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Technology Showcase: Power Conditioners

The wide spectrum of devices goes beyond controlling voltage fluctuations and removing noise. 10/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: Power Conditioners

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The wide spectrum of devices goes beyond controlling voltage fluctuations and removing noise.




The one common factor that today's various types of audio and video gear, recorders, processors, editors, mixers, monitors, and all the rest have in common is that they all require electric power to operate. On the face of it, that seems simple enough, but different types of AV gear have their own tolerance to power problems. Some can seem impervious to such things and just keep right on working, while others almost develop personalities in reaction to surges, spikes, voltage transients, and induced noise.

Today's power grid is aging, and at the same time, more devices are being connected to it that have a tendency to throw noise back into the grid. According to Furman Sound, there has been a hundred-fold increase in AC-line noise in the past 25 years. As AC power deteriorates, so does equipment performance. Devices commonly known as power conditioners or power-line conditioners primarily control voltage fluctuations and remove noise. The range in size and functions on these devices is huge, and many devices currently marketed will have other functions such as power sequencing built in as a complement to voltage regulation or power-line conditioning. Most devices in this arena provide surge protection, noise removal, and prevention of voltage fluctuations and power waveform distortion.

BALANCED POWER

We've long known the benefits of using balanced audio circuits in which a third conductor is used to absorb noise-producing currents, but since 1996, that principle has been applied to power circuits as well. Rather than have one power conductor at +120V in relation to ground and one conductor at 0V, the power comes in at +60V to ground on one conductor and -60V on another, and a ground line connects to a center-tap position on the power transformer's secondary coil. This electrically puts the ground where the AC cycle crosses the zero-voltage point. Each output leg is 180 degrees out of phase with the other so that anything other than pure sine-wave AC, such as transient voltages and reactive current, sums to zero volts and is cancelled. This is referred to as common-mode rejection.

Stray noise-producing currents can come from air-conditioner, furnace, or refrigerator motors; fluorescent lighting; dimmer switches; personal computers; and radio signals being induced into power lines acting as radio antennas. The power grid was developed long ago, before many of these devices existed. It was never designed to deliver the ultra-clean power that much of today's professional AV gear needs in order to deliver crisp, color-bright video and a low noise floor for sound. This goes beyond merely eliminating rolling hum bars on video monitors and squelching hum in a PA system. Color depth and saturation can be significantly improved, while critical noise-level reduction in quiet music passages can raise dynamic range capability by 16dB or more. High-frequency electrical interference at or near the bit-stream rate can also be prevented from causing jitter in digital audio systems.

AC regeneration is the ultimate in power-line conditioning because it not only filters higher frequency noise with passive components, but it also completely renews the AC power before delivery to the outputs. The AC signal is first converted to smooth DC and then reconverted back to AC using circuitry very similar to that used in uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) for computers. The downside of AC regenerators is in increased size, heat, and of course, cost. These can run into several thousand dollars. Let's have a look at what's available in the wide spectrum of offerings in power-line conditioners.

The PowerTrip 8 from Alesis is a rackmounted unit that handles AV power needs up to a 15-amp total load. The unit contains an RFI/EMI interference filter and a high-voltage surge and transient suppressor that responds to voltage fluctuations in less than a nanosecond. The master switch controls eight rear-mounted, circuit-breaker-protected AC outlets. The unit also provides two pull-out lamp tubes and a dimmer knob to illuminate the panels of other rack gear; these lights are controlled with a separate switch. The circuit-breaker button pops out when tripped, and it is reset by simply pushing it back in. In the center of the panel is a display of the voltage level that is being delivered to the rear-panel outlets.


Technology Showcase: Power Conditioners

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The wide spectrum of devices goes beyond controlling voltage fluctuations and removing noise.




APC H10

APC H10

Rated to provide a continuous output of 1000W, the H10 power conditioner from APC (American Power Conversion) uses isolated noise-filter banks and automatic voltage regulation (AVR). Surge protection is provided for the unit's input current. This protection extends to coax connectors for DSS, Cat-5 boxes, or a cable modem. Telephone-line connections are also shielded by surge protection. The H10 also incorporates isolated noise-filter banks to eliminate electromagnetic and radio-frequency interference that could affect audio and video quality. DC-trigger jacks allow connection of a component to act as a DC trigger in activating delayed outlet banks, and that DC control can pass through to another component as well. To avoid voltage transients during power up and power down, a sequencer can introduce a delay of 0 seconds to 12 seconds between the powering of connected components and turn them on and off in the proper preset order. The front panel includes indicators for proper power wiring, input voltage level, filtering status, unit power, delayed-on status, and line-boost status and line trim to show voltage regulator activity. It also includes a push button to adjust the range of the AVR and to set delay time.

