Audiophile Fuses - Are We Certain They Provide Protection?


This thread isn't posted to debate whether sonic benefits can be recognized from audiophile/after-market fuses.  That topic has been well debated through numerous threads already.  What I'm curious about is whether today's audiophile fuses are certain to provide protection to your gear - afterall, that is the absolute main function of a fuse in a circuit design.

I was struck recently reading a thread dating back to 2014 on the Audiocircle forum where the late Roger Modjeski was absolutely beside himself and angered by professional reviewers and manufacturers alike for leading consumers astray (in his opinion) towards use of these fuses, from a first-hand account of damage inflicted on one of his amps.  

Re-posting his message below:

I had several email exchanges with the maker of Tuning Fuses and got the same Red Herring responses. My first experience with his product was in an RM-9 MKII that came to me for service with eight tuning fuses (one for each tube) in place of my specified HIGH BREAKING ceramic fuses. The tuning fuse's inability to do their job properly had blown the wirewound cathode resistor, which I had never seen before. I study every failure and this one caught my attention because it takes a lot of energy to blow that resistor. Its wire is much stouter and of a very high melting material, any fuse should go first.

Of course I opened up the fuse and looked at its construction. It was made in such a way as to be the worst possible fuse for that application. I called the distributor here and asked is it was a high breaking fuse and suitable for a tube fuse. He didn't know what that was. I said well the fuse specified for my amp is high breaking and ceramic. He said that because his fuse was ceramic also it must be OK. This is very naive. He doesn't know and perhaps the maker doesn't know that a high breaking fuse is made a different way, though from the outside it looks the same.

These fuses are totally inappropriate for any high voltage DC application such as a tube fuse in an amplifier. What also amazed me is that these fuses cost more than most tubes. I felt sorry for the owner who had been led down this path by irresponsible magazines like Positive Feedback. Not only did this fuse not protect his tube but it did not protect his amplifier.

The maker of these fuses, like many makers of tweaks will certainly get no admiration from me. What gets me is why so many people want to play with tweaks rather than make real improvements in their system like bi-amping, adding a good subwoofer and simplifying the signal path.

As this experience is now 7 years old I wanted to survey our forum to see whether high-end audio fuse manufacturers are providing data that would give the audiophile community assurances that use of their fuses first and foremost provide adequate protection.  I welcome any input.
364085cb bb52 471e 8c06 4ec3c01ba35cthree_easy_payments
Thank you for posting this topic.
 I asked that question to the people at QSA about the rating on the fuse and voltage rating, also the physical size of the fuse.
I informed them of how my fuse size is listed in the manual. They said no need to worry, fuse will protect at the rated amps.
 I myself have never seen any proper documentation about the hi end fuses. I guess it’s all secret stuff but I never did a complete search to find more information either.
Your question/concern is valid for non-audiophile fuses too. 
Modjeski provided this kind of great technical information in all the threads in his Music Reference section of the AudioCircle Forum (though dormant, that section is still available for viewing). Several years ago I pointed Audiogoner’s to the exact information you quote above, and received nothing but blowback from boutique fuse "believers". I’m surprised none of them has yet reacted to this thread. You can lead a horse to water, but.....

Roger’s passing is as serious a loss to hi-fi as I can think of. He was one of the greats. Right behind him (in time) was Tim de Paravicini (EAR-Yoshino), a designer who shared much in common with Roger. It is therefore not surprising that the electronics of my system come from those two men.
@pauly 
Your question/concern is valid for non-audiophile fuses too.

Agreed.  But most will cite conformance with UL standards like this:
https://m.littelfuse.com/~/media/electrical/faq-documents/ul-class-descriptions-applications.pdf

I haven't seen this type of info on high-end audio fuses and I'm wondering if it is provided by most manufacturers.  Maybe I have not dug deep enough.
I say test ALL your fuses! Only once they have blown can you ever be certain they will blow. 

MC - what is the method you use to test your fuses to make sure they will actually blow at their specified rating before you place them in your gear?
I tend to be cautious where power delivery is concerned and will NOT install any component (fuse, power cable, etc.) unless it's UL-listed.
No listing, no sale. 
I want to know how to test my fuses to make sure they will blow as specified but need to hear MC's methodology for this.  Short of passing say 5 amps of current through a 3A fuse and confirming it indeed does blow and work as designed, what is the method for for confirming the fuse works w/o blowing it!
The easiest way to test a fuse is to measure the voltage drop across it at different current increments (fuse resistance increases with temperature). If the voltage drop stays linear for currents up to and slightly above the fuse's current rating, it will not blow. If the voltage drop increases at the rated current and goes up exponentially a little past the rated current, then it will work. You will need an accurate power supply and a digital multimeter.


