The quest for ultimate tone usually finds guitarists fixating and obsessing over everything from tubes to speakers to pickups to amplifiers to cables and more. It is therefore ironic — to say the least — that many players do not consider a power conditioner a necessary part of the equation. This device will not only make your tube amp sound better, but it will also protect your costly investment from irreversible damage. Sure, it isn’t as sexy or gratifying as that 1977 DOD 250 Overdrive you just scored on eBay, but if you demand consistent tone and response from your amp, a power conditioner is an essential part of your setup that will make a difference.
We were excited to evaluate the Furman AC-215A because this particular device is frequently overlooked in guitar circles, yet its compact form factor and very reasonable price make it an ideal solution for installation on or underneath pedalboards, or even behind your amplifier.
While many players require more elaborate solutions like Furman’s excellent P-1800 PF R Power Conditioner, which offers multiple outlets for protecting numerous devices in a rack or professional guitar rig, the AC-215A is perfect for the studio or touring musician who simply needs to plug in a pair of devices (such as an amplifier and a pedalboard) while reaping the benefits of Furman’s demonstrated world class power conditioning.
The Furman AC-215A fell into our rig quite by accident. You see, it was originally developed for use in home theater installations, where the compact form factor allowed for easy placement behind a flat panel television. As it turns out, that compact form factor makes it easy to stick this thing behind your amplifier or to mount underneath your pedalboard.
They say that good things come in small packages and that certainly holds true for the small but potent AC-215A. Despite its size, it is still chock full of the world-class (and sometimes exclusive) features we have come to expect from Furman:
- 10 Amp power conditioning with two outlets, and LED indicators for operational status and power condition.
- Furman’s exclusive SMP technology, which protects against power surges in ways that mere power strips can’t compete — the clamping, dissipation and absorption of multiple transient voltage spikes, and without destroying itself in the process.
- Protection against prolonged over-voltage situations utilizing EVS (Extreme Voltage Shutdown) technology, which shuts off the incoming power and resets the unit when an unsafe condition is detected.
- LiFT (Linear Filtering Technology) provides advanced noise filtering to remove noise introduced into the current from everything from air conditioners to fluorescent lights to cordless phones and more.
Lest anyone think the AC-215A is nothing more than a glorified power strip, it’s plain to see there is a lot of stuff happening inside the unit that propels it way above and beyond traditional surge suppression.
So all this talk about “Transient Voltage Spikes,” “Clamping,” “Dissipation,” and “Ground Contamination” has you a bit freaked out? Well, fear not, because you certainly don’t need a degree in electronics to operate the AC-215A. In fact, it is about as plug-n-play as it gets — just plug your gear into one of the two supplied sockets and let the unit do its thing, which is nothing short of protecting your gear from any electrical hazard save, perhaps, the wrath of the gods!
The operational status is noted by an LED labeled, “Protection OK.” This light is typically always on, but in rare instances, such as when a surge of such epic proportions cannot be absorbed by the unit, it will turn off and require the unit to be serviced by an authorized Furman repair center. The 2nd of the LEDs is named “Extreme Voltage Shutdown Indicator” which is typically off unless input voltage in excess 137VAC is sensed during power-up or during normal operation. If that occurs, this indicator will light and the power will be shut off to your gear. Luckily, we did not experience such extreme conditions during our evaluation of the unit, but we know of many touring artists who have found this particular Furman technology to save their rigs from impending doom.
What really makes this particular unit special is the compact and simple design. With only two sockets, we found the AC-215A perfect for the musician who only needs to connect an amplifier and a pedalboard’s master power supply. Due to the small footprint, the unit can fit neatly on a pedalboard or even tucked away inconspicuously behind or under an amplifier cabinet (provided that cabinet is on casters).
If a more permanent solution is required, such as mounting the device to the underside of a PedalTrain pedalboard, on the back of your 4x12 cabinet, or even in a standard 19” equipment rack, the unit ships with a bracket mounting kit.
While it may not provide as dramatic an effect as installing a new set of boutique pickups or adding that vintage Tube Screamer to your pedalboard, Furman power conditioners really do make your amps sound better, and you will hear the difference.
Although the AC-215A isn’t quite as sophisticated as some of Furman’s more advanced rack units (like the aforementioned P-1800 PF R, for example), the advanced noise filtering in the AC-215A does the same great job of cleaning up “dirty” power as its big brothers, and if you gig regularly, you will certainly notice an improvement and greater consistency to your sound.
Documentation and Product Support
The owner’s manual that ships with the AC-215A is decidedly scant (the English language portion is a mere four pages) but as we said earlier, this unit is ridiculously easy and intuitive to use, making the owner’s manual really just a point of reference for features, terminology and the appropriate modicum of operation instructions.
The Furman AC-215A (MSRP $199) has a street price just under $140, positioning it in that comfortable “nice price” range. If you just need a simple solution that will clean up your power and protect a couple of pieces of gear, this price makes it hard to pass up.