what does a power conditioner really do?

and why would one really be necessary 
It could do many things or very few, but the goal is usually to remove power line noise from the system, thereby improving the low level detail - In theory. In reality, a power regenerator actually takes your wall signal and converts it to a new, clean AC signal, feeding your components with fresh, perfect-voltage AC. Sounds great right? So why doesn’t everyone use them? Then you have the high-end conditioners, usually with some sort of sophisticated filtering to remove the hash between the notes and the overall quietness of the system. Many audiophiles use these. Then you have the high-end power strips that are only expensive outlets, wired together with expensive wire. The best of these types are said by some to render more improvement than either of the others. The only way to really know is to try one and see if it moves you. I will say, a lot has to do with the quality of power coming into your home. If it’s really great, a conditioner might not improve anything that much. But I will say, IMO, even a good basic power strip like the $350 CablePro, can make a sonic improvement in terms of soundstage depth and overall quietness. Last point - some believe that all power conditioners degrade the sound, especially of larger amplifiers and insist on going direct to the wall. So that’s all I have to say about that.
what does a power conditioner really do?
It transforms cheap power into expensive power  ...

I am in Ontario, Canada. Ontario Hydro has installed smart meters. To maximize their profits, they feed us 125V. Big problem.

Unless I'm mistaken, manufacturers try to build for 230V/115V. There is a bit of leeway. 125V is too high, and bad for music.

I have a power regenerator, and it's awful. Not recommended.

I have a Torus toroidal cleaner. 125V comes in, 120V comes out. Ideally it could be adjustable to 115V. Unfortunately it does not.

The Torus feeds a 'Balanced' BPT conditioner. What a gem. Fabulous. I believe Chris is now with Equi-Tech. Highly recommended. Ideally you should look for a balanced conditioner which also allows 115V operation.

All things considered, I'd rather have unconditional power...

Oh, sorry.  Wrong subject...

Carry on...;)
Unless your mains is awful then don't bother as there is always an element of compression when using a conditioner.
If your mains is ok then choose a very high quality distribution block. 
Syntax said: It transforms cheap power into expensive power  .

Actually, it transforms expensive power into more expensive power. 

In theory, these devices are designed to remove RFI/EMI noise from one's system. Some products are better at this than others. Much will be determined upon your locale.
As with any audio product some are better than others(conditioners are no exception to this rule ) and a hierarchy is created. I can 2nd cousinbillyl's assessment of the BPT  balanced AC  transformers /conditioner. It is a superb device that improves sound quality across the board. I have 20 amp dedicated lines, the BPT is a step above the dedicated outlets. 
It all has to do with the quality of the AC coming into your house from the power grid. Depending on where you live, the power can be dirty, i.e., in a large city, unstable, prone to lightning strikes, or the best case scenario, a stable signal from the power company.

chayro gave good explanations of the different types of conditioner or reconditioner that would be needed.
When power is stable and does not need to be regenerated (active power conditioner), a passive conditioner can provide benefit. But, you get what you pay for.
A good passive's purpose is to lower the noise floor of the AC coming in thru your wall receptacle. It also removes RFI/EMI. The result is more detail, better separation of instruments, basically better signal to noise ratio.

The problem with power conditioners is to find one that does not restrict the dynamics of your components. Most units will state "Non-Current Limiting," which means they will let the signal flow unrestricted and not colour the sound. This may be true of low-current components, such as CDPs, DAC, preamps, but IMO, all passives affect the sonics of amplifiers.
Most members using conditioning will only have low-draw components plugged into the device and the amp plugged directly into the wall or a very high-end balanced power device.

A good passive PC can range from about $300 to $700, while active units can cost into the thousands.
I do not use a power conditioner. I use the original Naim Wiremold power strip only for my sources, CD, DVD, DAC, Preamp. I keep my Levinson amp plugged straight into the wall outlet. I have mounted the Wiremold on a block of Maple wood to keep it off of the carpet. It contains no fuse, not light and no off/on switch. 9 high quality outlets, non current limiting.

