APC S15BLK Owner`s manual
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Article by Ralph
(04-09-07 01:04 PM)
Power conditioning, voltage regulation and surge protection: 3
solutions from APC AV, Ethereal, and Furman Sound
One of the areas of importance that seems to get very little attention
especially among audio/video novices is power conditioning and good surge
protection. There are many who are under the impression that a $12 outlet
strip will provide good surge protection. While it may offer it at some level
in most cases it is not capable of adequate protection in the event of a
lightning strike, low voltage brown out, or power surge. Any of these
conditions can damage the delicate circuitry located within our audio/video
gear.
There are many types of surge suppression devices made by varying
manufacturers. Some units provide surge protection only while others
additionally offer power conditioning and voltage regulation. Power
conditioners in general are designed to help eliminate or reduce the negative
effects of electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference
which can introduce audible/visual noise that may degrade the performance
of system components. These can enter into the signal path over the
electric line from outside or within our dwellings. Voltage regulation can be
critical to optimum system performance especially in situations where the
AC voltage fluctuates to the point where under voltage conditions can starve
power hungry components like power amplifiers or subwoofers or extended
over voltages can damage sensitive equipment like today’s sophisticated
preamplifiers, receivers, projectors and digital displays. Voltage regulating
components provide a constant and stable AC voltage to your system even
when AC line conditions drop below or exceed levels for optimum operation.
Today more and more home based theater systems are using lamp driven
digital projection systems. The cost of which has become more affordable
over the last 5 years or so. The lamps within projectors require proper
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Not an issue with the Furman. The Unit’s display is a blue digital numeric
ammeter/volt meter that can be toggled to show the current input AC
voltage or the total system current draw in amps. The total system draw at
any given point while the Furman was installed in my system never
exceeded 5.3 amps. The AC voltage coming into the Furman from the wall
never exceeded 123 volts or dropped lower than 115 volts.
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The first thing I did was to check the system for any signs of audible noise.
The SPR-20i emit’s a very low level hum when powered up (the level is the
same with or without components connected to it) which I believe is coming
from its power supply. It is only audible when placing your ear next to the
unit’s vents although it did become slightly higher when I powered the
amplifier up. In either case it should not be noticeable in most if not all
applications even in a quiet room.
The remainder of the system ran dead quiet.
Elite Home
Theater Seats
I wanted to ensure there was no difference in the quality of the signal being
routed through the Furman from the cable TV feed from my wall to my high
definition DVR. The quality of the image showed no signs of degradation as
the Furman did its job in acting as a pass through. I listened to music in
both stereo and surround configurations and found the quality of the audio to
be every bit as detailed and dynamic as I am accustomed to hearing through
my system. The SPR-20i regulates voltage for a continuous output of 120
VAC (+/- 1.0V) with an input range of 113 VAC to 126 VAC. It will regulate
beyond these ranges but not within +/- 1.0V tolerance. I drove the system
to reference levels both with and without the subwoofer. I never heard any
indication that my amplifier was not getting enough current to maintain the
power that the system required. The same was true while listening to digital
movie soundtracks from standard DVD as well as both Blu-ray and HD DVD.
The multi-channel high resolution audio on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs can
often make heavy demands for power to handle dynamic transients. An
example of this would be the plane crash scene from the Blu-ray disc “Flight
of the Phoenix”. Even at higher sound pressure levels the power supplied to
the system through the Furman never wavered. Dynamics were rendered not
only with subtle delicacy but with tremendous convolution and room shaking
power during the scene that takes place within the passenger cabin as the
aircraft spirals out of control and crashes.
Manufacturer of
Unique and Stylish
Home Theater
Seating
www.elitehts.com
Furman recommends use of a 20 amp circuit with the SPR-20i. I have a
dedicated 20 amp circuit for my equipment but wanted to see how the unit
would perform when connected to a 15 amp circuit. I connect the unit to a
15 amp outlet and ran the system with no problem. I would say that if you
have 15 amp setup it would be best to try the unit in your environment to
ensure proper operation.
