If you want a lower noise floor, put your money where it counts: in a better amp and preamp, or integrated. No power conditioner can substitute well designed circuits with high quality parts.
Even if you have obvious noise problems, a power conditioner is likely going to be useless, especially for component-induced noise from amp transformers and the like. If you have audible buzzing, hiss or hum, try using a "cheater plug" for your amp and preamp cables. If the noise ceases, a power conditioner definitely won’t do anything for you. There’s a reason why so many supposedly great power conditioners end up on the used market. Most are complete snake oil.
If you want a lower noise floor, put your money where it counts: in a better amp and preamp, or integrated. No power conditioner can substitute well designed circuits with high quality parts.
Helo: you are fortunate then to have a reliable power company. I just installed the Parasound Halo A21, and I have not experienced any buzzing or popping, I am wondering about the possibility of positively affecting the sound stage. My power company is notorious for surges and outages so it's not just aurally motivated, but protective as well. I am curious, if it's all snake oil, why would people invest thousands of dollars for conditioners and power cables?
It’s sounds like you are after both surge protection and trying to improve the sound? On surge I use a whole house, not expensive, but you need to replace when the pilot lites indicates the MOVs are no longer effective. Plus I use a very large commercial isolation transformer with its own surge protection panel feeding a dedicated subpanel to dedicated lines. The wiring isn’t costly, but the iso-transformer can be unless you are sourcing the naked transformer and have a way to install it to meet applicable code. (My unit is about the size of a large air conditioning box and sits outside- it is weatherproof and was built to spec as a finished product).
My concern about black boxes that actually do anything is that they affect the sound. I haven’t used any of the (end) point of use for a while for the main hifi for that reason, though virtually every other expensive appliance and my second hi-fi system do use point of use surge protection.
Dedicated lines are nice, no guarantee of noise free from common grounding with house and no surge protection. I would look at subpanel type protection for the dedicated lines if you can do that.
I’ve never messed with high powered regenerators which can get costly -- I was always concerned when they were (only available as) smaller units that they constricted current to the amps.
I am wondering about the possibility of positively affecting the sound stage. My power company is notorious for surges and outages so it’s not just aurally motivated, but protective as well. I am curious, if it’s all snake oil, why would people invest thousands of dollars for conditioners and power cables?
People invest thousands in conditioners and power cables because of their audiophile nervosa/insecurities and placebo effect. They also have more $$$$ than they know how to spend. First World problems. Manufacturers take advantage of this fact. If power conditioners really make such a big difference, why do companies like Parasound not produce any?
I’m not saying they can’t make a small improvement in a home with noisy AC, but most noise is component induced --from noisy transformers or less than ideal grounding schemes. Incoming AC is rarely the true culprit.
If you’re most concerned with surge protection, get a Brick Wall:
These don’t rely on MOVs and will protect as well as any four figure "conditioner."
First you have to decide what your needs are. Do you want surge protection with some filtering to reduce some extraneous noise from your AC mains and components? This is passive conditioning.
Or do you want a power regenerator which takes the incoming AC from the grid and your service panel and cleans the signal (reducing noise) then regenerates a new sine wave to power your components, (Active power conditioning). These are needed in areas of an unreliable power grid or excess noise from old power lines and transformers, or areas of heavy interference.
The archives are full of threads with recommendarions.
Specifying your budget will help, but it also lends itself to defeating your Thread Title.
How much should a person spend to get a decent power conditioner?
I'm curious about how best to treat my AC and stay within my budget.
Every power supply/conditioner I have had, across multiple locations/states has yielded improved performance (from lower cost to moderate/higher price points) in each system setting.
I use two passive conditioners for my components since the power in my area is steady at 120V and there are new transformers installed in our neighborhood.
I have a Brickwall with surge protection which does a very good job of filtering noise from components and any stray interference such as RFI. It does not regenerate or regulate power from the grid.
I also have dedicated AC lines from the service panel to the receptacles at my audio setup.
