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Have You Optimized the AC Power in Your Home Theater?

Last week's poll question asked if your home theater's AC power is protected from things like lightning strikes and blackouts. This week, I'd like to know if you have taken steps to optimize the AC power to your home theater. Such steps can include installing a dedicated circuit, establishing a common ground, and using a power conditioner, such as the Furman IT-Reference 20i pictured above.

If you use a power conditioner, have you noticed an improvement in the audio and/or video performance of your system that you can reasonably attribute to that device? Inquiring minds want to know!

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Have You Optimized the AC Power in Your Home Theater?

true audio's picture

I had no idea what a good power conditioner could do for video and audio until I bought a furman. WOW! I was blow away! Wouldn't live without it. Video was crisp,more detailed,colors were richer. Audio was tight,more focused,highs and lows much cleaner and clearer.

msardo's picture

Yes - absolutely it helps. I saw it most when I had a line conditioner connected to my projector. Things got sharper, clearer, etc. Plus, since it also has surge protection, I have more confidence as well.

I don't have the projector system anymore, but I still use (and will always use) a line conditioner/surge protection of some kind - definitely more than a $10.00 power strip.

Ccondo's picture

Any suggestions on what type of line conditioner to use for a projector? Can't exactly hang one of those large rack type components...
I currently have the projector on its own 15amp breaker going to a recessed plug.


msardo's picture

What I used was exactly this - Home Theater PowerCenter™ HT 200 from Monster cables. I do not know if I am allowed to posts links here, but here is the product page:

if that does not work, search for HT 200 on the website.

It is small, provides level 1 line conditioning, and goes directly into the outlet that you have near the projector.

I know that there are more "serious" products, but this gave me the peace of mind and the improvements I mentioned above in this thread for 50 bucks.

true audio's picture

First of all, I don't know what kind of projector you have or how much money it costs. If you have a $500.00 projector a simple (Monster brand) surge unit would be fine. On the other hand if you have a $2500.00-5000.00 projector then I would at least get a (Panamax)brand surge/cond unit. $400.00-500.00.The Furman shown above is a (IT reference 20i) and cost about $3600.00. All good conditioners have designated circuits for both audio and video.Some conditioners are for a 15 amp circuit and the others for a 20 amp. (if you have multiple power amps.)Google (Furman Sound) and you can read all about protection and dirty ac power that most of us power our equipment with. Scott knows the Furman brand as being a stellar product!If your serious about putting a great home theater together,I think the most important componet would be your protection and cleaning up the dirty AC.Think of the this unit as being the brain and heart of your system. I love my furman and wouldn't run my theater without it ! Good Luck!

Ccondo's picture

I run a JVC-X3. Does it matter how old the wiring is? My house is 3 yrs old, so does conditioning less necessary?

true audio's picture

Doesn't matter. The ac coming out of the wall is great for a toaster,hair dryer and power tools! Not for audio & video.

ca1ore's picture

Not sure if my power is 'optimized' or not, but I have certainly tken steps to try to improve the quality of the juice that gets sent to my theater system. I do think that these devices can make a difference, although in my case it has been pretty subtle (reduction of background noise, musc clarity).

DaleC's picture

"Optimized" is an interesting, and, apparently, VERY expensive word.

I have the Panamax m5500-EX. It was a gift from a friend and it seems to be very well built and do a competent job. My background is pro-audio, meaning the systems you listen to when you go see a concert with a few thousand of your closest friends, and recording studios, where we create the music you listen to on your own systems. Furman is a name widely spread throughout both experiences.

I understand the benefits of conditioning the power coming out of my wall outlet. I KNOW it is dirty and noisy. I like the warranties offered and the surge protection. I also have an industrial surge protector on the main power coming into the house. I made certain that my home is properly grounded.

The biggest advantage of the Panamax, after conditioning the nasty power coming out of that wall, is the convenience of multiple connections and the automation benefits of the unit.

Try to sell me $ 1000 power cords to connect my gear to my Panamax and I will laugh in your face :-)

I probably would not have paid for this unit. That money would be MUCH better spent on room treatments. In fact, I would suggest you spend your time researching room treatments and your money on absorption, isolation and diffusion BEFORE you by the first component. Only then, would I look at things like power conditioning for SONIC and VISUAL improvements.

marsB86's picture

As we know a AC consists of huge amount of powers therefore it needs more than 100w to 200w of power supply therefore it cost a more than normal electricity, although I never before experiment these opportunities while optimizing AC with home theater but its seems to be very interesting to inquire.
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nicolaswilbrox's picture

Nice discussion! I got all your thoughts about the AC power system in home theater by reading out this post. I was looking forward for such kind of info. Thanks for this nice allocation and carry on...

