In constructing a space for recording audio, often one of the last considerations is maintaining a steady flow of reliable electricity to equipment in all situations. If the power is functioning normally, all is good. But when it fails or surges, everything can come to a halt and earlier work is easily lost. This is when you need an uninterruptible power supply or power conditioner.
Costly power disasters can be avoided in audio studios by installing uninterruptible power supplies or power conditioners. An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, is a battery in a box that is triggered into operation when AC power is lost. It plugs into a wall outlet and has power outlets for mission critical equipment. A power conditioner, which is different from a UPS, protects equipment against voltage spikes and other power anomalies that can cause damage.
A UPS is not like a back-up generator. It supplies enough power to allow the user time to save work and properly power down critical gear like a computer and processors. With no UPS, all studio gear shuts down instantly, often losing any work that was unsaved. It can also zap important files, causing extensive work to be lost forever.
When power is lost with a UPS, the user should immediately save all files and power down the gear. When power is restored, boot up the studio’s computers and pick up work where it was left off. If a component needs time to boot up when powered on, it should probably be protected by a UPS unit.
The key components that need UPS protection are the computer running the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), the storage drives and the monitor that displays all the work. (Without the monitor, the user won’t be able to see the desktop to save the work and shut down properly.) Network gear such as routers should be added to the UPS in larger facilitates where it is required by DAWS.
Equipment such as microphones and preamps, monitor speakers, analog EQs and compressors don’t need UPS protection. This gear is threatened more by power surges, transient voltage spikes and voltage drops. For this category of equipment, another device is needed — the power conditioner.
A high-quality power conditioner resists transient voltage spikes and handles errant voltages. It offers the best protection against lightning strikes. Professional conditioners also include EMF/RF noise filtering to prevent noise from “dirty” power leaking into an audio system.
Power conditioners will not do the job of a UPS and they won't correct or stabilize irregular voltage levels. That’s a job for a voltage regulator. Power conditioners are designed to deliver clean power equipment and to guard against power surges.
Any studio gear not already plugged into a UPS should be plugged into a power conditioner. All equipment is susceptible to either power loss or voltage irregularities and transient spikes. A combination of the devices — matched to right capacity for the gear protected — offers maximum protection against electrical issues.
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