We were delighted to recently add the fantastic range of
IsoTek power conditioning and performance boosting products to the Pulse
Here, Keith Martin, MD and Founder of IsoTek, provides a deep dive into the company’s approach and the advantages it offers.
Keith explains that his route into the AV and Hi-Fi industry began with a mail order business selling records, however, it was not long before this expanded to include accessories.
Keith recalls, “We began to supply some branded accessories, but in terms of protection and performance enhancement, we felt there was nothing on the market that really hit the spot. Certainly nothing designed from the ground up, specifically to do the job. My background before this was in industrial and graphic design, working with companies like Virgin and BMQ Music. The problem, as we saw it, was that nobody was designing a product for the Hi-Fi industry that was created specifically for the purpose of protecting equipment and making it sound better.”
Keith adds, “When we started, generally speaking, most of the products in the market were re-purposed from another use. Most were simple toroidal isolation transformer based, but these products did not address the fundamental issues as we saw them. We took our time and designed a product we were happy with, taking a full 18 months to bring it to market and launching in 2001. Called the SubStation, our first release allowed customers to pick the right filter module for their system and we built more or less to order. It was a great product and won a Hi-Fi News award, but it needed refinement in order to make it a more commercial proposition. Our next product delivered what we had learnt from the initial launch, but was based on a more practical chassis built around a fixed circuit board; which meant we could produce a single product that would work for most systems. Oh, and we also halved the price!”
The desire with which the company had, and still has, to continue developing is underlined by Keith’s reaction to that first award win.
He remembers, “I was happy, but then I wasn’t as well. It’s a bit like David Bowie having his first success with the single Space Oddity in 1969. With something that good, where do you go from there? It was quite a challenge, but we were determined to keep improving and adding value to what we built.”
That drive to improve certainly paid off as the number of awards IsoTek has won to this day is not easily counted.
Keith enthuses, “We pour a huge amount into RnD. Not all the projects see the light of day, but we learnt something from all of them and this is what enables us to bring new and ever improving propositions to the Hi-Fi and AV market.”
We at Pulse Cinemas had long admired the high quality of the IsoTek range and when the company introduced its SMART Power range, the synergy between the company’s aims and our own reached its zenith.
The SMART power family enables installers to manage power usage, control connected electronics, set start-up dates and times to turn on/off audio or AV systems, save power when not in use or warm up a system ready for use when the owner gets home. The systems deliver power management via RS232, LAN, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi using IsoTek's purpose designed easy to use app.
Keith explains, “The Smart Power line once again came from the ethos of building something specific for a given purpose and market. We felt the install market really needed a product like this and, looking around, it seemed to us that there was a gap in the sector.
“It took a total of four years to develop the concept fully and we learnt a lot along the way. For example, we now use processing chips as much as four times as fast as the ones we specified at the start. We wanted to deliver speed and reliability in equal measure.
“Ultimately our aim was to deliver the right performance and pricing, improve the performance of every system the products were connected to and offer an interface that made it easy to control every aspect of the system. The concept is actually simple – deliver clean controlled power to improve control and performance – but it’s bonkers how complicated some of these products are inside. However, we have done the work, so you don’t have to and we have made them simple to use.”
Among the challenges for the SMART Power range is combating Differential Mode Noise (DMN). This is the phenomenon created in any electrical system if you have anything with a switch power supply, which is common in modern products. They are designed to make products more efficient, but they create a lot of mains distortion, resulting in noise.
Keith explains, “Imagine the amount of noise in any given install, especially a home cinema or AV system. With all those boxes, often in close proximity, the potential for DMN is huge. Taking this out of the equation as much as possible provides immediate performance enhancements. Isolation is key. Some products have their output sockets in series, which means any interference is passed to the whole system! Ours never do that, with all of the outputs completely isolated. We also use the highest-grade components, such as the oxygen free copper, silver plated wiring. We use science to get the results we want.”
Keith has a great line in analogies for why you would want to use IsoTek, “Imagine it how you like, it could be buying a racing car and then driving it across muddy fields instead of a race track, or purchasing a fine bottle of Champagne and drinking it out of plastic mugs. Either way you get the idea; the power is the foundation of any system and it should be the first thing you think about. Think of yourself as an architect. You don’t specify the furnishings for the penthouse at the start of the project, you design the foundations, the part of the project that allows everything else to perform as it should.”
So once IsoTek is on patch doing its job to protect the products and deliver performance enhancements, what will be the most noticeable improvements?
Keith enthuses, “Immediately, you will notice a quieter noise floor with cleaner sound and better images. For audio you get an expanded sound stage, more detail, more emotion, not edgy and thin like some systems can be. On screen images are cleaner and more lifelike. For example, you get a wider range of blacks, because black is not just black, there are different tonal ranges to a black. It’s like getting glasses or contacts for the first time. You have got used to poor performance, it’s only when your prescription arrives you realise what the world actually looks like.”
So, the bottom line is? “There is no such thing as an ideal environment for an AV or home cinema system, we have to create it. IsoTek products are the building blocks from which to begin any new system and it’s also a great way you can add value. For existing customers, you can offer a complete upgrade package, adding to your bottom line and offering visible and audible improvements at the same time. A product like our Smart Power Delta can deliver all of the advantages we have talked about to no less than 16 products and deliver all the easy to understand information from our app from anywhere on-line.”
So how does Keith feel about the new relationship with Pulse Cinemas? “I am unbelievably excited and happy to be working with Pulse Cinemas. In Mike and Kapes, (Mike Beatty, MD and Kapes Patel, Technical Director), you have two people who absolutely share the same commitment we have, to deliver the best quality. They are great to work with and we are building a fantastic relationship, offering installers the chance to access all the advantages and control we deliver.”