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jdm56
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surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

My question is, are expensive power management products really worth the money? And I guess you could define "expensive" however you want to. I realize it's a category with a wide range of prices and performance. I don't know whether I should be willing to cough up a few hundred to protect a $4000 system, or whether I should keep doing what I've always done, which is to go to Radio Shack or Wal-Mart and get a $30 or $40 dollar surge protector and call it good.

I suppose the easy answer is "ya get what ya pay for", but I really don't know what the extra money is paying for, as far as surge protection. I know there are different technologies and I have tried to educate myself a bit on the subject, but I just don't know where the point of diminishing returns starts. $50? $500? ...I dunno!

bifcake
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I have yet to hear a difference between using a $2k power conditioner and nothing at all. My dad is an electrician, my brother in law is an electronics engineer. I asked both of them pretty much the same question. This is the answer they gave me:

Good piece of electronic equipment will have a good built-in power supply, which includes a good transformer, rectifier, etc. If you don't hear a hum or cracking noise or anything of that sort, you don't need an external power conditioner. The only thing you would need is a GOOD surge protector, which should run you about $50-$60.

jackfish
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Do you have some brand names and model numbers for those surge protectors you consider good? Thanks.

BillB
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I'm willing to be persuaded, since I have never bought an expensive one. I've had stereos for 30 years with no surge suppressor or anything, and never had an electrical problem. For the past several years I've used cheap ($15) surge suppressors, and for the past year a medium-cheap ($50) surge suppressor, AR brand, which apparently has some conditioning or noise filter built in. No audible effect that I can discern.
Yesterday, a surge did fry my computer monitor. Yes, it was plugged into a surge suppressor. Dang.

59mga
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management


Quote:
Yesterday, a surge did fry my computer monitor. Yes, it was plugged into a surge suppressor. Dang.

What AlexO says about a "good built-in power supply" is true. Isn't that the purpose of a power supply - to give clean stable power.
Maybe I'm just lucky but I've never had a piece of equipment die as a result of a surge. And I have seen $3k suppressors fail to protect. The only guarenteed protection device is an unplugged power cord.

Jan Vigne
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management


Quote:
I suppose the easy answer is "ya get what ya pay for", but I really don't know what the extra money is paying for, as far as surge protection. I know there are different technologies and I have tried to educate myself a bit on the subject, but I just don't know where the point of diminishing returns starts. $50? $500? ...I dunno!

Your sentence implies the very answer to your question. There are multiple technologies aimed at various paths to solving the problem. Solid state or tubes? Bipolars or MOSFET's? Single ended or push-pull? It would be far simpler if we all agreed there was only one solution. Of course, to do that we would all first have to agree on the problem.

I would think you could see the problem with relying on a solution meant to serve a low current device such as a computer or fax machine when applied to the high current demands of a high output solid state amplifier. It would not be suitable for the task at hand. Moving magnet or moving coil? What is your budget? What then is appropriate to that amount of equipment? You surely wouldn't put a $4k MC on a $200 table/arm combination.

Here's the simple offer I made to my clients when they took home a "surge protector". Without the surge protector in line, with no source playing and the volume control at a typical level, get within a few inches of the tweeter on your speaker. Listen. Place the protection device in line. Repeat the process above. If you hear an improvement in the noise level, the filters are doing their job. If not, and you can find no other benefit to the protector, bring the unit back.

Years ago the audio industry sold noise and click filters. The problem was when the filter worked properly, the owner was hard pressed to hear the results of its operation. Such is the problem with many effective filters. The problem then becomes when you do hear the filer at work. This is the problem with most lower cost filters when asked to work well above their price range. Low cost filters are not appropriate to the task where a higher priced filter would be advised.

We live with a multitude of problems in our own particular area of the world. One location will not suffer from the same problems as another area. It's unreasonable to expect a manufacturer to put in place a power supply that deals with all the problems someone might encounter in their specific location as some of the solutions might create problems of their own. All solutions will increase the cost. I would tell you the idea that all power supplies are equal to the task is somewhat akin to suggesting all cables are the same.

dbowker
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I'm no expert on the subject, but EVERY time I've replaced a stock iec cord with an Audioquest upgrade cord I heard dramatically quieter backgrounds, better dynamics and more details. Nope- I can't prove it or tell you why, but I lent one to an audio friend who is also a true sceptic and I notice he hasn't given it back yet, heheh. He also reported noticeable improvements in sound and we have totally different system setup. I have a Class A Krell integrated, he has Class D amp/pre-amps, but in both cases it worked.

