If you’ve been fortunate enough to be able to add a home theater system to your media center, then you probably have heard some folks express concern over picture and sound quality issues that can stem from poor connections, interference from other household appliances and other line noise disturbances. You want a solid picture, you want clear sound, but how do you know you’re getting it and how do you make sure A/V quality is up to snuff? If you are concerned about receiving the best quality audio and video experience from your system, then you will interested in learning about a home theater power conditioner, which can correct the A/V issues above.
What does a power conditioner do?
Well, power line conditioners have several functions.
The first and foremost is surge protection. As you may know, everything electronic in the home is susceptible to power surges or spikes in electricity from your power lines. These fluctuations occur several times a day without any warning and without showing any symptoms until it is too late. Too late, meaning a power surge can destroy integral circuitry within electronic equipment causing them to fail, ultimately costing you lots of money to replace them. Surge protection stops this irreversible damage from happening.
The second function is most likely the reason you’re looking into the subject in the first place: Line noise filtration.
Remember when you were young and your mother would come into the room with the vacuum cleaner and the picture on the television would go fuzzy? That’s AC line noise, or EMI line noise (electromagnetic interference). Various objects in your home can cause it, the vacuum being the most obvious. Other items include washer and dryer units, a hair dryer or a food processor.
On the other side of the coin is RFI, or radio frequency interference. This is external noise that pushes into your audio equipment, like the CB radio you pick up on your radio when an 18-wheeler passes by. Other items that can create RFI disturbances are cell phones, other radios and even other televisions.
Now, there’s a natural amount of line noise in every AC connection and there’s no way to eliminate it completely, but you can control excessive levels of noise through filtration via power conditioning so that your home theater audio and video streams deliver clearly and articulately without disruption.
Thirdly, a home theater power conditioner will regulate the voltage coming into the power line to correct levels of high and low harmonics through AC regeneration. AC regeneration is a relatively new concept and not all line conditioner surge protectors have it, leaving the low level audio spectrum vulnerable to line noise on those without the technology. Be sure to ask about this when making a purchase. The downside to having an AC regeneration package is the cost, which looms in the low thousands.
What’s the difference between a surge protector and a line conditioner?
The biggest difference is that surge protectors only protect against surges in power. Line conditioners have surge protection installed within them, so you get the benefit of surge protection along with the other functions already mentioned.
Can I use a line conditioner instead of a surge protector?
As long as your model has surge protection you should be fine. It used to be that power line conditioners were manufactured without surge protection so that your equipment would be left vulnerable without a separate device. Today’s technology is far more advanced than it was just ten years ago and surge protection has rolled with the changing tides to keep up. Due to their overwhelming demand in the market, devices like line conditioners and Uninterruptible Power Supplies are now equipped with surge protection.
How do I choose the best power conditioner for my set up?
You already know you should look for a device that offers surge protection, as most will. Battery backup is another good option to invest in.
Why? Because those expensive plasma televisions cool down before they turn off by way of fans. Sudden loss of power will prevent those fans from doing their job, which in turn could seriously damage your investment. Having a battery backup will offer enough time for the television to cool down before shutting down.
Along with voltage regulation and power regeneration, other features to include are:
- Additional outlets made for adapters. Big bulky wall warts can take up two outlet spaces in a normal device. You want something that hosts both sizes.
- A wall mounting option provides for concealable or adaptable equipment.
- Phone line connections for peripherals with RJ inputs. Some devices like TiVo or satellite dishes may require phone line ports which should always be surge protected.
Which companies make the best power conditioner on the market?
In no particular order, the best of the best are listed below:
- APC: American Power Conversion has been on top of the industry since its inception and their power conditioners have built-in battery backup power.
- Cyberpower: A proven powerhouse in the surge protection industry.
- Furman: Best known for their AC power conditioning products, the company has been around since 1974. The Furman line is now owned by Panamax but still carries the Furman name.
- Monster Cable: Often criticized for being overpriced, you can deny the reliability of these products.
- Panamax: Over 30 years of industry innovation and leadership has made Panamax power conditioners top products to be trusted.
- Tripplite: The first to introduce personal computer UPS protection, Tripplite has been in business for nearly 85 years.