Useful power distribution technics.


#1

Audio and video power line installation procedures.



11/10/13



Please read this recommendation fully and then get an electrician to agree to do the work. If you decide to do this yourself then decide if you have actually done this kind of house-voltage electrical work before and are competent to do so and accept the risks of doing so. Galbo Design or Vincent Galbo makes no guarantees or accepts any responsibility for any injury or the results or any damages caused by considering or performing the procedures outlined below. Galbo Design or Vince Galbo make no guarantees the information is correct or complete. Rely only on the services of qualified personnel to interpret the information and perform it safely. The reader of this document is responsible to decide who is qualified to perform the work. The reader of this document is responsible to determine if any of these recommendations are in violation of any local codes.



What are we trying to accomplish here?

People often tell me “I have 20 amp dedicated lines”. By US electrical code definitions, a 20 amp dedicated line will have 12 gauge wire in the wall. 12 gauge wire is insufficient for high end audio systems. We are recommending ten gauge or thicker wire here. It is the subject and goal of this paper. The gauge of the wire is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the fact that the line is “dedicated”.

The subject of this paper works on the theory that the varying musical demands of your amplifier are actually modulating the incoming power line, divorced from the utility (power company) by some resistance (12 or 14 gauge wall wiring at some length from the breaker panel has too much resistance for audio purposes). The noise coming from your utility is probably much lower than you suspect and the gauge of the wire is far more important. The amp demands current up and down with the music at audio frequencies that are of course above and below the 60 cycles from the power company. These demands are impressed on the line wavering the incoming voltage and so the amp is re-ingesting its own noise and also making the line dirty for itself AND the audio front end. This is possible because the wall wiring back to the breaker panel has some degree of resistance depending on the length of the run and the wire gauge (12 gauge or sometimes even 14 gauge). Power conditioners and certain power cord designs help because they make an effort to “shunt” this noise (short it out and kill it) and consume the unwanted frequencies. A better answer is to reduce the resistance back to the breaker panel making it difficult for the amp to modulate the power at all and also at the same time….getting maximum power for the amplifier power supply. And so there are two benefits to reducing the resistance back to the breaker panel. Please Note: The single biggest goal in this paper is to install ten gauge wiring up to 35-40 feet and eight gauge beyond 40 feet and six gauge wire beyond 60 feet. Everything else in this paper is there to be sure you get the maximum benefit from the lower resistance of ten gauge (or heavier) wire! Skipping any steps is false economy.

Please go to http://www.mcmaster.com in the search window enter part # 1219K57. This is pure silver paste in a minimal amount of carrier. This is the best of the silver products to use at about $80. It will last for years since you only need a very small amount. Possible, less expensive alternatives are:



http://www.amazon.com/MG-Chemicals-8463-7G-Conductive-Syringe/dp/B005T8QLYM



www.cool-amp.com





These pastes are called “grease” but be wary of any that are actually that fluid. I have reports of migration of at least one audiophile silver grease that, because of voltage potential across the Line and Neutral attempts to migrate and close the gap between the hot and the ground. In one local attempt it burned up an outlet. That is why I use the McMaster Carr product. It is almost crumbly and never migrates upon inspection years later, nor does it seem to oxidize over time. There are reports of audiophile silver pastes that do oxidize and so the oxidized silver becomes worse than not applying silver at all. DO NOT try to use this stuff on interconnects, etc. While it could be a good thing, it is impossible to control it and it smears around in use because it never really dries. The result is a partial or complete short across signal hot and ground. I added this comment based on one audiophile who tried it on his interconnects, got no sound in one channel, weak distorted sound in the other, and spent hours washing his RCA plugs and cleaning his input/output jacks on his components. I don’t think it can be completely cleaned out and he should have replaced the jacks and plugs. In other words just don’t do it……





You will use the silver paste at every AC power connection that is made starting by removing the breakers and applying it to the inside of the clip on the back of the breaker. No need to apply it to the buss bar connection especially since these are always live!!! The clip will transfer the paste to the buss bar. I recommend new breakers if they are older then one year or so. (they are cheap). If you get the original equipment circuit breakers (like Square D, Siemens, etc.), from an electrical supply house (not Home Depot or Lowes), you will likely get silver-tungsten contacts inside the breaker. Cheap replacement breakers are likely to have copper contacts which have higher resistance and will oxidize over time raising the resistance further. Research with your local electrical supply and ask them to look up the breaker contact material to confirm it is silver or silver tungsten. You will also use the silver paste on the wires where they enter into the screw terminals both at the breakers and the duplex outlets. A thin film is all that is needed on all these connections and the silver actually performs better as a thin film. This stuff tends to get on the fingers and then everywhere else so be sure to clean up with Goo Gone or some such solvent since it is like liquid wire. It can be a finger-shock hazard if you are sloppy with it, so be sure to clean up any excess or smeared film with a solvent like Goo Gone even if you can’t see it. Your electrician will have a non corrosion paste that he always uses to preserves the copper connection but does not reduce the resistance of the connection anywhere near as well as the silver paste. The electrician’s paste is not suitable for our purposes. The silver or a silver-loaded copper compounds are the only choice.



