Product Review (August 2006) - Panamax
MAX® 5500-EX A/V Line Conditioner

By Kevin Nakano

Panamax has been making a name for itself in the home theater and audio market with the innovative MAX product line. The company continues to offer a comprehensive line of home A/V power protection products covering all budgets. Panamax has recently revised its existing MAX line by replacing the analog meters with digital meters. The MAX® 5500-EX is the flagship unit in the latest EX product line. The MAX® 5500-EX is an attractive unit and is available with an optional silver bezel faceplate for users looking for a different look. Unlike the analog front panel meters, the new digital meters are easy to read from a distance and offer three brightness levels (including off) with a push of a button.

Panamax's Isolated Power uses the secondary windings of the internal toroidal transformer so that the output power is completely DC isolated from the input power. The MAX® 5500-EX includes a 10-foot heavy-duty detachable power cord, a pair of rack mount ears, two coaxial cables with F-connectors and a telephone cord. The unit measures 17" x 12.75" x 3.5" (4.1" with feet) and weighs 28 pounds.

Front Panel
The front panel of the MAX® 5500-EX looks similar to the older non-EX model with new contemporary looking rectangular LED indicators for status. The analog meters used on the non-EX models have been replaced with attractive blue seven segment numerical displays on the MAX® 5500-EX for voltage and current levels. The voltmeter displays a voltage range of 90-140VAC, while the ammeter can display 0-15 amps. Just below the voltage display is a lighting bolt that illuminates when an unsafe voltage has occurred. The unit
weighs about 28 pounds. The Power Switch button on the front panel is one of two ways to activate the turn-on or shutdown sequence for the Isolated and High Current outlets. Status indicators are provided for each of the five power banks along with a Wiring OK status. The convenient front panel outlet often gets used for temporary devices needing AC power. The front panel meters produced accurate reading when we compared it to our bench meters.

Under the Hood
MAX® 5500-EX partitions the circuit boards similar to the other MAX units we have seen. The center of the chassis has the large toriodal isolation transformer used for banks 3 & 4. All power paths are wired with heavy-duty 12-gauge wire for maximum current delivery. The internal layout is logically divided into functional blocks with the details silk-screened on the top of each circuit board. The main power supply board contains a processor used to provide the intelligence and communication via the RS232 interface. Several smaller boards hold the display and control electronics, coaxial protection circuits, and protected LAN/telephone circuits. A heavy-duty relay is used to engage power to the rear outlets as long as the utility voltage levels are within acceptable limits. The digital meters are mounted to a separate circuit card for the front display. The large power board with heavy printer circuit traces is occupied by large common-mode chokes, ferrite beads and high voltage capacitors. The heavy gauge power wire is connected to a large terminal block that feeds the power outlets.

The under-voltage and over-voltage shutoff circuitry worked well. The over-voltage protection shut the unit off when the line voltage reached 137VAC and the unit turned back on when the line voltage was reduced to 133VAC. The under-voltage shut the unit off when the line voltage went to 90 VAC and returned to normal operation when the line voltage was raised back to 95 VAC. This built-in hysteresis helps prevent the unit from cycling on and off if the line voltage is near the low or high threshold levels.

Rear Panel
The rear panel of the MAX® 5500-EX has been fine-tuned for AV installations with support for cable, terrestrial, and satellite input signals. The unit comes with a 10-foot, heavy-duty 12-gauge detachable power cord which is held in place with a locking clip. This prevents the IEC power cord from being pulled out from the unit, which can easily occur when installed into a cabinet. A convenient ground lug is also available for components that have a separate ground lead. A total of ten power outlets grouped into three functional blocks are available on the rear panel. Outlet Banks 1 & 2 are always on and will only be turned off when a fault condition occurs. Each of these banks is cleaned by a four-stage balanced Pi filter and are noise isolated from each other as well as the other outlet banks.
Banks 3 & 4 offer superior EMI/RFI noise filtration using the true isolation transformer along with the three stage balanced Pi filter. These banks turn on when triggered or by pressing the front panel power button. There is a 10 second turn-off delay with these outlets to allow power amplifiers to settle before preamplifier electronics shutdown. Bank 5 offers High Current outlets with low impedance and a minimal-current limiting noise filtration circuit. The high current output turn-on can be selected to be immediate or with a five-second delay. In either case the outlet turns off immediately when commanded.

