Are the $100 plus surge protecters really worth it?

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Beau B, Jan 17, 2004.

  1. Beau B

    Beau B Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello to all.

    I was just curious if these Monster Home Theater Surge Protectors are worth getting?

    They range in price from $30 to $400

    What do they do and will I notice the difference and where?

    I just have a couple of cheap ones at the moment.

    My setup is: Panasonic 47WX53, H/K AVR 520, Hughes Tivo2, Pioneer 563A.

    If I need to get one, what is a good amount to spend and what to look for on it?

    Thanks, Beau
     
  2. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    These are not just spike-protectors.

    The cheaper ones have some filtering.

    The more expensive ones are actually "Power Conditioners". These devices take the rough 110-130 volts from your AC power outlet (shared with your washer, dryer, AC, and eveyone else on your block), and re-rectify the power to a smooth 120 volts AC.

    One $800 Richard Gray power conditioner was passed around some reviewers. One guy said it made no difference in his 'reference' system, another reviewer said it made a dramatic difference and he was buying one.

    One of the reviewers lived way out in the country, the other in a big-city apartment with lots of light-industry nearby (crappy AC power).

    So it does not matter as much what you have, as how good/poor your AC power is.

    My advice: find a local dealer who has a 30 day return policy and buy the biggest/baddest power conditioner and bring it home. On the day and times you would normally use your equipment, watch your system for about an hour. Then install the conditioner and re-watch. Do you notice any difference? If not return the unit.

    If so, consider keeping the unit or use the internet to shop for some others. Richard Grey is one company that makes power conditioners in the $200-$900 range.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Beau B

    Beau B Stunt Coordinator

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    Richard,

    Thanks for all the info.

    I probably need to upgrade a little from my cheap ones, I just didn't know how far of an upgrade I needed. The guys at BB tried to talk me into the $200 one when I got my TV.

    They said I would be hurting my set if I did not get it.

    Beau
     
  4. Beau B

    Beau B Stunt Coordinator

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    Bob, Sorry for the name laps.

    My brain had a time out. HA HA HA


    Beau
     
  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Well I'll take a contrary view here and begin by saying that the information that Gray presents on his website is a contradiction as to how his units work. I'll elaborate if anyone cares later.

    It's no surprise the BB salesman said what they did as the markup on the Monster products and the profit on a percentage basis far exceeds that of the TV you bought. So let's back up a bit.

    Virtually every surge protector (and don't get those confused with lightning protectors...they're not) will have some degree of filtering for EMI and RFI. Since there are no standards on how to report this degree, you'll see things like 99.97% filtration or 40 dB filtration. Further the circuits used to filter might start kicking in at 1 MHz or some other value and the degree of filtration will have it's maximum at who knows what value. Maybe it's 20 MHz, maybe it's some other number. The question then becomes how do you know if you've got any high frequency noise components on your system? Well without specialized testing equipment, you don't.

    If a serious concern of yours is to protect against deadly outside surges and you happen to own your own home then a whole house protection should be installed. Utility companies and electricians can do that. If you live in lightning country, that's your most cost effective way to protect ALL the electrical components in your home. In a nut shell, whole house units route all incoming lines (AC, phone, cable, etc.) through the device passing even proximate lightning strikes harmlessly to earth ground.

    Now if you can't do that, then there are several options. You can go with something like the Stratitec (they're on the web) which is available at Sam's club or online at directron.com for around $20 or so. You've got a fair joule rating (implying a longer life time...more joules=more surges it can take) somewhere over 2500, protection for your incoming cable and phones too I believe as well as EMI/RFI filtration for the incoming AC.

    Another approach uses EMI/RFI filtration between each pair of outlets. The idea here is that you'd put your TV on the far end and anything that's got a switching power supply or maybe the SACD player at the other end. Some people feel that their units may emit RFI back down the power cords. Hence since each pair of outlets has filtration, and the effect is cumulative, the further away two devices are, the greater the filtration. For example, more cost effective than the Monster units with similar features are the Belkin AV Isolators which you can find for around $100 or $60 refurbished. The refurbished prices are pretty good.

    Both the above units use MOV's. An alternative would be units based upon Silicon Avalanche Diode (SAD) technology. Transtector makes such a unit but it's only available directly from them. That'll also protect cable and AC and provide general filtration for around $100.

    Keep something in mind here too. Your equipment was designed to operate in the real world and can tolerate and perform competently during normal voltage swings. If designed well, it can also tolerate a normal amount of noise on the AC lines since that's filtered out by the power supply. I take it when you went to BB to buy your TV you didn't see the TV's hooked up to Monster units did you? That's a far nastier environment than your home.

    Surge protectors with filtration are dirt cheap to make. I mean dirt cheap. So when you spend more the main person who benefits is the accountant.
     
  6. Beau B

    Beau B Stunt Coordinator

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    Bump!
     
  7. JamesGL

    JamesGL Stunt Coordinator

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    I am just not comfortable spending more than $100.

    I just picked up a Monster surge protector for under $50. It comes with a coax in/out as well.
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    You may want to reacquaint yourself with the HTF Rules, especially Rule 13.

    M.
     
  9. Andy Goldstein

    Andy Goldstein Stunt Coordinator

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    i've got the rptv on one ups, and the audio system on another. when the lights flicker or go out, we just keep watching. no spikes, surges, brownouts, dropouts, blackouts, rfi/emi. no nuttin!

    i started out with all the ht equipment on one ups, but it popped the input breaker during the pod race scene. works fine with two though.

    ag.
     
  10. Beau B

    Beau B Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry for the bump whomever it concerns.

    I just wanted some more info.

    I have never "bumped" before and did not know it was that big of a deal.


