One of the most irritating and costly disasters for any audio or music studio is the dreaded power outage or blackout. That's where an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) comes to the rescue.
These brilliant power components are perfect for protecting your computer systems and studio equipment from damage and keeping your data and projects safe in a power outage.
Are uninterruptible power supplies worth it in audio studios? While UPSs aren't necessary for all studios and can get quite costly, they are useful tools for professional audio and music studios. If your area is particularly prone to blackouts and power surges (from dodgy power grids, extreme weather, etc.), a quality UPS will be a superb tool for your studio.
In this article, we'll discuss the key features of an uninterruptable power supply, explore how much they typically cost and dive into whether they're needed for both home studios and professional audio studios alike.
What Is An Uninterruptable Power Supply?
An uninterruptable power supply provides emergency backup power through a battery to your equipment and computer systems when your ordinary power source fails or if the voltage drops too low for your equipment to function.
Why do you need a UPS?
- To ensure you don’t lose any data if your usual power supply fails. This is because once battery power kicks in, you should have enough time to properly save your work and power down your equipment.
- To eliminate the likelihood of damaging your equipment. If an appliance loses power suddenly or receives too low of a voltage, this could cause serious harm to your equipment. By ensuring a steady power supply to your studio equipment at all times, a UPS prevents costly damage.
- Many uninterruptable power supplies also include noise-filtering circuits to reduce electrical noise. Noise and voltage fluctuations are key drivers behind quality-reducing audio artifacts like hums. A good UPS will also regulate your power input to reduce electrical noise.
How Does An Uninterruptable Power Supply Compare To A Power Conditioner?
A UPS is often mistaken for a power conditioner– however, there are important differences between these seemingly similar power apparatuses.
A power conditioner filters, regulates, and ‘cleans' AC power, eliminating voltage fluctuations, electromagnetic interference and noise from mains power. While some UPS have some noise filtering circuits and surge protection, power conditioners do not include a battery.
The primary characteristic of an uninterruptable power supply is its ability to provide emergency power to your studio.
Types Of Uninterruptable Power Supplies
There are three main types of uninterruptable power supplies. These vary in price and feature, and which you should consider depends largely on your budget.
Standby Uninterruptible Power Supplies
The most affordable type of uninterruptable power supply, a standby UPS, is the simplest implementation of backup power. A standby UPS acts as a power passthrough for most of its operational time, providing your systems and equipment mains power as usual.
However, when there's a blackout or issue with your usual supply of power, a backup DC battery kicks in and provides temporary power. A standby power supply will invert this DC power input into AC to be identical to the lost power it is replacing.
However, as it takes a small amount of time for the UPS to detect a power outage, there is an inherent lapse in power where your systems will receive nothing. Luckily, this lapse usually hovers around 5 ms and isn't long enough for your computer to switch off or anything to happen to consumer electronics.
However, due to this power delay, a standby UPS may not be suitable for sensitive equipment or critical applications.
Online Uninterruptible Power Supplies
Also known as a true UPS, an online uninterruptable power supply is by far the most expensive implementation of the technology. An online UPS aims to provide a consistent and clean AC power supply to your studio equipment.
First, an online UPS converts an incoming mains AC power supply into DC power. This power will then charge the battery built into the UPS. Then, the DC power is converted back into AC power – as it would with any other UPS.
This leads to no power interruption when there's a blackout and no voltage fluctuations as the battery regulates all power. However, this method does lead to far more wear and tear on the battery, reducing the product's lifetime.
Also, online UPSs are extremely expensive – and this style will only be used in the most critical and high-budget studio setups.
Line-Interactive Uninterruptible Power Supplies
A line-interactive UPS is brilliant at correcting minor power fluctuations without the need to switch fully to battery power. This is great for brownouts – basically, where there's too low of a voltage being supplied.
An EMI and RFI filter is also used here to protect your equipment and the UPS itself from spikes. Line-interactive UPS are brilliant voltage regulators and aren't too much more expensive than a standby UPS.
How Much Does An Uninterruptible Power Supply Usually Cost?
A simple standby UPS can start at around $100. Even Amazon Basics has created its own offline uninterruptable power supply. However, the price can creep up for heavier-duty standby UPS, reaching a few hundred dollars.
By contrast, a true/online UPS will usually cost in excess of $1000 – with only a few, like CyberPower's double-conversion UPS, retailing for around $600.
The sweet spot here is a line-interactive UPS. This can range from anywhere between $100-$500.
Are Uninterruptible Power Supplies Worth It?
If you have a reliable power grid, and you rarely, if ever, suffer from power outages and brownouts (periods of low voltage), you might not need an uninterruptable power supply. If you're in this situation and you'd like some added protection from surges and some filtering, a standby UPS is a great, affordable option for you.
A UPS offers real value if you're performing critical work that you cannot afford data losses. If you're using your studio all day, every day, for work that would be particularly expensive to lose, a good UPS could make its money back easily.
It's also worth it to invest in a UPS if you have a flaky power grid or if you suffer from voltage fluctuations. A line-dependent or online UPS is a great fix for AC power that has an inconsistent voltage, ensuring you're not inflicting any unnecessary harm to your studio equipment.