Power conditioners for a home theater system

My dad is looking at putting in a fancy home theater system, and the home theater guy has put together a proposal including a $2000 power conditioner. From what I’ve been reading, you can get a decent power conditioner for $100, maybe $200.

Is this a rip-off, or do you really get something for your $2000? My parents live in a 20 year-old home with decent wiring–it’s not as if they’re running everything off a generator in the basement.

This thread might belong in politics & religion. IMO, slap your fancy a/v equipment on a generic $20 surge protecting power strip and call it a day.

Power conditioners are in the same league as Monster Cables–for suckers.

These guys have 98 reviews of power conditioneers all concluding that “we can’t really see or hear the difference, but they’re totally worth every penny” (I’d never heard about them before this post). You should tell dad to get the $2000 version.

(or fire the guy for even suggesting it and begin wondering what other kind of marked up useless crap he’s trying to sell the old man)

As far as I can tell, the usefulness of power conditioners to audio/video gear - in terms of filtering out “line noise” or whatever the hell they’re supposed to do - is…overstated by the high-end marketers. That said, they are much better than plain ol’ surge suppressors when it comes to protecting against power surges and the like. My father and I both use them for our AV equipment, just not the ones which cost a couple of grand: I think Tripp Lite is the brand we both use.

A little while back we were talking about expensive power cords, and I linked to an audiophile forum where the members really believe that a $5,000 cord “sounds” better than a $2,000 cord. Well, here’s a forum poll they took about power conditioners; even in this community, only 35% of respondents think expensive conditioners are worth it, and 26% of them think power conditioning isn’t worth spending a penny on.

Here’s a later thread in which some guy (who already has line conditioners) asks whether he should also unplug his other AC appliances when listening to his stereo. A bunch of guys recommend that he buy more expensive line conditioners, ones exactly like theirs. One guy answers:

As long as your gear has well-designed and built power supplies, there shouldn’t be a problem.

If you do want to do something with your power, running dedicated lines is very inexpensive and easy. I ran a dedicated 20A line to my SACD player, and a second dedicated 20A line to my headphone amplifier. It’s tremendous overkill, but cost only ~50 bucks and a couple of hours.

Maybe that could be seen as an affordable solution, just in case. But the audio engineer who owns the forum — and who is on record as believing in $10,000 cables and Shakti Stones and all kinds of other bullshit — says:

Turn on your stereo. Insert record, tape or CD. Play. Adjust volume.

Life is too short.

So I think power conditioning must be one of the biggest wastes of money in a hobby fraught with them.

Thanks, that’s pretty much what I was thinking, but it’s nice to get confirmation.

Hanzii, I’ve been trying to whittle down the list the guy gave my dad because I know it’s got overpriced pieces. Hopefully, this will give him a real point of comparison so that he can get a more reasonable bid in.

Strictly for suckers.

It all depends on if it truly is a power conditioner or just a fancy surge suppressor.

A real power conditioner has line filtering, storage capacity and voltage stabilization so that in a brown out or over voltage situation it automatically corrects and only outputs the correct AC amount (110-120V AC) to your equipment. It also should kick in if the power goes out completely like a UPS, giving you time to shut down your equipment.

A surge suppressor will give you line filtering and some surge suppression (the joules rating), but will do nothing to correct voltages that aren’t within the range of acceptable for your equipment.

If you are spending a ton of cash on a Home Theater, adding a real conditioner to the setup is most probably worth it just for the peace of mind. It also is more effective at stopping lightning than a standard strip, sacrificing itself, rather than passing along the dangerous spike.

That all may well be true–I was really questioning the utility of a $2000 conditioner. From looking around, it seems that if you’re going to get one, you should be able to find a perfectly adequate one for $100 or so.

It’s also part of a pattern of questionable-value pieces in the setup, which is what made it jump out at me.

Thanks to everyone – he’s getting a more reasonable price from someone else now.

Is anything fast enough to stop a spike from a lightning strike? That is, would it blow up fast enough to keep it from still frying your electronics?

Electricity is electricity. It all travels the same speed. It’s just a matter if it can handle the amount or not.

If they are suggesting a 2k surge protec… errrrr I mean a power conditioner for his system, I’m sure he’s going to take a beating on wiring as well… exactly what type of components is he getting? How much is he dropping on the system in general?

He was going to take a beating on it. Fortunately, I convinced him to get a bid from someone else that came in at around $16,000–down from $40,000. The new one is still a bit high, but it’s in the ballpark, I think.

He’s looking at a HDTV projector, 7.1 speakers mounted in the ceiling, screen that retracts into the ceiling.

Unfortunately, my dad’s not very savvy with this stuff–he’s not looking at expensive stuff just for the sake of having expensive stuff (otherwise there’d be no hope); he’s just not good at separating out the tech talk from the bullshit.

He should check out some of the high-end-ish mags, like Home Theater: sometimes their priorities are warped like, say, PC gaming mags ("$8,000 for a new PC? No problem!"), but they do a decent job of threshing the wheat from the chaff on a lot of things, IMHO.

Get a $60 surge protector that has power isolation. You’ll know what I mean when you plug your inkjet printer into the same regular surge protector as your hdtv and try to watch tv while printing. Unlikely example, but same idea.

I got an APC S15 power conditioner/battery back-up for about $300 less than MSRP. Still over a grand, but worth every penny for my specific situation:

  1. I’ve got everything plugged into it. Everything. HDTV. Computer. Monitors. Consoles. DVD player. DVR. All the electronics in this room, because…

  2. The electricity in our apartment sucks. For a while, it was brownout central. Things have improved, but it was pretty bad around the time I got my HDTV. Knowing that I was already putting a load on the line with my other electronics and that I was already having intermittent voltage problems with my PC, I researched and bought the S15 to make sure nothing was going to happen to my sweet new set.

Overkill? Maybe. But I haven’t had a single problem since I hooked it up. And, if everything’s on, I have about 20 minutes to shut it all down if the power goes. Just the thing if I want to finish the scene I’m watching or get to the next checkpoint save.

You might want to look and see if his insurance has any requirements. That much into a system and they may want a seperate rider to cover it, and sometimes will insist on having one with specific requirements.

I’ve never even heard of power conditioners but these prices look insane.

Why not buy decent UPS’s (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for a few bucks? During specials they cost $50-$100, and go up to about $300 for a 650va SmartUPS system.

What is the difference between an UPS and a power conditioner? Seems like the same thing for a higher price. For what it’s worth, I get UPS’s for Tivo’s, every PC in my home, and expensive office equipment. There is a very expensive machine here that I can’t put on an UPS because it draws 15 amps at peak - A UPS that covers that is somewhere in the many thousands. I can live without that.

wisefool, a power conditioner adjusts the voltage to keep it constant. So if you live in an area with brownouts that lower your voltage to 105V, the power conditioner will adjust it to make sure your equipment still gets 120V. It also has line isolation, so that interference generated on any one power line won’t affect the power on any other line.

I’m not an audio/videophile, but even so I can tell that my definition of “decent” and yours differs greatly. A decent UPS will let your equipment current draw spike up to 30 amps for short durations. It’s really the steady draw that has to stay below 12 amps. And yup, the decent ones from APC that also include power conditioning start at about $1000.