October 07, 2021
For some, which gear to power up first is common sense. Others couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to such trivial details. Some may know which gear to power up first but not why, and for some, this may be the first you’ve heard of this question.
Whatever the case, we’ll go over the proper power up sequence here and explain why it’s important.
Before anything else, let’s review the power up sequence for a common live sound scenario. Power up in this order:
Easy peasy, end of story, right? Well yes, but there are two issues. One: which ones do you turn OFF first? Two: what if the setup isn’t exactly like this?
Here’s why we power up in a certain order and not randomly. When audio equipment powers up, it usually sends a quick spike through any audio outputs. This loud spike of audio data can damage equipment down the line, damage ear drums if it gets broadcast through loudspeakers, and even blow the whole system (rare – but worth avoiding).
So, proper power up sequence is as simple as turning on gear in the direction of audio signal. So, in the example above, turn on a synth first so the mixer won’t receive an audio spike, and won’t send that through the power amps to the speakers. Turn on the mixer next, so it won’t send its spike through the rest of the system…and so on.
As you might imagine, spikes occur when you turn equipment off as well. Since all the gear is on before you start powering down, you’ll need to power off in the opposite direction (first in last out). So in the example above, active speakers and power amps would be turned off first (so they don’t receive a spike from the mixer), then the mixer…and finally the onstage gear connected to the mixer.
It can be a bit of a hassle to turn piece after piece on in sequence in a complicated setup. It’s tempting to wire everything to one power switch, but the problem is that method still sends spikes through the chain, potentially damaging equipment and ears.
Luckily, you can make a proper power up sequence happen with a single switch. You’ll just need a device that does it for you, like Carvin Audio’s AC120S Power Conditioner/Sequencer. Just plug in the equipment in the right order on the power conditioner (you’ll still have to understand signal flow to connect everything properly), and now you’ll not only have the protection of conditioned power, but you’ll also be able to switch your gear on and off in the right order. For large sound systems, you will need more than one power conditioner. Make sure that the power conditioner can supply the amount of current that your power amp or powered speaker will demand.
Keeping gear healthy is nearly as important as keeping yourself healthy. So now you know (if you didn’t already) which order to power gear up in, and why.
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