May 29, 2007
| by Robert Archer
Power conditioning has become a growing A/V category in recent years, but one that consumers might not know too much about if it weren’t for professional installers bringing it to their attention the need for power protection and conditioning as a key component in their equipment racks. The worst way for consumers to find out about power conditioning products is when the power goes out during a storm as they’re enjoying their home theaters.
American Power Conversion’s (APC) newly released S20 has been designed to offer higher levels of performance than the original S Series products. Based on the company’s successful S15 power conditioner with battery backup, the S20 offers additional features such as temperature/humidity monitoring, a 28 percent larger power train and built-in Web server, Ethernet and USB ports that provide installers the ability to integrate the unit into a network to monitor system status and reduce service calls.
As for its other features, the UL-approved S20 incorporates 12 isolated outlets, voltage regulation, power conditioning and surge protection circuitry, rack-mount options, a total output capacity of 1,250 watts and a removable frontpanel that provides system status.
As you would expect, the S20 isn’t too complex to integrate into a home system. Because of the unit’s inclusion of battery backup, it is heavy to lift out of its shipping box. Once out of the box, the battery needs to be connected and the front panel needs to be locked into place. After reading through the S20’s owner’s manual, I plugged my components into the appropriate banks, which are labeled for digital, analog and amplification components.
The final step of the setup process involved installing the network software onto my laptop PC. Following the setup wizard, this final step took a few minutes.
Over the past few years, power conditioning products have greatly improved from previous generations. The S20 is more refined, feature-laden and, ultimately, a better product than the earlier S15.
When I reviewed the S15, my only complaint was that the product was somewhat noisy when the power regulation and/or when the battery backup features were engaged. This time, however, the S20 was much quieter in its day-to-day operations while still offering the same levels of power conditioning, protection and voltage regulation.
A good example of its all-around performance occurred when we experienced an ice storm that knocked out our power for about five hours. With components such as a DVR-equipped HD set-top box plugged into the S20, I would normally worry about possible hard drive damage, but because of the backup capabilities the S20 provides, my system never lost power.
Once power was restored, I checked the S20’s service log via a USB connection. The log reported no hiccups in power activity.
I also compared the performance of my Bryston electronics and Cary Audio source components plugged into a wall receptacle against the S20. The noise floor of my system was “blacker,” the image and soundstage were livelier with more dimension and “snap” using the S20.
The only problem I did run into was that I was not able to check system status remotely through my network.
I give APC a lot of credit for addressing the noise issues of the S15 by offering a quieter S20 unit. Given APC’s history within the corporate IT world, along with this product’s abundance of features and performance, installers should be able to easily leverage the S20 as an important component during the sales/demo process.
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.