Does power conditioning really matter?

I have a friend who is setting up a budget system with a nice hi def plasma (Pioneer PDP-5020FD) and an entry level receiver (either Denon AVR 1909 or Onkyo TX-SR606) who is wondering whether the Monster conditioner for $300 that the salesperson is pushing is really necessary over a plain surge suppressor. Will this make a difference in his system?
if the salesman has any integrity, he'll let your friend take it home and try it out with no obligation.
Power conditioner and surge protector is necessary, just that you need to get one that will really work.

For the best bang for the buck, get the PS Audio's Duet or Quintet and they are on sales right now for even better deal to make them a NO BRAINER.
he needs one that incorporates surge and hi-lo voltage problems just to protect his will also improve his picture....salesman should let him try at home....PS Audio has many good ones and they give an automatic 30 day home trial, their stuff works.
Monster is a big profit producer for stores...that's why they push it so much. Avoid their gear unless it's about 50% off.....not that it's bad stuff, it's just way way overpriced.

It is wise to get a surge protector for all the gear....and then to connect EVERY wire thru that protector. It does not good at all if you put the tv power thru it, but not the antenna/cable input.

Unless your friend has some reason to believe that his power is terrible (and there are very few people who really have terrible power), he does NOT need a power conditioner. That's markeing hype and it will make absolutley no difference in the sound or picture quality.

Tell your friend to go to Home Depot and pick up a surge protector....and plug everything in. Don't waste money on the monster stuff....don't even waste money on the monster speaker speaker cable at home depot as well...he will never tell the difference.

Note: If you have a very high end audio system, then maybe you could benefit from power conditioning, but then you'd be buying $1000 interconnect cables and speaker cables.
Yes I totally agree. Go with PS Audio products. I have the Duet and it's a surge suppressor and a decent power conditioner. They use superior internal components to Monster. Monster is probably an overrated product line. Besides the owner sues all companies who use the Monster name. The folks at PS Audio really know their business.
You can see the improvement in picture quality with a good power conditioner.
Somec59.....maybe YOU can see some improvement, but I have seen absolutely change at all.

Why does everyone assume that because they do or think they do hear/see some difference....then everyone else will see the great improvement as well.

For 99% of the world, it's hype....I am going to assume that although I have 20 years in pro sound (live sound..not sales) and can't see or hear most of the differences claimed on these boards...that there is maybe 1% of the audiofiles who can hear some difference.

Don't generalize folks....what YOU hear/see isn't necessarily what the next person hears/sees. And in a blind test, about 1/2 the people who claim to perceive a difference would fail.

Most of the time when someone tells me that something's too loud/too soft..or muffled or bright...I go into the sound booth for about a minute...come back out and ask if it's better. 99.9% of the time I get "wow...great, what a difference....and, as you guessed,I changed nothing.
I would have to disagree with most of the above posts. I use a Monster unit for surge protection, and it has no detrimental effect on the sound of my system. Very recently I tried a PS Audio Quintet, and was extremely disappointed. There was a very slight improvement with digital components, but it was VERY detrimental to LP playback - greatly shrunken soundstage, very compressed dynamics, and it removed other things as well - I could not hear nearly as much of the ambient sound of the original recording space, nor were instrumental timbres as accurate, it seemed to remove some of the harmonic overtones.

All that said, power conditioners are supposedly much more effective for digital video than digital audio, so you might give a cheap one a try for that purpose. I would definitely not recommend one for two-channel listening, especially analog.
Thanks to all who have posted. My friend Matt is skeptical of all this so what we are going to do is get his new system set up and use a surge suppressor he has on hand. I have a PS Audio Ultimate Outlet that I will bring to his house and then we can compare. I think it is clear that if power conditioning helps and it always seems to draw a controversial response, the place in his system where it might help is with his plasma screen. If he can notice a difference, then maybe it will be worth it to pony up a few hundred more dollars.
I would not have a problem using a descent conditioner on that system. Pretty safe way to go. OTOH, as you start to build a hi rez system the conditioner can get in the way of transient speed. Budget conditioners can kill the music.
A crappy surge protector more than likely will be worse. At that point I would plug directly into the wall.
Jlineer, don't waste time on the old product like the PS Audio Ultimate Outlet. If it doesn't improve on the audio or on your friend's plasma, doesn't mean the latest models from PS Audio do not provide improvement as well.