I would recommend running dedicated lines with separate circuit breakers as the first step to reduce noise thru the AC mains.
Very good advice by David.
Please help me understand what you mean by 'Power Conditioner'?
There are units with surge suppression and filtration to reduce noise and harmonics on the line. Then there are units which re-generate the AC voltage. This it the type I use and have noticed quite an improvement in the sonic ability of my system over the filtration/surge suppressor type I had previously. I do recommend this type.
New or used? I purchased my PS Audio P5 used and paid about $700 for it. Well worth it. It did have a flaw in the display which is common. But it does not affect the units performance and reliability. In fact, for the most part the display is off.
I have had several PS Audio units. They are well built and have had a positive impact on the sound as long as i did not try to run a amp thought them. The last one a P10 i still have, but no longer use. I now use High Fidelity MC 6 Hemisphere half the price and a much richer and detailed sound than what i got with the P10. The Hemisphere is for front end equipment only ( no amps). I gave up surge and spike protection, but the sound was much better with the Hemisphere.
Well the ideal of perfectly designed components, cables, and reliable clean power is mostly a pipe dream....
to wit I bet you will find many a dirty wall watt switching supply in many many systems
most people have at minimum a network switch nearby and the wall wart to power it.
most servers, DACA, etc lack a properly designed Faraday cage to keep the analog side clean...
so gathering all your dirty dirty stuff up into a low end $500 Furman or similar and putting that on a dedicated circuit will do wonders for your and most any system
i have all three of my systems wired this way, two w Furman, one Isotek
I recently purchased a Furhman M-8Dx merit series power conditioner, 15 amps with 8 rear plugs and one front plug. It has two lights in front that telescope out to illuminate components under it. I had a low level hum in my system that I was hoping it would address. It did not. In fact I agree with the previous comments that the primary noise issues come from specific components, even placement relative to each other. In spite of the non resolution of the hum I mentioned, I love this unit. It looks nice, and the sheer convenience of having all my components plugged into one main power switch is nice. I like the lighting. I like how it looks, it has a power read out. Does nothing for me, but tells me how much the power company in fact varies in voltage. Its a lot! I most like the phsychological idea that it provides a layer of surge protection. It also spaces the plugs on the back so you can fit wall warts easily side by side if needed. It was just over $125! Not 4 figures. It is rack mountable. I have mostly tube powered amps and pre. I find the tube selection makes the most impact on the noise floor. The only other noise problem I have is related, of all things, to my I-Pad. After buying a new RPM 9.2 turntable with a Sumico EVO II cartridge, I found the system was picking up my I-pads communication. It sounds like the old Sputnik satellite telemetry, beep, beep, bop digitized pure tones. Maddening. I thought my phono section was bad, it wasn’t. When I put it in airplane mode the noise goes absolutely away. Maddening because I source Spotify Premium which is better than CD quality. The rest is vinyl. I’m told now I need to change the tone arm wiring to a shielded variety. I guess we will try that. Back to the Furhman, I really like it but because of the conveniences and surge protection. I installed a second ground outside on my electrical system to see if that also helps. Deep copper rod into the ground. I also have copper pipes in the new home vs. vinyl, and they connect to my drilled well at 170’ deep so I think I’ve got that covered.
Lots of good advice in there. I am familiar with Furman, my power conditioning strip is a Furman digital 10 outlet. I like the idea of something under 5 bills for effective results because that's basically what I have. I am not familiar with wall warts, unless that is a familiar term for the pucks. I have already added ground rods outside, one at the AC unit and another at the shop. The transformer is probably close to 20 years old, so it's a concern, at least to some degree. Perhaps, the Brick Wall iin front of the Furman and we'll call it good?
a wall wart is a digital switching power supply, i guess you refer to them as a puck...
anyway, well documented and measurable the trash they dump into power line as well as RFI generated....
cleaning that up = good
if possible get a linear power supply...
seperate circuits also help a lot....ideal is three w digital, low level analogue and power amp all on dedicated lines...
inhave four w DAC olso on a dedicated line...
snakeoil for sure....
a wall wart is a digital switching power supply,
They're used to power laptops and tablets, also small components like some DACs and streamers. Their design produces dirty power to the audio device and allows noise to flow back down the AC line and contaminate other components.
