Is an isolation transformer better than a power conditioner?

I was never thrilled with my Shunyata Triton/Typhon pc.

It improves the SQ but not dramatically. And it is two large chassis that take up a lot of real estate. And not particularly attractive. And we’re $18K new! One would expect transformative performance.

Just went to great lengths and expense to run a dedicated AC line. $4.5K of special Oyaide cable, duplexes and cover plates. And $1.2K electrician.

It was also highly recommended that I also go with an isolation transformer. Went from Torus to Bryston to Equitech. Focusing on the balanced power Equitech.

Getting one, I am curious to know if it will “blow away” my T/T as I have been told.

And with the dedicated AC, maybe not plugging my amps into the new duplexes but the Et would be better. Or plugging in the Et to the T/T and the T/T into the wall.

But I sure would like to get rid of the Shunyatas.


The result of power conditioners is highly dependent on your home and the incoming power. Typically direct lines (one for components and one for the power amp) is always a good improvement.

Generally the power conditioner is used only for components… with your improvements you will have to see if there is still a good improvement with the power conditioner. In my circumstances there is… 30 seconds of listening without my power conditioner is plenty to realize it is doing important work.

My opinion is that the benefit of the power conditioner/transformer/regenerator is often exaggerated.  Your characterization that "SQ is improved but not dramatically" is about the best you can hope for. 

This coming from a guy that has a power regenerator in transit to me. But my expectations are low.  Hopefully I will be impressed.


I auditioned a number of PC some years ago, PS Audio regen, Shunyata Hydra, Audience Adept Response, can't recall others. Prefer my BPT 3.5 Signature with mods for all front end equipment, no PC for amps. I recall hearing the balanced transformer pc as more natural, others more hifi, processed sounding.


Funny that he compared the top of the line PS Audio P-20 unit to the second from the top AudioQuest. While the top of the line AudioQuest Niagara 7000 is similar in price to the PS P-20.

Also, why was it necessary to use a 3 meter Hurricane power cord?

I have owned many conditioners. In fact I owned several PS products. While I thought it was a good product, connecting power amps never seemed like a good thing. On the other hand, the Audioquest 700 shines with power amps.



Given my long term experiences I'd encourage you to go the route of the balanced AC transformer via Equitech. I have not heard theirs specifically  but the principle/concept is good and the brand is well regarded. I've used the BPT 3.5 Signature plus (Balanced AC PC/isolation transformer) for over 13 years and it is excellent in my opinion. Every component is plugged in to it including my SET amplifiers. They all sound noticeably better than when  plugged into my 20 amp dedicated line wall circuit. I am a very firm proponent for  balanced AC electrical power for audio components.


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Personally I like dedicated lines into the sound room and furutech receptacles and power cords all these I find far better than any power conditioner I bought or tried. Regards

As an electronic engineer, I feel that power conditioners should not be necessary. The power supplies inside quality audio kit should be able to reject any noise on the powerline, it's flawed if it can't! Where there may be a benefit is with main AC driven turntables, where noise may be transmitted to the motor.

'Improved but not dramatically'

I posit that such a perceived change not further described is highly likely to be the result of expectation bias and not an objective sound improvement.  The description is low-key and unexciting, expressing disappointment and not satisfaction.  Non-specific and not recognising any particular change in the sound.  A sop to the supplier who took the dollars and a false justification to assuage the dollars spent.

I have the same Shunyata power conditioners that you have and love them. They are truly transformative in my system. I get micro details and sound stage width and depth in spades. Hear details I’ve never heard before from seemingly from everywhere. Perhaps it’s just system dependent and mine is what yo7 might consider a large system. Sorry to hear this about your experience. 


The AudioQuest Niagara 7000 is a balanced power conditioner. That is; both AC legs check out to be 60 volts each.


I am an engineer, importer, and manufacturer. Among the products I have manufactured is power generators and UPS systems. I would suggest the cleaner the power going into equipment the less ripple seen at the power supplies. There is a weak link in your system somewhere. A good dealer should be able to find it and help you correct it. Personally I am not a Shunyata fan and would suggest removing them from your system.

It improves the SQ but not dramatically. And it is two large chassis that take up a lot of real estate. And not particularly attractive. And we’re $18K new! One would expect transformative performance."

You spent $18K, and yet...

Testimony for the curious-yes, it all MADNESS!

I am a very firm proponent for balanced AC electrical power for audio components.

Me too!

