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CLEAN Power Conditioners -- Any thoughts?
Old 7th January 2008
  #1
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DanRock101's Avatar
 

Talking CLEAN Power Conditioners -- Any thoughts?

Ok Slutz,

I have Furman rackmount Power Conditioners for my rigs. All seems to work fine. I rarely power a TON of stuff at one time.

Are my Furmans adequate, or are there better options?
And, will spending $1,200 on a killer power conditioner (my Furmans only cost around $250 a pop) give me THAT much mojo?!?!

.....nickels for your pity?
Old 7th January 2008
  #2
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surflounge's Avatar
What other "killer" power conditioner are you thinking about?
UPS? We sent our local electrician back to school to learn.
Also had him read all posts on Gearslutz about the subject.
Old 7th January 2008
  #3
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There are a whole host of potential AC problems - and some 'conditioners' only tackle a small number of them.

I have nasty AC power, and the only real solution is 100% recycling power. I.e. - running a sinewave power inverter off a battery.

A UPS is supposedly just that - but usually there is an element of compromise. Often the battery only kicks in if the voltage drops, which means the regular mains is connected most of the time. A normal UPS stops your computer from going down in a short blackout, but isn't a clean audio solution.

Trying to do this properly is very expensive - and most 'power conditioners' are sold by snake oil merchants and hifi salesmen. Anyone can put some varistors in a box and claim spike supression.

Often the garbage enters via the electrical earth. It's amazing how much crap is sent to earth by modern electronics. And not necessarily within your control. (Although last night I found my electric shaver - which flashes a LED when it's fully charged - was dumping noise into my bass guitar chain).

I'm about to install a power inverter to supplied clean power to my studio, and run all the important stuff off a bank of car batteries. I might add some solar panels, but i'll probably just keep them on trickle charge. Or - I might buy a hefty transformer to supplement it.

The beauty of running a 12 or 24V sinewave inverter is that this is the cleanest power you can get. I can get all sorts of noise and clicks coming and going. And the harmonics on my AC get nasty at times during the day/night - this shows up as excessive transformer buzzing. I've proved to myself that an inverter really cleans this up.

The other big advantage - I can run a truely isolated earth. I already have a dedicated earth spike, but I have voltage drop that gives me a small but annoying potential difference between neutral and ground, which drives some unbalanced gear crazy. By having a battery isolated rig, I hope to kill all these problems.

I might even use my 5kVA centre tapped isolating transformer to get 2 phase balanced power from the inverter. I did some experiments a while back with balanced 2 phase power, and came to the conclusion that the main benefits came from having an isolated ground. But I possibly didn't have enough gear connected up to really test the theory. In theory, balanced 2 phase power makes ground loops impossible ... it won't cost me anything to try it again.
Old 7th January 2008
  #4
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numrologst's Avatar
the old adage is: if you can lift your power conditioner with one hand, then it isn't really much of a power conditioner.

Real power conditioners have big transformers.

I am a big fan of balanced power. Both the furman it20 and the equitech stuff is great. Provides you with great protection and really cleans things up if the chain before it is proper.
Old 7th January 2008
  #5
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Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwiburger View Post
the only real solution is 100% recycling power. I.e. - running a sinewave power inverter off a battery.
The ONLY solution period.

California Instruments [among others] makes these... they are excellent, they are not inexpensive... but if you install one then you won't be able to blame the power for the rest of your system's woes.

Peace.
Old 7th January 2008
  #6
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There are companies that will try to persuade you that there is something wrong with the electrical supply coming into your house or studio. In particular, they will try to tell you that there are all kinds of nasty radio frequency interference (RFI) signals marching down the mains cable, bent on making everything that you record sound 'muddy' or whatever hype word they go for.

99 times out of one hundred, there is absolutly nothing the matter with the power supply and adding some Mickey Mouse box does nothing for you.

The problem (for them) is you already have several devices that are perfect at getting rid of RFI. They are called power supply units and everything has got one!