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There were a few things that should be noted about the SPR-20i. The unit
offers no option for delayed power up of components plugged into it’s
outlets through the use of DC trigger(s). While most A/V system controllers
provide trigger assemblies it would be a nice option to have if needed. The
lack of a dimmer for the front panel display is a noticeable oversight. The
digital ammeter/voltmeter is very bright and is a definite distraction in a
darkened room. The owner’s manual makes reference to a dimmer however
the review unit I received lacked one and I saw no provision on the unit’s
rear panel to add one. These observations are minor and did not in any way
negatively impact my experience with the SPR-20i.
The SPR-20i is a well designed component that clearly sets the bar for
others to follow. Its power conditioning and voltage regulation are first rate.
Add that to its small stature, quiet operation and numerous connections and
the SPR-20i is a worthy contender for your power needs.
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29 30
APC AV Model S15BLK Power Conditioner with Battery Backup:
Theater
Price: $549.99
Panasonic SC-HT740 DVD
Home
Price: $199.95
Product Search:
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American Power Conversion is a well established company that makes a
plethora of products related to power protection which are used world wide
and not just in the audio/video realm. I won’t try to list all of the products
made by APC but believe me they have years of experience at making
products that people trust and rely on.
In speaking to one of their production people it was very obvious to me that
APC AV is very proud of the design/implementation of the Model S15. After
spending some time with it I am here to tell you that they should be. The
S15 is a power conditioner/surge protector with a battery backup that
provides automatic voltage regulation, and has a continuous rated watt
capacity of 900 watts. The unit comes with a 2 year warranty that includes
the battery and has an msrp of $1500.
The S15 comes in either silver or black finishes with the BLK designation
coinciding with the black model. The unit is rather large and hefty weighing
in at just over 60 lbs. For those who plan to shelf mount it you will want to
ensure that you have plenty of depth as the unit is just over 18 inches deep.
The unit came securely packed from APC and contained the S15 (with
battery pack installed but disconnected), front display panel/bezel
(separately packaged), 10 foot AC power cord, 3 coaxial patch cables, 1 DC
trigger cable, PowerChute Personal Edition Software (more on that later),
USB interface cable, 1 telephone patch cable, 1 Ethernet patch cable, 1
complete rack mount kit and owners manual.
Once unpacked, assembly of the S15BLK was straight forward thanks to the
concise instructions in the owner’s manual. The unit ships with the battery
installed but disconnected. Connection was simple and required plugging the
battery wire connector into the corresponding input. The front bezel/control
panel snapped into place with ease and I was ready to go with set up. I took
a moment to marvel at how attractive the S15BLK is. The unit is anodized
black and the front panel is striking with its four silver control buttons
mounted on either side of the Vacuum Fluorescent Display which is framed
in oval silver. There are a series of blue LED’s (that are set against a black
background) which provide settings information as well as system
conditions. The entire control center is set within a larger silver oval at the
base of which is the system’s power button that glows blue when set to On.
The raised APC logo sits centered atop the control center. On each side of
the front bezel are three sets of “ribs” that are used as grips when
removing the bezel. A nice touch that adds to the aesthetic appeal of the
S15.
The back panel is very busy and contains 12 filtered outlets that are marked
device specific and broken down into digital, analog, video and high current
outlets all of which provide surge protection, voltage regulation, noise
filtering and pure sine wave battery backup power. There are three sets of
coaxial/RF connectors, a circuit breaker reset button, system ground screw,
a building wiring fault indicator, external battery connector, DC trigger jacks
(in/out) Ethernet jacks (in/out), telephone jacks (in and 2 outputs), a Data
port (USB) jack, a cooling fan, and input power connector. It would be fair to
say that the S15 is fully featured.
I went to work connecting my cable line from the wall to the input on the
APC. I was surprised to see that an additional output was included which
allowed me to use the APC as a cable line splitter as well (nice). I
connected the additional output to the line going to my cable modem. In
addition to all my other gear I connected my PC to the S15. I ran the
supplied USB and Ethernet cables to the data port and Ethernet port on the
APC and my cable modem, wireless router and USB port on my PC.
