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Thoughts on power conditioners?

trl

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It's way much easier to measure with a scope the AC ripple & noise at the DC power rails inside the DAC or amplifier. Basically, see how the DC rails look like when Device Under Test is powered from the wall outlet vs. the Power Conditioner.

If the scope will reveal any visible differences, then audio measurements might make sense, but otherwise nope.
 
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I remember when an audiophile friend of mine got interested in power conditioners. I told him if you want to play that game (which is largely a complete and utter waste of time in most parts of the USA where we have excellent power regulation) then he should go back to the company that invented it namely Sola , and I got him a 1 kw Sola sine wave power conditioner. There are some good ones from Tripp Lite too.

The nice thing about Sola's is they have voltage regulation (although they need to be sized correctly for that to work correctly) and they have a huge transformer isolating your system (ie. the load) from the power line. They have enough isolation and iron to potentially stop a lightning strike (nothing will stop all lightning strikes if they are too close) as well as surges and line "hash". Their inductive rise time keeps the frequency at 60 Hz (or 50 on those models NOT interchangeable).

The Sola weighed about 60 or 70 pounds and he never plugged it in.
http://www.solahevidutysales.com/pdf/powerconditioners/cvs.pdf

Power conditioners aimed at audiophiles have MOV and gas discharge over voltage protection and may have some inductive rise time limiting.
They don't do anything for sags which is one of several reasons why the power supplies in audio gear feature their own regulation. It may be that Switching power supplies can handle sags better than the wonderful linear heavy things we are often enamored with.

Generally a surge protector is a good idea and that should be all you need. Audiophile cordsets, hospital and audio grade outlets, fuses, and power conditioners represent money that would be better spent elsewhere. Unless you have an essentially unlimited supply money, and also are very suggestible.

I have spent a great portion of my life in laboratories and hospitals and Solas were ubiquitous especially on spectrophotometers and similar analytical equipment where they wanted stable measurements. If I ever thought I would need regulation on my audio system I would not look anywhere else.

Another great thing about Sola's is that they are practically immortal and can be found surplus for almost free.

If you live out in the country where lightning strikes power lines and sends surges into your house then these are also reasonable to use. The computer server business probably uses them for this reason too. Many computer power supplies are multivoltage and regulate themselves very well.
 
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Don't many of them have fans? I miss the days that I could buy a monster APC UPS with no fan. Today it is cheaper to put in tiny heatsinks and then put a fan in there.

I now buy Cyberpower UPS and they come in fanless versions thank heavens.
Exactly my thoughts. Fans in basic electrics and electronics need to go away in a hurry.
 

trl

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[...]
The Sola weighed about 60 or 70 pounds and he never plugged it in.
http://www.solahevidutysales.com/pdf/powerconditioners/cvs.pdf

Power conditioners aimed at audiophiles have MOV and gas discharge over voltage protection and may have some inductive rise time limiting.
They don't do anything for sags which is one of several reasons why the power supplies in audio gear feature their own regulation. It may be that Switching power supplies can handle sags better than the wonderful linear heavy things we are often enamored with.

[...]
This SOLA costs about 4K USD and in most scenarios will not improve the sound. Every audio device might already have an isolation transformer inside (linear PSUs) and over 80dB ripple reduction linear regulators and CRC filters. We should not recommend a power conditioner to someone to improve the output sound of an audio device, instead we might recommend trying such device if noises appears on the headphones/speakers.

I am using isolation transformers and I only got small improvements in mains hum for few of my SMPS power supplies (on a headphone amplifier) and removed a ground loop on some DAC. But we should not generalize that using a power conditioner or isolation transformer will do any good to an audio system, unless the owners are really having issues (like ground loops, mains hum or strange AM noises on speakers).

These days there are several MOV & gas discharge devices costing less than 50 USD (one outlet only), same applies to more advanced active devices (AVR). There is also Hum-X to get rid of ground-loops too.

P.S.: In the attached picture you can see the gas discharge on the right-bottom, MOV + thermistor. Bachman_Surge_protector.JPG
There also the cheap Digitop protected outlet where you can manually adjust voltage thresholds: WP_20170129_13_56_24_Pro (1).jpg WP_20170129_13_55_55_Pro (1).jpg WP_20170129_13_54_27_Pro (1).jpg
 
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Speedskater

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Having used them in industrial R&D and production situations, I'm NOT a fan of Sola transformers. They need to be continuously loaded to at least 50% of their rating and they run HOT. While they do what they are engineered to do, well designed hi-fi components don't need them.
 
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I guess I didn't make myself clear

When my friend got interested in power conditioners I got him a Sola because it was available to me at a friendly surplus place , essentially for free , which was generally the correct amount to invest in my friends case. He was using fairly decent amplflyers. I didn't want him to go out and dump a bunch of money on a moronic audiophile power conditioner.

The nice thing about Sola's is they have voltage regulation (although they need to be sized correctly for that to work correctly)
I believe I pointed out that they need to be sized correctly. If yours were putting out lots of heat maybe they weren't sized correctly. They are only supposed to dissipate a small amount of power. Maybe your feed was such that you really really needed them. I never had a problem with them running very hot. Particularly when compared to tube equipment (not just audio gear) or class A audio amps.

If a piece of equipment has power supply problems then it doesn't belong in my system. You don't need an isolation transformer to get rid of ground loops. If grounding chasis's and permutating plugs won't clear up the problem then some engineer didn't do his job correctly and I don't want gear like that. You should not have to add an isolation transformer for everything. (disclosure: I do not participate in headphone audio although that could change in the future)

I have always told anyone willing to listen that the whole power conditioning thing is in the same category as cables. If you believe in that stuff I have no interest in disturbing anyones' enjoyment. But if your gears power supply is so poorly designed that one of those things actually helps , then the correct action is to get better gear , not get a power conditioner.

All that said I think in this modern day and age it is very important to have lots and lots of surge protection to protect our everincreasingly computer operated lives. This became clear to me maybe ten years ago, when a pal of mine asked me to look at his wife's "Kenmore Elite" washing machine.
This machine was actually almost a thing of beauty. It had a gorgeous stainless steel tub and they had paid $1000 plus for it and a similar amount
for the matching dryer. His wife was a workaholic and only bought the best of everything. She had two Lexus (Lexi?) When I go there I discovered the computer system that operates the whole washer had developed what I call Alzheimers disease. That is the control panel would light up but in spite of every known trick attempted and resets performed it would not take key strokes on the buttons. Diagnosis: sick , unrepairable computer control board. Treatment: Replace same. Then there followed a bunch of arm twisting to sears to furnish the part for a reasonable price since the unit was just out of warranty.

After it was repaired I told my friend that the washer and dryer needed to be on a surge protector and that the whole house probably ought to be on one.

I don't know if a surge caused the problem. One think if many other problems ( It was probably an early example of RoHS circuit boards for example).

But I do recommend to friends overdoing surge protection and do so myself. There is no downside except a cost which is generally modest compared to the equipment protected. In the above example Sears wanted like $500 for the repair. We did get the price down but it took some application of guilt till we found someone who was susceptible to that strategy. Maybe that is why Sears is gone now.
 

Speedskater

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I believe I pointed out that they need to be sized correctly. If yours were putting out lots of heat maybe they weren't sized correctly. They are only supposed to dissipate a small amount of power.
To the contrary! The person that did the R&D instalation is the one of most skilled engineers I know.
 
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