I also have a $300 filtered power brick, although that actually gave less of a dramatic difference than the cord upgrades- but it's peace of mind for me since it's got some heavy duty protection and separates each outlet from each other. I also like the Audio Prism Quiet line filters. Once they were in the house it really cleaned up some top end grain from the system.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Well, to get down to the specifics of my situation, I'm looking at an Adcom ACE-615. This unit typically sells for $440 at various on-line vendors. Besides surge protection, it has RFI and EMI filtering plus it accepts a 12V trigger to power up connected devices with a 10 second delay. The two outlets designed for amps are supposed to not limit current to the amps yet still protect from surges. This unit does not use MOV's but instead uses "series-mode" suppression technology. Whether that is better or worse is not clear to me, although the fact it is designed to be non-sacrificial sounds good. In other words, it's effectivenes is not diminished by the very nature of its action. Obviously, I don't know enough about these devices to know what technology is best. All I know is $440 is a lot of money for what is essentially a surge protector, something I've never paid over $50 for in the past.

dbowker
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I don't you should see it as merely a better surge protector- it's more like a workhorse transformer that lets your equipment perform to it's maximum potential. Somehow I think that the upgrade power cords I've used and seen reviewed act in a similar manner- filter out junk and rectify current (like I said, I'm not sure why, but I hear the improvement). You should check out the Furmen line, as well as PS Audio, which lately seems to have put a huge amount of focus on this subject.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

You're right. This particular device (and many others like it) are really complete "power management" components. At least that's what I would characterize them as. And of course, anyone paying attention knows they have really come into their own as a product category in recent years. As far as I know, hardly anyone used these relatively large, high-dollar devices for "mere" audio and video systems until relatively recently. Didn't we all just go down to the hardware store and buy a power strip? ...Which then became a surge protector, and then a surge protector/noise filter, and on and on until someone started looking at what was being used in "serious" power management products such as those designed for use by hospitals, and others who needed critical systems protected from AC surges.

I just have a hard time convincing my inner tight-wad that I ~need~ to spend $440 on such a device. After all, "need" is such a strong word!

Jan Vigne
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

You don't "need" to spend any money. You didn't need to spend more than the cost of a pocket radio and a Walkman to hear music. $25 tops. And more than a few people are quite satisfied with that basic arrangement. So, I think "need" is overstating the case.

However, you chose to buy better gear and now you have a problem with something that isn't as glamorous as a new pre amp or speakers. For the most part even your audiophile friends will probably not be impressed by a $400 "surge protector" and your non-audiophile friends will certainly think you've gone over the bluff. You yourself might not notice a dramatic improvement using the power conditioner. But, that's exactly the point of such devices. Somethings, such as room treatment and line conditioners are often at their best when they perform tasks which are not so obvious as a new speaker.

Most shops have a trial period for such devices. Does your retailer not offer such?

wkhanna
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Lots of folks I know have and love the APC AV 1KVA Power Conditioner.
http://www.apc.com/products/
Do they work, do they make a difference in the sound of your system?
Power grids are as different as zip codes. Some are more stable and reliable than others.
Are the APC or other brands more effect at surge and high transient protection like lightning strikes than $50 big box store brands. I don't know for sure.

I do know that I feel better knowing that the $ I put into my system has some sort of protection and that many of the higher $ units will offer a reimbursement for damage to your equipment if the unit is being used. Do they always pay out----again, I don't know.

I have a Monster brand 3500 Mk II unit that I got on sell from buy.com for $120. I would never normally buy anything from Monster, but that is a whole other story. Where I live, power blips, surges and outages, are fairly common. Is this unit actually protecting my investment?
I don't know, I never tried not using it to find out. If and when I do replace the unit, I'll get an APC brand, they are same ones Rotel sell, just re-branded with Rotel's logo. I do like the fact that some outlets on these units are time-delayed and useful for coordination the start-up of my system, and I just have to use one button to power-up everything.

Now, have I bought into all the marketing and hype about spending $ unnecessarily on devices that actually don't provide the level of protection and filtering I 'think' they do? Maybe yes, to some degree. I am not the most informed consumer on this matter, nor am I the least, but for what have invested in Monster unit, I feel am getting some value. I opened it up and it has capacitors for filtering ( Gear with digital switching power supplies can dump noise back into the AC line. EMC (aka common mode) filters like those in the Monster remove that kind of noise.) and good grade outlets, the wiring is decent quality and the only thing I did was get some ferrite doughnuts from rat shack and put them on the separate lines to the outlets.

