Surge and Conditioning

Hi all, I have a Marantz SR5011 and McIntosh MC300 as the main components in my system. I live where we have lightning throughout the summer. I am contemplating adding a surge protector and power conditioner to the system. I have an in wall 20a plug in and breaker. I don’t really want to spend $3000 for mcp500 but curious what more knowledgeable people here think about it?  Thanks in advance.


Is it mandatory with McIntosh owners that they always buy McIntosh products?

There are plenty of high quality power conditioners that don't involve paying a premium for the McIntosh name.

I have no idea about other McIntosh owners and what they like or don’t? If you re-read my original post, I own a marantz receiver and I’m specifically asking for other options than the mcp500 as I don’t want to spend $3,000. Thank you for pointing out there are other manufacturers, but who are they and what units are you recommending?  Thanks. 

I did a lot of research for almost a year and ended up with a Furman 15, they do have a 20 amp one also. You can find them on Amazon. Although I could have spent much more, I have found an improvement without breaking the bank. No current limiting which was a big concern of mine. Plus some conditioners don't have surge protection, the Furman has both.

Hope this helps a bit.

Power is often discussed here. Too bad that we don’t have some company reps to help us along. If a Furman really isn’t current limiting to power amps and if it really does filter out a majority of the noise, then how do Shunyata, Audioquest and PS Audio manage to sell their power units? I’m all in favor of getting good value, but my $700-$800 Pangea power conditioners are not anywhere close to my Shunyata. I do believe that Furman is a step up when compared to Pangea.

We also have members that have tried a power product and not noticed a major improvement. I believe this is due to a few factors. First, they might magically have great power out of the wall and then all that needs to be prevented is noise from other components. Secondly, many use products that are only minimally impactful and lastly, some components are undoubtedly supplied with killer power supplies. I must have really noisy power because for me, adding my Shunyata power conditioner was my first jaw dropping change in my system. That said, I’m sure there are many Shunyata power products that would not have made such an improvement.

You should head on over to What’s Best Forums. A lot of manufacturers there and a totally different vibe there. 

A whole house breaker is something I highly recommend- in expensive and installed at the circuit breaker. 

@overthemoon is correct and many of the more modern (not necessarily better) homes this is standard, depending on local codes of course. 

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+1 on whole house surge protection. It is required in the NEC as of 2020, but as I mention in the blog, the NEC and manufacturers do NOT recommend you use them alone, especially for anything sensitive.

They are effective but have a high let-through voltage and are meant to protect your fire alarms, automated lights, appliances, etc.

I can tell you from experience here in South Carolina that the point of use surge protectors make a difference.

Thank you all for the comments. Understood on the whole house. We are building a new home and will do that there but not going to put it in here. Are the furmans voltage limiting?  The tech I spoke to at our local shop says to make sure it’s not voltage limiting. Thanks!

No need to spend thousands, check out Zero Surge.  I have heard their products in mega dollars systems. Also inviting @hchilcoat for further feedback.

Thank you. I will check them out. Any thoughts on surgeX? I’m seeing them mentioned along with zero surge. Thanks!


Regarding SurgeX, See my post, and specifically check out the Wirecutter testing I link to.

To the best of my knowledge they are the only independent reviewers who actually performed surge testing on the current crop of protection.




Simple. Black Lion Audio pg-2 power conditioner. Greate surge protection to boost and under $300.

The OP got an interesting thread / dialogue going on with his initial post, an often debated topic of power, how big an impact it has in performance and the best solutions.

OP - your direction really depends on what you are looking to accomplish beyond Surge Protection.  Are you looking to clean up “dirty” power?  Are you looking to isolate each plug, eliminating any electrical interference prior to the plug?  Are you looking to provide more stable power that can deliver reserves of power if a demanding unit (amp) requires more power at times to reach peak performance? If you go with a Power Filter only, it can limit power delivered to a power hungry amp which can dampen dynamics, overall performance.

Deadhead mentioned Furman - if you wanted to jump into adding a power solution to your system Furman is a great product, value.  They are one if not the most trusted and used name in Professional Broadcasting Studios.  They are the brand the pros go to.  It’s not that some of the Audiophile brands aren’t as good but if you want a unit trusted in the field by those who are trusting their livelihood, great option.  I’m not affiliated with Furman, I do own the Elite 20 amp unit.  It’s a great filer but it’s not an isolated or power regenerator.  It’s not ideal for someone with a power hungry amp.  It is a better filter option than other units performing the same functions but not the right tool.  It also isn’t an isolator, if you are looking to isolate power for each unit, this unit doesn’t do that, either. 

You don’t need to break the bank to find unites that can filter, isolate and are not power limiting.  Power regenerations which is another level of providing max power to a hungry unit can get pricey.  There are some great boutique companies that build units using higher grade parts than most, the engineering behind design on these units isn’t a secret, so if they know how to design, build the unites you’ll get great performance with better parts for a much better price.  I’d buy something that filters, isolates and isn’t limiting on power.  That removes the dirty power, isolated the units you are plugging in meaning any interference or noise isn’t coming from your power grid or other appliances, items plugged in and the units won’t be bottlenecked on available power.  This can make a marked improvement in performance depending on your gear, requires a well engineered product with quality parts.  Doesn’t require any fancy marketing, audiophile terms or some newly discovered technology.  I’m in the North East and Pine Tree Audio is a great option but there are plenty of smaller manufactures with the passion, know how that offer products with great performance and value relative to the more well known brands. 




your post summed this up perfectly for me in a way I have been struggling to articulate. I am looking for surge protection and noise reduction by cleaning up some dirty power, likely due to the coax cable that comes in near the 20 a plug in (I should have designed that differently from the beginning but too late now. I am looking for a device that won’t limit current to the main mc300 amp either. So here are my questions:

would it need to regenerate power to be able to achieve this?

