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Power Conditioners: Snake oil?

Help me de-bunk certain myths of power conditioners.

Some people swear that power conditioners will help reduce noise in certain situations. I.E. noise from high frequency lighting units or likewise. I get that RF chokes and filters may help reduce line AC noise - but these fractal units all filter and convert power to DC anyways right? What's the point of filtering a line that's going to be filtered and converted?

I would assume most of them don't use any isolation techniques to prevent ground loop hum from occurring.

As far as lightning protection, most have some sort of surge suppression. But most can't protect from brown outs or overvoltages. And they're by no means a UPS.



Why buy a $200 power conditioner when all you're looking for is the $20 amount of electronics devoted to surge suppression? I'd love to hear your experience!
 

aziz

Power User
I got a pop through my speakers when bathroom lights are switched on/off. Not anymore with a basic power filter unit. So at least they do something. And add lights for the rack.
 

Sleestak

Power User
I use a Furman AR1215 as my power conditioner / regulator. This device does the RFI filtering and surge protection that other power conditioners do, but more importantly, it regulates the line voltage. It takes anything from 97 to 141 volts as an input, and puts out 120 volts. It makes a big difference on stages where the power isn't stable. The AR1215 isn't cheap,but it's a fantastic device if you're a touring musician.
 

GtarLover

Inspired
I'm with Sleestak on this.
A lower level power conditioner always seemed to me to be a glorified bunch of plugs and a way to switch things on and off with one switch, as everything is plugged in to it. Other than that, I didn't see the advantages.

HOWEVER, the line regulators are a different animal. They will give you a constant feed of voltage. Now while you may not need this in your own home or at your rehearsal studio, although studios a notorious for running 50 things off one breaker, you DEFINITELY can use one if you play a variety of venues. So many venues have questionable power set-ups. The line regulators are a god send for keeping things stable.

Plus, being in FL, we have way too much lightening for me to relax on this kind of thing.
My gear is expensive, and I want to maintain it well and protect it if I can. That is all.
 

Sleestak

Power User
I'm with Sleestak on this.
The line regulators are a god send for keeping things stable.
I've written other posts in the past, discussing the merits of a good power regulator on tour. We've played at venues / festivals where the stage power measured as 120v during tech inspection, but then fluctuated throughout the set. The AxeFX is a very reliable and well-engineered device, but having the line voltage stabilized is a good insurance policy. The *one* time I had problems with the dreaded MFC "name timeout" error was entirely due to low voltage onstage. I thought I was being so efficient by leaving the power conditioner at home, and just flying out to the gig with my AxeFX in a rack bag... I've never done that since that event. It's worth the extra weight and expense. The AxeFX is a $2300 device, and I'd much rather have the $400 AR1215 as my first line of defense against crummy power.
 

Saki

Member
It's likely that some of the pros of power conditioners are a bit exagerated, but some of them are real enough, like stabilizing and smoothing the voltage feed or providing a measure of protection against moderate surges.

In normal usage (which doesn't include brutal conditions like playing in a venue with bad power), having a more stable and smoother feed will typically be good for the life expectancy of your gear, but that's not an easy thing to evaluate, since it's statistical in nature. Of course, in harsher conditions, that effect will become more obvious.

Even the most basic power conditioner will at least help reduce the cable clutter considerably. ;) But I chose to go for a Furman PL-PRO DMC E, which is a bit on the expensive side, but:

1) it's not that much, given all the things it's protecting (an Axe-FX, a computer, a power amp, a mixing table and a couple of smaller devices),
2) its screen allows me to monitor the voltage fluctuations in my house
3) it's supposed to be able to survive a surge (just a fuse to replace), contrary to some cheaper models which sacrifice themselves
4) it has a neat USB plug on the front panel, which I'm using all the time ;)

But honestly, I didn't notice any change whatsoever to the sound coming out of my speakers (home use only).
 

vangrieg

Power User
The main problem with power conditioning is that it's a totally meaningless term. You cannot assume anything from it. Traditionally all power conditioners have surge protection, I think, and maybe some RF filtering, but that's all that's a given. And the same features are contained in power strips at a fraction of the cost.

Surge protection is certainly useful. RF filtering - doubtful, if we're talking about Axe FX. It has a switching power supply inside which generates a lot of noise, so HF filters are built in by default already. These power supplies also take a wide range of voltages, so you're probably safe from overvoltages if you're in the US. Similarly brown outs shouldn't concern those in Europe.

Some power conditioners can protect from overvoltage, so there's that. Some of them won't self destruct in case of a surge, so that's good. But apart from that, they don't offer much value.

Regulators are better in theory, but the problem is that they aren't born equal, regulated voltage may deviate by a lot, and some of them aren't very fast, so you can still get under- or overvoltage situations.

So, these devices can be useful or not. It's very hard to tell which ones are good. Neither brand nor price are good indicators.
 

aleclee

Power User
In my portable rack, I just use a Carvin AC120. It's my favorite device of its sort because of the sequenced switching. In my studio rack, I also have a Furman AR1215 to keep my voltages stable. I leave it out of the mobile setup because of size & weight.
 

mwd

Power User
I use an APC 1400 UPS. 950 watt rating in the studio. I can run my entire rig unplugged for 20 minutes or more. No brownouts, no blackouts, no voltage spike or sag and it's dead silent. Unless you actually lose power then all kinds of bells and whistles go off.
 
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