All equipment runs on direct current. The audio signal may be alternating current (AC) but all electronic equipment uses direct current (DC) internally. The great exception is the Tonwheel assembly of the original Hammond Organ that uses the AC frequency to drive an asynchronous motor invented by Larry Hammond and first used in AC-driven clocks. But that is the only exception that you will find in a modern recording studio.

The incoming AC supply (roughly 230V in Europe and 120V in the US) is turned into the desired DC voltage and current by a device called a power supply unit (PSU). Usually the incoming voltage is reduced by a transformer and then a series of rectifiers and condensers smooth out the voltage to provide the exact value required. In a so-called universal power supply, the reduction is performed by a series of thyristors, but the capacitors are still there.

These transformers and capacitors act as massive low-pass filters. Radio frequencies in the 100kHz and above stand no chance! Also, all quality equipment had little filters known as 'taps' at the beginning and end of all longer signal paths to prevent any RFI bleeding in from outside.

Various forums have seen a spate of UPS - power conditioner - balanced power - and other completely unnecessary power 'cleaner' threads lately.

Let's get this straight, once and for all time -

1. An off-line UPS takes over when the power fails or drops below a certain value. If you are just afraid of the occasional black-out, this will do.

2. An on-line UPS replaces the in-coming power supply with a sine wave at the desired voltage at all times. If you are having REAL problems with your supply (varies wildly and may cut out) then this is the only solution that actually works.

3. Any UPS has to have a capacity of at least 50% more than the equipment to be supplied, if it is not to create more problems than it solves.

4. Balanced power must, by law, be installed by an electrician and be protected by trips for both sides of the balance in both the US and the UK. In the UK, ANY kind of fixed electrical installation must be performed by an electrician. A bodged installation of balanced power is a great way to kill yourself or just destroy your equipment.

5. Most power problems come from poor grounding. If you are in any kind of doubt, get a multimeter and check that the resistance between neutral and ground is absolutely zero at all outlets. In Europe, the power supply can vary greatly (too much leeway is permitted to the power companies here, IMO) between about 210 and 250 volts. If it is outside those values, complain in writing, after checking with a second multimeter.

Check your grounding and supply, BEFORE you waste money on any kind of boxes! The magic box that somehow solves gounding (aka earthing) problems has not been invented and never will be.
Old 7th January 2008
  #7
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Just to add to the above -

There are rare occasions where a so-called power conditioner does help. This is nearly always because the PSU inside something is under-sized or in some way, faulty. The new breed of universal (switch mode) PSUs can cause problems when they get old or if they are poorly designed.

The cure is to replace the transformer, rectifiers and caps with something larger.
Old 7th January 2008
  #8
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Byre-

You guys are probably mostly spot on. You bring up tons of good points.

I'm no electrician or electronics expert. Before I brought in balanced power, things were good. No apparent problems, never any headaches.

I brought it balanced power and there was a noticeable difference. It wasn't small. Noise floor was obliterated in my studio. And I've still never had any problems
Old 7th January 2008
  #9
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I plumbed in balanced power from the start of my build, and everything is absolutely quiet. I have no idea whether it would have been any different if I hadn't, of course (I suppose I could plug everything into the normal outlets instead of the technical power outlets and compare, but that only sounds like trouble.)

And the system definitely passes the "if you can lift it" test; the transformer alone is 250 lbs. It was a real trick getting the panel up on the wall...
Old 7th January 2008
  #10
Gear Nut
 

The "all gear has power supplies that filter" isn't entirely valid. The RL of large caps will not and can not block RF energy coming from the AC lines.

Noise coming in on the earth line is a different story.

If power supplies did all that they are "supposed" to I wouldn't have my day job of getting electronic equipment to pass FCC and CE RFI/EMI requirements.

Mike
Old 8th January 2008
  #11
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Chris Wilson's Avatar
Does anyone know why the Audiophile community holds their power conditioners in such high regard?

