Power Conditioner Comparison
Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.
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There’s a subtle danger lurking inside your wall socket — dirty power. That dirt is a combination of electromagnetic interference (EMI) from appliances like your vacuum cleaner and radio frequency interference (RFI) from mobile phones and microwaves. EMI and RFI can rob your home theater system of its full potential.
You might not notice the muted color and contrast on your TV, or the softness of detail in your audio — just that your movies and music don’t quite deliver the excitement they should. Fortunately, no matter how small or large your system, there’s a solution.
Can clean power make a difference? To the Labs!
Power conditioners clean up that dirty power by removing EMI and RFI, resulting in better system performance. How much better? To find out, we tested the effectiveness of three power protectors with some informal objective and subjective testing. We used a noise sniffer to objectively measure interference. For our subjective test, we assembled a panel of three Crutchfield audio/video enthusiasts in the Crutchfield Labs home theater room for some critical listening and viewing.
Sniffing out dirty power
Our primary test equipment was a noise sniffer that detects and measures EMI and RFI. This device plugs into an outlet (whether in the wall or on a component like a power conditioner) and shows line noise with a digital readout. The lower the number, the less the electrical interference and therefore the cleaner the power.
Which level of power conditioning is right for you?
|Monster Power AV 800|
Here are three recommendations based on our testing (with comments from our test panelists):
1. Basic power protection
The Monster Power AV 800 is ideal for a small bedroom or den entertainment system. While not a power conditioner per se,the AV 800's designed to minimize the signal losscommon among simple surge protectors. It features eight protected outlets plus satellite/cable coaxial input and output.
“When viewing a concert DVD, deep blacks appeared more solid and stable (compared to the same scene with unconditioned power) and it was easier to hear the guitar’s reverb.” – Steve, Senior Editor, Crutchfield Creative Department
2. Better power protection and power conditioning for a larger component system
|Panamax M4300-PM power line conditioner|
The Panamax M4300-PM is designed for a standard, multi-component home theater system. Eight AC outlets on the back panel are divided into two electrically isolated banks to help prevent digital and high-current analog components from interfering with each other. The M4300-PM also features a protected USB charger for your portable electronic devices, plus two adjustable-intensity convenience lights that illuminate your gear.
“On the TV, [the Panamax] greatly improved image definition in the dark areas, with no blurring or artifacts of any kind. When listening to music, I heard deeper bass and better high frequency detail.” – Jordan, Senior Manager, Sales Development & Technology
3. Advanced power conditioning for high-performance electronics
|Furman Elite-15 PFi power line conditioner|
The Furman Elite-15 PFi is made for high-performance home theater components and larger HDTV and projector systems. It delivers wide-bandwidth noise filtration, and promptly delivers more power when needed for broader dynamics. Instantaneous peaks, such as a cymbal crash or an explosion, sound as loud and expansive as they should. Twelve AC outlets with hospital-grade connectors are divided into three isolated banks to prevent cross-interference.
“Everything appeared bright, clean, and crisp. Deep, rich blacks made for great image contrast. The sound was very open.” – Annissa, Crutchfield Digital Assets Coordinator
The clean power test panel
TV expert and audiophile Steve, digital A/V specialist Jordan, and A/V enthusiast Annissa made up our panel. We played the same chapter from a Blu-ray disc with all components plugged into each of our three power protectors in turn. We then ran everything straight from the wall outlet. Even the skeptical noticed a difference. Read more about our test and what our panelists had to say in The Power Conditioner Challenge.