Birth of a surge protector for the audio/video customer
Price Wheeler first began to see calls and emails from audiophiles in the late 90's. These hardcore hobbyists had picked up bits and pieces of our existence from friends and message boards. They had questions regarding our line of surge protectors and how BrickWalls could help with their audio/video equipment. Our personal experience with home recording studios and box store audio/video products helped....a little. Feeling very much like foreigners in a strange land, we answered questions to the best of our ability.
But we were unprepared for the deluge of information headed our way and requested of us. So we began to educate ourselves on competing theories for cleaning powerline noise, competitor claims and what customers were looking for when considering a surge protector/line filter. Some of us logged hours and hours on various audio message boards trying to get a sense of who these customers were and what they wanted. We would read the various industry magazines cover to cover. But personally, I found my most useful audio education came from our customers themselves. This was a key to understanding our new customer base. While some sought us out in a utilitarian fashion seeking to just protect their equipment, others wanted the best product on the market and found that we were it. That was actually an interesting facet of the audio industry where expense was correlated with quality far more than any other industry we had experienced. People wanted to know why Brick Walls were so cheap which was musing to us coming from an industry where Brick Wall were among the most expensive products.
Through these conversations that I also learned about the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors based on firsthand customer experience. It would soon become apparent that our niche in the audio industry was a mix of cutting edge technology, mysticism and some plain old snake oil. The time we entered the power quality market for audio/video equipment was the beginning of a transition from bizarre tweaks that were dubious in their effectiveness to state of the art technology and top of the line components. That our product was a no nonsense solution to a widely shared problem was appealing to an educated consumer who had grown weary of grandiose claims and suspicious promises. Even the Brick Wall's utilitarian look had some cache.
But these customers also wanted some features and changes made. So during a redesign, one major change was adopted and the most requested feature was included.
The major change came about because the original older design of series mode technology relied upon an inductor coil filled with pre-rusted iron nails. This design could produce a slight operational noise especially when under full load. Now in our previous markets selling to industrial markets and to IT departments for their servers, this was a non-issue since you could barely hear the Brick Wall over a computer fan. But in the audio world, silence is golden. So the design was reconfigured to an air core inductor which has since transitioned to an epoxy core inductor to eliminate vibration (the source of the operational noise). This design proved so effective that it became the standard for all of our product lines, not just those for audio.
The most requested feature was outlets for digital components that isolated them from analog components. This was to prevent the crosstalk produced by digital components from being spread around what is basically a power distribution unit. Analog components would pick up this noise though most of the media involved (VHS, cassettes) were so poor to begin with it would be hard to notice. This was unfortunately not the case for those audiophiles who still enjoyed or had recently gotten into vinyl.
While records were certainly not new, the technology involved in turntables was advancing rapidly. As electronic equipment gets more sophisticated, it also becomes more susceptible to power anomalies such as surges & noise. In the case of the turntable, the digital crosstalk would become white noise in the background of the record being played. This was a highly undesired effect of having digital components in a system that included a turntable. And having such digital components was becoming the norm in the late 90's. So we needed to provide isolation as some of our competitors did. But instead of offering 2 or 4 outlets that were isolated, the newer design isolated each duplex providing 4 isolated banks of outlets. The isolation was performed by ferrite beads.
And with that the PW8R15AUD came into being. This Brick Wall would be an 8 outlet unit in which those outlets were isolated from one another. It would be able to handle up to a 15 amp load (1800 watts). While it would keep a utilitarian feel, its brick shape would be sleeker and dare I say sexier than the previous square design. It quickly became one of our biggest sellers and remains one of our most popular units to this day.