Dedicated power lines for audio?

I have read all of the stories about PLC's and as a result I first want to build and try a dedicated circuit for my audio system. I have a 200 AMP Square D panel with lots of available space to start with... Now what? What kind of breakers, dedicated surge devices, filters, lines, outlets, ground protection, etc?
And.... Where can I get the materials? Also - I have done lots of electrical work myself and would like to this as well. I have an electrician next door to inspect and help when needed.
Hi Dcase...; I'm not an expert here, but recently I had a dedicated AC and ground system run into my stereo room (by electricians). From my main breaker box, I used 50 ft. of 6 gauge 3 wire from a 50 amp breaker, and ran it to a submain box with 4 20amp breakers. From the submain, they then ran 4 dedicated lines to Hubbell duplex outlets. My main breaker box is also Square D, and I just used standard 20 amp breakers in my submain box. I did replace the old original 50 amp breaker with a new one. Dedicated lines have some pitfalls: 1. The mainline cable from main to submain is directional, ie it will sound better running one direction than the other. And the only way you can find this out is by trying it each direction-- I learned this from Redkiwi. Well, I tried it and one direction music was excessively soft, flat, dull, and uninvolving (Redkiwi found one way to be too bright), but the other direction was much more natural, live, and involving. I first ran the mainline outside the wall/attic to do this testing before having it final wired in. Redkiwi also recommended using the old style ceramic fuses instead of breakers, and I tried them first, but music character was really strange, ie this set-up produced a distinct midbass hump and the mid-range was shelved downward, in short tonal balance was not right. Going back to standard 20 amp breakers corrected this, and music sounded natural (here in USA I had to step down from 220 volt/50 amp at the submain box-- and obviously this is a significant difference from NZ). BTW, Redkiwi is from New Zealand, and they use 230/240 volt there, but I learned much in the way of general principals from him. Use good quality outlets-- I used audiophile grade Hubbells (from the Cable Co.), do not use any surge protection or filters-- that's what you're trying to get away from. For ground, I had 3 six ft. copper rods driven in the ground within 10 ft. of dedicated sub-main. A stout ground wire was run from sub-main to ground, so each outlet does not have a dedicated ground. One other thing that is important: a dedicated system will cause your system to be too bright, caused by the stock, inexpensive power cords. Replacing your stock cords with good quality custom cords will probably be necessary. I learned this from Redkiwi also, and found it to be true. I put Syn. Res. Master Couplers on my amp amd pre-amp, and that got rid of the brightness. I have on order SR-MCs for my CD transport and DAC (hope it's not too much of a good thing). When all done (and tweaked), this was a significant upgrade-- noise floor dropped dramatically and music was more clear, detailed, live, and natural. I found out the hard way that some of this can be a big pain, but in the end it was worth it. Best of Luck. Craig.
....all the electrical supplies you asked about are available from any good electrical supply store, ie mainline cable, submain box (if you go that way), breakers, tubing, ground rods and cable etc.. The only special thing needed are the outlets, which as noted, I got from the cable Co.( at 2 for $25.00. Craig
Go to electrical supply store and get 12ga romex and as many hospital grade outlets as you need. 20amp breaker and your done. hospital grade outlets hae a green dot on them. Don't accept anthing but the green dot. Don't be fooled by these audiophile outlets. theres no substitute for the green dot. Expect to pay 20-25 for each.( 8ga wire is a ridiculus overkill)
Leemark; I used 6 ga. wire because I had it, and it was already wired into my main breaker box. It used to feed a 180 amp arc welder, and for that was certainly not "overkill". A mainline wire is only needed to go from the main breakerbox to a submain breaker box-- I preferred that because I wanted 4 duplex outlets, but did not have the room in my main breakerbox to wire them in individually. And of course, you're stuck with the "house" ground if you come directly off the main breaker box. There is disagreement about the value of grounding individual outlets and grounding just the submain (I grounded the submain). But a good ground is probably as important as the dedicated lines. High quality ICs, speaker cables, and power cords are almost all made of large gauge wire for a reason. Thicker is better, but of course dimishing returns are reached at some point. Hubbell outlets are well regarded for many uses as well as audiophile, and it appears that at 2 for $25. are less expensive than hospital grade. Regards. Craig.
remember too to observe phase when placing your new breakers in the panel. Always keep breakers on the same phase. For example mount all your dedicated lines on the same side of the box. Craig I feel sorry for the guy that had to work with your 6ga romex.
Hi Leemark; Good comment re: phase. The 6 ga. wire I used is stranded TPC (tough pitch copper) and all the electrician did was reroute it from my garage, through the attic, and out an attic vent screen (to the outside). So actually that part went pretty smooth and easy. My sub-main box is on the outside of the house, and once there it was pretty straight forward for them. The dedicated AC lines and ground really made a nice improvement in music. Cheers. Craig
I ran my own dedicated line: three strands - the usual black, white & green (with some advice from Mike VansEvers) using #10 solid THHN. Line them up straight, & tape the ends all together. Put that combo into your power drill chuck & fasten the other loose ends tight in a vice. Now spin the whole bundle slowly until tight like a spring. It will unwind a lot when you power off the drill. Exchange ends & finish the twist. Run this bundle from the fusebox to a dedicated outlet. BTW: a 20A ceramic fuse sounded much warmer & smother than the glass fuse.
