Best Power Conditioner for Audiophile Systems: A Buyer’s Guide For 2023

Best Power Conditioner

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It’s a bit surprising that so many audiophiles out there are glad to invest either small or big money on various accessories and gadgets to improve sound – upgraded interconnect and speaker cables, record weights and mats, special stands for equipment speakers and a lot more – but we often do nothing at all to improve the dirty, noise AC power supply all our gear is plugged into.

But in fact improving that AC power can make a real difference to the sound of your system – exactly the kind of thing we audiophiles are always seeking, and not as subtle as you might imagine (in fact, sometimes the improvements are downright dramatic) – and can also protect your precious gear from damage and make it last longer.

In this article we’ll look at the various power conditioners available today, from inexpensive to high end, to help you decide if a good power conditioner is for you, and which one you should choose.

If you’re not ready to power through this admittedly long and in-depth buyer’s guide, here is a list of all 7 of my recommendations:

What Is a Power Conditioner?

A power conditioner, which is also often called a line conditioner or power line conditioner, is a kind of power strip or power bank, but one that does a couple of very important things that a basic and inexpensive power strip doesn’t do at all:

  1. A power conditioner will protect your precious audio equipment from power surges – not just a circuit breaker, but special circuitry to absorb and redistribute dangerous levels of excess AC power.
  2. A power conditioner will filter out noise and electrical interference.

This is just the basic list, and more expensive power conditioners will do one additional thing, which can also be very important but which really does make them a lot  more expensive:

  1. A high end power conditioner will also regulate power, offering stable voltage and enormous reserves of power when needed.

Do Power Conditioners Really Improve Sound Quality?

Yes, absolutely, the best power conditioners will improve both sound quality and video picture quality, and they also do something that is maybe even more important – protect your gear.

Even inexpensive power conditioners will effectively stop power spikes, and if those spikes are strong enough, and allowed to pass through to your audio system unchecked, they might really damage your components. Power surges and fluctuations will also cause your gear to work too hard, potentially decreasing its lifespan.

But those power spikes can also cause noise in the audio signal, often in the form of clicks or buzzing, and even pretty basic power conditioners – if you get the right one – will eliminate that noise.

At the same time, good power conditioners will filter out other noises which can come through the AC power lines, like RF interference, signal noise from other devices and appliances on the same AC lines, ground loops and other potential problems.

And yes, all of this can make a difference in sound quality, which can be pretty easy to hear in certain areas:

  • A direct reduction or elimination of hum, buzz, clicks and pops, ghosting and other noise
  • Increased speed, power and depth of bass
  • General musical focus and more open sound
  • Improved transient response and control
  • More specific, and more spacious, stereo imaging (or surround imaging in AV systems)
  • Increased dynamic energy and expressiveness
  • Greater detail

It’s important to say that these improvements are not just noticeable in stereo systems, but can make a real difference in home theater systems as well, and many people report similar improvements in video quality.

Even if some of these things are quite subtle, their accumulated effect can really make sound more clear, engaging and musical – and, even if there were no effect at all, a basic power conditioner is well worth the investment in protecting your audio equipment from damage and excessive wear.

What About Voltage Regulation?

Again, there are certain line conditioners that are also voltage regulators. These, which tend to be quite a bit more expensive, actually reprocess the AC line power, running it through a new transformer (or other circuit topography) and supplying a more stable and clean 120 volt flow of alternating current – the ideal AC power, which basically never comes from a home’s power outlet.

Now, the big question is:

Do voltage regulators actually improve sound quality?

Well, some would claim that they do not, and that this is pseudoscience at best, because all modern gear will have its own voltage regulation already.

And yet lots of otherwise quite sensible and serious audiophiles are certain that high-end power conditioners with voltage regulators make an enormous difference, increasing clarity, definition, focus and authority in the reproduced sound even beyond what a normal power conditioner will.

And so many Hi-fi enthusiasts are happy to pay this big money, and claim they can easily hear basically all aspects of the sound improving.

And I have to say that the several times I myself was able to really experience a good high end audiophile system with normal wall power, or a less expensive power conditioner, and then with a proper voltage regulator, I heard some differences in, among other things, deep bass speed and control, imaging, overall clarity and reduction of glare, and musical energy.

The technical side of all of this is far too complex to get into, but we can say pretty simply that a lot of equipment – even some higher end gear – does not have the most effective power regulation inbuilt, and some gear – especially, but not necessarily, older equipment – has none at all. And so it is the position of audiophiles that many systems will be greatly improved by stable, consistent power.

