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Home Theater Power Managers: Necessary, Or Not?

Have you just built a new home theater? And are you wondering if you need a home theater power manager to keep all your expensive equipment safe?

The home theater power manager provides a ‘clean’ power source to your system components and eliminates noise from the system, improving audio quality. In addition, many power managers also offer surge protection that will prevent damage to your investment should you have power spikes.

But, what is a power manager, and why do you need one?

Is this just another overpriced piece of tech that you don’t need, or is there some natural science and value behind installing a home theater power manager?

What Is The Purpose Of A Home Theater Power Manager?

The primary purpose of a home theater power manager is to provide ‘clean’ power to your home theater system.

Most incoming power is ‘dirty,’ which can negatively affect the sensitive electronics found in the connected components.

What Is Dirty Power?

Before we look at what a home theater power manager is, we need to understand more about our power to drive our electronics. Most of us use the electricity supplied from the grid in our homes, which powers our devices and appliances.

The electricity supply coming in has ‘noise’.

This can include little spikes and dips in the supply, noise caused by damage to the grid itself or on the line, and other factors resulting in ‘dirty’ power.

External factors such as the weather, Electromagnetic Fields, neighbors, and even radio and TV signals can add to the noise on the electrical supply.

The other noise cause on an electrical circuit is other devices connected to the same circuit. So if your home theater system connects to a circuit with your fridge, computer, and lights on it, those devices also send noise back into the circuity during their running cycles.

The reality is that you live in a cacophony of noise at an electrical level. While you don’t hear it, for the most part, your electronic devices certainly do, and that is where the problem comes in.

How Does Dirty Power Affect Electronics?

Now you know that your electricity is polluted.

But how does this affect your electronics, and why should you care?

Well, let’s put this another way.

If you fill up your car and the gas you put in is full of dust, dirt, oil, paraffin, and diesel, do you think your engine will run smoothly?

It will have power and responsiveness, and the engine components will not suffer excessive wear and tear?

No, of course not.

Those pollutants in your fuel will negatively affect the performance and the longevity of your engine. If you continue to use that fuel grade, you will be spending a lot of money on repairs and replacements.

Subwoofers, receivers, and power amplifiers are very sensitive to the ‘fuel’ they use, the same way as your car is.

The electronic components thrive and perform much better when the ‘fuel’ is clean and will struggle and break down when the ‘fuel’ is dirty. The same is true for your home theater equipment.

Slight fluctuations in the quality of the electricity powering those devices gradually diminish the performance and lifespan of the capacitors, transformers, and transistors, resulting in devices breaking down and needing repair or replacement.

What Does A Home Theater Power Manager Look Like?

These devices are usually slim-looking boxes that resemble a set-top TV or DVD player, and they can be rack mounted if required. They have multiple outputs at the rear and can accommodate various connected components.

Each rear outlet is spaced apart and would be clearly labeled for the specific application or device, such as power amplifiers and other devices.

The front panel would usually have a small display indicating the current-voltage level. Depending on the model, may offer some additional displayed information.

They also have a power control or cut-off switch that, when activated, would stop the flow of power to all the connected components. Aside from that, many home theater power managers provide extra functions such as voltage regulation, audio filtering, and surge protection.

Home Theater Performance Optimization 

If you have a great set of speakers and a high-quality amplifier, would you connect them using a standard two-core electrical flex cable?

No, of course not; you would invest in a decent audio cable so that the amp can drive the speakers properly and you can hear them as they should be heard.

The same idea applies to the power manager. By delivering the cleanest, purest power to your amplifiers and subwoofers, you allow them to perform the way they were designed.

If you’ve spent $4000 on your home theater system, an investment of around $400 to $500 for a power manager in that setup would be well worth the money to ensure performance and longevity.

Power Managers Protect Your Investment From Wear And Tear

Whether you’re watching movies with your kids or enjoying sports in super high-definition, you’re going to be using your home theater a lot.

Switching it on and off, turning it louder and softer, changing input channels, and using all the other functions it offers creates wear and tear on the components. Over time, these will start to lose performance.

