APC AV H15: Introduction and First Impressions
"Pursuing the truth in audio and video" has often translated into "pointing out the snake oil that permeates our field." Of course cables have long been a culprit but also on our short list is power conditioning. I can't tell you how many of these products we've come across that were practically empty boxes with reinforced sidewalls for added heft. We've found some that have actually created accentuated spikes rather than suppress them. Snake oil doesn't even begin to describe it. And the price tags that are associated with such products would turn your stomach. At least it did me. But that doesn't stop other home theater publications from gushing over them.
APC has long been associated with UPS and power solutions that are probably used by your school, business, and plenty of governmental entities. Well respected doesn't begin to describe them. I often wonder how a company like APC decides to get in to the home theater market. Now, I can't honestly say that I know how this all went down but this is what I envision…
Fade up on the office of a powerful corporate executive bent over his desk looking over blueprints and contracts. The glass on the door reads "Chief Research Officer APC".
Enter flustered employee, bursting through the door. He's forgotten to knock but doesn't seem to remember that in his excitement. The CRO looks up, annoyed at first but he holds his tongue as he sees the expression on the employee's face. The employee holds a magazine open and slams it down on the CRO's desk.
Employee: You've GOT to see this…
CRO: What's the meaning of…
His voice trails off as he looks down at the open magazine. The employee has placed it upside down but it is clear that it is a photograph of the internals of some sort of AV equipment. The CRO's eyes squint in concentration as he slowly turns the magazine and begins to decipher the device laid bare.
CRO: What's this supposed to be?
Employee: They call it a power conditioner!
The CRO's eyebrows arch violently. Surprise is evident on his face.
But that'll never work!
Employee: I know but look at what they are charging for it!
He points to a 4 figure price tag.
CRO: That's outrageous!
Soon after it was decided that APC should provide a product that not only performed the advertised function but didn't rake the consumer over the coals for doing so.
First Impressions and Build Quality
My little fiction aside, APC has really put together a nice piece of equipment in the H15. The H15 is a stand alone unit that provides surge protection, isolated noise filtering, and voltage regulation. Do you need this? I can't say. But you most certainly need the surge protection. Isolated noise filtering might be needed if your neighbor uses power tools or if your wife likes to blow-dry her hair during the climatic scenes of Lord of the Rings. Voltage regulation would be considered necessary if you live in an area near a high current draw (like a hospital) which might lower or raise your voltage unexpectedly or if your home theater shares a circuit with your AC. My only caveat here is for those of you with projectors (anything with a bulb). Ensuring a stable voltage source will increase your bulb life significantly. Depending on the cost of your replacement bulbs, this could amount to a serious cost savings.
The H15 is built like a rectangular, silver tank. At over 16 pounds, it certainly feels like a hefty piece of electronics equipment. The front of the unit has a small two-line LCD display, three buttons, and a number of lights. The central button is an On/Off button (they recommend On at all times). Once the H15 is integrated into your system, I can see no reason why you'd want to turn it off. The left button is for accessing the Setup menus and the right button is a Select button for use when choosing the different settings.
There are a number of lights on the front panel which indicate the state of the unit. Working from the bottom left and going clockwise we have:
Wiring OK Status Indicator - If it is blue, your house is wired properly. If it is not lit then either there is a missing ground, overloaded neutral or reversed polarity. Call an electrician.
Line OK Status Indicator - If it is blue, you're OK. If it is not lit the input voltage is too low (or high) and the unit will go into boost or trim mode to compensate. You may hear a clicking sound.
Filtering Status Indicator - When blue, EMI/RFI noise reduction circuit is active.
Line Boost Status Indicator - When lit (orange) the H15 is boosting the voltage.
Switched On Status Indicator - All outlets (except those with a programmed delay) are receiving power.
Delayed On Status Indicator - All delayed outlets are receiving power.
Line Trim Status Indicator - When lit (orange) the H15 is trimming the voltage.
Taking a look at the back of the unit, we see the 12 outlets which are all labeled in some way (all the labels on the back of the unit are suggestions only - your DVD player won't blow up if you plug it in to the CD outlet). Under the Digital Filter label, there are 6 outlets labeled CD, DVD, DVR, CATV/SAT, Monitor, Aux. The Video Filter has TV and VCR, Analog has Tuner/Aux and Preamp/RCVR, and Delayed has Subwoofer and Amplifier. The strike against these outlets is that the outlets are a little too close for your larger wall warts. There is a single in and two outs for CATV/ Modem RF cable and one in and one out for a SAT/Antenna RF. If you have a telephone line that you'd like protected there is a single in and two outs. There is a removable power cord along with a manual circuit breaker button (in case of a major surge) and DC trigger in and out ports. Lastly, there is a System Ground Terminal for you to tie all your grounding wires to eliminate ground loops and their accompanied hum.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the H15 just can't be beat. The review unit is silver but there is a black version as well. Personally, I prefer the silver. Cracking open the case we see a large isolation transformer separated from the analog input filters, high quality MOV’s for surge suppression, and heavy gauge wiring to ensure maximum power delivery. This is no empty box! There is no doubt that this design utilizes some high quality parts and sturdy construction all backed by UL Certification which is a rarity in the business of home theater power conditioners. UL Certification is something that one should be very concerned about when looking into surge protection and power conditioning. Why? Well, I can't say that non-UL certified products are necessarily unsafe, but I can say that UL certified products ARE safe. If you want to take your chances with non-UL certified products, have at it. It's your equipment to fry.
Their Atlanta stores are being liquidated. I was able to buy a $500 APC #J15 UPS and power conditioner for 60% off, or $200. (complete model # is J15BLK)
but not looks. I am wondering if anyone with either unit has the
"filtering" LED in the OFF state for the majority of the time. I only was the LED
come on once for a short period of time. I am not sure if my unit is working
properly or if this is normal if the AC line is clean and the filtering is OFF
by default. I have only a few days left and don't want to get stuck with a
Am I ok to plug my amp into this or should I figure a way to go directly into a wall?
Set it to normal. As long as the line doesn't drop below 108Vrms you will be fine. USA Consumer gear is made to work between 108-132Vrms and the H15 will keep you well above 108Vrms if you set it to normal.
The analog power input likely has more current capability and low frequency filtering so you should try to use the appropriate connection when you can.
Unfortunately my cable box reset issue has returned even when using the 1040. I had the 1040 set to normal so I am little stumped and thought one of three things could be happening.
1.) The cable box settings resets at votlages fluctuations +/-10% of 120
2.) the 1040 is not working 100% and even when set to "normal" it alows votlage fluctuations great then +/-10%
3.) Voltage fluctuations is not what is causing the cable box to reset.
For "fun" i set the 1040 to "narrow" and watched the Vin and Vout to see what it would read when the "boost" or "trim" would kick in and here is wht I noticed.
The 1040 clicked and the "boost" light flicked on and off pretty quick. The display however only showed the Vin stay at 119 V and the Vout jumped up to 125V. Why would this be? Wouldnt the "boost" light come on when the Vin is less then 5%, shouldnt the Vin have read 114V in order to trigger the line boost?