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Should I get a Power Conditioner?
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JMulhollan
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#1
30th October 2010
Old 30th October 2010
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Should I get a Power Conditioner?

I was at Sam Ash today picking up a rack case for my mobile rig which is 2 Presonus FP10s and an extra Rack-mounted Pre-amp and the guy wouldn't let down that I didn't really plan on getting a power conditioner right away. I have a regular surge protecter that I have been using for a while now and have had no problems, but is it really that important to "rush" and get a power conditioner for running 3, maybe 4 pieces of gear (including my laptop) tops?

If I had full 10+ spaces racks full of gear, I could see the importance, but not for 3 or 4 things.

Any input is great. Thanks
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Power conditioners are a bit like extended warranties. Retailers love them, because they are a high profit margin product, where they hope to scrape back some of the margin they invariably have to give away on the rest of the deal.

Most power conditioner products are effectively empty boxes with a few varister diodes for spike protection, which you can get in a very cheap powerstrip. Depending on how much you pay, you may get some cheap semiconductors for some voltage regulation or whatever.

If you have serious power problems, there is no cheap solution other than 100% power recycling: convert the crap AC to pure DC, store in battery, and then rebuild pure sinewave AC from the battery DC.

Even the affordable UPS systems, which are sort of recycling the AC, cut massive corners for cost reasons. So your typical UPS does not work this way, UNLESS, the power fails, in which case the inverter kicks in. So if you had bad power with noise in it, as long as you don't have an actual outage, the crap AC passes straight through. OK for keeping your PC running, but not what you need for ultra low-noise studio electronics.

I don't think you can beat the cost and effectiveness of buying a sinewave inverter of the size you need, connecting to a battery bank for the time you need, and charging up the battery bank with a powerful batter charger and/or laboratory power supply. These are off-the-shelf commodity items, so the price is about as low as you can get. It's still not cheap, but then you realise just how pathetic most "power conditioner" boxes really are.

False economy.
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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UPS for recording studio

I'd like to think that a clean/corrected/steady power supply will do some good when recording music. I've got one of those commercial UPS that gives steady 50hz 240v and 1 hr of backup time. I think the recordings are more predictable/consistent due to a UPS (though lesser models don't actually regulate the freq very well).

I've heard rumors/accounts of clean power improving the accuracy during recording - however, I'm not aware of any scientific studies. The biggest benefit is that any electrical spikes in the power grid won't ruin your recordings when using an appropriate UPS.

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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Should I get a Power Conditioner?

Power conditioner = rackmountable power bar with neat lights and switches and shiny things to play with to keep people entertained between your ADD meds.

Untill you step up to voltage regulation and higher I don't see much point. A good power bar is cheap. As far as voltage regulation goes I'm a beleiver in the theory, but I don't know any of the numbers behind actual voltage fluxuations, but I do own a few. If Better solutions(as mentioned above) were more affordable I'd jump all over it. But surge protection and voltage regulation keep me feeling comfortable
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Rule number 1:


when the Sam Ash sales employee says anything to you, smile, nod and politely decline.
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JMulhollan
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sameal View Post
Rule number 1:


when the Sam Ash sales employee says anything to you, smile, nod and politely decline.
That's why I always come here for information
#7
31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Hell no. That's compete bullshit. Orlando, your power is excellent.
#8
31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMulhollan View Post
I was at Sam Ash today picking up a rack case for my mobile rig which is 2 Presonus FP10s and an extra Rack-mounted Pre-amp and the guy wouldn't let down that I didn't really plan on getting a power conditioner right away. I have a regular surge protecter that I have been using for a while now and have had no problems, but is it really that important to "rush" and get a power conditioner for running 3, maybe 4 pieces of gear (including my laptop) tops?

If I had full 10+ spaces racks full of gear, I could see the importance, but not for 3 or 4 things.

Any input is great. Thanks
Open up any audio device, and what you'll find is a power supply that makes DC out of AC, and regulates it so it's clean, smooth and free from noise. It makes no difference which device it is, that power supply is necessary for the thing to work, but it also pretty much takes care of any conditioning you might need. Built-in regulators usually operate at 20% or more above their drop-out voltage (a voltage at which they don't regulate anymore) and usually can take a pretty good surge and flatten it off. Some even have enough energy reserve to coast over a short brown-out without an issue. However, surge protection is cheap and worth while, especially if you're on the road at all. Anything beyond that is nonsense.

I like the surge protected strips you get for about $25 that come with an "insurance policy" that if anything you plug into it ever is blown up by a surge, they'll replace it. Get that one, fill out the card and send it in, then file the policy where you can find it. If you ever take a lightning strike, you're covered! No surge protector strip can deal with a direct strike.

Other than that, save your money. The only possible exception is if your power is really full of RF, switching transients, and suffers huge surges and sags. If it's that bad, a condition won't help anyway. Like another poster said, you'll need real regulation, which costs real money.

Know why you've never seen a scientific study on the audibility of power conditioners? Want to guess?

BTW, there's a healthy markup on power conditioners. Nice profit margin.