I recommend at least two 20 amp 120 volt circuits run on 10 ga wire up to 35 feet and 8 gauge up to 60 feet and 8 gauge beyond that. The 8 gauge (or 6 gauge) requires a jump-down back to 10 gauge using a junction box, somewhere just before the outlet because the largest wire that will fit in an outlet is 10 gauge. Install one dedicated line for all front end equipment, and one for each amplifier. If you must feed old branch circuits off one of these outlets, it is not absolutely necessary that your audio lines are dedicated lines as long as the wire path at the outlet you are using goes directly back to the breaker panel using 10 gauge or heavier wire. The circuit can branch to other outlets from your audio outlet if necessary. (some people won’t agree with this). Try to find Hubbell hospital grade outlets with isolated grounds or something like the PS Audio Power Port, or Furutech. Generic commercial grade outlets are not a good substitute. Low and medium priced audiophile outlets are a good investment since they are heavier copper, better plated and really grip the blades of your power cord plug. I have no opinion about the very high priced cryogenic, etc., outlets. The isolated grounds can be run back to the panel individually.



For 120 volt circuits: MAKE SURE ALL EXISTING AND NEW CIRCUITS THAT YOU USE ARE ON THE SAME ELECTRICAL PHASE. I have had several direct experiences with an audio system connected on both electrical phases and the dual 120 volt feed from the electrical grid seems to make a good antenna to pick up RF. Connecting your system to only one electrical phase seems to prevent any RF issues that can damage equipment in areas with high RF. (No… you have no way to know if you are in a microwave path, or TV/radio transmission path, just do it!) Usually, every other breaker in the stack is the same phase. In other words, starting at the top (first) breaker in the left column you will have “A” phase. The next breaker down (second) will be “B” phase, and then the next (third) will be “A” phase again, etc. So the two dedicated lines should be spaced one breaker apart to be on the same phase. Some newer panels may have one phase all on the left, and the other phase all on the right. If you don’t know have an electrician help or do the work. Decide if you are competent with an AC voltmeter and you will not be dangerous to yourself. If you have experience with an AC voltmeter measuring wall power and you feel you are competent then you can test between any two outlets to prove they are on the same phase by testing for AC voltage across the two shorter slots in the respective wall outlets. (the longer slot is always the neutral). Measuring between the two outlets probing their respective short slots you should have a reading near zero volts and maybe floating around several millivolts (mv). If your reading is 220-240 volts then the two outlets are on opposite phases and should be corrected.



I don’t recommend line conditioners on amplifiers when the system is done as described above. It is generally better to go straight into the wall. But if you do use a line conditioner be sure it has NO CURENT or WATTAGE LIMITS and it is a straight-through design with any filtering elements ACROSS the line. If it does have a wattage or current rating then it would indicate some sort of treatment in SERIES with the line which is almost never, ever good for amplifiers and may even choke off lower power gear like front ends depending on the design of the conditioner. I do recommend conditioning for all front end equipment. For front ends which tend to draw little power compared to the amp, you might pursue a clever conditioner that does have elements in series but do be concerned about power limiting. (use your ears). If you only run one wall power line, plug the amp direct into the wall and then the front end into your line conditioner. It is better to install two lines (which must be on the same phase) because the amplifier will modulate the wall power fluctuating by the demands of the music and actually make noise on an otherwise quiet wall power line. Plug the amp direct into one and a line conditioner into the other which you will then plug your front end into. The Shunyata line conditioners and the Richard Gray are two good ones that I have used for amplifiers because they are straight through. I prefer the Richard Gray because they actually lower the impedance by storing some power on every AC cycle and they correct an error on the line known as “power factor error”. So the RG 400 is the best for amplifiers. Unfortunately 2 or 3 RG 400s are needed “star clustered” together to get the collective impedance low enough to be effective for an amplifier. One RG 400 alone doesn’t do much for big amplifiers. The amp should be plugged in the wall with the RG 400s. This requires a quad box or a high quality audiophile power strip. (Since this paper was written in 2001 many line conditioners have come on the market. I believe the general theory above still holds true. Look for straight-through unlimited current-wattage for amps, then high current excellent filtering for front ends). Shunyata is another company that is dedicated to straight through design. They seem to concentrate more on shunting the noise that has already been generated and may do this better than the RG 400. Lately I am using both types together at the audio shows where I cannot do anything about the wall wiring. The RG400s provide low impedance behaving more like the system is connected closer to the breaker panel, and conditioners like the Shunyata quiet the high frequency noise from both the amplifier-modulation and the wall power noise. Even more recently I have had success with BIG isolation transformers. They should have a va rating at least double the “va” (voltsamps) rating of your amplifier transformers. Triple the rating is better, so if your amp has a 1000 va transformer, the isolation transformer should be 2000 minimum, 3000 is better. I only mention the subject of line conditioners and isolation transformers to be complete. I prefer the amps straight in the wall and try line conditioners on the front end before you buy.



