|Equi=Tech 2Q Power Conditioner|
|Home Theater AC Power AC Power|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Saturday, 01 January 2005|
Page 1 of 3
Power conditioning products have been getting a lot of attention over the last few years from audiophiles and video freaks alike. If you didn’t know better, you might think that AC power components were a bit more snake oil remedy than real-world solution to AV problems. Make no mistake, most places in the U.S. and Canada have lousy power that robs your high-performance gear of vast amounts of its potential.
Although power conditioning and surge protection products have been around in the professional audio industry and scientific communities for quite some time, these solutions are fairly new to the AV enthusiast who in the last five years has been hearing all about “conditioning,” “regulation,” “regeneration” and much more. This education came with the home theater juggernaut and information about how adulterated power can affect the video signal. This was a tangible result that the purchaser could not ignore, and now consumers are able to understand how power affects performance. Like the recording industry, audiophiles have long known the benefits of clean power and have gone to great lengths to improve this aspect of their systems, with methods from only listening late in the evening when the demand for power in their neighborhood is at its lowest and therefore has less noise on the grid (I’m guilty of this), to using battery-powered components or dedicated power isolated from the rest of the house, to their own isolation transformers direct from the utility pole feeding their home. You would be surprised at the amount of effort that goes into removing this stealthy electrical wart.
The Equi=Tech model 2Q ($2,689) attacks nasty power problems by addressing AC noise through the use of balanced power. The 2Q is 16 inches wide by 16 inches deep and three inches high, providing up to 20 amp maximum output current. The 2Q’s diminutive size is very deceiving. Weighing in at 85 pounds, the 2Q lifts more like a slab of lead than a traditional audio component of its size. The unit I received for review has a brushed clear anodized front panel with the company logo laser etched in the center and a red LED voltage display with a horizontally mounted three-position rocker switch below to change the display from incoming voltage to off to output voltage. Two vertically-mounted black rocker switches occupy either side of the faceplate with an accompanying blue LED above them. The right side switch is for the main power shutoff and the left side switch is for standby mode.
The rear panel of the 2Q has five pairs of outlets. Two pairs of outlets are standard outlets and are white. Another two pairs of outlets have special noise filters in the chassis for use with digital products like CD and DVD players and are gray in color. The fifth pair is an un-switched GFI outlet for components like VCRs, where you want to keep power for the clock. There is also a CATV ground isolator for your cable connection, as well as a grounding terminal on the rear panel for grounding to your rack or components. There is a replaceable dual-stage voltage spike protection module internal to the 2Q that has an indicator light that will tell you when the system has experienced too many voltage spikes. It is said to be easy to install and inexpensive to do so. The AC cable supplied with the 2Q is rated for 20 amps and comes with an adapter that will allow you to plug into a standard three-prong plug outlet. The 2Q also minimizes the problem of tripping breakers when powered up by having a low inrush current.
The biggest offender in power, one that is overlooked by most power conditioning products, is reactive ground current. With reactive ground current, the ground leg of the AC power is carrying current, which creates ground loop impedance between neutral and ground. This is manifested as an audible hum that strongly affects sensitive signal paths and greatly reduces dynamics. Reactive currents can increase as the load is increased, so the larger the current draw, the bigger the noise problem gets. Also, in today’s circuits, RF filter capacitors leak current back into ground and are a large source of noise as well.
Equi=Tech got its start in the entertainment industry, providing power solutions for TV and recording studios in Los Angeles since the early 1990s, using their proprietary custom-wound balanced power transformers. The center tap of the Equi=Tech transformers have a high precision 120-volt output, which divides the output voltage into two identical but inversely phased 60-volt output legs. This allows the reactive currents on both legs to cancel one another out, better known as Common Mode Rejection, and is similar to how XLR balanced signal connections work. The accuracy of the recombination and summing of these two phases is in direct proportion to the quality of the 2Q’s windings: the better the accuracy, the better the ability to cancel out even the smallest amounts of anomalies. Digital should benefit from the 2Q’s ability to remove line harmonics which affect jitter. With the exception of the digital output connections, the 2Q uses no filters to “condition” the AC waveform.
The getting started information supplied with the 2Q is very specific about how to properly ground the outlets of your home. They state that a dedicated circuit with an isolated ground will exhibit the best performance. My situation may be closer to the general population in that I don’t have a dedicated circuit for my AV gear (yet). Equi=Tech also tells you how to install a grounding system to optimize the Q series of products. One of the recommendations is to drive two eight-foot-long, five-eighths of an inch in diameter copper-clad grounding rods into the ground at least six feet apart, then run a #6 copper wire between the two rods and terminate that at the main ground of the home. Well, the best I could do at the time was to attach a ground to a copper drain pipe to a high-quality Hubbell outlet, using a #10 solid copper wire, and plug the 2Q into that. My installation may represent the lower quarter of how home installations would happen. People who are willing to pay almost $2,700 or more on power conditioners are more than likely to go the extra effort to insure the proper grounding.
The literature that came with the 2Q stated that to gain the maximum benefit offered by it, you should plug all of your gear into it. Well, the 2Q is rated for 20 amps maximum output and I was a little concerned that my total system might be too much for the stated rating. My biggest worries were my Bryston 7B-ST 500-watt mono blocks and my Sony seven-inch CRT projector. The Sunfire Theater Grand IV, the Denon DVD-2900 and the iScan DVDO video processor also needed to be added to the 2Q. Amazingly, the 2Q handled everything without a hiccup. I used Cardas Golden Reference power cords to make all of the AC connections and used the stock cord and adapter that came with the 2Q to power it.
If you have other power conditioners and are not sure if the 2Q will work with them, Equi=Tech says that you can use other power products with the Q series, as long as it is the last component in the chain for hooking up your gear. This way, you are guaranteed to benefit from the noise cancellation the 2Q provides.