Power surges, transients and other bad stuff.

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Bonze, Dec 5, 2011.

  1. Bonze

    Bonze Member

    Dec 5, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    Hello all! New user, first time poster. I have been recording live music for 20+ years generally in the capacity of a musician in a band, via analog four track or more recently the stand-alone digital units, specifically a Fostex VF160. I have been recorded in a professional recording studio several times, so although I am not a "newbie" per se, this activity is always a learning experience. Recently I have undertaken the task of DAW recording. I suppose you can check out my gear if you like since I had to list items in that field at registration, but my question for the forum today is about power surges and transients. And speakers. Heres the deal: all my DAW stuff is plugged into a Phillips surge protector. The surge is designed specifically for computers as well. So much so that it has a "master" tap on it that the CPU gets plugged into, and all the peripherials get plugged into the remainder of the taps. The idea is when you push the button on your computer to power up, the surge energizes all the other taps as well and ALL items plugged into the surge power on. Which is great. Active speakers come on (assuming the switch on the back is in the "on" position) Lexicon Omega interface comes on, monitor comes on (probably would anyway). The only issue I am leery about is the speakers make a heck of a sound when they are initially juiced. I'm sure you all have heard the sound if you turn on a device AFTER the power amp is powered up, or the opposite, you power down a device before the amp. Not cool, and I am religious about the order of powering devices up. Power up amp LAST, power down amp FIRST. So...left in this configuration (the DAW) what kind of bad things are happening to my monitors? Am I abusing them doing this and causing excessive, undue neglect? Any premature failure imminent? They are Fostex PM0.4's, 40w I think, nearfield monitors. I am on my third workstation setup/configuration, and with the previous 2 arrangements the power switches were typically not terribly accessible but I always turned them off manually...which is a pain in the butt. So this third arrangement (hopefully) is the last, so I am trying to determine if I should somehow make the monitor on/off switches more accessible (assuming I'm doing a no-no with the master surge protector) or I can put them wherever and not be concerned with harming them using the Phillips surge. I hope this all makes sense, I probably could have said what I wanted to say in half the words, but I wanted to get the best information. Thanks for any and all advice and help. Just please don't respond with something like "Why don't you buy some better monitors" or the like. Spending more money is not an option right now.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    This is a problem for lots of folks. Your Philips surge protector as you may realize, is for electrical surges coming up your AC mains. It has nothing to do with the surges that occur through equipment when it is switched on. This is a normal interaction of capacitors quickly being charged. There have in the past been numerous power amplifiers with built-in turn on delay relays preventing all of these damaging sounding bursts. Any damage to your speakers is largely caused by this. Why you might find switching on a few pieces of equipment a pain in the butt, as an engineer with 26 years of experience, you know that's part of the job. And since engineers like twiddling knobs and dials, what's the problem with the on-off switch? Stick your speakers on a separate on-off switch and your problem is solved.

    Many studios, radio stations, TV stations, other production studios leave their gear on 24 hours a day. So while you think you have surge protectors protecting your equipment, continuous on-off operations causes equipment to fail sooner than just leaving the stuff on all of the time. Unfortunately, with the economy today and everybody expounding on how we should reduce our green footprint of excessive carbon dioxide pollution, people are turning their equipment off, as they should. So while we might be protecting and preserving our planet we are also destroying our costly investments much quicker. So what's worse? A planet with too much pollution or not being able to make a living because your equipment has blown up? That's only a personal moral issue you can deal with on your own, kind of like preaching your religion to everybody which isn't a good thing to do, in this country and many others.

    Also, with powered monitors, everything has been carefully matched to their overall operating parameters. This generally equates to, it's almost impossible to blow those powered monitors up. Conversely, if, like myself, you like to use big power amplifiers that are way overrated for the speakers they are feeding, things can go bad. My JBL's are designed for a continuous power input of 50 W. Either way, they can handle transient peaks greater than 200-300 W but I sure wouldn't try to play them at that level continuously since I don't like a smoke-filled control room without any sound. So while it's annoying, I really don't think you have much to worry about.

    Another issue with these so-called surge protectors is a little known fact that they usually don't clamp down until your AC power mains hit 300 V. So they'll generally protect your refrigerator, washer and dryer, electric shaver and maybe even your TV. They provide really mostly a false sense of protection when it comes to electronics devices. So you might want to purchase the ones that actually offer monetary equipment replacement warranties, in the event that the surge protector didn't protect your equipment. Read the fine print carefully to see if you are electronic equipment would actually be covered.

    After 26 years, if you haven't blown any equipment from electrical surges in the past, what makes you think this is doing you any damage except to your psyche? I believe tweeters can still get damaged, without any surges if some IC chips decide to start going into oscillation of a supersonic nature. While you might not hear it, because it's ultrasonic, doesn't mean that the Tweeter can survive 40 W of 30-50 kHz over more than just a few minutes. This scenario unfortunately has occurred in the past when bias traps on the output of analog tape recorders are not tuned properly or have failed. You're then sending 100 kHz to your tweeters. And there are those amplifiers that can pass that. Troubleshooting that required substantial wide bandwidth oscilloscopes to view the output from your analog machines while they were in record mode and are generally beyond the capabilities of any audio spectrum analyzers. So my 100 MHz Tektronix scope was handy in those situations since this was also a required procedure to be a factory authorized Ampex, MCI, 3M, Scully service technician as I am/was (since the popularity of these analog beasts has largely disappeared). So the only money you need to spend is perhaps on a remote on-off switch connected to your powered monitors. Cost, $10 at your local hardware store which I think you have in you but not for long.

    There are no answers... only choices (Solaris with George Clooney)
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. bicasaur

    bicasaur Active Member

    Oct 19, 2010
    My guess is one of two things is happening:

    1) The speakers are coming on faster than some of the equipment plugged in to them, an you are hearing those devices powering up. If this is the case, you could maybe solve it by plugging a second power strip that has an on/off switch into your Phillips surge protector, and the speakers into that. Let the system power up, then switch on the strip feeding the monitors. Old school.

    2) The act of throwing the power switch on the monitor introduces power to the monitor in a smoother way than plugging it in while the switch is on, so it powers up rather ungracefully in your situation. My KRK V8's do this, I'm thinking because they are never really off when they are plugged in, just in a sort of standby mode. If this is the case, there will be no solution except to make the switches accessable.

    Of course, your issue might be a combination of both, and if that's the case you should be able to lessen the power-up sound by using the second power strip. Come to think of it, there's no need for the second strip to be plugged into the first. Either way, I think you're in an inherently better place than if you were using passive speakers hooked up to an amp. It seems a pretty rare thing that an active speaker can blow itself up. I think the most dangerous thing for your speakers is if you get that thing where distortion in the low freqs ends up feeding a huge square wave to the tweeters, which would damage them.

    Edit: Oh, hi Remy. You posted way before I did, but my browser didn't show your reply 'till after I posted. I think you nailed it.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    I've always known that great minds think alike bicasaur. Yeah, I agree that if you are switching on from AC mains input as opposed to built-in switch on the back, this will more than likely create a different turn on hump/thump DE dump. And though I am outside my Remote Truck, I still get that huge thump. It doesn't matter if I just have all of my breakers off when plugging in because when I go to turn each individual breaker on, even though I power up the Neve & other ancillary gear first, turning on that Crown still produces a sizable thump/pop into my JBL's, all four of them. I've had these particular monitors for over 15 years in the truck and still no blow up. Of course there are those dolls that require a different kind of blow up procedure, that is holy necessary.

    Don't bite me because I might deflate.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

Share This Page