Note: This entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around July / 2011. I am just revisiting it here.
Amps and rest of studio gear are delicate electronics devices, that you should protect against irregularities in your mains source. Even that the standard for Power Conditioners in Audio seems to be Furman, their prices seem to be as really high for such a kind of device.
For a correct protections, just a Power Conditioner isn't enough. We need a Power Regulator also. Both should have some kind of transformer inside that can physically decouple the ground of our mains from the ground of our gear, to clean up a dirty ground.
Browsing an online store, my first impulse was to buy a Samson unit (a brand with some reputation and excellent relation quality / price but, absolutely forgotten by everybody) but, there were nothing in stock.
So, in the range of affordable power conditioners, I've found this Phonic PPC9000E, that has a Voltmeter and 3 protection levels, typical in this kind of devices and, very similar to those that Furman offers.
Far from thinking that this device could remove the noise in my signal, my goals were:
- To really know which voltage is reaching my amps (I was suspecting something wrong there)
- To protect amps and pedalboards from the common dangerous electrical alterations.
In such a case, best is to have some Voltage Regulator device (instead of a Power Conditioner), which will deliver a stable and filtered mains but, their price is really high and, maybe is a better idea to use some kind of UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply), with a nice capacity (between 5 and 10 KVA), not being so necessary to support a long offline time (running from batteries). But, UPS world is still more complex than expected.
Recently, I had seen a worker from the electrical company that was making changes to the electrical lines because, it seems that some neighbor was claiming about not having voltage enough at home.
That made me to think about, which quality of mains did I had.
So, I've expected that the voltmeter of this device would inform me about any irregularity in my voltage source.
I've decided to go for this unit because of two reasons.
First, the price. If it didn't worked at the end, I had wasted not so much money and, if it worked fine, I would save a lot of money.
Second, I've already have something else of this brand. I have a SPL Meter also by Phonic and, it looks a good device to me, with quality enough and nicely working.
The unit comes packet in a cardboard box, commonly protected, as any kind of consume domestic electronics device. Inside also, an User's Manual in English, Chinese and Spanish.
It looks like solid and with an standard quality. It has not that "cheap Chinese" look. Seems as good as any other of my home's devices.
It has 10 output plugs, of the same type of those that we usually see in PC's monitors, videos, TV sets, etc. Those outputs are protected and, you activate them by pushing a frontal switch.
Additionally to those 10 protected outputs, there is one more output in the front, unprotected.
This device supports a maximum current of 10 Amps, situation that forces the device to shutdown, until we re-arm the device, with the corresponding frontal switch.
The device takes the room of 1U Rack and, can be inserted in any Studio Rack.
It has a couple of telescopic lamps (included), that can be lighted on via one more frontal switch and, which intensity can be regulated with a potentiometer.
In my case, the unit is laying over a 4x12" speakers cab, feeding all amps and pedals.
Since the plugs aren't compatible with amp's plugs, I had to source some aerial adaptor cables, to connect everything there.
The front has a set of leds in three colors. Red for very low voltage levels, yellow for values between 210 and 220 and, green for values between 220 and 250 and, red again over 250V.
The accuracy of the voltmeter is of +/- 2V, more than enough.
The device is being plugged to any wall socket of your mains and, you connect each one of the gear to protect to any of the 10 available outputs. You switch on the switch to activate the filtering and, everything works transparently.
It was very curious to see how my mains voltage varies, constantly. Without going below 220V, there are very frequent oscillations between 220V and 240V.
What I am missing is a general switch. The voltmeter is always working, as soon as the device continues plugged to your wall socket so, to avoid any energy consumption you should unplug the device. Weird.
Till today, the protection circuit never jumped and, at least, I can see how consistent is the voltage I am receiving at home and, it's ok by now (I had doubts).
What I never imagined is that this device, that has not a system to decouple the ground, could clean the sound in any single way. Surprisingly, the sound of some engines (freezer, ...) that were inducing some noise in my amps seems to be over and, the pedal board, overall works more quietly.
Even that the manual specifies that it cleans the noise, in very different degrees, depending on the frequency ranges, I wasn't expecting a real change but, surprisingly, it seems to do something good.
A nice purchasing, considering performance, quality and price.
If you talk to some electronics guy, he would probably agree that Furman' stuff is highly overpriced and, there are some other cheaper alternatives of quality at lower prices, that correspond to well known brands in the industrial sector but, probably unknown for musicians.
If you wanted a best protection and a higher attenuation of electrical noises, you should go for a Power Regulator or an UPS, with a transformer that could decouple your mains ground from your gears' ground.
The equivalent of the Phonic PPC9000E in Furman is the model PL-PLUS CE. While the Phonic costs 85 Eur, the Furman costs 338 Eur (a huge difference !!!).
Samson had a device very similar to that PPC9000E but, with an slightly higher price.
Related to a Power Regulator, Furman has the model P-1400 AR E, that costs around 1125 Eur.
I am quite sure that you could find Power Regulators with similar characteristics in the industry, at lower prices but, even an UPS of between 5 to 10 KVA could be a good solution. You don't need a long batteries time, because you don't want to close a Server, you just want a consistent voltage, a good filtering and a right protection, that's all.
Update July, 17th 2011
Today, I've chased the ghost!.
As ever, I had reviewed the setting of every pedal and amp before starting my practices.
Everything was sounding great and, I was enjoying like a mad... until that, after one hour, more or less, I've noticed that everything started to sound thin, hollow, lifeless.
I thought: "what a strange, I don't feel tired, I am not bored but, this isn't sounding any good... are my ears or what?".
I've turn my head and saw that the Voltmeter was in the Red area!. I had a voltage below 200V!.
So, finally, my suspects were right. I've noticed that some days the gear was sounding awesome, while others every was sounding really bad and, none of my settings seemed to work.
Well, after this, I have arguments enough to claim to my power company, because they gave me a bad line and my gear suffers their lack of quality.
Also, a friend of mine went to my home and, he was surprised saying that everything was sounding really quiet and, asking me what I did. I've introduced him that Phonic unit and said: "this little boy, for 83 Eur is doing the job!".
Absolutely satisfied with this unit.