Not sure for power conditioner my amp or not.

Hi, I have an VTA ST-120 I built using KT88C’s for my 2 channel. I have all my equipment running through a Torus Power TOT MAX Toroidal Isolation. I have heard 2 different versions on what to do. As far as what to plug my amp into. The wall or the TOT’s? I know this isn’t a "power conditioner" such as PS Audio sells. Should I keep everything plugged into the TOT, so all my grounds are the same and it has the optional surge protection? Or straight into the wall? I tried the wall once, but didn’t hear a difference really. But I didn’t test for long and not sure I ever got to the point of drawing too much power from the amp. Which is the best way to leave it? Thanks! Scott

VTA ST-120


I have tried many power conditioners in several homes in different geographical locations over about 40 years compared to the wall. The wall has always sounded better for amplifiers. I even tried a high end power conditioner made for amps… also worse.

The best quality sound with few exceptions is to have the amp(s) connected directly to an outlet with a dedicated line and the other components through a power conditioner powered from another dedicated line. There are rare exceptions where the power conditioner to the none amp does not improve the sound. This is rare and thought to be the result of living in an area / house with exceptionally clean power.


Typically the difference is pretty easy to hear.


ghdprentice  Thanks! I will move the amp to the wall. I don't think I can change to dedicated line without tearing up my walls though.

Tony, I built and had powder coated the same my pre-amp I made from VTA. I really am happy with both products.


I've always heard a difference and prefer direct into the wall. My instructions for the Van Alstine Vision SET 120 power amplifier directs me to plug directly to the wall.

VTL amps don't have internal protection and will go FLAMES if surge happens.

The short answer is Better safe than sorry. That means I wouldn't even have second thought in mind considering where I live.



I’ve noticed this too with power amps.

So amp direct to wall socket and source components and PREAMP to conditioner


@smoorenc I too use a Torus RM15. When advised by @ghdprentice in fact not to run my Prima Luna evo 400 through it and go directly into the wall outlet, there was an immediate improvement,like night and day in fact. I also was concerned about protection however after doing so though so I added a whole house surge protection breaker.Subsequently I have been learning that that breaker addition is not the end all solution,but it makes me feel a little better anyway. Also yes, beautiful amp!

@bikeboy52  I have a whole home surge protector and my electrician told me that it is advisable to still have surge protection units at critical equipment. Good advice as I have had lightening take out whole home protectors twice which you don't know has happened unless you take off the panel cover and check them every now and then.

I have had the opposite experience. in both of my systems I have found having the amps plugged into power conditioners improved the sound. May be it is the case due to the  "quality" or lack thereof of our local power.

Agree that power conditioners aren't good for amplifiers.  However, balanced power supplies are good for amplifiers.


I have had the opposite experience. in both of my systems I have found having the amps plugged into power conditioners improved the sound. May be it is the case due to the  "quality" or lack thereof of our local power.


It may simply depend upon the specific conditioner in question. I use an AC balanced isolation transformer/ conditioner. Unquestionably the sound quality of the amplifier and every audio component is improved via it as compared to direct wall outlets (20 amp dedicated circuit). I believe that balanced AC power is a step upward.


IME even for balanced power, the transformer ought to be pretty massive in order to not have it sound like it sucks the life out of the music.

I have a BPS (toroid at 2700VA) weighing approx. 80 lbs and it still pulled down my various power amps...


Thanks Everybody for your advice. Now I am even more confused than I used to be, LOL I am kidding. Thanks for real! We have good power here and I have solar feeding my house. I am going to move the power to the wall and see how that goes.

It depends on your "conditioner".  If it sounds better plugged into the wall, your conditioner is junk.  and many of them are.  

I've said here a dozen times, you can't filter noise out of AC.  You rectify it and invert it with a quality inverter.  Then your invert has to have large amounts of instantaneous current availabe.  PS audio was the first and may still be the best.  People here that I trust have made me think that the furman reference series has plenty of power to support amp dynamics.

Those with physics degrees from the university of google try to size the power supply to match the AVERAGE power that the amp pulls.  and it works great if you don't care for bass or dynamics.


After you have experimented with the power conditioner vs directly to the wall outlet (which is the only way to answer your question) let us know what sounded better and why, please.

I plug my MC500 amp directly into my shunyata power conditioner. I’ve tried it both ways and cannot tell any difference. I’d rather have clean power and protection. 

With a big honking transformer power supply, I would just plug it in. Toss a ferrite on the power cord if it makes you feel good. I have a whole house suppressor which if you can do, is highly recommended.  If not, I would look at the amp schematic and see if they properly did any surge and RF internally. It amazes me how any product above the price-spec only market fails to do proper AC input design. 

