Power Conditioning

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by audiokid, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Is clean power kind of like , how proper room treatment is often over looked until the fine tuning of "how can I get my bass to sound better"?

    Most of us invest in all the creative stuff first ( DAW, software, pre-amps, converters, mics etc) and over look the few key secret's that, IMHO truly separate the confused. You need to hear the "space" to actually harness, mix and master sound and produce rich music.

    This is one of those overlooked topics only the few take serious and I believe, can hear a difference. I believe your gear has to be at a point though, where it is transparent in the first place. I look at power like a Fuel Dragster looks at the time it takes to bee line from point A/B and win over and over.

    I am building my dream hybrid DAW, (the audio dragster) and am wondering:

    What do you use for power conditioning?
    How does power conditioning effect your mastering?
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    IMO, there's two things I try to achieve. 1 is clean power, 2 is stable power. I don't want someone's fax machine, drill, lights etc... making clicks or buzz's in my audio. That's really hard to do in a building in a city. The power is not clean and it's not easy grounding gear to "pipes". You also want stable power. My power can fluctuate 10volts during the day. During the hottest days in the summer, we even get brown outs. Some gear will just quit working if the voltage gets too low. Some act a little odd when it's too high. So I place a voltage regulator on key pieces of my gear, filters on everything. And grounding where it's needed. Everywhere is different, i've been in some places that had nothing and it worked fine. So you just have to play it by ear.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks for chiming in Michael. Your explanation was pretty explanatory but could we break this down more.

    What do you use? How much do you think it effects , what I am calling "space" in the actual sounds? Other than how gear reacts with the flux and on/off, What would you say is the most obvious in sound improvement. What makes one high end power condition system better than the other and what would you do if you where setting up a new studio on your own right now. Would this be some thing you would deal with right off the bat in order for you to "accomplish" what your reputation has evolved to be?

    More please. What have you noticed in the sound?
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Reading over your answer, I know if one piece of gear isn't operating, its obviously going to effect what it was designed to do. So we've obviously isolated the need for good power. I'm hopping this thread will evolve into details that mastering engineers notice and what helps "trigger" Aw.... I'm getting it!
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Bob Katz say's

    "he has heard audiophiles who are very much against ferro-resonant techniques as changing the sound". Whats this all about?
    He is against "relay-tap-driven regulators like the Tripplite, Furman and the like". I believe Thomas uses Tripp Lite?

    I have been looking around for a company(s) whom make recommended DIY or turn key power conditioning products that I would use for my studio and whom we should support and promote here. Preferably companies that focus on our pro audio future and local area's since we need to get back to feeding our home land. I'll leave it at that and hope more chime in.


    Rick ( from virtualdynamics ) shares some thoughts on power conditioner:

  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    There are two main types of consumer UPS (read consumer level power conditioning).

    The first is the standard type of UPS or power strip which is reactive to spikes or sags. In a nutshell, it monitors the AC line for fluctuations and reacts to that whether it is as simple as spike suppression or drawing from a battery pack to also semi regulate the voltage.

    The second is a UPS/conditioner that always outputs power from it's battery packs. In this case the AC comes in from the source and is converted to DC and stored in battery packs. It is then converted from DC back to AC by separate filters and fed out to your gear. This second type is much more expensive to purchase and is primarily found in server environments or several Military applications I can think of off hand.

    Furman makes a range of different gear, some of which is true voltage regulation and filtration and some of which is only filtration/suppression. Furman also has a high end line that will do full time AC/DC/AC filtering. Tripplite does some high end stuff but it is very hard to find unless you have a wholesale source.

    I am not sure there is any true turn key solution for project studios because to make that happen the price tag is exorbitant. For studio's, the best route was described by Max in his studio thread and also by Remy with her truck in utilizing toroidal transformers to create balanced power and then utilizing balanced power filtering/distribution boxes.

    I personally use current generation Furman gear for suppression and filtration and have a couple of full time DC/AC UPS's.

    Some of what I typed is oversimplifying but it gives the general ideas.
  7. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    ferro-resonant techniques are very cool indeed. Well hot actually, and heavy...basically you make use of the natural resonance of the transformer to create voltage regulation of the secondary side. So if the input on the transformer dips or swell the output stays constant. THey are expensive, heavy and get hot. But they are like natures voltage regulators ;)

    As for audio geeks thinking that will influences the audio path....I think they need to get out more ;) rectified and filtered there should be no more problems with ferro-resonant techniques then standard toroidal transformers.

    I respectfully disagree with Bob Katz, (yes I own his book and love it) the main problem with off the shelf power conditioning is they need to make them affordable. So often they get the idea right, but save on the execution. They minimize filter circuits and allow harmonics to get through, this will affect your audio. If your DC power rails are buzzing so will your speakers.

    Many people argue switching power supplies don't belong in audio. And yes its true, they create more harmonics than linear supplies. However if you use appropriate filtering, and spend the time to get it right, you don't have any issues. Hell Rupert Neve is using switching power supplies in portico series, and the power is clean. Most high end audio designers do use switching power supplies, because they are small, can source more current, and create less heat.

    ok rant over for a minute....

    good topic!
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    John, what Furman products do you use?
  9. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't run the live rig without power conditioning. 20-amp Furman units in all the amp racks and 15-amp ETA units in the FX racks.

