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An accidental upgrade


maxg
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Well its been a very long time since I last posted on the 2 channel forum - mainly because my system settled about 4 years ago and hasn't changed an iota since then.

That was until about a week ago - although nothing on the system, nor in the room has actually changed.

So a week ago I started having serious electrical problems in the house with the main relay switching off regularly.

I called a man in, He looked at the old board with its series of relays and stated it needed replacing. This was the cause of my problems apparently.

So out with the old and in with the new. An amazing looking set of switches that would not look out of place in a Star Trek movie was installed. It was wonderful - but it didn't solve the problem.

We went through the whole house and eventually discovered that the refridgerator was shorting out (power cable inside had worn through its shielding - how? and was shorting on the body of the unit). That was taped up and everything worked fine.

So I was left thinking - well this beautiful to behold new set of switches was a complete waste of money then.

But it wasn't.

For the last 6 days I have been playing music on my system and am stunned. The improvement in sound has been simply astonishing. I am not sure it has ever played as well as this. Every aspect of sound reproduction has improved - from the firmness of the bass to the soundstage. It took me quite a while to reason out why this had happened. The last thing I suspected was the power - but as it was the only thing I had changed what else could it be?

I have never been one for the importance of power cables and am still not - but the importance of an even, reliable power supply - on that I am now sold.

There is now no doubt in my mind that the old relay box was problematic although it wasn't the cause of the original problem. My new sound tells me it was an amazingly good investment. I am guessing it is as good for all the other electrical items as it is for the stereo - just not as obvious. I dunno though - maybe the lights are a little bit brighter - it could just be my mood though.

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Interesting and curious. I upgraded my audio circuit wiring a few years ago, and didn't hear much difference. The upgrade went from 15 to 20 amps, which meant the wiring went from 14 gauge to 12 gauge, a hefty increase in wire size and stiffness.[:(] Although I'd been promised an audible difference, the addition of an isolated ground to those circuits didn't seem to do much, either. However, I was mostly pursuing a noisy amplifier buzz at the time, and thought those things helped that problem slightly. (I later found that I had to change the dimmer switch on transformer-fed lights; that cured the problem.)

For the same reason, I also borrowed a bunch of power cords and spent a couple of days trying them out on my power-hungry OTL tube amplifiers. One thing I did discover was that every power cord sounds a little different, rarely very different, but that the differences are mostly plus-and-minus with no net improvement. Only one, a pricey NBE, was an actual improvement, quelling the buzz somewhat and delivering a more forceful deep bass impact from recordings.

Only one power item has made a major difference IMO (I haven't tried others): a PS Audio P-300 power plant, no longer available. This reformulates house current into a pure sine-wave (and uses a lot of current to do it), which makes a major difference (purer sine wave, much less ragged) in how the house current looks on an oscilloscope and also made for a heck of an improvement in motor-driven components like TTs and tape decks. Your Clearaudio TT has something like it, and I think I recall your enthusiasm for it.

I've read that old circuit breakers degrade, so maybe that caused your juice to flip off and deteriorate the power signal.

Old appliance power cords can seriously fray, especially old fabric-covered US cords. Fridges running over them over the years are probably a significant cause.

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Larry,

Your comments reflect others that I've read about here and elsewhere. Max, so do your comments. The difference seems to me to be European vs. U.S. (i.e., 50 Hz, 220/240V vs. 60 Hz, 110/120V). I see many folks on the higher voltage side (European) paying closer attention to their power distribution.

This is certainly counterintuitive. Must be something else involved that I don't see.

Chris

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Thanks Marvel - yes we are surviving the hiatus over here - just about.

As for the reasons for the improvement of my sound with the new circuit breakers I am guessing that as they get older they get noisier. I am sure the least affected item is the TT as it does indeed have a power regulator on it that holds the Voltage at 230 Volts exactly and the frequency at exactly 50.1 Hz (both are user set - I use the additional 0.1 Hz to take into account slipage on the belt drive).