And while basic power conditioners will effectively clean power, as we’ve already discussed, and will at least keep many power surges at bay, a real voltage regulator will do all of this to a much higher level, and can make an enormous difference in sound.

Is a Voltage Regulator Worth the Money?

But we have to keep these things in perspective, and remember that a voltage regulator is often very expensive – more than most people will spend on a full stereo system – and even inexpensive power conditioners – if they’re good ones – will make a big difference to sound, and will help protect your audio equipment. 

In fact, my list of best power line conditioners includes only one proper voltage regulator – the pricey but superlative Furman P-1800 – and it’s not even the best product on the list. That honor goes to the even more expensive IT-Reference 20i, also by Furman, which is technically not a voltage regulator but rather an extremely advanced and high quality power conditioner, that supplies huge amounts of the cleanest power possible, and is better than any voltage regulator I myself have ever auditioned.

So let’s have a look at my top choices, from very affordable to very expensive, all of which are sure to make a big difference in the sound of your system (as well as your own peace of mind) – the seven best power conditioners on the market today!

The 7 Best Power Conditioners in 2023

Best Budget Line Conditioner

Furman SS6B 6 Outlet Power Conditioner

Sale
Furman Power Conditioner (SS6B) black
  • 15 foot power cord
  • Illuminated ON/OFF switch
  • Circuit breaker
  • 6-outlet block
  • EMI/RFI noise attenuation

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes, 540 Joules
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – EMF & RFI
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: No
  • Voltage Regulation: No

The Furman SS6B is the least expensive power conditioner / surge protector I would trust to protect my equipment, and it is also the least expensive conditioner that I’ve found that makes a significant difference in noise levels and sound quality.

While not offering the largest surge protection rating, the SS6B does employ a true surge protector as well as a circuit breaker, and can absorb up to 540 joules of energy, and clamp surges of 400 volts – plenty enough for everything except for extreme surges, at which point the circuit breaker would kick in.

What’s really great about this basic Furman power strip is the noise attenuation. With very effective filtering of radio frequency noise and electromagnetic interference, the SS6B will make a big difference not just in noise levels, but also in the focus and clarity of your system’s sound overall.

A heavy-duty unit that is well made and very reliable, the Furman SS6B is easily the best cheap power conditioner on the market, and the only one at this lowest price point that I would consider getting for protection and for sound quality and noise reduction.

If you live in an area with a lot of voltage fluctuation, or the possibility of extreme voltage surges and spikes, you might want to consider the Monster Pro MI Professional Surge Protector instead, which is about 25 dollars more than the Furman, offers similar levels of noise filtration, but has an exceptionally high surge protection rating of 1,960 joules.


Best Value Line Conditioner

Panamax MR4300 Power Line Conditioner and Surge Protector

Sale
Panamax MR4300 Power Line Conditioner and Surge Protector
  • 9 protected and filtered outlets featuring exclusive automatic voltage monitoring (avm), protect or disconnect technology and Panamax level...
  • Industries best protection - specifically designed and engineered to provide protected and filtered power to home theater systems.
  • Guards against damaging power spikes and current fluctuations that can harm your AV system components and impact performance.
  • $5, 000, 000 Limited Lifetime connected equipment protection policy; lifetime product warranty
  • With over 30 years of innovation, millions of units Sold, multiple patents granted and numerous industry awards, Panamax is the recognized...

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes, 1,575 Joules
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – Panamax Level 3 Filtering
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: Yes
  • Voltage Regulation: No

We make a pretty big jump in price from the excellent basic Furman power strip above to this Panamax line conditioner, but this is a much better unit in many ways, and one of the most popular premium products among serious audiophiles, and yet is still quite affordable..

First of all, the Panamax MR4300 offers a lot more surge protection – up to 1350 joules of absorption – and will protect against both power surges and dangerous drops in power. The sophisticated power monitoring circuitry constantly checks incoming voltage, and will totally disconnect your gear until safe voltage levels are resumed.

The noise filtration is far more sophisticated, and far more effective, as well. With linear noise attenuation across the frequency spectrum, as well as high quality circuitry that generates absolutely no noise of its own, the Panamax level 3 noise filtration is exceptionally effective at eliminating all kinds of noise, including RFI, EMF and ground loop hum, and is superior to some far more expensive noise filtration systems I’ve tried at improving sound quality.