Hilarious. Jordan Peterson says never ascribe to malevolence what could be incompetence. I just never dreamed... but there it is. Hilarious.
Is it reasonable to expect consumers of fuses to spend hundred of dollars on an accurate power supply in order to test and trust the fuses they place in gear? Seriously, who does this? Please chime in if you’re testing all of your fuses in this manner. Apparently I'm incompetent in that I don't own a power supply like every other audiophile.
three_easy_payments
Is it reasonable to expect consumers of fuses to spend hundred of dollars on an accurate power supply in order to test and trust the fuses ...
Don't be silly. I don't think anyone has that expectation. But audiophiles buy all kinds of stuff, such as digital stylus force gauges, elaborate phono alignment jigs and room correction software. But you don't necessarily need most of that if all you want to do is enjoy the music.
@cleeds   Exactly.  The whole intention of my OP was to inquire into what assurances the manufacturers of high-end, audio fuses are providing consumers that their fuses indeed meet spec to provide protection - just like any other generic fuse manufacturer routinely provides.  This advice from MC to test every fuse is wholly unacceptable and impractical - even "silly" as you put it.

@gs5556  provided nice guidance on how to do this but it would require expensive equipment and is unreasonably burdensome for an average fuse purchaser.  I'm certain less than 0.1% of all fuse buyers apply this method (which is the only method of testing offered so far - and is stated as the easiest).  For MC to proclaim "I say test ALL your fuses" is not a reasonable path forward - I'm sure nearly everyone on this forum, other than him, would agree. 
three_easy_payments
The whole intention of my OP was to inquire into what assurances the manufacturers of high-end, audio fuses are providing consumers that their fuses indeed meet spec to provide protection ...
You’re being more than a little cagey here. If you truly seek what you claim, you’d ask the sellers of whatever fuse you’re interested in, rather than rely on second-hand info from this group. Most audiophiles don’t make their own measurements of equipment they buy, be it a fuse or a preamp.
@cleeds

You’re being more than a little cagey here. If you truly seek what you claim, you’d ask the sellers of whatever fuse you’re interested in, rather than rely on second-hand info from this group.

The inspiration behind the OP was reading Roger’s account of what happened when he did exactly what you suggested - ask the seller. And you can see the response he got. This led me to doing some online research on fuses. For standard fuses there’s a plethora of information regarding the UL listings that the fuses carry. Conversely when I looked up Synergistic Research, Audio Magic, and Hi-Fi Tuning I couldn’t find a single reference to UL or any other technical assurance that the fuse would provide protection. This is quite the informed group so I thought perhaps others could chime in and supplement with relevant information. I’m just asking a question that shouldn’t be controversial.

For goodness sake, I’m not asking someone to prove they sound better - I just want to know if they are proven to work like a fuse.  If the answer is "yes, here's the data" then that answers my question and it will make me feel better that the public is protected. 
three_easy_payments
... This led me to doing some online research on fuses ...
Why not do real "research" and go right to the source: the manufacturer of the fuses that interest you. Anonymously posing questions in a public forum seeking anonymous responses isn’t "research."
I’m just asking a question that shouldn’t be controversial.
No one has said your question is controversial, so there’s no need to act like a victim here. But it seems you have an agenda.
This advice from MC to test every fuse is wholly unacceptable and impractical - even "silly" as you put it.
That wasn’t MC’s "advice," but his sarcastic response to your concern.
I just want to know if they are proven to work like a fuse. If the answer is "yes, here’s the data" then that answers my question and it will make me feel better that the public is protected.
That’s very nice that you want to "feel better" and protect the public. Good for you! I guess you are really concerned about fuses.

I think most fuses work just like a fuse. I’m sure once in a while that a defective one slips by here or there, or that a user may install an improper fuse. But I applaud your effort to do more so that you can "feel better."
@cleeds

That wasn’t MC’s "advice," but his sarcastic response to your concern.

I actually thought it was his advice and didn’t read sarcasm into it. If he was being sarcastic then my apologies to him and for getting this thread off track.

And yes, I will take your advice and reach out to the manufacturers of these fuse makers to see if they have information to quell my concerns. I will report back on this thread once I get hear back from them. I realize you believe I’m being disingenuous with my concern as I read more than a tad bit of sarcasm in your last line - which is fine. I’m skeptical of many poster’s motivations as well.
three_easy_payments
... I will take your advice and reach out to the manufacturers of these fuse makers to see if they have information to quell my concerns. I will report back on this thread once I get hear back from them.
Thank you! I'll be interested to hear their responses and I suspect others will, as well.
Modjeski a true genius, rest in peace
Good news...Synergistic Research got back to me very quickly and indicated that all SR fuses are UL certified.

I’ve also reached out to Audio Magic and VH Audio and will post their responses as well.

iQ Database is UL’s searchable database for fuses. This free online database gives you the ability to find, verify and specify fuses by selecting from a set of more than 10 parameters to meet your specific application.