I keep reading how SurgeX doesn’t use MOV and to stay away from anything that does, but I have no idea how valid those comments are? Seems to be from folks in high lighting areas so I’m paying attention to that, but maybe for the wrong reasons. 

I added a ground loop isolator for the coax cable, but should I run this through a device as well?  I’m not seeing too many that offer the coax piece, or if I do, I’m not sure if they do the other parts of this (non limit the main power amp and subs, and clean the power).


I appreciate your guidance and will check out pine tree today as well. Thanks!

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I recently started working with Equitech, and Ive learned a ton about all the different types of "power conditioners" available.  It is very confusing world with many different types of units all called power conditioners.  

Surge protection: not power conditioning, although some people call it that.  This is surge protection and is designed for exactly that, surges in power lines like lightening or? Mostly uses MOV's to deliberately blow if a big surge happens to protect the gear downstream but there are other methods.  Many pieces of gear have MOVs built in to the power supply.  But for spike protection, this is the only way.  

Regulation:  also not power conditioning, these can raise level of AC lines that are sagging due to poor power transmission or very high demand.  So this is to correct power dropping down to well below 120V.  "Brown outs" do create a significant problem for audio gear, computers etc. Many pieces of gear do not work right on 100V, 90V or even 80Volts.  There are places in the country that have this problem and you can measure this with a meter.

Power Conditioning via regeneration: These type actually redraw the AC line sine wave and recreate the AC power via a unique design (PS audio is well known for this).  Sounds attractive and can work to separate inside from outside.  Can help some noise or very dirty power conditions or clipped power but is also risky to some types of power supplies.  There is a major console company on the pro side called SSL that has seen a lot of damage to power supplies from power regeneration, recently sending a letter to dealers telling them not to use power regeneration on their products.  Not much regeneration in use in pro.

Power Conditioners using fitering: These don't seperate inside from outside, but they attempt to filter out noise riding on the AC line.  Think of it like EQ on the AC , reducing certain frequencies of noise on the AC sine wave.  This is about the only way to get rid of certain types of EMI and other noise BUT doesn't recondition the line, doesn't prevent noise- it attempts to reduce it after it's already present.  

Power conditioners using transformers: These are about the best system for separating inside from outside and can significantly reduce noise by preventing it.  They don't regulate, protect from surges or filter.  They are sized as to total amperage draw of everything plugged into it, so they can be bought in different sizes for different demands.  For home audio a 15A transformer conditioner would be the right size unless you have a lot of high draw amplifiers.   They actually use a massive transformer to isolate things on the incoming side vs the outgoing side of the transformer.  You can often tell a transformer conditioner from specs: the weight and various choices in maximum draw- transformers are big and very heavy and limited to draw.  [Little power strips don't use big transformers- they are often only filters or surge with no statement as to maximum draw, only surge limit (in joules).  Surge protection doesn't use a transformer and power regeneration doesn't use a transformer. ] 

Balanced Power conditioners: These are a high end version of the transformer type of conditioner and the type to use for audio.  It uses the same technique as a balanced audio to cancel noise.  Few 120V transformer power conditioners are balanced, Equitech is the inventor of this and dominates recording/mastering studios to lower AC line noise and improve dynamics.   They are the major player with a 120V balanced transformer, buy there are others in larger applications based on 240V incoming and 30A to 100A + draw).  

Some difficult noise problems in major markets for industrial customers use ALL the above: transformer balanced conditioning, regulation and surge protection all via different units on the same incoming power feed.   

I work primarily in pro audio as TransAudio Group calling on major commercial studios and these balanced conditioners are the ones they buy and install (sometimes larger units in the wall at the incoming power box, or sometimes smaller rack units in the room itself in the gear rack).  

The #1 preventative thing is to have circuits that do not any non audio gear plugged in to them, so no refrigerators or lights or computers etc plugged into the same circuit.  Studios almost always get a dedicated line that isolates their power feed from anyone else in the building, down the street or next door.  They also try to operate rooms from each other, using individual  transformer type balanced power conditioning. Noise is commonly transferred around among gear on the same AC system, especially lighting, motors, digital gear, air conditioners, etc.  Your neighbors stuff can affect your power, and balanced conditioners can prevent 90% of this.  Large computer users and manufacturers (plus medical device users/manufacturers) need this type of low noise power feed as well.  

An isolated incoming power line costs a small fortune from the local power company but is crucial in low noise applications like commercial recording where low noise is a feature.  Blackbird in Nashville has its own power line and multiple equitechs in house to isolate rooms.  My office has a massive refrigerator sized transformer on our power as it used to be a computer manufacturer.  

There is validity to using better connectors, wire etc in your power lines.  Audio demos do happen in Equitech world, where a better version with significantly upgraded parts does indeed improve the audio performance of gear plugged into it.   Equitech makes a 2R using an imported balanced transformer and basic switches and outlets, and a 2RQ version with a better transformer and better connectors, wire and switches.  Mastering guys all comment on the sonic differences when they demo both, the 2RQ is the one they typically buy.  Normal small studios buy the lesser cost 2R.

Not sure what regulation is used commonly.   

Anyway, hope this helps someone.  Its taken a while to understand all this but still a lot I don't know.




@lonemountain  awesome summary, thank you!  Question for you as I looked up your company’s offerings, which are impressive; however, beyond my budget for this piece (for now). Knowing that, what would you recommend under $500 to $900?  Thanks!

I'd look for smaller transfomer isolated device, from other companies.  Equitech starts at 15A, but I think there are 5A and such on the computer market.  It looks like Tripp Lite makes smaller ones..