Edit: the 3500 in the pic does not have power conditioning.
I thought about adding a transformer to it for this purpose, but alas, not enogh room.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management


Quote:
Most shops have a trial period for such devices. Does your retailer not offer such?

I don't have a retailer. I live in the backwater of SW Missouri, 100 miles south of KC. I've resigned myself to making virtually all audio purchases over the internet. It's too hard to get to the city to shop and make returns or deal with warranty issues. It's really easier and usually cheaper for me this way. So I usually try to deal with on-line vendors with generous return policies, and hope for the best.

All we have in my town is Wal-Mart, Radio Shack and a small Sears store. The nearest Best Buy is 70 miles away. The nearest A/V specialty stores are in KC.

bifcake
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Do you hear noise coming out of your speakers? Do you hear hum? Do you hear clicks and pops? If the answer is no, get a good $50 protector and don't worry about it.

Otherwise, get something expensive if you're able to have a trial period with it and see if it makes a difference for you.

Jan Vigne
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I'd have to disagree. AC line problems are not relegated to audible-from-across-the room noises. And line conditioning generally has little to do with noises that you can hear with your ear a few inches from the tweeter. If you're shopping from the internet and relying on return policies to save you money, break out the credit card and try a unit that seems to suit your needs. The sales staff at most of the audio oriented sites can assist in choosing which would be appropriate for your situation. You only have return shipping to loose and better sound to gain.

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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I'm with Jan- I did not "hear" any obvious noise before my power cord and conditioner upgrades, but I sure did hear a lot more music with quieter backgrounds after. It's like if you lived with slightly bad vision (which happens all the time for people) and then got glasses- Bingo you notice the "absence" of the blur. Same with good power conditioning.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

This has been an education! Thanks to all posters for the give and take. Also, I've done more research into this product category, and I do feel better informed and more comfortable with making a decision regarding the purchase of ~any~ line conditioner, whatever the price. I'm not quite ready to "pull the trigger" as they say, but I am leaning towards the Adcom ACE-615 or a comparable unit from Furman. The Adcom is $440 while the best price I've seen on the Furman is $500. If anyone has a similar recommendation in that price range, I'd appreciate it. Thanks again!

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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Consider also the PS Audio Quintet at $495.00. Clicky Here

I find that power conditioners make a huge difference. To understand why, consider that our equipment is taking electricity from the wall and modulating it with a musical signal. If the original power is full of noise and hash (which it always is) this noise will be present in the end result that goes to your speakers.

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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

The power supply in your equipment - if it does what it is supposed to do, filters the wall current. There is a fuse or circuit breaker ( OH my god, which is not audioplile ) and a transformer ( with Copper wire ! ) some rectifiers, capacitors, voltage regulators, and magically you get DC .
And if your amp is designed correctly, there is common mode rejection for any crap that gets through.
what a power conditioner might do is stop a big spike from frying some IC in your preamp. If it chages the sound then you have a badly designed amp / pre-amp, etc.
If you can hear the difference in your power cords, then you could cut off your plugs and solder the wires directly to the 12 or 14 guage wire in the walls ( not reccomended ) (I am kiddding, don't try this at home)
You'll get more from Jan's suggestion to do some room treatments. Even a cheap carpet on a floor in front othe speakers will do more than woven wonder wire.
Now if you have a sensitive piece of electronics ( like a FIOS box ) plug it into a $40 UPS and you'll save a service call after the next thunderstorm.

bifcake
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Amen to that.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Ordered the Adcom ACE-615 today from onecall.com. I'm not expecting sonic miracles. Actually, I'm not expecting sonic anything, just non-sacrificial surge protection, reduction of some AC pollution (Hasn't everyone heard noise on their systems from something...sometime? I know I have.) and controlled turn-ons and turn-offs of connected gear. Oh, and also surge protection on phone, TV and sat or cable feeds. All in a nice package that also happens to match my pre-amp and amp, and will reduce the rat's nest of wire behind my audio cabinet. Whether that's worth $440 is subjective I suppose. Apparently it was to me!

bifcake
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Enjoy your purchase. I hope it works out for you.

wkhanna
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Congrats on the new purchase!
Let us know how you like it after you have it for a while.

Jan Vigne
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Dress your cables well when making the installation. Separate power, interconnect and speaker cables as much as possible with cables crossing at right angles when necessary. Do not loop cables into a circle but rather into a "S" shape if you must take up slack. Not to confuse what you might hear, but this would be a good time for a system cleaning work out.

wkhanna
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Cable management 101.
V good point, Jan!
I would guess a V overlooked issue in many systems.
This would be good topic for the 'Question of the Week' on the Home page here.

