Surge protectors and power conditioners - Good idea or bad?

Years ago, I bought added surge protectors and a power conditioner to my system, including surge protectors/ power filters to my Martin Logans.

Recently I revisited this idea and discovered that many people say to avoid the above, given it's rare to get hit by lighting and blow out your components and that both surge protectors and power conditioners can negatively impact overall sound.

I have to ask what are the impacts when your equipment is receiving clean power. 
Rare to get hit by lightning? Guess that depends on where you live. Here in central Florida you can depend on your home's power lines being hit by electrical surges caused by lighting every few years. While a direct lightning strike to a home's power inlet is probably going to overwhelm any surge protection, surge protection for my audio equipment has protected and saved my audio equipment from damaging surges that burned out unprotected circuits like garage doors and doorbells. As to negatively affecting sound quality, there isn't any definitive answer. Some components (most often power amps in my experience) are negatively affected by power conditioners while everything else in the system is usually positively affected. As always, experimentation is in order and what works in one situation isn't going to necessarily be the case in another. 
What a surprise the "surge" burned out things like garage doors and doorbells that are not fused. The real reason people use surge protectors is FUDD stories just like this one. 

The reality is if you get hit by lightning, good luck if your system is the way when the megavolts burn their path to ground. Anything less than that you have this thing called a fuse. 

Of course this is electronics we are talking about. Someone somewhere always gonna have something get blown out by the static charge you get walking across carpet, blow the instant it is turned on, or just plain give up the ghost for who knows what reason. By and large though surge is like the other "s" word, snow. Everyone freaks, but then life goes on- until they hear the "s" word and freak out all over again.
I have always leaned toward surge protection and balanced power in one unit. Furman makes a couple of units. The home unit is the IT-REF 20I. the pro-version is the P-2400 IT. Each will provide 20 amp balanced power to make your system black while also providing excellent surge protection. I would also consider Equi-Tech either model Q or Son of Q (no political reference). They also make very good equipment.

If you don't use surge protection then make sure your homeowners policy covers your gear. Oh, and depending on your system, I would stick with a 20 amp unit which will also allow you to use it for your amp regardless of what others say. I have been running my amp from a balanced power unit for years and it sounds fantastic. Balanced power by the way will give you clean fixed voltage power that your equipment will love. 
First of all lightning is sent directly to the closest and biggest ground.

That ground rod at the mains is exactly what that is for. Folks that use to get hit with lightning were hit because of antenna sticking up all over the place. THAT is what normally wipes out electrical gear NOT lightning hitting the power pole.. THAT'S right it goes into the ground rod. THAT rod is for one thing outside spikes coming in from anywhere ONLY. It is not the bond for your house. It is the bond between the house and the pole.. THAT's different

People that don't protect equipment, are BUYING equipment.. simple as that.. Protect FIRST then listen.. IF your equipment suffers because of a surge or filtering device, chances you picked the wrong device.

Power supplies on equipment that are well built (extra capacitance usually) don't suffer from most maintaining devices. The key to healthy equipment is to protect from overvoltage QUICKLY and under voltage the same way, QUICKLY..

Under voltage use to be the number one killer of power supplies in my area.. Not anymore.. 8k lines to 20k lines.. Like magic..

The guy that doesn't protect, doesn't deserve.. simple for me..

First of all lightning is sent directly to the closest and biggest ground.
Not so. That's not how lightning works. Most lightning never even makes it to the ground.
Folks that use to get hit with lightning were hit because of antenna sticking up all over the place. THAT is what normally wipes out electrical gear NOT lightning hitting the power pole.. THAT'S right it goes into the ground rod ...
A proper home grounding system does not offer absolute protection against lightning strike damage. Not even close.
I didn't say it did, I said the purpose of a grounding rod is for outside strikes or OVER Voltage from anywhere ONLY. I didn't say there is not a problem if your house gets a lightning strike..

I'm not UNDER mining what it can do. I saying what the purpose of the ground rod is, not what it may fall short of... LOL I was born and lived in Texas and Alabama until I was 12, my family is from there.. I know what lightning CAN do..

Wind too, I've seen the 8 -10 head of cattle porcupined because of HAY and not being able to get them in a glen or safety. Whole side of a barn just riddled with straw sticking out of it.. Pretty common actually..

Funny you speak of how lightning WORKS. Your the first.. No body really knows HOW DIFFERENT lightning types work.. My vocabulary may be incorrect, There is more than one type of lightning and depending on the region, soil content, and moisture level, determine where it's gonna go, if it does shows up... Could be pyroclastic in nature, Dust storms make lightning, I've actually seen it..