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PuterPro's picture

@Dale C - Loved your comment, until the last paragraph...

I've been an A/V Repair Tech for 47 Years, currently a Computer Tech (only 36 Years for that... LOL). I was Factory Trained on UPS and Power conditioning for units up to 20 KVA. I was also the guy who had to check off that the electrical was properly setup for multi-million $ Server rooms, before they could be brought online. I had a picture badge to get onto Cape Canaveral. I know just a bit about power and conditioning ...

Your opinion that people should spend their $$ on room treatments and not power protection is absurd, to say the least.

I'll not argue with you that they will get much better SOUND IMPROVEMENT for dollar spent by installing room treatments, but the people that can afford to go that route have a large budget and tend to have VERY expensive equipment. Most reading this have thousands invested.

Leaving that equipment unprotected or protected with a low end product is flatly ridiculous! If someone has invested thousands (or tens of thousands!) of dollars on electronics, NOT investing in a GOOD (read expensive...!) Power conditioner like this Panamax, or a Furman, is just begging for a surge to take it all out.

I live in Florida, currently, where we have huge exposure to lightning. One strike can put 70,000 amps into the ground. (Most houses have a 150 - 200 Amp breaker box for an idea of scale). If a tiny fraction of that gets into your system you can kiss your H/T goodbye (as well as a lot of the rest of your house).

Florida Power & Light spends hundreds of millions to protect their equipment. Most power companies don’t invest as heavily, and produce many more non lightning surges. BTW - FPL offers a “protection” plan that turns out to be nothing but a glorified insurance policy that’s almost impossible to make a claim against. YOU are responsible for protecting YOUR equipment. If you’re on this plan, Google “FPL scam”. You’ll stop. Get a Whole House protector, they’re fairly cheap.

For FL residents, power protection isn't a nice thing, it's a necessity. If you live in FL, OR other places with lightning, a WHOLE HOUSE protection is a must, it will keep you from getting burned to the ground, and protect stuff like your Refer, microwave, and motor driven items. It also reduces what reaches your smaller protectors.

That said, they DON’T protect sensitive electronics, so you must ALSO have a conditioner or UPS (battery backup) on those items AS WELL. Think of it like having Andre the Giant protecting your house with a couple small Ninjas’ protecting your H/T & Computers.

Please note that lightning is FAR from the only source of surges. It can come from a circular saw in the garage or you plugging in a vacuum cleaner! Microwave ovens often produce very large surges. You got one of those? :-)

Which do you use where? A UPS is good for computer systems, and other non audio equipment, heck I have one on my Anova in my kitchen (look it up). Another use is on a DVR, so you don't lose a recording if the power dies just as the big game is on and you're out ...! LOL!

Power conditioners like this Panamax (I own an M-5500EX) or those from Furman (considered by the Music industry guys to be the only way to go for rack mounted equipment) will clean up the power line noise, as well as protect from surges and spikes.

The ones for Home Theater applications have addition circuitry and design elements to handle the huge momentary demands inflicted by a high end amp or subwoofer that a standard conditioner would throttle. It’s called many things by different companies, and no, it’s NOT “just a capacitor”. It’s usually inductor based, the opposite of a capacitor. It’s expensive to design & implement, so …

Sonically, there will be a difference, particularly in suddenly loud scenes, and a much lowered noise floor in the quiet scenes. How much YOU notice it will depend on many matters and is a subject of spirited debate. But you buy it for the protection, not sonic improvement, that’s just a plus. (My point to @Dale C.)

Bottom line: If you have more than a thousand dollars invested, RUN, don't walk to buy a HOME THEATER rated power conditioner. DUMP THOSE SURGE PROTECTOR STRIPS THAT COST UNDER $150! They’re garbage! And if it’s in a plastic case, could actually burn down your house! Google it.

That said, at the very least get a power conditioner (not some stupid Monster cable overpriced junk surge protector!). Monster is a player in this game, and has some OK equipment, but having dissembled and examined them with a trained eye, what you get for what you pay for, Furman & Panamax leave them in the dust. Monster ANYTHING is overpriced for the quality. IMHO. :-)

Best to All, PuterPro