Worthwhile $5 Tweak

A recent thread at Audioasylum about an $800 grounding system being marketed at Audiogon got a response from an inmate there suggesting that making a clean and secure ground connection was a worthwhile thing to do. While I cannot comment on the system being marketed, I can tell you that checking the ground in my 40 year old house was a very worthwhile thing to do. An old clamp, all rusted up, attached the ground wire to my main waterline. Bought a new brass or bronze clamp for $4 Cnd. (the cheapies are about $1-looked at them and they appear to be the same as the corroded one I had), gave the water pipe a sand and clipped and stripped the ground wires down and reconnected. A very worthwhile improvement to sound quality for under $5-highly recommended if you are in an older (or maybe even newer property) without dedicated circuits, grounds etc.
Of course you could have saved yourself $5 by simply disconnecting the grounds to your components outlets.

Perhaps not the safest recommendation, but you most likely would notice a definite improvement in your system's sonics as grounds have a way of injecting much noise into the AC.

Funny thing is, to realize even better performance after disconnecting all grounds, is to re-connect the ground only to your pre-amp. Not sure why, but this lowers the noise floor even further and really smooths out the highs as well.

Stehno: I am actually in agreement with you on the floating/disconnecting of grounds. I run my system off one grounded receptacle, with two grounded power conditioners plugged into that receptacle. One conditioner is dedicated totally to my integrated amplifier which has the ground floated as a result of me removing the ground on its male plug. I found though that my DVD player (which has only a two prong plug) sounds and looks slightly better with the chassis grounded (I tried this on the suggestion of a power cord manufacturer who posts at Audioasylum) directly to the receptacle. Perhaps I should disconnect the ground on the outlet that powers the stereo and see what happens.

The interesting thing is that the TV (which is on a different circuit, and also grounded receptacle) seems to be offering a slightly improved picture even though it is also a non-grounded, or internally grounded piece. My thought is that the improved ground connection at least improves things in some minor way by improving the electrical system's ability to dump off the noise inherent in the ground of the total system more effectively, thus limiting garbage getting back into the live line. But I concur with you that, in general, the ground is the source of a lot of garbage and sonic degradation.
I got your non grounded amps---Ever get a static shock on a dry windy day;when touching your non grounded amp??
Hdm: To take your comments one step further, i would recommend applying some type of weatherproof sealant to the ground rod / point of connection once it is all cleaned up and re-connected. If you don't do this, you'll be right back where you started from in a matter of months due to corrosion from being exposed to the elements.

Coax Seal is the best product that i've found for this type of work. You can use it as a semi-permanent sealant on just about any type of connection that you can think of. It is highly moldable, so it fits just about any shape or contour that you're working with. It is also waterproof when properly contoured, so it keeps corrosion from finding a way into the connection. On top of this, it is easily removed should you ever have to get to the connection to make repairs or do general maintenance. You simply take some type of a blade, make a slice in it, peel it off and have at the connection. When you are done working on the connection, you can simply slap the old Coax Seal back on and mold it back into position.

Rat Shack used to sell this stuff, but i don't know if they still stock it. I haven't been able to find it on their website, but if i can find a part number for it, i'll post it. This stuff is very handy and once you use it, you'll understand why i think so highly of it. Sean
Sean- followed your link to RS, found part #278-1645 $2.99 for 5'. I've had real problems with cable TV quality deteriorating over time, this should help that as well as my house ground. Great idea. Thanks.
Swampwalker: Thanks for making me aware of that. I just provided a link to their website and didn't even know that they had further info as to part numbers to purchase it from Rat Shack.

