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Hz Octopuss Power Distribution Utility

Published July 2000

Hz Octopuss Power Distribution Utility

If you have even a modest studio, your wall sockets and floor are likely to be festooned with wall‑wart and line‑lump power supplies. Though they prevent manufacturers having to provide different internal power supplies for every market (or a switchable type), they're a pain for gigging musicians and studio users alike.

A potentially elegant solution is a central mains distribution system. HZ International's rackmounting Octopuss is just such a device, replacing up to eight wall‑warts or line‑lumps. Each supply is individually isolated, to reduce hum. It also provides four filtered standard IEC mains outputs for equipment with built‑in PSUs, so a dozen bits of kit could be powered from one central point. Connector cables are not included with the unit, so you have to buy or make your own.

The Octopuss is not the most sophisticated‑looking device, but it does what it says on the box. The wall‑wart substitution section is configured as eight black (negative) and red (positive) snap terminal pairs, such as you might find on the rear of hi‑fi equipment. Into each of these you simply clip the bare ends of an appropriate power lead, with the correct plug for your equipment on the other end. You choose each output's voltage — 9V or 12V — and whether it's unregulated AC or regulated DC. These choices are made with a series of switches that are, oddly, internally mounted. You actually have to remove the Octopuss from your rack, unplug it (this is important, kiddies!) and take off its lid to make the changes. Though most people will set up the Octopuss once and rarely need to make alterations, it would have been handier if front‑panel switching of some kind had been provided. It's nice to see individual fuses for each output, however.

There is one further compromise: the Octopuss provides eight outputs, but it has only six sets of voltage and AC/DC operation switches. The first four (labelled 1A/1B and 2A/2B) are configured as two pairs, each pair sharing a set of switches, which means each output in those pairs can't have their voltages and AC/DC status switched independently. In rare situations this might limit the unit's usefulness.

Current draw for each output is fixed: outputs 1A/B and 2A/B each output 425mA, outputs 3 and 4 offer 850mA each, output 5 is fixed at 1000mA, and output 6 1500mA. This should be adequate for most equipment requiring external PSUs. The IEC mains outputs (230V AC) can each handle a load of 1A, or 4A combined.

What do these current ratings mean in real terms? Typically, modern studio gear is not a huge drain on electricity. To take a random selection from our studio, a Lexicon MPX100 multi‑effects unit draws 1A, some old Boss Micro Rack processors draw between 40mA and 100mA (several of these could be daisy‑chained from one 425mA Octopuss output), an Opcode Studio 128X MIDI interface draws 300mA, and a 1U Emu rack module with a built‑in PSU draws 1A (that would use one of the IEC outs). Anything really power‑hungry, such as a rack sampler requiring 2A or more, wouldn't be suitable.

Not surprisingly, the Octopuss can run rather warm, despite the fact that it's fan‑cooled, so it's best to allow some space around it in a rack. Speaking of the fan, it's not too noisy, though in a computer‑based home studio, with hard drive and CPU fans already creating a racket, the added noise might be an issue. In a mobile or stage rack the noise won't be at all intrusive. However, if warts and lumps really bother you, this box provides a reasonably priced way to get rid of them and create a tidier environment. Derek Johnson

Hz Octopuss Power Distribution Utility