high end power conditioners. bogus? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 49 Old 10-14-2018, 10:18 PM - Thread Starter
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high end power conditioners. bogus?

i've done some searching, and it appears as though this is a bit of a controversial topic, but i thought i'd ask anyway.

so...my integrator wants me to buy two niagara 5000 units for $4k each.

should i buy them because they really make a difference in my system, or should i just get a surge protector and a UPS instead?

are these just really expensive monster cables (fake and stupid) or is there something legit to these high end power conditioners?

has anyone done a real blind A/B test on these kinds of units?
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post #2 of 49 Old 10-14-2018, 10:32 PM
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Try your system with and without; a lot depends upon how noisy your power is to begin with.

If you have relatively clean power, they won't make a difference at all; if for example you notice your system always sounds better at night when there is less demand on the grid, they may be quite useful.
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post #3 of 49 Old 10-14-2018, 11:30 PM
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I had a laptop that would not work off a honda generator but everything else did, so just the laptop got a UPS.


If your equipment won't work or randomly shuts off, then a power conditioner or UPS might help. If it already functions normally then a power conditioner might offer at best an imperceptible benefit. If you may suffer data loss or equipment damage due to power loss then a UPS is the way to go, otherwise a surge protector is good enough to protect expensive AV equipment from most likely power issues.



I know they are suggesting this on the basis of improved performance. So, if you can believe that the power supplies built into your equipment that is expensive enough to justify $8000 of power conditioners are crappy enough to need $8000 of power conditioners then go for it. Doubt you are running off a generator.

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post #4 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 06:46 AM - Thread Starter
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thanks all. this makes sense. sounds like a should hold off on a purchase until we get everything setup.

any recommendation on surge protection? sounds like i should probably have that on day one.
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post #5 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 06:55 AM
 
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I would not do a videowall without THIS. The most Knowledgeable guy in the Industry Art Kelm swears by it. It was hard tracking him down.

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post #6 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 08:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kucharsk View Post
...if for example you notice your system always sounds better at night when there is less demand on the grid, they may be quite useful.

I'd be careful about that; if that's the case it may have nothing to do with the power but be due to psychological factors, it's dark, the busy/stressful work day is over, etc.

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post #7 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 08:16 AM
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The way I look at it, it can't hurt. I bought a reconditioned APC S-15 about 7 years ago for $300 for my HT gear. It retails for $1500. Has it helped prolong the life of my equipment? Who knows? Haven't had any of my gear fail since. It produces pure, round-top sine wave power when the battery has to kick in, just like AC power from the wall, so there's that.

The battery (actually 4 lead acid batteries in tandem) just failed in it and I had to buy a new battery pack for $150. You could buy the batteries themselves from a supplier for around $50, but you'd have to de-solder and re-solder them into the existing case wiring and that's more trouble than I wanted. They'll send you an RMA so you can send the old ones back for re-cycling, which is nice.

Bottom line -- peace of mind. You have to determine how much that's worth to you.
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post #8 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 10:12 AM
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Home theater is my hobby. I have been performing power quality investigations along with grounding and bonding studies for the past thirty years.

If you have a genuine power quality issue, you should make corrections to the power system at your residence before you purchase expensive band-aids. The majority of issues I have encountered over the years stem from poor installations, poor workmanship, lack of maintenance or misunderstanding. The Utility is legally obligated to provide you with acceptable power conditions at your residence according to the local commerce commission guidelines for voltage magnitude, harmonic distortion, power factor and reliability. If those guidelines are not followed, you have recourse to have the utility fix the problems.


Additionally, power supplies in most electronic equipment act as a 'buffer' between the power system and your output electronics. Another power supply in front of the power supply located within your electronics will have little or no effect on the output electronics.....unless the utility power is severely compromised.

