what kind of power conditioner for front end?

for many years, I used an isolation transformer, plugged into another large isolation transformer, both Soundtrappers, for all my front-end equipment.  That was Stereophiles top recommendation c. 1985, but many power conditioners have come to market since then, many of which are considered very good.  Got rid of the large iso, it hummed too much to tolerate in the same room with the audio equipment.  Amp clearly sounds best plugged into the wall with a good cord. 

I tried a ZeroSurge (which is, I believe, non-destructive, and it shouldn't have limited power, but would protect the equipment from surges), but when I play records, it caused the light above the turntable (plugged into the ZS) to dim and flicker.  The power draw from the phono stage (a Rogers PA-2) somehow affected the other outlets. I'm not sure why, but if the power to the phono pre is sagging through the ZS, that's not good. 

Plugged everything bck into the not-so-large isolation transformer, turntable light remains steady,  Seems to reduce noise.  Plugged everything into an unfiltered power bar (a PS Audio), no light flickering.  It seemed to have clearer and lower bass, possibly not quite as clear and quiet in the top end.  But that is effectively like plugging things into the wall, so there's no protection at all. 

So I'm puzzled. Does "everyone" use some power conditioning on the front-end equipment?  Is there a type of conditioner that is better than others?  How do you know what size conditioner you will need?  I do not want something that hums or makes noise of its own (I understand an AQ Niagra would) - noise is what I'm trying to eliminate, along with some surge protection.   I won't spend $10k unless I heard one that knocked me flat, which seems unlikely. I've never tried a regenerator.


I’m a lot like gdnrbob on this subject. That is, I also like the Audioquest Niagara power conditioners. I use the 7000 on my main system and the 1200 on my subs on another line. Mine are dead quiet. BTW, the Niagara 7000 "will knock you flat".

And, I also have a whole house surge protector in the breaker box.


+1 or +2 on the Niagara.  I have dedicated power lines to the amps and the front end.  I added the Niagara 5000 to the front end and it was a substantial improvement over the previous power conditioner- even with dedicated power lines.  I also have a whole house surge protector managed by our power company.  

I hear a quiet hum from the Niagara unit now and then.  The owners manual said this can happen and is due to noise on the power lines.  

I put my previous surge protector, which was not cheap, on my TV and saw nice improvement in the picture.  So it was a win win.

I still have my eyes out for a used Niagra 5000 at a good price and presently still using 2 Shunyata  Hydra-4 power conditioners.  The system is very quiet, but I am curious how the Niagra will pair up.  My system has 2 dedicated lines, both 20 amp.

@lloydc - As you have had good luck with isolation transformers, you might want to consider the Torus line of power conditioners, which are similarly based on transformers. I have an RM-20, which is dead silent, includes surge protection, and may suit you. It’s heavy.

Torus sells direct in North America. Sometimes they have demo units available at discount.