HomeTechTell Review: SurgeX XR115 Surge Eliminator/Power Conditioner

Sections: Power management, Reviews

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SurgeX XR115This might have to be my last SurgeX review.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the company’s power protection products—in fact, at this point it’s pretty much the only brand I truly trust to save me from surges—but the appearance of a SurgeX review product at my doors always seems to coincide with some terribly traumatic coincidences.

Exhibit A: Days after installing the company’s XC18 Space Saver Surge Eliminator in my main media room last year, I experienced the first ever massive surge, which affected one circuit of my home. Yes, the timing seems incredible. All the more incredible is the fact that, while my home theater system attached to the SurgeX didn’t flinch (and neither did the XC18), the Monster PowerCenter to which my bedroom AV system is attached went completely kerflooey. The gear itself was protected, but the Monster was now a smoking, useless mess.

Exhibit B: SurgeX’s XR115 Surge Eliminator/Power Conditioner arrives for review last week, and whilst powering down the (admittedly pretty cheap) surge protector that replaced the smoldering Monster, I was met with a zap, a pop, and another waft of smoke. No, a surge didn’t hit. Apparently the el cheapo power switch simply fell apart, and when I pressed it, I created some sort of internal short that fried the strip extra crispy. (Thankfully, all of my gear was already disconnected.)

A SurgeX representative’s official response: “I swear, it wasn’t the SurgeX box’s fault. It could be a case of surge envy.”

Thankfully, in the days since I’ve connected the XR115 to the system, I’m happy to report an entirely boring lack of zaps, pops, sparks, or smoke. Really, though, objectively speaking, there isn’t a lot else to report. The XR115 is built like a freaking Abrams tank, and feels like it could withstand being run over by one, despite the comically large FRAGILE sticker affixed to its box. And thankfully there’s no power switch to give out and go boom. The XR115 is simplicity incarnate.

It does come with four gorgeous little shock-absorbing feet that you can screw onto the bottom if you so choose. And I’m not sure if the shock-absorption helps with—ahem—shock absorption, but with them attached, it’s a really attractive, clean-cut piece of kit that looks great next to the other gear in my bedroom. It’s also slim enough that, sans feet, it would fit perfectly behind the dresser, standing on edge. The package also comes with rack ears and all the screws you would need to mount it.

If I have one objective complaint—and I wouldn’t be me if I couldn’t find at least one nit to pick—it’s that the generous eight outlets on the back could stand to either be horizontally oriented or spaced a little further apart, if possible. Add one bulky power adapter to your gear’s mix, and eight generous outlets quickly become seven usable ones.

Honestly, that’s still probably more than enough for most modest home theater systems. The XR115 also includes one coaxial input and output for your cable or satellite system and boasts sophisticated EMI/RFI filtering. I won’t promise you that it’ll improve the audio/video quality of your system, but I strongly suspect it might have knocked a little noise out of the picture of the craptacularly poorly power-supplied cable box I used to have. I can also confidently assert from past experience with SurgeX products that if you have a cable box that’s prone to lock-ups due to the itty bitty little power spikes you probably don’t notice otherwise, the XR115 will almost certainly ameliorate that.

Moving into more subjective territory, the thing I like best about the XR115 specifically (and SurgeX in general) is peace of mind. And let’s face it: that’s not a quantity I can measure with a Sencore or SPL meter. I can’t provide graphs or charts that plot overall mental and emotional security. I can say this, though: this is the only company whose power products have never let me down. For your perusal, a video I shot at last year’s CEDIA Expo demonstrating the difference between SurgeX’s surge elimination technology and the MOV-type “protection” provided by other systems:

I wish I could say “Don’t try that at home,” but I have, unwittingly, and can vouch for the fact that this isn’t tradeshow trickery. As I said above, the surge that hit my house last year not only smoked my Monster PowerCenter, it also fried the wiring that powers my bathroom light fixture and ventilation fan. And yet, in the system protected by SurgeX, the Crowson Tactile Motion Amplifier I accidentally left on the night before didn’t even reboot.

If that’s not anecdotally satisfying enough, consider this: the XR115 is built upon the exact same technology that protects the electronics at Carnegie Hall and the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. And if it’s good enough to protect a 26,000 sq. ft., $40,000,000 display from electrical shenanigans, something tells me it’s good enough for my 50-inch Panasonic Plasma.

And at $599 (Wait! Get back here and let me finish!) The XR115 sits pretty much smack dab in the middle of the price range of Monster’s power products, all of which still rely on MOVs. Granted, yes, at the upper end of its line, Monster promises its products will shut down before the MOVs go bang, but—call me crazy—I just feel better with a power system in place that doesn’t rely upon any potentially exploding parts. And by the time you add up the cost of the devices you might normally attach to the XR115 (let’s say $1000-$2000 for a TV, $100 to $400 for a good Blu-ray player, $500-$1500 for a good receiver, $100 for a media streamer, $400-$1000 for a decent sub, $250 for a video game console—that’s… a lot of dollars), is $599 an unreasonable price to pay to know for sure that it’s not all going to poof during a wicked thunderstorm? Of course, I can’t answer that for you. For me, though, it’s a no-brainer.

If my experience is anything like yours, though, I can offer this much advice: if you do decide an XR115 is worth the investment, just don’t let your existing power products know they’re being replaced.

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