My mobile setup plugs into a Shunyata Hydra-6, which is a conditioner usually used by hi-fi types. In location recording, it removed doubts about the quality of the power, and that is a big help. I can't imagine ever wanting to sell it.

However, I can't imaging outfitting a whole studio with conditioners and cords when the cost would surpass that of, say, microphones, or AD converters.
Old 8th January 2008
  #12
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numrologst's Avatar
Equitech 50amp Wall Panel is only $7k or so. Pretty easy stuff to install and use. No excess wiring or cables
Old 8th January 2008
  #13
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Quote:
Does anyone know why the Audiophile community holds their power conditioners in such high regard?
Because it's more toys for the rich boys.

The audiophile market is generally still pissing about with 16 bit CD players and unbalanced cables. They generally don't have a clue that much of their problems could be solved with balanced power amps. Unbalanced cables suck, and that's why people with money can be conned into thinking they need to buy ultra expensive "interconnects" and other snake oil products. But basically, they just want to spend money on things and have something better than their rich friends. As long as it has more blue l.e.d.s or an LCD display.

A lot of noise can comes through the AC power, and sometimes a cheap power conditioner can make a difference. Sometimes these conditioners rob the amp of bass response.
Old 8th January 2008
  #14
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the equitech guy had me sold at NAMM. I waited for a bit and asked around and bought an equitech about 2 weeks after the show. Dead silence and I'm happy about that. My partner swears it made the sweet spot larger.
Old 8th January 2008
  #15
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The Byre,

I love your posts, you always break down topics so that people can understand them without having advanced engineering backgrounds. I would like to rectify one slight issue with your post on grounding though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
5. Most power problems come from poor grounding. If you are in any kind of doubt, get a multimeter and check that the resistance between neutral and ground is absolutely zero at all outlets. In Europe, the power supply can vary greatly (too much leeway is permitted to the power companies here, IMO) between about 210 and 250 volts. If it is outside those values, complain in writing, after checking with a second multimeter.

Check your grounding and supply, BEFORE you waste money on any kind of boxes! The magic box that somehow solves gounding (aka earthing) problems has not been invented and never will be.

As an electrician, I would recommend checking AC voltage from the hot and neutral to ground on your receptacles (if you have anything other than 0, that should be looked into - I agree with your assessment there). As far as resistance goes, I don't recommend ever checking resistance on a live circuit (if there is a decent enough leak to ground, it may actually have enough voltage on it to harm your multimeter). I've found resistance readings on unpowered, isolated components to be more accurate. Since everything these days is digital, you probably don't have to worry about them instantly popping like the old analog ones, but I figured it should be mentioned anyhow.

According to federal law in the US under the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70), if there is more than 25 ohms of resistance to your main grounding means, then you don't have an adequate enough ground and additional supplemental grounding should be used. I'm not sure what local codes are overseas, but for US folks, 25 ohms is the minimal acceptable standard. Not having a solid enough ground (as you have mentioned Byre) can cause all sorts of havoc on sensitive electrical components. Before going overboard on conditioning, definitely make sure everything else here is correct. Sometimes simply adding another grounding electrode or grounding rod can solve a world of problems. So even if you use the method above and make sure there is no "leakage" on the circuit, you still can have a poor signal because your electrical supply isn't grounded as well as it should be. Unfortunately, checking this is not recommended for the average person (special tools and/or techniques must be used - it's not as simple as taking measurements on a receptacle).

As a general disclaimer, if you suspect there are issues and you're not confident enough to work on it yourself, please seek a licensed electrician. With US voltages, you can take a probably take 110 hit without serious longterm consequences (still not recommended), but higher voltages like overseas can do severe damage.

Sorry about the derailing... carry on
Old 8th January 2008
  #16
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herecomesyourman's Avatar
I have Balanced Power Technologies BP-II with ten outlets.