That’s one of the reasons why I run all my audio gear on 250 volts, its balanced voltage not needing a neutral or balanced load. Also, the sound quality is better, and it negates the need for a balanced AC PC/isolation transformer. That’s been my experience with North American voltage (USA). FWIW: Because the amp is now running at twice the voltage but half the amps (current) the wall wiring looks twice as thick to the amp as it does at 120 volt (ohms law). Now the amp makes even less audio noise on the line and it then rejects its own line noise better. The 220 volt outlet can be a standard 15 or 20 amp with 12 Ga wire.



I found that the hum from my larger isolation transformer, in the same room as the equipment, was too loud to tolerate.   They all hum and imho a large one must be located outside near the box.  I agree the improvement is slight.

For years I had hum, incoming voltage running between 123-126v in those years. Since repairs, 119-120v 24/7, no perceptible hum ever. Over voltages and dc offset  usual causes of transformer hum. Mounting them properly very important as well.

“Is an isolation transformer better than a power conditioner?”

In my experience, Yes! I had some highly rated power conditioners through my system (Audience, Nordost and Shunyata) and they all added some sort of coloration. AQ Niagara 7000 was the worst offender, dump it after 30 days trial (strangely dealer was in hurry to take it back).

I am currently using a isolation transformer and it’s dead quiet, no hum whatsoever!

Wow lalitk,

Your the first person I have ever heard that did not find the Niagara 7000 impressive. Coloration? Huh? Definitely not my view...But, everyone has different components and its how it all interacts I guess.


 I have been in the BPT camp for a long time with no regrets. It is fine for the front end of my system. I use a Richard gray 400S for the power amp, knowing that is in parallel not series with the power amp.

 When living in Tucson, I was very lucky to have AC power that was quiet, reliable, and apparently clean to begin with. In almost every home since then, I have fought the AC demons. Some sort of leg up is needed where I live now.

I agree with latik. With all conditioners I have tried it was always a 2 steps forward and 2 steps back scenario. The harmonic content of the music always seemed to suffer but the blackness of the background seemed to improve. Only with the isolation transformer did I get only a blacker background with no downside. 

I will add that my BPT 3'5 Signature plus unit is silent in my room. As @sns mentioned, this is likely a reflection of stable AC voltage coming into my home. It has been one of my best audio equipment purchases over the years.


The cleaner the power the better the sound, hence start with a separate spur and cleaning up your fusebox.There are passive conditioners from Akiko, Acoustic Revive and Furutech which achieve great results without the side effects of active conditioners and transformers. And by the bye…Small power supplies in a high efficiency system have a much easier job than giant torroidals driving transistor amps (EFI et al). In other words: horses for courses rather than simply asking what’s better…

And for the adventuresome among you: try power modulation à la Add Powr or Nordost as well as grounding devices as further useful ways of improving power.

Power conditioners come into their own where there are major voltage variations on the grid, in most other instances they tend to be overkill.

The problem I have with evaluating PC's is the subjective impressions of improvement relative to what they had before adding such gear. The responses would suggest (at least to a laymen) that what you had before wasn't really that good, and by adding a PC all of a sudden the sound was so improved that you can't imagine how you lived without it! I understand that there must be some excitement to any improvements that one makes to a system, but a little truth in advertising would help put things in proper perspective. If your system was quite good before, additions/upgrades should yield incremental and subtle changes, not watershed changes! 

boostedis"The problem I have with evaluating PC's is the subjective impressions of improvement relative to what they had before adding such gear."

I do not know why that is a "problem" for you or why it causes you concern, doubt, or confusion you can simply listen for yourself in a familiar system and decide for yourself.

@clearthink My pockets are not empty, but neither are they brimming over to the point that I want to spend $4-10K on a PC if the gains are marginal at best. I’m not suggesting that the potential differences are marginal, but you completely ignored my point which was the gains/improvements couldn’t possibly be that profound (unless they are) without the system not sounding very good prior to the addition of a PC (or any other component for that matter, excluding speakers which will by far have the greatest potential to transform the sound of a system). I have heard highend PC’s on SUPER highend systems and the differences were not easily detectable (if at all) so again, how could my experiences be so mild and others stating profound changes? And before you insult me with my experience level, trust me, it is sufficient to know what a ’difference’ is and how I should interpret those differences.

Anyone have experience with a PS Audio regenerating unit (P15 or 20)?

Active vs Passive?


Once you have a good sounding and complimentary set of components and speakers one can very significantly improve their performance by methodically evaluating and adding carefully chosen improvements. Typically these are: speaker cables, interconnects, power cords, direct lines, power conditioning. Each is incremental… together several can add up to the level of a component level upgrade. 

