Least Controversial, Reasonably Priced AC Upgrades

Hello Everyone

At last, the light is appearing at the end of my house renovation tunnel, and -- fingers crossed -- I may actually be listening to music in my new living room before 2005.

Having spent every last penny on marriage, family, Subzero refrigerators etc, I am trying for the first time to upgrade the wiring a bit and protect the equipment against surges.

Despite my enthusiasm for this site and a pretty decent system, I remain firmly in the dark ages on power conditioners, high end power cords, outlets, surge protectors etc.

The place where we are we are moving in the country apparently has frequent power outages, especially in winter when falling branches down the lines.

I have read many heated debates about power conditioners etc with some of you saying that they actually WORSEN the sound, that I would like to start with a simple:

dedicated line?
Albert Porters wall outlets?
a chunky power strip inside my new 6' component rack on casters?
a surge protector (Monster Cable?) to protect all of the above in my newly flaky electical district?

Again, simple, effective, not wildly expensive please.

The idea is to have a moveable rack of equipment on casters that I can wheel from the corner of the room to my listening chair for easy access, which will be tethered to the wall by one power cord only and with long interconnects to the amp which will be located by the speakers.

The rest of the spaghetti mess will stay neatly inside the rack, concealed by a ventilated door.

Thank you in advance for all ideas and suggestions.
Dedicated lines, yes yes.

Surge protectors: I don't know of any that won't limit available power and thus have a negative effect on the music. Maybe someone else does. If lightning strikes on the power line are a problem (and they are at my country place), I take a calculated risk in having the system plugged in during stormy weather.

Power outages: A'gon member Twl has a system which operates entirely off the grid. His music is safe from power outages. The rest of us might want some backup to... well, maybe to allow safe shutdown of our systems, but I can't see a true need for this myself. Maybe someone can enlighten me. In any case, watch out for battery power supplies (UPS) designed for computers. Often they do not output a true sine wave.

The chunky power strip and Porter Ports sound good. You might also contact member Subaruguru (Ernie Meunier) about uncontroversial, reasonably priced wire and hardware.
The casters don't provide any isolation.
Search the archives..or send me $100 and I'll help you.
Some high value added additions that should cost you very little if you have a electrician already on site:

Install a whole-house surge protector at the main service (breaker) panel-Square D, or Cuttler-Hammer are always available on Ebay for zilch. Will protect again 99% of dangerous power surges.

Install a 240v subpanel 30 amp+ as close to your stereo as possible-wire to a twist-lock 240v 30 amp outlet-If you wire for 240v you can use 12 gage wire rather than 10 ga. but check your local code.

Install a 240/120 boost/buck transformer of at least double the amperage/wattage that your system will draw- these transformers are also available on Ebay. You could also install a Compact line conditioner that bucks the 240v to 120 and has its won 10 120v outlets-economical and very high quality. Available on Ebay from time to time.

This system will give you high quality, relatively safe power at a minimum price and will be upgradable if you decide to do lunatic fringe stuff. BTW you can sell the surge protector to the wife as a way to save that high price fridge.
Psychic is right, there is a wealth of informaion in the archives, although IMO he is being a bit harsh in his choice of words. Most of us here have received at least as much as we have given.
Trying to be helpful, search the archives for threads by Glen and Lak. Glen is a licensed electrician and KNOWS what he is talking about. Lak has a VERY well engineered isolated system. My understanding is the Psychic has a system that is very similar to Lak's. You can learn a lot from both of them. There are many others who have contributed to the archives.
If you wish more specific thoughts for your system, email me offline. I have saved copies of similar correspondence and will be happy to forward them to you.
1) Install a whole-house surge protector at the main service (breaker).

2)Install dedicated AC lines 10 gauge.

3)In my opinion Albert Porters wall outlets are very good (other cryo'd brands are very good also).

4)Install a Xentek isolation transformer (5 KVA) some where before your AC power gets to your wall outlets.
I'm not harsh--I'm unemployed! It's cheaper to give me $100...small price to pay for *personalized* assesment. Look at what Lak did after he heard my power rig!

Gifts are accepted, too! RX8man got a complete & thorough power/noise assesment and sent me a couple classic Rat Shack A/V speakers I'm currently using while my stuff's in storage.

I am definitely going back to school and becoming an electrician (and speciallizing in noise control). Just need to get settled here in Florida...

