Once you've got all that expensive home theatre equipment hooked up, the worst thing that can happen is a power surge wiping the whole lot out, so it's high time to protect your sonic investment with a line conditioner and surge protector... such as the Panamax Max 2000. Nigel R. Pond explains.
Many thanks to Carol McClure for her assistance and for providing the review sample.
|Panamax Max 2000 Specifications|
Dimensions: 17¼ × 3½ × 8½ inches
Clamping Level: 27V
Connections: Female "F" Connectors
Attenuation: <.8dB from 950MHz-14,500MHz
Ant/CATV and Downline TV Circuit
Connections: Female "F" Connectors
|(All specifications as per manufacturer)|
The Panamax Max® 2000 - A Review
Readers of my review of the Marantz RC 2000 mark II, may recall that I joked about that remotes inability to turn on a popcorn machine. Well that may now be a reality the new Panamax Max® 2000 combines the functions of a line conditioner/surge protector with those of a sophisticated remote switching/system automation centre.
Panamax surge protection products have been long-time favourites among home theatre enthusiasts. Indeed, Lexicon DC-1 owners may be familiar with Chris Glantons excellent SMR article explaining how to use the DC-1s remote trigger port with the power sensing capabilities of the Max 1000+ to provide a degree of system automation.
The Max 2000 takes that capability to a completely different level and provides extensive system control options via programmable outlets, IR code output and a 12 volt trigger.
The features of this product are many and varied: programmable master switch, 10 programmable outlets, cable TV protection, satellite TV protection, phone line protection, programmable IR code output, programmable 12 volt trigger, programmable under-voltage/over-voltage levels, LCD status display, and Panamax AllPath® bay. While it is unlikely that any user will need all these features, the unit is sufficiently flexible that it can be integrated into almost any system to perform a variety of power control tasks.
The Max 2000 is very well-built and visually attractive. The front panel has a fashionable brushed black finish and a discrete LCD display (which can be adjusted to 2 levels of brightness or turned off). Beside the display are the three buttons used to configure the unit (more on that later). On the rear panel are the 10 outlets, AllPath bay, telephone jacks, jacks for antenna and satellite protection, and DC trigger terminal block. The configuration of the outlets is worthy of further explanation. Looking at the rear of the unit and reading from the left there are: two current sensing outlets, labelled A and B; two outlets, labelled 1 and 2, which can be independently programmed to respond to any trigger; then three pairs of outlet banks, labelled banks 1, 2 and 3, each consisting of two outlets and each pair of which can be programmed to respond to any trigger.
Set-up of the Max 2000 requires some planning. The first decision is whether you want the unit to turn everything on or off from just the main switch. That would be the simplest configuration switch on and all the units outlets are turned on, switch off and they are all turned off. But that does not account for those pieces of equipment that need to be powered up all the time, like VCRs or a processor that the user may want to keep in standby mode.
Two of its ten outlets ("A" and "B") can be programmed as current sensing outlets and it was here that I began thinking about my set-up. The heart of my system was a Lexicon DC-1, now upgraded to an MC-1. Prior to the arrival of the Max 2000 review sample, my DC-1 controlled a Max 1000+ using Chris Glantons method and it worked fine except that it required an extra cable snaking around the equipment rack and the Max 1000+ has fixed trigger times.
So I decided to use the DC-1 to control the Max 2000s triggering capabilities, by plugging it into one of the current sensing outlets (in this case the "A" outlet). I then had to decide which other pieces of equipment to power from the Max 2000, and which of them needed to be permanently on and which switched by the Max 2000. My JVC VCR obviously needs to be powered all the time to keep the clock operating and Theta recommends keeping the DaViD DVD transport powered up too. I prefer to keep my Sunfire Cinema Grand powered and to use its signal sensing capability to switch itself on and off. So those three items would be plugged into outlets to be kept "always on". On the other hand, the Carver A220 amp that I use to drive a Clark Synthesis tactile transducer has no remote trigger capability, so I decided to assign that to a switched outlet. I also have a pair of Marantz MA-700 monoblocks driving the rear channel speakers in my 7.1 set up. They can be triggered remotely and I had been using the voltage sensing input of one of them, connected to the composite video output of the DC-1 (this is one method suggested by Marantz) for that purpose, with that amp triggering the other using their daisy-chaining capability. The way my system is laid out the power cords of the Marantz amps would not reach the Max 2000 so they were left plugged into separate wall outlets, but I decided to test the Max 2000s DC trigger capability, by connecting its DC terminal block to the trigger input of the first amp.
Before I get into setup, a few words about a very useful safety feature: as soon as the unit is plugged into an outlet the display shows the version number of the on-board system software, then it performs a system diagnostic test, checking the wiring of the outlet and ground connection. If they are correct, the unit will continue in normal operation and show the voltage at the outlet. If, however, the unit detects a wiring or ground fault the display indicates that there is a fault and scrolling through the message indicates that the "connected equipment warranty" is void if the unit is used without the fault being corrected. The user is then asked if they would like to continue. If NO is selected, the unit shuts down, if YES is selected the unit continues on to the main menu. This is an excellent safety feature and Panamax is to be commended for its clever implementation. Fortunately the outlet that I planned to use passed the diagnostic tests, so no need to call the electrician!