In addition, the MR4300 has isolated outlets, so they are even prevented from interfering with or adding noise to each other.

With voltage monitoring, special video filtering, dedicated high-current outlets for best performance with amplifiers and preamplifiers, essentially industrial quality in materials and construction, a lifetime product warranty and so much more, the Panamax MR4300 is an incredible value, and highly recommended for maximum system performance and protection and truly next-level sound.


My Favorite Line Conditioner

AudioQuest PowerQuest 3 – Power Conditioner/Non-Sacrificial Surge Protector

AudioQuest PowerQuest 3 – Power Conditioner/Non-Sacrificial Surge Protector – Power Strip – 8...
  • Complete Protection from Surges and Spikes
  • 8 Outlets
  • 2 x 4K/8K Video Optimized Ultra-Linear Filter Outlets
  • 2 x High-Current Outlets
  • 4 x Ultra-Linear Filter Outlets

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes – tested to 6000 volts, non-sacrificial
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – Ultra-Linear Common-Mode & Differential-Mode
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: No
  • Voltage Regulation: No

I have a pretty high end stereo as my main reference and listening system, with a Rega turntable, a Rega amp and KEF speakers, as well as very high resolution headphones and amplifiers, and it is one of the most revealing and transparent systems I’ve ever heard at any price.

Of course the price, all things added up, was pretty high, and yet my own personal choice for power line conditioning is a fairly inexpensive unit – the AudioQuest PowerQuest 3 – and I have to say that no matter how wonderful the system sounded before, with the addition of the PowerQuest everything just opened up.

I’m not going to get into the amazing proprietary design and engineering of AudioQuest’s extreme power surge protection, or the essentially absolute elimination of radio, electromagnetic and ground noises and interference, except to say that it is all as good as it gets at this still quite affordable price.

In fact, all I really want to say is that the overall result of adding the AudioQuest PowerQuest 3 to my system is immense – not only do I experience a dramatic reduction of noise, there is clearly more dynamic energy and expressivity, all sounds have more space around them and sound more organic and whole, deep bass is fast and clean, high frequencies are especially airy and sweet, and imaging seems much more finely etched.

It’s like I am finally hearing what this very special stereo system is really capable of. And, as a not insignificant added bonus, the peace of mind I get knowing that the surge protection of the PowerQuest 3 is also as good as it gets lets me more completely drop into just listening.

In case it weren’t clear, this is it – my favorite line conditioner of them all, and my own personal choice. In fact, if it weren’t an obvious benefit to include different products at different price levels, I would simply delete all the other recommendations – fantastic as they are – and urge everybody to just get an AudioQuest PowerQuest 3. It is really that good – a supreme value, and perhaps the most effective and intelligent affordable accessory you can get for your hi-fi.


Best Line Conditioner for Home Theater

Furman ELITE15i Linear Filtering AC Power Conditioner

best line conditioner

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes – 1575 Joules, Non-Sacrificial
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – Furman Linear Filtration Technology
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: Yes
  • Voltage Regulation: No

With even more surge protection and more effective noise filtration than even the brilliant Panamax above, this Furman Elite 15i power conditioner is the best mid-priced power conditioner for both audio and video equipment, and a perfect choice for high end home theater systems.

The Furman Elite is a seriously overbuilt piece of industrial gear with superior protection circuitry. It is a non-sacrificial surge protector, meaning the 15i will not sacrifice itself even with extreme power surges, but will fully disconnect and protect all of your gear. This alone can make the increase in price well worth it, since even after catastrophic voltage fluctuations you don’t need to repair or replace it.

The Furman Elite 15i also has superb noise filtration – its LiFT (Linear Filtration Technology) is exceptionally effective at cutting all radio frequency and electromagnetic noise and interference across the widest range of frequencies. Isolated outlet banks ensure there is no cross-equipment noise or interference, and the 15i also offers two additional switched outlets with ultrasonic noise filtering for video equipment.

Coaxial and standard phone outlets provided surge protection for phone data, satellite and cable lines as well, and the 12 volt switching trigger and that additional UF noise filtering make the Elite the perfect noise conditioner for home theater.

But for the money the Furman Elite 15i is also a perfect line conditioner for home audio as well, and it can not only truly protect your equipment from any voltage fluctuations – even catastrophic surges – but will definitely make the biggest difference possible in both sound quality and picture quality of any product in this mid-priced range.