I agree dedicated lines are good. Short runs are also good. If you have high-power/high-current amps, maybe increasing wire gauge by a bit would be a good idea. If you are running the wiring now, a twist every meter on the romex would help with RF noise rejection. Grounded metal electrical boxes can help with that too. Keeping all the audio circuits on the opposite AC leg from the refrigerators and other noise-generating appliances is good. Good quality aftermarket power cords do a good job at the last few feet before the components. Keeping digital players in a separate circuit from the amps/preamp may help with isolating digital "hash" put out on the power lines from the digital equipment(infecting the power to the other components). Good grounding is important too.

Basic practices of keeping the power wires away from the interconnects and other sensitive signal wires is a good idea to minimize hum.

Just a few suggestions.
At least you've given up on mounting the outlets in the floor!
Psychanimal is very knowledgable (and opinionated) about many audiophile theories. I have learned much from Franciso, as well as from many on Audiogon and Franciso’s mentors.

Unemployed? Why the heck did you move over 1000 miles away?

What ever happened to the classes you were going to take at Owens to become an electrician?

Best regards…and good luck with whatever you are doing with your life.
Lak, Toledo is a dump (the Land of the Bitter, in my words). I was sent there because nobody wanted the job--I applied for a position in Chicago. They sent me (and left me there) cause I was single, unemployed and my lease was expiring in two weeks. Being there and working outside in the cold, windy lake Erie shore was a continuous depressive episode which took a toll on my health. My doctor said my immune system had been "wiped out"...and it wasn't virus related.

London, send me a classical music CD or two. Something live, Baroque, Slavonic, or a surprise. I'll surprise you...beyond your dreams. I might be opinionated, but I'm very well aware that power delivery/noise control is application specific. It can also be dependent on what can be grabbed in the surplus market.

"4)Install a Xentek isolation transformer (5 KVA) some where before your AC power gets to your wall outlets."

Lak- Looks like you have them in your basement. Do these transformers generate a lot of heat and/or noise?
Transformers are usually 96-98% efficient-this means that they convert 2-4% of their rated current to heat. Most units are designed to heat to 115C (@250F)maximum. Heat is generated regardless of load. It is a good idea to place a HD switch (disconnect switches work well)in the circuit beforethe transformer so that the current can be cut when the unit will not be needed.
You are correct, I have two 5 KVA Xentek isolation transformers cleaning power that goes into my sub-panel that feeds three of the four sound systems in my home. They do generate some heat (not too bad, warm to the touch) and about 60 dB of noise (hum) each. That's one of many reasons I have them located in my basement.

Some of our Audiogon members have their isolation transformers in their music rooms with AC outlets installed in them so they can plug equipment directly into the isolation transformer. Seems to work well for them but perhaps not ideal but very workable.

I agree Toledo is not perfect however for me living in Perrysburg has worked out well. Whenever I retire I will most likely relocate Westward. The climate in Orlando should suite your needs quite well (I hope) and your health will return to you quickly! Must feel similar but not as good as Puerto Rico!

You’re one of the masters of "power delivery/noise control is application specific. It can also be dependent on what can be grabbed in the surplus market."
Lak- appreciate the info. Two more questions, do you have
a source for the units, and please give me an idea of what kind of improvement they made in your system. Mahalo, Dan

These are the benefits that I hear in my system:

Blacker background, more resolution, greater detail and transparency, more dimensional sound stage with greater depth. An over all improvement that I would have never believed if I had not heard with my own ears.

If Psychicanimal is feeling charitable, he can jump in any time.

Keep a close eye on Ebay for these items that are used and/or speak to some electricians, many times they have used isolation transformers they will sell.
Lak- Mahalo for taking the time to respond to my questions.
I appreciate you insights and advise.
I want CDs...
"I want CDs"

Psychicanimal- Borders has 20% off this week.
Lak and Psychic,
I WANT / NEED a Xentek 5Ker NOW !!!!

I would be more than happy to send CDs to you or anyone else who could hold my hand through this project.

I have been posting on Agon for a while now and I am not afraid to search the archives, but somehow this whole AC thing just baffles me.

Thanks for all the ideas.
I saw a Xentek 5k on Ebay in the last three days with a starting bid of a

....Well...OK....it's put to $255 now...

Along with the Xentek's, another brand worth looking for is Topaz. You can find these on Ebay and in various surplus supply houses.

