Static electricity affecting sound reproduction. Please help!!


Hi everyone,

I’m having some weird issues with static electricity in my audio setup and I would appreciate your thoughts and tips before something gets fried.

For context, humidity where I live is currently around 38 – 41% which is not too bad. My couch produces a significant amount of static electricity so whenever I have a listening session, I’m sure I will shock myself whenever I get up and touch something metallic.

My current set up consists of almost all-schiit components:

Bifrost 2 DAC, Audiolab 6000 cd transport, Freya S preamp, Mani phono preamp, Loki mini eq, Asgard 3 headphone amp and Vidar amp, all going to a Furman M-8X2 power strip/conditioner and into a grounded (as of yesterday) outlet. My outputs are Elac DBR62 speakers and I also have a set of Sennheiser HD600 and Hifiman Sundara headphones.

Now, to the issue. Curiously, I started noticing this since I incorporated the Audiolab cd transport and the Furman power strip about 3 weeks ago.

Previous issue: While being charged up with static electricity, whenever I touched any of the components, a spark would fly and a light shock would happen. All regular stuff and this didn’t have any impact on music playback. Previously all my components were plugged into a cheap, basic power strip to an ungrounded outlet.

Current issue: Since adding the cd transport and the Furman power conditioner (I’m not saying any of these two components are at fault at this point, but I noticed this issue since incorporating them), whenever I touch any of the components while charged with static, the music is interrupted for a microsecond and then comes back. For those of you familiar with the Schiit Bifrost 2 DAC, whenever there’s an interruption or change in the data stream being fed, there’s audible clicks which are normal. In my current situation, the interruption of the music when the static shock occurs is accompanied of a couple of quick clicks from the Bifrost and then the music continues without issue. Now, what is REALLY strange to me is that this issue is amplified -no pun intended, when I’m listening through headphones where I don’t even need to touch any of the components or any metallic surface for the music to be interrupted. I assume the static is traveling from my body through the headphones into my system somehow. By the way, this happens with both the HD600 (all plastic body) and the Sundaras (metal frame). It even comes to the point with the Sundaras where I can audibly hear the static "trapped" in the headphones when I discharge in the way of a high pitch until I touch the headphone cable if it makes any sense.

While I could dig deeper into the issue to try to isolate what’s happening, I have a few questions I would appreciate your input with before doing anything. My fear at this point is that the constant discharge of static electricity could damage some of the components If I try to isolate the fault through further testing and replication of the issue given that there is now a direct negative effect in the sound playback with a physical reaction in the form of clicks from the DAC. My questions are:

  • If the outlet where I’m plugging the Furman into is grounded, should/could the static discharge be still causing this reaction?
  • Would it be worth trying to isolate the issue with the potential risk of damaging something or should I just live with it and look for alternatives such as a humidifier to decrease static buildup, stop listening with headphones, using another device or contraption to discharge myself constantly, etc?
  • Is it “normal” for the static to be discharged through the headphones into the system even with the HD600 which are all plastic?

Thank you in advance for your comments, feedback and input. In the end, I just want to be able to sit down, enjoy the music without constantly worrying about frying something up.

 

35ce13b0 0da0 43b3 8360 2f830efb5d85tarkus1984

Sounds like the first thing to do is disconnect the ground (the one you just added) and see if it goes away. The extra ground gains you nothing, and might even be the source of your problems. Only one way to find out.

Then even if this works, the truth is static electricity is a problem for everyone. We all have it, only most don't ever have it so bad or take the steps to notice. Long before static charges build up to the point where they jump across open air they are there on your cables and components contributing to smearing and gray backgrounds that should be black.

The easiest cheapest way to test this is buy Static Guard anti-static laundry spray from the grocery store. Any anti-static spray will do. I waft mine over my cables and stuff regularly. In your case I would do the sofa and carpet as well. This should make at least some improvement, and might eliminate the problem altogether. 

Another maybe even better solution, I haven't had to try this mine is handled just fine by Static Guard, but there are concentrated solutions you can buy for more longer term use. Sort of like Scotch Guard for fabric. Designed to be sprayed on office furniture to eliminate zapping the computer. 

Which that is another option, something grounded you can touch to discharge yourself before touching your gear.

Bear in mind you said a couple weeks ago. Running heaters in winter dries things out. It could simply be this is the amount of time it took for your home to reach optimal static charge conditions. Stuff you did might be pure coincidence. 

 

You need a little humidity. Hose the inside of the room down. That will work. :-)

Boil some water, get a humidifier. Turn off the air conditioner.

It's way to dry.

Second get a static discharge mat to stand on and a small one to discharge to. Then touch your gear. 