Best Voltage Regulator Overall

Furman P-1800 AR Advanced Level Voltage Regularor/Power Conditioner

Sale
Furman P-1800 AR Advanced Level Voltage Regularor/Power Conditioner, 15 Amp, Regulates 97-137 Volt...
  • True RMS Voltage Regulation delivers a stable 120 volts of AC power to protect equipment from problems caused by AC line voltage...
  • Furman's exclusive SMP technology provides the highest level of surge & spike protection available; Lift offers AC power filtering to ensure...
  • Advanced EVS circuitry detects dangerous voltage irregularities and safely powers down itself and connected equipment in unsafe conditions
  • Front panel USB convenience outlets allows you to charge most media devices or power a USB lamp.
  • From the #1 brand in professional power conditioning. Perfect for instrument rigs, home recording, DJ equipment, pro audio rigs and home...

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes – non-sacrificial
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – LiFT (Linear Filtering Technology)
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: Yes
  • Voltage Regulation: Yes

I’ve no doubt that the Furman P-1800 is the best voltage regulator I’ve ever auditioned, and it is probably also the most popular and highly rated product of its type on the market today.

The only question is, do you really need a voltage regulator?

The best voltage regulators will definitely lead to peak performance, will better protect your equipment and will even extend your gear’s life and long-term reliability, all by supplying a steady 120 volt power feed regardless of what the power from your home’s AC outlet is doing.

But, as we discussed in the intro, most serious audiophile equipment will already have a highly effective voltage regulation system built into its circuitry, to provide the best and most consistent audio performance.

We can also say that in most areas of the United States (as one example) the voltage from AC outlets is pretty darn consistent already, and is offering a feed of power that is probably steady enough for best performance.

That said, if you live in an area which is regularly experiencing surges, brownouts or any voltage fluctuations, this can and will seriously affect the sound quality of your audio system. Similarly, if you are using older stereo equipment, or gear that may not have the best or most effective included voltage regulation, a voltage regulator is probably a must for the best sound, extended equipment life and protection.

And again, the best unit I know – at least the best one that is still somewhat affordable – is this Furman P-1800 voltage regulator and noise filtering system. You can actually spend a lot more for an industrial or industry-specific voltage regulator, but the Furman is optimized for home audio and theater systems, featuring absolutely top-tier noise reduction and surge protection, and almost nothing I know is better at protecting your gear and moving your sound and video to the highest level possible.

I say ‘almost’ because in terms of absolute surge protection and all types of noise filtration, the slightly more expensive AudioQuest Niagara 1200, just below, is perhaps a tiny bit better. But if you factor in voltage regulation, the security and protection it can give and the way it can improve the sound of some equipment, and in some areas, this Furman P-1800 may very well be the best choice.


Best Line Conditioner for Audiophiles

AudioQuest – Niagara 1200 Power Conditioner with NRG-Y3 Power Cable

AudioQuest - Niagara 1200 Power Conditioner with NRG-Y3 Power Cable (15A, 2m)
  • Niagara 1200: Non-Sacrificial Surge Protection: Withstands multiple AC surges and spikes up to 6000V/3000A without sustaining damage
  • Niagara 1200: Level-X Linear Noise-Dissipation Technology: More than 19 octaves of AC differential filtering
  • Niagara 1200: Patented Ground Noise-Dissipation System
  • NRG-Y3: Semi-Solid Concentric Long-Grain Copper (LGC) conductors
  • NRG-Y3: Silver-Plated Drain Wires efficiently drain RF noise for powerful, dynamic, immersive sound

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes – tested to 6000 volts, non-sacrificial
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – Level-X Linear Noise-Dissipation Technology
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: No
  • Voltage Regulation: No

If absolutely the best sound quality is your main objective when choosing a power conditioner, the AudioQuest Niagara 1200 is probably the only unit you need to consider.

An expensive product, the 1200 offers the very best noise filtration available, with AudioQuest’s Level-X noise dissipation as well as exceptionally high quality and over-engineered wiring, componentry and outlets, superior ground noise elimination and special technology to keep any surge-related noise away from the audio signal.

AudioQuest isn’t so very forthcoming with the technical details of all of this tech, but I can say from personal experience that the Niagara is one of the most effective power conditioners I’ve ever used for presenting an absolutely black, silent and undisturbed background for music reproduction – utterly free of any and all types of noise and interference.