You can Google Stereophile.com and read a recent review of the newly upgraded products being offered by AV Options.com. Cryogenic treatment options as well.

www.avoptions.com › service › pricing


cousinbillyl117 posts05-15-2016 9:04pm

I am in Ontario, Canada. Ontario Hydro has installed smart meters. To maximize their profits, they feed us 125V. Big problem.

I can assure that it's either not big problem or not problem at all.

I had the same question. Asked a friend who is a nuclear, electrical and sound engineer who designs and builds (and sells) his own speaker, interconnect cables and AC power cables.
He intsalled an Audio Magic pulse gen ZX within my Amp to clean emi/rfi and had me buy a Furutech GTX-D duplex receptacle for my wall (look 'em up). Both were jaw dropping improvement. Cleaner signal, blackest background, greater imaging and wider, deeper, higher sound stage. The only other time I experienced this degree of improvement was the first time I spent a few grand on really good cables (his of course).. Would have taken a $20,000 amp AND speaker ugrade to notice as big a difference. Those 2 items above would set you back around $800.. Oh, I should mention I didn't really think I needed anything and liked my sound fine at the time. So.....
Ask Ralph Karsten of atma-sphere on what he recommends with his monster power amps. He will suggest an industrial power conditioner which was often used by military, laboratories, hospitals etc etc other across the planet. It’s called the elgar the unit is setup as 240 v input 117v output and connects to the breaker box.

These units are all discontinued. It has 3000va continuous output. And 15000va peak. It can run 2 Atmasphere MA-2 power amps and still have juice for all your dac and preamps. It has the fastest response time on the planet.

The unit is approx 200lbs.

I think they sell for 4000.00 dollars fully reconditioned.
This is a email msg ralph karsten sent 

They run off of 240V so you have to hook it up to your breaker box. You would then feed your audio room with the output of the Elgar. It has enough current to easily supply your entire room, even if you had a set of MA-2s.

It regulates AC voltage (no need for a variac) and uses a massive transformer to isolate the AC output. There is then a low distortion oscillator that is locked to the AC line frequency- the unit compares this oscillator to that of the output of the transformer and applies a correction signal to a feedback winding on the transformer. The result is a low distortion sine wave all the way up to full power, free of spikes. It puts **all** high end audio power conditioners to shame.

Ralph also mentioned these clean up 5th harmonic distortion waves. It also has the lowest distortion rating and the fastest response time.

If you are looking for a ac conditioner these are the ones to get.
Ive used a lot of different products in this category over the years, Tara Labs Power Screens were the best but they're NLA and hard to find used.  

I currently run a PS Audio P10 and it works great.  Solves several power issues I have in my state and provides some excellent diagnostics realtime and post event.  I bought mine new at 50% off retail from an authorized dealer...

As many others have emphasized, the quality of power into your home is important. I'd say equally (if not more so) important are the other devices in your house. Many audio components have some aspects of what a power conditioner does, built right into them. Other devices in your home can create significant electrical noise (think major appliances).

A power conditioner may offer the following features:
- Surge protection (MOV, avalanche, etc...)
- Power regeneration (very inefficient btw, if you care about your electrical bill)
- AVR (automatic voltage regulation)
- Voltage monitoring (may shut off power if voltage is too high/low)
- Isolation transformer (like in RGPC products, or an APC H15)
- RFI/EMI filtering, often with CMC's (common mode chokes)
- May provide balanced power (BPT, Equi=Tech)

I'm sure there's more, but I think that covers most power conditioners. I haven't seen much data about how effective they are in real world environments, or even controlled blind tests to show audible improvements. It's easy to create conditions to verify that the conditioner does what it advertises (i.e. feed it 100V, and it boosts it to 120V, or verify the surge protection meets the advertised specs), but knowing whether these conditions occur in your home or would even have any real noticeable effect on your equipment is a totally different story (and hard for anyone to say, because different people have such different equipment).
If you don't have a very power hungry system I found that PS Audio's P3 or P5 work rather well.  My system has more bloom, bigger soundstage, darker background.  They aren't cheap though.  
Shunyata hydra and power cords really dropped my noise floor.    I didn't really wanna think it would but once demo in my house it was an eye opener.   I'm in a loft building with 15 amp service running tube and ss gear .     I think conditioners are not gonna make a mediocre system great but they will make a great system just a touch more accurate.     Prior to the shunyata I had just a monster power strip plugged into a Panamax.     That combo did not seem to do nearly as much on my setup .   