Outside of the KVA rating of the transformer, you should look at the capacitance levels too. The lower the internal capacitance, the better. The higher the capacitance, the more coupling between the primary ( dirty side ) of the AC transformer and the secondary side of the transformer. The more coupling that you get, the less isolation and more noise that you have feeding into your system.

On top of that, you should look at the weight of the unit too. The heavier that the unit is, the larger the core. The larger the core, the less potential for saturation. If the core saturates, even on momentary peaks, the transformer itself will generate distortion and feed it into the AC system.

For sake of comparison, the Xentek 3.0 KVA transformers that i have clock in at over 100 lbs apiece. These were custom made pieces i.e. 3 KVA windings using 5 KVA cores to reduce the potential for saturation. The stock iso transformers that come inside of the Tice Power Blocks and Titans are rated at 1.8 KVA and weigh about 40 lbs each.

As you can see, even if you were to double the rating and weight on the Tice pieces, you would still only end up with 80 lbs of transformer for 3.6 KVA. As such, the Tice cores are noticeably undersized for any type of heavy draw. Other than for the shear profit factor, this is another reason why Tice suggested using two cores in parallel via the Power Block / Titan combo. If one does not do this, it's quite possible to run into core saturation ( distortion ) and the lack of dynamics associated with "current starving" your amp.

As such, many of the negative comments that others have made about using iso's to filter their AC were not actual criticism of iso's in general, but more about the specific products and how they were implimented into their system. Just because something is made by a "high end" company, is "audiophile approved" and / or costs a lot of money does not mean it is "good" or even "suitable" for what you want to do. Sean
Thanks Sean,
Your still the man!
There is a Topaz on Ebay also as we speak however the price is up!
This is getting *really* interesting.
Sean, between you, Lak and Psychicanimal, this is one of the single foremost important factors of a system that's ever been mentioned. (already own Hydra, King Cobras etc.)
I wish I'd known about this much earlier on. (years)
Working from the panel box out, instead of the speakers and back, DUH !
Thanks everyone so far --

I have now seen some of the beefy industrial transformers on the web, and here is one quick question:

If I have a dedicated line leading to a new panel, then leading to as few as 2 Alpert Porter Wall outlets in my listening/living room, would I then plug the transformer into the Albert Porter wall outlets?

If so, could I counstruct a box around the transformers which might also function as a platform for the Levinson power amp?

This way, the cord to the transformer could be as short as possible from the wall, and the amp could be plugged directly into its platform which hides the transformer?

Hmmmmm....then we need to replace the outlets in the transformer with more Porter outlets?

WIth the amp plugged directly into the transformer, then another heavy duty power cord with an attached power strip could go inside the rack to power all the lower powered components?

Thanks for all ideas and advice and psychic still ready to pay an advisory fee in cash or CDs for a more involved consultation.
“ If I have a dedicated line leading to a new panel, then leading to as few as 2 Alpert Porter Wall outlets in my listening/living room, would I then plug the transformer into the Albert Porter wall outlets?”

You could, or:

Is the dedicated line leading to a new panel a subpanel? If yes, why not clean all the AC power going into the subpanel with a 5 KVA or larger isolation transformer, that way all power coming out of your subpanel is good to go.
Lak's got the right idea. Using a larger transformer to filter the entire system has many advantages and it is what i would recommend. This keeps the system at the same voltage potential as all of wiring passes through the same transformer.

On top of that, this moves the transformer away from the listening area. Any / all transformers generate some form of noise & EM field, so the further it is away from your listening position and equipment, the better off that you are. Placing it in the room where your main AC system feeds your sub-panel is the best way to go, both sonically and in terms of ease of wiring. Listening to a very low level transformer hum in your room does nothing to help the noise floor that you just invested tall cash trying to achieve.

As far as selecting a transformer, follow the suggestions above and select a transformer that is rated for a measurably heavier load than what you'll be pulling from it. If you can keep the transformer from running above appr 60% of capacity, you'll never run into any problems with saturation or thermal induced problems. This also minimizes the potential for any type of dynamic constriction to take place during large swings in current draw / spl levels.