    I will also be curious to see what the resident ME's have to say. I've got 20-amps of balanced power plus 30-amps of heavy duty voltage-regulation and line-conditioning for my little recording set-up.

    Even if the studio power is stable in your region, and you've used best-practices with your panel and grounding I think line-conditioning, filtering, and surge-protection still improves on a good thing. If you've got dirty power, then they can be an absolute lifesaver. But you have to realize filtering and conditioning are still all dependent on the integrity of the earth-ground.

    A common consumer-grade UPS will keep your DAW from losing consciousness when someone hits a pole with their car - or a tree takes down a line. My power is rarely out for more than a couple seconds at a time, but my computer and RAID drives are on a garden-variety UPS. But in your case, I wouldn't think a hybrid DAW system that might have a few power-hungry tubes and an analog summing mixer, plus monitor amp(s) would run very long on battery. Even an upper-end UPS unit ( 2000 va/1600 watts ) wouldn't give me the confidence to do much more than 'save' and shut down. The big boys are expensive, so add up the watts/amps of all your gear and don't buy more than you sensibly need.

    Plus, in most cases unless you have a generator for the room lighting and guitar amps, etc. you would have to stop a session anyway. Do I need a $2000 pure-sine wave UPS to 'save' and shut down? When you're shopping for a UPS, check the availability and prices of their replacement batteries too - you will need them eventually. (right Max?)

    And on the topic of surge-protection:
    Most devices worth protecting already have MOV's in them (metal oxide varistors) which are the basic component of most surge protectors. They are designed to shunt excessive power surges straight to ground. They're not like a fuse because they respond proportionally to the over-voltage and sacrifice themselves only if the surge is extreme enough. But what they don't tell you is, that MOV's will degrade over time. They can only take a finite amount of abuse. Whether it's one big direct lightning strike to your building, or a 1000 little surges from the grid - it will slowly chip away at the integrity of the MOV until it fails; either without so much as a whimper, in a big puff of smoke, or little ball of fire. I've read that some techs suggest changing them periodically before they fail. Others seem to think they're pure audio evil, because even partially degraded, they can be notorious little noise-makers that pollute the AC line they're supposed to be protecting. [not to mention the fire risk]

    Boswell, Speedskater, Link and the other esteemed EE degree holders - any thoughts on MOVs? harmless, necessary evil, replace them as regular maintenance?
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Since there is no easy way to tell if a MOV is working to specification or has started to deteriorate, I don't rely on them - I use UPS units for critical areas of the recording chain. The UPS needs only to supply a few tens of seconds power during an outage: either the power blinks off and on again and you carry on as though nothing had happened, or the power goes off completely and you need to shut down the recording process. In the latter case, the concert usually stops anyway though lack of light and/or electrical amplification. In all my years in recording, a complete utility power outage has happened only once to me (discounting locals pulling plugs and switching off master power breakers).

    I've toured a little in the US, and have to say that the power problems you folks get over there appear much more taxing for recording engineers than here in Western Europe. It's partly a result of 110V vs. 230/240V mains needing at least twice the current in the US, but mainly we tend to have tighter regulation this side of the Atlantic and (usually) a single power company for the whole country.
  11. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    I am not a big fan of MOV'S, its hard to know if they are working and they are typically slow to respond (micro seconds). They do a nice job of disipating a large amount of energy, for very little money.

    If I had my choice I like combination of protection, some zener type transient voltage suppressors by Littlefuse can handle faster rising spikes (nano seconds) and gas surge arrestors can dissipate larger amount of slower moving over voltage spike.

    I will use MOV's too, but never alone. I will typically do the crowbar thing with a self resisting fuse on the input, such that the fuse will heat up and open circuit when the TVS shorts the spike. Another simple thing to use is a spark gap, which can literally be done on the copper of the pcb. Its help direct the problematic spikes away from the circuit.
  12. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    What those guys said. UPS's (some are pure sine wave) & Furman conditioners for me. I run a Furman conditioner in every rack case and all computerized gear also has UPS power. I do not use my UPS's to finish gigs sans power. They are there for protection of the computerized gear only. I mean if the power just blips in a live concert we don't stop. Strings and winds and brass don't need electricity after all.

    When I had my PA rig, I ran Furman distribution units like the ACD100 and ASD120. I didn't know nuttin' about toroidal transformers at the time or I would have set up something mobile like what Remy has described. We got our power from either gennies or a direct drop from power lines into a custom pig tailed breaker panel I made (thank god I grew up on a farm! And yes I have all of my fingers and toes). From the panel it went to 30A distro boxes and from there to the individual racks which all had Furman line regulators/conditioners. That was all before I was taking computers on gigs but we did roll out a rack of Alesis ADAT recorders for archiving important jobs. And we fried a bunch of them until I convinced someone of higher rank than I that a two track DAT mix was good enough outside of the studio.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

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