While this loss of performance may not be noticeable as it is slow, eventually, your system will need maintenance. Perhaps you blow a channel when cranking it up for a party, which can be frustrating.

Your first reaction may be to blame the equipment quality or wonder if you have done something to cause it, but the answer may be that the power quality has caused the problem.

When it comes to power managers, the reality is that they reduce and eliminate the noise in the power feed. Aside from the other benefits, this alone is an excellent reason to invest in one.

The Home Theater Power Manager With Amplifiers

I love amplifiers, and who doesn’t?

They are singularly focused on amplifying every signal they get, and therein lies their greatest strength and weakness at the same time.

Amplifiers don’t distinguish what signals they boost, and whether it’s the incoming audio or noise from the electrical circuits, everything is treated equally.

When setting up your home theater system and then playing it for the first time, you may often experience a whine or a hum coming through your speakers. This amplifier picks up noise on the line and does what it does best.

While you may not need a power manager for the whole system, it would be good to have one for your amplifier for clear, noiseless audio.

Do You Need A Power Manager For Your Home Theater?

The simple answer is it depends! Are you experiencing any form of noise when playing your system? 

You only really need one when you hear interference or noise when your system is on; this can be interference on your TV or a low hum coming through your speakers.

Let’s look at what action you can take to eliminate the noise without installing a power manager.

Killing The Ground Loop Without A Power Manager

The low hum from a ground loop can drive many home theater owners to the brink of insanity as that continuous hum grates the nerves, and every time you think you have resolved it—BANG! It’s back! 

The ground loop hum is noise, and it’s usually caused by having other appliances or devices that feed noise back into the circuit loop, and that noise is what you are hearing coming through your system.

To check whether this is the cause of this problem, remove any appliances or devices plugged into the wall sockets in proximity to the ones you that your home theater components are plugged into.

You may find that specific devices or appliances are causing the noise, and by removing them, you have saved yourself some money and frustration, but if that doesn’t work, you can move to the next step. 

One of the easiest ways to kill the ground loop is to have your home theater set up on its dedicated circuit. This means that no other appliance or device will be connected, and it has its own circuit breaker in the DB Board.

Having all the sockets on a circuit and only having your home theater components connected to those sockets will undoubtedly reduce or even eliminate the hum. The only feedback into the circuit will be from the components themselves, and many of them have electronics that reduce the noise feedback.

In most cases, you will need an electrician to do this, and depending on the wiring layout of your home and DB board, it may be a simple job or could be an expensive one. In houses, this is generally easier than in apartments, as power boxes may be shared in apartment blocks.

Power Managers For A Studio Setup

Where you have a studio, a power manager is a must as you cannot afford to have interference of any kind when looking to record and manage high-quality audio.

Whether you are recording music or editing, dealing with noise and filtering it out using the software can be mind-numbingly annoying.

Whether running your studio gear on a dedicated line (and you should be) or not, a power manager would be a pre-requisite in your studio design. This will effectively eliminate noise and protect susceptible studio gear like mixing desks amplifiers, equalizers, and effects processors.

Do Home Theater Power Managers Only Control Noise?

Power managers are helpful for filtering noise from the electrical supply, but they are also designed to deliver other essential results within the system.

Most power managers perform multiple functions within the home theater configuration, with the noise reduction or purification of the electrical signal being the major one.

There are some other benefits to having a home theater power manager: surge protection, cable management, and, in some cases, a noticeable improvement in audio performance!

Let’s look at each of these additional elements individually to get a greater overall perspective on all the results these devices can deliver for your home theater system.

Surge Protection 

There is a difference between power management and surge protection, but the good news is that most power management modules come with surge protection.

If you live where power failures occur, then adding surge protection to your home theater system would be strongly recommended.

As the power drops and then kicks back on, the grid supply may experience either a brief dip or increase in the voltage supplied, and, while this may only last microseconds, it’s enough to pop sensitive components in TVs, receivers, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, amplifiers, and subwoofers.

Having a component in your home theater blow because of a power surge can be costly to remedy even when insured, and of course, claiming surge damage can increase your premiums too—to add insult to injury!

Adding surge protection makes sense, and because many of the quality branded power managers come with surge protection, you’re getting more protection for your buck than having to add a separate surge protector.

