Discovering the Source of Pure Sound & Sight

There are three principal elements to every efficient home theater system: components, cabling/wiring, and power. Power, as a fundamental category is a much more challenging aspect of the home theater system sale than either of its two siblings.

Most consumers generally not only believe, but also accept the premise that the more money spent on individual system components, the better the sound and picture will be. By the same token, they also understand that the performance quality of those pricier components must be supported by premium cabling and wiring. In essence, the more superior the cabling/wiring; again, the better the sound and picture will be. Unfortunately, other than the minor consideration of a dedicated circuit to bring power to the component rack, most customers do not recognize that plugging a system into an unfiltered/unprotected power source will have a detrimental effect on system performance.

Power related problems impact the installer/designer principally in two ways. The first is merely meeting the consumer’s expectations, while the second is minimizing maintenance-related issues. The consumer simply expects that the installed system provide a first-class audio/video experience. Therefore, the more costly the system, the greater the consumer’s expectations become. In relation to maintenance issues, these arise from each and every system installation. Either the installer/designer has assumed responsibility for system maintenance under a specific agreement, or solely by the expectations of the consumer – if anything goes wrong (within a reasonable period), the installer will return to correct the problem.

The intrinsic challenge in selling power lies in effectively communicating power-related issues to the customer and installer/designer. Power spikes can damage and even destroy system components, while power pollution or “noise” can corrupt a/v signals impairing system performance. While a dedicated circuit may be the starting point for addressing power performance and system safety, such a circuit only allows the installer/designer to limit, but not eliminate the devices that may directly impact power fluctuations and pollution (“noise”) generated on that branch. Most consumers can appreciate the impact of having the HVAC system on the same circuit as their theater rack, but what is much more challenging is having the customer understand the concept of “noise” and the necessity of AC filtration. To have the customer envision their house stripped of all drywall and exterior siding aids in communicating important power issues. The picture of what remains is a wood frame replete with nothing but copper pipes, ac and data wires encapsulating the interior environment of the home in a copper net. Not only will this net of copper transmit RFI picked up from exterior sources, but it will also transmit EMI/RFI noise originating from within the home.

Common sources of noise in the home include incandescent lighting, fluorescent lighting, dimmer switches, computers, refrigerators and almost any appliance with an electric motor. Motors generate noise that can, and usually is, transmitted on the AC power lines within the house. AC noise can be identified with a simple device called a “Noise Sniffer?” manufactured by AudioPrism. When plugged into any outlet the “Noise Sniffer?” detects noise traveling on the power line, converting it into a signal that will drive a small speaker; therefore, making it possible to “listen” to the EMI/RFI noise that is almost always present on power lines. A useful analogy to the effect of noise on system performance is the resemblance of a system designer to a brewer of premium beer. Premium brewers universally tout the purity of the water they use as a key component of the taste experience of their product. Water in its purest state is both odorless and tasteless. The importance of using pure water is that it insures that the brewer’s message or product will be unaffected by the medium that carries it to the consumer. Like water is to premium beer, power is in fact the medium that takes the system designer’s message of sight and sound to the consumer. It should be inaudible to the ear and invisible to the eye.

A second challenge in selling power as a category is to establish high value for the system designer. Establishing this value, chiefly resides in meeting consumer expectations by allowing the installed system to operate at peak performance with minimal breakdowns. Typically, if consumers have professionally installed systems, then they will not be in a position to undertake any but the very simplest of maintenance tasks. Therefore, power products that protect rack components and its programming functions from power anomalies minimize the risk of maintenance calls and dissatisfied consumers, which, in turn maximizes profitability and the opportunity for future referral business.