Power-Protection for Your Home Theater Setup

One thing that amazes me about midrange (and up) home-theater equipment is the price some people will pay for perceived value (as opposed to actual value). I don't want to start an argument about multihundred-dollar 18 interconnect cables or high-end speaker cables (I own a few of the latter myself), but what I find really interesting are the prices that home theater and high-end stereo aficionados are willing to pay for power protection.

I guess you can convince some people to spend $250 for basic high-end surge suppressors to protect their expensive stereo equipment, but do these people really think that a quality $50 surge protector designed to protect expensive and sensitive computer equipment will do a poorer job? For the money that they're paying for these power-protection devices, they could be getting a good UPS that would provide a similar level of power regulation and also give them battery backup to keep their equipment running during a power failure or give them time to turn the equipment off. For example, the American Power Conversion APC BACK-UPS PRO 280VA costs less than $150 and can provide protection and power to a small stereo rack with little trouble.

When I set up my primary home-theatre system, I had a spare high-end UPS available, an APC Back-UPS Pro 1400VA. To this unit, I attached a few of the components I didn't want to risk power line damage to: three amplifiers, a receiver, a 61 Trinitron TV, and a power strip with the DVD player and satellite controller attached. This UPS unit costs about $600, which is still significantly cheaper than some of the high-end audio-enthusiast power-protection devices I've seen advertised in magazines and on the Web. The unit provides about 30 minutes of power to a high-end server system and any attached peripherals. I was less concerned about the battery backup than I was about other features that the UPS provides, such as automatic voltage regulation; I agree with the audiophile power folks—clean power is good power. I eventually discovered that the battery backup was a good thing. The power where I live is not very reliable, and we often have short time periods when the power flips itself on and off repeatedly. With my backup-protected home-theater system, I don't have to worry about this power fluctuation damaging the home-theater components.

The power protection is very transparent. One evening, while sitting in a darkened room watching a DVD movie, I became distracted by a regular beeping noise. While trying to find the source of the beeping, I noticed that the microwave's LED clock was blank. That was the only clue I needed. The power had gone out, and the beeping was coming from the UPS. Curious to see how long the back-up power would last, I went back to watching the DVD. About 5 minutes later, the main power to the house came back, so I never did discover how long I could have kept watching.

The bottom line is that power protection for expensive electronic equipment, be it a computer or a stereo, is important. Computer back-up-power vendors can provide you with a reasonably priced power-protection solution that might be a better value than you imagined.

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