power starved budget systems.