Once the AC is "cleaned" coming out of the mains feeding into the sub-panel, you have to keep RFI from entering the AC feedlines that will power your system. This can be achieved by using twisted pair lines from the sub-panel to the outlets. Using twisted pairs lowers the inductance and reduces the potential for your AC lines to act as a long-wire antenna. After all, filtering out all of the RFI at the sub-panel to have the AC system "re-infected" along the way makes very little sense.

The further the distance from the sub-panel, the heavier the wire that you want to use. 10 gauge should be sufficient for all but the heaviest draws or longest runs, but if you're running very high powered high bias amps into low efficiency low impedance speakers, you might want to try running 8 gauge. This is especially true if the runs are quite long i.e. the other side of the house from the AC sub-panel.

You don't need to run "mega-duty" cables for all of your outlets, but it is preferable to use the same gauge wire for all of the runs if possible. The use of even 12 gauge for all the dedicated runs would probably be a big step up for most every installation if one has been using the standard shared circuitry with other outlets in the house. Ten gauge is not that much more money though and if you're doing it now and want to do it right, use the ten gauge. An electrical contractor might tell you that this is "overkill", and for all practical purposes, it probably is for most systems and installations. For the extra few dollars that you spend using 10 gauge now, you'll know that you'll never have to worry about it ever again. Call it a cheap investment in the "peace of mind" factor : )

As far as how the wiring is routed and what you use to house the wiring, you'll have to check with your local inspector to see what will meet code. If you can use PVC rather than metal conduit, do that. Just don't forget that you'll have to run ground wire too as the twisted pair mentioned above only carries the hot and neutral conductors.

Obviously, the selection of outlets becomes a personal matter, so i'll refrain from making suggestions. Just make sure that the AC lines are connected to the outlets via the screw terminals, NOT the "inserts" in the back of the outlets.

Following this approach, you'll have a pretty phenomenal AC system as compared to what one would normally have using standard house wiring. If one were to stop here, i'm sure that most folks would be very happy with the results. After all, you've now got direct runs of heavy gauge low loss wire that has reduced potential to pick up RFI. All of the AC is filtered to the point of having a noise floor that is at least -120 dB's quieter / cleaner than it was before you started and the outlets offer a more secure grip / better connection to the power cord coming in from each component. The -120 dB figure was based upon using a "good" quality iron core iso transformer. The use of a "very high quality" ultra-isolation transformer can get you into the -140 to -145 dB region. If one chooses to use a toroidal design, you can expect to achieve somewhere around -60 dB's to appr -85 dB's of noise suppression.

Using the above figures as a baseline, let's do some math. The "good" iron core at -120 dB's of noise suppression offers over 4000 times more isolation than a "very good" toroidal at -85 dB's. To take that a step further, the "ultra isolation" transformer offers over 1 million times more isolation than that same toroid and slightly over 500 times more isolation than the "good" -120 dB iron core. Now do you folks know why i say what i do about toroids??? Using even just a "good" iron core iso is WAY more effective than using a "very good" toroidal based iso.

The use of additional filtering at the system or for individual components may also be beneficial, especially if one can filter the entire system at the component level. This keeps the "grunge" generated from one component from feeding back into the other components. This requires either a sophisticated line conditioner with isolated filters for each outlet or multiple individual filters for each component. Personally, i'm running 400 lbs worth of iso transformer at the mains with individual iso's for each individual line level component. Power amps are fed directly from the iso's via the sub panel. I'm very resourceful when it comes to finding pieces and parts at bargain prices, hence my ability to do this and not go broke. Buying large assemblies and then gutting them for individual parts has benefits : )

If one wanted to try something like this without going gonzo, i would try using some type of high quality filter to keep the digital gear electrically separated from the analogue gear. If you can do that, you'll be way, way ahead of the game. The money that you saved by not having to buy "mega dollar" power cords can now be used for component upgrades, to buy more music or see more live events. Sean
My next setup, when I get a decent apartment( God willing )is going to be as follows:

After an electronics grade surge protector, one 30 amp dedicated line star wired feeding two 220V/110V stepdown transformers/filters: The 3KW ONEAC for the power amps and the 2.4 KW Xentek for feeding two Clear Image T4 quad isolation transformer/filter arrays (one for digital line level, another for analog line level). Auricaps parallel filtration at the box feeding the two T4's and inside each ONEAC outlet (2). A DeZorel ground filtration module after the Xentek (the ONEAC has a "virtual ground" which isolates the transformer's ground from the building's). I can leave the power amps on because the ONEAC offers damn good protection (ONEAC 'claims' my CB2338 can absorb the blow of a lightning strike--I don't want to find out).