Will it hurt your gear? Static discharge is the number one reason for infant mortality in electronics. There is not a chip that I know of, that can survive constant static discharges. 

Third. I HATE getting shocked. I mean I get anxious thinking about it. It's one of the reasons I got away from gas rigs. HEI ignition, to darn small and everything is sharp.

SO

There is no static discharge in my house on the driest, windiest days.. Besides, vinyl people usually have a way to LOOSE the static. I just touch the ground on the phono stage with the back (not the front) of my fingers.

WHY? the back? The muscles can contract you can't let go while being shocked. Always the back of your hand and the other in your pocket. 1 second of thought can eliminate getting shocked real bad if you practice it every single time. Hot is Hot. Hot surfaces the same way. The back of the hand, is way less sensitive.

Unless you're into that.  I'll pass. BUT if you would, could you post a video of you doing it. :-)

Regards

@millercarbon 

Thanks so much for your input. I will definitely buy one of those anti static solutions and soak the sofa! I also bought a set of metallic keychains I found on amazon that are supposed to help with static. It even has a small plastic window with a wire that lights up when you actually discharge. 

@oldhvymec 

I also hate hate hate hate getting zapped. I just finished a round of further testing and I absolutely loathed every single time I had to charge up and discharge. I HATE IT

In any case, I did some further testing and the culprit seems to be one of the following three:

  • Coaxial out of the cd transport
  • Coaxial in of the DAC
  • Coaxial cable (my personal bet)

I tried multiple zappings and the only one that has an effect on music playback is when the cd transport is active through coax and when the coax input option is selected in the DAC. I even used both the coax ins and outs of the cd transport and DAC and the same time and music only gets interrupted when the coaxial connection is active. Using my little chromecast audio through optical into the DAC showed no problem when I zapped the system so it's definitely something with the coaxial. 

For what it's worth, I'm using a Blue Jeans coax cable that I bought after reading positive feedback so I will have to buy another by a different brand to see if it does the same.

Will keep this thread updated with findings.

I always walk over to my rig and touch the metal posts on my rack before I touch any gear. I permanently smoked an expensive power guard (Monster brand) with a static charge one day, not good.  

I agree, your humidity levels are too low. Get a whole house humidifier. A few percentage points higher will do wonders for your comfort levels. You will certainly feel a difference.  

Lose the mains conditioner and does the problem go away?

I just take up a ground for discharge. Take an old  3 wire cord  (a cutoff or old ext. cord and cut back the white and black. Attach the green wire to a conductive "handle." I put a banana plug on one to go into a Rife hand cylinder. This was after I shocked a S.M.S..L. DAC years ago. I  thought I killed it but it returned in about 30 seconds. Protection circuit.

Most cans are are OK but I used to monitor with Sony MDR-V6's that forced me to discover the Static Guard trick to avoid earlocution.

 

     +1 for, "Get a humidifier!"

Go barefoot.

 

I occasionally have static when I go to change records and hit the mute or turntable   tonearm riser. I just take off my shoes, and it goes away.

A large low profile bowl of water (for evaporation) should be an easy thing to try.

We use an old metal/enamel wash bowl to humidify our 2BR apartment in the Los Angles area and it seems to do the job.

I place it on the top of a tall Tansu cabinet in the living room as the cats never go up there (may be a spell on the cabinet as they venture everywhere else).

DeKay

If it was me, then I would sell that Furman power conditioner.
(And probably get a humidifier with the proceeds.)

Or at least remove it from the system to see if it is the thing that is correlated with the badness.

 

But at least we know it is doing actually something.

Thanks everyone for your posts!

I'm now seriously considering getting a humidifier + anti static spray for the sofa combo as in the end static electricity is the main villain here. I'm still curious as to which component is causing the signal to be interrupted when I zap the system which at least right now everything points at the coaxial portion of it. 

Just for further testing sake, I replaced my Bifrost DAC with a Schiit Modi and to my surprise nothing happens when I zap it, not even when using the coax connection to the cd transport as it does with the Bifrost. 

Anyhow, I'm just hoping I dont fry my Bifrost with the continuous torture of zapping and testing but I really want to narrow down the cause of the interruptions. 

Will keep this thread updated. 

Also, I will swap the furman out for a regular power strip to see what happens. I'm also getting an amazon basics coax cable to see if it could be the cable itself. 

During the winter because of dry heat, I have static mainly from my carpet. I usually walk around with socks on, but I started wearing rubber bottom kung fu shoes and then no more problem. Try this along with other suggestions you received.

 Amazon: Holyangtech Kung Fu Shoes ( 15.95 ).

My wall to wall carpet is wool which is the worst for static.

I have some sweaters and shirts that cause static, my wool blanket is the worse.I usually put lotions on my hands, spray the room  space with water, if not sure I used rubber gloves..I just bought Furutect desat Iii I wonder if this would help doing in on your sofa.