If you have a toroid transformer, a DC blocker is a good idea. Nothing wrong with a reputable power strip with RF filtering and surge suppression.  I have used Iso-Max, Trip-Lite and Monster strips. Reputable, actual engineering. 

None of that is going to make it sound any better. Just safer. I have not lost any audio to surges, but two stove control boards, two TVs and one computer.  My audio is all old school with transformer inputs except my new DACs


Your post represents what I love and hate about the internet. I love it because your question is clearly communicated and others with relevant experience donate their time and expertise to answer your question. The negative is that you are the one with all of the equipment, including your ears, to answer the question that you pose. To rephrase your post…. I trust the ears of others that I don’t know, more than I trust my own ears, so tell me what to do. My power amps are plugged into a very expensive conditioner. I also have a whole house surge protector. I live in an area with frequent lightening storms, so the isolation is important. My suggestion to you is to decide how important surge protection is to you and then trust your ears more than people that you don’t know. Try answering your own question by listening. If you can’t tell the difference, then great. Go with the added surge protection.

I love the “edit” function, because one other thing entered my thoughts.  Maybe, your question wasn’t stated clearly.  Maybe, you are stating that with a short A/B you could not hear a difference, but you would like to try a longer comparison and wanted suggestions as to what to listen for and perhaps, what to use as source material…ie….music.

I posed this same question directly to Shunyata, as I have a Hydra 6, and the response from the factory was as follows:

"What you've heard about amplifier performance into and out of power distributors (ours included) is accurate. We will most always recommend that customers try their amp into our products and compare that directly to the wall outlet."


Great sensible advice.

I plug my amp and everything else into the Black Lion PG-2R. Dedicated high current plugs, regulator and high surge protection. No difference in sound between directly into wall or conditioner. Trust your ears and balance it out with your priorities. Nobody can possibly have the golden answer for your specific system and location.


This is certainly sound advice, but we must also recognize that there is a difference between conditioners in any manufacturer’s line of power devices.  Before even asking the question, you should have a conditioner that is designed to deliver very high current for short periods of time and that is what the Shunyata Denali and Everest bring to the table.  This is also partially why these units can be sold at a much higher price point.

I think the argument is that everything likes to be cleaned up, but an amp likes to be plugged directly into something huge even more, to sound huge.

The theoretical best place to set up a stereo should probably be in a dedicated room with a bank of outlets AT a nuclear power plant. You’ll probably want it to be your own personal power plant, too, so that you don’t have to feed anything besides your own personal stereo with it.

Now that we can have silent battery operated cars, do they have enough juice to start equipping with standard power outlets? Hmm, vision requirements will still make it difficult to make an automobile the right place to set up speakers. But if they’re from lower, or you’re ok with letting them be on the ceiling... Hmm, there won’t even be a sweet spot in a car, too cramped. But still, after it’s silent, and your battery gets big enough...

The government will be right not to allow personal nuclear reactors, but there should be no reason you can’t have your own personal any other type of power plant. Just keep working on getting rich, someone will probably eventually make speakers that cost more than a nuclear reactor, anyhow. I’d like to see a supercar that’s actually a sound isolated cube van, designed to be a mobile listening room.  That would be very affordable, too, really. A supercar (or custom sound isolated electric cube van) is around 1 million, and the best stereo setup so far is probably less than 2 million. You could make it to that easily, by only being a single billionaire... By then, you’ll probably have a 2nd identical version of your home reference system in your $40 million personal jet, and be complaining about the background noise of the engines in it.  No, with jet engines, you'll probably want to pay someone to design and make you an uber pair of closed-back headphones, which, outside of the Orpheus and that $40k Sennheiser set with the marble amp and dac included, have only reached $6k so far.  And those Senn's are open-back, anyhow, so no good for jet engine travel.  They may all be open-back, at 6k, so far, anyhow.  I guess people will always be arguing that open backs will sound bigger and less reflective, so too bad for jet engine people.  Nah, the IEM people always want to argue that that presentation can be given with great care, someone will come along with $900k IEM's, eventually.

I just read the topic on this I did not read any comments but I know some manufacturers do not like power conditioners to be used with their products I would call customer support first I know Denon for one does not recommend a power conditioner

You guys are great, I just got up and moved the plug on my little office Peach Tree Nova 300 (integrated) to a wall outlet and huge diff. Not kidding. During -While playing Dark Star 2-27-69 thru some Harbies 30.1's so diff was apparent to me. anyway...Does anyone ever ask this question about Integrated equip anyway?