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post #9 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 10:47 AM
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In my opinion, "power conditioning" on anything fancier than what an inexpensive surge protector provides is immeasurable or unnoticeable at best. What I AM willing to pay extra money for that the more expensive stuff often provides are the extra bells and whistles like IP control, programability, etc. I've loved some fancy, expensive Panamax and Wattbox units I've had, however I HIGHLY doubt their protection or conditioning is any better than the cheaper stuff. Just the tech goodies were worth it to me. That's it.
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post #10 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 01:03 PM
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I tend to look at this by function:
  1. Surge protection
  2. Line filtering (often called conditioning)
  3. Voltage Regulation
  4. Battery Backup
    1. On-line
    2. Line interactive
  5. Toroidal transformer isolation and reserve
For sensitive source electronics like computer based SSP's, NAS Servers, and digital sources I tend to go with 1-4.1. For amplifiers 1 and 2 are a good idea. For class D that may be all you want. I know of at least one high end class D manufacturer that recommends no up front regulation (3), its also not clear 5 would benefit a class D amp. For Class A or A/B some are big fans of 1-3 and 5, these tend to be audiophiles who also have analog sources. I agree with the comments on quality of power coming into the home, but would still at least have 1-2.
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post #11 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 05:16 PM
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^^^

I have seen 2 and 5 combined.

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post #12 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 05:20 PM
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Doogie,

What do you think of neutral to ground or common noise fixes like isolation transformers like PowerVar?

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post #13 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 05:21 PM
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just an expensive insurance policy where they deny 90% of claims
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post #14 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post
I'd be careful about that; if that's the case it may have nothing to do with the power but be due to psychological factors, it's dark, the busy/stressful work day is over, etc.
Quite true, which is why I said “may.”

As always, careful auditioning is key; there’s absolutely no sense in spending the money if you can’t hear a positive difference.

I find it’s often easier to detect whether things sound degraded after removing a component.
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post #15 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 10:13 PM - Thread Starter
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thanks for the advice.

it sounds like i should just start out with a relatively inexpensive surge protector that has non-destructible components in them, like a zero surge or surge-x.

and then, after the system is up i should see if i can hear buzz/hum issues, and if so, then maybe go for some kind of power conditioner.
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post #16 of 49 Old 10-15-2018, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prefetch View Post
thanks for the advice.

it sounds like i should just start out with a relatively inexpensive surge protector that has non-destructible components in them, like a zero surge or surge-x.

and then, after the system is up i should see if i can hear buzz/hum issues, and if so, then maybe go for some kind of power conditioner.

This Furman unit provides series mode surge protection, almost as good as the SurgeX units, although SurgeX still has some patents that haven't expired. Surges appear to be limited to less than 200V vs. the 330V standard (level 3) for power strips. 120V AC electrical service has peaks of 170V so the protection allows little through. Less costly Furman Powerstation units don't have the same design. The unit also has power line filtering at the entrance to the strip using a reasonable design. Filtering may not help, but the design is good, and it's the same filtering used on much more expensive Furman units. The unit is very solidly built.

https://www.amazon.com/Furman-Alumin...ation+8+furman

Add a whole house surge protection unit to your service entrance panel to provide protection from surges originating outside the house. This level 2 protection limits surges to around a 600V to 800V level depending on the details of the installation. Having both level 2 and level 3 protection gives the most complete protection.
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post #17 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prefetch View Post
thanks for the advice.

it sounds like i should just start out with a relatively inexpensive surge protector that has non-destructible components in them, like a zero surge or surge-x.