I powered the S15 up and checked out the Vacuum Fluorescent Display. It is
easy to read and appears to be sharper than a normal LCD display. The
display as well as the LEDs can be dimmed or turned off altogether (YES!).
There is even a screen saver than can be activated via the setup menu to
protect the VFD (nice touch). The unit immediately runs a self test to
ensure proper operation, which it passed. At that point I pressed the front
panel Setup button and began setting the unit up. The S15 is completely
configurable and has a multitude of user selectable settings and options. For
example, through use of the extensive setup menu users can set a defined
delay (0 to 10 seconds) for when the unit provides power to the two rear
panel Delayed outlets. This will prevent power on or power off glitches from
affecting other equipment connected to the unit. Users can define at what
voltage setting the unit’s battery backup should intervene on both the high
and low voltage end. The default setting for the low end is 100 volts while
the default setting on the high end is 134 volts. Users can set the
parameters between 90 and 100 volts for low and 134 to 144 volts on the
high end. I left the unit set to the default setting as the input voltage in my
room never drops below 115 volts even during peak times.
There are three user adjustable Sensitivity settings, Low, Medium, and High.
These adjust how the S15 reacts to input voltage waveform distortion and
momentary power fluctuations. I tried all three settings and found low to be
the best in my room. The high setting resulted in the unit going to battery
operation quite a bit especially during when the system was being driven
hard. The medium setting was much better which only had the unit switch
over to battery power during heavy transient peaks and even then only on
occasion. The medium setting would be fine in most if not all cases.
The S15 has several audible alarm settings for notification when the unit
detects changes in the input voltage and needs to switch over to battery
power, as well as when the unit’s battery is running low. In addition the S15
will indicate via the LEDs on the front panel when it is in voltage regulation
mode, receiving an overload, running on the battery or the battery is low.
The S15 provides a host of system information that can be accessed using
the Status button on the front panel. Users can ascertain the input and
output voltage, total system load (both in watts and a percentage based
upon total wattage utilized), estimated system run time and battery fuel
capacity, current power source (utility or battery power), input and output
frequency, firmware version currently installed, model and serial number as
well as the telephone number and internet web address for APC technical
support. The S15 will even perform a Runtime Calculation test to calibrate
the internal measurements which should result in more accurate runtime
estimates. The options run even deeper but you get the idea.
The supplied PowerChute Software allows the system to be monitored and
optimized via your personal computer. Furthermore in the event of a power
outage the software will protect your operating system and open files by
gracefully shutting down the system in the event of an extended power
outage. I installed the software on my PC and it immediately found the S15.
I was able to run system checks, check current status (battery life,
estimated run time etc.), performance (power related events/history), and
completely customize the settings on the S15BLK right from my computer
screen. Any changes detected by the S15 can be reported on the PC desktop.
I powered everything up without a hitch. A check of the entire system for
noise yielded total system silence. A review of both standard and high
definition programming through my DVR indicated that the pass through
capabilities on the APC is excellent. I experienced similar performance with
my cable modem and wireless router. I listened to music in both two
channel and high resolution multi-channel varieties and was treated to the
same richly detailed and silky smooth sound that I have become
accustomed to in my system. I have an Outlaw Audio Model 7700 seven
channel amplifier which can be sensitive to ground loops and AC line noise. I
inserted the Outlaw into the system and it ran dead quiet in all channels.
Running the system at reference levels with movies soundtracks proved no
problem for the APC. Either with or without the use of the subwoofer the
system sound was crystal clear with subtle detail and brute force Sonics.
Using either the B&K or Outlaw amps the system never sounded restrained
or anemic. The plane crash sequence from “Flight of the Phoenix” Blu-ray
disc sounded superb with plenty of fine articulation and room rattling power
extension.
I wanted to test the battery backup capabilities of the S15. The transfer
time to battery in the event of a blackout according to APC is 7ms. With the
system running at full steam I shut down the circuit breaker to my theater
room (yeah I held my breath). The APC never missed a beat as each of the
components in the system continued on with no indication that the system
was being operated on battery power. The only indication that the unit was
running on battery power was the sound of the fan on the S15‘s rear panel.