In many cases depending on the oxidation of connections, age of the breakers, length and gauge of the wall wiring, the above wall power changes in your home system are often a bigger improvement than any component that you can buy, especially with solid state amps. But even people with tubes often report big improvements.



Some high end amps can be switched over and run on 220 volts and I recommend it highly. The transformer primaries and the core seem to run slight more efficiently yielding lower impedance so the supply might appear slightly “stiffer” to the amp’s audio circuits (always a good thing). Because the amp is now running at twice the voltage but ½ the amps (current) the wall wiring looks twice as thick to the amp as it does at 120 volt (ohms law). Now the amp makes even less audio noise on the line and it then rejects its own line noise better. The 220 volt outlet can be a standard 15 amp with 10 ga. Wire up to 80 feet then 8 gauge beyond that.



For the 220 volt lines, the electrician may, or may not know about a NEMA receptacle and plug number that is the same size and form as our common Edison duplex 120 volt receptacle. Hubble or commercial Leviton works fine for 220 volt, and the 6-20 series looks less industrial in your home.



It is Nema plug number 6-20P. http://www.stayonline.com/detail.aspx?ID=6756 and Nema receptacle number 6-20R or 6-15/20R http://www.stayonline.com/detail.aspx?ID=7093

Here is the Nema chart. http://www.stayonline.com/reference-nema-straight-blade.aspx

Stay on line is a good source http://www.stayonline.com/default.aspx but your electrician may like a local supplier.



BE SURE TO CHANGE OVER THE AMP INTERNALLY IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN 220 VOLT !



Lastly, you might ask him to twist the Romex one twist every 6-8 inches or so. Each line should be alternately twisted relative to the one next to it. This prevents any coherent coupling between them. Keep them away from each other by minimum 4 inches. It is perfectly OK to cross them at a right angle.





If your electrician has any concerns about all this, be aware he is always concerned about CONTINUOUS current draw and rates everything and splits up the loads like the air conditioning and the electric dryer for the available amperage. Please explain to him that we are designing for incredibly short peak current pulses and we need the resistance back to the utility as low as possible for best amplifier performance. The continuous draw is negligible from an electrical standpoint. 10 gauge wire is the largest size that will fit into a wall outlet and as far as I know does not violate any codes but you and your electrician are responsible to be sure this is true in your state, county, and city.



Be sure that your speaker cable is at least 10 gauge. You should consider 8 or 9 gauge for speakers that are below 87db sensitivity, and/ or 4 ohms. Some manufacturers say, “our 14 gauge behaves like 10 gauge, etc.”, this could be true but I go for the real measured gauge.



Now….without exception over the last 12 years, comments from those that have done the above heavy gauge wire wall power mods say there is audible improvement in dynamics while making the sound even more detailed, yet much more relaxed with dark backgrounds leaving only the notes and music. I was very surprised the first time I did this house power mod. I did not expect the mid-range the highs to clean up and get more coherent as much as they did. Of course bass and dynamics are better as you would expect with better current delivery.





Don’t forget to enjoy the music !





This is a guide that I have done with home theater installs for many years. This illustration is very good and not an over the top install but more of what is a minimum . Keep in mind this is not a very expensive install compared to what we spend on our systems . Also this power install is needed weather we use ps audio power products or not. But I highly reccomend there products as they are very well made and improve our audio systems . This improvement is easily heard when you do a A/B test. Also keep in mind this same setup is needed for a AV setups as well. And the power plants make a extremely dramatic improvement on our tv,s . Try it and be amazed.

The only draw back I have with this site is a real setup guide for there equipment . Now I know the story of it’s different for everyone and it is. But there needs to be guides to follow and test. But none here or anywhere else. Which is interesting considering everyone and or many of us buy all these fancy power cords and a barrage of devices all set to improve our listening experience with abosolutly no instructions on how to use them . So as I have asked every where and received little to know info. I just figure maybe here I might have a chance as ps audio is and was known for power distrabution.



Al


#2

Or, I suppose, one could just use a P10.

I installed three 20A outlets using 10g wire and then moved my whole rig to another area of the house on two regular 15A/14g lumex outlets. It now sounds better, probably due to the room not the A/C. Your post reminds me that I should at least move my cryroed Hubble outlets though.

My advise, do Nothing until the DS has made a home in your system. It just might make you rethink your rig.


#3

I too am exploring this avenue of improvement.

