Having an uninterruptible power supply is a must for sensitive electronics, especially if you are relying on those electronics for a live event. When it comes to DJs and musicians, computers, electronic interfaces, keyboards, digital recorders, effects devices, modelers and more can be sensitive to even brief drops in voltage. When that happens, an uninterruptible power supply can be the difference between a ceaseless performance and a forced shutdown.
What Is an Uninterruptible Power Supply?
When you’re playing a gig, it’s common to have multiple electronic devices with a high power draw. That increases the risk of temporary lapses in voltage and brownouts, which can force your equipment to shut down. Some venues, like clubs, bars, or smaller, local concert halls, don’t have the best power systems, and the risk of brownout is higher than you might think.
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) allows for at least a few minutes of usage even without outside power. That means you have time to safely shut your equipment down, or to swap over to a backup power source.
For computers, a UPS is nearly a requirement. If you are not using some form of protection for your computer or laptop, you’re risking loss of work, damage to software, and more. However, uninterruptible power offers advantages for musical gear as well.
Advantages of an uninterruptible power supply
The foremost advantage of an uninterruptible power supply is the ability to delay shutdown and find a secondary power source. That’s not all, though—many models have lots of other useful features.
For example, the Furman F1000, pictured below, features a 4ms turnover time. That means that once it senses a power interruption, it takes only a few thousands of a second to pick up the slack. That’s not all: It also offers surge and spike protection, a Critical Load Management feature to ensure that power goes where it is most needed, custom programming for connected devices, a built-in circuit breaker, and eight rear outlets.
In other words, it’s not just an uninterruptible power supply. It’s a device control interface as well. It comes with a USB control device to easily communicate with Windows-based computers. When it comes to function for cost, the Furman F1000 is one of the best options on the market.
- Size (L X W X H) (Inches): 9.7 X 5.0 X 2.5
- Ripple And Noise (Mv P-P): 150
- Load Regulation: 0.5%
It’s important to remember that a UPS cannot simply run everything. After all, it’s supposed to be emergency power until you either shut down properly, or find a backup power source. Even the Furman F1500, a better version of the F1000, can’t do it all. Amplifiers, subwoofers, and high-voltage displays are all going to draw too much power to be feasible.
A UPS also offers “clean power.” Good musical equipment is sensitive to electronic noise, which can come from the power source, or even other equipment you’re using. A good uninterruptible power supply is also a power conditioner, helping to maintain consistent voltage across different loads and to keep your devices from talking to one another. All that makes for a cleaner, better sound.
Not only that, but cheaper options, like surge protectors, can fail and damage your equipment (not to mention all the other features surge protectors don’t have!). If you’re running expensive gear, you’re going to want a UPS that has power conditioning features for that reason alone.
Here’s an explanation of the importance of clean power from Musician’s Friend on YouTube:
Tips for Buying
There are a lot of options when it comes to selecting a UPS. The best way to narrow the field is to carefully consider what, exactly, you’re looking for. Smaller units typically have smaller batteries, while larger devices can have an extensive ability to safeguard against outages or problems with voltage quality. There can also be big differences in ease of operation.
You can easily overlook little things like the number of outlets and the length of power cords, but they are incredibly important as well. No matter the cost, you’re going to want a warranty, because a faulty device can damage other, more expensive equipment if something goes wrong.
Here’s more about how to pick a UPS in general via TigerDirect on YouTube:
Of course, another major consideration for most musicians is cost. While all audio equipment is expensive, you don’t want to overpay for something you’re not going to use. The variance in cost for uninterruptible power supply solutions can be hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. If you don’t need a $2,000 UPS, why buy it? Home studios or small setups will not need much more protection than that offered by a surge protector. Yet, for high-end gear at a concert venue, multi-stage shutdown and advanced voltage management features are going to be necessary.
If budget is not a huge concern, it’s better to get something that you don’t need than something that doesn’t fully cover your needs. After all, you get what you pay for. The two largest influencers of cost are the amount of power that it stores, and the amount of power that it releases at once.
Units of power
Calculating the wattage your equipment uses, and the joules of energy that your UPS provides, is important. A watt is a unit of power equal to one joule per second. The duration of the charge is dependent upon how much wattage it stores. Bigger batteries mean a longer charge. Devices that can store a large amount of power are typically very expensive, as are devices that can release the power at a high rate. A device that can output 2700 watts is much more powerful than a device that can output 900.
Cyber Power and APC Battery BackUPS
If you’re not familiar with UPS options, or just getting started, a cheaper option is probably best. Both CyberPower and APC have many power management options that won’t break the bank.
One of the cheapest CyberPower devices, the CP425SLG, can be obtained for as little as $50. At the maximum, it can output 255 watts, which it can sustain for only two minutes. At 100 watts, it can sustain power for up to nine minutes.
- 850VA/510W Ecologic Battery Backup Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) System
- 12 NEMA 5-15R OUTLETS: Six battery backup & surge protected outlets, six surge protected outlets (Three ECO controlled)...
- MULTIFUNCTION LCD PANEL: Displays immediate, detailed information on battery and power conditions
APC battery backups can also be quite cheap. Cleverly named “BackUPS,” APC offerings are also available on a budget. The BK350 is well-reviewed by consumers and available for less than $90. Despite having an output of only 210 watts, the BK350 comes with some cool features for such a cheap UPS. For one, you can get a $100,000 warranty to back the device’s guarantee of no harm from lightning strikes, power surges, or other voltage management issues. Another excellent and somewhat rare feature is the ability to route phone lines and network cables through it to protect against “backdoor” surges.
It can be difficult to find standard solutions to power questions when it comes to audio equipment because every single setup is potentially unique. Nobody is going to know your equipment better than you do, so it is important to self-educate and be sure you are making the best decision for you and your gear.
Featured image: CC by 3.0, by Dale Mahalko, via Wikimedia Commons