When America first got wired, around the turn of the century, no one could have imagined that electricity would be used for anything more sensitive or complex than running motors and keeping light bulbs burning. Because of this, the three-wired power distribution scheme that was devised (and hasn’t been radically—if at all—altered since) was designed to be safe and convenient, not noise-free. And so now, as the new century begins, we are cursed with hum-inducing power scheme of our well-meaning but short-sighted ancestors. Of course, with enough money and know-how, it’s possible to pay big bucks to hire some circuit jockey to tear up the walls and create relatively noise- and trouble-free environments.
But for those of us who don’t have multimillion-dollar royalty checks overflowing from our mailboxes, rewiring our homes, garages and basements to provide optimal, noise-free powers to our recording equipment and amplifiers is usually not an option.
Luckily, the Furman IT-1210 balanced power isolation transformer can do much the same job as a highly paid electrician. Providing precisely balanced power to your sensitive gear, the IT-1210 will typically lower the noise floor of your studio environment by a full 16dB. At the heart of the unit is a specially wound and shielded toroidal isolation transformer with a center-tapped secondary. The two-rackspace unit provides 12 outlets on its rear panel and another two on the front. All of the outlets are spaced far enough apart to accommodate the pesky “wall-wart” adapters that provide the power for many signal processing devices.
The front panel of the IT-1210 features a self-checking mircroprocessor-controlled voltmeter that proves the user with an “at a glance” readout of the power situation at any given moment. At times when things get a little bit too juicy and voltage creep into the 130 o 140 range, or when the power dries up and levels drop to 80 or 90, the unit flashes an eye-catching special pattern. If an all-out power surge occurs, the Furman, like a well trained bodyguard, is all too happy to take the bullet, making quick use of its Extreme Voltage Shutdown circuit to protect your expensive gear from harm. The IT-1210 also has the well-being of your precious studio monitors (and ears) in mind: when you fire up your studio the master power switch on the front of the unit, an exclusive Soft Start circuit prevents turn-on transients and high inrush currents from wreaking havoc.
We installed the Furman IT-1210 in our 24-Track ADAT project studio to see it work its stuff. As far as we can tell, the building’s wiring was last upgraded, well, never. With a half-century’s worth of rodent nibbling and other abuse adding to an already marginal electrical situation, and with a large, baby boom-era fridge running off the same circuit as our board and tape machines (what’s a recording session without cold beers?), our little musical Mecca is noisier than a ham radio convention. (We’ve often had to scrap vocal takes when the ailing fridge decides to kick into overdrive and starts the whole room buzzing).
With the Furman in place, we saw a noticeable lower noise level on the input level meters of the ADATs and heard greatly reduced monitor hiss during ear-splitting “crank the monitor so I get the right vibe!” takes—not to mention significant attrition of the pesky 60-cycle hum normally associated with the use of single-coil pickups. Plus, it’s much easier to shut down a studio after a long night of drinking—make that tracking—when all the gear is hooked up to a single master switch.