To eliminate this noise, a linear power supply (which contains no switching circuitry) should be used.
Many of the audio manufacturers offer an LPS for their devices, plus there are many very affordable aftermarket units on Ebay.
If you have audible buzzing, hiss or hum, try using a "cheater plug" for your amp and preamp cables.It's fine to use cheater plugs for diagnostic purposes - they can be very helpful for that. But it's not safe to use them as a "solution" for ground loop problems. It's never wise to defeat a safety ground.
There’s a reason why so many supposedly great power conditioners end up on the used market. Most are complete snake oil.That's pretty silly. You can actually measure what a power conditioner does, so it's hardly "snake oil."
People invest thousands in conditioners and power cables because of their audiophile nervosa/insecurities and placebo effect.What an odd claim. Use of power conditioners aren’t confined to audiophiles, but are also in wide commercial use.
If power conditioners really make such a big difference, why do companies like Parasound not produce any?That’s a fine non-sequitor. I see Parasound also doesn’t make a streamer or home music server or popcorn popper. So what?
I agree that cheater plugs should only be used for diagnostic purposes and I should've mentioned that in my first post.
Commercial applications vs home use is not apples to apples. Even so, those in pro audio are not immune to snake oil.
Further, I didn’t say that they can’t make any difference, just that most noise is component induced. For those issues, a power conditioner won’t remedy anything.
OK, let me clarify. I have no noise, no hum, no pops, no signal induced noise, no component induced noise. Quiet is quiet, black quiet. I get more noise from my ceiling fan. (Which is a Hunter btw. ;-) ) Setting aside the consitent power outages, I am wondering most about increasing the definition of my soundstage. It is pleasantly wide, deep, and high, but can it be improved upon with more expenditure on AC conditioning? If so, are we talking 4 figures, or something less? Or this this a moot point, and save my pennies for speakers or a higher end pre/pro? THANKS TO ALL FOR YOUR INPUT
I would take issue with your your statement. It is mainly cable induced (both mains and signal). if it is component induced the component is faulty or badly designed.The most common sources of noise are cheap or poorly positioned transformers, and poor grounding schemes. Far less often is the noise cable induced. Cable noise is most often the result of a bad solder joint or complete lack of shielding -- rare, even with inexpensive cables.
I'd agree that noisy components are badly designed, but there's a lot of those out there. Cable noise in aviation and automotive is far more common than in home audio, but they're not apples to apples. I worked to mitigate noise in aviation systems for years, and more often than not, the culprits were poorly executed terminations or grounding schemes. In home audio, any halfway decent, inexpensive cable can thoroughly mitigate noise. Realistically, phono cables are the only ones that might require extra shielding and careful routing. The few times I've had cable noise in a home system were due to cold solder joints. In contrast, I've owned quite a few amps from various brands that had noisy transformers and/or bad ground schemes. It's quite common IME, so I take issue with your statement and assert that you sir are the one who is wrong. Silly Wabbit.
OK, let me clarify. I have no noise, no hum, no pops, no signal induced noise, no component induced noise. Quiet is quiet, black quiet. I get more noise from my ceiling fan. (Which is a Hunter btw. ;-) ) Setting aside the consitent power outages, I am wondering most about increasing the definition of my soundstage. It is pleasantly wide, deep, and high, but can it be improved upon with more expenditure on AC conditioning? If so, are we talking 4 figures, or something less? Or this this a moot point, and save my pennies for speakers or a higher end pre/pro? THANKS TO ALL FOR YOUR INPUTPut your money toward speakers or more music. Better yet, experiment with speaker placement. Pull them away from the walls, a good 3’ or more.
Claims that power conditioning will improve soundstaging are complete hogwash.
