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Safety with Hifi and Video

Okay, here’s a somewhat unusual topic, safety in hifi and video. It can take many forms and we will have a look at some. We might all enjoy listening but these tips can help ensure you and your family will be safer and more secure.

Mains power is of course know to virtually everyone as being lethal. 240V will easily kill and all power leads should be checked for damage especially the plugs themselves. If there are any issues, you may be able to simply buy a replacement lead to plug into the back of the unit or you may need to see a technician to have it replaced. Never use anything else but wire and cable designed for mains power, personally I once saw somebody use thick speaker cable to run mains power, the problem with this is that the insulation may not be suitable for high voltages and currents and may breakdown or melt.

You may have notice that power plugs have changed slightly over the last few years; the two angled pins on the plug now have to be partially insulated. This is to help prevent electric shocks or electrocution if the plug is partly out of the socket and something is able to fall between. The long pin (if fitted) is the earth pin and is unchanged. It is longer so that it makes contact first when the plug is inserted.

Make sure the power leads are run out of harm’s way, you also don’t want people treading on them as the internal wires can break. Avoid the use of multiple double adapters or power boards, if needed, only one of each should be used, if you need more sockets, have more power points installed or buy a larger power board. These days many new filtering and surge protections power boards are available, while generally somewhat expensive, they may offer some protection and can be a good idea.

With all cables it is important to keep them out of the way, speaker cables in particular can wind their way all over the place. Consider having rear speakers wired via the ceiling and having terminal plates put on the walls to make it neat and tidy. The same can be done for video cables running to portable projectors too. If using a portable screen, make sure it is stable and put it away after use. A wall mounted or retractable ceiling mounted screen will solve these trip hazards.

Animals may not come into mind straight away about causing problems with your hifi, but cats and dogs may well enjoy chewing though those lovely new cables. Cats in particular have also been known to use speaker grilles as scratching posts too, so make sure the animals are kept out of the way and taught to respect your gear. Put up appropriate barriers if required. Don’t play ball in front of your hifi either! Vermin such as cockroaches can infest equipment, many of the units run warm and this can attract these critters and they can cause a big mess and expensive repair bills.

Many hifi items are heavy and we often have them balanced on spikes. This can be an issue for children or even someone with a vacuum cleaner; they can be easy to tip over, causing all sorts of damage and possible injury. Television screens of all types can be top heavy and unstable, so make sure they are secured onto a wall or bench, the last thing you want is a cracked plasma or squashed dog!

Security is also an important issue; one of my clients was recently liberated of a large hifi system that he had been building up over the years, now he has to start again. Making sure the door and windows are locked are only part of the story, grilles and deadlocks are also needed to help stop burglars gaining entry. Keep the blinds closed so anyone looking inside wont see what you have and take care who you tell about you expensive system, word can travel fast… Marking equipment with a scribe or engraving plus keeping a record of model and serial numbers will help when the worst does happen. Check with your insurance company to see what exactly they will cover, to most of them a hifi system costs a thousand dollars, not ten times that! You may have to give them a list of the items and replacement cost.

Be careful to whom you lend your records, CDs or DVD’s too, I have seen them come back scratched and dirty and without any feelings of guilt attached! The music and video software needs to be looked after; damages will cause playback issues and reduce their lifespan. While not really a safety issue per se, jail time is not good, so be careful what you copy and download from the Internet as well! Remember that if all music were free, there actually wouldn’t be much music around to listen too. This can apply to cheap hifi products as well; did they fall off the back of a truck? Cheap imports of products can often be designed for different voltages, overheating and reliability issues can occur.

Most safety issues are just common sense, however it is easy to become complacent. Hopefully thee are ideas in here that will be cheap and easy and help you!

Written by Leon Gross, originally published in Audio & Video Lifestyle magazine.