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Technology Showcase: Power Conditioners

May 5, 2009 10:20 AM, By Kent Morris

New solutions offer better control of AC line noise, surges, spikes, and voltage fluctuations.

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Power, especially in sound and video systems, must be controlled. From the access point in the building and on, unfiltered power is a danger to each component in an AV layout. Fortunately, manufacturers have been introducing better solutions to address the issues of AC line noise, surges, spikes, and voltage fluctuations. These protection devices vary in price and performance based on intended application and differing views of corrective procedures, but they all share the purpose of improving source power for the myriad of products dependent on AC. Here is a look at some of the latest offerings from companies oriented toward the commercial-installation contractor as well as a sampling of products designed for use in home-theater environments.

With its finished-aluminum front panel, the Alesis PowerTrip 8 fits well into high-visibility equipment racks where the product’s appearance is as important as its performance. Sporting eight rear-panel AC outlets with a breaker-protected 15 amps total and twin-tube downward illuminators with a dim feature, the PowerTrip 8 can light its rack mates while providing them with RFI- and EMI-filtered power, along with a quick-response (<1 nano­second) surge-suppression circuit. An LED readout meter for incoming voltage adorns the center of the unit, making the PowerTrip 8 useful as a power-management device.

In a similar vein, the new American Audio PDP-950 serves as a top-of-rack power conditioner with an aesthetic bent. It features a large LED display of voltage, along with two pull-out dimmable rack lamps and an innovative USB port for powering an external gooseneck work light. A front-panel circuit breaker flanks a switched AC convenience outlet that provides quick connection for temporary devices. Seven switched outlets and one unswitched outlet on the rear section complete the picture for this 1RU offering.

American Power Conversion (APC) has a storied history in backup systems, and its S10BLK with the optional AV S Type Universal Rail Kit (SRAILKIT) delivers protection and conditioning in a reliable package. The battery provides pure sinewave power for an equivalent source level to connected equipment, making for seamless AC flow whether the device is online or in battery mode. The S10BLK eliminates voltage fluctuations as a source of signal degradation and power supply stress with automatic voltage regulation. Its RS-232 port allows for simple monitoring and control of the unit. Related data terminations are protected as well with S10BLK’s integral dataline surge-protection design. Connected components are safe even during battery exchanges because of a clever hot-swap architecture bolstered by an automatic battery self-test function. The unit’s USB port is put to good use with the included PowerChute software designed to maximize the performance through logical control of shutdown during extended power outages.

One important aspect of power control is AC-voltage regulation. The PR8 Pro from Applied Research and Technology (ART) maintains all eight outlets within 5V of industry standard, even when the voltage drops to 97V or extends to 137V. In circumstances beyond the unit’s parameters, the PR8 Pro will initiate a shutdown of the equipment in order to protect it from damage. A front-panel master breaker makes resets quick and easy, while the backlit LCD display simultaneously shows incoming and outgoing voltages. A handy Output in Regulation indicator glows whenever the system is stable. An unseen complement of EMI/RFI filtering devices and spike-protection circuits ensure the connected gear is given a steady stream of clean power. Finally, four of the eight rear outlets feature wide (1.25in.) spacing to accommodate wall-wart-type plugs.

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