The thing ways at least 60-70 lbs...but I noticed a dramatic difference in overall headroom vs using my furman after I bought it in 2006...I got a great deal on a demo unit for about $750

Audiophile & Home Theater Power Conditioners from Balanced Power Technologies

I don't know if anyone else out here is familiar with them, but I'm very happy with this product, I've just been stuck on trying to figure out a good way to rack it.
Old 8th January 2008
  #17
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i can't imagine that much of a difference you heard between the furman and BPT. I have 3 furmans and 3 equitechs... Absolutely no audible difference between the 2.
Old 8th January 2008
  #18
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Quote:
As an electrician, I would recommend checking AC voltage from the hot and neutral to ground on your receptacles (if you have anything other than 0, that should be looked into - I agree with your assessment there).
+1. And it's amazing how many professional electricians don't understand this.

At my place, I have 1.5VAC between earth and neutral. I demonstrated this to my electrician by connecting a speaker between earth and neutral, and it hummed very loudly. Actually - I found I can wear a pair of headphones and hear a hum just by touching a water pipe.

To most electricians, this isn't a problem. It's not unsafe, so they don't give a damn. I expect the ground to my house is fairly old and dried up.

Naturally, I put in a new ground spike for my studio. But for some reason, connecting this to electrical earth didn't make the noise go away. I only get silence from guitar amps etc if I give them a clean, dedicated earth - not connected to neutral or the electrical earth.

I recommend running guitar amps via ground leakage protection devices.

I believe the dramatic drop in noise floor that balanced systems provide is more to do with resolving these sorts of grounding issues. The centre-tapped transformer used for balancing power basically forces you to put in a new earth spike and establish a new technical earth.

Using a power inverter off a battery achieves the same thing. I pulled out my balancing transformer, because I got a shock off a battery charger. I later realised the battery charger gave you a shock on normal AC - it's a bad POS. But with 2 phase power, you need to understand that you no longer have a phase and neutral - you now have two phases. So any devices that (perhaps illegally) connect neutral to something you could touch (like a light bulb holder) can kill you.

I'm not convinced balanced power is necessary, or safe enough for general use. However, I did notice one effect of using balanced power. Normally, if you have an extension cord curled up, it concentrates the EMI field around it. I found with balanced power, the field around it really did balance out to virtually nothing.

A lot of modern studio stuff doesn't even have a ground connection. Lots of switching PSU and two prong wallwarts and line lumps. I don't believe they can benefit from balanced power, since you need 3 wires to establish two balanced phases.

I *wish* I could find a professional in my town who knew about this stuff. I tried - it's rare to find anyone who has half a clue.
Old 8th January 2008
  #19
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by the way. Does anyone know another company that sells basically a balanced power transformer in a box. My buddy is looking for just that. It is just a balanced power transformer in a box... not outlets, not a wall panel, no breakers... Just a transformer in a box.

Evidentially equitech won't have any big transformers ready to go again until March-April. He really needs a permanent install transformer soon.
Old 8th January 2008
  #20
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herecomesyourman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by numrologst View Post
i can't imagine that much of a difference you heard between the furman and BPT. I have 3 furmans and 3 equitechs... Absolutely no audible difference between the 2.
My Furman was only like the cheapie one that's less than a hundred bucks with pull out lights.

I still use it daisy chained from the BPII for more outlets, but it's NOT a power conditioner like the BP-II...I suspect the Furman power conditioners are more than fine and sound similar...haven't heard the equitechs.

But yes going from a PSU to a power conditioner was an audible step up for me. And BPT was a total pleasure to work with customers service wise, they called me back within 24 hours of contacting them, answered all my questions and gave me a demo deal in mint condition two days later when I made the decision to go with them. Total class act and this thing is built like a tank. I plan to keep doing business with them next time I need a power conditioner simply because it's worked so well and it's cheaper than the Furman.

Any ideas for custom rackmounts though? Or good companies for such things?
Old 8th January 2008
  #21
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numrologst's Avatar
ah. I thought you meant you heard a difference between the furman it20 balanced power unit and the BPT balanced power unit
Old 8th January 2008
  #22
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herecomesyourman's Avatar
Nah man, I just knew I couldn't afford the Furman.