And because my system is much simpler I can get away with ‘less’.



I do have a dedicated 12g feed for just my DAC and amp, all 75 watts of it.



I found that fuses, receptacles, power cables, the ac feed setup, seem to make the biggest differences.



WA-Q chips, power conditioners, etc. can also help but they don’t seem to be primary factors.

However if the primary factors are already handled then these secondary improvements can have a much larger effect.



Sort of the law of diminishing returns only in reverse, where even the smallest of improvements can have disproportionate results, for better or worse.



JJ


#4

Thanks and I am glad to see replies. Any info gathered is better than none. I also now will be using a fluke 99 . It’s a portable Scope meter . I will be looking for DC offset on my AC lines.

Maybe I am going a little overboard here , but I would do what is correct then nothing and wonder.



Al


#5

Gee Al, now you have reintroduced some confusion in my mind about what I ought to do.



I need to move my rig from 220 V in the UK to 100 V Canada…my amp is easy to switch over as it turns out, but I could keep my UK P10 and run everything 220V (Paul confirmed to me that 220V @ 60Hz was not going to be a problem for the P10). The cost of running a dedicated, audio only 220V line to the listening room would be cheaper than the alternative - getting rid of the P10, getting PS to convert my NPC…



Any suggestions?


#6

As this is the reason for the post here. And notice no 5 Starr answers either. This is because in spite of us spending ridicules money , no one really has methods. And beyond that who knows what sounds better in any given situation. Part of the problem is the improvements or not are small. Although not all the time.

As for you I have read before and including in the statement above I posted 220 better than 120. From my point of view as an electrical contractor is yes. But things in audio are complex and not always what is thought to be easy.

I do understand the theory of my post and in any situation it is a good way to provide power .

I think I am looking for a how to in power after the wiring is all in place. But like most things in audio there plenty of smoke and mirrors and some oil to slide on too.



Ps audio makes really good products that have always shown me improvements . If it were me I would keep it all 220 . There are plenty of people on here with 230 volts and almost none complaining.



Al


#7

Al this is an amazing write up. I have been thinking about doing much of what of what you suggest about getting new breakers and pasting them, but didn’t have any real information about how to do that. I have been using Quicksilver gold on the wiring going into premium wall outlets for years, and in quite a few other places as well (even inside gear) The key is to use the slightest patina, not even a light “paint” covering. From my understanding the paste fill in the rough metallic surface in a molecular level so much isn’t needed. I have not had migration issues, and have heard immediate audible results from pasting.



I moved into a loft about a year ago that I wish I had opened up the walls before I moved in and put in new wiring, but I wasn’t sure exactly which wall the system was going on yet.



I have run external wire before in conduit, so maybe that is the best approach for now until I have some major wiring to do like mini split air condition or powered window shades.



Any suggestion for running externally? My super claims he is an electrician as well, so maybe with your guide we could do this cheaply.



ALso I have seen a few companies selling audiophile o2 free power cables that can go inside walls. Any experience with that.





#8

Use power from other phase for all else . Except the HVAC if need be. I would put a small panel neer your equipment. Just use 6/3 bx or romex for the panel . New breaker in existing panel to feed new sub panel .

Take the phase wire you are not using in the box or romex as the ground so the ground is at least the same size as feeders . Also if romex use it too , so it is even larger. Min 6/3 is fine and 10/3 feeders hospital grade outlets. Ps audio outlets are very good and perfect as even the color blends in. In your loft it’s most likely all concrete walls except the partitions you added so EMT is fine as well. Just oversize the ground.

Al


#9

@ALRAINBOW - Thanks for your input, Al. It might end up being the case that sloth will win out and it will be much easier to install a 220V dedicated line and proceed that way, rather than switching over to 110…there is a lot to be said for laziness being implicated in decision making I-)


#10

Yes , but it makes for perpetual wondering though . And there is enough wondering in this hobby.



Al


#11
johnjen said: WA-Q chips, power conditioners, etc. can also help but they don't seem to be primary factors.
However if the primary factors are already handled then these secondary improvements can have a much larger effect.

Sort of the law of diminishing returns only in reverse, where even the smallest of improvements can have disproportionate results, for better or worse.

This is a good point and illustrates an effective rule of thumb: get the big things correct first before tweaking with the little things.

#12

Let’s link these treads together: http://www.psaudio.com/vanilla/discussion/5136/dedicated-power-line


#13
Elk said: This is a good point and illustrates an effective rule of thumb: get the big things correct first before tweaking with the little things.

Like my sensei usually says, before dotting the i's you need to write the i's first.

#14

Well said. :slight_smile:


#15

How about adding a feature in the interface that can you can download a about 30 mins of data usage. Why cause it will show just what peaks are and line changes both input and output. I know it’s not a high priority but at 5 K each it is something we should have. Also good for thought another Company is planning this