Less than 30 year ago they thought it always discharged by hitting the ground (or a ground).  In reality, it actually comes from the ground and MEETS above the soil plain with the discharge coming from above.

Tell me all about lightning... It does strike twice... In the same place and person for that matter... Has a mind of it's own.. :-)
It is wise to have a whole house surge protector. Power conditioners are a big variable and their effectiveness depends upon the incoming power supply and the type of conditioner  being used. If you can borrow one or two and try them to se if they work in your system.
@lwin ,
If you own a home or have a good landlord, installing a whole house surge protector is money well spent.
In the Northeast where the power grid is antiquated, uneven and unreliable having a dedicated AC line/breaker going to conditioner/surge protector is needed insurance for very little investment. Advisable. 
Of course there was the time we had a close strike which blew out every LED display in our house, including some wireless thermometers that were battery powered. Blew out everything connected to a phone line too, but not the TV, or other electrical appliances.

Which was also around the time my sailboat got hit by lighting too, and blew holes in the boat as well as the flashlight bulbs. Somehow the my kids thought I was attracting lighting so when ever a storm blew in they'd try not to be near me.
Whole house surge protection is a good idea. I also use isolation transformers for expensive electronics. Trouble is that IT can hum when doing their job, so it's best to have them in a utility room.
The only real surge suppression is putting a transformer between the gear and the wall.  Transformer's breaker blows up in a massive overload, gear doesn't. 
I just replaced my Richard Gray Custom 1200 due to wanting to rid my system of surge suppression chokes etc and will install a Seimens FS140 whole house surge suppressor at the breaker panel. He will also be installing ground rods. And grounding the Satellite Dish.

I replaced the Gray with a P.I. Audio UberBuss power conditioner that has a power factor correction of 1 and unlimited current availability while cleaning up the noise leaving no impact on the sound. Just clean power as needed.
Unless you live in an area which is frequented by lightning strikes or your power company executives are crooks, they are not needed.

Whole house Type II (at the panel, not the service entrance) and a large (10kVa) iso transformer with additional surge protection that feeds the sub panel for the system. Texas can get some big-assed storms, though Austin seems to be in a semi-protected pocket; still, the intensity of some of these storms is quite impressive (and somewhat scary) even when we are on the edge of them.
Back east, NY metro, north of the city along the Hudson, the infrastructure was really dated and we'd lose power even in a mild storm. 
The surge protectors won't do anything for brownouts (voltage drops) but I'm generally aware of the state of the grid here and when it gets to be 110F, I am less likely to play the system. Of course, my faith in the robustness of the grid here in Texas was put to the test during the recent ice storm that caused us to lose power for 4.5 days in bitter cold weather. 
The cost of whole house is well worth it; you don't need to buy the uber audiophile one, but can rely on units using MOVs. They'll degrade and you replace them. Obviously, with a direct strike, all bets are off. One started a fire and burned out a fairly large commercial/residental building in the adjacent town to us along the Hudson. I met a guy who got hit a decade before; he got up after the event and finished work. He later went home, where his wife discovered the bottoms of his feet were scorched. He progressively lost heart tissue and at the time I met him, was going through medical procedures in anticipation of a heart transplant. I think a healthy respect for those bolts from the sky is sensible. I used to unplug my main system during electrical storms back east. 
When I built my Bob Latino amp, the instructions explicitly said to not attach the amplifier to a power conditioner. I didn't quite understand the explanation, but leads me to believe that it is not an entirely neutral thing to add to your power. 
I live on a hill near a larger hill that often stops rainstorms.
The house is tall and has a lightning conductor running from the top of the roof down to an earth rod.
Lightning will always take the shortest/easiest route to ground so it goes that way and doesn't impact any of my electrical installations or cause any fire.
I live in an older, poorly grounded home in old suburb with an overloaded grid. I have most of my equipment hooked to power conditioners, except my amp. I based this decision on advice from electronic "experts" that certainly know more than I do. I don't hear any difference from when the equipment wasn't hooked to power conditioners.

That being said, my televisions do have less artifacts in low light scenes, now that they are hooked up to power conditioners. I also saw some general improvement in the overall picture quality. 
I have a Furman 20 elite and serves me well (20a line), I dont see how people can say to avoid them , if your a  video guy do allot of HT , Ive noticed without a doubt positive effects of having SP , I had some work being done at the house and they were running skill saws outside , my overhead lights would dim yes but not one glitch ,snow, fuzz, Jitter,  I know for a fact it works . It also has a Capacitor bank (Power Factor Technology provides a "current reservoir" for amplifiers, receivers, and subwoofers (over 55 amps peak charge) Im saying it works, call me a noob , I would never not use SP for my gear , wouldn't think of it , I have to much money into my system , I worked as telecom worker in peoples houses and seen first hand what strikes can do, Ive seen holes blown up in peoples yards ( accent lights ) along with sections of house wiring shot, I have relativly good power in my neighborhood but we still lose power on occasion and when that happens you get a surge , Maintinence cuts in the middle of the night ( Surge) doesn't kill your gear but it was in fact a surge none the less. Ill take the .0001 distortion it adds to audio all day long. 

