Only those who have never had to deal with dirty electricity, lightning surges, or power outages believe they do not require a power manager. Power managers are convenient and useful devices that can be extremely beneficial to your home theater system.
In this article, we will discuss power managers, their purpose, compare them to other similar devices (such as surge protectors, power regenerators, UPS units, and so on), analyze the benefits of using power managers, and present you with our picks for the best home theater power managers. Let’s start with the fundamentals.
WHAT IS A HOME THEATER POWER MANAGER?
A home theater power manager (also known as a home theater power conditioner) is a more or less complex device that regulates AC power distribution, provides surge protection, and filters dirty power (reduces or eliminates noise).
Depending on the complexity (and price), it may also include features such as sequential system power ON/OFF, over/under-voltage protection, and so on. A home theater power manager’s role in a home theater system is divided into two parts.
To begin, it is intended to improve the performance of your home theater system by improving the quality of electricity, properly distributing power, and eliminating noise. Second, it is intended to protect all of your equipment from power surges and to extend the life of your equipment.
Furthermore, they provide you with a much cleaner and more organized environment. All cables are concealed and connected to the back of your power manager. Instead of having multiple power strips scattered around the room, you’ll have just one device, and all of your equipment will be linked to it.
DO I NEED A HOME THEATER POWER MANAGER?
Only a few people do not require it at all. Depending on the quality of your home’s electrical installations, you may only require it for protection. However, it may also be required for improved performance.
If you live in an area with a high density of lightning strikes, or if you experience frequent power surges, a home theater power manager is not an option – it’s a requirement. Even if power surges are uncommon, it’s a good idea to have a home theater power conditioner on hand… just in case.
These days, dirty power is not uncommon. The term refers to a variety of power quality anomalies. Frequency/voltage variations and power surges are two of the most common anomalies. Dirty power can degrade the performance of your audio equipment and, more importantly, can cause malfunctions and damage beyond repair.
If you are experiencing these issues in your home, you most definitely need a power manager/conditioner. Normal mode noise, a low-level signal that travels alongside the original power signal, is another source of dirty power. In some cases (if the noise is not filtered out), you can hear it through your speakers.
Other equipment connected to the same line can cause this type of noise. So, if your speakers make a popping or humming noise when you turn on the light or someone turns on the hairdryer, you’re dealing with dirty power. The use of a home theater power manager can help to filter out noise and improve the performance of your home theater.
A power conditioner will provide cleaner power and, as a result, cleaner sound. So, to conclude, we think that adding a home theater power manager to your system can be beneficial. And not in just one way. However, not all people are fans of power conditioners.
Some people are strongly against using them for audio systems (like home theater and stereo systems). Let’s see why.
- How To Fix Vizio TV Wont Turn On White Light is On Issue? (8 Easy Fixes)
- The 5 Best MMCX Cable To Buy? Read Here
- The 5 Best Firewall For Home That Will Give You Security (Must Have!)
WHY DO SOME AUDIOPHILES ADVOCATE AGAINST POWER CONDITIONERS?
While no one denies that power conditioners can protect your equipment, many audiophiles question their impact on the overall performance of your audio setup. They argue that while power conditioners can reduce or eliminate noise (dirty power), they can also remove some of the sound that they are not supposed to remove.
As a result, the audio reproduction loses dynamics and loses life. According to Paul McGowan of PS Audio, most power conditioners “rob the music of its life and bleach the sound.” So, what do they recommend?
Naturally, Paul McGowan suggests using one of PS Audio’s power regenerators. We don’t deny that their power regenerators are excellent, but they are also quite pricey. Some are significantly more expensive than the average power conditioner.
But what if you can’t afford such a costly device? Is there another option? There is one thing that a lot of audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts do. They run a dedicated line (or hire a professional electrician to do it) and add an outlet that will only be used for your audio equipment.
The majority of power outlets in your (or any other) home in the United States share power with refrigerators, routers, microwaves, lightbulbs, and a variety of other appliances. All of these devices can generate noise and degrade the performance of your home theater system.
That noise can be eliminated by adding a dedicated line for your home theater (or just for your amplifier/AVR). You’ll get much cleaner power and sound without adding a power conditioner, and you won’t have to sacrifice performance. Adding a new dedicated line can cost anywhere between $200 and $1000, depending on the complexity of the job.
The problem with a dedicated line is that, even though it can eliminate the noise and increase the efficiency of the power supply, it can’t protect your equipment from power surges or from under and overvoltages. For that, you still need at least a surge protector (preferably a power manager).
