1. The Ebtech Hum X is useful for nuking noise caused by pesky ground loops. 2. Products like the
Furman M-8Lx will filter out EMI (electromagnetic interference) and RFI (radio frequency interference)
that can plague your studio gear. 3.Within a window of 80-140 volts, the Monster Pro AVS 2000 Automatic
Voltage Stabilizer adjusts incoming electricity to 120 volts—exactly what your gear wants to see.
Let’s talk about power and protection.
Sure, it sounds like a mob movie intro,
but it’s really about making sure our studio
gear doesn’t turn into ashes during the next
storm, surge, or outage. Many of you own
some form of recording gear, be it a simple
GarageBand laptop setup or a full-blown Pro
Tools HD rig. But how many of you just
plug right into a simple power strip or even
worse, directly into the wall? It’s time to think
about taking steps to not only clean up your
power, but to protect your valuable gear.
Luckily, there are several different “layers”
of protection you can go with, both in terms
of price points and actual defense from spikes,
magnetic interference, and other gremlins. At
the very least, you should invest in some form
of power/line conditioning, which will protect
you from those nasty power surges commercial
power providers can deliver.
Typical AC (alternating current) electricity
flows forward and backward at a rate of
60 times per second, or 60 Hz. Ever hear the
term “60-cycle hum?” Well, that’s where it
came from, and you’ll want to ground it by
making sure your gear has a 3-prong adapter,
which is the modern standard. If you do suffer
from hum, something like the Ebtech Hum X
(around $70) will help filter out the unwanted
voltage and current from your line and eliminate
ground loop hum. Hey, it’s a start.
In addition to protecting you from
those power surges and hums, a good
studio-grade power conditioner will filter
out some EMI (electromagnetic interference)
and RFI (radio frequency interference).
Any of you who have ever recorded
in New York City know that radio waves
constantly bombard your sessions, often
sneaking through even the most robust RFI
protection. Products like the rackmounted
Furman M-8Lx (around $100) can offer
some extra outlets, two small lamps, RFI/
EMI filtering, and surge protection. Before
your gear blows, the Furman will (and
that’s a much cheaper alternative).
Kicking it up a bit, you can look
at something like the SurgeX SX2120
(around $700), which features two banks
of switchable outlets, full EMI/RFI filtering,
a self-test circuit, and a thermal circuit
breaker for overload protection.
In addition to rackmounted power conditioners,
I run everything through a voltage
regulator in my studio. This provides my
gear with a constant and steady source of
voltage. I happen to use a Monster Pro AVS
2000 Automatic Voltage Stabilizer. By plugging
this into the wall, and then my power
conditioners into the AVS unit, a constant
120 volts AC is maintained at all times.
This helps protect my gear and ensures that
I’m not suffering any loss of audio quality
due to bad or fluctuating power.
On this unit (which is quite large and
weighs 69 pounds), there’s a correction
range of 80 to 140 volts. You can actually
watch the incoming voltage, amperage
draw, and voltage correction on the front
panel meters. It’s pretty amazing to see the
power fluctuation in my condo complex
(both above and below 120 volts).
The AVS also has a sequential poweron
feature, which powers up some of the
outlets at a programmable delay time so
you don’t pop your system by turning
everything on at once. What I do is power
up the AVS 2000, which then slowly turns
on some of my power conditioners. I then
power them up, which turns on my sub/
speakers, then the computer, then the
outboard gear and Pro Tools rig. It simply
“lightens the load” on my system.
I do feel a sense of confidence with
this piece of gear. Even though it’s pricey
(around $1,700), this is what I do for a living
and I want my gear protected. There
are, of course, other companies that make
voltage regulators, but as you might expect,
they all cost more than power conditioners.
In addition to power conditioning and
voltage stabilization, some professionals like
to have an uninterruptable power supply,
or UPS. A UPS will provide electricity to
your rig should the power fail completely.
For this, check out something like the APC
Back-UPS BR1500G (around $250). The
size of the unit’s battery will determine
how long your gear will stay on should the
power go out, but at least you will have
enough time to shut down properly and
save your session data. You could also go
with a product like the Furman F1500-UPS
(around $1,200), which combines a voltage
regulator with a UPS power supply.
No matter how far you go with it, at
least take the minimum step of picking
up a power conditioner for your studio
setup. This way, you can be sure a spike or
surge in the power won’t blow up your rig.
On top of that, you will have additional
protection for EMI and RFI interference.
Combine that with a good voltage regulator
and UPS and you can survive the nastiest
storm and keep on rocking.
engineer and mixer who
has worked with artists
ranging from Al Di
Meola to David Bowie.
A life-long guitarist, he’s
also the author of Pro Tools Surround
and composes for the
likes of Fox NFL, Discovery Channel,
Nickelodeon, and HBO.