We pump thousands of dollars into high end audio gear, computers and software with very little thought given to protection. Being in the industry for many years I've met a lot of people who have paid the price and lost computers, speakers and outboard when a simple Power conditioner with good quality surge protection could have prevented these disasters. It's not just about protection though and I hope the following article will expand on why I think a power conditioner is a good thing. It's not going to be the most exciting purchase you could make for your studio but it just could be your best.
We sell Furman Power Conditioners, and although there are a few other brands on the market, Furman in our mind are the best and most popular. I'll keep this article focused on the features that are relevant to Furman models we sell. For a full list of product features across the range please see the product comparison chart below to aid you in your decision making process.
At the heart of a power condition you will find Surge and Spike Protection; these are the fundamental features you would expect to find on all power conditions. The next feature that you may expect is Noise Filtration - which essentially filters any unwanted noise from dirty lines keeping the buzz to a minimum. Beyond this you would then look at isolated banks that reduce any inter-component interference and noise contamination. Other features may include pull out lights, diagnostic LED's, power regulation and sequencing. As an added bonus most power conditioners will have multiple outlets (much like a power board) to supply power to a number of pieces of gear.
At the very least all Furman power conditioners will offer Surge Protection protecting your connected gear from any spike in power. Unlike cheap power boards with surge protection, power conditioners can sustain much higher levels of power without causing damage to the unit itself. While the cheaper Merit series conditioners are sacrificial all other Furman conditioners are non sacrificial. Meaning they can be reset in the case of a surge.
Electrical power provided from the grid can be susceptible to unwanted noise caused by signal variants outside the AC sine wave. Dirty power can be responsible to electronic equipment performing poorly, or could even cause damage. Electrical equipment, especially audio gear such as speakers, can be affected by other electrical appliances - like your fridge. This is known as induction or impulse disruption, and the unwanted noise is caused by a fluctuation in the electrical current. When used concurrently, these can allow interference, hums and other audible noises to become apparent in your studio. A quality power conditioner will filter out noise, and provide a clean source of AC power to your equipment. This is known as clean power.
The video below offers an in-depth run-down of exactly how Furman power conditioners will filter out noise, and explains exactly how this will maximise the signal-to-noise ratio of audio signals running in your studio or home theatre setup.
While we in Australia have fairly good power it is by no means perfect. You may think that the electricity coming out of the wall is a constant 240V. On the contrary, power fluctuates and is susceptible to changes in weather and can spike and drop without warning. Voltage regulation will take what is coming from the wall socket, regulate it and keep the power output to your gear to a steady 240V without fluctuation. You will find this on the top of the line P-1400 and P-6900 devices. Voltage regulation is very expensive to implement and therefore the cost of power conditioners with this feature will be high.
What is power sequencing and do I need it?
Non sequenced power conditioners will turn on all connected devices simultaneously - like flipping a master switch when everything is on. This is normally fine but if you have powered monitors connected you may hear a loud pop coming through the speakers which may cause some issues. A power conditioner with sequencer will power up connected devices in the correct order, this allows time for devices to startup, power supplies to stabilise and clocks to synchronise. On powering down the sequence is reversed.
This is mostly relevant in large PA rigs where pops and spikes can be quite loud and have potential for blowing drivers or tripping circuit breakers.
A power sequenced power condition is not essential in a studio environment but is just that extra little piece of mind.
Most power conditioners will provide a number of AC isolated rear-panel power outlets in a rack-mounted unit, with a master power switch on the front panel. This setup provides a nice tidy solution feeding multiple pieces of gear at once. Other nice touches are pull out rack lights which will illuminate all the gear in your studio rack. Some of the more expensive units will have LED power indicators to show any power fluctuations.
It's all about keeping your audio clean and protecting your much loved gear. You may think of it as insurance, but it's not just about insurance and hopefully some of the other features mentioned above will be enough to make you think twice about whether or not the humble power conditioner is for you.
Looking at the above image of the rear of the PL8CE you will notice that the power connections are the reverse of the normal IEC cables that come with your studio gear. This means in order to connect up your equipment you will need to get male to female IEC cables like the UXL variety below: All power conditions will use this cable for connectivity.
You can check out our range of Furman Power Conditioners HERE!
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