@wisciman99 ignore the nattering nabobs who dismiss any sort of tweak or system accessory. The only thing you can do is try something in your system. Luckily power conditioners are easily available used and also easy to resell.
A good conditioner will make your system sound more open and effortless, it will add weight and improve dynamics. In general however I haven’t found them to materially change soundstage, which is more a matter of low level noise better addressed via grounding solutions and the like. Rather against expectations I’ve never found conditioners to remove noise or so called grunge, but that’s perhaps as I’ve always had clean power to start with as it sounds like you have too - anyway you can check my system to see the lengths one can go to to work on clean power from the breaker out.
The challenge is that a lot of the inlines and other tweaks like the HFCs or Akikos are a bit hit or miss, and may suit better in a more refined system. If I was in your shoes I’d try a solid Chang, Shunyata or Synergistic box and see how that works for you. Unfortunately these are all $1-2k and up used but they will grow with your system.
Rarer brand to look out for but work really well include Running Springs Audio and Sound Applications but again these are all expensive.
Also take extra care plugging power amps into conditioners as not all conditioners will work well and some may limit the amps performance - for example the Chang and some Shunyatas are not a good fit with power amps but the Synergistic, RSA and Sound Apps all work really well with amps as well as sources.
Anyway good luck with your search!
I lucked out on an older Sound Applications XE12 for a few hundred dollars. It worked very good at my previous house ( old historic home with cloth wire ) . I have not checked it at the new house; just kind of something you drop in and forget. I will need some power strips to get it out and check, in case Whart is correct, and it is now effecting the sound negatively.
Try dedicated lines also. Getting electrical right is important, and not BS, although speakers are a very high return item if you haven’t got that settled. Get rid of wall warts, which reminds me, I still have one on my modem.
Replace the ceiling fan!! :)
@folkfreak - I'm a completist in that i cannot read "nattering nabobs" without the complete phrase. :)
I was trying to discern what you are using- I remember some posts about Synergistic Research active blocks, and saw that at one time you had the Equi=Tech wall cabinet. You are now using a Torus isolation transformer or did I misread? I assume you found some benefit to 'conditioning' of some sort even with balanced power? I gather from my cursory read of your set ups that you don't have a traditional 'black box' power conditioner installed?
Call me agnostic on the subject. If it helps, great. I think try before you buy is the watchword for anything over a modest price.
Exactly right. I'll add that due to the lower noise floor, there will be better separation between instruments. Also related is increased inner detail, you may hear effects and background studio sounds never revealed before.
I like the more open and detailed imaging.
@whart. Glad you appreciate the quotation 😉
I have actually always used two stage power conditioning, a system wide transformer and a dedicated pair of conditioners for sources and power amps.
In my old Santa Monica set up I had a Equitech balanced transformer then conditioners (used to be RSA for the sources and SA on the amps, then moved to SR on both). Frankly I found balanced power to be more trouble than it was worth however so in my current Portland system I have a wall mounted Torus (which is balanced input but normal 110v outputs) and then a pair of SR 12 UEFs, one for sources and one for power amps
I also find that the SR conditioners are very sensitive to footers and the platforms they are on, vibration profoundly and negatively impacts power conditioners. My current preferred arrangement is GPA monaco stands to Marigo platforms, to Marigo footers
I must say you folks are very well versed and articulate with what are the potential benefits of a good power condition, to use the vernacular. I am going to look into several items brought out in these discussions. I noticed a couple references to not having your amp plugged into a power conditioner. That seems counter intuitive to me. I would think that it's one of the two most important devices (the pre/pro being the other) to have plugged in to a conditioner. Can someone please expound on this?
