AC Conditioners: Must Have Tweak or More Voodo

As the old school, 2 channel, sentimental dinosaur that I am, power conditioners are very newfangled devices to me and are filed in the same section of my brain as home theatre receivers. However, I have just moved into an apartment in an old townhouse where half the plugs don't even seem to work and even the ones that do requie "cheater" plugs. As I continue to build a system around a Levinson 23.5, ARC SP-11 MK II, Michell turntable and Sony SCD-1, I am wondering if some of these devices would erase my worries about old wiring in the house. Can someone please educate me on what I should do? Dealers seem to tell me that the power amp should go into the wall or a chang lightspeed thingy and that PS Audio 300 would be good for all the source components but I'm clueless. Would these things really mitigate the need to rewire or seek a dedicated line? Thank you.
the power conditioners are valuable for controling voltage spikes that can damage equipment. grounded units can also help with lightning strikes that can fry your equipment. they will not help though, unless they are grounded. you may need to find a ground.
My personal opinion is that most of these "tweaks" such as a good power line conditioner, dedicated lines, well designed power cords, etc... are all additive things. As such, one will not replace the other, etc...

Given your situation, i would first check into dedicated lines as what you have sounds far less than optimum. If half the outlets in the joint don't work, it sounds like you have a LOT of connections "somewhere" that are less than optimum. If you plan on staying for a reasonably long amount of time, it would be worth the little bit of money that you could have this done for.

Given that scenario, why chance building a multi-thousand dollar system on a less than solid foundation ? After all, the breaker box / fuse box and is where all of the energy to reproduce the music comes from. If it is not "healthy" to start with back to that point, all you will be doing is trying to nurse a "sick" situation back to health. You would be doing this by adding "tweaks" that can only band aid but NOT repair what is already wrong. Once that is done, you could concentrate on the next step, etc...

You might also want to check into the archives, as there are more than a few threads that have gone pretty far in detail on this very subject. Sean
Time for your landlord to invest in an electrician to replace/repair the non-working outlets. Outlets that make poor connections are very dangerous, in higher current situations they will overheat and start a fire. They also will drop the available voltage to your components.

Your local housing inspector can also help if your landlord needs additional motivation. I'd also make sure the smoke detectors were functional.
Sounds like your wiring could be dangerously out of code. I'd get it fixed before even thinking about a power conditioner. After that, I suggest getting a power conditioner that offers spike protection, component isolation (from each other), and power line noise suppression. There are lots of good ones to choose from. Check out the "Power strips" thread that was started on 2/5/02. Good luck.
Many conditioners use the ground on a 3 way plug to get rid of the noise from the digital components. I agree with others that you would need to ground the cheater plug to get the best results.
Fixing the wiring first sounds like good advise. -- As to AC accessories, my guess is they all have their own character. As an example, I've tried the PS Audio P300, Ultimate Outlet, and Juice Bar (and still own and use all three) with a single brand of upgrade power cord (Silver Audio Power Burst). The Power Burst gave tighter bass and more clear mids. The Ultimate Outlet improved the blackness around notes with a 'mellow' presentation, the P300 also improved blackness but resulted in a very refined high end. Since I feel most systems overemphasize the high end, I nearly discarded it, but upon further listening concluded it did not exaggerate but rather 'revealed' the high end (just an impression without factual basis). I'm using the UO in a dedicated headphone setup and the P300 in my main system (but I've read that you can use them together). The P300 didn't have enough outlets, so I used a relatively inexpensive power strip that allowed use of your own power cord. After having cords loosen in this strip I bought the $200 Juice Bar on a 30 day trial. No contest, immediate improvement. -- I neither have the time nor money to compare all or even many of the different power cords, conditioners, outlets, etc but from this limited experience believe that for a given system they will all have an impact in different ways in much the same way that different interconnects and speaker cables give different results. Good luck.
I am using an Audio Tekne power tranformer and I plug everything into it including 2 amps. Works better than the ps300, titan power block. Since I couldn't put dedicated lines in without ripping the house apart this was definitely the way to go. Audio Tekne is a relative obscure company in the U.S. but has great products. The voltage changes where I live are common and this tranformer cured that problem.
i've not yet tried ANY power conditioner in my system that failed to degrade the sound in one way or another. as sean and others have suggested, an up to-date and code electrical wiring upgrade should be your first priority, not just for your nascent audio system, but your overall sense of safety and wellbeing. once you've got the proper wires going to your rooms, have high grade outlets installed, at least in your "sound room" (lots of threads on these). from there, all you should need are good power cords (more threads on these) and, perhaps, a secondary surge protector (yet further threads on these). BTW, wouldn't it be proper to change your moniker to, say, "cwusetabelondon." :o) -kelly
Line conditioning was still advantageous in our 75 year old farmhouse containing antique wiring & no ground lines. I use Chang Lightspeeds which also provide integral surge protection; the "third leg" path to ground is 'basically' there via the grounded-conduit itself (it's not as good as a third-wire ground connection but is better than nothing). So if you at least have conduit, BX, or Greenfield then there is likely a metallic ground path from the metal outlet boxes back to the service panel. You can take advantage of that ground path by simply installing three-prong outlets, which connect the 'conduit ground' to the outlet's ground-prong via the metal outlet mounting flanges. Use a high grade outlet for the audio of course.