Belkin PureAV PF30

Belkin PureAV PF30

For home AV systems, the Belkin PureAV PF30 home-theater power console uses Multiphase PureFilter circuitry to isolate audio and video components. It also provides advanced overvoltage protection to automatically disconnect power from equipment when voltage levels rise to unacceptable levels. It then restores power when voltage returns to safe levels. The front panel includes a multifunction LED display that combines all the essential controls with a voltage and current monitor. The PF30 also protects equipment connected to its coaxial terminals. Audio and video filters are used with a high-current filter to clean power for high-load devices such as power amplifiers, and the unit has a 15-amp circuit breaker. The high-current connection also has a delay feature to avoid large voltage fluctuations during power up and power down sequences. This allows the power amplifier to be automatically turned on last and turn off first to avoid those big thumps being sent through the loudspeakers. The video filter is always on while the audio filter is switched. The PF30 may be operated as a standalone chassis or rackmounted.

The BC6000 power-line filter/conditioner from Blue Circle Audio has a total of 157 different frequency filters with triple parallel wiring in each to prevent noise in connected components. These filters have been selected and installed in a specific combination to form a string of filters covering a frequency range from 120Hz to more than 50GHz. The entire filter network is submerged in a silicone bath to eliminate mechanical vibration. There are double wire runs to each of the three 20-amp duplex hospital-grade AC outlets. For the unit's power input, there is a standard 20-amp Neutrik Powercon twist connector and BC62 premium power cord for an assured connection; the unit may be rackmounted or carried in standalone fashion for field use. The standard unit has six duplex AC outlets, but versions with 12 and 14 outlets are available. On these, the first six outlets are 20-amp and the rest are 15-amp. Also available is a stainless-steel faceplate or a rackmount faceplate, a stainless-steel cover, a rackmount kit, and a standard EIC 15-amp power inlet for use with customer-selected cabling. The maximum power-handling capacity is 1400W.

The Son of Q balanced power system from Equi=Tech is aimed primarily at the home theater or project recording studios. It offers switched power outlets along with an unswitched outlet on the back panel. Six white color-coded outlets on the back are for analog equipment, and four gray-coded outlets are for powering digital gear. A rear-mounted circuit breaker offers overload protection. The Son of Q comes in three sizes. The original model has a 1500W capacity, and the Son of Q Junior is available in a 1000W capacity. Both of these can connect to any 15-amp, 120V wall outlet. The Son of Q Senior has a 2000W capacity and requires a 20-amp power outlet. Each unit is available with an anodized aluminum front panel in either black or silver, and they all incorporate LED indicators for input and output power. The input power indicator also shows when there is active surge protection when lit. Standard features on all models include bifilar-wound transformers, magnetic and Faraday shielding, redundant surge protection, and completely passive circuitry. All units are tested to meet ANSI/UL Standard #1012 for Class A power distribution equipment.

Composed of five models, the Series II line of 20-amp power conditioners from Furman Sound offer Series Multi-Stage Protection Plus (SMP+), a proprietary surge-suppression and noise-filtration system that is composed of three technologies used in concert: linear filtering, series multistage protection, and extreme-voltage shutdown. The linear filtering avoids leakage to ground that causes ground contamination and noise; series multistage protection involves no sacrificed components due to voltage surges. Extreme-voltage shutdown powers down all components safely and quickly in the event of a significant voltage spike. All models also offer a rear-mounted BNC connector for small lamps and a front-panel power outlet in addition to the eight rear-panel outlets. The front-panel power switch is protected by a hinged cap to prevent accidental cut-off. The PL Pro II also features a front-panel LED ladder voltage-level indicator, and all models except the P-8 Pro II base model offer two retractable front-panel long-life, low-heat LED lights with a dimmer control. The PL-PRO D II provides numeric voltage readout, and the PM-PRO II adds a numerical current meter to the front-panel voltage meter.


Technology Showcase: Power Conditioners

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The wide spectrum of devices goes beyond controlling voltage fluctuations and removing noise.




For use with microprocessor-based electronic equipment, the small, low-amperage 50002 series of line conditioners from Interact Power offer protection from common-mode voltage and provide a range of output connectors to suit many specific needs. The units include surge diverters and power-line filters to eliminate noise, spikes, and transients that can wreck sensitive digital equipment and data storage units. The 50002 units are numbered according to the specific output connectors they hold, but all models are intended for sensitive instrumentation devices, desktop PCs, LANs, communication systems, and telephone equipment drawing 1 amp or less. All units are equipped with 5-15 NEMA outlets in various combinations.

The Home Theater Reference HTPS 7000 MKII power source from Monster Cable Products is designed to deliver smooth, noise-free AC power from a 15-amp source and provide up to 1800W with a total energy dissipation of 7200 joules. The unit provides 12 rear outlets, which are divided into specialty power features that include video-equipment filters, digital-equipment filters, high-current audio filters, and analog audio filters. Included is a remote AC and DC input for powering the unit up or down from associated gear. There are front-panel menu controls to program specific features, filter fuses, and a 15-amp circuit breaker. Also available is coax surge protection for TV cable and satellite equipment and telephone-line surge protection.