My amp is a fairly high power 200 WPC unit and my pre-amp is a modded ZTPRE tube unit. I suspect that these 2 are the main beneficiaries of the improvements brought by the electrical changes. I use a powered sub too so that must also be benefitting I'd guess.

Bascially as I said I never thought about it and certainly wasn't expecting a change as I didn't realize that there was anything wrong with the old installation. This was very much an after the event discovery.

It would be quite interesting to run a test on a high powered amp to see how it coped with fluctuating electic power. I wonder if a plus or minus 5% swing would have an audible affect? I'd guess it would but until someone tests it out ....anyone?

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Unless your old panel was delivering very low voltage, but not enough to trip anything, it's unlikely anything changed. I think it's just human nature to try to see some kind of improvement for an expensive update that was unneeded.

That can certainly be true, but re-read the OP. He didn't upgrade for sound quality, nor was he expecting any. There's no placebo effect if the subject wasn't being told (wasn't expecting that) he would have an improved system. That's deductive reasoning based on an observation. What you describe is perception disturbance due to expectancy conditioning.

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Good observation, Jason (Cornfed)...I had forgotten that point.

For me, the fact remains that the European 220/240V folks seem to be sensitive to power conditioning a lot more than U.S. users are. Perhaps voltage spikes and RF-bleedthrough from neighbors' power usage is more auditory and/or transmissible at 50 Hz/220? It seems to me that the issue should be related to current, but that is clearly out of the equation here.

Any takers?

Chris

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It seems to me that the issue should be related to current, but that is clearly out of the equation here.

But look at how much foreign noise can get into household current -- RF, buzzing from dimmer switches, maybe other bad stuff. I tried to find a PSAudio pic showing the contrast between an asymmetrical, ragged-looking wave coming from public power outlets vs. the purified sinewave from one of their power regenerators (I'll post one if I can find it). Amazing difference.

What if that refrig was sending buzzy crap into the house current? Transformer-based track lighting with the wrong kind of dimmer can do to that to a household circuit. I've been surprised at how much more comfortable the sound is without the buzzing.

OTOH, I'm sure Max could easily hear and diagnose that kind of thing. My $0.02.

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Unless your old panel was delivering very low voltage, but not enough to trip anything, it's unlikely anything changed. I think it's just human nature to try to see some kind of improvement for an expensive update that was unneeded.

I don't think low voltage would do it. We are talking about a quite dramatic difference in sound quality here - beyond anything I would have thought possible. Its the sort of change one might expect if you were to change your source to one that is double the price.

No - for this effect to have happened I think the only explanation is that the old panel was delivering a wavering voltage due to a combination of aging components and/or loose connections. It would be nice to attempt to regenerate that scenario deliberately with, say, a 5% continualy variation in voltage and listening to the result. Sadly I don't have the equipment to do that.

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All the breakers are powered off the same bus. If one breaker (refrigerator) is feeding noise back then the entire house could easily be affected. Also a 220V system provides only half the current of a 110 system, and uses thinner gauge wire. A low voltage condition in such a system may have more of an effect on household applicances and audio equipment than in a 110 v. system. Replacing the breaker board, and retightening all the connections at the source and at each breaker could definitely have an effect to reduce any voltage loss or intermittent connections. Plus we don't know how bad the condition of things before the upgrade.

I believe what Max is saying that his whole house probably has a better more stable electrical service now, and I also agree that the audio system is probably running better now too as a result.

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Hi, Max! Good to hear you're doing well in all the stormy situations in your part of the world.

In one of the English magazines, maybe Hi Fi, I recall reading that one of the editors had the transformer down the street from his home replaced during scheduled electrical grid maintenance and he immediately noticed his system sounding better. Stable power can help a lot.

On an unrelated note, my JubScalas are still happy with the power they're getting from the pair of MX-D1 amps. [:o][:P]

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"... the pair of MX-D1 amps"

Now that's funny. I had forgotten you had 2 of them. Well, why not, they are only 500 wpc each and its not like JubScalas are highly sensitive speakers or anything.

I'd guess that setup alone would serve a Stones concert for 60,000 or so....

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