Panamax Max5510 AC Regenerator Reviewed

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Why does the word "conditioner" immediately bring out my inner skeptic? Perhaps the fault lies with the haircare industry. I use shampoo, and I like the way my hair feels when I'm done using shampoo. Does it really need further "conditioning?" I doubt it. Sure, some people benefit from the use of a conditioner and some people will even swear by them, but for the average Joe, chances are shampoo is all you need. OK, but what about power conditioners?

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Opinions on the value of power-line conditioners vary greatly depending on who you talk to. I won't lie and tell you that I'm one of their lifelong proponents. The truth is, until recently I have not had a system I felt was worth protecting. I can tell you that in the very least, you owe it to yourself and to your equipment to learn about what power conditioners do, and what advantages they offer. You're certainly not going to find them next to the shampoo at your local supermarket. As a matter of fact, the Max5510 ACRegenerator from Panamax sounds like it would be more at home in the Bat Cave. And after spending a few weeks with the Max5510, I can safely say that if Batman needed a power conditioner and surge protector, odds are this is the one he'd use.

Before you decide which power conditioner you need, it helps to know why you need one. When talking about home theater systems, especially interconnects, you're liable to hear about the "weakest link" theory. That theory, which is not a new one, simply states that the overall performance of your system "chain" is only as strong as its weakest link. You can buy state-of-the-art equipment and connect them with the finest cables, but your performance chain actually starts before you push PLAY on your DVD player. It starts at the wall receptacle from which your DVD player draws its power.

AC power coming out of the average wall receptacle is contaminated with loads of electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI). This contaminated or "dirty" power can greatly affect the performance of your gear, causing distracting pops, hisses and even hums from your audio section as well visual artifacts in your display devices. In addition, digital components, such as DVD and CD players, can also produce noise on their AC power lines, which in turn can interfere with the performance of your analog equipment. Power-line conditioners, such as the Max5510, filter out this EMI and RFI and provide steady, clean power to your connected components.

Unique Features - With the Max5510, Panamax is offering what they call their "Tri-Power Filtration System." This boils down to three sets or "banks" of outlets,
which serve different types of components, offering different "levels" of protection. Level One offers true isolation of digital source components from contaminated power sources. Thanks to a large isolation transformer, none of the aforementioned EMI or RFI contamination reaches your digital components, and the AC noise that digital components commonly generate is completely isolated from reaching your analog devices. The Max5510 provides four outlets on its back panel for digital components.

Read more about the Max5510 on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for Panamax Max5510 AC Regenerator

Criteria Rating

Performance

3.5

Value

4

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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Level Two in the system handles the power for your analog components. The Max5510 features two banks (two outlets per bank) of independently filtered outlets. As stated in the well-written user manual, Panamax utilizes a "Balanced Double L" filter here, designed to eliminate EMI and RFI. This design also ensures that cross-contamination between your analog components is prohibited. This area on the back of the Max5510 is where you would connect you're A/V receiver, Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and/or your satellite receiver or cable box. The Max5510 provides four outlets on its back panel for your analog components.

That brings us to Level Three. The Max5510 offers two connections for power-hungry, high-current devices like subwoofers and amplifiers. Using a coil-less design, the Max5510 uses noise filtration circuitry to provide these two outlets with full, non-compromised power. If your system makes use of multiple subwoofers and/or multiple amplifiers, be sure to take note that the Max5510 only has two outlets for this type of device. Then again, if your system is that sophisticated, it's likely that you may need multiple line conditioners anyway, so this is a minor detail. For most systems, two high-current outlets should be sufficient.

There is one more very compelling feature that the Max5510 has packed into its Bat Utility Belt. That feature is unparalleled surge protection. Thanks to Panamax' "SurgeGate Plus" design, the Max5510 constantly monitors power levels for dangerous overvoltages and under-voltages. If your source voltage reaches unsafe
levels, the Max5510 will instantly disconnect your equipment from the power source. Once voltage returns to normal, the power is automatically reconnected. Panamax is so confident that the Max5510 will protect your equipment, that they offer a $5,000,000 (yes, that's five MILLION) Connected Equipment Protection Policy, where they will repair or replace your gear up to $5,000,000. Now if only I had $5,000,000 worth of gear to protect.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The Max5510 weighs in at a hefty 30 lbs. The case is attractive and simple, spotting an analog voltmeter and matching ammeter. In addition to the gauges, there are a few other things to take note of up front. First, there is an extra convenience outlet for connecting things like your camcorder or Xbox. Also, you'll find a receptacle for an included gooseneck lamp, which can provide illumination for your other A/V equipment. Granted, this light isn't something you're likely to use a lot, but it's a nice addition nonetheless. On the front panel, you'll also find a Balanced/Isolated Power toggle switch (your
choice in how digital components are protected in Level One) and a dimmer switch for the backlit gauges. There is also an on/off button, which controls the Max5510's switched outlets.

The handy switched outlets button can initiate a user-customizable turn-on or shutdown sequence. Thanks to a pair of switches on the back, the turn-on delay for your high-current devices and the shutdown delay for isolated, digital source components can be either 0, 10, or 30 seconds. This is extremely useful in eliminating the internally generated surges that can arise when multiple components are turned on or shut down simultaneously.

Finally, the Max5510 also offers what they call "SignalPerfect" A/V line protection. On the back panel, you'll find inputs and outputs for protecting your component video, cable or satellite coaxial connections as well as your telephone line. All told, there is nothing I can think of that the Max5510 will not protect.

Final Take - Once I connected the Max5510 to my equipment, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my audio section sounded a bit more robust and I also detected lower levels of background hiss at very low volumes. While these observed performance gains were subtle, they were improvements nonetheless. The bottom line is this: more than likely, you've invested a lot of money in your home theater system. An effective power conditioner like the Max5510 will ensure that your gear will always perform at its peak potential. What's more, the Panamax surge protection guarantee is proof positive that they believe in the strength of their product

You may still be asking yourself whether or not a power conditioner is a necessity. If you own a system that you want to get the most out of, and you care about protecting your gear from harmful interference and power surges, the answer is a resounding "yes." For those that are still unsure, just think about how much your system would cost to replace if a power spike or brownout damaged your equipment. Also, remember your hair. Do you have fine or oily hair? Does your scalp still itch after you shampoo? If so, a conditioner may be just what the doctor ordered.

Additional Resources
• Read more AC power product reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Look for an AV receiver to plug in.

Panamax MAX5510 AC Regenerator
Outlets for digital source components: 4
Outlets for analog components: 4
Outlets for high-current components: 2
Surge Protection Joule Rating: 2325
Analog ammeter, voltmeter
Dimensions: 17" W x 3.5" H x 12" D
Weight: 30 lbs.
Warranty: Lifetime
MSRP: $1,299


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