But the AudioQuest Niagara 1200 is also pretty much in a class of its own in terms of surge protection, with an astonishing 6000 volt surge capacity – far more than domestic electrical systems would ever pass through, and so essentially unlimited and foolproof in protection. A non-sacrificial surge protector, the Niagara will totally protect your gear and will not itself sustain damage, meaning you can get right back to listening even after catastrophic electrical events.

With three sets of noise-isolated AC outlets, including two outlets with high voltage for best performance with amplifiers and preamplifiers, as well as truly superior noise elimination and surge protection, the AudioQuest 1200 is one of the best line conditioners for audiophiles I’ve ever tested (in my personal experience, it’s bettered only by the much more expensive Furman IT-Reference 20i, below) and an essential accessory for any serious home audio system.

I should say that, by all accounts, the best line conditioners of them all are the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 and the AudioQuest Niagara 5000, which at almost 4000 dollars and 6000 dollars respectively make this Niagara 1200 look like an absolute bargain. I haven’t heard either of them in a system, though I’m not sure how much better they could be than the 1200.


Best Line Conditioner Overall

Furman IT-Reference 20i 12-Outlet Discrete Symmetrical AC Power Source

best line conditioner

At a Glance:

  • Surge Protection: Yes – non-sacrificial
  • Noise Filtering: Yes – Discrete Symmetrical Power noise reduction topography with Dual-Screen Transformers
  • Voltage Monitoring Display: No
  • Voltage Regulation: No

All comparisons aside, the Furman IT-Reference 20i is the best audiophile power conditioner on this list, and the best I’ve ever experienced.

If there is any doubt as to whether the less expensive Furman or the AudioQuest are better choices in the premium range, at this top level nothing even comes close to the Furman Reference, with its five fully discrete and isolated power banks, discrete symmetrical circuitry and special high current outlets devoted to high performance amplifiers. 

The IT-Reference 20i has demonstrably the cleanest and most stable 120 volt power flow of any home-use line conditioner, with both 15 amp and 20 amp circuits capable of delivering up to 80 amps of peak power.

I should be clear that the Reference is not a voltage regulator, which generates a whole new power supply using transformers or other circuitry, but a line conditioner – or what Furman calls a ‘Discrete Symmetrical AC Power Source’ – which uses Furman’s exclusive technology to hold enormous reserves of power in store, and supply very stable and clean power to all components.

Despite the excellence and efficiency of even the highest end audiophile amplifiers and their power supplies, speakers are tricky beasts, especially when it comes to load, and an amp often has to suddenly draw a lot more current from the AC – which is woefully inadequate and essentially never up to the challenge. But, even more than similarly priced voltage regulators, the Furman IT Reference 20i will always give any amp what it needs, and allow even best-of-the-best equipment to reach its full potential.

It’s easy to assume that the extreme reserves and speed of the Furman’s power are probably the main reasons you hear such enormous increases in speed, dynamic energy, tonal character, transients and texture, and improvements in pretty much all other aspects of sound, but we should not forget that the Reference also has the very best noise suppression available.

The non-sacrificial surge protection is also far beyond anything you might possibly encounter in home use, and the pure, stable power it provides in concert with the exceptional noise reduction on all levels can totally transform even a highly optimized high end audiophile sound system. Also included are surge protection and noise filtration for video and telephone lines, and the performance of this best-ever product is as impressive with home theater as it is with home audio.

I should say that I have heard the Furman IT-Reference power conditioner with a very high end stereo system – Sondek and Clearaudio ‘tables, Naim digital server and analog amplification, old Wilson and new KEF speakers and a bunch of other stuff I can’t afford – in a two day blind test prepared by a local high-end dealer, and the difference wasn’t just obvious, it was breathtaking. I haven’t, however, experienced the Reference in an AV system.

But my experience is by no means unique – everybody involved was immensely impressed by the increased power and authority, timing and spatial-temporal presentation, transient detail and control, deep bass speed and detail and the suddenly much more effortless and musical overall sound – we started with an absurdly expensive but truly magical stereo system, and with the Reference the whole thing was just that much better.

A very expensive product, the Furman IT-Reference will provide real benefit to any audio system at any level. Even people considering spending a lot more to have dedicated power lines installed for their audiophile listening room would be well advised to consider the IT-Reference instead, which will provide, in most cases, better power reserves and cleaner signal, as well as superior protection for your gear.