Panamax M5400-PM

Panamax M5400-PM

In addition to offering Level 4+ power cleaning and Linear Filtration Technology (LiFT) for the best possible sound and image quality from home-theater components, the M5400-PM power-management system from Panamax also features voltage regulation that regulates the output voltage for banks 1 through 4 to 120V ±5V. The M5400-PM also features five isolated outlet banks and offers sequential startup/shutdown, which prevents internally generated voltage transients that occur when home-theater components are powered on or off at the same time. A 12V trigger input allows source equipment to activate or deactivate the M5400-PM's switched outlets. For the protection and longevity of home-theater components, the M5400-PM features Automatic Voltage Monitoring (AVM), a patent-pending technology that monitors the incoming power. A USB charger, gaming convenience outlet, and gaming LAN port on the front allow portable devices to be conveniently connected to and disconnected from the unit.

The Power Plant Premier from PS Audio regenerates AC power to provide up to 1500W of clean sine-wave AC with 10 outlets, five isolated zones called IsoZones, an integrated power sequencer, THD analyzer (one of very few with this feature), voltage meter, MultiWave, CleanWave, and a remote control. MultiWave extends the charging time of the AC sine-wave peak so that attached power supplies have less ripple. CleanWave varies the frequency and amplitude of the sine wave in small, bubble-like responses to clean or degauss attached equipment. The remote control can be used to vary the display brightness, select between THD or voltage display, choose MultiWave or sine wave, and to activate the CleanWave function. The IsoZones are differential fed by common-mode nanocrystalline filters, which effectively isolate any noise-producing equipment from the rest of the gear.

The RGPC 1200 Custom Parallel power delivery model from Richard Gray's Power Company provides up to 20 amps of current to attached devices through 12 commercial-grade Hubbell outlets. The European export model has eight Vimar Euro Schukos outlets and a detachable 12 AWG input power cord. The unit is rackmountable with detachable rack ears. It contains two 6000W chokes, dual-stage AC surge suppression, and noise removal with no current limiting. The front panel sports a backlit RGPG logo switchable between blue, orange, and off. Current draw at idle is less than 5W, and protection is available through a 20-amp fast blow-replace fuse.

Rotel RLC-1080

Rotel RLC-1080

Designed to protect home-theater components and provide smooth AC, the Rotel RLC-1080 power conditioner also provides pure AC battery-backup power in the event of a blackout. Voltage regulation is incorporated along with surge protection, and this feature extends to coax, Ethernet, and telephone lines. Isolated noise-filter banks keep individual components electrically separate and prevent one noisy component from contaminating others. The unit is rackmountable, and it includes a DC trigger to use for activation through other equipment. Sequenced power up/down is programmable in steps with delays from 0 seconds to 10 seconds. The RLC-1080 is rated for up to 900W continuous power, and it comes with a variety of connection cables.


Technology Showcase: Power Conditioners

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The wide spectrum of devices goes beyond controlling voltage fluctuations and removing noise.




The Samson Technologies PowerBrite Pro is a 1RU distribution and lighting system intended to deliver three-point surge and spike protection and radio-frequency filtering. The unit includes front-panel LED lamps in retractable cylinders to illuminate rack equipment. The PB15 Pro model also provides a USB lamp socket on the back and front-panel volt meter and ammeter. There are eight switched outlets on the rear panel and one on the front. The rear outlets are mounted horizontally and vertically to accommodate standard 3-pin plugs as well as external transformer AC power adapters. The front panel also has a 15-amp circuit breaker and a slotted air vent.

The SEQ programmable sequencer surge eliminator and power conditioner from SurgeX is a 2RU unit with two rear-mounted, always-on outlets and three physical banks, each with four switched outlets. Included is a fourth “virtual bank” of outlets for controlling remote units so that several SEQs can be operated together. The front panel includes an LCD display with unit status and AC-line voltage indication in addition to programming information that is saved in non-volatile memory. The SEQ features both common-mode and normal-mode impedance-tolerant EMI/RFI filtering, SurgeX ICE (inrush current elimination), and COUVS (catastrophic over-/under-voltage shutdown) for a full range of power-line conditioning functions.

The Tripp Lite LCR2400 power conditioner is a rackmount unit capable of delivering up to 2400W of continuous power through 14 NEMA 5-15R outlets with a surge energy rating of 1200 joules; the high-frequency noise-suppression figure at 1MHz is 80dB. A circuit breaker is provided on the front panel along with a green norm light to indicate nominal AC input voltage; a yellow light to indicate a marginal over- or under-voltage condition; and a red light to warn of substantial over- or under-voltage conditions. There is also a warning light to indicate when incorrect wiring has been detected.


MORE INFORMATION

Alesis
www.alesis.com

APC
www.apc.com

Belkin
www.belkin.com

Blue Circle Audio
www.bluecircle.com

Equi=Tech
www.equitech.com

Furman Sound
www.furmansound.com

Interact Power
www.interactpower.com

Monster Cable Products
www.monstercable.com

Panamax
www.panamax.com

PS Audio
www.psaudio.com

Richard Gray's Power Company
www.richardgrayspowercompany.com

Rotel
www.rotel.com

Samson Technologies
www.samsontech.com

SurgeX
www.surgex.com

Tripp Lite
www.tripplite.com


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