I ordered the Panamax on a Wednesday at noontime from Crutchfield, and received it two days later on Friday afternoon, via UPS standard ground shipping! Thanks for this go to Crutchfield and UPS.
The unit was very well packed, with the original carton placed inside of a generic brown-box shipping carton (no logos visible). Biodegradable packing puffs insulated the inner carton from the outer one. No signs of damage to either carton.
I removed and inspected the unit. There was no signs of damage to it. However, I could hear something rattling around inside. I removed the top cover and found that a small L-shaped piece of red fibrous cardboard insulation was loose inside the unit. There are two flaps made from this material that are located inside the unit and cover the rack mounting holes. These appeared to be intact. I could not find anyplace where the small piece of insulation would have come from, so I assumed that it was just mistakenly dropped into the unit during assembly. I called Panamax technical support, and left a message to see if it was ok to open the unit. They responded within half an hour.
I integrated the unit into my system. Here is what I observed:
- Outlet Bank 1 will always turn on if the unit is plugged in. So you can never really turn the unit completely "off" without unplugging it. The good thing is that the unit waits about 5 seconds after plugging it in (or, until after stable line power is restored) before it energizes Outlet Bank 1. Outlet Bank 1 has 4 outlets.
- Outlet Bank 2 is turned on or off by either the DC Trigger input, or by holding the front power button for 2 seconds. When turning on, it does so immediately after holding the button for 2 seconds. But when turning off via the power button or DC trigger, it waits 10 seconds. (This allows the high-power components plugged into Outlet Bank 3 to fully shut off -- see next note). Bank 2 also has 4 outlets
- Outlet Bank 3 turns on about 5 seconds after Outlet Bank 2 in response to a DC trigger or the power button being held for 2 seconds. Only subs and amps/AVR-amp combos should be plugged into this bank. The delayed turn-on allows the pre-amps, etc. (that are plugged into Banks 1 &2) to fully power up before the amps come on, helping to prevent loud pops that may potentially ruin speakers, etc. With most modern gear this is not much of a problem. But it's still a nice touch to have. It also helps to minimize power line dips during power up. Also, Bank 3 does not use Pi filters, thereby allowing for maximum current availability when the amps are pushing out high voltage. Bank 3 has 2 outlets
The M5300-EX has "Automatic Voltage Monitoring". So if the line voltage drops below 90V AC, or rises above 142V, the unit will cut the power to all three Outlet Banks. After stable power is restored, the power will be turned back on. I didn't test these voltage limits (although I think I still have a Variac, so I may be able to try it). But I did try unplugging the unit a few times. Depending on the status of the unit prior to the power loss, two different scenarios will occur:
- If the front power button is "off", Banks 2 & 3 will be off, but Bank 1 will be "on" (as previously described). When the unit's power is restored after a failure, Bank 1 will again be "on", and Banks 2 & 3 will stay off.
- When the state of all three banks are "on" when the line power is lost, the following occurs: After about 5 seconds, Bank 1 & 2 turn back on. Then after another 5 seconds, Bank 3 turns back on.
Since Banks 1 & 2 are really identical except for their power states, it really shouldn't matter what components you plug in here. Panamax has one of the Bank 1 outlets labeled for the TV/monitor, and other outlets for cable/satellite, DVR, and Digital radio. I put my cable/DVR box on Bank 1. But I put my TV on Bank 2 in the "Aux" outlet, so that if I should ever want the turn off the power to the TV, I could do it via the front power switch on the Panamax (remember, Bank 1 will always be "on" when line power is present).
As far as filtering goes, there was no improvement, or noticeable degradation, of audio or video fidelity. I really didn't expect that there would be, as my power and cable signals are already pretty clean. I also did not seem to loose any bi-directional capability, as my cable "on demand" services are still functioning properly.
Interestingly enough, the unit came with an addendum sheet along with the (rather sparse) user manual. The addendum was labeled "Tech Note", and said the following:
New and improved cable/sat/antenna signal protection.
New Benefits: Reduced attenuation.
New and improved coaxial protection circuits! Achieve optimum signal quality from our new coaxial protectors that have the smallest signal loss on the market - less than 1 dB of attenuation from 0Hz to 2.2GHz.Updated clamping level.
Our upgraded coaxial protection has been specifically designed to virtually eliminate signal loss. The new clamping level of 75V will meet the demands of both cable and satellite voltage while minimizing exposure to damaging spikes and surges.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the unit. I payed $249.99 for it. I think that it's worth the money for what it does. At one point the price on these was over $500, I think. That would have been way overpriced, and I never would pay that much for this unit. But the current price point seems just about right.
Is it as good or worse than the APC H15? I guess that depends on your needs. I almost bought the H15 at $149 from Audioholics. If you have unstable power, and you don't mind buying the unit in silver, then the H15 at that price is hard to beat, and I would say go with the H15.
However, if you don't need the Automatic Voltage Regulation of the H15, the M5300-EX, with its "Automatic Voltage Monitoring" will work just fine. And the warranty is $5,000,000 (not $500,000 as previously mentioned). Not that anyone could ever possibly have that much gear hooked up to one unit!