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I've had a request for a mains conditioning unit on a system that has run off mains for years with no problems. I've never heard of any surges or oddities like that and so I'm wondering what the value of mains conditioning in protecting equipment really is.

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It isn't just about protecting equipment, it is about the requirement of consistent power to get good quality sound. Lots of processing in sound is based around relation to a standard power level to determine how strong a signal is. If you don't have well conditioned power, that level can change... a LOT!!! Particularly if it is fluctuating greatly you can end up with significant changes to how a sound is processed by equipment and result in unpredictable results and/or excess noise floors.

There is also always the possibility that a major surge could damage gear, but that's not the main concern at all. Major surges are a very rare occurrence, though they can occur and be devastating to gear, but their rarity really makes them not the primary concern. Sound quality and predictable, level power is.

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  • Great, thanks for the answer. Just to explore a bit more, if the kit is digital, for example, mic receivers, how much will that affect the noise the channel suffers? I'm not criticising, I genuinely don't see what the buy in for such kit is in a digital age. It sounds like the PSU's don't sanitize the input, is that the case? (in general, I mean. I'm not asking you to gaze into a crystal ball and work out what gear I'm running!) – David Boshton Oct 22 '14 at 17:03
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    Depends how good the PSUs are. Digital is probably even more dependent on consistent power levels since the analog to digital converters depend on comparing power levels. Really serious PSUs do provide some conditioning and may be sufficient, but if you go between devices, there isn't a guarantee that they will all condition the same way. Having stable power in is probably still an advantage. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '14 at 17:17
  • Great, that's really useful. Now I get the issue more fully. The last question I have is about equipment life -- surges aside (as I'm never experienced or known anyone to have ever had one either domestically or commercially) will it damage the gear to have unconditioned (MCB and RCD protected still) power? – David Boshton Oct 22 '14 at 17:30
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    I can't speak for all hardware, but general solid state stuff should not be damaged by unconditioned power, it would just misread. Generally speaking, as long as power levels don't exceed circuit specs it shouldn't cause damage to a circuit. Analog gear might get more strain from incorrect voltages and such though. I'm less sure about that part of the answer though. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '14 at 17:51

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