@johnnycamp5:  Right, toroidal transformers don't perform well for balanced power supply systems.  Although nobody ever sells theirs because they're awesome, the Dodd Balanced Power Supply, the unit that you'll see powering the electronics at all GR Research demos, uses a massive 100 lb. laminated core transformer.  It has no sonic signature; only improving signal to noise ratio and dynamics


No amps on power conditioners. If you have a really nice preamp that stays off the conditioner too. If you don’t believe me then play three songs with your amp plugged into the conditioner. Then plug it right into the wall, wait three days, and play the same three songs. Only change this one thing. That way you know it’s the amp. I think the power conditioner can starve the amp and /or color the sound based on what technology it is using. During heavy lightning storms or when on vacation I unplug all of it. 

@hsounds "Then plug it right into the wall, wait three days, and play the same three songs."


help me understand what the 3 day wait is all about

3 days?  I understood SCIENCE (psychoacoustics) has clearly proven auditory memory only lasts seconds to minutes.

Equipment always sounds “different” after a day or so, at least to those without the rare “golden ears.”


I am interested in your outcome. As this thread has proven, results/outcomes certainly are going to vary depending on the particular power amplifier and conditioner equipment under scrutiny. There aren’t any absolutes in these matters.


I did not wait 3 days to try out. My memory isn't that good anymore. I did go back and forth with a good hard hitting LP. "Atomic Movie Sound Track". Yes, when I really listen, there is a difference that I notice when it is at a higher volume. Now I wonder if I should move my tube pre-amp (uses 6SN7 octal tubes, has dual mono regulated power supplies for each channel) and bypass the conditioner. I would need to do some power cord movements. I have a very good upgraded wall outlet. I may just double it up with 1 more to get enough to add the pre-amp to it also. I don't want to do that for no reason and I don't have enough outlets, to just swap my cords around.

Now that my ST-120 is right, THANKS for ALL the GREAT helpful responses, does anyone have any experience with pre-amps making a difference or my VTA SP-12 in particular? 

One quick question please. Is keeping any tube device off of the conditioner? I also have tube Rogue phono-pre, tube DAC, tube headphone amp. Or only high current drawing devices, like the main amp?

audioisnobiggie  LOL  I know where a bunch of Sturgeon Class Fast Attack Sub Nuc Plants, along with the one I was on, are buried. :)  Thanks for being funny without being condescending! I hardly post on here in fear of being made fun of, for asking questions. Thanks. 

Hey Facten,

Sorry for the delay. If the capacitors discharge then he the op will need enough time for everything to charge up and level off. This may not be for 100% tube amp. That might only need a day. I have tested a lot of power cords and components. I mean a lot. I do not want to get into an audio war. I just wanted the op to have a totally fair a/b test. You can usually tell right away if you test with the right tracks that you know well and have a good ear. I doubled my outlets from two receptacles to four receptacles and plugged everything but my sources into them. All sources went into the “conditioner” I use Puritan 156 with the Puritan Ultra XX power cord. Nordost is killer stuff but I would spend a lot more than I wanted to. I also have the Puritan GroundMaster system with two 8’ copper coated rods outside my listening room. 

@hsounds - Thanks for your response. Regarding tube equipment, I don’t know what other folks do but I turn my tube equipment off after each listening session. My experience with each listening session is that after the tubes warm up 30 - 40 minutes that the SQ settles back in . That being my case, if I was going to do the wall vs conditioner test I’d wait 15 minutes after turning off the tube amp to let the tubes "settle" before starting it back up with the power cord in its new position , let the tubes warm up again and then play the same tracks and assess what I hear. Net net I think folks can determine the interim timeline for assessment based upon their normal listening experiences

I had a problem plugging my amplifiers into a Power conditioner where the amplifiers were not getting enough power to turn on properly. I apparently overcrowded the conditioner with lots of audio equipment. When I connected an amplifier direct to a dedicated outlet the problem went away, it was a 1000 W amplifier

I would prefer to connect amplifiers direct to the wall but surge protection is a big problem and when you have very expensive amplifiers you don’t want to risk them. I probably need to get a dedicated power conditioner, of quality, for the amplifiers to protect them.

I have a surge protector Circuit in my panel box and this is something but not sure it can be depended on to protect an expensive amplifier.

Losing tens of thousands of dollars due to a surge incident is definitely something to consider. So a second power conditioner dedicated to a couple mono amplifiers seems very prudent.

@emergingsoul  - Maybe an option for protecting your amps would be a ZeroSurge or Brickwall unit

hsounds, I understand grounding. At my job we "star" ground the external equipment all the time. I was curious on this "Puritan GroundMaster system". I was wondering if all my sources are plugged into the power conditioner and it is plugged into the same outlet as my Amp. Then shouldn't they be all on the same ground effectively? I know bad grounding can cause problems. Did that help you out? 


Facten, I power off my tube devices when not used. I will look into some surge protection. Do you think surge protection will cause and sound degregation? (SP?)


