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Rotel RLC 1040Rotel Power Conditioner Helps Clean Up Your Act

By Jim Bray

There may be gremlins lurking in your home wiring, playing dirty tricks on your electrical supply. And that could be bad news for your prized electronic gadgets.

Many homes are plagued by electrical tribulations that wreak havoc with home electronic devices that depend on a smooth and stable supply of power to give you the value you paid for. Dirty power can prevent your TV from displaying a picture that's as good as it's capable of showing, or make your audio system hum or buzz – a real buzz kill for music and movie fans.

The problem isn't limited to a bad supply of power. Electrical storms, brownouts, using a bunch of appliances simultaneously or even heavy demand in your neighborhood can give you problems – the worst case scenario being the frying of your expensive toys.

Hence the concept of power conditioning, something most of us don't think about much, but should.

There's an abundance of potential solutions to these current conundrums, from a cornucopia of companies. Some are little more than glorified extension cords or power bars, while some are actual electronic components that sit in your stack of audio/video gear as if they were another amplifier, receiver or DVD player.

Rotel has introduced a pair of new power conditioners that fall into the latter category: the RLC-1040 and the RLC-1080. The chief difference between the two models appears to be the 1080's uninterruptible power supply, a battery backup that'll keep your components humming even if Armageddon happens.

Well, maybe not quite through Armageddon, but it'll definitely keep your tunes and movies going should your home lose its electrical power for one reason or another, giving you time to shut the stuff down safely yourself.

Both conditioners are built in conjunction with APC AV Engineered Power Solutions, and are designed to help you get the most out of your electronics while protecting them from worst case scenarios such as toasting the components.

Rotel sent me the RLC-1040 to try and it's a beautiful piece of electronics, with a classy front panel and lovely blue display that looks really good snuggling in with my other home theater stuff, a lot of which (not coincidentally) also sports the Rotel name.

The 1040 gives you one central place to plug the AC cords of all your home theater components, as well as offering filtering and protection for cable television/modem, satellite, and phone lines. 

Its back panel looks very much like a high end power bar, which I suppose in some ways it is, with a dozen three prong plugs labeled for CD, DVD, DVR, CATV/Satellite, Monitor, AUX, TV, and VCR. There are also digitally-filtered inputs for Tuner/Aux and Preamp/Receiver, as well as two sockets for your amplifier and/or subwoofer. You can set the 1040 to stagger the turning on of your subwoofer or amp by up to 12 seconds, so as not to put excessive strain on your home's circuits when these heavy duty consumers of power are turned on.

The unit’s automatic voltage regulation is designed to ensure your electronics receive a steady and safe supply of electrical power, and its surge protection feature is designed to keep your toys from turning into little black rocks if your neighbor is hit by lightning – or other such scenarios. Rotel says the RLC-1040's isolated noise filter banks eliminate electromagnetic and RF interference, too.

The front panel's pretty blue LCD keeps you apprised of the line, wiring and filtering status of your system, as well as if/when you hit an overload condition and how much of the unit's finite capacity you're using.

I hooked a plethora of electronics into the 1040 (big screen TV, the big Rotel RMB-1095 power amp and RSP-1098 preamp/processor, a powered subwoofer, DVD player, and satellite receiver and it swallowed it all without complaint.

During use, even on particularly loud and dynamic, power hungry occasions, the 1040 only went beyond 40 per cent of its capacity once: we were auditioning some speakers by playing a Led Zeppelin DVD Audio disc very, very loudly – excessively so – and even then the RLC-1040 only reached about 60 per cent of its limit. You'd probably have to run some really, really heavy duty stuff to make the thing work up a real sweat.

And if my experience is any indication, you might be deaf before that happens!

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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