Hi Dcaseyb, to add to the excellent advice above is my experience from a few days ago: some related threads as follows (some more related than others): Related threads: Hum and grounding Hope this helps.
Bob.... Interesting observation about glass versus ceramic fuses. I just used glass (that's what the electricians supplied with the box), and did not think to try ceramic, but your experience is much more like what Redkiwi (New Zealand) found. If I could go back and do it again, I'd try the ceramic fuses also. Fortunately the standard breakers sound good. Cheers. Craig
Bob: is the THHN a single copper wire? please confirm.... I also used the trick of the drill (better if reversible) for temporary long speaker cable runs for surrounds (ca 40 ft per channel) and it's much better that them running parallel without the twist
Sol: Yes to the single solid copper wire question. Dunno about directionality: now I need to try it both ways (per Garfish, see above). I guess you just look at the printing on the wire's insulation & ensure that all 3 conductors are aligned identically. Re: the twisted conductors - this relates to something about the magnetic flux fields cancelling each other. You'll find that some upgrade AC cords are made this way too. Of course you must run this twisted wire bundle in a conduit (or in 3/8" Greenfield if code permits - much easier to work with). I disagree re: not using any surge protection & filtering, at least from my own experience. I have a big Joslyn gas-discharge primary arrestor, across the whole house' primary, in the basement. Then a G.E. MOV (metal oxide varistor) in parallel across my Wattgate 381 outlet (mounted in a box) upstairs. MOV's are not supposed to hurt anything; Chang Lightspeed uses them internally for transient protection. Hope they're right? I also use two Chang Lightspeeds (a 3200 and a 9900 Amp) in addition to some pretty seriously expensive upgrade AC cords. The dedicated line sounded even better with the Chang's than it did standalone, but that might relate to the directionality issue (which I've not yet addressed) not being optimum? Maybe when summer's over I'll try that. Right now I'm gleefully satisfied with the results so far. Dramatic improvements over the house wiring! I noticed they also make plastic-based fuses; have not tried one, but I should, just for grins. I polished the fuse clean & bright, then applied Kontact. Same with the #10 solid conductors' ends, just like I do with all my AC & signal cables. If you use anything larger than #10 it becomes a bear to work with. #10 is stiff too, but at least it's still workable. Now what about isolated grounding? Has anyone done this, & was it worthwhile? Keep this thread going guys - this is realy good stuff, and we're all learning a lot, myself included.
Excellent thread! I don't pretend to know much, however. You may want to look at a series of introductory articles on this by Jonathan Scull, available on the STEREOPHILE website under ARCHIVES. Search for FINE TUNES no's 9 thru' 12. If you collect the 'zine, these are in Feb. thru' April 1999.
I recently added a dedicated line along with isolated grounding. A very positive improvement in the sound quality of my system. Highly recommended. I used quite a bit of the information from several of the Audiogon threads. Thanks. The one thing I didn’t gain any improvement on was the directionality of the main wiring (as Redkiwi says). I wasn’t able to here an audible difference by changing the direction of the wire. I followed the same process and ran the wiring on the outside of the house. I actually tested is four different ways (switching both the hot and neutral wires). I’m curious if others are finding that directionality makes a difference? I used stranded 8awg from the main breaker and a combination of 8awg and 4awg for the isolated grounding (yes it is probably overkill but what the hell). The main wire was pretty stiff and somewhat hard to work with and barely fit into the wattagate screw down terminals. The ground wire was Esoteric Audio car power wire. It consists of many strands of copper and is very flexible. I fed the main line in series to two wattagate receptacles (about 6' apart). From the wattagates I used short runs of 8awg to a copper grounding block and then approximately 10’ of the 4awg to the outside grounding rods. I used two 8 footers about 18” apart. The best comment that I get is when my wife asks me if she can water my rod when she’s done with the garden.
i'd like to thank everyone for all of the helpful info. i just finished installing 4 new outlets on 4 circuits from a sub panel run off of the main box. i went from a 40amp breaker, ran 3 conductor 8 gauge to the subpanel, drove a separate 5/8" grounding rod from the subpanel, used separate neutral and ground wires for each circuit and used hubbell hospital grade outlets from hcm audio(24.75ea). wow!!! what a difference. increased detail AND smooth involving presentation not to mention a bigger and better image! i couldn't hardly listen to my system during the daytime before.....too hard sounding. i have been listening all day while two window ac units and a dehumidifier and my computer are all on and it sounds terrific! the only thing i can add to the discussion is i am going to try a quieting transformer. my local spectral dealer has one hooked up with his 2c3d system. i will report back when i get it hooked up. i am hearing info for the first time on many cd's!
Hi Tk; and congratulations on your dedicated AC system. It sounds almost exactly like what I had done this spring. And I agree with all your comments about improved music quality/character. HAPPY LISTENING. Craig.