Thanks Scott

@smoorenc - I've incorporated ZeroSurge units into both of my systems and I haven't heard any sound degradation


This two outlet surge protector looks pretty simple and may be a really good thing. I take heart to it being in your systems given all the stuff you’re into. Sound degradation being of concern. It’s only a couple hundred bucks and available via Amazon. How could anyone go wrong. If this works out what a peace of mind you created.

Personally as I think about it more and more people who plug expensive amplifiers directly into an outlet are not really that smart myself included. I knew someone just a couple months ago who had a very expensive 300 W tube amplifier and it got hit. That’s scary crap. It only has to happen once.


Hey Smoornc,

If you have all of your components plugged into the same surge protector which is plugged into the same outlet then it would be grounded together. One problem is some manufacturers float the ground on the power cord input. In that case they are not grounded together. 
Also, Most grounding rods connected to your breaker box are not for audio. It’s there as a safety measure. Plus, the products builders use can be ridiculous. Like pounding in a metal conduit pipe and using it as the ground. 
Star grounding from the chassis is great!  Especially if the manufacturer did not ground from the power cord. It also helps eliminate noise.

Signal ground is different. That is where you are using the negative terminal on your interconnect terminals connected to you equipment chassis or back panels. I would say leave signal ground alone unless you talk to a dealer. You can mess up you gear real fast if you short a class D amp or a balanced amp.

Puritan is a unique product line that can take care of all three. They even have a product called GroundMaster City in case you can not install your own grounding rods outside your building. It works upto 85% as well as the GroundMaster with the rods. Great for multi unit dwellings. 

Hey Facten, 

The only tube equipment I have for now is my tube preamplifier. It’s an ARC Ref 2 SE. I only have it on when listening. It has a lot of capacitors so it needed about a day and a half after I moved the power cord from the Puritan to the wall outlet. You can usually tell that something good is happening right away. I just like to be fair and compare apples to apples. Also, Anyone thinking about a Puritan product. The power conditioners take 12 days to break in. I call it the 12 days of Christmas. The first day it’s great because it’s the first present. Somewhere in the middle you get socks and underwear. That sucks! But somewhere between the 10th and 12th day you get the big gift- awesome sound! Or back in the day an Atari 2600 with games. I’m telling you this because I own two of these and they both did the same thing. I hope this helps. 

Well i had my Krell Illusion plugged into one circuit and my Krell Duo 300 XD

into another and wound up taking a lighting strike 1 mile from my house which

wound up blowing out the digital processor on my new Illusion which had to be sent to Krell for repair  while the amp was just fine needless to say i am now looking at putting some power conditioning on both of these.  Yes the odds of this happening could be rare but I had it happen to me and don't want to put my equipment at risk again 

 Very interesting article on Zero Surge. That also shows what @facten  talked about. No changes in power signal. I am ordering a zero Surge. Zero Surge Analysis and Review 


What a beautiful amplifier! I have the same VTA ST-120 with KT120 tubes, but it is nowhere near as beautiful as yours.

My experience (and with the same amplifier as yours) is that it will definitely sound better plugged directly into the receptacle and bypass the power conditioner. I would also recommend (if you have not done so already), that you upgrade the power receptacles themselves.....that is worth another bump in sound quality. I can highly recommend 3 receptacles: Furutech GTX-D(G) gold plated, Furutech GTX-D(R) rhodium plated, or the Oyaide R1. All are around $200 give or take, and well worth the upgrade....or at least were in my system.

Thanks for nice comments. I had fun building it and the preamp. Yes, I have an upgraded outlet too. Thanks!

Hi All, 1 more advice question. I ordered the Zero Surge 2 outlet. Mainly because that one would fit behind the cabinet. I don't know which device to plug in the other outlet. I have one outlet for ST-120 tube amp. The next one I have 2 devices and I am not sure which one to use it for. I have a 13 channel Onkyo HT receiver and a VTA SP14 tube preamp. Any advice between those two on which one to use in the other outlet? Thanks again, Scott


Years ago, this was the big question for myself, as well.  When I asked the experts what to do, some said plug my amp directly into the wall socket, and some said plug it into a power conditioner.  So, I experimented.  I spent a considerable amount of time comparing the sound quality of my amps (some SS, and some tube) plugged directly into the wall socket, and then plugged into a power conditioner.  In the end, I found that my amps always sounded better plugged into a power conditioner.  But, ultimately, it all depended upon what conditioner I used.  This was critical when all was said and done.  Not all power conditioners are created equal.  Long story short, I found that the Audioquest Niagara line of conditioners (I opted for the Niagara 3000 ) were superb for amps (any amp).  My amp's sound quality plugged into the Audioquest Niagara 3000 was much improved, providing much cleaner, non-power restricted, power.  I'll always plug any amp I'll ever own now, and in the future into some type of power conditioning.