The MAX® 5500-EX has a 15 amp main circuit breaker for the input power. There's also a smaller 4 amp circuit breaker dedicated to protecting the isolation transformer in case of an overload. The isolated outputs are designed for digital components that draw little current. The unit has both 12V input and output triggers, which allows it to be easily daisy-chained into a system. The trigger output drive current is rated for up to 500mA, so the input signal is not simply passed on to the output, but instead regenerated using a linear voltage regulator. Our system utilized a Parasound AVC-2500u A/V Controller to drive the trigger input on the MAX® 5500-EX during testing. The fixed 10-second delayed output trigger can be useful when connecting power amplifiers to a system. In our case, we used the trigger for our five-channel Parasound (HCA-2205AT) power amplifier.

Two sets of satellite connections and a set of cable connections provide protection from potential voltage spikes. Satellite connections work over a range from 950 MHz to 2.2 GHz with a loss of less than 1dB in signal level. The clamping circuitry for the satellite connections is set at 25V to handle the 13 and 18 volt control voltages used for the LNBs. The two sets of cable/antenna connections are designed to operate up to 950 MHz with a clamping voltage of 1.4V. All F-connectors are gold-plated to ensure long-term contact reliability. A pair of protected telephone and LAN (RJ-45) connections are also provided for satellite receivers and media servers.

The MAX® 5500-EX is a perfect design for those needing a high performance power protection unit at a reasonable price. In addition, antenna, cable and satellite signals along with phone and network connections can also be protected from mother nature and the power company. The new digital meters are easier to read than the traditional meters used in the earlier MAX product. Panamax continues to offer its lifetime $5,000,000 Connected Equipment Protection Policy on their MAX® 5500-EX unit along with their three year warranty. This is one of the best warranties we've seen in the industry and provides consumers with the confidence they need to maximize performance while protecting their costly A/V components. Although some may find it insignificant, the shipping box of the new MAX® 5500-EX is significantly better than the earlier units we have reviewed, making it less likely to suffer shipping damage.

- Kevin Nakano

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

Review System

Projector: Optoma H77 High-Definition HD2+ DLP™ Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD+ A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable: AudioQuest DV-1 20m DVI-D Cable
HDMI Cables: Accel Corporation UltraRun HDMI Cables and Adapters

Review at a glance

Panamax MAX® 5500-EX Specifications

AC Power
Line Voltage 120VAC, 60 Hz
Total Current Capacity15A
UL1449 Suppression Rating330V
Protection Modes L-N, N-G, L-G
Initial Clamping Level 200V
Energy Dissipation 1815 Joules
Peak Impulse Current73,000A
Catastrophic Surge Circuit Yes
Thermal Fusing Yes
Overvoltage Shutoff 142VAC ± 5VAC
Undervoltage Shutoff 90VAC ± 3VAC
EMI/RFI Noise Filtration (Bank 1-4)100dB, 100kHz-2MHz
EMI/RFI Noise Filtration (Bank 5)60dB, 100kHz-2MHz
Clamping Level (TVSS Voltage) 330V

DC Trigger Input
Jacks3.5mm (1/8") mini-plug
Voltage and Polarity3-25VDC, bi-directional
Curent Requirement4.6mA @3V, 58mA @24V

DC Trigger Output
Short Circuit ProtectionYes
Delay on Output10 Seconds

LAN Circuit
Clamping Level 8V ± 2V
Wires Protected Four wire, Pins 1, 2, 3 & 6

Telephone Circuit
Fuseless / Auto Resettable Yes
Clamping Level 260V
Capacitance 30pf (approx.)
Suppression Modes Metallic & Longitudinal
Wires Protected Two wire, Pins 4 & 5

Satellite TV Circuit
Clamping Level25V
Attenuation <1dB from 950MHz-2.05GHz
Connectors Female "F", Gold Plated

Cable TV Circuit
Clamping Level1.4V
Attenuation <1dB up to 950MHz
Connectors Female "F", Gold Plated

2 - Rack mount bracket kit
1 - IEC 320, 120V/15A detachable 10 foot power cord
2 - Coaxial Cables
1 - RJ11 Telephone Cable

Company Information
Panamax, Inc.
1690 Corporate Circle
Petaluma, CA 94952

Phone: 800-472-5555

Model: M5500-EX
Source: Manufacture Supplied
MSRP: $1499

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