I just had a while house surge protector installed at the main panel after the deep freeze in Texas. I did not notice any degradation in SQ what so ever. I sleep better believing that my Vitus 101 Mk II integrated amplifier and Lumin streamer/ DAC are protected from a power issue.
I have installed a whole house surge protector - for $300 its a relatively cheap investment to protect all your electronics including items you may just plug into the outlet.
I realize I keep harping on this but a balanced power unit will give you clean 120v power with no noise. As long as it provides sufficient instantaneous amp draw, there should be no problem using it for a power amp. For example, the Furman IT Ref 20I has 4 outlets that provide up to 80 amps peak power. Will your amplifier draw more than 80amps? Here is a statement from Equi-Tech on the model Q.

It drives amplifiers and other high current pulse type loads without skipping a beat. Power factor remains virtually stable regardless of the type of demand load.
Agree with falconquest; a balanced power supply is a great way to provide clean power.  The best use a massive laminated transformer to take the incoming AC signal and divide it into two perfect 60hz signals of opposite polarity which are then supplied to the left and right prong receptacles of the AC outlets on the unit, IOW, unwavering, constant perfect 120Hz signal to your equipment.   
It is always a good idea to have your equipment protected just for the sake of keeping it from harm and i have a power conditioner that never did anything other than help my sound people are writing a lot of strange things these days.
What else are you going to plug all those cords into? Power strips? They condition the noisy electric from the power company that causes lights to flicker occasionally. That power goes to your equipment. Wouldn't you want that smoothed out?
@cdc2 ... I live in South Florida where our summer thunderstorms are notorious destroyers of most everything electrical.and the thought of living without surge protectors and power conditioners is mostly terrifying for audio, video, computer and so forth. Fried two Velodyne 12" subs, fried a PS Audio power conditioner, fried two NHT subs and a couple of Blue Ray players. I used Tripplite surge and power conditioners on all my audio and video equipment but lets talk about the stereo system specifically. I upgraded from Tripplite to Audioquest Niagara 3000 in December with all the associated noise draining power cables. I’ll just say it was not an inexpensive upgrade and I’ve got my amps, tuner, CD/SACD, Streamer, DAC and Pre-amp on it. I live in a condo of a 168 unit building and between air-conditioners, fluorescent lights, refrigerators, microwaves, TVs and a ton of other electrical noise pollutants we have a ton of RFI and some EMI here to deal with as well. IOt made a significant difference to the plus side, sweeter more "real human" vocals, better imaging and sound stage layering and quieter black background. In my opinion it was a worthwhile upgrade at the level of resolution my system has. An added benefit is one switch turns everything on or off.  As a friend used to say about audio systems.. 80% of the sound costs 20% of the dollars, the other 20% of performance costs 80% of the dollars. Just my take on it.
  This is what I use for surge protection

Intermatic Smart Guard IG2240-IMSK Whole Home Surge Protector,Black

Intermatic's Smart Guard Whole House Surge Protective Device provides coverage of your big investment equipment, from appliances and computers, to HVAC equipment and TVs. This innovative SPD uses the IModule with LED lights for quick and easy indication when protection has been compromised. State-of-the-art TPMOV surge protection technology eliminates the potentially hazardous failure modes that are commonly associated with standard MOV technology.

  • Six Modes of protection
  • TPMOV surge protection technology
  • Module Power Switch, included on IG2240-IMSK, enables convenient disconnection of power at the SPD when replacing IModules
  • Includes three IModules with LED power and protection status lights
  • IModules replace quickly and easily, eliminating the need to install a new SPD unit
  • Tamper-proof IModule doors, will only open when IModule is being inserted
  • Type 1 Enclosure for indoor applications in metal
  • Includes the IG2200-FMK flush mount kit
  • on Amazon 4.6/5 stars

Some of you may not have lightning problems but many of us do. We had five power outages last year due to lightning, including one lightning strike that blew up a transformer at the substation about two miles from my house. I have a whole house surge arrestor at the panel, and have a Furman IT-Reference 20i power line conditioner, surge protector with an isolation transformer.

