A problem with AC Power you may not have considered.

My posting is not about a stereo system but it is related to AC Power, from which all stereos draw power. Read on, I am sure you will find this interesting. I certainly did and it caused me to rethink and replan AC Power to my stereo.

At my real job as an electrical engineer, I manage a cross-disciplinary engineering team for a large energy company.   We make large, residential green energy management systems, a size that borders between most large homes and utility companies. A few months back, we released a new product to the 230VAC single-phase market (Australia, Europe, etc.) and recently introduced the same product to the 240VAC split phase market (USA, Canada, etc.).   In addition to a slew of UL, IEC, IEEE, CSA, TUV, and other safety codes, we also had to meet FCC Class B emissions (which all your digital audio equipment must also meet) and also meet FCC Susceptibility requirements (which digital audio does not have to meet, unfortunately).  

Since the two products are almost identical, I thought we could leverage what we learned for the 230VAC unit onto the 240VAC unit.   Well, this is where the impact of grid power to our stereos comes into our interest.  

The emissions requirement is of two parts, of which you may be familiar. One is radiated emission, which is the noise the product broadcasts into the air. The second part is conducted emissions, which is the noise the product injects onto the power lines and runs throughout your house and probably into your neighbors as well.  

The 230VAC unit passed emissions, which I expected as we did a lot of design work to make it pass.   The conducted part was a concern, since that injected noise is from the equipment our vendor produces, not something we designed in house. Well, when the certified testing house tested conducted emissions, it failed.   A couple of weeks of debug later, at 2K$ per day, the problem was solved when I suggested they test with the grid connection running through 8 feet of steel conduit, since all installations have at least 8 feet of conduit.

Fast-forward six months to the 240VAC testing, which took place here in the USA. Surprisingly, the unit failed conducted emissions, even though we used the same 8 feet of steel conduit.   Another week of debug, again at 2K$ per day, we stopped testing since it was clear a new design is needed to fix it. I designed a 50 Ampere Balanced LEMP Filter that had over 50-dBm isolation in the affected frequency range.   Problem solved.   So, why did 8 feet of conduit fix the problem one time and not the next? A good question.  

I took the same 8 AWG THHN wire we used to connect the unit to the grid, ran it through the same 8 feet of 1 ½ inch steel conduit, and rented some high frequency test equipment. In the conduit we had two 8 AWG wires for Line 1 and Line 2, one 8 AWG wire for Neutral, and another 8 AWG for Earth ground.   I ran a bandwidth test from Line 1 to Neutral and tied the conduit and Earth wire to earth, while the other Line wire floated. The test started at 60 Hz, which I referenced as 0 dBm and I ran the test all the way to 30 MHz.   The generator produced 10Vrms, the level I checked at each step, and fed a 50-Ohm load.   To my great surprise, I had a 2-dBm rise at 10 MHz where it began to roll off and was only 2 dBm down at 30 MHz, the limit of the test generator.   In other words, that length of pipe and THHN wire had a bandwidth of +/- 1 dBm from 60 Hz to 30 MHz!   Whoa! We are allowing a ton of injected noise into our systems!

To prove that, I grabbed the power supply from an analog stereo amplifier and fed the test signal through the cord, fuse, transformer, and measured the bandwidth on the secondary.   In spite of a UL/CSA approved transformer, it was surprisingly transparent to the test signal.   Throughout the test spectrum, it was never more than 6 dBm down and it peaked in a couple of areas, too.  

Our homes usually don’t have grounded conduit, what most homes have is Romex wire.   That stuff is transparent to radiated emissions and we live in a world of radiated emissions. Think cell phones, FM and AM radio, TV broadcasts, all the communication frequencies, plus who knows what we have for the dirty noise injected by electric motors. Think your fridge, your AC unit, your furnace, ceiling fans, light dimmers, electric vehicles (that is the reason they don’t usually come with an AM radio these days!), the list can go on for a long time.

For my stereo system here at the house, I built a smaller version of the LEMP filter, added additional suppression, along with 20,000 Amps of surge protection. I am also installing a dedicated earth ground as well.   However, you don’t have to home brew – you can purchase equipment that meets the local safety codes and is LAB certified to meet multiple suppression standards. These units have strong filters in them to clean up line power. There are replacement AC line cords on the market that contain RF suppression.   I don’t suggest you get a new mortgage just to buy AC noise suppression equipment or new line cords, but I do suggest you do something to kill those RF demons.  

Look for equipment that has at least 30 dB of suppression from 100 KHz to 15 or 20 MHz. Thirty to forty dB is the range where most emission problems fade away, so that is a good starting point.   Some equipment has lightening suppression as well; look for an IEEE spec stated in joules of energy, the more the better with a test pulse of 8/20 microseconds.   Don’t be afraid to stack some of the equipment in series.  

The lighting in your listening room can also matter a great deal. Stick with plain, old school incandescent bulbs; avoid the CFL’s, LED’s, neon’s, light dimmers, and other lights that require power supplies to run.   Incandescent bulbs are very quiet, which is why they appear regularly in emission anechoic chambers.   Although digital equipment is less sensitive than analog equipment, it is not immune to susceptibility.   Vacuum tube equipment usually has an edge over solid state, too.  

I hope what I wrote is of help to you in your quest for improved sound.  

The Furman Ref20 is a great piece of kit.

As the OP mentioned, very high frequencies can go right through a transformer, while the transformer tends to filter out very low frequency noise (100s to low 10kHz)

However, the Furman includes SMP filtering, a nearly ideal surge supressor plus noise filter that starts at 3 kHz. That's well below the OP's suggested targets.

The earth ground is for lightning. It carries no current. The ground must return to neutral in split 120v systems or the system MAY BE LETHAL.

PLEASE see https://centralindianaaes.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/indy-aes-2012-seminar-w-notes-v1-0.pdf before futzing.

Note test of A/C wiring in steel conduit produces the WORST noise performance. See p33ff.

Hospital / audiophile grade receptacles lift the safety ground from the mount ground and only have effect in building wired with metal conduit.

Installations wired with Romex surpass steel and are only surpassed by twisted LNE in aluminum and twisted LN.
@erik_squires   Would series mode suppressors further complement my Equitech 2Q balanced power transformer? I do use Sound Application and MIT Cables power conditioning cables/units to excellent effect.  My experience has been that there’s always a benefit by maximizing elimination of ac noise. (I wish I could get technical details on these products.)
Working on reducing the AC noise floor with ByBee products, give me satisfaction.  I think they use some cristals in their devices, as you did in your last experiment,  isn' it Elisabeth ?
@ptss - I cannot tell you if you will hear a difference, but in my mind there’s very few technologies in audio power conditioning well documented:

  • Series mode surge suppression
  • Balanced power
  • Active power regeneration (PS Audio)
  • Power regulation
  • Active power cleaning(LiFT and PerfectPower)
You can find a Furman unit with most if not all of those available.

Everything else is just some form of shunt noise reduction, which is almost never documented.

The series mode protection is also licened by PS Audio if not others. I consider it the minimum due to:
  • Very low impedance
  • Best lightning supression
  • Audible frequency noise reduction