Typically one would not add a $5K power cord to a $5K amp. But that being a cost effective move is not unheard of. I recently added a $2K power cord to my $22K amp. The improvement in sound was very important and obvious. I would say, I got a sound quality improvement worth at least $5K. The boost I got from my direct lines was similar… so to my power conditioner. All this stuff adds up to a much… much better system. This is how you go from a good to a great system for the least amount of money. 


While not often I have heard cables or interconnects that produced improvements worth nearly the total cost of the component… instead of upgrading the component. 

@ghdprentice Thanks for your response! Thank you for addressing what I asked about and not getting off on a tangent that wasn't relevant to the question. I was just reading about a speaker designer who cautioned to beware of changes that make an audible difference, but are not in fact improvements! He specifically mentioned speaker cables and how the electrical properties affect the sound in ways that are dramatic but not always welcome, but because you hear a change, you convince yourself that the change was good only for it to annoy you a few months down the road. Not at all saying this was your experience with your power cord upgrade, just making conversation. I fully agree that if you spent $22K on a component, it is reasonable to spend X on a comparable cable solution regardless of any expectations. It just wouldn't make sense to use Zip cord for a $30K pair of speakers, etc. 

Part of the allure might be how easy a solution these components are to use and install. Last weekend I listened to a Taurus transformer at a friends and have to say that at least on his system it bested the Shunyata (model # ?) by a wide margin. The Taurus was about half the price of the Shunyata. 



Thanks for your comments.


I have heard this claim of “just different”.. or even about a realization after some time it wasn’t good. But it has always sounded like it was coming from a skeptic… a theoretical assertion… not from the experience of a real audiophile.

Over the last fifty years of being an audiophile it has certainly never happened to me. Differences in sound the sounds of high quality interconnects, cables, and power cords are easy to hear… although it may take a little while to clearly articulate them. Also absolutely reproducible and consistent across components.

However,  fooling around with the stuff that comes with inexpensive equipment, Bilken, Blue Jeans, Monster, and the like can be confusing and difficult to pick out the differences. But good quality purpose built for sound equipment is seldom difficult.

I recently heard a Stromtank power regenerator in a very familiar high end system. It was good to see/hear that it didn't color or change the presentation, just cleaned up the grunge. It is a good unit, though expensive.

The whole system including the active ATC 100 speakers was connect via Stromtank.

With a dedicated AC line I’d be tempted to say "leave it at that," but the balanced power approach some have mentioned here has me intrigued. To those who have experience with it, how would describe its sonic influence compared perhaps to using power (re-)generators or other?

As I previously mentioned, balanced trans. just sort of there, doesn't add any flavor or artifacts like the other pc's I tried. Vs. dedicated lines without pc, larger soundstage, greater image dimensionality and specificity, higher resolving, greater transparency. When I go back to straight out of wall, soundstage and image collapse, pretty bad.


I've also tried Lithium Ion battery packs, nice for lowering noise floor, but dark flavor always sets in over time. Never liked any pc with every tube amp I've owned.

@ghdprentice Haha, I use Blue Jeans cables to great affect in my rather resolving system! Many of the highend brands use Belden cable as the basis for their own (fancy jackets and dielectrics) cables and the buyer is none the wiser! As I said, before, at a particular level of clear and transparent sound (I have that in spades) focused and deep soundstage where the speakers cease to be identifiable as the source of the sound (I have that in spades), micro detail that is easily heard vs other systems that do not resolve as well or present such sonic cues as being common to true highend setups (I have that is spades); I don't personally see how one can claim that the change was so profound that the adjectives used are so extreme. If you had a wide/deep/detailed soundstage before, claiming that it was expanded so greatly with some new accessory seems dubious to me. A collapsed soundstage to me is just that, it ceases to give you the impression of the sound coming from behind the plane of the speakers, etc. Deeper is one thing, but many would have you believe that it wasn't present before, and it miraculously now is....

What about a high quality UPS? That cleans up pretty much everything in terms of AC line noise from other electrical equipment, voltage transients, line distortion (if you have it). It puts out perfect sine wave power. Plus, it would be a lot cheaper than some of the approaches mentioned such as the Shunyata Triton, or expensive rewiring of the last inch of electrical service.

I would note that a UPS does not typically provide galvanic isolation, and only secondary surge suppression.



Now that my new dedicated AC line is installed, I am deciding on replacing or combining my very pricey Shunyata PC with a PS Audio regenerator.

The difference between running my mono blocks directly into the new line or connecting to the Shunyata that is plugged into AC is huge. I have re-evaluated my impressions of the Shunyata. The sound of the Shunyata with the new AC is spectacular.

But audiophilia moves my to try putting in a PS Audio P12. 
Anyone have experience with the PS Audio?