All the outlets will be cryo treated. All transformers will be drained into proper vibration sink sandwiches.

Sounds simple and killer. It's not what I really want, but the total cost of the transformers /filters was under $700, including shipping. Try doing that for cheaper...

I'd be willing to do it for 2K !!
The best part is, your idea will sound better than a 10K upgrade !!
If that's the case you might be able to shop new instead of on Ebay etc.
You're probably right on that account.
BTW: The DeZorel website is still down-under construction.
Rxwacko, I would rather wait for a used 5K Xentek and use the remaining money to get a two brick DeZorel with ground filtering brick for your transport and DAC. Lak says it's every bit as good as the Special Edition T4. I trust his hearing and setup. You already have the picture of the Cardas Power Box. That setup will be real simple and effective. You'll be set for life.
I'm whacked right outta my mind and you know it !
Wow...This was a most informative thread to say the least !!! Thanks to all for sharing your knowledge with your other fellow hobbists.

Well, I have to ask for a bit of advice too.
I had recently bought a house and I was having an electrician come this week to install 2 additional outlets in the room where my future audio/video gear will reside(I have no gear as of now). Each of the 2 additional outlets will be on a dedicated 20 apms circuit from the main service panel, wired with 12 Gauge wire. I had already purchased online one 20A Hubbell 8300 GY CryoTreated and a 20A Acme Audio Labs/Pass and Seymour Legrand 688 Cryo outlet from Dedicated Audio (I came accross the posts mentioning Albert Porter stuff after I had already placed my order with Dedicated Audio).

After reading all of the above this is my new plan:
1-Install a whole house surge protector from Square D
2-Use 10 gauge twisted-pair wire instead of the 12 gauge for the dedicated circuits.
In my situation unfortunately I won't be able to use any isolation transformers. I will only have a Monster Power HTPS 7000 Signature Balanced Power Conditioner plugged into a Monster Power AVS 2000 Automatic Voltage Stabilizer.

Since I am responsible for getting all the materials, my questions are:
A) Where can I buy retail-since I need it relatively quickly-the Square D Surge protector.
B) Is the 10 gauge twisted pair wire available at Home DESPOT or Lowes?
C) Is there any advantage to using PVC or Metal conduit for these 2 dedicated circuits, since here in the Dallas,TX area all houses have the wiring widing loose in the attic, with no conduit at all.
Any other suggestions you might have?

Thanx a lot for all your input, GTI.
Hi Guys, I guess it's the right time for me to find this thread. I just received 1K Xentek Extreme Isolation Transformer today, I also got 1K Todd Systems Isolation transformer 2 weeks ago. I run into isotrans due to a tip to use it in front of Lingo and it seems really good (Todd Systems). The problem with 1K Xentek is the hum noise, way too high compared with Todd and size almost double. I bought Xentek in hope of low hum (Todd has some but can't hear it at listening position), it seems I need isolation for this extreme isolation transformer from my listening room.

My question to your guys is do you really need 5kva isotrans? Is it too big and over kill?
Kdl, I think the point is to put your 5 KVA isolating transformer in the service area where you won't hear a hum. For example, mine will go where the second water heater used to be and buck twin-phase 220V down to 120 single. (I may need another tranny to do the buck, if I can't find a 220-in, 120-out isotrans.)The feed from this will come, via shielded twisted-pair, up to my listening room. At least, this is now my dream :o)

Yes, 5 KVA is overkill, but for good reasons, as Sean explained above. Your system may be comfortable with 3 KVA or less, but a bigger transformer has a larger iron core and is less likely to saturate. Saturation is a big no-no, as Sean said too.

If you're in a place where you can't make this kind of mod to your electrical system, my take on what to do would obviously be to find smaller, silent isolating and conditioning devices and use them on individual components, starting with digital. Others may have better ideas.