The reason not to plug a powe amp int a conditioner is if it is current limiting. Of course they all claim that there will be no ill effects but many people find their power amps sound best plugged straight into the wall. As I noted there are some brands that I’ve found this doesn’t apply to but based on my past experience of never use a Nordost conditioner with powe amps for example, even though I liked them with my sources
For grins last eve I decided to test ( double blind of course - hard to see out of both eyes after a few Reds ) the theory and well accepted claim that the power amp should not be plugged into the conditioner...
front end into an Isotek, amp into a Furman PF15i
not as good as amp MC240 ( heavily modified by Mike Samra ) direct to wall
test CD - David Gilmour Solo
test wine : DAVIS Family Vineyards, Healdsburg CA
your voltage may vary
folkfreak: curious to know why you say balanced power is more trouble than it is worth. I have 4 systems all using EquiTech balanced power and have had no trouble at all. ET lowers noise floor 16dB on average so it allows you to really hear the music. I liken it to the clarity you get when listening to music in your car and you turn the engine off. Lower the noise floor and all of a sudden you can really hear the music. I started a thread a while back with a novice power conditioner question and got a variety of interesting responses. Decided to opt for balanced power and glad I did. Unfortunately good power conditioners are not inexpensive. I’d like to try an AudioQuest Niagara 7000 for $7999 :) But the 1000 for $999 might be a better choice on a budget.
I have had several PS Audio units. They are well built and have had a positive impact on the sound as long as i did not try to run a amp thought them. The last one a P10 i still have, but no longer use. I now use High Fidelity MC 6 Hemisphere half the price and a much richer and detailed sound than what i got with the P10. The Hemisphere is for front end equipment only ( no amps). I gave up surge and spike protection, but the sound was much better with the Hemisphere.Has anybody else compared late model PS audio regenerators with High Fidelity conditioners?
@leotis my concerns with balanced power are based on my experience with a 350lb EquiTech in wall unit installed by the premier studio power technician in the LA area. It was continually popping GFCIs from interference with other household appliances (I actually had to rewire it to bypass the GFCIs in the end), I had to be careful on incompatibility with some of my existing equipment such as the Sound Applications conditioner, and finally the House was unsellable without it removed as the buyer could not deal with non standard outlets. So if you are considering an in wall application bear this in mind. None of these issues affect my current in wall Torus which is balanced in, single ended out which is in my mind the best compromise
Here is the link to a recent review comparing the HFC MC-6, PS Audio P10, Equitech 2Q (briefly) and the SR Powercell 12 UEF SE:
@folkfreak Thank you for clarification. I have 4 separate rack mount ETs running 4 separate systems so no risk for the difficulties you encountered.BTW previously had PS Powerplant PPP. Could only use on front end. Not enough power for amp. Cleaned things up a little but the effect was not very noticeable. Also some earlier Shunyata conditioners. Smoothed things out a bit, but also damped dynamics. Sounded a little veiled. Effect with Equitech was dramatic noise reduction. Like "Holy Cow!" reaction. And no problem with power hungry amps. You don’t realize how much noise is present until you remove it. Once I read the details on how balanced power works I was sold. But admittedly trepidatious on initial $4500 outlay for a 2QR. (They do make less expensive units. Depends on your power requirements.)
The very first response you got was that power conditioning is 'snake oil' and not to waste your money. You can expect at least one of these 'Helomech' types every time you ask a question.
If you are looking for a quieter ('blacker') background which will enhance the soundstage and unmask some ambience information, a good power conditioner can definitely help.
Helomech is correct that a lot of noise comes from the components themselves (esp. CDPs). But he is wrong in thinking that a power conditioner does not address that. Any decently isolated one will! (Good A/C cords will help as well.)
I also agree that your power amp should go directly 'to the wall'. I have not found a power conditioner that doesn't affect dynamics at all (though Shunyata claims so, and I have not experimented).
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Furman. My low-cost suggestion id the Shunyata Venom/Defender. The Venom is a well-isolated power distributer. The Defender is a compact power conditioner that [plugs into an empty socket on the Venom. Very effective at relatively low cost! Of course, if you can afford it, go for a Denali or an Audioquest Niagra.
BTW, you CAN use a Shunyata Defender for your power amp. Here's how - You just plug it into the other socket of the duplex that your amp is plugged into. The Defender will clan up the signal because it works by 'proximity'. Pretty nifty!