How do you protect your studio?

cato

Member
Hi,

As my studio grows in size and value, I get more and more paranoid about things like fires, theft and particularly power issues frying my gear, so I wondered how each of you tackle these issues?

My first challenge is to deal with power loss and surges, would something like this APC UPS unit protect a Mac Pro, UAD rack mount sound card, black magic SSD dock, midi keyboard and two monitors plugged into it?

APC BACK-UPS ES - BE850G2-UK - Uninterruptible Power Supply 850VA (8 Outlets, Surge Protected, 2 USB Charging Ports)
After that, I’ll need to tackle insurance for studios in both Spain and the U.K. (same gear in each plus a bunch of medium grade poorly learnt instruments) as obviously theft and fires are usually out of my control (!). Any advice on companies that would cover studios in two countries like this?

Thanks for any pointers!

Cato
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Pretty big topic!

My electrician says that if lightning hits your home, all bets are off. That said, we installed surge protection in several places. Surge protection will help with "messy" power, I'm told, so if your power company routinely has little spikes, that supposedly suppresses them:

Surge protection
1. Just where studio power lines enter the house we have an industrial surge protector;
2. At the point of distribution in the studio (Monster Power conditioners);
3. Power strips have fuses.

Fire
1. Insurance (as you mentioned) that is specific to professional music gear, if you are earning money. I do have overall insurance on the home but good luck trying to claim a lot from a standard homeowner's policy if there's a catastrophic fire;
2. Back up crucial data to an extra, portable drive that's stored away from the home. I use a bank. If there's a Real Big earthquake, I suppose that might not be very practical, but for a "normal" disaster it's probably ok; even a house fire doesn't always burn the entire home to the ground (including studio).

Uninterruptible Power Supply
Yes, you need them, if you work professionally and there's a risk that, just as you finish your last cue for the project, out goes the power and you lose hours of your work.

Your link to Amazon in your first post didn't really work, but the size and model you use depends of course on how much wattage you're drawing. Trying to estimate the wattage you really draw is a bit tricky; some people insist you can calculate it with certainty but I am a bit skeptical of that, since computers and other gear seems to draw meaningfully more at times.

My UPSs have gone on many times over the years when there's been a storm that knocks power out completely. They also claim to deal with meaningful dips in power (say, from 240 to 200, or 120 to 100) which also sometimes occur. I don't really know how to confirm that they really do that, but allegedly they do.

Good luck!
 
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JohnG

Senior Member
Also, it's not crazy to have a security service -- alarm plus some kind of local response if it's triggered.

Burglars are often in and out in minutes. Consequently, if you have valuable instruments or other treasures that are easy to grab and go, those, one assumes, would be more attractive than, say, a rack-mounted power supply.
 
OP
cato

cato

Member
Thanks for this John!

And yes, you’re right about it being a big topic - in all honesty, I’m trying to minimise at this stage rather than cover all bases as I know that there is no limit for what you can spend on things like power surge etc protection only to tip a cup of coffee over your machine by mistake and adiós everything!

Good shout on the security service, that would probably reduce any insurance premium as well. Re: hard drives, 100% agree and I keep backups in both my studio in Spain and London for that reason. Thinking of getting a Backblaze account as well as I hear they’re good.

re: the APC UPS, did you say the link isn’t working? It’s for the U.K. amazon, so that might be why if you’re in the US...
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
All good points.

You must also think about the quality and thickness of your actual electric wiring and how the power is distributed. Circuit breakers, correct amps and individual connections to important things like amplifiers, main board from where your computer and peripherals draw power.

APC is good but you need to calculate, how much power you need for the time on the battery. There is a calculator somewhere on the APC website.

Good earthing! We have a decent earth in my building but the society has decided to upgrade it by using a chemical rod, fixed into the ground. It should further improve it. Some kind of system that was adviced by the company that did the yearly electrical audit.

I have a 10mm2 wire coming to my studio from the meter. All amplifiers have 6mm2 individual connections, as well as some other important things. 4mm2 for computer/peripherals and going down to 1.5 mm2 (I think) for lights etc.

I have a three-phase power line (standard in India). All Audio-Visual equipment on one phase, all air-conditioning/ventilation on one and the remaining stuff like lighting, microwave, hot-plate etc on one.

My studio is in a well secured commercial building, with CCTV at every step on the way, including the lift. So, hopefully, it is relatively secured. It will also be a colossal task to break down my main entrance door (no other way to get in). The main door is extremely thick and heavy, with 9 bolts (distributed evenly on the door from top to bottom) that lock in three rotations.

Backups - yes! Though, I have never kept anything off-site. I have been lazy but this year I am really reviewing my back-up system. All of my old stuff my go up in the cloud and stay free from hard drives altogether.

Insurance is a matter of your location and country so I guess, you will explore that locally.

Of course, I have fire extinguisher (though, I got it later than I would like to admit). I got a type that is safe to use on electronic equipment. It leaves no residue.
 

Uiroo

Active Member
In once saw this "interview" of a thief, maybe that's interesting to you. I remember him talking about the kinds of security gadgets that made him back off and the kinds that didn't.
 

