Monster Power PowerCenter HTS800
New tricks for an old dog
Armed with only modest funds and a strong belief, Monster Cable was founded by Noel Lee in his in-laws' garage in the San Francisco area way back in 1977. At the time, he was a laser-fusion design engineer at Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory, as well as a budding audiophile and drummer/musician. Noel was the first person to really recognize and market the fact that cables were, after all, audio components. The degree of his early success is demonstrated every time someone uses his trademarked name when describing any thick, high quality speaker cable.
While there was some perceived lack of focus in the company during the late eighties, Noel and company are definitely back on track. If you dont believe me, just look to the numerous business and product awards that they have garnered during the nineties. Monster Cable now makes many non-cable products including their Professional Audio products, the Entec digital equipment line, a line of Convergence products, a recording project called Monster Music, and an entire line of Monster Power devices, one of which is the subject of this discussion.
Realizing that it would take a team of incomparable experts to achieve his diversification goal, Noel has created what has become known as the Monster Dream Team. And what a team he has assembled! The team includes Demian Martin (co-founder and engineering director of Spectral Audio and founder of Entertainment Technologies - Entec), Peter Madnick (one of the founders of Audio Alchemy), and Richard Marsh (developer of the MIT Z-Box power conditioner which set a new standard for audiophile power conditioning). What a bunch of slackers, eh? Get out of the way when these guys get motivated because they arent fooling around.
This whole new series of products, ranging in price from $25 to $600, were designed by Richard Marsh, one of the world's leading designers of audiophile grade AC power components. What he has learned about the application of that technology since he built the original MIT Z-Box is nothing short of stunning. While visiting a private show held by Monster Cable in San Francisco last March, I got to see a demonstration of his new $200 HTS2000 head to head against the original $3000 Z-Box. I was both surprised and delighted to see that the newer, less expensive Monster Cable unit actually out-performed the original high priced milestone power conditioner! My experiences with their HTS800 PowerCenter indicate that he has found an effective way to apply that expertise at a fraction of the cost.
Purple Plug Eater
This device is not only a 1300-joule surge protector with the highest level of insurance in its price range, but it is an elementary power conditioner as well. Granted it only provides what Monster Cable has chosen to label as "Stage One Clean Power" AC conditioning, with higher, more comprehensive levels of conditioning available in their more costly entrants. However, the fact that it does something more than a cursory "scrub" to the power your equipment uses to recreate the musical event earns this device some very high marks and catapults it to the front of the line for devices of this class.
This agreeable bright purple AC management center sports a very flexible eight-foot long heavy duty AC cord with only a 1/2" deep plug that swivels. Having problems pushing your video furniture up against the wall because the AC plug sticks out several inches or more? Not any longer! And, since it swivels in its near wafer thin housing, forget about cords that, due to ground pin orientation, had to point upward or cause some other inconvenience.
The unit itself has eight color coded and sensibly spaced sockets, an on/off switch, a green ground fault light, an amber protection light, a 24 karat gold plated set of RF connections and a set of phone connections. Be sure to use the RF through put and phone line isolation. Monster claims less than .3 dB of loss, and though I couldnt measure it, judging by what I didnt notice in my use, this assessment appears to be accurate.
It is no secret that you have to isolate EVERY ground path to your equipment if you wish to protect your system from surges. Ignore one ground path and noise and surges will easily find their way into your system. This means that ALL grounds must be broken. If you use a satellite system, pay-per-view cable box or DIVX and only isolate the AC lines and the RF cable, but do nothing with the phone line, youve left your system highly vulnerable. This little PowerCenter makes sure that wont happen by providing a path break for every connection to your system.
To assure the use of all these necessary ground isolation connections, the unit comes supplied with an extra Monster Cable RF cable and a twisted-pair geometry phone cord. They want to be sure that you dont disregard the safety this affords, or give up any performance through the use of lesser quality cables just because you may not happen to have one or more of the necessary cords lying around.
And lets just say for the sake of argument that a surge should get through. Well, Monster will give you a new unit and repair or replace up to $50,000 worth of properly connected equipment that may suffer damage because of that failure. Not too shabby, eh? You can see now that I wasnt joking -- theyve thought of everything!
So, lets say youve got one of the el-cheapo "surge protectors" you can buy at the fish market or at a one-hour photo hut and it has gone bad. How do you know? Since it is inevitably buried behind your equipment stand or furniture, you cant see the protection light or ground fault indicator trying to tell you there has been a failure. When will you notice, during next springs cleaning? What will be protecting your valuable equipment from surges, lightning strikes or even the damaging cycle of the refrigerator or furnace turning on and off during that time? Well, the HTS800 has an audible fault indicator alarm so that the instant you have a problem, you are made aware of it. Someone was really thinking about the practical uses of such devices.
Each of the eight sockets is labeled with both a title and color code and a set of self-adhesive tags is included, identically color coded and labeled for individual application to the AC cord of each of your components. Sound too anal for you? Think about this. Have you ever needed to remove your VCR from your system for a cleaning or something similar and found yourself unplugging about six cords behind your entertainment center while watching for the right lights to go out? No more. Just look at the PowerCenter or the labels affixed to the cords. Very cool!
Besides the high level of protection and very serviceable nature of this device, it does wonders to your audio and video presentation as well. While it may not offer the clarity and enhancement of something like the Audio Power Industries Power Wedge Ultra 116, keep in mind that it is only 1/15 its cost. Dont be put off by its affordability, because this little contender easily offers half the performance of that lofty priced and fine sounding unit. No fooling.
There was a greater clarity and truth to voices on soundtracks with less aggressiveness throughout the midrange and high frequencies. There was a reduction of glare to uppermost frequencies and a less granular feel to the whole presentation. There was a greater sense of ease and more detail. Imagine some steady and homogenous background noise ever present, like when the furnace or air conditioning is running, which has aurally blended into and thereby becomes part of the soundtrack. Now imagine that it is suddenly removed. Always a good thing!
The noise floor lowered a good bit allowing subtle sound effects and whispered voices to emanate from a darker background. Bass went deeper and had more slam and less muddiness. Staging and imaging also were presented with more depth, width and focus, and in case you werent aware of it, that is a hot button for me. Even dynamics were amply improved.
But wait till you see what it does for the picture quality! The picture was less grainy and both better defined and focused. Blacks were blacker and colors more vivid. There was more dimensionality to the picture, as though one had increased the depth of field on the camera. The occasional spike that corrupted my picture when my refrigerator compressor started or stopped was completely eradicated.
Movie lovers, this offers substantial video and audio enhancement for the money. It performs so well in fact that I have added one to my desktop PC system and yet another in my bedroom A/V system. I cannot think of or recommend a more effective improvement for anywhere near this price. Furthermore, I have yet to find any other surge protector under $100 that can offer anywhere near the level of performance enhancement and protection as the PowerCenter HTS800. Go get yours today!
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