Sound Better w/Amp Directly Into Wall Then Thru Zero Surge

I’ve been breaking in a Pathos Classic Remix. It’s lovely at small things, but when things got complex, the soundstage flattenned, the sound compressed, and the top end got sort of hashy.


When my last amp and speakers got fried from a surge, even when plugged into a Shunyata Hydra, I decided I needed some more serious surge protection. I was directed to a Zero Surge brand protector. I have been plugging the Classic Remix into the Hydra and that into the Zero Surge.


My previous amp, a Unison Research Unico was quite improved going through the Hydra in terms of the sound, but, again, that was going into the wall.


With the Classic Remix plugged into the Hydra (and the Zero Surge), I decided to plug the Classic Remix directly into the wall. Immediately there was an improvement with the dynamic bloom and lessening of the harshness when the music got big.


I’m wondering how much the Zero Surge was reining in the dynamics? I need to try comparing the Hydra directly into the wall with the Pathos plugged in, as well as trying to plug the Zero Surge directly into the Zero Surge. But, boy, it seems as if something was limiting the current to the Pathos.


But I have heard that some manufacturers say to plug their apps directly into the wall. How do I protect my equipment (without going to crazy expense)?


One other thing - I called Zero Surge and Jim, the guy I spoke to, told me that there's nothing in the Zero Surge that would cause it. "It's just wire", he said. 


I'm not sure I understand all the ramifications regarding the pathways of power you are referring to, but having been an owner of the Shunyata Hydra 6 for many years I am confident in saying that 1) even with multiple power surges the Hydra has protected everything plugged into it and 2) the quality of sound with the amp (McIntosh MC7300) plugged into the Hydra is better, not worse as compared to being plugged directly into the wall. 

Not surprising. There is a lot of poor understanding of electrical concepts here on the forum.  

Here is the basic problem:  People don't realize the incongruity of buying a 10ga power cord and thinking your amp only needs the spec sheet power of 250 watts.  

Good luck,


I have a 15amp Shunyata Python power cord running out of the Hydra.


I, too, have been an owner of a Hydra 6 for over 20 years. It was only this past September when something occurred. The tech surmised that the Unico must have been hit with surge. That is what it looked like to him. Whatever happened, it fried the soeakers' voice coils as well. Did it start with the amp, or did it come through the wall? I don't know (Is the former possible).


I talked with a couple of people in the business and they said that MOVs, which are what is in the Hydra, provides only so much protection, and more protection through transformers is better.

I have run my amplifier direct into the wall socket as well as a conditioner and prefer the conditioner sound. Everyone will have a different opinion and  it is worth plugging direct into the wall socket for a comparison. I have a whole house surge suppressor on the breaker box with good quality breakers and a very substantial grounding rod set up. If the lightning bolts are flying, I am still unplugging all my gear

Yes. A conditioner can be distinct from a stand alone surge protector, which is what the Zero Surge unit is.


So I did try plugging the Pathos directly into the Zero Surge. By ding do, I lost some openness, a bit of distinction between instruments in the soundscape, a bit of flattening of the soundstage. The treble, in addition to losing a bit of openness, is less smooth plugged directly into the wall. Overall, the amp’s sound has lost a bit of its magic, and sounds a bit closed in and tight. 


So I’m wondering what is happening in or to the amp to cause this change in sound? Again, the rep from Zero Surge today said that there shouldn’t be any difference. "It’s just wiring."

They’ll always claim that their power conditioner is non-current limiting. But the ZeroSurge uses filtering which affects sonics on high-current draw components like amps. I have a Brick Wall (same design) and hear the same effect as you when amp is plugged in.

If you want surge protection for your amp, buy a high quality power strip with no filters. Something better than a plastic unit designed for computers.

I know Nelson Pass likes direct plug in for his equipment. Any good amp will regulate the voltage itself and shouldn't need a conditioner.

It’s just getting in the way. You’re hearing an impedence of sorts to the power available. If it sounds better without, you know what to do.


I am a Shunyata fan. I’ve had the original Hydra and Tritons 1,2 and 3. Each time I update my power conditioner, I plug my amps into the Shunyata to see what happens. Each time, the sound is less powerful and more restricted than if I plug the amp directly into the wall.

I plug my entire front end into the Triton .

I've never had a ZeroSurge or SurgeX.  I have used Furman conditioners with LiFT and SMP and in dense apartments it was always better with them than without.

Yes, then the question is, how do I protect it from potentially frting without worsening the sound?


The power strip with no filters will protect it with no worsening to the sound? 

The power strip with no filters will protect it with no worsening to the sound?

Yes, a strip which is wired directly to receptacles and uses a circuit breaker should have no audible effect on sound.

Search power strips in the Audiogon archives.


Edit: it's best to have a short power cord or a unit with an IEC to use your own PC.

I have everything plugged into a Furman...except the amp. It goes directly into the dedicated line socket on the wall. I'm using 10 gauge it should be a quick death.

the Hydra contains metal oxide varistors, which were promoted by Russ Andrews in a couple of his products in the early 80‘s. At the time quite a few enthusiasts obtained these components individually and inserted them in mains plugs to ascertain whether they improved the sound as Russ claimed. While the sound did change in a manner that some may call an improvement, there was an almost universal view that their inclusion lead to a constriction of dynamics. My own experimentation lead me to concur with these conclusions. The effect is most marked in amplifiers with high current demands.

It must also be borne in mind that varistors do wear out, and cease to be effective after providing a certain amount of overload protection. Their performance in failure mode can be unpredictable.

They are very cheap to buy and you can easily observe their effect by inserting one across the live and neutral terminals inside a suitable mains plug.

