Every system of any type needs a strong foundation to work well. This certainly applies to a high-end audio or home theater system as well.
What’s the foundation of your system based on?
There are numerous approaches: the end of the chain foundation (loudspeakers), the beginning of the chain foundation (the source), the everything’s important foundation (all the equipment) and AC power as the foundation. Each has its merits.
The loudspeaker as a foundation approach is based on the idea that no matter how good or bad everything that feeds the loudspeaker is, if the speakers can’t reproduce it then nothing else matters much. If you can’t get it out, then there’s no sense in paying money to get it in.
The source as a foundation approach suggests just the opposite: the best loudspeakers in the world can’t produce something that doesn’t exist. If you can’t get it in, then nothing on the output matters.
The “everything matters” as a foundation idea is probably the most balanced but has the distinct disadvantage of a lack of focus when it comes to applying what financial resources one has to the system. Spending equal amounts on what matters most and what matters least tends to water down the results.
The AC power as a foundation approach is by far, the most fundamental of all four approaches. Its advantage is in providing the most solid foundation possible, because everything in the system starts out as power and the quality of that power has a direct effect on the performance of the entire system. Its disadvantage is that having a rock solid foundation is only as valuable as what all the other equipment is. You cannot enjoy the benefits of one without everything else.
Companies like PS Audio, Shunyata and Audience would suggest that power is the right choice for your foundation. It should be no surprise that all three companies would tell you this because all three companies make AC power products. Each would tell you theirs is the best and each would have all the reasons why. It’s probably equally true that loudspeaker companies might suggest theirs is what to focus on and source equipment companies the same.
Certainly any of the four foundational approaches are valid and there are many fine examples of systems that amaze and delight that are based on one of the four approaches listed.
This article will try and make the case that of the four, AC power is the most universally acceptable choice of them all.
Because power is the one constant (there’s also the room itself) in each approach that none can ignore. Even loudspeakers, which are passive devices, require a power amplifier to make any sound at all and so the two must be considered as a package – powered by, you guessed it, AC power.
In fact, everything you hear and see in a home AV system starts out as AC power. The equipment in that system converts the AC power into a usable form and then uses its particular technology to convert the power into something we can hear or see. Without power, we have nothing.
Power out of the wall has different levels of quality and those degrees of quality can have a direct and immediate impact on the final outcome in our systems. The more resolving and higher end the system, the more readily apparent the effects of power quality can affect the system’s performance.
We may think that what comes out of our home’s AC power outlets is always the same, but nothing could be further from the truth; and the situation is getting worse, not better.
This issues stem from the fact that power is a grid, a network if you will, that thousands (sometimes millions) of people share all at the same time. If we each had our own private generating stations at home then these issues would be far fewer than they are now; but we do not. Our power is shared and when too many people are sharing, the results are less than optimal when power quality is an issue.
Problems we see regularly:
• Fluctuating levels of power
• Distorted waveforms
• Added harmonics
• Noisy power
• Dynamically sagging power caused by power amps and TV’s
• Radio station signals riding on the power
• Cell phone and computer noise
There are a number of approaches to cleaning up power. From filtering to AC regeneration, each company involved in cleaning up the AC power for our AV systems has their own approach and story.
The good news is that it is entirely possible to build a strong, reliable foundation for your home AV system. Once built, that foundation should always provide the bedrock for any future equipment upgrades and purchasers.
In the same way that building a proper room with just the right acoustics to support a great high-end system is important, we should also consider AC power as the next step in building a rock solid foundation for everything we do now and into the future. Acquiring the proper equipment for building your foundation is as essential as all the rest of your equipment combined.
Nurture your system and your investment by feeding it the best available.