Another UL Certification Search option.




"Good news...Synergistic Research got back to me very quickly and indicated that all SR fuses are UL certified....."

Synergistic Research is NOT listed in the UL database. You can verify this with the link that tvad provided.
@turnbowm

Andy Wiederspahn at SR wrote to me indicating that all SR fuses are UL certified. I tend to assign a high level of validity to that and suspect the search criteria or database info isn’t correct. A company is unlikely to make performance claims in writing that are fraudulent.
"Andy Wiederspahn at SR wrote to me indicating that all SR fuses are UL certified. I tend to assign a high level of validity to that and suspect the search criteria or database info isn’t correct. A company is unlikely to make performance claims in writing that are fraudulent."

The Synergistic Research website does NOT indicate that their fuses are UL-listed. There's a reason for that, but believe what you want.
@turnbowm This is what inspired me to start the thread in the first place - I couldn't find any information on any audiophile fuse maker's website indicating a UL certification.  @cleeds made the very good suggestion that I just start reaching out them directly and that's what I'm doing. Failure to find a spec on a website is not proof positive that the spec doesn't exist.  I do however find it curious that high-end audio fuse manufacturers wouldn't put a bit more effort into marketing UL certification more broadly simply as a selling point.
When HiFi Tuning came out with their fuse lines, some thought they "had" them because when corresponding with them, they had no idea what the breaking point was for their fuses so, ipso, facto, they were snake oil.

Turns out that in the EU, they don't refer to it as breaking point but rupturing point, and they comply with the standards over there that match our standards. It all boiled down to semantics and who you pay to get certification. 

As for other brands, I can't say but it would behoove one to determine where they're made and what certifications they meet in their homeland, which should very closely parallel what we have here, stateside. It may all boil down to just whether they want to pay for certification or just sell online.

All the best,
Nonoise
I was using SR Blue in my Herron almost from new. It was left on 24/7 in the beginning but then the first time it was turned on after having been off a few days the fuse blew. Fearing for my new phono stage I called and talked with Keith Herron about it. Learned quite a lot.   

This is all written up multiple times, the usual suspects should know by now by heart but here we go again. Keith never had a fuse blow on the bench even in testing. He also has no problem with going up in value. So I run 2A instead of 1A. Also fuses do not do what everyone thinks they do. But if you think I am gonna waste my time repeating the explanation of that one think again. DYODD. Anyone obsessed with breaking points needs to get a new hobby, or come to terms with reality. There are no tests for breaking point other than to blow the fuse and then you know. Hence my joke.   

Sorry but it really is by now a running joke. UL is maybe the biggest joke of all. Once you are in on it, anyway.  
I just heard back from VH Audio - the makers of HiFi Tuning fuses.  Their fuses carry the CE designation. On commercial products, the letters CE mean that the manufacturer or importer affirms the good's conformity with European health, safety, and environmental protection standards. It is not a quality indicator or a certification mark.  

What's interesting is that unprompted, VH Audio wrote "...whereas the Synergistic don’t have any designation that I am aware of. That said, the SR fuses are known to actually blow quicker than stock glass fuses…"  I didn't ask them about SR fuses or any other brand other than HiFi Tuning. 

Anecdotally what VH Audio writes matches very well with MC's experience with his Herron.  Yes, a single data point - but perhaps there is something to the statement beyond slinging mud at the competition - which I truly don't care for. 

 

 

I had an SR Orange fuse blow, just like it was supposed to, when I was being careless. No damage to me, or my equipment, but an expensive lesson.

I don’t believe any audiophile fuses are made from scratch. They are buying standard fuses in bulk from the manufacturer, and then modifying, or treating, them in some way.
cerberus79
A few months ago I purchased a used pair of speakers from another Agon member.
To my surprise all the fuses were Orange fuses. I listened to them and then to satisfy my curiosity I replaced them with ordinary buss fuses and could not hear a difference.
I did this test with a bunch of friends and neither I or them could hear a difference. Kind of just says it all doesn't it?


To those non technical thinking of purchasing these $$$ fuses. Just save your $150+ and do this instead.

A fuse:
1: two end caps
2: short piece of fuse wire connecting the two end caps through a glass tube (that’s all she wrote).