I am enjoying planning this setup and looking for the gear. Cooking with AC seems a lot simpler than shopping for hi-fi. Sometimes a lot cheaper too ! I saw a tested 5 KVA step-down tranny on eBay starting at $185. It was only that much because it was in a lot with two others.
I am late to this thread, but I could sure use some advice from some of the experts here who know infinitely more about electric than I do. I am in the final stages of planning an electrical upgrade and new built-in component rack for my listening room. I am planning to have a new devoted electric panel installed for my system with separate devoted circuits run with 10-gauge wire for each audio component. I have a few questions regarding this:

1. My electrician has suggested that the best way to feed power to my audio system might be to split the main electrical feed that comes into my house immediately after the meter and before the line enters the main panel. This would allow the installation of a second main panel that would be devoted to the audio system. He seemed to think that there might be some advantages of tapping into the power line before the electric enters the panel that contains all the other household circuits (HVAC system, refrigerators, lighting, etc.). Is this idea better or worse than the suggestion earlier in this thread regarding the installation of a subpanel (which, as I understand it, obtains its power feed through the main panel as opposed to a direct feed).

2. My listening room is located a fairly long distance away from my main electric panel. If the new devoted panel were to be located alongside my existing panel where the electric service enters my house, I would need roughly 40 to 50 foot runs of electrical wiring to reach the various outlets in my listening room. Given this, would it be best to locate an electric panel closer to my listening room?

3. I am currently using separate devoted PS Audio high current Ultimate Outlets to condition the power for each of my audio components. These are the only AC conditioning devices I am currently using for my system. Does a 5 KVA isolation transformer offer advantages over the Ultimate Outlets?

Thanks for your patience with my questions. While my electrician certainly has the know-how to implement just about any suggestion, he has no experience with electrical concerns and issues affecting audio equipment. So, despite my lack of knowledge in this area, the only way I can achieve an optimal design is by gathering information from threads such as this one ane presenting the information to the guy who is qualified to do the work...

A) Where can I buy retail-since I need it relatively quickly-the Square D Surge protector.

You should be able to find this at any electrical supply house.

B) Is the 10 gauge twisted pair wire available at Home DESPOT or Lowes?

I sincerely doubt it. You will probably have to find a wire distributor or a major electrical supply house for this type of product. I know that Anixter used to carry a 12 gauge twisted pair cable as normal stock, and that they could twist other cables to order with a minimum quantity, but other than that....

C) Is there any advantage to using PVC or Metal conduit for these 2 dedicated circuits, since here in the Dallas,TX area all houses have the wiring widing loose in the attic, with no conduit at all.

Lumping all of the cables together in one PVC or conduit run might be worse than having them all laid out separately. Isolating each run provides further potential for crosstalk between the circuits.

Having said that, this leaving the cabling exposed sounds crazy to me in terms of building standards. Mice, rats & squirrels tend to chew on cable jacketing. Having all of this open for gnawing with the potential for shorting and the resultant fire seems quite hazardous to me.

If you are going to use something to enclose the cabling, you might want to use very large PVC. This would allow you to run more cabling at a later date with great ease. While metal conduit can act as a shield, it can also cause distortion of the waveform and introduce further non-linearities into the system. As i've mentioned before, shielding is ALWAYS beneficial, but it is typically not implimented in the best fashion.

Kdl: The size of the Xentek being doubled means that it can pass measurably more current with far less potential for saturation / core induced distortions. Since core material is costly, the Xentek is probably a much better built / more expensive item.

As far as more hum & noise goes, this is why i stated that it was best to get the iso's out of the listening area. All transformers "hum" to some extent and the more power that you pull through them, the more noise that they will generate. Toroidals can be quieter in this regard, but they don't offer near as much isolation.

It is possible to "damp" and / or "absorb" the noise generated by a transformer, but one has to pay attention to not restricting the ability of the transformer itself to dissipate heat. How effective this can be done will depend on the approach taken. Damping the "bells" or "end caps" is typically okay, but you don't want to "damp" the core itself. Given that the "bells" tend to ring at a higher frequency ( that's why they are called "bells" ), damping them can reduce the overall spectrum of hum being generated.

Another trick is to pay attention to where the transformer is located. Given the low frequency of the "hum" involved, you don't want to place it anywhere that you would normally achieve bass reinforcement in a speaker. That is, not directly on the floor, not in a corner, not up against a wall, etc... Elevating it in some type of "vibration absorbing cradle" with a layer of properly vented sound absorption material over it may work wonders for those that have them in their listening room.

