Once you’ve assembled the pro audio or bass rig of your dreams and racked it in a road case for good measure, it’s time to think about the best way to keep all your valuable equipment powered up and protected.
Plugging your equipment into a surge protector before plugging it into the wall is a great, cost-effective way to protect your investment. Surge protectors are simple, readily available devices that prevent damage to your equipment from power spikes and surges and also allow multiple outlets to accommodate your amp and effects. However, power situations can vary from venue to venue, and if the power at a club is less than ideal - such as faulty wiring or too many fluorescent lights onstage- you may hear hum or buzz in your setup, even if you’ve got your gear plugged into a surge protector. This can be a real show stopper in a bad way. While surge protectors do the job just fine, power conditioners do offer some added benefits.
Rack Mount Power Conditioners vs. Surge Protectors
If you play out a lot, are a touring musician, or just want to get the cleanest sound in any venue, it may be worthwhile to invest in a rackmount power conditioner. A clean power distribution system that can be mounted in your rack has a few distinct advantages over a basic surge protector.
- EMI/RFI filtering. Rack units like the Carvin Audio AC120S Power Conditioner come equipped with not only surge protection, but built-in line filtering as well, offering quiet operation and buzz-free, hiss-free power even in the presence of fluorescent lights and cell phones. Most surge protectors do not offer this feature.
- Portability and Ruggedness. A rack-mounted power distribution unit allows for grab-and-go convenience when going to the gig and makes for one less thing you will have to jam into your gig bag or pedalboard case. And since it is rack mounted, it will not be subject to normal wear and tear from transport, nor will it take up valuable floor space on the stage. Simply plug all your gear into it, then plug it into the wall and you are good to go.
- Reduced Setup Time. Since a power conditioner can live in your rack case, you can leave your amp and other rackmount units plugged into it and ready to go. The AC120S offers 10 (ten!) 120V AC outlets to accommodate even the most complicated rack setups. When you get to the gig, you can simply take off the rack covers and get straight to rocking!
- Lighting on dimly lit stages. If you choose a power conditioner model with LED rack lighting, it can make adjusting your amplifier or rackmount effect settings much easier. This may get you out of a pinch on dark stages.
Because they offer a more advanced, complete level of protection and are generally built more ruggedly than surge protectors, rackmount power conditioners do cost significantly more. If a surge protector is working fine for you and you don’t mind lugging it around and setting it up onstage, then you have done your part to protect your gear! If you have a bunch of effects in your rack and want a quicker setup, play at a lot of venues with sketchy power situations, or just want increased peace of mind and protection for your gear, it may be worth the upgrade to a rackmount unit.