Jim
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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While I agree with all that was previously mentioned, I use the little lights that pop out quite a bit, both front and back. Plus it cuts down on my set up time by only having to plug in one cord for the rack and keeps everything tidy back there.
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31st October 2010
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Power conditioners ARE imporant---however what many consider as a power conditioner really, truly isn't a "conditioner". Personally I would NEVER plug any of my high-tech audio equipment and computers directly into the wall or even a traditional power strip, I don't even do that to my televisions or other high-end electronics. However a $100 box isn't technically a "conditioner" either. There is surge protection and there is SURGE protection, the cheap power strips really don't protect anything when a major surge comes down the pipe. In fact it's been proven that they can cause even worse damage as there is no release for the voltage to let go and, in worst-case scenarios, can catch on-fire. I've seen this demonstrated first-hand and have had (2) clients I know of that have had fires start because of it---one of them even lost his house, that was about 7-years ago I believe.

There are significant advantages to "power conditioners", units such as the Monster Power Pro 2500 even which is a $200 unit. In my new house down here in Buford, GA....I noticed a slight high-pitched noise through my LSR6328 monitors without my computer plugged into the PRo2500. My monitors are through another conditioner, however unlike my past studio where I had multiple circuits--everything is on a single circuit (for now).

As mentioned, VOLTAGE REGULATION is really the best place to start for most home studios and above because it does provide you with a consitant power stream that stays roughly @ 120V. If you're getting too much it pads it down, not enough it pulls more through. The thing to remember is, even if you have a brand new home with brand new wiring--it doesn't matter when it comes to your studio gear. The electric company is providing power to power your house, the lights, etc. But with sensitive audio gear, those little fluctuations allllllll day long every day really can cause problems over time. This is even more important when we start talking live sound. I do a decent amount of large-scale productions, clean power---and I'm talking Regulation of Voltage AND Balanced Power (the good stuff!) are not only needed, they are critical to the sound of the equipment. Yes, clean and stable power matters to your sound quality. There is a great deal of electrical noise in the lines, as that is cleaned out it allows for a more balanced and true power signal to power your gear allowing for higher useage with more efficiency. IT's for the same reason we use high-quality master clocks for converters, to clear out the "jitter" that's in the audio stream. In high-end studios (meaning commercial OR home-studios), this kind of power is critical to get the most out of your gear.

Unfortunately many think that just buying a real power conditioner will fix any kind of electrical issue but it doesn't, unless you are buying the expensive stuff. If you have a hum in your line, it may not always be the answer. Sometimes you do have to look at the line itself, hire an electrician to look at it, possibly new wiring etc. So is a power conditioner always the answer? No, but it's a heck of a lot better than just plugging straight into the wall----but don't buy one without knowing what it is you're buying and why. Just because it racks and you plug into it, doesn't mean it's worth it or the one you should get.
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#11
31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Ever noticed that you monitors and transformers hum or buzz (acoustically) at different times of the day or night? You might be lucky, and this may never happen in your area. But it's fairly common, and it means harmonics on the AC waveform. In other words, the sine-wave is no longer a sine-wave.

I dislike acoustic hum/buzz from transformers, and that's probably the immediate benefit of pure sine inverter power. When harmonics are bad, it can leak into the audio path and raise the electrical noise floor too. Especially with high gain stuff such as guitar amps.

A huge benefit of using inverters is that it allows you to attach a dedicated ground spike. A lot of noise can come through the regular AC ground - which you are forced by law to connect up to. A lot of houses have dried up ground spikes, and high resistance wiring - so often the electrical ground is quite noisy. It's there to protect you from electric shock, and although adequate for that purpose, it's often not adequate to shield your audio cables and keep them quiet. If you have AC current flow of even a few millivolts, it's going to put hum into your audio.

A dedicated ground spike for audio equipment is bliss, if you suffer from noise problems.

With laptops and so much gear being powered by DC power, it's possible to track your audio with a battery powered rig and avoid a lot of power problems that way.
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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I once opened up a £100 Power Conditioner (in my bass rig) and a £15 Surge Protecting power strip.

It seems I had paid £85 for a 1U rack box with a tube light and dimmer.
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31st October 2010
Old 31st October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbigd View Post
I once opened up a £100 Power Conditioner (in my bass rig) and a £15 Surge Protecting power strip.

It seems I had paid £85 for a 1U rack box with a tube light and dimmer.
Yep. Buying a real power conditioner is not a cheap proposition - you need a LOT of kVA for even a small studio, especially if you want power amplifiers conditioned.

An EE once suggested to me that (in addition to hefty surge protection) I should use good UPS devices for digital audio gear, include computers (of course), but that I should use a good power conditioner for all the analogue gear. I've followed that advice ever since, using APC UPS devices and SOLA power conditioners. No complaints here.

Sean
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4 Weeks Ago
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How does one determine how many volts and watts you need for your PA system's UPS?

I have a Allen & Heath ZED 10-FX and two Yamaha DXR12s so do I simply add up the total wattage and voltage and find a UPS that handles that load?

If anyone could recommend a solid, affordable UPS to run this system and explain your rationale, I would greatly appreciate it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradLyons View Post
Power conditioners ARE imporant---however what many consider as a power conditioner really, truly isn't a "conditioner"...

There are significant advantages to "power conditioners", units such as the Monster Power Pro 2500 even which is a $200 unit. In my new house down here in Buford, GA....I noticed a slight high-pitched noise through my LSR6328 monitors without my computer plugged into the PRo2500...
+1

Monster gets a bad rep for products unrelated to their power conditioners, so most people don't realize the power centers they sell are actually very good for the money. I've got two of their power centers, the 3500 and 2500 and all of my important gear is hooked up to them. Between them and my own cabling, my system is crystal clear (had a slight hum issue that is related to the power in my home, and the Monster units have performed as advertised).
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