- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 10 February 2011
The Panamax M4320-PRO AC power conditioner/surge suppressor is one of a new class of Panamax/Furman products that feature remote power monitoring and management via the updated BlueBOLT system. BlueBOLT provides on-line remote control of your theater. One thing that piqued my interest at the 2010 CEDIA Expo was that Panamax is planning to release a line of related BlueBOLT wall modules. These will be used to wirelessly manage power throughout a customer’s home via the robust BlueBOLT web interface.
With BlueBOLT, custom electronics installers, integrators and end-users can remotely monitor and control power to their equipment by accessing power management components over the internet from anywhere in the world. Here, we review the Panamaz M4320-PRO AC Power Conditioner.
- Design: AC Power Conditioner
- Capacity: 20 Amp (2,400W)
- Outlets: 8 Individually Controllable on Rear Panel, 1 on Front Panel
- Fully Programmable
- TCP/IP (BlueBOLT®) Installed
- RS-232 Card (Included, Not Installed)
- Linear Filtration with 3 Isolated LiFT Filter Banks, 76 dB (5 kHz - 250 kHz), 46 dB (250 kHz - 1 MHz)
- One Isolated Filter Bank for High Current Devices, 60 dB (5 kHz - 450 kHz), 46 dB (450 kHz - 1 MHz)
- Front Panel Circuit Breaker
- Voltage Protection Rating: 500 V, 3,000 Amps
- LAN, Coax and Telco Protection
- 12 Volt Trigger Input
- Dimensions: 1.75" H x 19" W x 12.25" D
- Weight: 12 Pounds
- MSRP: $749.95 USA
Think about being able to power down the wall warts you don’t need most of the time. Or you could use it to control your lights when away from home. Panamax also had a live demo of a webcam in their studio that they could access through the BlueBOLT server. I keep thinking of new ways to use the system all the time . . . the possibilities, as they say, are endless.
Design and Installation
The most prominent feature of the Panamax M4320-PRO power conditioner is its BlueBOLT functionality. The M4320-PRO comes with an Ethernet card installed and an assigned MAC address. The installer connects the unit to the internet through the Ethernet card. They can access the BlueBOLT server over the internet to set up their account and connect remotely to the device. The user can then basically monitor and control their system over the internet from anywhere in the world. The BlueBOLT system was conceived as a power management tool, but you will see that it has many other significant uses and Panamax is adding more features to the system on a regular basis.
The user can have several BlueBOLT-enabled devices attached to their account. This is useful for custom installers who have numerous clients. The CI professional can connect to their client’s BlueBOLT-enabled power conditioners and then remotely reboot components, tell if a component is on or off and perform other vital system checks all from their office or, perhaps, from a beach in Borneo. Hmmmm.
The Panamax M4320-PRO has total of 4 filter banks with two outlets per bank. One of the banks is high current and has two 20- amp receptacles. EMI/RFI noise filtration is handled by a linear filtration circuit that Panamax calls “LiFT Technology”. According to the manufacturers’ claims, this circuit does effectively attenuate much of the noise you probably have on your AC line.
The M4320-PRO also includes Panamax’s patented power monitoring circuit, “AVM”. This circuit is said to constantly monitor the AC line voltage for unsafe conditions like voltage spikes, sustained over-voltage or sustained under-voltage. The M4320-PRO will shut off power to components to protect them from any dangerous voltage conditions. In many cases, the unit can self-reset. At other times, the front panel breaker might trip. The most severe events will require servicing of the unit after shutdown. Panamax calls this the “Protect or Disconnect Circuitry”.
The Panamax M4320-PRO has protection circuits for cable/satellite coax, LAN and telephone lines as well. These circuits are claimed to have low signal loss.
All this circuitry leads to Panamax’s concept of a “Bubble of Protection”. They introduce this in the Owners’ Manual with an ellipse surrounding a schematic of a system being powered through the M4320-PRO illustrating that your whole system is protected from potential damage by way of external forces.
The upcoming wireless wall modules will have surge suppression and power filtering. They will also be able to monitor power usage. The working prototypes I saw at CEDIA were based on the Panamax MD2 family form factor and were approximately 3” x 5” x 2”. Expected availability of these modules is sometime in 2011.
