Power to the People
Clean Power, for Clean Performance
By Jim Bray
sample for this column was provided by K&W
Audio of Calgary, Alberta.
Your home may be afflicted
with an electrical problem that could prevent you from getting the most
from your electronic equipment.
Its called Dirty
power, and it can cause noise, interference, and other AC (alternating
current) power pollution. Almost anything electrical can cause
it, from cordless phones and computers to police broadcasts and, so they
say, neighborhood deep freezes.
All these electrical
gadgets generate electromagnetic interference and radio frequency noise
and this as far as your home theater is concerned can dumb
down the performance of your expensive electronics.
Someone figured all
this out, naturally, and now you can buy power conditioners
designed to scrub your electricity and protect your equipment from spikes
and other problems that can either degrade your systems performance
or fry it outright.
Many of these gadgets
look suspiciously like power bars, those multi-socketed beasties familiar
to just about anyone who has more than two electronic components in one
room. There are power bars, however, and there are POWER BARS!
A company thats
making an excellent name for its power conditioners is Monster,
of Monster Cable fame. Monster makes a line of PowerCenters
that range from being power bars on steroids to actual components
that fit in your audio/video stand with the rest of your stuff.
The latter will probably
seem excessive to most consumers, so I split the difference and tried
the Reference PowerCenter HTS2000, a $200 unit that provides
a single source of clean power and protection for all your home theater
sources. This is a BIG power bar, but its also fully loaded and
very heavy duty.
The HTS2000 comes
with 12 AC inputs, six of which are unswitched, that handle everything
from heavy duty equipment like TVs and power amps to lower current
components like VCRs. The inputs are all color coded and well labeled,
so its easy to tell which plug should go where. Monster even includes
color coded labels for your components power cords.
The unit also comes
with connections for your phone line (meant primarily for use with WebTV
or pay-per-view systems such as those offered by digital satellite services)
and three sets of coaxial hookups for your cable TV/satellite dish/antenna.
A Ground OK
indicator lights up if the HTS2000 figures your home's wiring has at least
that part right (many dont, apparently) and the whole unit (except
for the unswitched sockets) can be controlled by a power switch on the
The HTS2000 plugs
into your wall socket via an eight-foot Monster PowerLine 200 cable
that terminates in a 24 karat gold three prong outlet. The unit carries
a 1300 joule rating for protection against power surges and spikes, and
Monster seems so confident that it offers a warranty on equipment connected
When I first plugged
in my power amplifier I was shocked to notice a really bad hum start to
emanate from my components. Plugging in the preamp made it worse, so I
hastily unplugged both and started over.
Alas, the buzz returned,
but this time I pressed on bravely until all the various toys in my home
theater were connected to the HTS2000. Strangely, and fortunately, the
hum went away after a couple of minutes and has never returned. Apparenty,
this was caused by a "ground loop" that, as I connected other components,
I dont know
if this is a funny thing about using the Monster bar, or whether my home
wiring is a particular disaster (We bought our house second hand, and
it appears to have been erected in about twenty minutes by a crew of chimpanzees)
but it was very disconcerting. Ive always suspected my wiring, because
even when every component except the power amplifier is turned off, theres
a slight hum in the speakers. It isnt much (you have to put your
ear near the speakers to hear it so I dont!), but its
HTS2000 didnt correct this problem, which is too bad.
On the other hand,
I had another problem that the HTS2000 appears to have corrected nicely:
after a particularly heavy evening of home theater use the power amp sometimes
developed a major hum but not since I hooked in the HTS2000!
I dont know
if my audio and video quality have increased since the HTS2000, but the
whole shebang seems more stable, and I like having proper hookups for
all my components.
To me, thats
worth the price of admission.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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