I use a PS Audio P20 for the last few years and have found it to be a great addition to my kit.  Larger sound stage, more micro detail, lower noise, also, because of the low impedance, there is more openness on loud dynamic passages.  I am using Auidioquest Hurricane power cords throughout my system and have a dedicated 20 AMP circuit to the P20.  From what I understand you can demo any of the PS stuff for 30 days and send it back if you don't like it.  I have done A/B with and without the P20 and definitely prefer the P20.  


I took Charles advice a while back and now run Equitech on 4 systems. Best audio advice I ever got. Huge improvement IMO. (I had tried Shunyata and PS regenerators), There is a reason so many of the big boys use Equitech.


I have used isolation transformers and preferred the sound without. The sound was less alive. I use a PS regenerator and prefer that to without. Have fairly typical power usually reading about 2.7% THD.   

You may no need either. You equipments power supply can generally clean up AC, so if you have no line noise that is often in frequency ranges power supplies are not designed to filter, special power conditioning and cables may not do much for you. Isolation transformers are less expensive and often do the trick, it depends upon the noise and the transformer. Good luck sorting it out, no one who doesn't know the power in your area can give you a perfect answer though, IME.

Would clarify that Equitech is "balanced" power transformer. Not conventional transformer. Noise gets canceled by balancing power to +60/-60 instead of +120/0 (not a completely accurate way to describe it). Most of the noise affecting your system is produced by the reactive power generated by your own gear (depending how terrible your wall current may be). The  regenerators do nothing to mitigate that problem. Plus they limit current so you can't use it for your amps. You can (and should) plug your amps into the Equitech. Dynamic range is not limited (assuming you have the right size unit) and the noise floor is lowered dramatically.

I like to 'try new things' as much as the other audiophile, but I think when it comes to power it's best to ask oneself "what am I trying to fix". Let's start with the basic premise of power supply to our systems. It needs to be a stable sinewave. For us in North America, that means a 60Hz sinewave with as little distortion as possible, and no DC offset. For most people, this is indeed was is coming into your house, and it gets a bit muddled up from there, but maybe? So....I could write pages about this, but if you want to 'try and listen' please do - but it is so much better to start with a good power analysis (put a power analyzer on your mains and on the outlet(s) feeding your stereo. Start with that! I do have a power analyzer at my disposal and discovered the cause of much hum (mechanical, in transformers) was DC offset from my incoming power. Also, my voltage does drift (as most does) dpendant on time of day, and I would see moments of current distortion (iTHD) about 4%; my vTHD was typically <2% - all good, but could be improved. Start with something like that. I opted for a whole house surge supression system, a 20A dedicated line in MC (not Romex) and a large (3000VA) dedicated isolation tranformer with some EMI filtering included mounted near my breaker box. They HUM. If they are torroids, the might not, but standard laminated transformers will hum, and that's ok given my power issues. Result? remarkably quiet system in my music room. No hum (mechanical, audible, or otherwise) whatsoever. Dead quiet. Lots of transient ability in amps (the transformer is rated at 550A for 1/2cycle, 110A for 1sec, continuous at 25A, though my breaker/circuit is 20A). I'm very pleased with the result. THD is now <1%.   If you want a similar analysis, I would contact any electrical/power consulting company in your area; the engineer might be a bit perplexed at first, but I would guess he'd embrace a homeowner/hobbyist taking his power system seriously. If they don't, move on to the next one.

Started out with Richard Gray Power Products to PS Audio regenerators,

None of these things improved my listening pleasure in my 2 channel audio presentation. I wasted tremendous amounts of money on these things. Guess I paid for my stupidities.

For instance, do you know that some regenerators carry varistors in front of the high current outlets.

And don’t fool yourself, dedicated lines do not remove anything from the power lines, they may help to lower the impedance, but by how much at what price tag.

Even though, as I said, if you find an improvement, I can tell you it is not a bang for the buck.

The other thing, is most big-name manufacturer spends a large part of their on budget tank built structure, instead of implementing superior musical designs, and, not to mention the cheapest electronic parts like transformers, capacitor, resistors etc. that they fit in their products, you can buy better parts even at Radio Shack



I’ve never used a Power Conditioner.  Would any perceived improvement be affected by where one lives?  I currently live in Chicago but am contemplating retirement and moving to a sparsely populated rural area.



It is definitely dependent on where you live. That said, for the vast majority it provides a very meaningful improvement in sound quality. Even more likely to produce a really meaningful improvement are direct lines.



Congratulations on your progress on your power. I look forward to hearing your system sometime… if the pandemic calms or goes away.