The fan keeps the unit cool while it is operating on battery power. The S15
outputs a pure 60Hz Sine Wave waveform when operating on the battery.
The battery is sealed lead-acid maintenance free which can be typically
recharged in 8 hours. The system can run on battery power for 20 minutes
at half load (450 watts) or 7 minutes at full load (900 watts). Those times
will vary depending on the total system load and the battery charge
level/health. The S15 has an input on its rear panel to allow connection of
APC SBATT extended battery packs ($500 each) which can be daisy chained
to extend the unit’s run time. Most would not have a need to run the system
under full load for a prolonged period of time. For those that do the addition
of the SBATT external battery packs is a nice option to have.
The APC AV S15BLK is the most industrious, full featured power conditioner
I have ever had in my system. It’s ease of use, flexibility, extensive setup
options and aesthetic appeal are second to none. APC has taken careful
steps to ensure that this unit can fulfill the needs required by even the most
sophisticated systems. It is an a/v enthusiasts delight in that it can be
tailored in a variety of ways to fit each systems needs.
It offers top flight power conditioning/filtration, automatic voltage regulation,
and total system protection. A battery backup is highly recommended for
those with lamp driven projection systems. The S15BLK’s battery backup
function performs with great precision and reliability. This all comes at a
price that when compared to the competition places the APC AV S15BLK on
my list of highly recommended products.
Ethereal ESP3014 Power Conditioner with Surge Protection:
The ESP3014 is not a component style power conditioner but instead is laid
out like a power strip in that it can be placed on the floor or hung on the
wall. Don’t let that fool you though. The Ethereal is fully featured and has a
few tricks up its sleeve. The unit comes with a 1 year warranty and an
msrp of $ 199.00.
The ESP3014 is pretty unassuming in its appearance. The housing is made of
black polymer which gives it a bit of a flimsy feel. Its 14 outlets are broken
down into several groups. Each is labeled either as Filter 1 switched, Filter 2
unswitched, or Filter 2 unswitched high current. They are arrayed with 8
outlets on one of the unit’s long sides, 1 on each of the short sides, and four
on the front face. The front face contains the power switch, 12 vdc trigger
input, digital voltmeter and ammeter, Ethernet input/output, and 3 sets of
coaxial RF connections. Along the top edge of the front face there are three
LEDs to indicate protection on, wiring fault, and ground ok. Along the unit’s
right side there is a set of telephone RJ11 input/output connections. There is
also a 15 amp breaker with a reset button located near the power cord. The
grounded 14 awg 8 foot connected power cord has a right angle plug with a
shallow head for ease of placement.
I made all the connections to the ESP3014 and switched on the power via
the rocker switch on the front face. The protection and ground ok LEDs
illuminated to advise that the ground was present and the unit was providing
surge protection to each of it’s outlets. The digital volt meter indicated that
the unit was receiving 122 volts at it’s input. I powered up the Outlaw amp
and Anthem pre/pro with no problem. The digital ammeter indicated that the
current draw was 3.2 amps. These numbers coincide with the amount
usually drawn by these components as did the voltage coming from the wall
outlet. This told me that the ESP3014’s voltmeter/ammeter do provide
accurate readings for both.
I did a system check for noise and noticed that the front three channels had
low level humming coming through the mid range and bass drivers. It was
only audible from about 6 inches away and could not be detected otherwise.
The surrounds did not have the same sound but I did detect some
background noise when pressing my ear to the speaker. Again this was not
detectable otherwise and did not pose a problem. I swapped in the B&K
amplifier and did not hear the low level hum in the front three channels but
the background noise was present in each of the seven channels.
I ran through some standard and high definition sourced material through my
DVR to check the pass through abilities of the 3014. Standard def. video was
slightly noisier than usual especially on the lower analog channels. High
Definition video looked just fine but also contained some artifacting which
was generally more noticeable in darker scenes. I would have to conclude
that this was being introduced by the ESP3014. More than likely this would
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