Power Outages and Your Audio System

Last week my power grid decided to do a momentary stutter-step outage. It was maybe one second long at the most, but it was enough to inspire every electric clock in the house to blinking, "set clock." 

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Also, it "took out" a piece of audio gear, or so I thought. 

I live in Colorado. Denver to be precise. And while Colorado does not host the most lightning strikes per annum (that honor goes to Florida) it does rank a close second. During the summer, "rain" here is usually a thunder storm of varying intensity. Last year a spring hail storm in my neighborhood trashed every roof (and a lot of cars). This summer a thunderstorm in Lakewood, which borders Denver on the west, was severe enough to destroy greenhouses. So, yes, Colorado gets a lot of the kind of weather that can wreak havoc with electrical grids. 

I live in a three-year-old home that when it was built included a whole house spike protector. Nowadays that's a standard building practice for new construction in Colorado. I suppose some trusting souls might actually depend on it to protect their electronics from damage. That would be a mistake. 

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Because I'm hyper-aware of the damage that can be caused by a nearby lightning strike I do not depend solely on my whole house spike protector. Every audio component in my systems has some sort of power protection between it and the wall. I have several PS Audio Devices - an Octet, Dectet, and old Quartet as well as a Premier power plant. I also use an APC S15Core Power 150, and Audience aR-2p. Some, such as the APC S15 are dedicated to a computer attached to my main system, while others, such as the Dectet, protect power amps. Devices move around, depending on what is in a system, but there is always something as a back-up to the whole-house protector. 

During the three years I've been in my current abode I've had blessedly few major events besides the couple I've already mentioned. Occasionally I've found that the Dectet that protects my small main-floor audio/video system gets tripped into protect mode. It's twitchy. I reset it and life goes on. 

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The incident last week produced somewhat different results - it caused all the electric clocks to need attention, but none of the spike protectors were tripped except one - the Audience aR2p. It was residing in my bedroom, protecting a system that consists of a PS Audio SproutSonos Connect, loudspeakers and an Aperion powered subwoofer. After the outage my wife told me she was hearing strange thumping noises for upstairs. Armed with a baseball bat (in case it was burglar) I found that the PS Audio Sprout was in power up/shut-down endless-repeat hell, producing a bass transient with each cycle. I unplugged it and the noises ceased. 

Because I can be a bit dense first thing on a Sunday morning, I assumed the Sprout had been cooked. I disconnected it, took it to my office and began the process of generating a repair order. But, then because I'm curious, I plugged the Sprout into another AC outlet and it worked as if nothing had happened. So, the Sprout was OK. 

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When I looked on the floor, behind a hutch, I saw that the Sprout had been plugged into the Audience aR2p, so my next wrong conclusion was that the Audience power conditioner had given up its life to save the Sprout. Naturally I contacted John MacDonald from Audience. His first reply was, "Did you reset the circuit breaker?" My answer, "What circuit-breaker?" indicated that I had not. When I did the Audience was also returned to full functionality. Back to business as usual. 

I wish I could write that given all the effort I spend making sure my power line is protected has been or will be 100% effective. I know from experience that if there was a lightning hit close enough to my home that all the protection in the world may not save gear from getting toasted - lighting can and does attack your gear from multiple entry points, including cable (having fiber optic can help) and phone lines, and sometimes it just skips over to damage something because it's feeling nasty. 

ARPO4a.jpgWhat is the best practice for protection from lighting strike damage to your audio gear? Simple - run around your house like a madman disconnecting every electrical device of value from the wall...I call it my 2:00 minute dash... 

Power conditioners are not even a close second best...

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