As to your cable tv signal degrading over time, corrosion seeping into the connectors might be part of it, but my guess is that it has more to do with the cable itself decaying. Unless manufacturers use what is called a "Type II" jacket, the plasticizers in the jacket of the cables leech into the dielectric between the center conductor and the shield. This causes signal degradation due to altered impedances, increased dielectric absorption and higher levels of signal leakage. Using some type of a 100% foil shield between the dielectric and outer jacket can drastically reduce the situation, but it is not a cure all. Short of using a cable with a Type II outer jacket, a foil shield and waterproofing all of the connections along the way, the only solution is to replace the coaxial lines every couple of years. Good luck telling this to your Cable Company : ) Sean
If you guys are getting better sound from lifting the grounds, there's a reason for it - something is up with your AC. Lifting the ground is a band-aid solution, not really a wise move - better to fix the root of the problem than half-assed things like cheater plugs. I have used those in the past but don't any more. A good power conditioner (ideally a balanced power setup, like Monster HTPS 7000 or Equitech 1.5Q or 2Q) should cure most of those things, if not all of them.

Good tip on redoing the main house ground - I will probably do that soon. Sean, thanks for the info on Coax seal. Looks like good stuff.

Grounding...The basic rule is:

For analog circuits...single point ground. Do the preamp, and let everything else get grounded via their connections to the preamp.

For digital circuits....ground as many places as practical. Sometimes shields are best left floating at both ends.

For either type of circuit...Feel free to experiment. The rules are not cast in concrete.
Ed_sawyer, as far as I know, everybody has roughly the same amount of dirty AC/dirty grounding issues. Unless, of course, one lives near power station, industrial plant, etc..

I'm using Foundation Research LC-1's and LC-2 dedicated in-line conditioners for each of my components which are purported by some (including me) to be one of the best conditioners in the biz. And they do not have the drawbacks found in some to many other power conditioners.

Needless to say, floating the ground still helps.

You could own a nice Porsche 911, but the gas, gas tank, and gas lines are still dirty, and hence you would still reap the benefits from a gas filter and possible fuel additives.

Even though some gas stations advertise how clean their gas is, every single internal combustion, gas-powered engine in this world reaps performance benefits from the use of a gas filter.

I view electricity in much the same way.

Stehno: While i agree with what you are saying regarding filtration, why doesn't the manufacturer build adequate filtering into each component that they make ? There is NO reason that outboard filtering should be necessary. That is, IF these "mega-buck" components were actually designed and built to the level that they lay claim to.

Besides all of that, most "filters" are actually some type of tuned low pass or band-pass circuit that simply shunts the out of band energy to ground. By removing the ground from the majority of these devices, you either negate their performance benefits or at the very least, cripple them. There are ways to make a filter that doesn't require an external source of grounding, but i don't know of anybody doing this. It requires more space, parts, heat dissipation and obviously more money. As such, i don't think that we'll see anybody racing to produce such a product as it is profit and hype that drives the high end industry, not performance. Sean
Sean, some mfg'ers in the high-end do exactly that. But apparently they filter out the offending frequecies (the effects) rather than the cause. And then even an excellent line conditioner may sound inferior when paired with such a component.

I would highly recommend reviewing the bottom half of the below thread:


Specifically, look for MusicFirst's postings. He is the distributor for Foundation Research and has some interesting, even very keen comments about high-end components, line conditioning, and the execution thereof.

As for your other points, unlike you, electronics are not my area of expertise, so I really can't comment much there. I only know what I think works and then try it and/or buy it.

Sean, as for your last statement about profit and hype that drives the high-end industry, not performance?

Profit is what makes capitalism work. Ain't nobody doing nothing for free, right?

And yes, there are certainly some to many who create or ride the hype for what they can get out of it. I can think of some popular line conditioners and amps that are among them.

But that's human nature. Care to discuss political parties and/or affiliations?

But then again, there's a whole underground audio market with their honest performance-oriented engineering that helps keep things somewhat in check. I think.

Eldartford -

that makes sense for signal grounds but not for AC grounds (IMHO.).

>"Needless to say, floating the ground still helps."

Stehno: I am sure those power conditioners/line filters are nice. Still, I would have to guess the manufactuers does not endorse lifting the ground. None that I have owned have ever endorsed the idea, in fact most specifically say that it must be grounded. Some wont' even work unless they are grounded. (or will throw an error light).

The concept of gas filtering, while an interesting analogy, isn't really an accurate metaphor. Still, playing along with that - one would have to say, that if you took the fuel filter out of the circuit, and nothing was effected, did it really do anything at all? Lifting the ground, to me, is akin to taking something out, rather than adding something in (e.g. putting a fuel filter in-line).

For me, I prefer the grounds be in place, mainly for peace of mind, and since I don't hear a difference with lifitng them, I think that's my best solution.


Ed: I am reasonably sure that the Foundations that Stehno uses come from the factory with the ground disabled (as the manufacturer figures they sound better this way) with the ability to reverse this. Stehno, obviously will be able to shed more light on this. It is interesting to note that a number of aftermarket cords do in fact come with the grounds disabled (although many of the purchasers of these cords may be unaware of this) or the ability to disable the ground for improved sound quality.
Stehno: I read Musicfirst's posting and explanation and it appears that he and i share several common theory's / beliefs. From what i can tell, it appears that these devices use several independent isolation transformers within one common chassis. At least, that is what i gathered from reading his posts. If such is the case, there is nothing new about this idea as it has been done in several other designs / products on the market. Depending on the quality and type of isolaton transformer being used and the layout of internal wiring, it is quite possible for one product with similar specs to perform very differently than another product of similar specs when it comes to real world situations though. Sean
Hdm, sorry for the delayed post. I believe that some of the LC's do come with the ground disabled. I've purchased all of mine used. I happen to have two with disabled grounds and 1 that is enabled. Funny because that's exactly the way I have my dedicated lines connected as only my preamp is grounded for best sonics.

Sean, I don't believe there was anything in MusicFirst's posts that would indicate the use of several independent isolation transformers. Although it's entirely possible.

As to your speculation of this not being a new idea? Again, I don't believe that had anything to do with anybody's point s above.

I was simply pointing out the superior performance of the Foundation Research LC-1 and LC-2 in-line power conditioners.

For those who take line conditioning seriously, you might want to hunt down a the August, 2003 review on these LC's from Marty DeWulf of Bound for Sound.

Marty DeWulf is a bit of a nut for line conditioning and claims these to be the best he's heard. Sold his previous line conditioners and now owns the Foundation Research LC's in his 'big rig'.

Just FYI:

About two years ago, a audiophile friend of mine found that his preamp also sounded better with the ground lifted. He proceeded to remove the ground plug by inserting a plug with a pigtail between the preamp plug and the AC plug. While he was at work there was a fire at his condo. After the insurance investigation was completed he was notified of their findings.

The insurance company had determined that the preamp was the source of the fire. Because he had removed the ground plug from the preamp they refused to pay his claim. They are still in court over this. The preamp manufacture has at this point become involved on the side of the insurance commpany.

I think it is always best to try and rectify the problem at the source. If this means hiring someone to track down grounding problems or purchasing a power conditioner, then so be it.
I forgot to mention:

I am getting this information second-hand from my friend. Unfortunately, he has been told that he cannot make mention of the manufacture's name until this is resolved. It appears that there is more here than meets the eye.

I mention this because I'm sure many of you will want to know the brand of preamp; well, I don't know. What I do know is that he paid $4,500.00 for it.

Apparently, the plaintiff (my buddy) and the defendant (the insurance co.) are battling each other to prove their own cause. My friend tells me he had to hire engineers to attempt to prove a design flaw in the electronics. The manufacture on the other hand has stuck to their guns by insisting that the equipment was modified and therefore they are not responsible.

Did I mention that my buddy is also being sued by the neighboring condo owner who also suffered damages during the fire? What a mess!!!
Errivera: Can you at least confirm whether this was a tubed or SS preamp for us ? My guess is tubes. Sean
Correct!!! It was a tubed preamp.

If and whenever there is a resolution to this saga (horror story) I will be sure to post the results, along with the preamp information.
Some q-tips and give yourself a proper ear cleaning....