Over a number of years I have acquired several PS Audio "PowerPlant" models — all either "B stock" or at discount. I have opened these up and found them to be well constructed with high quality components. They work great at cleaning up power and providing protection against power line borne transients. They also buffer power for peak demand.

I have demonstrated their benefits to friends, and all can easily hear the difference in terms of both a non-existant noise floor and increased dynamics. They really shine with prolonged dynamic music when played at higher volume. You will get these benefits with or without upgraded power cables, but those will also contribute additional benefit. 

By upgrading your power to clean and "buffered" power and using EMI/RFI shunning interconnects, you will hear a difference. To me that is the motivation for the spend, but the protection factor is as important.

     As well as providing (Often) sequential turn on or your components, a power condition, a power conditioner tries to make up for amplifier and preamp designs that do not have a well designed power supply, IMHO.
     They also give the retailer something else to sell you.
I prefer my 10 gauge, 30 amp wiring and electronics stuffed with big transformers and lots of big filter caps.
     I tried Classe, but I believe their gobs of small caps do not focus as well as the big ones in other brands. 
     Of course, other associated parts could be the difference.
     I am comparing Classe to things in the same price range and below.
It’s interesting that lately we are seeing more "quora " type questions here, meaning short questions about general concepts rather than "is component X good?" Or pitting 2 components against another. Hopefully it means younger people coming to the hobby since Quora seems to aim at a younger demographic.

There are some great Garth Powell videos on youtube that describe exactly what his products do, and they are worth watching.


He explains that there is 10,000 times more noise on the AC lines now compared with the 1970’s and that low level ambient cues can be 50’or 60 DB down in non compressed recordings, and that the power line noise covers those low level signals up. After hearing the 7000 in my system I can attest that this phenomenon is easy to hear.

Garth had been designing power conditioners for Furhman for 18 years or so and developed some great concepts, and then was hired away by Audioquest to build a much higher level product than Furhman was interested in, since they cater to the pro Audio world.

His Niagara 7000 (which I became an audioquest dealer for to be able to sell) has the ability to provide 90 amps of current for peaks, (which has an amazing effect on amps) in that micro dynamics are enhanced even when the amps are not being pushed hard. It’s one of the few active conditioners that is good for amps.
It lowers the inductance on the line so it’s easier for electronics to draw current.

Previously I was using an Acoustic Revive passive unit which itself had sounded better than an active unit I had.

The 7000 has 3 galvanically isolated zones so (amps, analog, digital) each have their own section, and features patented ground noise dissipation.
The nice thing is dedicated lines are not needed since an entire system is run off 1 line, and power is cleaned and stored in reserve reservoir for use.

As Garth says this has the effect of moving your house next to the power companies substation and running an 80 amp line to your system.

I will do a review of the 7000 with some sonic observations but if anyone in the NYC area wants to hear it in action (and on BHK 300 amps and the new bhk preamp or Atmasphere gear) contact me at www.triodepicturesound.com

There is also a much lower cost Niagara 1000 that has much of the bigger units tech without a transformer for amps.

Power conditioner is a vague term to describe most any device that might affect power.  Most power conditioners do not even address half of the anomalies that others have described.  Most who recommend these expensive devices ignore spec numbers.  And do not know that many power conditioners would sell at well less than half the price - and still have an obscene profit margin.

We presented a fancy conditioner to some to try.  They could hear greater clarity.  Then we opened it up.  It was a knot tied in a wire.  Yes, even a wire knot is a power conditioner.  Amazing how a knot created greater clarity - because it was in a fancy box.

