Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is the Vintage Sound We Grew to Know and Love Due in Part to Poor Voltage Quality?

One outlet on the power strip/surge protector servicing my entertainment center had turned black and was actually melting. Bad news is it proves I should replace these more often than once in 20 years, good news is I had a valid excuse to determine whether the hype around power conditioners is valid.

The main difference between my old surge protector and a power conditioner (other than $200) is a variety of electronic filters to improve the quality of the voltage in addition to protecting against voltage spikes. The filters help your gear operate like the designers intended while surge protection helps it live to fight another day in the event you get hit with a voltage spike; say a nearby lightning strike or nearby Zion hovercraft activating its EMP to disable a Sentinel.

I hooked up my new Panamax power conditioner after a trip to the local big box retailer and sure enough, I immediately saw blacker blacks in home theater speak. Quite a stunning transformation actually. Hmm, what would this do for guitar gear? A quick connect of my DSL 401 and pedal board through the Panamax conditioner showed a similar improvement, especially in noise reduction. Effects pedals seemed to also be more controlled, even my temperamental Dunlop Fuzz Face; almost too controlled..., like the Matrix vs. the "real" world.

One example of the real world devoid of voltage quality would be the 1967 BBC Sessions with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Take a listen and you will know there was not a power conditioner in sight. It sounds rough, gritty… and great.

I wonder how much of the 60s and 70s music we grew to know and love was created in part due to poor voltage quality?


Shane said...

Ha, That is an interesting story about the amps back in the 60s and 70s, makes me wonder, if their gears back then were good quality, their originals
may have, and probably would have sounded quite different.
Cool info.

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