Jump to content
Computer Audiophile
Superdad

Mystery revealed: UpTone Audio "UltraCap™ LPS-1"

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

MikeJazz   

But could this be done easily and at reasonable cost? Well, John, being brilliant and ever-inqusitive, immediately started talking to me about what it might take. It turns out that properly using supercaps--in a bank-switching arrangement as opposed to just as supplemental charge storage--is not at all a quick or easy proposition. (So far the only other person we have seen pull it off is Vinnie Rossi with his very nice modular LIO component system.)

 

Hi Alex.

Congratulations!

 

In fact in a way I was expecting something like this considering the reception of LIO on the marketing.

I love disruptive solutions and the fact this can potential improve the SQ without expensive measures in the power provition at home is a great vision and makes a lot of sense.

 

Best of luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jtwrace   
Man, now you are trying to put me in the custom 'Y' cable business! ;)

There could be an additive "Series" cable and then another one that would have to have a 3-pin jack for positive, negative, ground bipolar connection.

 

You already have the vendor to do so; so why not?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi Guido:

 

The "el Cheapo" (or any LPS that meets the LPS-1's "energizing" requirement of 12V/1.5A, 9V/2A, or 7.5/2.4A) will be a little more "line quiet" to your AC mains than the Mean Well SMPS, so in that respect it might be better.

 

But do recognize that all LPS units (with the only exception I know of being our choke-filtered JS-2) also kick harmonics back into the wall--just at much lower frequencies than an SMPS. And with the current Level VI standards met by the Mean Well units we ship, their high-frequency emissions are lowered by spreading them across a wider spectrum. How does that translate--if at all--into a SQ comparison? Who knows, as it really depends upon the other audio components in your system, what AC awl circuit the SMPS is plugged into, etc.

 

The MOST important thing to understand in any of these discussions about choice of "energizing" supply, is that there is NOTHING about the quality of it that can have ANY effect whatsoever on the quality of the OUTPUT from the UltraCap LPS-1.

(It would be like saying your battery powered headphone amp sounds better when jogging if the charger you used the night before was a cleaner supply.)

 

Best,

 

--Alex C.

 

So in reference to above, there's no reason at all to upgrade the Mini to MMK if using the uR?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Superdad   
No real misunderstandings, just a guess since there but a brief description so far in the thread. If the optos are used for voltage measuring feedback, the LED needs a modulation so as to provide some kind of PWM on the other side to interpret the value. There are a few approaches of course, the modulation would need to be on the output (load) side, which is not nice, but a quick google search revealed optically isolated voltage sensing modules a plenty like this one. The input impedance is G Ohms so it's invisible to what's being measured. Not dictating what should be done, just to narrow down what methods are used for measuring/feedback for interest.

 

Hi Gary:

 

I appreciate your curiosity and I know you are the type of person that can appreciate the elegance of John's solutions to the MANY and varied technical considerations that went into the design. And I know that John would LOVE nothing more than to explain it all as he worked hard to come up with clever and effective solutions to each of the challenges.

 

But I have asked John to limit his answers and exposition on the technical details, lest he be providing a road map for others to mimic the product. The design will be difficult, but probably not impossible to copy, but it would be best for us not to give away all the fruits of his hard work by sprinkling clues all about. (Other firms do read these forums too. :))

 

While there are some aspects to what he has done that could be patentable, that is long and slow process, and we would rather move fast and continue innovating. Hence our plan to develop UltraCap™ brain modules that could be sold and/or licensed to other manufacturers (though admittedly having patents in place would be prudent for that).

 

Thanks for understanding. We are absolutely happy to answer all other benefit and usage questions about this exciting, first-of-its-kind linear power supply.

 

Ciao,

 

--Alex C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Superdad   
So in reference to above, there's no reason at all to upgrade the Mini to MMK if using the uR?

 

Sorry, I don't understand how your question relates to the UltraCap LPS-1.

 

Sounds like you are wondering if, when using a MicroRendu (in one of its many endpoint modes), does the power supply of the computer elsewhere on the network still make a difference. Good question for the folks over in the MicroRendu thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dev   
I just got done doing a comparison of the JS-2 to the Vinnie Rossi LIO powering the µRendu. Interesting. I look forward to trying the LPS-1.

 

 

And what was the result ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Superdad   
Can't say I hear a difference.

 

Cool! Now try ANY other supply to hear the big step down from those two. :)

 

To be clear for others, Jason just compared powering the awesome new Sonore MicroRendu with the UpTone JS-2 choke-filtered, dual-output, 5-7 amp linear power supply versus the Vinnie Rossi LIO (super capacitor powered audio system) outfitted with a newly optional ($395?) DC output regulator module that Vinnie designed just for the MicroRendu.