and then, after the system is up i should see if i can hear buzz/hum issues, and if so, then maybe go for some kind of power conditioner.
Making sure the ground is effective in the home and paying attention to how things are wired such as isolating lighting and dimmers is much more important. From there it certainly make sense to have some form of protection for what is effectively insurance and peace of mind, NOT for sonic reasons. What methods of protection make the most sense depends on where the home is located and exposed to. The series mode protection devices from Surge-X and the like ARE the premium solutions, and are preferred over the sacrificial surge protectors and noise filters. For high-power, serious equipment, I would stay away from the exotic audiophile stuff. If you want a premium solution I would look at Torus power where you at know exactly where the money is going. In that case you are paying for a big isolation transformer with series mode protection built in. The installed units with multiple circuit breakers are a nice consolidated option that is certainly justifiable with the caliber of gear you have been discussing. Short of that I would go for a Surge-X solution with enough circuits and capacity for your system. It might not be 10s of thousands, but it still adds up quickly for surge protection.
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post #18 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigguyca View Post
This Furman unit provides series mode surge protection, almost as good as the SurgeX units, although SurgeX still has some patents that haven't expired. Surges appear to be limited to less than 200V vs. the 330V standard (level 3) for power strips. 120V AC electrical service has peaks of 170V so the protection allows little through. Less costly Furman Powerstation units don't have the same design. The unit also has power line filtering at the entrance to the strip using a reasonable design. Filtering may not help, but the design is good, and it's the same filtering used on much more expensive Furman units. The unit is very solidly built.

https://www.amazon.com/Furman-Alumin...ation+8+furman

Add a whole house surge protection unit to your service entrance panel to provide protection from surges originating outside the house. This level 2 protection limits surges to around a 600V to 800V level depending on the details of the installation. Having both level 2 and level 3 protection gives the most complete protection.
Thank you for the specific recommendation! Does the recommendation carry over to this rack mountable item? https://www.amazon.com/Furman-Advanc...ct_top?ie=UTF8


I have some installer variant of the Eaton whole house protector on each panel: https://www.amazon.com/CHSPT2ULTRA-U...ct_top?ie=UTF8
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post #19 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigguyca View Post
This Furman unit provides series mode surge protection, almost as good as the SurgeX units, although SurgeX still has some patents that haven't expired. Surges appear to be limited to less than 200V vs. the 330V standard (level 3) for power strips. 120V AC electrical service has peaks of 170V so the protection allows little through. Less costly Furman Powerstation units don't have the same design. The unit also has power line filtering at the entrance to the strip using a reasonable design. Filtering may not help, but the design is good, and it's the same filtering used on much more expensive Furman units. The unit is very solidly built.

https://www.amazon.com/Furman-Alumin...ation+8+furman

Add a whole house surge protection unit to your service entrance panel to provide protection from surges originating outside the house. This level 2 protection limits surges to around a 600V to 800V level depending on the details of the installation. Having both level 2 and level 3 protection gives the most complete protection.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottAvery View Post
Thank you for the specific recommendation! Does the recommendation carry over to this rack mountable item? https://www.amazon.com/Furman-Advanc...ct_top?ie=UTF8


I have some installer variant of the Eaton whole house protector on each panel: https://www.amazon.com/CHSPT2ULTRA-U...ct_top?ie=UTF8

The PL-8C in the link has the same capabilities as the Powerstation 8 in a different package. I have a PL-8C mounted in the a network equipment rack. At first the two lights seemed like a silly idea, but with the PL-8C mounted at the top of the rack the lights are very useful.

Just from reading about the whole house options, the Eaton whole house protector that you have seems an excellent unit, perhaps the best, for a protector that is mounted outside of the entrance panel. I used the Eaton whole house units that replace an existing 240V breaker in the service entrance panel. These units continue to act as a breaker and provide surge protection. It's pretty much six of one, half-dozen of another.
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post #20 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 01:59 PM
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Doogie,

What do you think of neutral to ground or common noise fixes like isolation transformers like PowerVar?
I have been involved in situations where isolation transformers or harmonic mitigating transformers can make a difference....in critical data centers with lots of computer servers. I generally don't see a need for any special conditioning equipment if the underlaying grounding and bonding system is installed and operating correctly.

If you have large amounts of noise for example between the neutral and ground, then you need to look at how those are bonded in the main panel, whether you have a good solid-low resistance connection and whether you are overloading a circuit with non-linear power supplies (computers or other electronics). Harmonic content which is generated by non-linear power supplies will cause noise on the neutral to ground system- that is inevitable. You also need to make sure that you have a decent ground bond at the main panel to your incoming water and a driven rod with acceptable ground resistance.


I typically see 0-0.7V of noise on most residential N-G systems on which I have installed power recorders...with no adverse affects. Once you get to about a volt or more, you can start having problems with sensitive electronics.

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post #21 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by prefetch View Post
thanks for the advice.

it sounds like i should just start out with a relatively inexpensive surge protector that has non-destructible components in them, like a zero surge or surge-x.

and then, after the system is up i should see if i can hear buzz/hum issues, and if so, then maybe go for some kind of power conditioner.
These types of products can provide protection for a single circuit, but if you need to protect your entire house, these become extremely expensive. These units are considered series type units and must be placed ahead of your load to be protected.

We have specified and used devices like the series units above and your standard SPD (parallel) devices which are installed in a whole house approach. I highly recommend a whole house approach since that will provide protection for everything in your residence. There are units out there from Eaton (Innovative Technology for example) which will provide many years of protection from overvoltage conditions without failing. Don't get caught up in the whole 'non-destructible' debate. That lame old debate came about because of the rampant use of cheap surge strips as a replacement for high quality surge suppression devices.

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post #22 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 02:15 PM
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Quite true, which is why I said “may.”

As always, careful auditioning is key; there’s absolutely no sense in spending the money if you can’t hear a positive difference.

I find it’s often easier to detect whether things sound degraded after removing a component.
I find that audio differences/discrepancies are much harder to detect than visual differences/discrepancies.
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post #23 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 02:22 PM
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thanks all. this makes sense. sounds like a should hold off on a purchase until we get everything setup.

any recommendation on surge protection? sounds like i should probably have that on day one.
Call your electric company, they should be able to provide (for a charge) all house surge protection.
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post #24 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 02:56 PM
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I have my stuff running though a Monster stage 1 filter surge protector. I little peace of mind. I like that Ferman Bigguyca linked to...probably much better filtering than mine.

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post #25 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by AV Doogie View Post
I have been involved in situations where isolation transformers or harmonic mitigating transformers can make a difference....in critical data centers with lots of computer servers. I generally don't see a need for any special conditioning equipment if the underlaying grounding and bonding system is installed and operating correctly.

If you have large amounts of noise for example between the neutral and ground, then you need to look at how those are bonded in the main panel, whether you have a good solid-low resistance connection and whether you are overloading a circuit with non-linear power supplies (computers or other electronics). Harmonic content which is generated by non-linear power supplies will cause noise on the neutral to ground system- that is inevitable. You also need to make sure that you have a decent ground bond at the main panel to your incoming water and a driven rod with acceptable ground resistance.


I typically see 0-0.7V of noise on most residential N-G systems on which I have installed power recorders...with no adverse affects. Once you get to about a volt or more, you can start having problems with sensitive electronics.
100% agreed. The best fix is to correct the electrical system. Isolated ground (ground lug on outlet to panel bus ground bar) and dedicated outlets. No sharing of conductors. I als try to recommend, if possible (tough on a retrofit) to get the first hit of power from the main.

Glad to see someone that agrees in part if not in whole.

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post #26 of 49 Old 10-16-2018, 04:17 PM
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^^^
I use to Dranitz recorders back in the day.

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post #27 of 49 Old 10-17-2018, 10:33 AM
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Making sure the ground is effective in the home and paying attention to how things are wired such as isolating lighting and dimmers is much more important. From there it certainly make sense to have some form of protection for what is effectively insurance and peace of mind, NOT for sonic reasons. What methods of protection make the most sense depends on where the home is located and exposed to. The series mode protection devices from Surge-X and the like ARE the premium solutions, and are preferred over the sacrificial surge protectors and noise filters. For high-power, serious equipment, I would stay away from the exotic audiophile stuff. If you want a premium solution I would look at Torus power where you at know exactly where the money is going. In that case you are paying for a big isolation transformer with series mode protection built in. The installed units with multiple circuit breakers are a nice consolidated option that is certainly justifiable with the caliber of gear you have been discussing. Short of that I would go for a Surge-X solution with enough circuits and capacity for your system. It might not be 10s of thousands, but it still adds up quickly for surge protection.

I'm a big fan of Surge-X as well. They make a 4 circuit home panel for normal HT, they also make commercial panel sidecars (I have 12 protected 20 amp circuits) , the cost per circuit is pretty reasonable. I'm a bit paranoid being just south of the lightning capital of the world (Tampa), I also have a Delta ground on my house with commercial surge protection at the service panels and whole house protection on each sub-panel.
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post #28 of 49 Old 10-17-2018, 02:53 PM
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I've gone w/whole house surge protection plus a Torus RM45 for my HT.
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post #29 of 49 Old 10-22-2018, 07:25 AM
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I probably have a slightly different view of this. Three theaters ago (probably 20++ years), I purchased multiple devices from PS Audio for Power Conditioning/Regenerating. Maybe I had crappy power in that home but there is no doubt that I ended up with less "noise" (or quieter background) in my audio system.

In my last theater (and still using in this one), I purchased an APS Pure Power 2000 that provides battery backup, power conditioning and regeneration and (at least in theory) the ability to momentarily extract more power than the actual circuit will provide. There is some controversy about this company but PS Audio makes competitive solutions (not cheap)

I live in the Southeast US and lightning is a way of life - and the attendant momentary power surges/shut-offs are part of it as well. There is NO doubt that this device has saved my butt (and equipment) more than once - in addition to the electrical noise reduction. I have all of my front end equipment on it, including my projector. My Seaton subs are not on it (require too much power). My previous Class D amps were on it but my current ATI amps (Class D) driving all of my speakers are not on it only because they, apparently, don't like it as it caused transformer hum.

If I were starting from scratch, I would install one of THESE in my theater (by Equi=tech) and be done with it. It is a wall mounted solution that provide balanced power for all of the circuits in the room. Given the price, this only makes sense if your system costs bunches of money!! (Not sure why I did not do this in my current theater).
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post #30 of 49 Old 10-22-2018, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by audioguy View Post
I live in the Southeast US and lightning is a way of life - and the attendant momentary power surges/shut-offs are part of it as well. There is NO doubt that this device has saved my butt (and equipment) more than once - in addition to the electrical noise reduction. I have all of my front end equipment on it, including my projector. My Seaton subs are not on it (require too much power). My previous Class D amps were on it but my current ATI amps (Class D) driving all of my speakers are not on it only because they, apparently, don't like it as it caused transformer hum.

If I were starting from scratch, I would install one of THESE in my theater (by Equi=tech) and be done with it. It is a wall mounted solution that provide balanced power for all of the circuits in the room. Given the price, this only makes sense if your system costs bunches of money!! (Not sure why I did not do this in my current theater).
Just to be clear, you have two issues you are discussing here. Issue number one is the 'noisy' power system which may or may not benefit from a balanced power supply. In most circumstances, you should have the electrical service panel connections along with grounding and bonding checked before spending money on this type of equipment. I'm not saying that this stuff is not useful, but it is generally an expensive band-aid for issues that can be corrected in the service panel.

Issue number two would be surge suppression. I would not use an expensive device such as the balanced power supply to provide protection from surges and overvoltage events. Surges and other types of overvoltage events are best left to a high quality surge protector at the main panel with some smaller units downstream if needed for cascade type protection. UPS units and many other electronic devices are typically fitted with some surge suppression capability, but the suppression is typically utilized in a way to protect the electronics from small surge events to allow warranty coverage.

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