Set Up and Use
I connected my system through the Panamax M4320-PRO. For this particular unit, you need to make sure you have a 20-amp circuit and a 20-amp wall socket. My theater is already set up with 20-amp circuits, so I was good to go. If you don’t meet the circuit and socket requirements, you could hire an electrician to upgrade your electric circuit or you could drop down to the Panamax M4315-PRO which is a 15-amp model with all the same features as the M4320-PRO.
I want to take a second and talk a little about the basic performance of the unit before I go into details about the system set up. I was interested in getting the strongest impression of the impact that this component could have, so for two weeks before the review, I ran my system sans power conditioning. This was an interesting experiment, and I must say that the improvement in the picture and sound with the M4320-PRO in the system was immediately apparent and very substantial.
I saw obvious improvement in the picture: more detail, less color drift and fewer visual artifacts. But the biggest improvement (to me) was in a much lower noise floor in the audio department. Solo violins being played pianissimo benefitted the most. OK, well, any solo instrument being played pianissimo benefitted. A lot. There was much more separation between the sounds and the spaces in between them. Right on the cutting edge of sound is where you will hear the differences the most.
Although the M4320-PRO does not have voltage regulation, power factor correction or a battery back-up (all useful features) the fact remains that $750 is indeed money well spent to bring about these kinds of improvements to your system’s performance and protection.
Now back to the system set up: I went on-line to register with the BlueBOLT website. Their software is constantly being updated and consequently I was not able to complete my registration straight away. This prompted me to call Panamax customer service. I must say that I had about the most pleasurable customer service experience that I have had in quite some time. They were able to get my account set up in less than 5 minutes and I was all set.
I then logged into the BlueBOLT web interface and keyed in the MAC address for my unit. I named it “EQ Rack”. I also input the electric rate for my local utility. The BlueBOLT system allows the end use to input various rates depending on your utility company’s rate schedule. For instance, some electric companies charge different rates for electricity depending on the season or charge a higher rate once you exceed a given level of usage.
After setting up the system, I took control of it on the internet. I’ve added some screen shots off the BlueBOLT web interface in the section below so you can learn about some of the basic functionality the system provides.
This is the Device Administration page. Currently, there are four options to drill down from this page.
This is the outlet controls page. You can see here that I named each outlet in accordance with my particular set up. You can power on/off or cycle power to any outlet. I can see parents using this to turn off the TV when their kids are supposed to be doing their home work. Notice there are no controls on this page for the front outlet.
You can use the “Add a Scheduled Command” page to set up things like a re-boot of your modem or router as I’m demonstrating here.
These are the Device Meters. It looks like my system is loafing here, but in reality my system rarely pulls over 5 amps and I don’t often see voltages below 117 V, particularly with the receiver under test in this case as opposed to a massive Class A/B multi-channel amplifier. (FYI, my plasma display and one of my subs are not plugged into the power conditioner.)
This is a partial shot of the Energy Management page. What you don’t see was cut off from the bottom. It is an accounting of the overall kWh consumed by your system for a selected duration. The portion that was cut off also indicates the accumulated costs of running your system over the same period. What you do see is one of the selected graphs that indicate wattage by day in this particular instance. It can also chart line voltage or current draw.
The Alert Setting page is the launch point for the user to define certain thresholds that will generate e-mail alerts for power events and energy management events. For example, you could have it e-mail you when you are within a certain limit of your monthly energy budget for your system.
The Panamax M4320-PRO is a very flexible power management tool. Its BlueBOLT operating system is scalable and very flexible. All the while, Panamax continues to update, expand and improve the BlueBOLT system. This is an excellent product for a custom installer to spec. Its remote system management skills would mean fewer miles travelled and less labor. They would have happier customers who might possibly get quicker support during evenings , weekends and holidays. Plus, it is essentially a rack-mount piece.
But the Panamax M4320-PRO is equally excellent as a direct purchase for end users who want to take more control over their systems. For them, it would be a very useful power management tool with a powerful internet-based remote control operating system.
With and MSRP of $750, the M4320-PRO isn’t exactly a “steal”. It is nevertheless a very good value when you consider its excellent performance, fine build quality and no-cost internet control system. This unit gets my strong recommendation.