I think the answer to the question starts with how your power is, without conditioning. (Surge protection is a different question). I’m sure that some find power conditioners to improve the overall sound of the system, but wonder how many of those folks are living in apartments or are on grids that are nasty/out of date?

I’ve tried various power conditioners over the years, and my system always sounded better without them.

Insofar as "surge protection" is concerned, I do use a whole house plus a surge board on my big isolation transformer (10 kVa in a 400 lb case outside). I don’t use point of use on that system, but go straight into the receptacles (Porter Ports, no longer available).If a close lightening strike all bets are off. We do get the fringes of some seriously crazy storms in Austin, but not like Oklahoma or some other parts of Texas. (hee-ha). :)

I have a whole bunch of things here. A ZeroSurge supplies power to my vintage Quad 57s in the second system, and there, it does not necessarily interfere with sonics. (I’m simply keeping the panels charged).

But on the main system, I went to some lengths to sort fo the power from the service entrance, using commercial electricians for a more than standard residential system.

Truth be told, the power where I am in Austin is better, overall, than what I had in the lower Hudson Valley of NY. (Old infrastructure).

@johnto VERBATIM! This is exactly what both Shunyata and the folks at Simaudio  said. I had reached out to Shunyata on a question regarding one of their power cords and when I mentioned I had my amp plugged into a Furman Elite 20PFi Richard at Shunyata immediately suggested I bypass with the amp and go direct to the outlet. Reaching out to Simaudio confirmed go direct because their amps "will regulate the voltage itself and do not need need a conditioner" exactly at johnto stated. I do have a whole house surge protector (Leviton) at the breaker box and a dedicated 20 amp line as well for my HT equipment. 

I will say as soon as I went direct to the outlet things seemed to really open up. It was a very audible improvement and I thought to myself 'why didn't I do this sooner, if only I had known'. Both Shunyata and Sim said I would notice improvements in sound but I couldn't have imagined how much.


Like they said though "try it both ways and see which you prefer"...

I've been extremely happy with my Audioquest Niagara 1200 and Thunder power cord. No issues whatsoever, and to me it sounds better. 

I know on this forum that many profess to plug amps directly into the wall.  I think this is OK is some regions of the US, but I would not do in other regions especially where the grid is very old.  Hence I use McIntosh MPC 1500 and EQUI=CORE 1000.  There is no degradation in sound to my hears.

I have never had any degradation of sound quality using power conditioners and surge protection. I have my Amplifiers and analog on one circuit and digital on a separate circuit to isolate and possibility of creep or cross contamination from these components.


So I’m wondering what is happening in or to the amp to cause this change in sound? Again, the rep from Zero Surge today said that there shouldn’t be any difference. "It’s just wiring."

Emphasis added.

That is exactly what the issue is! When you plug your amps into the wall, there is less voltage drop because there is less wire. The voltage drop is easily measured with most any digital voltmeter. A voltage drop also means there is current limiting. It should not be surprising then that direct into the wall can sound better, since the power supplies in the amplifier will be working closer to the design spec.

+1 Richard at Shunyata also told me to plug my amps directly into the outlets.

I am in the process of running a dedicated line. Are going gonzo with 50’ of $3K of Oyaide copper wire and Oyaide copper outlets. My only question will be if I can eliminate the Shunyata Triton/Typhon or still use it for my preamp. If I sold the T/T, I could cover the whole cost of the AC improvement. Time will tell.

+1 for direct wall plug in… after multiple experimenting no more returns to the topic. 

Amps with Linear Power Supply draw current from the mains in short narrow spikes of very high amplitude.  Such current spikes cause larger voltage drop than expected.   It can limit maximum output peaks reducing dynamics.  For less than maximum peaks most amp should be regulated well enough to supply desired output voltage.   My Benchmark AHB2 is line and load regulated, plugged into high current bank of Furman Elite 20PFI that has tight non-sacrificial over/under voltage protection.  MOVs I installed (BoltShield) in the circuit breaker panel also offer some help.  Most likely they won't reduce voltage to safe level,  but anything helps.  Lightning creates very short pulse that will be further reduced by filtering coils in series or even transformer itself (limited frequency responce).   Unfortunately nothing will stop direct hit, so I always unplug during thunderstorm or when traveling.

Interesting to me (and to the dealer) is that the sound seems to be changing, possibly depending on the time of day. At least this morning, the sound was emphasizing the top end of things. Aspects like cymbals and sibilance were quite pronounced. The bass was fairly tight. 


Mid-afternoon, however, the top end was tamed and the extreme bottom end seemed bloated. I heard it through the headphones as well as the speakers, although the bloat was more apparent through the speakers.


I'm planning to keep a journal for a couple of days to see if this change is consistent, and consistent with the time of day. 

I'm not sure I understand your question. 

Right now, the Classic Remix integrated is plugged directly into the wall. Everything else is plugged into the Shunyata Hydra, which is plugged into the Zero Surge.

analog, why are you daisy-chaining one power conditioner into another? The end result will be a loss in SQ due to excess filtering and circuitry in addition to extra cables.

I'm not. They are two different beasts. The Zero Surge is only a surge protector. No power line conditioning provided.

Ive never had luck with power conditioners.....they all change the sound but there always are warts

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If they are within your budget, may I suggest you try an Audioquest Niagara 5000 or 7000?  They are designed to address the current limiting issue of most conditioners by providing a power bank which can actually provide more current than what’s available out of the wall for short periods. That, plus excellent noise reduction and equipment protection.

I was skeptical at first as every conditioner I had previously tried was more harmful than helpful. The Niagara made a large improvement that was immediately audible in my system.  

Audition before you buy as YMMV, but be prepared to buy before you audition, too.