To those "non technical" members that are interested in "maybe" wasting their money, do not listen to the non-technical, listen to the technicians of this industry that design the audio products you have and listen to. AND YOU WON"T SEE THEM ON THREADS LIKE THIS AGREEING WITH WHAT SAID HERE ABOUT THE SOUND IMPROVMENT DETAILS AND AC FUSE PLACEMENT DIRECTION, EVER!!!
Just clean and tighten your fuse holder and re-new your fuse (if old) with a good quality 50cent Bussman, Littlefuse or similar.As with "many switch-on surges" they do deteriorate, bend, stretch and get crusty with electrolysis formations on their fusible wire elements before they give out, as these pics show of a fuse wire element ageing over time show. https://ibb.co/9NbTwqK (even the $$$ boutique ones will age just as much also)

Cheers George

I blew two different SR fuses on two different Herron pre amps using different fuse values.  Once I went back to a regular fuse (glass and ceramic) I have had no issues.  

Same thing happened to me. Only instead of giving up and going back to crap I called High-End Electronics and picked their brains. Then called Keith Herron and picked his. Even after stuffing my cranium there is plenty left in his, so relax. Then called and had a higher value replacement sent. Life's too short to use cheap fuse.

@millercarbon I had a blue and it blew.  Was sent an orange at a higher value and it blew in the 360 pre amp.  I don't know what fuses SR are using but this is what it looked like when I peeled back the organge covering on my system page.  I'm not trying to bash SR since I have their HFT'w which I like.  

 

I have all ARC electronics. I’ve gone through the whole gambit of SR fuses. The Reds, the Blacks, the Blues, the Oranges, and now the Purples. I had one Black fuse blow in my ARC Ref-75se upon turn on. That’s it ... one fuse out of all of those listed. All of them were at ARC’s recommended values too. Conclusion? ... Buy ARC. :-)

Frank

 

 

If one is going to start messing around with boutique fuses (which I don’t recommend), then don’t forget to adjust the flux capacitor resistor output so that the conditioned power intake is aligned properly with the faraday cage.😉

If SR will not put in writing their fuses are UL certified or EU certified why would anyonewant to take a chance with them? For a representative to just say they are and trust them at their word is just plain ignorant IMO. 

Some years ago, I discussed boutique fuses with a service tech at Ayre Acoustics.  He told me they had internally discussed their support of boutique fuses (such as HiFi Tuning) and whether they would warranty units that failed with a boutique fuse installed.  At that time, it sounded as if they were on the fence internally about supporting the use of boutique fuses, but they would be reluctant to publically denounce boutique fuses unless they started to observe direct evidence of those fuses causing failures.

I have yet to hear about equipment failures being attributed to using boutique fuses, even from users who "size up" to the next higher fuse, as sometimes discussed in these forums.  Given all of the SR, Audio Magic, HiFi Tuning, Acme, etc. fuses being purchased by audiophiles, I doubt "assurances" are even necessary.

rsf507 ...

"If SR will not put in writing their fuses are UL certified or EU certified why would "anyone want to take a chance with them? For a representative to just say they are and trust them at their word is just plain ignorant IMO."

Just for the fun of it, go through the owner's manuals of all of the audio equipment you own, including cables, tweaks, and electronics, and see if there is anything stated about UL certification. If the certification isn't there, then perhaps you are "taking a chance," and should discard the offending pieces. 

Frank

Why would a cable or non-electrical audio tweak need to be UL or EU certified? But all my electronics do have that nomenclature on the back of the equipment. So there you have it.

Lets hear from anyone having suffered equipment damage due to boutique fuse failure.  Regardless of UL, EU certification this is where the rubber meets the road.

 

And is UL, EU certification assurance  oem fuse in your equipment meets specs? What are regulations in regard to quality assurance? And can manufacturer prove boutique fuse failure caused equipment damage vs UL,EU certified fuse? I'd assume boutique fuse would be replaced by generic prior to return to manufacturer.

Also, how is one to know oem fuse supplied with new equipment is UL,EU certified. I've looked at plenty of oem fuses with no markings at to manufacturer, some have not been marked with anything, not even value.

 

 

"But all my electronics do have that nomenclature on the back of the equipment. So there you have it."

Does your Atmosphere amp have UL stickers on the back? Really? I had a pair of Ralph’s 60-watt mono-blocks in my system for years, and I honestly don’t recall a UL sticker on the back of the amps. Wonderful amps though. Wouldn’t mind having another pair. I bet they’d make the Signature IIIs really sing.

Right now I’m looking at the back of my PC, and my Audioengine A2+ speakers. No sticker there. I also checked the backs of my ARC electronics. No sticker there either. No mention in the owner’s manuals as well.

Am I in danger?? :-)

Frank

How much would a UL approval cost? From a simple Google search:

"How much does it cost to get a product UL certified? The fee, paid to UL, is often in the range between US$5,000 to 15,000."

So, for the small to medium audio electronics manufacturer to get each piece of equipment UL approved, the cost would be prohibitive.

Frank

@turnbowm

Andy Wiederspahn at SR wrote to me indicating that all SR fuses are UL certified.
 

Just an FYI my Atmasphere MP-1 does have the CE designation engraved on the back.