Power cord, strip, distributor, conditioner, surge protector...what is/does what?
Nov 23, 2009 at 6:33 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

champ

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I am an audio noob and just starting to put together a headphone setup. I have read and received various recommendations on what to get and not to get in terms of power. The most common and somewhat conflicting/confusing recommendations I get are:

1) If you have a good power cord, you don't need a power conditioner. A good power cord will already do sufficient filtering and improve sound. Sometimes a power conditioner can actually worsen things and detract from the sound. Just use a surge protector.

2) Power surges are rare especially if you don't live in an area prone to lighting, so skip the surge protector and just get a power conditioner--it will improve the sound of your system.

3) Your CDP and amp already have some kind of fuse built into it, so you don't need a surge protector--a double fuse will worsen the sound. In fact, surge protectors in general degrade performance since they sometimes suppress voltage to a certain limit so you are starving your equipment of sufficient power.

Btw, to me a surge protector, power strip, and power distributor seems to be the same thing. To my simplistic understanding, there are only two things whatever the terms may be:

1) Something that protects from power surges but doesn't clean up sound.

2) Something that conditions the power to clean up sound but doesn't protect from power surges.

Of course there are some products that try to do both, but I would like to know what is recommended if surge protection and power conditioning are separate units...unless a combination unit is really the best solution.

My CDP is using a Cardas Golden Reference power cord, and my amp is using the Graham Slee PSU1. Right now I have them plugged into the simple Belkin Compact Surge Protector I picked up from a computer store. It is not even the Belkin Pure AV. I am assuming my this is the same as plugging everything directly into the wall--except I am protected from surges.

Oh yeah, there may be lighting once or twice a year, but my office building does send out notices from time to time about a power shut down and lets everyone know to shut down computers and such. I leave everything plugged in (instead of switching off the power bar) because it is recommended that my amp be left on all the time.
 
Nov 23, 2009 at 10:23 AM Post #3 of 10

fenixdown110

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You want something that protects from power surges and acts as a power conditioner. The Pure AV as you mentioned is a good one. It doesn't really affect sonic quality. The lower model Monster PowerCenter ones will though, so stay away from those. A power condition will remove noise. I had it initially without a power conditioner and it's very annoying. Snap, crackle, and pop all throughout songs. The addition of a power conditioner cleaned that up and upgrading all my interconnects and power cables to triple/quadruple shielded large gauge cables cleaned it up even more and increased soundstage and depth.
 
Nov 23, 2009 at 11:39 PM Post #4 of 10
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I believe the idea of a power conditioner is to reproduce a perfect AC sine wave from imperfect AC power. Other devices I've seen use a number of noise filtering capacitors to remove interference, or electronic trickery to do the same. As for power cords, possibly the capacitance of the cord acts as a kind of filter as well.
 
Nov 24, 2009 at 12:44 AM Post #5 of 10

scootermafia

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Power cords - give a pure signal transfer and prevent additional contamination of the signal if they are properly shielded and dampened, but do not clean up the power per se. The Lessloss power cords do offer some trick materials and engineering that they say acts as a passive filter. But these sorts of things are rare.

Power strips/distributors - the goal with these is just to turn one wall outlet into many without current limiting or fouling up the signal. The $7000 Furutech Purepower 6 is an overkill version of this, with a heavy machined chassis and all sorts of trick materials to absorb EMI/RF/gremlins such that anything dirty that is around the surface of the wire will be eaten up, or any bad stuff bouncing around inside the case will be dealt with, in theory.

Power conditioners - use various capacitors and other trickery to filter the power. The Monster Power centers or various PS audio products do this. They clean up the power but many do not like these as they may current limit or color the power signal. I have one of these, and it's hard to say how much it avails me of, I haven't experimented all that much with power products but it's a goal for me for 2010. These do prevent power surges so that's the main reason I have it. Also, mine has a cool analog voltage-meter on the front, plus lots of neat looking screws! /sarcasm

Power regenerators - The PS Audio Power Plant Premier. Basically works like a power amp, except it is taking power from the wall and running it into a huge torroid that is re-making the power with proper sine wave & all (I haven't bothered to learn specifically how it works, just that it supposedly makes clean power from scratch). I plan to buy one of these next year as it is said to provide substantial gains in sound quality, as it is outputting exactly 120V in theory, and the power in my area is pretty spiky.

Power stabilizer: The Monster Power AVS is an example of this. It uses a variac (look it up, I'm not going to explain it) transformer to forcefully adjust the power to exactly 120V. It makes menacing clicking noises as it does this, and weighs roughly 75 pounds. I always wanted one as a kid, but it seems to me that the Power Plant is a better product. The Power Plant also to my knowledge does not have to be used with any sort of power conditioner, as its output is supposedly perfect.
 
Nov 24, 2009 at 1:05 AM Post #6 of 10

fenixdown110

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Very informative. Too bad regenerators and stabilizers are so expensive.
 
Nov 24, 2009 at 3:37 AM Post #7 of 10

scootermafia

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Well, they're not a huge priority until you're paying $4k+ worth of gear. Till then, there are other things (HD800s, hint, hint) to buy.
 
Nov 24, 2009 at 4:08 AM Post #8 of 10

fenixdown110

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biggrin.gif
I was thinking HE60's...
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Nov 24, 2009 at 5:57 AM Post #9 of 10

champ

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Wow, thanks for everyone's input especially scootermafia's detailed breakdown of what's what. I definitely have a clearer idea. Sounds like a power regenerator would be a dream but yeah, it will have to wait until my setup is worth the big $$$.

As for a simple surge protectors that don't clean power or improve SQ, does anyone know if they commonly make SQ worse?
 
Nov 24, 2009 at 6:10 AM Post #10 of 10

fenixdown110

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Surge protectors alone won't alter SQ, although some power conditioners can.
 

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