The latest models are MUCH improved over all the old models. The Duet was well worth the money at $399 when it first came out a couple of years ago, with the current sales price of $199, it is just a no brainer. The Quintet with 10 outlets is now on sales for $349 which make it a even better deal.
Yes, power conditioning and surge protection does matter. Buy the best piece that you can afford.
It does matter to every objective person out there once blind listening tests verify what engineers are skeptical l(strongly) about : that a difference can be heard.

Speakers, yes! Cables, power supplies...not verified scientifically. Hey, faith still exists!
i have a mid-fi system at best and a belkin pure av power conditioner and it, absolutely, without question, i ain't playin witchu, makes a huge difference. now, does the quantum symphony improve the system? hard to say.
ps. i also have dedicated lines to the system.
I had A few Shunyata hydras, Monster AVS 2000, Ps audio power plant and not one of them did anything positive to the sound. Maybe its ones location but I know I never have to waste money on them anymore
If you can hear the difference changing any part of your system...go for it. That goes for the amp, pre, cables, wires, power name it. If you can't hear a difference and you're just trying to upgrade because the "guru's" say it's your money. In many cases just moving speakers around makes far more difference than changing any part of the system. Treating the room to control bass and reflections also can significantly improve the sound. If your room is acoustically poor, then putting in $20,000 speakers or the world's best analog amp is a waste of money.

There is a vast difference between the cleanliness of one's power depending on many external factors that you have no ocntrol of. If you have lousy power coming in with lots of noise and ripple, a good conditioner may really noticably help. But, if your power is good (and most people get good power in the US), you don't need to condition's that simple.
I had Shunyata in my system to use as extension cords. It made no difference in sound quality at all. I also had PS Audio PS300 before. Sometimes I thought I heard improvement with PS Audio, but in most cases I wasn't sure if I heard the difference or just imagined. I think they are like extended warranty or insurance, and the most value is in providing the owners peace of mind.
For what it's worth I sell monster and panamax. I prefer panamax. I don't for a moment disagree with gentleman saying not all or even most will see the difference though. My friends and I did tests on a pioneer elite w/ matching Bluray on dark shots in transformers we noticed less noise on the screen as we isolated the TV to it's own circuit. My issue has always been product life span. It is the power transformers job to condition the power. It is also the power transformer or circuit boards attached to it that fail most often in electronics.Less work for the power transformer = longer product lifespan.
It depends on the system, your power and the conditioner. I have a ps audio power plant, monster and shunyata hydra 8 now. They all do something to my sound the Hydra is the best, most transparent. I am running tube amps though solid state stuff especally cheaper stuff I can't see it effecting. They do very little for video for me as well, however I did have 2 panamaxs sacrofise them selfs during power surges saving my equipnment so if nothing else panamax is pretty cheap get one just to protect your equipnment. At the level he sound he is at worry about protection more than any thing else you can get performance increases other places.
If you have crappy power and cheap power supplies in your components (most TVs, low-end receivers, DVD/BR players, etc would probably qualify), then you may see/hear a difference with power conditioning.

The thing is, power conditioning is basically what each component's power supply is supposed to be doing. Excessive noise in the power line could be more than what a particular power supply can handle, in which case power conditioning of some sort MAY make a noticeable difference.

However, to make a blanket statement that EVERYONE should go buy the most expensive conditioner and surge protector they can afford is a bit of a disservice.
a decent quality power cable on the plasma makes a big difference imo.
Mykesinger, I have had fairly expensive power cords and yes they do make a nice improvement on the t.v. This being said I have found some power cords that are made by Vintage Audio Labs to be what a lot of us our looking for. Bang for the buck is an understatement. I found these cables on ebay and they are not built or do they sound like something you would find there.

Mlc75, you say " It is the power transformers job to condition the power" YES! so this is why I use a couple of Kleen Line transformers. These transformers have power regulation and surge protection. They do not kill transient speed on amps either. High frequencies are very clean and detailed, not tizzy or metalic. With the panamax conditioners I would get compression and if an amp was plugged into it I would lose weight and texture. This is another form of power conditioning and it does matter.
Jp1208 that sounds amazing like an advertisement.
It really depends on your home power situation and your gear. I traded down a few years ago from a higher end system, to a nice home theater system and got rid of my RGPC conditioners. I just used a basic Belkin Home theater surge suppresor for the reciever, TV, cable and disc player in that system, and I was very happy. For the money, that was really a great system.