Many years ago, they used to sell a small round copper disk you could put on a shelf of your audio rack. You touched it with your finger to discharge static. I never bought one, so I don't know if it really worked. I looked for it now, but can't find any.

I wear the kung fu shoes in the winter when, listening to music.

Last year I bought a class D amp, to use temporarily, while I repaired my tube amp. It was very susceptible to static. If I touched my rack to release static discharge, the amp would shut down. I could power it up again and it worked fine, but I knew it wasn't good. That's when I started wearing the kung fu shoes. Issue solved.

Stylish looking and functional kung fu shoes in 2022? sign me up for that!

Years ago, before I remodeled my family room and removed the wall-to-wall carpeting, I had a bad problem with static electricity.  I would get a huge shock when I touched my preamp and the unit's auto-muting circuit would kick in and the unit would shut off.  My system sits next to my fireplace and a rack of metal fireplace tools.  I learned to touch the metal tools before touching my audio gear and that worked to discharge the static electricity.  The room now has hardwood floors and an area rug and I don't seem to have the static problem anymore.   

I used to have one of those Zerostat guns to neutralize static electricity on albums and CDs and that seemed to help if I "shot" it at my components before touching them.  However, touching the fireplace tools was an easier solution!

 

Do you have forced air heat in your house? That is a big factor in producing the static electricity.  Also, the more air infiltration the house has that allows the cold dry air to cone in, the more you will need that humidifier.  Apart from sealing your house from cold air, the quick way is, again, the whole house humidifier.  I think you'd be amazed at the results.  

 

That seems like a bandaid but certainly better than the other bandaids mentioned. After humidifier, you can even lower the temp in your house and have the same comfort level.  Maybe start with a $20 hygrometer to check your humidity levels and go from there.

I also hate that pesky static charge in the winter.  I live in the Pacific Northwest so it's not a real problem unless we get a cold dry spell.  I have noticed two things.  There is some clothing that can cause it if you slide off your chair our couch and touch your gear and two depending on your footwear it can also contribute to the static build up.  I just touch something metal near my rack before the equipment during high static conditions.

     The OP mentioned having a typical household humidity of, " ...around 38 – 41% which is not too bad."

     Well, here’s the Science and why I said, "Get a humidifier!":

                   https://www.est-static.com/static.php

     Try for the 55% neighborhood, or: slightly above, for good results.

https://www.condair.com/humidifiernews/blog-overview/why-does-low-humidity-cause-static-electricity

+1 to the humidifier, at the very least 55%. Do not use electronic/ultrasound the solids in the water will vaporize and cover everything.

Even my house in Seattle, gets too dry so I use one of these Humidifiers I put the humidity dial in the middle and problems solved. No static at all.

Even the plants in the house like it.

hi again and thanks everyone for your kind responses. 

I will absolutely go for the humidifier and kill that damn static. I guess at first I was more interested in finding out which of the components in my system was causing the audio playback interruptions when the static discharge occured. For additional context I live in Mexico and it's still quite uncommon for typical households, at least in my region, to have house-wide heating, cooling and humidifier systems. I'll be going for a 6L Govee humidifier that I found on Amazon for about a hundred bucks and keep it in the living room where my system is located. 

In case anyone's interested here's my follow up report after some further testing. Everything points at something in the coaxial chain between the cd transport and the DAC. The music only gets interrupted when coax is being used. When using optical, playback stays consistent.

  • Tried a different coaxial cable, no change. Music still gets interrupted briefly when static discharge occurs.
  • Tried a different DAC. Using both coaxial cables, no change. Music still gets interrupted.
  • Removed the furman power conditioner and tried two regular power strips. Same music interruption with one, however something funny happened when testing the other. If I discharged static by touching my preamp, playback was not interrupted. When I discharged by touching the DAC, then the music stopped for a micro second.

I found something even weirder now. CD transport playing through coax. I turned on the phono preamp to play some records later on the turntable and the signal ALSO got interrupted! No static discharge or anything this time. I just literally turned the phono on and the music got interrupted. I tried the same using the optical cable from the CD into the DAC and nothing happed. I'm starting to think the coaxial cable or some other component in the coaxial chain is SUPER sensitive to any change in electrical current.

As I mentioned, for my sanity's sake I will stop worrying and will be buying a humidifier over the weekend as well as static spray. As long as there's no static I should be a happy camper.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

As an added bonus, getting the relative humidity over 40% and towards 50% kills airborne covid a lot quicker than down around 25% RH.
There is a bunch of research on this dates back to the earlier corona type viruses.

@robert53 

Love the kung fu audiophile visual!  lol