Panamax M5400-PM Review
Home Theater Power Management, $699
Last year, when I reviewed the Panamax M7500-PRO, I talked about how naughty electricity can be and how it needs to be disciplined by power management systems to protect your HDTV and other home theater components.
With disruptive storms and rolling brownouts in the U.S., inconsistent power levels are not just a third world concern. A robust voltage regulator not only can clean up the signals from your audio/video equipment, it can prolong the lives of those components.
For even the average home theater owner, power management has become a necessity and not simply a luxury. Though at $2000, the M7500-PRO definitely is the Rolls Royce of the models that Panamax offers.
At $700, their M5400-PM is the system that more of us can afford to drive. The M5400 doesn't include some of the M7500's higher end features, like the very cool, retro analog needled meters, but it does supply all of the power management basics required by a medium sized home theater.
Out of the Box
Just hoisting this 18 pound sturdy black metal box, (17" W x 12.75" D x 3.5" H), out of its package, I felt confident that the M5400-PM could crack the whip and keep my wayward voltage in line.
If it's not clear already, let me be crystal, I'm not an electrical engineer. (If you wish to pore over the M5400-PM's specifications, Panamax lists them on their website.) I tend to deal with what I can see with my own two retinas.
To begin, I'm a sucker for those glowing blue lights on the front, especially the silver encircled voltmeter and ammeter. Beyond giving voltage in and out readings, they make great night lights. But if they are too bright for your room, you can cycle through four levels with the button on the left.
On the right side of the front are three convenience connections, a USB charging port, a switched outlet and an Ethernet pass-thru connection between the front and rear panel, which Panamax labels a Gaming LAN Port.
The real heavy lifting is performed in the back with ten outlets paired into five Banks. The four outlets in Banks 1 and 2 are always On and only turn off under a fault condition.
The four outlets in Banks 3 and 4 can be turned Off with the Power button on the front. If you have been reading any of my HDTV reviews, you are aware that certain models of A/V equipment do not have an energy saving Standby mode.
Basically, they suck an unnecessary amount of electricity even when you turn them off. If you plug the offending component into one of the Bank 3 or 4 outlets, then you can power off the Panamax and cut all electricity to the component.
It might not seem like you are saving mounds of money, but arranging your plugs so that components that can be switched off are in Banks 3 and 4 can make a difference in your annual power consumption. Of course, you have to get into the habit of powering down your Panamax when you are not using it.
I realize that the biggest Standby electricity hogs like DVRs can't be powered down. If you plug them into Bank 1 or 2, they will continue to receive power and the full contingent of filtration features even when the M5400-PM is turned off.
In Bank 5 are two High Current outlets that "provide power from a low impedance noise filtration circuit that does not limit the current to your equipment." Bank 5 is also controlled by the front Power button.
In addition, the outlets in Banks 3, 4 and 5 can be turned on and off by a DC Trigger that is plugged into a connector on the back of the Panamax. Also, all five Banks are isolated so that noise that may be generated by one A/V component does not cross-contaminate other equipment.
For protection and filtration, you can also loop through your cable and satellite coaxial sources, and your telephone and Ethernet lines.
Once you decide which piece of equipment will be attached to which outlet, set up is a matter of untangling all those cords and plugging them in. Unlike the instructions that came with the MAX 7500-PRO, the manual for the M5400-PM does not give any suggestions for what to plug where.
The simplest scheme is to attach your amplifier and subwoofer to the two High Current outlets. Use Banks 3 and 4 for any equipment that can be powered off totally. And leave Banks 1 and 2 for components that need continual juice or that simply do not draw much electricity in standby mode.
I'll repeat what I said in my MAX 7500-PRO review. I didn't test the M5400-PM with any fancy electronics equipment so I can't scientifically tell you how well it performs.
Part of the problem of judging its performance by eye is that a number of its improvements are subtle to detect because they are the omission of artifacts.
I will say that the electricity does tend to spike too often here in what I would consider a fairly average American neighborhood. I definitely feel more comfortable knowing my equipment is connected to the M5400-PM.
Along with its power filtration and voltage regulation, add in its ability to prevent noise contamination between components and the M5400-PM is a valuable element in your home theater.
The question always boils down to, what is the worth to you of these features and the peace of mind they bring?
Here's one answer. If you are not constantly fretting about squeezing the ultimate out of your home theater, then you may not need a $700 power filtration system.
Then again, if you have thousands of dollars invested in equipment and you don't want to fret about component cross-contamination or voltage spikes, the Panamax M5400-PM might be a great peace of mind purchase.
Panamax even includes a $5,000,000 Limited Connected Equipment Protection Policy.
The Panamax M5400-PM is a vigorous power filtration system that is ideal for home theater enthusiasts who want to protect their investment and eliminate power related artifacts.