As I moved back into better audio gear, for a couple of months I focused on just the audio gear and didn't do anything about the power. I was pretty happy, then after some research I bought an APC S15 and it was a revelation. Man, it opened up everything sonically. I didn't really see any improvement in the picture quality, but the sound really improved. Deeper, higher, more transparent and faster.

Then I started switching amps, I had been using digital amps (Bel Canto, Spectron, Innersound) and switched over to traditional SS amps (Cary 500MB) and the APC started running out of juice!! Sound would start to degrade at higher volumes. So I bought an PS Audio Duet, and got the amps off of the APC, and "Voila" great sound again. Actually better than ever, and the amps once again opened up, and sounded much better than when just plugged into the wall.

So that's my $0.02. It depends on your gear, and your home's power. Our power sucks, and we get 4 - 5 power surges, noticable, mid day every day. We have fried 3 different control boards on Thermador ovens (thank God for the Home warranty), and more than one laptop has died a painful death. But the audio/video gear is safe.
On an 8 foot projector screen you will see differences in picture quality, sharpness, contrast, noise, artifacts etc. when using power conditioners. Reduce the picture to 30 inches and they're not noticeable.
Jamesw20,no advertisement. Look at my feedback and you will see a couple of cords I have used. Go to ebay and find this guy and you will clearly see we live thousands of miles away. I know the guys name is Kevin but that is about it. Also, as stated earlier Isolation transformers or even voltage converter transformers do a great job of cleaning the power without robbing detail. Not audiophile looking at all so they really need a good hiding place.
I have to give Monster their due in that they do a great job as a surge protector. I got the $199 model with "stage II" (never defined what that is) filtering and I think it made a modest improvement in the sound for the components I had. One summer day our power company sent some big surges my way and the Monster shut everything down in my system instantly. The digital readout showed 127 volts coming in. Reset was easy. It has done this one other time. So from a gear protection standpoint it works as promised. Given the converience of about 12 color coded outlets, cable, phone and ethernet connections, it's convenient as well.

When the goal is for more high end sound and the components get much better quality, then it becomes easier to hear the differences from power conditioning. I am a huge fan of Audience power conditioners and the change is dramatic in a higher end system.
IT can.

Depends on the condition of the power to start with.
My experience is that the Monsters, especially for the money, do just fine! They make a quieter background, for better contrast of sound, and a quieter picture in my experience. In fact, I've had lots of different "higher end" conditioners and power-stations in my system, and it's usually system/area dependent, at best! Basically, results vary with this stuff. I've yet to EVER read one review on any conditioner, variac, power supply, whatever, that says "this product is the end-all-be-all, and does EVERYTHING perfect!, basically, "greatest line conditioner ever created!", basically. They all do something different. They all seam to offer pluses and minuses (show me ONE REVIEW, where some super well regarded and respected, long time audiophile review expert, has found the Valhala of conditioners! Yeah, the product doesn't exist basically.)
All that to say, not only have I used and do use/recommend the monster conditioners, but my experience is they do add benefits (if for nothing else, a big warranty coverage for your stuff if it gets fried), and better than most for the money overall, for little investment. And still, the ONLY way to find out of something works, is to try some and compare! But, if you don't have the time, I think you'll find the Monster, dollar per dollar, to offer good results, yes. (sold em in 5 audio stores over the years, plus custom, plus my systems).
Actually, I like the cheapo's for basic receiver systems (HTS1000/1100, whatever).
I use a very basic Monster strip (about $200 retail a few years back) in my system. It made a noticeable difference when added, greater clarity and focus I would say. I've felt no urge to try anything else. It works just fine at least in my case.
Try a Synergistic PowerCell 10 SE.
End of story.
I too use a very inexpensive Monster strip, which is an excellent surge protector and my gear sounds better with it than with the power conditioner I have tried.
I started with a MOnster AVS 2000 which I got for a "song" (since they are ridiculously overpriced) and it was adequate untilmy system got better. Though frequent experimentation and demos, I ended up with a BPT 3.5 Signature Plus about 4 years ago. Huge improvement over the Monster in every area - my system really "opened up" tremendously. I hadn't realized how much information and dynamics I was missing until I made the change.

