Comparison: P12 vs (Cheap) Panamax 5100

My P12 fan started acting stupid (like a chopper trying to land in my media room), so it had to go back to be replaced. And not willing to deal without my music and HT setup while it is away, I decided to purchase a Panamax 5100 line conditioner. Yes, they’re two completely different products in two completely different price points. But there are plenty (most?) out there who feel AC is just…AC. That if a piece is properly designed, it shouldn’t need clean or even regulated power! Well, I’m here to say that unfortunately isn’t the case. Now the Panamax isn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ piece and I would say it’s good for it’s price point. But man, I miss my P12. I had a few days of opening up the system (current model Ayre (KX/VX-5 Twenty) gear and current model Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers). Things immediately noticed were (in no particular order): smeared imaging, excess bloom (and I despise excess mid-bass bloat with a passion!), harsher highs, boomier, less controlled low (sub) bass. I like my music the opposite of my women, loud. So with the Panamax, it’s not really happening. I can’t get much above 85-90dBs without reaching for the remote to turn it down. It’s many things but mostly, those piercing treble notes, bloated mid-bass and sloppy soundstage that make it sound oh so low-fi. And with movies, it’s where I give the Panamax higher ratings. The fact that things are blended/smeared, creates an interesting surround sound experience. It is almost like removing some of my sound panels because the fronts and rears are more blended together as things pan around ,etc. The center channel dialog is also strange. Like everyone is speaking through a tunnel. It’s more closed off and less ‘open’… hard to describe but bloody obvious. And of course, if I turn up the movie to theater levels, it gets very rough. Dynamics really struggle to come through cleanly. They sound reproduced and unnatural. Instinct takes over and you know something doesn’t sound right, so you rush to turn the processor down (I use a very capable Lyngdorf MP-60 2.1). But even it can’t overcome the shortfalls of whatever is going on with the incoming AC. I also see the Panamax readout dip down to 117 a lot and hovers around 118 most of the time. Probably not a big deal but after having the P12 for a year and seeing how it kept the voltage rock solid at 120, it’s just the OCD in me that goes nuts. Anyway, just a short review because I’m a bit bored at work today. Can’t wait to get the P12 back from PSA! It has given me a whole new perspective and respect for power regeneration when done right.


I have a lot of respect for Panamax products. You get what you pay for by and large. I have a M5400-PM from the PM series. It is a line stabilizer, not just a conditioner and costs more accordingly. I was using it, happily I might add, with my main rig. But eventually needed AC conditioning for my video components (which I don’t mix with my high end rig) and hence moved it to that application. Using a Furman SPR-20i now for my rig (another line stabilizer, I’m sold on that flavor of mains conditioning). The M5400-PM does a really fine job with video as well. Don’t think you implied apples to apples between power conditioning gear with crazy different MSRPs. But from my experience Panamax buys you a lot of very good capability for a fraction of the P12 price if you want to try one of the more sophisticated products in the line. The M5400-PM is one of those products for a bit less than $1k retail.

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This was a fun read and exactly what I’ve experienced playing with a few nice conditioners we’ve gotten in as trade. Nothing can replace my trusty P15. Well maybe a P20… :grin: