I have had this problem also, as has an audio buddy of mine. The most we can figure is that the line is cleaner and more stable at some times than at others. I have measured the voltage and it changes when the weather is hot, late at night, higher and more stable over time. I don't know if thisisthe reason but itmakes sense. I am considering an AC regenerator such as a PS Audio P-300 to solve this problem. Pure, perfect power forever( Ha, Ha)
39 responses Add your response
Could be an electric problem, but it could also be you and the attitude (mood) you bring to the listening session. Stress, hormones, noise exposure, amount of sunlight, barometric pressure, etc. all effect you ability to relax. While not a panacea to real problems, sometimes just stop worrying about the sound quality can greatly increase the enjoyment of listening to music.
I agree with Onhwy61. You can get ear or brain fatigue after listening to music for a couple of days. Take a few days off and avoid loud noises (I wear hearing protection) and when you go back to your stereo, it should sound great. I've had bright stereo's and mellow stereos, and it happens with both although I need a longer recovery between listening sets on the bright stereo.
All the above answers are great, but I want to throw another 2 out - (1)maybe the quality of the CDs/recortdings. On a night when your not getting "into" it, try playing a CD that sounded good recently. (2)Another possibility is that you're not choosing music that really suits your mood. Choosing music is a strange ritual for me. (well not THAT strange) I scan over my discs and just see which I'm drawn to, trying to not have a preconceived notion of what I want to listen to. I may start off thinking I want Mahler, and end up listening to Milli Vanilli (they really were good, whoever performed the stuff!!!)
So I'm not the only one who experiences this!@#$%&
I think one of the biggest factors is components that are not fully broken-in and are going through "changes". But, having said that, I know I've had this happen to me with fully broken-in gear.
I swear sometimes I think I'm losing it and just want to scrap the whole program.
Next session, it's audio bliss!
One more soul weighing in... I've experienced this too, though thankfully not as frequently as Tomryan--yet as recently as two nights ago. Onhwy61 (Dylan fan, are you?) makes a really good point. And the electrical grid argument makes equally good sense--although I find if music isn't sounding too great on my main system at a given point, it often sound just fine on the bedroom system a few moments later. Maybe that means I'm in dire need of bed rest. Anyhow, the hell of it is, the better the equipment that I add to my system, the more pronounced the peaks and valleys become, when the valleys show up.
I have the same problem with my system. When it's good, it's magical. When bad, unlistenable. And it will change on a moments notice and back again. The entire bass spectrum will disappear and the top will get gritty and grainy. And it's not related to any particular component as it happens in 2 different rooms with a multitude of equipment
I looked into my house wiring, built in 58', and it's obvious that dedicated lines are a must. Typical home wiring consists of a few to a dozen or more splices involving twisting 2 copper wires together and/or push in connections that are nothing more than the edge of a piece of brass touching one side of the wire. In my home, they actually used aluminum pieces to crimp the 2 wires together.
Needless to say, the line resistance varies with the humidity, temp, and power used. Copper corrodes rather quickly and you can imagine what it's like after 30+ years.
I would not think of auditioning any power conditioning/power cords untill you have installed dedicated lines. Use 12ga romex and put one twist in the wire every foot or so to make it less of an antenna.
One other thing that I know effects my system is the power down of the AM radio stations at sunset. The radio stations are required to reduce power something like 90%.You can actually hear a layer of grundge dissappear about the same time each night. I initially thought this had to do with EMI from the sun lessening it's effects on the power lines after sunset. But it was way too abrupt-like flipping a switch and the time changed about a minute each night-tracking the daily change in the sunset.
In general, dedicated lines are less expensive than power conditioning and have a more positive effect.
"Copper corrodes rather quickly and you can imagine what it's like after 30+ years."
Actually, when copper "corrodes" it produces a conductive oxidate on the outside that should not cause problems by itself. Also the joints and connections should be fine too (see; the opposite problems with aluminium house wire that caused so many fires in the 60's and 70's that it is banned for house wiring)
More likely, however, are problems with insulation from older wire.
All the responses are much appreciated. Last night things were a bit bright as opposed to the perfect mix the night before and the rather dull presentation the two nights before that! This stuff just started about 3 months ago and is the same even while mixing equipment.
I do think it's most likely something to do with the power coming to my gear and I'm going to call an electrician to get a dedicated line and circuit. By the way, can anyone suggest an outlet that may work better than the hospital grade one I'm using now? And I will be getting a new and better power strip as I just realized the one I'm using is 15 years old! Any suggestions for one (I know PS Audio makes one - any users?)?
By the way, I do live at the end of a cul-de-sac in a 50 year old neighborhood.