I really don’t care if the Furman affects the "blackness," "holographic presentation," etc., and twenty other esoteric terms which I can’t hear. What I do care about is not blowing up a $5K preamp, $10K amp, and associated equipment.

Oh, and the guy that thinks lightning hits the highest object...look up the term "rolling sphere" as it applies to lightning. You’ll find out lighting is finding path with the least resistance to ground and not the highest object.
I live in Miami Beach.  I live in a newer house (2015).  We get lightning and storms all the time in the summer and a lightning strike blew my preamp and I had to send it in for repairs.  I then put a whole house surge protector in at the breaker panel and no more problems.  A cheap insurance policy to protect your equipment!
Whole home surge protectors are noting but a bunch of big MOVs across line/neutral/ground, or in Europe, MOVs and gas discharge tubes. There is absolutely nothing they are going to do to hurt sound, but they sure may save your equipment. Everything you have plugged into the line will affect the line more than these things will. 
Reportedly, 80% of all surges/transients in a home's electrical system are generated by appliances in the home. Anything with a motor is suspect. I believe that continuous "hits" with surges and transients will shorten the life of the equipment. If you value your equipment, consider the protection offered by a good series-mode suppressor. Reasonably-priced units are available from Zero Surge, Brickwall and SurgeX with audiophile versions (Audioquest Niagra, Furman Elite PFi, etc.) with power correction (energy reserve) technology for those who are concerned about dynamic current limiting with big power-hungry amps.
I've read all sorts of opinions here. My experience protecting equipment.
1st cause of equipment failure during electrical storms, lightning and such is induced currents due to proximity discharges, even on shielded twisted pair, the electrical transient will go through equipment, mainly low voltage one, computer's network cards, you could install surge suppressors and isolators grounded and such, these will protect to some extent but if the transient is fast it will still go through even with grounded surge suppressors. Ethernet networks are a magnet for these and will propagate to computers, switches, wireless access points, TV etc.
You will also get these currents in the mains but equipment in the mains is more resistent to these currents

Now if the lighting is close enough the transient will be high enough and will fry anything connected to the mains as well.

I have lived 51 years in the tropics (south Florida) and I know what lightning storms are.

The industrial solution to really protect (I have installed and build in communication centers and shelters for the government) the ones with big radio antennas going up 1000 ft up, is to use batteries and an ALL AROUND DC 48V datacenter fed by batteries and surge suppression on every step or in the private sector AC datacenters with equipment fed by batteries and inverters too.

At your house if you hear distant thunder unplug all valuable equipment from the mains that's the real protection.
If you are leaving the house for a few days and there is always a chance of sudden electrical storm leave unplugged all valuable equipment from the mains.
There is no better protection

Say what you want I don't care

I have better things to do :-)   Whole home surge protector. I have fiber to the house now so data lines are not an issue now, but previously I did use a fiberoptic connection to isolate. Surge protectors at the equipment as well for added protection.  Our AC is underground, so I don't have to worry about direct hits really.  There is always the potential for something catastrophic, but the level of protection is pretty high, the cost was minimal, insurance will cover the rest, and I don't want to waste time plugging and unplugging everything.
My experience. I have an individual 2AWG copper cable from the transformer substation to my cottage, my individual ground loop has 3ohm. The cleanest phase goes to the listening room. However, air conditioners and regenerators are of great importance. My sources are powered by PS Audio P10 -> SR Galileo SX, the monoblocks are Isotek Super Titan. Without them, there is no life in music.
Ended up getting an Audioquest Niagara 1200, just to be protected, but WOW it had a huge effect on the sound, bringing it to life in every way. 
I live in central Florida! I decided to try a Niagara 1200 on my system! While the unit seems to give clean power, imho it was a waste of money! The unit fails miserably at protecting my equipment as I suspected! I’m going back to battery back up! I’m using a double conversion 2.2kw lithium ion unit! They by far and wide protect your equipment far better than any line conditioner! The fact is the Niagara offers zero protection for power brown outs and momentary power interruptions! I have had to reset my McIntosh c53 several times because of it! Don’t experience these problems with a good ups! And yes you will spend good money for a decent one, but it’s the only real solution here in this part of the country!
TBC:  If it doesn't have a UL listing as a surge protector (I think that's UL 1449) you can't rely on any conditioner to have any surge protection capabilities at all.

Several high end conditioners don't even mention surge protection, for good reason! Trying to get as close to the transformer outside your home also make for direct connections of your equipment to the noise and surge.  The last thing I want is a perfect conductor between my gear and the outside power, but so many invest in trying to get just that.

I wrote about surge protection here: