While there are benefits to installing a surge protector line conditioner, especially in reducing the reactive currents that seep into your lines, you would be better off installing a system that protects the wiring to your home. This will help reduce line noise for all audio systems subject to humming and static images. Having a properly grounded whole house surge protector will reduce the amount of hum on the audio lines connected to your home theater equipment where setting a surge protector line conditioner on the lines will not work.
The reason is that most AC power coming into your home is relatively free from noise already. There will always be some noise on the line and you can never totally eliminate it. It’s perfectly normal and is a result of the flow of electricity. That is not to say that you can not benefit from surge protection and EMI/RFI filtering as every electronic is susceptible to power surges on any conducive line, EMI/RFI noise being the most damaging and infiltrating.
Most equipment will filter small noise on the line and any small natural spikes in noise. It will certainly bypass most RFI to ground connections. Power supply regulators are made to address small voltages changes and account for minor interference. The noise level if controls is fairly high anyway, so installing a surge protector line conditioner for this operation is almost redundant and will only create a pattern of noise that will never be eliminated.
Finding the source of the nuisance is preferred over hastily installing any line conditioner surge protector. Converting your AC power to balanced mode is premature. You may be experiencing a ground loop from your system, which won’t be resolved by putting in expensive and unneeded surge protection with line conditioning. The job of a surge protector line conditioner is to manage clean power, not resolve line noise issues.
The reason for a surge protector and line conditioner in the first place is that the voltage coming into your home will fluctuate around the standard 120V. This current will never be steady for various reasons and the necessity of a line conditioner with a surge protector is two fold. One, because of these fluctuations you never know when the line will surge. Your electronics aren’t equipped to handle an excess of power so the surge will most likely overwhelm them and cuase them to stop working.
A line conditioner smooths out the flow of electricity and attempts to keep a steady stream of current to all appliances. Ideally this stream will be maintained at an even 120V. So you have one surge protection device to stop an overflow when the line conditioner fails to maintain levels. That is the only reason for installing both items.
With line noise, you will always have a flawed image or sound to a degree. With an appliance like an HDTV, which relies on digital images, there will be noise on the line that will disrupt picture consistency. This can happen when you run your microwave while the TV is on. A line conditioner, while maintaining levels of current flow, will reduce noise minimally. It won’t be enough for you to notice a change in picture quality however. Domestic appliances are made to work within the capacity of domestic power supplies.
The line conditioner surge protector acts as a choke in the line with your AC power and could be interpreted as a capacitor to limit the standard 60Hz of a flat screen TV. You’d want something that was a 1:1 isolation transformer but that is basically overkill for household uses. It’s like purchasing something and then seeing inside the package that you need another piece of equipment that isn’t included. But there was no mention of the needed equipment on the outside of the package.
What that means is your equipment is already capable of balancing the power mode jacked into it. Anything more is unnecessary. Something like your plasma TV should be CSA/UL/CE approved with a good power supply design integrated into the set.
A line conditioner without a surge protector is purely unnecessary as a stand-alone surge protection device. In conjunction with a surge protector, it can aid in basic noise elimination. A surge protector is needed more than the line conditioner as anytime a surge comes into the line, whether caused by something internal or entering you house as a lightning surge, you are going to want a surge protector between your lines and your equipment. A line conditioner will do nothing to protect your expensive home theater system.
Basically what it boils down to is this: a surge protector line conditioner is an answer to a two fold issue. It will protect your equipment and keep the power flow consistent. It may provide a cleaner AV experience, more so than other av surge protection devices, but using strictly as line noise reducer is pointless.
Any system can benefit from surge protector line conditioners and you may well notice a significant improvement in sound and picture quality. But it’s more the noise from the AC flow being converted to clean energy by the line conditioner rather than actual AV improvement. Once you have eliminated any chance of ground loop interference you can install a surge protector line conditioner.