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While building my home theater system, I realized that I was running a lot of power into one room for all of my devices. This got me wondering whether I was fine with a standard surge protector, or whether I would benefit from a power conditioner.
So, are home theater power conditioners worth it?
Power conditioners reduce the amount of electrical noise that comes from an outlet, so you’d only see a difference if you have dirty power. If you’ve never had any issues with your power, and you currently don’t notice electrical interference, then a power conditioner isn’t worth it.
While you might not notice any electrical noise on your devices (usually in the form of a hum or white noise), this doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Although power conditioners mainly protect against EMF noise, I found they can benefit home theater systems in other ways.
This article explains what a power conditioner does, and when it can be useful for a home theater system.
What Does A Power Conditioner Do?
A power conditioner is meant to improve the quality of electricity that comes from an outlet. It does this by regulating the voltage, suppressing noise, and often also protects the devices from power surges. It’s plugged into an electrical outlet, and then other devices are plugged into it.
The most important purpose of a power conditioner for a home theater system is noise suppression. A power conditioner rates noise suppression in decibels, and each device will come with a rating. The higher the number in decibels, the better a power conditioner will be at suppressing noise.
Another useful feature is surge protection, something I’ve found to be quite useful when protecting expensive home theater equipment. Power surges are caused by spikes in electrical current, and a power conditioner is able to absorb a certain level of electrical current before blowing. This is rated in joules, and so a higher joule rating means the device offers better levels of protection.
When it comes to using a power conditioner for a home theater system, the reduction in background noise can theoretically make a difference to sound quality, and can reduce the amount of white noise present in speakers. The same is true for TVs and DVD players, simply because the background noise can result in a grainier picture, or poorer sound quality.
A high quality power conditioner like the Panamax MR4300 (see it on Amazon) will have multiple sockets, and each one will be isolated. This means that if one device blows a fuse, it won’t cause a surge that knocks out the other devices. It also reduces the chance of interference from one device to another. For example, if your Wi-Fi router is plugged into the same outlet, it will interfere less with your TV when plugged into an isolated socket.
I found this can be a useful feature with a home theater system, because it’s likely that you have several expensive devices plugged into the same outlet, and so it’s worth protecting them individually if possible. Also, if you’re a true audiophile, then sound quality is quite important, and you’ll want to take every opportunity to reduce background noise.
When Is A Power Conditioner Worth It?
As I mentioned earlier in the article, the main purpose of a power conditioner in a home theater system is to reduce noise and protect against power surges. For this reason, they are more useful if you live in an area with dirty power, or an area that suffers from frequent thunderstorms. They’re also useful if you live in an area with noticeable power outages, as this indicates older and less reliable power infrastructure.
Dirty power is a term that refers to an electrical current with an inconsistent voltage and frequency. Some areas will be worse affected than others, and there’s little you can do about it from your end, aside from installing various protective devices around the home. Unless your dirty power is very minor, you’ll likely already know whether you’re affected by this problem.
If you live in an area that suffers from thunderstorms, a power conditioner can be very useful. Thunderstorms can knock out power by causing massive electrical surges through the system. While these aren’t particularly common, it only takes one to knock out your entire home theater system, most likely damaging it beyond repair.
A power conditioner would be beneficial in this situation because it will protect your devices from power surges, regardless of the cause. Having each device isolated within the same power conditioner will be an extra level of protection, which is very useful when you’re spending lots of money on expensive equipment. The last thing you want is for your new speakers to be fried by a spring storm.
However, if you live in an area with consistent and reliable power, and you don’t experience thunderstorms that often, then a regular surge protector will likely do the job fine. If you have no reason to suspect your power is dirty, then your system won’t benefit that much from a power conditioner, as the difference wouldn’t be noticeable.
Power conditioners are expensive pieces of equipment, so it’s worth figuring out whether your system would benefit before you commit to buying one.
Power Conditioner Vs. Surge Protector For Home Theater System
Power conditioners are usually very expensive pieces of equipment and claim to offer a wide range of benefits, whereas surge protectors are inexpensive pieces of equipment that are widely available everywhere.
So which is better for your home theater system?
When I first set up my home theater system, I experienced quite a bit of background noise. I’d recently bought a new, high quality speaker system, and I noticed much more interference than before. For this reason, I decided to invest in a power conditioner after doing research online.
A power conditioner is only really of noticeable benefit when you have a problem with background noise and EMF radiation. There are a number of reasons why this might be an issue, and you’re much better looking to overcome the problem than trace it back to its source. A power conditioner is a good way of fixing the issue, and by regulating the voltage it can reduce interference, which results in better picture and sound quality.
While power conditioners also offer surge protection, this technology has become more common in even bottom-line multi-plug adaptors. Even though power networks have improved dramatically in recent years, surges can still be a problem, and so now it’s quite standard for surge protectors to be fitted on a number of devices.
That said, power conditioners might also include some kind of battery or power reserve, particularly more modern and expensive devices. This can be a really useful feature if you’re concerned about power outages, whether these are caused by storms or not. At least having some level of backup power will protect your devices, and give you more control over the system.
Probably one of the main deciding factors when deciding which you’d benefit from is the quality of your equipment. If you’ve got lower-end equipment then you’d probably be fine with a surge protector. However, if like me you’ve invested a large sum of money into your home theater system, then you’d probably feel more at ease with a power conditioner. They offer greater peace of mind for protecting your expensive equipment.
Do you really need a surge protector?
You do need a surge protector, regardless of your area’s power quality. A surge protector is the absolute minimum protection you should have on your setup. Even lower-end devices need surge protection, because the moment there’s a power surge in your area, it will knock out every device plugged into the mains. If this happens, there’s a chance your equipment can be friend, and this means wasted money if nothing else.
Is a power conditioner the same as a surge protector?
A power conditioner and a surge protector are two different pieces of equipment. Power conditioners use a range of methods to improve electrical quality, and surge protection is just one of them. A power conditioner also regulates voltage, frequency and suppresses noise. A surge protector does just that – protects against surges. It offers no other protection to your devices.
Final Thoughts On Whether Home Theater Power Conditioners Are Worth It
Power conditioners are expensive pieces of equipment, and often marketed to people with home theater systems as a necessary device. However, I found that they’re only useful if you have problems with your power supply that you’re unable to correct yourself. I live in an area with dirty power, and so the noise suppression did improve audio and picture quality.
If power surges and outages aren’t a problem in your area, then you’ll be fine with a surge protector. These are much cheaper, and do the most important job. If you’re truly committed to having the best home theater system though, a power conditioner will a useful addition to your setup.