As far as the KVA rating goes, one needs to buy what they will need for their system. If one is going to run very low powered high efficiency amplifiers for the rest of their life, a smaller KVA rating may be fine. Given that most folks don't want to go through the trouble of hard-wiring something into their AC system only to have to re-do it at greater expense at a later date, "overkill" has benefits. On top of that, a larger transformer offers additional benefits in terms of lower distortion, a reduced noise floor, lower source impedance, etc...

Cincy Bob, here are some responses to your questions:

1) "splitting the line" is what i would recommend and is ideal. You can do this by splitting it at the output of the meter or forming a "Y" off the leads that feed the main box. Using the meter connections may be easier and produce slightly better results. It sounds like you've found an electrician that is "on the ball".

This presents a bit of a problem though if you intend to make use of a "whole system" type iso installation with more cost and work involved. That is, you have to have some type of fuse or breaker between the meter and the isolation transformers. This would mean installing some type of fusable link after the meter, a "jumper" to the transformer(s) and then another jumper to feed the A/V breaker box. You shouldn't have the iso transformers connected directly to the AC mains with no form of current overload protection. Given the possibility that a transformer could short out internally, you wouldn't want all the power that the pole transformer could feed into the shorted iso without some form of safety device between them. While a shorted iso transformer could start on fire, you can pretty much guarantee a BIG fire if it did so without any type of fuse or breaker in front of it.

2) The placement of the breaker box is not critical so long as one uses heavy gauge wiring at all points. Either way, you end up with the same length run. The key here is to keep voltage sag / series resistance down to a minimum. You can do so by maintaining high quality connections and a lot of surface area ( heavy gauge conductors ) throughout the entire circuit.

The other factor that could become involved in any long run is the use of a cable geometry that is resistant to RFI, especially if you are filtering at the breaker box itself. Otherwise, you have the potential to filter they system at the box and then have it "re-contaminated" along the run to the outlets. Even with a "low RFI" type of wiring, you still stand that chance, hence my above comments about further filtering at the component level.

3) If i can remember correctly, i think that PS Audio claims a reduction in noise of appr -40 dB's. As mentioned above, a "very good" toroidal design may achieve -85 dB's and a high quality "iron core" transformer will be somewhere between -120 and -145 dB's. If you want to know how much difference there is between the PS UO's and the iron core transformers, look at the comparisons between the iron core's and the toroidals listed above and double the figures. In comparision, the UO's do offer noise suppression, but compared to the "big monster" type transformers, they aren't nearly as effective. This is not to mention that the UO's may introduce other forms of distortion into the equation depending on the specific application that one is using them for.

The UO's might work okay as a "secondary filter" at the system, but they don't really offer any way to isolate individual components from each other.

As one can see, looking at the "big picture" on a project like this can be quite a task. If done properly though, it really will make a very noticeable difference in performance AND be cheaper than buying & trying tons of different AC filtering devices in the long run. This is not to mention that one is assured that each component that they have is working optimally in terms of being fed the cleanest power possible.

With the potential for your local AC provider to pump "broadband computer noise" over your AC lines in the future, i think that such a system will become almost mandatory for those seeking the ultimate in performance. Rather than try to "band aid" the system later with a bunch of add-on doo-dads that are quite costly and less effective, act now but plan ahead. It will be cheaper and more effective, both cost-wise and sonically, in the long run. Sean
Here's my attempt at an answer for question 3.

As I understand them, the Ultimate Outlets, and any other high-quality connector, are just that: connectors. They make a difference, sure, but they won't affect the electric power that goes into them. They'll just transmit it a little or a lot better than other outlets.

An isolation transformer actually functions to remove noise and distortion from the power delivered by your utility. It works by induction--the AC current in your house wiring is led to induce a new current in a new wire. There is no physical connection between the two wires. You get your system's power from the new wire, which is carrying clean current.
i'm thinking about doing something to my AC power. i had an electrician come over and he said he'd have to intall a new box and could run lines from that box. my question is then since this thread hasn't been touched since 2004 is there anything new that i could do that would be better and more cost effictive than having new dedicated lines run?
Not AFAIK. If I were doing my line again today I would use cryo-treated wire. That's about the only difference.
Can four plugs be attached to the one dedicated circuit?
Four plugs... meaning, two double AC outlets? The short answer is yes, but one outlet would have to be daisy-chained from the other. That second outlet would have second grabs at the juice, so better to put your greediest component(s) -- the power amp(s) -- on the first plug.

If you mean four double plugs, well yes again, but the daisy chaining point applies in spades.