Does not matter how 'clean' AC power is.  Because that power is converted even into well over 300 volt radio frequency spikes. Then superior and robust regulators and filters convert that 'now dirtiest' power into rock stable low DC voltages to power electronics.  Any conditioning done on the power cord is routinely undone inside electronics.  Then superior power conditioners clean that power.

So a wire knot does equivalent to an expensive Furman - and its fictional advantages of balanced power.  Even a wire knot conditions power.  Which means nothing when numbers are ignored.  And when one does not first learn how incoming power is intentionally made 'dirty' again.  Best power conditioner must already be inside your equipment.

Westrom have you heard the Furhman? You mentioned it’s "fictional advantages ."

While i have not heard it, in my above rant I mentioned recently acquiring (and being a dealer for ) The designers latest venture for Audioquest based on the things he developed at Furhman. however that company’s focus wasn’t high end audio so i can’t speak for its level of improvement.

The electronics I am running have excellent power supplies designed by veteran audio engineers. So the notion that properly designed equipment can’t benefit significantly from external power conditioning (even power amps) simply doesn’t hold up, at least in my system.

I also think environment plays an issue. Someone like myself in NYC faces different issues than someone in the suburbs or a rural area .

Here’s another crazy thing.

on the youtube link from my previous post - actually the next part of the 4 part video, you can hear the improvement in the amps from conditioned vs. Dedicated lines alone.... On the video.... Over my iPhone’s speaker! It’s actually crazy . I had to have a friend verify that he could hear it too. It’s seems impossible but the bass clarity was audible over a freakin’ phone. I would not have believed it if I hadn’t heard it myself.
I started ac conditioning with a monster government military surplus 300 pound transformer. It helped but was noisy. Since then I have had over twenty devices, some worked a little, some did nothing, some had liabilities, some were beautiful, some were regenerators, and the High Fidelity Waveguide power center which uses magnets to get the junk off the line.

It looks like a toaster oven, but it really works. 
I would still say the Elgar 3006B 200lbs Power Conditioner will outclass each and every single one mentioned on this thread. You really need to see these unit in person and how they can make your audio system elevate a few notch. Atma-Sphere music Systems www.atma-sphere.com is selling them and 1 is available for sale approx. 4000-4500 dollars I cant remember the price. I can tell you no other power conditioner in the high end audio market will come close to this one!!
Have you tried the High Fidelity Waveguide ten outlet prototype that has been upgraded to present standards. It is the magnets that result in its performance. 

I have never heard the Elgar but the HFC outperforms the other 28 power conditioners I've used.

I must say that the HFC benefits from pcs to ics to speaker wires all come at great expense but are also unrivaled.
@cousinbillyl 125V is perfectly reasonable.

115V is just what they call "Nominal" or "named" voltage. Equipment manufacturers must build to long term use up to 130V, I believe.

If you are that concerned get a voltage regulator, but be warned, 125V is what most pro power considers would consider "in regulation", so they won't do anything. I used to get 128-129V and it WOULD drop that down a bit, so I'd get between 129 and 125V.  << shrug >>

PG&E sent me the specs, and they were a little concerned, and eventually balanced the power in my neighborhood a little better.

"Ive used a lot of different products in this category over the years, Tara Labs Power Screens were the best but they're NLA and hard to find used."

Good to know, I have one of those.

Anyone tried the LampizatOr Silk AC Filter?:


Sounds interesting...

Depends on the application and the quality of the unit.Audience 6TSSDOX is the best sounding unit in my system much better than in the wall.

@cousinbillyl 125V is perfectly reasonable.

115V is just what they call "Nominal" or "named" voltage. Equipment manufacturers must build to long term use up to 130V, I believe.

When we first moved into our house the voltage was 125.5 volts at all times. I borrowed a chart voltage movement. Then there were few houses around and our city's population was about 60K. Now it is 117K. The voltage now is right at 117 volts. 

I have a prototype of the HFC Waveguide Power Center. It has been updated to current specs. It keeps electromagnetic waves from getting into the components. There used to be much modulation on my ac but now there is none.