Surge protectors are a necessity for expensive electronics. They keep our valuable (and sometimes fragile) equipment safe in the event of an electrical surge. Most of the time a cheap power strip offers basic surge protection, but a power conditioner is an even better way to protect your gear—and more.
What Is a Power Conditioner?
So we know that surge protectors defend against voltage spikes that could potentially fry our equipment. But apart from just fluctuating voltages, there’s also radio frequency interference and electro-magnetic interference which can dirty up our signal. A power conditioner is sort of like a surge protector on steroids. On the one hand, it creates a buffer between our gear and the wall outlet, making sure everything is safe from damaging spikes. And on the other, it protects from interference, and ultimately keeps our audio quality as high as it can be.
Benefits of a Power Conditioner for Home Studios
In most cases you can get away with using a surge protector and have peace of mind that your equipment is at least protected from voltage spikes. However, for home studios, a power conditioner is a better investment in the following ways.
1. Removing electrical noise from dirty power
Remember that interference we talked about earlier? Power conditioners can eliminate that, which is a huge advantage over strips or surge protectors. Radio and TV stations, mobile devices, and even home appliances like vacuums can interfere with your studio power and add noise to the signal.
2. Stronger, more effective surge protection
Inexpensive surge protectors tend to only be effective on smaller surges. A power conditioner for a studio is going to have more robust components, and an extra layer of protection against even the biggest power spikes. This is a huge advantage, because no one wants to fry a $2000+ piece of gear because they were using a cheap power strip.
3. Voltage monitoring
One cool feature that certain power conditioners have is a voltage reading so you can see how your power is coming out of the wall. Good, clean power should read 120V/60Hz in the US or 220V/50Hz in Europe. This is helpful if you’re having problems with sensitive gear possibly not getting enough juice. Check the voltage reading and see exactly how much power your gear is receiving.
4. Removing noise from all your gear (ground loops)
An important thing that power conditioners do that surge protectors don’t is suppress the electrical hum of all your gear. They usually target the 50-60 cycle range that has probably plagued all of us at some point. This type of interference, generated by lots of different gear all plugged into the same outlet, is reduced, if not totally eliminated, by a studio power conditioner.
Power Strips vs. Power Conditioners
A power strip won’t improve the quality of your signal like a conditioner would. At best, they offer a very basic form of surge protection by automatically switching off in the event of an overload. This is good for not frying equipment, but it doesn’t offer much more except a few extra outlets.
Of course, power strip vs. power conditioner isn’t even a contest. For a home studio, always go with the conditioner. Inexpensive power strips don’t eliminate noise, though they will, at minimum, keep your gear safe.
Auto Voltage Regulators
It’s important to note that while certain power conditioners do offer a voltage reading, most of them do not regulate voltage. For that, you’ll need a voltage regulator, which not only provides the same benefits as a regular power conditioner, but makes sure every piece of gear receives a stable, constant voltage. They’re typically not cheap, however.
Conclusion: Why You Need a Power Conditioner for Your Studio
Electricity gets noisy. Our gear picks up interference from other electronics, and can result in unpleasant sounds coming from our speakers, or, at worst, noisy recordings. A power conditioner is an easy way to solve that problem by ensuring clean, noise-free power and ample surge protection.