Alternative Video: What Is A Power Manager For Home Theater?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A POWER CONDITIONER AND A SURGE PROTECTOR
Surge protectors and power managers/conditioners have some features in common but are not the same devices. Surge protectors, as the name suggests, shield your equipment from power surges. That’s about all they do.
Surge protectors typically employ a semiconductor known as a MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) as well as gas discharge arrestors. Surge protectors can divert excess energy from your equipment to the grounding wires thanks to these components. The issue with surge protectors is that they never disconnect your equipment from the circuit.
In other words, your equipment is counting on the surge protector to redirect as much energy as possible. But what if a very high voltage event (such as lightning) occurs? Your surge protector may absorb too much energy, causing it to explode and kill your equipment.
All of this is because surge protectors cannot disconnect your equipment in the event of a high-voltage event. Most power managers, on the other hand, employ EVS, or Extreme Voltage Shutdown. When a high-voltage event is detected, the EVS’s mechanical relay physically disconnects your equipment.
EVS acts quickly and without even sacrificing the power manager. So, power managers, like surge protectors, provide surge protection, but in a different, and some would argue safer, way. Aside from that, power managers serve other functions.
They have filters that can remove noise and deliver cleaner power to your equipment, resulting in a more pleasant sound. Furthermore, some power managers will protect your equipment from an under-voltage event – if the voltage falls below 80 or 85V, it will shut down the unit and protect your equipment from excessive current.
Furthermore, home theater power managers may have better specifications than surge protectors (lower clamping voltages, lower response times). Finally, power managers or power conditioners are more sophisticated devices. They provide more protection than surge protectors, as well as some additional features and functions.
DO HOME THEATER POWER MANAGERS REDUCE NOISE?
Power managers, as discussed in previous sections, are used for more than just protecting your equipment from surges. That’s a big part of their job, but they also have fitters who are supposed to “purify” dirty power and eliminate (or at least reduce) noise.
Furthermore, by connecting all of your equipment to a single power manager, you may eliminate a ground loop, which is one of the most common sources of hum/noise in our homes. So… yeah. Noise can be reduced by power managers. That is one of their primary goals.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND ON A HOME THEATER POWER MANAGER?
The cost of power managers and power conditioners for home theaters varies greatly. Budget units cost between $100 and $150. Some low-cost units under $50 are marketed as power conditioners, but they are simply surge protectors.
You should budget at least $300 for a high-performance power conditioner that filters noise and protects your equipment. If that’s too much for you, get something less expensive – any protection is better than none.
Keep in mind that while less expensive power conditioners will provide the necessary protection, their noise filtration capabilities will be limited. If you don’t have any issues with dirty power, purchasing a less expensive unit is a perfectly viable option.
The prices of high-end units for professional use can reach $5,000 or more, but you don’t really have to spend that much. You can get a great-performing conditioner that will protect all of your home theater equipment and isolate most of the noise for $500-$1000.
BEST UNDER $500 – PANAMAX MR5100
We consistently recommend a few brands to our readers. The brands we prefer for home theater power managers are Panamax, Furman, APC, Monster Power, and AudioQuest. Other manufacturers (Pyle, Monoprice, and so on) also make good power managers, but if you want the best performance and protection, stick to the brands we just mentioned.
- The first item on our list is a Panamax unit. The MR5100 is a rack-mountable device from the MR series. In addition to the MR series, Panamax has a line designed specifically for home theaters (PM) and a line designed specifically for professional use (PRO series).
- The MR5100 is a small and unobtrusive unit. The layout of the front panel is straightforward and user-friendly. On the left side, there is a power button as well as three LED indicators for three different power banks. In the center, there’s a nice voltage monitoring display. There is one convenience outlet and one USB port on the right end for charging phones and other devices.
- There are also two indicators on the display (lightning bolt and outlet). In the event of an undervoltage or overvoltage, the lightning bolt indicator will illuminate, and the unit will turn off automatically (and will be turned on when the voltage returns to safe levels). The line fault indicator is the outlet indicator. When short circuits are detected, it illuminates.
- Most of the rear panel is occupied by the outlets. There are 10 outlets, arranged in three isolated power banks. One of the purposes of isolated power banks is to prevent cross-contamination – if one of the connected components creates dirty power, it won’t contaminate the power supply of other components.
- Bank 1 has four outlets (plus one in the front). These outlets are always turned on (UNSWITCHED). Bank 2 has two locations. These outlets are SWITCHED (that is, they can be turned on and off). Bank 3 has four outlets.