In its default setting and turned off, the default "always-on" outlets (current sense A & B and outlets 1 & 2) are powered while all others are not, so some programming was necessary. After unplugging the unit from the wall, I connected the DC-1 to current sense outlet A, my VCR to outlet 1, Sunfire amp to outlet 2 and Theta DaViD to one outlet of outlet bank 1. All those outlets would be programmed to be always on. The Carver amp was connected to one outlet in outlet bank 2, and the voltage sensing connection to one MA-700 (actually a cheap RCA to RCA interconnect with the moulded plug cut off one end) was wired to the terminals of the Max 2000s DC trigger block. This proved a little more difficult than I expected, as one has to get the correct combination of "common", "normally open", "normally closed" and "ground" connections.
Once all the necessary connections were made it was time to step through the units set up routine. Set up is accomplished using the three front panel buttons and LCD display understandably the unit does not have an on-screen display or its own remote control. Pressing any of the 3 buttons on the face of the unit engages the main menu, the middle button selects the options, the top button scrolls up and the bottom button scrolls down pretty straightforward. I selected CONFIGURE MAX 2000. The first item is setting the over and under-voltage parameters. If the voltage into the unit exceeds the over-voltage setting or falls below the under-voltage setting the unit will shut itself and all connected equipment down very useful if the grid in your area is prone to large voltage swings. I set mine to a conservative range: 130 volts max, 100 min. Then follow options for setting display brightness and display mode very straightforward.
Next is the really clever stuff, programming the current sensing outlet. First the user is prompted for the generic name of the controlling equipment SURROUND PROCESSOR fit the DC-1 pretty well (I assume that this option is there so that if you programme each current sensing outlet to be controlled by a different piece of equipment one look at the display will tell you which one is "active"). Prompts then ask for the controlling equipment to be turned off and on, so that the Max 2000 can measure the current draw. If the draw is insufficient, the user is so informed and current sense defaults to OFF. Successive options allow the programming of current sense outlet B, the master switch (which can be either disabled, set up as the trigger of a turn on or shut down sequence or just to turn the Max 2000 on and off without triggering a sequence), voltage sense set up (at terminals 1 and 2 of the terminal block), locking/unlocking the units settings, restoring defaults, and viewing and clearing statistics (status of the ground line, and minimum and maximum voltage).
After the basic set-up we move onto the programming of the outlets and triggers. This is achieved by selecting PROGRAM OUTLETS AND RELAYS from the system main menu. I programmed the system to turn on my Carver amps outlet 8 seconds after system activation and the trigger to turn on the Marantz amps 10 seconds after, to prevent system thumps and to spread the switch-on current load a little. Further menu options also allow the user to teach the Max 2000 up to 16 infrared remote control codes and incorporate them into a startup or shut down sequence. The codes are emitted through IR emitters (optional) plugged into the jack on the rear of the unit. I do not have any IR emitter yet so I was unable to test this feature.
If all the above sounds complex, it really isnt. The manual is clear and leads the user step-by-step through the process. The manual also contains sample connection diagrams, a list of the default factory settings, worksheets for recording the users programmed setup and detailed flow charts for navigating the system menus. Again I commend Panamax: the manual is first rate one of the best I have seen in a while.
The ultimate test of a surge protector is, of course, whether it protects the attached system in the case of a surge. Fortunately during my time with the Max 2000 no surge-inducing conditions have arisen, and, even though I am a trusting soul, I have not been tempted to induce one! But surge-protection is in my view is a bonus, and a big one, to this units main function which is system control. There can be no doubt that the Max 2000 excels at this. It is about as flexible as one could want and I doubt that there are many systems around that will require any more customisation and options than it offers. Certainly it is plenty flexible enough for my needs and my system is fairly complex. One little glitch when the DC-1 (and MC-1) are switched to inputs that have no active audio, the current draw drops low enough for the Max 2000 to think that it has been shut off and to initiate the shutdown sequence. I tried to programme the unit to recognise the current draw between OFF and "ON-but-no-audio" states but the difference was too small to be recognised. This could easily be fixed by using the DC-1s DC trigger to control the Max 2000 by the voltage sense terminals rather than by the current sense outlet.
One of the criticisms usually aimed at surge protectors/control units like the Max 2000 is that they restrict the current that high current units like power amplifiers need. I tried to detect whether the Max 2000 was affecting my Sunfire amp in this way by listening to the same material with the Sunfire powered by the unit and then with it powered from its own wall outlet. Despite extended testing I have not been able to detect any impairment with the amplifier powered from the Max 2000.
We are also fortunate that in our area we do not suffer from particularly noisy AC power so it has been hard to detect whether the Max 2000 is eliminating noise. My system sounded pretty good without the Max 2000 and didnt sound worse with it and thats good enough for me, given its other functions. Nor do we have very widely fluctuating voltage levels (during the months that the unit has been in my system the maximum voltage recorded has been 125 volts, and the minimum 110), so the unit has not been called upon to shut itself down for over or under voltage reasons (however compared to the stable power supply I had in London, Wilmington, DE does seem to have a lot of power supply problems especially during the recent hot and humid spell but thats a different story). I have no reason to doubt that the Max 2000 would operate any other way than advertised.
The Max 2000 is an exceptional performer for its system control abilities alone its surge protection and power filtering functions are added bonuses. On its own it is a formidable system control unit, in combination with a universal remote control with macro capabilities, it is unbeatable! Now Im off to "Popcorn Machines RUs".
For more information about Panamax products, visit the official Panamax web site.
Text © Nigel R. Pond; HTML © SMR Home Theatre and Images © Panamax & SMR Home Theatre cannot be reproduced without permission. Dolby Digital is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation, DTS is a registered trademark of Digital Theater Systems. The images on this page are digitally watermarked: Digimarc http://www.digimarc.com/
Last updated 07 August, 1999
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