    B
     
  11. jeff_coil

    jeff_coil Stunt Coordinator

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    Bump!
    Just kidding I agree with the Ins thing. but I am going to buy a product from the web and waive the replacement warranty. Which I think is a hoax anyway but I am more interested in conditioning than surges
     
  12. TerryHub

    TerryHub Stunt Coordinator

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    Does anyone have a comment on which cheap protector/conditioner to purchase (most bang for the buck)?
     
  13. Stephen Weller

    Stephen Weller Stunt Coordinator

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    If your only concern is surge suppression (NOTE I did not say "protection."), then whatever your home center/hardware store has on sale/cheap. Just be sure the packaging says "3-way." You can get a cute little cube that plugs into the wall and plug an outlet strip into that. Some manufacturers offer an equipment replacement guarantee (We'll replace whatever fails due to surge while being protected by one of our devices!!!). Good luck collecting on that. [​IMG]

    My $.02:

    The magic is the MOV's. An MOV is a sacrificial device. It opens up with a surge that exceeds it's rating. From personal experience, the only *real* protection against lightening is to unplug/disconnect everything. And even [rant]that's[/rant] no guarantee. If, for whatever reason, you become aware that you've had a strike or near strike, I'd replace all my MOV-equipped devices.

    Anyone else ever heard of ball lightening? Weird science![​IMG]

    One last point. MOV's have a finite useful life. If you're depending on them for surge "protection", you should replace them periodically. Or are you willing to risk your $10K+ investment on a $2.00 device?
     
  14. TerryHub

    TerryHub Stunt Coordinator

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    Okay, so surge protection is out. I would tend to agree. But are any of the noise filters or conditioners worth anything?
     
  15. JoshuaT

    JoshuaT Stunt Coordinator

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    Maybe it is snake oil, and maybe it is not, but I have installed a isolated outlet for my HT. This goes to a hospital grade outlet (higher surface area) which then goes to a Monster HTS 3500. Does it make a huge difference? Perhaps not, but when bringing my system to reference level, I no longer get the light snow I used to. I also feel very comfortable knowing that 12K + I have invested is protected. I am very happy, but wish I lived in an area I could have tried the Richard Grey units... I am happy with the Monster though!

    ~josh
     
  16. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    It's difficult to get noise filters without surge protectors for the consumer. The converse also being true.

    Let's back up a bit. When a competent manufacturer designs a particular piece of equipment, it's designed to work with household AC. It doesn't require that the AC be a perfect sine wave. Further the engineers know what particular circuits or aspects of say their receiver are susceptible to RFI that may be riding the AC line. Probably some particular piece of digital circuitry. So what you'll find in this equipment is specific circuitry placed early in the AC path (it may even be in those IEC plugs on the back where you stick your power cord into) to deal with those frequencies which can be problematic. Overall I think they do a pretty competent job.

    Now some people for reasons that may be real or imagined, want to further clean up their AC. The problem of course is they don't know...
    1) if they've got a problem
    2) if they do they don't know if it's airborn and if so where is it coming from
    3) if it's lineborn and if so where is it coming from
    4) what frequency it might be

    and so forth.

    Now without being able to obtain answers to say something like item 4) above, we really don't know what we should be looking for so we apply a generic approach just to cover our asses. Further, since virtually no manufacturer provides graphical data indicating over what range their EMI/RFI circuitry works (it's a non linear relationship) we've got no way to really evaluate one vs. another objectively since whatever information is presented is lacking in details.

    If you're going to buy one of these units you might as well get something with a higher joule rating. That'll give you the piece of mind that its lifetime will be greater than one with a lower number. Now if your personality is such that your very concerned, then I'd recommend something like the Belkin Isolators or even TrippLites Isobar units for HT. After all, you want to make sure that your cable also runs through the unit. Both of these products have EMI/RFI filtering between each pair of outlets so that if any EMI were to come back down the AC line, it's 'stopped' at the next bank.

    In summation, there's no answer to what's the best or what's the best at the cheapest price. Before you can answer something like that, you need to be able to identify your problem and then choose a solution. Look, IV drip morphine is a great pain killer, but you don't need it if all you've got is a headache.
     
  17. Stephen Weller

    Stephen Weller Stunt Coordinator

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    Nothing about HT is based on need.

    What I want for my headache is another matter. [​IMG]
     
  18. Ellen

    Ellen Stunt Coordinator

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    What's the difference between a line conditioner and an isolation transformer?
     
  19. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Well first one might well ask what is a Line Conditioner? It's a term that's used very loosely in general and especially loosely in audio. It's also a term that seems to add some dollars to the price of something because you think you're getting something special.
    It seems that whenever we add some kind of circuitry that has an effect on the AC waveform someone calls it a Line Conditoner. So along those lines, having EMI/RFI filtration would qualify. So would just adding a capacitor across say the hot and ground. So would balanced power, AC regeneration, AC stabilization, over/under voltage control, isolation transformers, and I'm sure I've missed a few. Let's say that they all fall under the very broad umbrella with the words Line Conditioner written on it.

    Without getting overly technical, an isolation transformer is a 1:1 transformer that isolates the AC power from whatever is connected to it. It provides for substantial noise reduction on the AC line and finds utility in a variety of situations such as medical equipment, POS (point of sale, not piece of ****) devices, etc. They can be installed by the AC mains or in portable configurations as made by companies like Furman or Tripplite. To further confuse matters, there are also Audio Isolation Transformers which go directly into the audio path. Jensen manufactures such devices and 'comparatively' inexpensive products are available from a company called Ebtech (sp?) Hum Eliminators. Generally you'll find such products in professional music shops like your local Guitar Center.

    Confusing, huh?
     

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