Well, I live in a neighborhood thats only six years old and my house is five years old. The power here is very solid from what I can tell. I installed two 20amp circuits with 12awg wiring and Furutech FP-2g outlets. I've experienced glorious music both during the day and evening hours. The only times I can remember it sounding compressed, closed-in, dull, flat, etc. have been at night, sometimes late at night when power consumption should be reduced on the grid.
I've been driving an aphile buddie of mine nuts with this;
is it this component or that component, power, me, mood, too much beer, not enough beer, arrgguuee!@#$%& It's been especially frustrating for me as I've been going thru some component changes. Doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, it is extremely frustrating. And I don't think it's my imagination!
Perhaps a mood ring will help you determine when it's time to listen. :)
Seriously though, as you suspect, I believe the symptons you describe appear to be the symptoms of dirty or poorly treated AC coming into your home.
You've invested too much into your gear to not take full advantage of what dedicated circuits/lines and proper line conditioning can provide you.
If you did, you're system will consistantly sound far better than it could right now on it's best night.
BTW, the dedicated circuits/lines do nothing to clean the AC coming in from the pole. The dedicated circuits help isolate your system from noise generated inside the home as well as ensuring that your amp has the necessary juice for those loud and/or dynamic passages.
Stehno makes a key point in that dedicated lines will not clean up the AC from outside your home, and unless you have a dedicated ground on that dedicated circuit you will still get feedback from other appliances in the house. I have 3 dedicated lines (10 guage, 20 amp, power ports) but grounding those on existing ground did nothing to alleviate EMI from other appliances. Some use a seperate (dedicated) ground for their dedicated lines but I've heard this can be potentially hazardous because of potential between the 2 grounds.
Even after the dedicated lines I heard variable quality from system so I went to power condtioning as well. Originally PS300 on sources only, now I have BPT 3.5 Sig. on everything. No variability anymore, noise floor has dropped considerably, stable image, etc. If you have dirty AC this is the way to go.
Same thing happens here. What is typical is the loss of low end clear bass and a muddying of midrange frequencies during the day. Best time always seems to be after midnight and especially without all the air conditioners running in the Summer months. I have no dedicated AC or any power conditioning and a $6.00 power strip has everything plugged into it straight to the wall outlet. One day the sound's full and rich and on the next day it can be awfully tinny and rough. Would your own Honda Generator be the answer?
I have dedicated AC with seperate ground, and still have what you describe.
Rather than guess, or have the expense of an electrican, why not take a VOM (Volt Ohm Meter) and plug into your wall socket - just leave it on while you're listening. When the sound starts to change for the worse, check what you line voltage is. If it's going above or below 120 volts when it sounds bad, then you have a correlation and can start working on it - Variac (Monster AVS 2000), power regenerator (PS Audio) or whatever.
If you're at the end of a cul-de-sac with a 50 year old house, the neighbors could put a sag in your current playing with their arc welder or something.
My Monster AVS2000 has seen a 4 volt drop on some very cold nights, and a 6 volt on warm nights (I'm in CT).
For the price of a VOM ($10 at Rat Shak if you don't already have one), it's a cheap way to see whether there's a correlation.
I do have a volt meter and will try this. It has been very cold at night for the last 2 months here in Michigan, sometimes in single digits by 9-10pm. I'm also looking into power conditioners/regenerators and see the BPT Sig costs $2,500.00. Ouch!! Especially since I was just ripped off by mattiboy (like 6-7 other A'goners this past few weeks).
By the way, Link, how do you explain the Irish music I was listening to last night (Beth Patterson - littlebluemen.com)? Oh yeah, the single malt Scotch - I am quite the multiculturalist and have been known to enjoy a Paridiso tequila with Mozart concertos.
Interesting coincidence that Bill Gaw should chose to write about this same phenomenon in his closing regular monthly column "Audiolics Anonymous" at Enjoy the Music, February 2005:
Hi Tomryan and others, if you are using an ICEpowered amplifier (or another version of switch mode power supply), like the ones from Jeff Rowland Design or eAR (Acoustic Reality), I guess you'll have less trouble with AC voltage swings, because of the inherent immunity of those power supply techniques to AC voltage changes (stable from 110 to 230 V). The sound is not influenced by those voltage changes and you'll hear the same sound whether it is in the morning, in the afternoon or at night.
Thanks for the additional info, guys. Last night music was perfect for the mood I was in. Wife went to sleep at 10:30pm and I was rocking until 1:00am with Beth Patterson, Stan Getz, and Grant Green.
I am checking into power conditioners and a dedicated line but really think it has something to do with power coming into house. And that article fron Enjoy The Music was quite interesting and I hope the writer follows up someday.
Sorry to chime in late, been busy with work. I used to think there was something wrong with my hearing, or mood swings, and came to think of my system as unreliable and inconsistent. The BPT plc works really well, and completely alleviates this problem in my system. The sound now has the consistency in soundstage, tone, etc.. whether it's 12 PM or AM. Good-luck in resolving this annoying issue.