 

Fun stuff. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, if one owns a Uptone JS-2 already (as I do), or indeed any other very good LPS, why would I want the Ultracap?

 

The LPS-1 is completely isolated. This may be advantageous in some circumstances, for example if you have a DAC which has internal galvanic isolation and you use a JS-2 to power the DAC and a REGEN, you are bypassing the isolation in the DAC because the two outputs in the JS-2 are connected to each other. If you run the REGEN, microRendu etc off the LPS-1 you preserve the isolation in the DAC. This MAY give better sound.

 

John S.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Exactly one year ago, during a weekend visit to the Bay Area--to attend the "CA By the Bay" luncheon--I sat with John Swenson in his lab and we discussed ideas for an LPS to offer for our newly successful USB REGEN. To be affordable, it needed to be something that could be produced with not much hand-soldering/assembly labor required, as it was clear that the REGEN was going to be moving in significant quantity (just how significant a quantity was unbeknownst to us at the time!).

 

A small, choke-filtered LPS was discussed, though PCB mounted chokes of the type we use would have to be a custom item, and anytime you put an AC-connected power supply in a box, that requires an AC input suite consisting of a cable jack, fuse, switch, and AC mains voltage selector (we like to sell worldwide). Not to mention a dual-primary power transformer, and while smallish, PCB-mount ones are available for modest cost, it would still mean a decent size case. All adding to the cost and size.

 

Overall, I just was not that enthusiastic about going that route. So I asked John what he thought it would take to build a power supply based on electric double-layer capacitors, also known as supercapacitors or ultracapacitors. For those not familiar with them, EDLCs (supercapacitors) have some very unique properties that are a bit of a cross between batteries and standard capacitors. They have:

 

*High energy storage density--Small ones are 1 Farad (as opposed the microFarad scale typically used for power supply caps), and the bigger ones range from 150 Farads to 500 Farads!

*Very low ESR (equivalent series resistance)--Much lower than batteries, and they can discharge VERY fast, thus delivering a lot of energy quickly. These are important attributes for an audio component power supply.

*Very fast charge times--and designed with properly, they can be charged/discharged millions of times.

 

[if you want to learn more about EDLCs/ultra/super caps, here are a couple of good places to start:

https://www.tecategroup.com/ultracapacitors-supercapacitors/ultracapacitor-FAQ.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercapacitor ]

 

 

Of course the idea was to use these parts in such a way that the output from our linear power supply was 100% isolated from whatever circuits would be charging these battery/capacitor-like ultracapacitors, so that nothing from the wall is even remotely connected. That requires two strings of ultracaps, with circuitry silently switching between them.

 

If we could pull this off, we would have a power supply with extraordinarily low output impedance, incredible speed, and, depending upon the output regulators used, ultra-low noise. And the quality of the "energizing supply"--the AC>DC converter plugged into the wall--would not matter at all.

 

But could this be done easily and at reasonable cost? Well, John, being brilliant and ever-inqusitive, immediately started talking to me about what it might take. It turns out that properly using supercaps--in a bank-switching arrangement as opposed to just as supplemental charge storage--is not at all a quick or easy proposition. (So far the only other person we have seen pull it off is Vinnie Rossi with his very nice modular LIO component system.)

 

There were tons of things to consider:

Charging circuits, boost/buck regulators, state-machines, keep-alive circuit, power-on-reset circuit, isolators, switching transistors (for the bank switching as we did not want to hear mechanical relays every time the unit switched banks)--and all that is on the "dirty" charging side, before the ultracapacitors.

Then there is the matter of what happens as the capacitors discharge into the output regulators. As the voltage drops, the regulators do okay to a certain point, but to do well, the voltage into them can't drop by more than 1 volt, but that is too narrow a range and the bank switching would be almost constant; plus it would cause big problems on the output if the one regulator was all of a sudden fed the fresh, higher voltage from the other capacitor bank. The solution: 3 output regulators, one for each bank, each feeding the final one for the output.

 

John's first version of the design was entirely with discrete parts. Over 250 parts, with lots of carefully crafted little state-machines and constant-current source circuits and all sorts of stuff like that which I don't understand at all. It worked--at least parts of it, but it became clear back around October/November that this was not the way to go. John learned a lot about what it was going to take by doing the design all discrete, but it became clear that moving ahead meant mostly starting over with an FPGA (field programmable gate array) at the heart of it and writing code for all the logic.

Reading signals through optocouplers (there are 10 of those!) and ADCs (analog-digital converters) he uses the FPGA to monitor and adjust voltages and currents around the whole unit.