Will Blackburn

Active Member
Well when i was living in London 15 years ago in some shitty new build where they cut corners on everything we suffered regular surges and my computer fried TWICE. Lost about 5 years worth of Cubase projects. Now all i have, apart from home insurance, is this and it's been excellent so far.

amazon.co.uk/Duronic-Extension-ST10B-Protection-Capacity-Black/dp/B000OV0CEY
 
OP
cato

cato

Member
Thanks for all the replies, useful stuff. I actually have some basic surge protectors at the moment, but I'm looking for a UPS that will help me save my work quickly (about 5-10m is all I'd need I think) as then I can just wait for the power to come back on.
 

burp182

Active Member
Speaking to the subject of lightning strikes - there is a surge protector (installed by an electrical contractor ONLY) that goes between the line from the pole and your box. Usually it will fit in the panel box. It consumes itself in the strike and needs to be replaced but saves everything downstream. Not big, not stupidly expensive. If this is an issue in your area, might be a studio saver.
 

Henu

Senior Member
I have a studio room in my house and the more I have upgraded it during the years the more paranoid I had become especially in summertime when we are away for a week or so in a row.

Getting a burglary alarm from a private company helped that a lot- knowing that we have a full blown alarm system + camera at our home and people there in five minutes in case of burglary is quite a huge comfort when we're away. Even though were living in Finland (which has quite a low crime rate) there has been too much of these "travelling professional burglars" around this area every year and just last year I encountered them trying to scan for houses to break into.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
Mostly good advice here, but beware, it is very easy to spend money needlessly on power products. Very easy, and on top of that, most of them are worthless.

I'm going to focus on just power for now...

First, a lightning strike is probably going to do a lot of damage, regardless of the steps you take. Lighting arrestors are a great idea, a lightning "spark gap" where any communications lines enter the building is a huge help, and not expensive at all. The protection devices that are installed at the service entrance can work, depending on how close the strike occurs, and I'd recommend one even though it could still fail.

From there you need to consider your requirements and select from the myriad choices.

Surge suppressors - the vast majority are worthless I'm afraid, and can cause problems since they dump the excess energy into ground, which is bad enough, but on top of that the element that does the dumping will fail, and it will fail in a condition that you can't detect, so all of the sudden even that is gone. Just a bad idea all the way around.

There are surge suppressors that do work, they use "Series Mode" suppression, where they absorb the energy and then dissipate it as heat. Pretty cool really. There are 3 or 4 companies selling this sort of device. SurgeX was the original, Middle Atlantic jumped on that bandwagon when the patent expired - both are excellent products, but they are not cheap. I think they are worth it, but only you can determine that for your facility.

Uninterruptible Power Supplies - they all work, if by work we mean they provide power when the utility power stops. But you need to be careful here too, as there are several different types. For a studio environment you want one that is "always on". This has several benefits, not the least of which is that you get voltage regulation for free, since you are always running off the batteries.

The downside (nothing is really free) is that some are electrically noisy. You'll need to check into the noise each one dumps onto the line.

A UPS can also serve as a wicked good surge suppressor. Which is cool, but the better models are expensive, so you might still want to protect it with a surge suppressor. I would.

Power conditioning, voltage regulation, etc - save your money. Few of these devices live up to their claims, or they can cause as many problems as they solve.

The tried and true solution for noise reduction in a studio setting is an isolation transformer feeding a sub-panel. The isolation transformer might cost only a little more than some power conditioners. And voltage regulation is not even necessary if you are using an "on-line" UPS.

Finally, there is a really neat trick called (incorrectly) balanced power. In reality it is symmetrical power, where each leg carries half the voltage, and properly designed power supplies will cancel out any noise common to both legs (yes, just like a balanced microphone input). If you already have a signal to noise ration approaching 100 dB or more throughout the system this might add another 3 - 6 dB to that figure, but for us mere mortals it is more of a party trick. It will, if you need it, silence noisy guitar amplifiers.

Power is not tricky, nor is it difficult - the tricky part is avoiding the snake oil.

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I get a little frustrated that I didn't think of selling folks this stuff before the other guys (just kiddin!)
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Fair enough Bill. I had very squirrelly power where I am -- I'm literally the last customer on the power company's line -- until I had separate, dedicated, upgraded power lines brought to my studio.

That helped a lot but until we installed those dedicated lines, we had dips as low as 100-102 all the time, along with a lot of "noise" in the power that was audible.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
Fair enough Bill. I had very squirrelly power where I am -- I'm literally the last customer on the power company's line -- until I had separate, dedicated, upgraded power lines brought to my studio.

That helped a lot but until we installed those dedicated lines, we had dips as low as 100-102 all the time, along with a lot of "noise" in the power that was audible.
Well that kind of stinks!! I grew up at the tail end of an electrical circuit - but dear old dad worked for the local power company, so when we experienced chronic low voltage he had a few tricks up his sleeve. Back then (mid 70s) the only thing at risk was a couple compressor motors (compressor as in refrigerator<G>!)

It still happens - low voltage that is - and it can be a problem for some studio gear. Most modern gear uses switching power supplies, which do not care about input voltage, although I still suggest a UPS to regulate voltage.

If you can get the local power company to drop a dedicated line to your studio that's even better!
 

Nathanael Iversen

Active Member
Power - Furman PL Plus units at the top of every rack. UPS for main DAW
Backup - full image backups of DAW and sample server boot drives
Insurance: Everything in the studio is insured for replacement cost, photographed and on file with the insurance company. Portable things used outside the studio are covered for that use as well.
 
OP
cato

cato

Member
Power - Furman PL Plus units at the top of every rack. UPS for main DAW
Is this the Furman you're referring to?


And what UPS do you recommend?

Thanks