Elk
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management


Quote:
The power supply in your equipment - if it does what it is supposed to do, filters the wall current. There is a fuse or circuit breaker ( OH my god, which is not audioplile ) and a transformer ( with Copper wire ! ) some rectifiers, capacitors, voltage regulators, and magically you get DC .
And if your amp is designed correctly, there is common mode rejection for any crap that gets through.

In theory, yes. But as in all aspects of the real world, theory remains theory. Real world practice is different.

Unfortunately power supplies are not perfect and the DC that is output from a rectifier is not perfect. The ripples, distortions, etc. of the incoming AC are magically reflected in the outgoing DC. These imperfections power the downstream circuits and negatively impact the sound.

Even if the incoming AC is perfect, the DC output is often less than perfect. Just as one example, the purpose of the filter capacitor on the DC output of the rectifier is to filter the rectifier's output to produce constant voltage DC (the unfiltered output from the rectifier varies in voltage). Even after the filtering capacitor or smoothing circuit there typically remains some AC voltage ripple.

Now consider if the incoming AC is less than perfect, and it typically is pretty bad as it comes into our homes. The resulting DC can be an absolute mess. This muddies reproduced sound.

A good power conditioner thus can greatly improve the sound as it works hand in hand with the rectifiers in the equipment.

That is, the better the incoming AC, the better the rectified DC and the better the sound. Garbage in . . . (you know the rest).

The degree to which this will improve the sound in a given system depends on the incoming AC, the equipment used, etc.

As in all things audio, if you don't hear a difference power conditioning is not for you.

Elk
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

P.S. Please do let us know what you think of the Adcom after you have had a chance to play with it.

karijavi
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I bought a Noisetrapper system which was made locally in the Austin area. I didn't hear much if any difference until I plugged in my old Cal Ikon Mk.2. Although that unit was very popular with the entry level folks, I would get a headache after listening to it for an hour or so. Lots of digital fatigue even though it received great reviews. With the Noisetrapper, that digital edge was almost completely gone and the soundstage opened up quite a bit, allowing me to here the hall better. I could extend my listening to 3 hours with no problems. It definitely made a difference, but I think it cured a problem with the CAL player.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management


Quote:
P.S. Please do let us know what you think of the Adcom after you have had a chance to play with it.

Well, I didn't get to play with it for long. It seemed fine and everything was OK, but as soon as it powered up the receptacle feeding my Adcom amp, the conditioner would start buzzing! I tried different receptacles, and I tried running a ground wire from the amp chassis to the ground terminal on the back of the ACE-615. Nothing helped, so I'm calling onecall tomorrow. It's probably going back. So, it's back to square one for me.

Elk
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Bleh.

Very odd.

wkhanna
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

that S*cks!!!

dbowker
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

I'd go with something from PS Audio- they really seem to be ahead of the curve lately, and not in the stratospheric realm price-wise... Also, you might like the Audio Power Power Pack II, which at $280 is reasonable.

http://www.needledoctor.com/Audio-Power-Power-Pack-II?
sc=2&category=1273

Monster also seem to be decent making inroads into this field. I got one of their $120 AV power strip boxes for my AV system and the picture cleared up some. They have much beefier conditioner boxes that spec. out well.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Thanks for the tip, but I would really like something that accepts a 12V trigger so I can turn my amp on and off with my pre-amp's remote. After doing some more checking I found a Panamax on sale, also at OneCall.com. I forget the model but it would seem to do everything I need. So maybe if the good folks at onecall will allow it, I will just swap for it. To be honest, I'm kind of put off by many of the conmponent style suppressors over-abundance of LED's anyway. The Adcom's weren't really bad, just three BRIGHT red LED's. Did I mention the fact they were BRIGHT?

Jan Vigne
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management


Quote:
The Adcom's weren't really bad, just three BRIGHT red LED's. Did I mention the fact they were BRIGHT?

Unplug the unit and when it's cool take a black Sharpie pen to the LED's. They will no longer be bright but a rather dim deep red. I've done this to all the LED's in my HT system to minimize the distraction of bright LED's in a darkened room.

jdm56
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Duh-oh!! Well, sure...I uh...I guess that might work.

Windzilla
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Re: surge suppressors / power conditioners / power management

Ungh, that's a bummer. Keep us updated, I've lost other electronics to inadequate surge protection but I have yet to try the power conditioning route. (unless you count a big ole SLA jump-starter with outlets on it, I guess that should be "pure", but it only works for T-amps and phono stages)

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