- These four outlets are HIGH-CURRENCY DELAYED SWITCHED. They are intended for the most demanding machinery (AVRs, amplifiers, subwoofers). They can be turned on and off, but only after a delay (2-3sec). The switched delay is intended to protect your equipment by preventing the circuit breaker from overloading.
- All 11 outlets are filtered (10 on the back and 1 on the front) (LiFT filtration technology used by Panamax and Furman). Surge protection is also built into all of the outlets. The unit also has coaxial inputs and outputs (2 IN and 2 OUT), LAN inputs and outputs (1 IN and 1 OUT), and phone inputs and outputs (1 IN and 1 OUT).
- It can protect all of the equipment connected to those ports from surges. A ground lug and a fuse circuit breaker are located on the left end of the rear panel. Surprisingly, no DC trigger is provided.
The maximum current rating of the Panamax MR5100 is 15A. (1800W). It has a clamping response time of less than 1ns and can dissipate up to 2,025 Joules.
BEST FOR AUDIOPHILES – AUDIOQUEST NIAGARA 1200
You already know what audiophiles think about power conditioners and power managers if you read the introduction. AudioQuest is one of the few brands that audiophiles genuinely enjoy. Although not all audiophiles are fans of AudioQuest cables and other products, a sizable number of them are.
The Niagara 1200 is, without a doubt, a high-end power conditioner. It has a premium look and feel, and it performs like a premium device. Let’s take a look at what makes it so unique. The Niagara 1200 is built like a tank and has the look and feel of high-end equipment.
The design is minimalistic and straightforward, but it is still very appealing and elegant. It appears to be spotless. A power switch, two indicators (extreme voltage and power), and a 15A fuse circuit breaker are located on the right panel.
There are 7 outlets on the back: two high-current outlets (for connecting amps, powered speakers, and subwoofers) and five linear-filtered outlets for connecting PCs, streamers, DVD/Blu-ray players, TVs, and other devices. This unit is primarily intended for use with audio systems, but it can also be used with home theater systems.
All seven outlets are outfitted with AudioQuest’s Ground Noise-Dissipation System and ultra-linear filtering capacitors. The unit will protect your equipment from surges and over/undervoltage (non-sacrificial surge protection). All of the inlets/outlets are from the high-quality low-z silver/beryllium NRZ series by AudioQuest.
Niagara 1200 provides ultra-quiet operation with an extremely low noise floor. Some audiophiles argue that it improves the system’s clarity and resolution. Some claim that it improves dynamics. All of this is, of course, based on the reviewers’ subjective feelings, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll hear that kind of improvement.
What we can say is that it virtually eliminates all noise and does not color the sound. That is exactly what a power conditioner is supposed to do, and we are completely satisfied. When it comes to dynamics and resolution, we didn’t notice any improvements.
The absence of current and voltage monitors (no display) on the Niagara 1200 could be considered a disadvantage. It also does not come with a cable; you must purchase one separately, and AudioQuest’s NRG Z3 cable (priced around $350) is recommended.
Finally, because it lacks coax or phone/LAN inputs and outputs, it cannot provide complete protection for your audio/video system (this is why we said it was designed primarily for audio systems). Furthermore, it lacks a 12V DC trigger.
Final Thoughts on Home Theatre Power Manager
To summarize, the world of power conditioners can be challenging and complex. Whether you need one or not is entirely dependent on your setup and budget.
For peace of mind when it comes to protecting your equipment, I personally recommend purchasing a mid-level one. However, it is not required! What are your thoughts on home theater power managers? Do you have one? Please let me know in the comments!
FAQs About Power Manager
Can you plug a power conditioner into a surge protector?
Technically, you can daisy-chain a surge protector and a power conditioner, but this seems unnecessary given that most power conditioners already have surge protection. If you have too many devices, you can use this combination and connect your power conditioner to a surge protector, but use caution. Try not to exceed the maximum power available from your wall outlet. Ideally, your power conditioner and surge protector should be connected to two different wall outlets, and those two wall outlets should be on two separate lines (separate breakers).
How long do power managers last?
Higher-end home theater power managers have at least a 3-year warranty (sometimes even a 5-year warranty), but that doesn’t mean you have to buy a new one when the warranty expires. Your power manager may last a decade or more, depending on how frequent and large power surges are in your area or in your home.
What is the best power manager for a home theater?
Expect to pay more than $150 for a good power manager who can do everything we discussed. Many high-end power managers (Furman, Panamax) cost significantly more than $500. If you’re looking for ideas, take a look at our list of the best home theater power managers.