Plugging amps direct into the line, or via a conditioner, is an old debate. My results vary depending upon the amp in use & the upgrade AC cord in use. For amps that work well with a filtered upgrade AC cord, I plug them directly to line (the filtering is in the cord). For amps that work well with unfiltered upgrade cords I plug them into a 'Chang 9900 Amp' (has 30 amp capacity = low surge impedance). The Chang was plugged into the house wiring; later when I added a dedicated line I plug the Chang into that instead with good results.
For source components I have a Chang 3200 (15 amp capacity) which provides simultaneous filtering & transient protection. I also use upgrade AC cords on source components, each cord selected for best results with each specific component.
The PS Audio may also do a good job for you, but the only way to find out is by trial & error. I don't personally care for their inefficiency; much wasted power & much extra heat in your room (this makes you not even want to have your system turned on during hot weather & also significantly increases cooling bills during air conditoner season).
Further down the road I installed the dedicated line, which further enhanced all the previous improvements. Having a dedicated line doesn't mean that you do not need line conditioning; having line conditioning doesn't mean that you won't benefit from a dedicated line. They're each helpful standalone, & they're even better when combined.
Living in a 650 sf cinder block Army barracks puts me in a similar position. All of my outlets seem to work and all are grounded (well, they have 3 prongs anyway), but the whole system seems to be designed to support a TV, a fridge and a microwave and not much more. Because I had similar concerns and no possiblity of getting my "landlord" to upgrade my wiring, I decided to go with a P600 for my amps and speakers, augmented with a Chang 3200 for the front end components. The sound has improved tremendously (and continues to improve with PC upgrades), but I'm uncertain how much protection the Power Plant provides. I would think that it would be bullet proof since it is generating a 'perfect' sine wave power source, but changing fan speeds (plugged into the wall across the room) occasionally generates a crackle from the Martin Logan's. Other than that, this seems to have worked well for me and I've sustained no damage despite frequent blackouts and brownouts here in the Mojave. PS - if you decide to get a PowerPlant with multiwave, remember that if your Michell has an AC motor, it won't work right when.
Great advice above. I can say that I have benefited from dedicate lines and recommend that you use at least 12ga solid core romex if the run is less that 50 ft., and 10ga solid core if the run is longer. I also recommend that you run it underground to minimize RFI. CA code requires it be buried in conduit 18 inches deep (top of the buried conduit) and you may want to consider a copper ground rod. This may not be a good ground depending on your soil. Sandy soil will let too much water drain away and the ground is poor. On the other hand, if your soil is hardpan/clay, the rod will hit the hardpan/clay and stop or deflect to the side and not get very deep. The 10ga is so hard to pull and terminate, but sonically very good. I have used Chang, API, Noisetrapper, Monster, WalMart MOV strips (not very good) and nothing at all. I find that you must get the advice from the manufacturer because some of them use devices in their amplifiers similar to line conditioning devices, and two "conditioners" in a row can deteriorate the sound, not help. All of the conditioners have helped in different ways. The API worked at one house very well, I moved, and it became noisey (tile floor) so I changed. Listen before you buy, but first, get the dedicated line. Jallen
Funny thing about integral line conditioning within a component. I had an older AyreV3 (pre Ayre Conditioner) & sent it in for the upgrade. They told me that I would no longer need to use a PLC, but the amp still sounds better through the PLC than without, even with a dedicated line & an upgrade AC cord, so both filters worked well together.
However, with one preamp that I was running through the PLC I later installed a different AC cord containing integral filtering. That cord + the PLC really messed things up (too much filtering) but that cord alone plugged straight into the line did fine by itself. So you never know what's going to occur until you try it.
I would agree with several others who have made posts
about having your wiring brought up to local code. Aside
from the potential for fire and shock from improperly wired
outlets, a properly wired home provide you with much
cleaner audio.
I just recently bought and installed a Panamax 5300
Power Conditioner in my McIntosh-based system. It has
removed ALL ambient noise from my system. Even my old
analog MR-73 tuner is much quieter when between FM stations.
I also have AudioPrism Quiet Line filters plugged in around
the house; and they do a pretty decent job of reducing AC
line noise from appliances and light dimmers.