When you shop for a new high-definition television, you expect to acquire the whole HD experience. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Beyond the set itself, you will need appropriate cables, receivers, and power management components. If you’re not aware of the importance of these, you’re likely to be frustrated.

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Probably the least understood home theater component is power management. Most people think that means protection in case of a catastrophic surge, the kind caused by lightning, but it means a lot more. Power management is absolutely critical to the performance, longevity, and reliability of your home theater system.

To understand why this is, you have to understand a little bit about the electricity that comes into your home. Our power grid is 100 years old, older in some places, and it has never been fundamentally upgraded. The grid mostly worked fine for light bulbs and vacuum tubes, but our technology has moved far beyond that. Devices that rely on microchips, like the ones in a home theater, are vulnerable to damage from surges and spikes endemic to the antique infrastructure.

Here’s something you may not have realized – every AC outlet in the world gets dozens to hundreds of hits each day, most of them generated in the home itself. For example, when the motor in your washer turns on or off, it sends a spike through the whole house. Those little spikes are known as power contamination, which in time will destroy the microchips in your home theater system. Even before that happens, the contamination will make your DVD player or your plasma display behave temperamentally, so that you don’t get the picture and the sound you paid for, the picture and sound the device is capable of providing.

Besides protection from contamination, your home theater system needs pure power. That’s power free of noise, in this case the noise created by computers and other electronics that use switching power supplies. This kind of noise affects almost every element in a high-end audio or visual environment, and it masks much of the detail needed for optimal sound and video definition and resolution.

If you think because your house is new, the power must be pure, think again. Often, there’s even more power contamination in new houses because they are more likely to contain motorized environmental controls and microprocessors.

Here are some of the things you should look for in a power management device intended to insure that home theater systems deliver optimal sound and picture quality:

1. It should have advanced filtration to sift out AC noise, lowering the level over a wide range of frequencies.
2. It should protect from electromagnetic (EMI), radio frequency, digital noise and ground loop interference,
3. For ease of use, IP-ready remote diagnostics are a plus, including voltage regulation, balanced power meters and automatic voltage monitoring (AVM).
4. Protection for Cable Access Television (CATV), telephone and local area networks (LANs) are also beneficial.
5. A connected-equipment replacement warranty, as well as a long-term product warranty.

If all that’s more than you wanted to know about power management for your new HDTV, remember one simple thing: Just like a Jaguar or BMW requires premium gasoline for peak performance, a high-end home theater system requires premium power. The way to get it? Install appropriate power management devices.

Bob Smith is VP of Sales & Training for Panamax Corporation. Garth Powell is senior product designer/sales engineer for Furman Sound.