I have also worked my way through lots of cabling over the years as my system has improved with interesting results. I began to realize, at least in my system, that the more resolving my system became, the more of a difference cabling made. I liken this to the prior example of video differences being more easily discernible on an 8' projection TV than a 30" TV. There certainly is no right or wrong here - its all about your particular perception. System synergy is also very important - a conditioner that sounds great in 1 system might not work for another at all.

Personally, I now have all SR Tesla cabling, and will be trying their new Powercell 10-SE next week. Notice I said trying, not necessarily buying. IMO it is critical to try something in your system before committing to purchase, for all the reasons stated - you might not even hear a difference and have just purchased a boat anchor!!

So, IMO, power conditioning definitely "matters". Each person's decision as to what works best for them can only be discovered by demoing in your own system. I think these forums are very helpful to get some jumping-off points for the audition process.
Ozzy, did you get one of those PowerCells? They did it right. The acrylic casing was very smart too. However, a little over the poster's budget. Tripp Lite hospital grade isolation transformer is very affordable and effective as well.
Jp1208, yes, I did get one. Very happy I did. Such a smooth Analog sound.I am running all my Audio and all my Video equipment on it plugged into one outlet. Soundstage and dynamics are outstanding!
The AVS2000 Monster voltage regulator and power station is a completely different animal than the basic monster strips, for the record. You simply need to compare anything, and it's all relative, and "in context" that things must be judged...on their own merits, in YOUR own system, really. I've read reviews on the AVS2000, and the reviewers had mixed experiences, depending on system/application - but none had bad things to say, that I can recall.
I would say that you'll likely get favorable results simply trying some budget, and bellow, (yes, $300 is a budget piece, compared to what's out there) $sub $300 conditioners, and compare, if it were me. You can do it at your leisure and end up with whatever works best.
I once had a system next to a power transformer from the electric company, which came out at the wall with VERY HIGH voltage at night time. My system was running on 132+ volts some times - while at other times it was lower down to 123. I noticed that my systems sounded rather dull and dead when it was high at night, but sounded pretty darn good in the mornings/days, when voltage was low. In this case, I think some sort of power supply/regulator would have made my system work better.
My buddy lived in an area where his power was always on the low side - like around 118 or lower, voltage.
For whatever reason, my simple crossover design speakers were really picky about the power you gave them. Dunno why.
Again, I think you need to take into context all the variables, and simply experiment for truest results. The rest is just speculation.
Remember, "The crowd is always wrong" consider that when you are really looking for a correct answer.
I have to join as someone soundly converted. I have never in 20 some years of dabbling in this hobby/obsession addressed power conditioning in my system- I of course experimented with every other element in the chain, from tube rolling, cable swapping, capacitor upgrading, internal wire tweaking etc, but never more than pc cord upgrades- long story short, decided to drop-in a PS Audio Duet recently- held my breath hoping it didn't muffle/darken my exhaustively tweaked system and was amazed- I liken it to focus in a camera, my system was fuzzy around the edges, it lacked a complete cohesiveness and the Duet somehow de-scrambled the disparate parts and polished the sound as a whole...truly "cleaning" the sound, clarity, bass etc...and that's right out of the box, no amazing result, I now will treat power conditioning/conditioners as equal/vital components, maybe critical components under the circumstances
The PS Audio Power Plant, I believe it's called, though they recently discontinued one and introduced another--completely regenerates the power...doesn't try to 'clean it up', regenerates a perfect 60Hz 120V signal.
IMHO, this is the only way to go if one can affort it (big if, as it costs about $5K, more than many, hell most people would ever even think of spending on a total audio system---though not us crazies on A'gon).

Good listening,
PS Agree with Ostemo8s premise of how it helps, entirely.
Good post.

I recently added a PS Audio powerplant prmeir to my system. I'm using a panamax 5400-pm in front to power my (2) RSW-15 subs and bring power to the regenerator. It's early yet, but I have noticed cleaner sound reproduction through digital sources. Others have listened and watched the system and don't notice much. I've also heard there is a substantial burnin period which I'm not even close to. Will let you know if the difference is more noticeable after the burnin and more testing.
Every AC source has different issues so it's not as simple a question. If your in a single dwelling it defiantly pays to add dedicated breaker buss or at least some dedicated breakers. Since digital devices are generally susceptible to RF and EMI metal clad runs from the breaker ending with shielded cables can be beneficial.

After these somewhat inexpensive measures auditioning conditioning devices could improve the AC, sometimes not.