New House, Old Wire


I just moved into a new rental house in San Francisco and some of the rooms have grounded outlets and some don't.

The room I want my hi-fi in doesn't have them. The landlord wants to know how bad I want grounded plugs in as the wiring has to be replaced.

My answer to him will be, "REALLY BAD!"

However, before I give him that answer what options do I have to ground things myself, if any?

I'm a hi-fi newbie with the following rig:

Plinius 9200
Focus Audio F68 SEs
Nottingham Horizon
Satori Acoustic Zens


If you insist on grounded outlets, I'd recommend wiring only the plugs you intend to use for your stereo (one two-plug box should do it in an apartment). Doing so will reduce the cost, and keep relations positive with your landlord.
If there is not a ground in the outlet box, you can not install a 3 prong grounded outlet. This would be the case if knob and tube or romex without a ground wire is the wiring method. You could replace the two prong outlet with a three prong GFCI outlet but the sticker that says "no equipment ground" included with the GFCI must be put on the cover plate. If metal clad cable is used "BX" and it goes into a metal outlet box with the correct clamps to secure the BX to the metal box, you could connect a ground wire from the box to the outlet using an approved ground screw.
You didn't say what year your place was built but if it's old,it may not be as simple as new outlets. A lot of SF apartments have house wiring left over from the days when electricity was new to residences. Some of it was DC. A lot is "Knob and Tube", the days before romex. And certainly no one had 1500 watt hairdryers. That's why some rooms have one oulet and some none. No need! Grounded AC may have come along after that apartment was built.(In fact, if your place is really old you could have a live, capped gas line to where what used to be room lighting in your ceiling) Electrical service to that apartment may not be able to handle much. A grounding wire may be needed but that could be just the tip of the iceberg. And be certain that if your outlets have two wires only, no one took the time to check phase!! The good news: If you're renting a place built prior to 1979 you have rent control!
Jon, I love San Francisco, but I sure don't envy your parking situation there. BTW, very nice rig!
I wouldn't worry about it. Ungrounded lines always provide a more pristine and musical presentation because common grounds induce much noise into the AC.

If you're worried about electrical storms, simply unplug your equipment during those times.

But if your landlord is that accommodating, perhaps you could instead ask him for cryo-treated romex (house wiring) and audio-grade wall-outlets. :)


Thanks too everybody who responded...much appreciated. I'll answer your questions below:

Tvad - That's a good idea, thanks for suggesting that.

Nerspellsner - Good info. The building was constructed 1910-1920 which means they'd have to run new wire for the plug.

Dc2daylight - We do have capped gas lines in our house ;-) Seems as if I'm in for more work here than just wiring! And yes, rent control is nice.

Gunbei - Parking is great for me but I might trade it for grounded wiring!

Stehno - I'll try for the wiring and audio-grade outlet (he's a techie too!) but in the mean time how can I get my rig up and running? Right now, everything is plugged into surge protection. Can I then plug that into this:

and then into the wall?


I'd get rid of the surge protector and go with an audio-grade power bar. Although I've never used one the rumor is stong that surge protectors of any sort induce sonic harm to one degree or another.

Good quality power bars/strips typically sell for roughly $200 to $500 depending on mfg'er. I have an extra brand new power bar/strip with hubbell hospital-grade outlets where the entire power bar and contents are cryo-treated that I'll sell you for well below retail if you'd like it.

In the meantime, I'd stay away from the Fellowe's cheater plug and go with Home Depot's or Lowes' best industrial grade cheater plugs if there is such a thing. Otherwise, just stick with the standard Home Depot variety until you can find better grades for maybe $5 to $10 a pop.

I would never underestimate what good quality electrical products v. poor quality electrical products can do to a system. And since even good quality electrical is typically rather inexpensive, why gamble?

I've kinda taken the simpler approach suggested by Stehno. I use a Furutech eTP-60 which I believe only uses EMF shielding and has no active components. Compared to other configurations I've tried, some of which were active, the Furutech combined with a Porter Port helps my system produce a quieter and cleaner sound.
Thanks for the info, again. I have a couple of friends here in town who have various spare audio-grade power bars and other power setups that they are going to let me try out. I'm excited because I'll be able to do a side-by-side comparison of different setups to determine the optimum sound.

My landlord is happy too ;-)