 

It is all really crazy! There are 4 completely separate power domains; there are parts on both sides of the board; and it is a 4-layer board.

-------------

 

Alright, enough of the tech talk, let's see and hear a bit more about what this thing is going to be, and where we might be going.

 

First off, the name: UltraCap[emoji769] LPS-1 Don't know if the little [emoji769] symbol after UltraCap is going to show up on everyone's web reading device, but yes, I got lucky and managed to snag a trademark for the name UltraCap as it applies to power supplies.

 

That is cool, because over time (definitely NOT this year) we could readily scale the core tech of John's efforts to larger supplies, at higher voltages and higher currents. But make no mistake, a 12 volt / 7 amp supply (like what our JS-2 can do) is going to be expensive.

What is very interesting to us though is the opportunity to take the brains of the piece--no, not John ;), I mean the FPGA and surrounding charging and monitoring/isolating circuits--and produce a module that could be sold/licensed to other manufacturers (sorry DIYers, your market leads to support madness) to use inside their own products (DACs, preamps) since it could be a great way to add multiple, very clean, 100% isolated supplies, including bipolar (+ and -) supplies.

 

The LPS-1 name fits since it is the first, and it is 1 amp, 1 output. Okay, I am sure my words are getting boring, so here are some pictures to make this a bit more real:

 

A couple of the board layers…

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]26096[/ATTACH]

 

Note the separate power domains…

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]26097[/ATTACH]

 

And here is the case (11cm x 11cm x 30cm)…

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]26086[/ATTACH]

 

 

So when and how much?

 

Last week I made a giant payment to our board house for parts for the first production run (150 units) and for them to produce and populate 3 final test pre-production boards. It is a complicated and expensive board, and although John has a running multi-board version on his bench, there is a 90% chance that John will make final--hopefully small--changes to the unified board before we head into production.

The full, populated test boards won't arrive to us until the end of this month, so add some time for final test and revision, plus lead time with the board house and my chassis supplier. I'd say we are looking at shipping starting July.

 

As I've said elsewhere, we will NOT start accepting pre-orders and payments until all production elements are on order with known dates of delivery. At that point our web site will have a order page with a promised product shipment date.

 

How much? $395.

 

Includes:

One 45cm, 16awg, DC cable (5.5mm x 2.1mm plugs both ends, correct for a REGEN, MicroRendu, and lots of other popular devices that use that size and run off 3.3V, 5V, or 7V);

One Mean Well SMPS world-voltage-compatible tabletop SMPS for "energizing" the UltraCap[emoji769] LPS-1, and one 45cm AC power cable (standard IEC plug one end, USA wall plug at the other--international buyers can cut and put a local plug on or just use any standard power cord).

 

Since many buyers--especially REGEN owners--already have an energizing supply of the right voltage/current (12V/1.5A, 9V/2A, or 7.5V/2.5A), the price without the SMPS and AC cord will be $15 less, so $380.

 

Yes, this is more than our original target, but our manufacturing costs for this, the world's first 100% isolated, supercapacitor-base, ultra-low-noise linear power supply, turned out much higher than anticipated (there are still 215 parts just on the circuit board).

The $395 price is actually $90 less than it would be if we applied the same profit margin factor as on our REGEN and JS-2--and that's assuming costs when running 250 units at a time. So I had to swallow hard to do this--and hope we sell a lot of them. :)

 

I am sure that there will be lots of questions, and I am sure John will chime in for the more technical ones. But for now, I just want to thank everyone for their patience, support, and enthusiasm during the long development cycle for this groundbreaking new power supply.

 

Best regards,

 

--Alex C.

 

I need to get myself new speakers asap!!! All the nice products are coming out this year, the UltraCap and the microRendu...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dev   
Cool! Now try ANY other supply to hear the big step down from those two. :)

 

 

Indeed, it will be interesting if Jason has an other cheap psu, especially the iFi at hand to try.

 

Between, in the iFi forum thread I learned that the iFi doesn't throw back junk back to the mains.

 

"But the iPower has a 6-Element Input Array which pretty much stops noise in its tracks from going back into the mains.

 

At shows we run with +20 iPOWERs off the same spur!"

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f30-abbingdon-music-research-ifi-audio-sponsored/12v-ipower-question-25883/index2.html#post543684

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
sm31   
At least 2 of my devices are 9V, I think you would sell many times more units if you could also get 9 (and even 12 ) volts out of it.

 

It seems they designed this primarily as a low-cost, low-power PSU to feed the Regen, but then expanded it to work with other similar devices, including the micro rendu.

 

At the same time, Alex has also said this is the first in a line of products, so I'd guess at some point there will be a bigger, and more expensive one (or two?), to serve other uses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×