Okay, so if you’ve been around pro audio long enough you’ve probably heard the term “Dirty Power”. The term Dirty Power is generally used as a term that is used to describe several different problems such as:
- Power Serges
- Voltage Sag or Spikes
- NoiseGround Loops
In some cases, these problems can damage your audio equipment. Typically, these problems are caused by poor building wiring or issues with the power company’s infrastructure.
In some cases, fixing Dirty Power at the root cause is not feasible and is why power condoning equipment is necessary. Using power conditioning equipment with a sound system is a fairly complex issue. The subject is discussed on most Pro Audio forums and you’ll always find several posts which debate the relevance or legitimacy of power conditioning.
So, what is power conditioning used for?
Power conditioning is used to clean up the mains power before it reaches sensitive equipment. Now power supplies in the majority of equipment will clean the mains power to a certain extent. However not all power supplies are created equally and a lot of power supplies aren’t designed to handle major Dirty Power issues. Power Conditioning devices can be used to combat the following issues:
1. Clean up AC power by removing RF or Direct Current noise
2. Prevent power surges from damaging expensive equipment. There is a difference between a decent Power Conditioner and a surge protector:
- Power Condoners aren’t destroyed after taking the hit from a power serge and continue to protect your equipment afterwards
- Surge protectors for the most part can only dissipate 1 surge. After a single surge, they no longer provide any protection
3. Voltage sags and spikes can damage equipment and some power conditioning devices offer voltage regulation
4. Some power condoners offer isolation which can be used to correct ground loops and possibly remove DMX or PWM chatter. (Although there are other ways to get rid of DMX and PWM which are usually more suitable.)
Types of power condoning Devices
There are few devices that are capable of doing power condoning which include:
The notion that Power Condoners “are nothing more than fancy power strips is partly true” as that is basically what many cheap Power Condoners are.
Power Condoners for the most part describe devices that are capable of:
- removing RF, Direct Current and other noise
- dissipate power surges before they have a chance to damage your equipment
- isolate connected equipment (sometimes a feature but not always)
Power Condoners manufacturers make a variety of models with different feature sets. When looking to buy a Power Condoner you need make sure you’re getting one with all the features you need.
The main purpose of a voltage regulator is to remove voltages spikes and drops. Some Voltage Regulators also offer the same functionality as Power Condoners. Voltage Regulators tent to be very expensive and prices generally starting at around $1,100AUD.
Online UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)
Online UPS (also called Double Conversion UPS) work by converting the AC mains power to DC, which is then stored in a battery. The DC stored in the battery is then re-converted to AC to supply power to connected equipment. The benefit of using an Online UPS is that it can:
- Do everything a Power Condoner and Voltage Regulator can
- Continue to provide power when the mains power drops below the input cut out level – which not the case with Power Condoners and Voltage Regulators.
- Keep you your gear running during brownouts and blackouts
Choosing the Correct power condoning Device
If you are having Dirty Power issues than it’s always better to solve at your building’s fuse box or at the problems root cause. When you can solve do this than you should start looking at a power conditioning device.
If your power is clean and you have good mains wiring in your building you can get away with a surge protector. If you have equipment that is generating RF or DC noise than a Power Condoner is all you need. If you are suffering from a mains voltage issue then you’ll want to look into a Voltage Regulator or Online UPS. If you’ve got a portable rig where power can be all over the place quality wise, then an Online UPS is probably a better choice over a Voltage Regulator. A Voltage Regulator or Online UPS can also be used to smooth out power being provided from a generator.
Types of UPS
Types of Voltage Regulators
Zach Radloff lives on the Gold Coast. He is studding IT and Multimedia at university and is a qualified Live Production, Theatre and Events Technician.
Zach Radloff's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/zach-radloff.html