Automatic Voltage Regulator

While this feature may not be offered in all home theater power managers, many middle to high-end products provide AVR. While this too is not an essential requirement, it would be recommended to ensure the longevity of the components and improved performance.

Because voltage supply may fluctuate slightly, the Automatic Voltage Regulator maintains the ideal level of current flowing through the components during operation. This reduces the risk of damage and optimizes performance in the connected components.

Coming back to the car example. If you had a filter in your fuel line that could take your regular gas and enhance the octan value and consistency specifically to optimize your engine’s performance and improve the mileage – you would certainly invest in that!

The same is true for your home theater system, and it makes total sense to have a device that can manage the voltage to ensure optimum performance and provide the cleanest power possible.

Cable Management 

Managing cables is one of the significant challenges when installing a home theater system.

The home theater power manager provides a clean and straightforward function. You can connect your speaker cables, subwoofer, TV, and amplifier into one power manager.

Can A Home Theater Power Manager Improve Audio Performance 

Many audiophiles agree on the benefits of having a home theater power manager to provide a clean source of power and surge protection.

However, whether the power manager can improve audio performance is debatable.

Not every home theater system needs a home theater power manager, especially if you aren’t experiencing any noise when using your system.

That said, having a power manager can also clean up the audio signals and produce a vastly and noticeably improved performance.

A few days ago, while researching this aspect of power managers, I sat down with an audio specialist with more than 30 years of experience and who had worked with the top end in pro audio. 

His view regarding the use of power managers regarding audio performance was unshakeable.

While using a power manager does not always affect the higher end of the audio spectrum to a noticeable degree, the lower end impact was nothing short of phenomenal.

He cited numerous instances where he had listened to the same set of speakers on the same amplifier playing the same piece of music. The difference in the lower end was noticeable but sounded like a completely different system altogether.

The bass response was so much better using the power manager than without it that even the speakers sounded like they had larger drivers than just the 5″ ones they were fitted with.

This is because the power manager filtered out the predominantly lower-end frequencies like the ground loop interference and other low-end anomalies that the amplifier was picking up. It also provided the speakers with more accurate and consistent frequencies within the dynamic range.

This, in turn, led to less distortion and resulted in a significantly improved performance on the low end.

He also agreed that some power managers could muffle the top end if they are filtering out too much; this can affect the dynamic range of your speakers, so the best option here is to test the audio performance with and without the power manager.

If you don’t have a lot of noise on your mains supply, then the chances are that the audio will sound that much richer without the power manager, but again, you will have to listen and allow your ears to judge.

Remember that installing a power manager would not be the best option if you are simply looking to improve the audio quality only.

What Do Home Theater Power Managers Cost?

As with home theater systems, you can buy a power manager for from $50 to $9000, depending on what type of system you have and how much you want to spend.

If you look at some of the power manager brands and options, you have the following to choose from based on your budget:

  • Belkin Surge Power Strip Protector at $34.99 
  • APC Power Strip Connector – $49.99
  • Panamax’s M8 AV Pro – $149-80 
  • Furman PL 8 C Power Manager – $309.95
  • AudioQuest Niagara 5000 – $5500 

The larger units like the Niagara can weigh up to 38lbs, while the Belkin comes in at just 2.4lbs. 

When looking at a power manager, you need to consider the number of outlets you’ll need and the size and weight of it as you need to be able to install it easily in your lounge or home theater room.

Consider as well whether you’ll need 12V or USB outlets, as well as whether you have surge protection and AVR functions or not.

The final consideration would be to buy a power manager that matches your home theater investment. So if you have spent $100k on your home theater, you certainly won’t be buying a $50 power manager and vice versa!

A home theater system is an investment. Any device that can extend the life and performance of that investment should be considered very seriously when the acquisition process begins.


A home theater power manager should play an important role in the design and spec of your home theater system.

The TV, subwoofer, amplifier, and speakers all have a dedicated space in your home theater room, and the power manager should be given the same respect.

While we have shown that a home theater power manager may not be needed in some cases, the results and benefits they deliver are hard to deny.