Still...BPT, great company. No regrets and totally stable for over a year now.

But yes...custom rack ears...any help in this direction would be amazing.

It's been a frustrating thing for me.
Old 8th January 2008
  #23
These power conditioners are simple current limiters. They reduce the juice.
The better way is the old way. Get a large iso transfomer, 80 amps is a good start.
Pay qualified people to wire the entire facility balanced using the 60 volt taps. Have them take the center tap for technical ground. Then a ground rod can be attached to the center tap.

No current limiting, no noise.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 23rd April 2008
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
These power conditioners are simple current limiters. They reduce the juice.
The better way is the old way. Get a large iso transfomer, 80 amps is a good start.
Pay qualified people to wire the entire facility balanced using the 60 volt taps. Have them take the center tap for technical ground. Then a ground rod can be attached to the center tap.

No current limiting, no noise.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
hmmm

I have the option of getting a cheap monster HTS 1000 stage 2v 2.0 (worth £150). I was planning to use it for monitoring, mixing and practise tracking. But for real tracking I wanna get a 12v or 24v battery converter setup.

2 questions:

1) Is this monster box gonna "reduce the juice " and kill my bass response as one guy suggested?

2) What is the most practical clean power set up? Pl bare in mind I need to track with a U47, v76, prisim orpheus firwire converter , and a Macbook pro on location. So I need to move around a fair amount. I would like to track for around 8 hours with out having to charge up. brand and model name suggestions would be highly appreciated. And hey, if I do this thing on my freinds farm, do I still have to drive in a spike?
Old 23rd April 2008
  #25
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Al Rogers's Avatar
 

Among wealthy (or just fanatical) audiophiles it's a common practice to run a dedicated power line from outside. It is then used only for the audio equipment. It's probably a good place to start rather than trying to clean up very dirty AC.

-Al
Old 24th April 2008
  #26
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Ferro-resonant transformers - SOLA TYPE CVS

IF you actually have a problem with short-term voltage fluctuation, or pulses in your power system, a surplus harmonically-neutralized transformer will kill the bad. No moving parts, no silicon to fail, just wire/core and a bank of filter caps (PCB-filled before 1978). MTBF is over 20 years, with lots of 50 year-old examples installed and working, or on the surplus market for pennies on the current dollar price. Shipping can get high on these weighty items.

Frequently found with 440/220v 60 Hz single-phase inputs and 220v/120v outputs (strappable for your situation).

I don't believe that a 30A model would current-limit any of my gear more than the romex 12ga in the wall, or the transformer on the street does.

Cheers.
Old 24th April 2008
  #27
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Don S's Avatar
 

I'll admit that my knowledge is deficient in this area. If most gear converts AC to DC via a PSU, why does balanced power make any difference?
Old 24th April 2008
  #28
LX3
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And another question...

If you use an online UPS to run your remote recording gear, what would be the real-world advantage of adding an isolation transformer, either on the input or the output side? (Putting it on the input side makes the most sense to me)

Greater immunity to noise?

As far as I'm aware the law states that your earth connection has to be continuous through to the supply earth, so you can't use the transformer to create balanced power.

But I guess the transformer can isolate you from garbage being thrown back onto the neutral by other equipment sharing your supply feed. Do you guys have any stories where an iso transformer has (or would have) saved you?

I'm working on a new portable power system at the moment. It's quite a challenge figuring out the options and legal issues.
Old 25th April 2008
  #29
LX3
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Wow, I sure do have the knack of killing threads!

Feel free to ignore me and carry on.

Paul
Old 5th May 2008
  #30
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Remoteness's Avatar
Paul, you answered the question within your post...

An isolation transformer is necessary when you want to completely decouple your system chassis from your guest's (or other) system chassis.

You're also creating your own neutral so you never get to see the crap that's on the house (or shore) power's neutral.
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