My Clean Power Adventures

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#1
My clean power adventures go back to the writings of Enid Lumley in The Absolute Sound, beginning, as I recall, in the early 1970s. It was Enid who introduced me to the idea that the sound of an audio system could be improved by properly orienting two-pronged 120-volt electrical plugs with respect to the wall outlet. For those of you lacking the original Absolute Sound magazines, many of Enid's findings/recommendations were later documented in Laura Dearborn's 1987 book, Good Sound, which is still commonly available new or used and which has a lot of hard-to-otherwise-find-today good advice for audio system set up, especially with respect to analog-based systems.

Different Sound vs. Better Sound

As with the audible effects of cables and mechanical isolation, many audiophiles view electrical power treatments and tweaks with a sizable degree of cynicism. I think that’s a healthy attitude. There are a lot of companies chasing a shrinking market. Buyers need to be able to separate marketing claims from true performance enhancements.

With audiophile tweaks you should remain skeptical unless you personally can clearly hear a sonic difference and positively classify that difference as not only different, but “better.” Most anything you do to a high-resolution audio system will make a perceptible difference in the resulting sound. But in many cases, differences are just that, mere differences, which one cannot be confident in classifying as "better" sound.

What is "better" sound? For me, from what I believe to be well-made recordings of unamplified instruments in good acoustic spaces, “better” encompasses, among other concepts, a more natural (as in true to what you would have heard live from a good audience seat during the recording session) frequency balance, a more open and organized sound field, more distinct and rounded instrumental and vocal images, “blacker” background, wider perceived range of macro-dynamics and more nuanced micro-dynamics, and subjectively lower distortion of all types, especially high frequencies nasties.

When I speak of "better" sound from here on, or talk of "improvements" in the sound, that's the meaning of "better" I intend. You may disagree as to what constitutes "better" sound, but I hope this definition clarifies what I mean by "better" in my comments.

Since I first began tinkering with audio tweaks which focused on AC power, I have discovered a number of helpful techniques, but also a number of what I deemed to be "blind alleys"—techniques which, while producing different sound, I judged did not in the end produce better sound.

Starting at the Beginning: Dedicated Home Electrical System

Many of those who find that the quality of the electrical power you feed your audio system can make the resulting sound better or worse believe that tweaks to the power quality should start as far back as you can control—your home's electrical service box.

The home I lived in from 1994 to 2014 was one which I built to have a dedicated basement audio room. I also specified a dedicated electrical system for that audio room.

I specified 400-amp electrical service for that home. The 400-amp service was split into two 200-amp panels just past the service entry. The exclusive job of one of these 200-amp panels was to feed 10 dedicated circuits in the listening room. All wiring was three-wire 10-gauge solid copper. The wiring for each circuit was separately conduited from the service panel to a single quad of metal-boxed outlets in the audio room. The outlets were Hubbell hospital grade 20-amp outlets and all circuit breakers were also 20-amp rated.

I used up to six of the available 10 circuits. For example, if my system was bi-amped, I tended to use four high-power monoblock amps to do this. I would give each monoblock its own circuit, then assign the analog front-end components to a fifth circuit, and the digital front-end components to a sixth circuit. If I was not bi-amping, then a stereo amp or just two monoblocks were used and I would only use a total of four circuits.

All grounding and neutral wires for these up-to-six circuits were star-grounded back to the same post in the service box which holds the incoming ground wiring: there was direct copper-to-copper wire connection between all the grounds used by the audio system and the incoming ground wire. The grounds were referenced to an 8-foot solid copper post driven into the ground just outside the service entrance, and were bonded to a cold water pipe just above floor level some 50 feet away. All other unused ground wires for that dedicated 200-amp service box were disconnected and insulated from the service entrance and the circuit breakers for the unused circuits were open.

The six circuits used were all attached to the same phase of the incoming electrical service. A home's 220-volt service is made up of two 110-volt phases. By removing the panel covering the electrical buss inside your electrical service box, you can see which circuits are attached to which of the two incoming phases of power (usually the two fat black wires, the service ground being a fat white wire). I used such a visual inspection to determine which circuits to use with my audio system. With my electrical service panel, the electrical buss in the service panel was physically arranged so that the tabs of the buss fed by each phase were interleaved vertically in the box. Thus, the two circuits which were horizontally at the same level on the buss were fed by one phase, while the two circuits above or below that in the buss were fed by the other phase of power.

Since the 10 circuits in the box were arranged in two vertical rows of five, of the ten available circuits, up to six easily could be placed on the same incoming phase of power. To get these circuits all on the same phase of power, I just manipulated the hot wires for each circuit at the electrical service box so that the hot wires feeding the chosen outlets in the audio room were attached on the service buss to breakers which were fed by the same electrical phase. The original hot wires were long enough for such manipulation without adding any pigtail connections.

In that former house, as much as possible of the electrical equipment in the rest of the house which experience showed can cause electrical interference with audio (e.g., water softener, sump and ejector pump, furnace fan, other audio and video equipment, sprinkler and alarm systems, the lights in the listening room) were connected to circuits which are powered from the other phase of the incoming electrical service, the phase not used by the six dedicated circuits I use in the listening room. (I determined the phasing of circuits powered by the home's other electrical service by measuring voltage between the hot slots of the audio room's dedicated outlets and the hot slots of outlets powering the audio room's lights; a 220-volt measurement would show that two different phases were involved.)

For serious listening, I unplugged many electronic items not in the listening room such as all other stereo systems, my computer, and any item powered by a "wall wart" AC transformer; I also "de-tuned" all TV, satellite, and AM and FM radio receivers so that all that was received by these was random noise. Enid Lumley also made these suggestions all those years ago in her TAS writings.

One of the reasons I chose a basement listening room for my former home was to minimize RFI with the audio power and components. Putting as much of the wiring and audio space below ground level as possible cut down on radio frequencies in the audio space. The room's poured concrete walls also helped this goal. For example, per Enid Lumley's suggestion, I determined that an AM radio detuned to the bottom of the AM band produced mostly pink noise anywhere in my audio room, even near wiring. In contrast, in other areas of the house, bits of station programming in addition to hum, static, and cyclical loud noise products were audible from the AM radio even in the middle of a room, not only when placed along house wiring or next to electrical or appliances and electronics. This was well before my home or most homes used Wi-Fi and before the ubiquity of cell phones, much less smart phones. For many years I only ran FM signals into the audio room via shielded coax, not even routing wired satellite TV or cable signals into that space.

In 2010 my first wife of 34 years passed away unexpectedly. In 2015, my new wife and I moved into a new home in a different city. It was an existing older home, built in 1904. My music room by choice is now above ground with sunlight available through the window during the daytime. While I'd found that a dedicated audio electrical system is not a panacea, I viewed it as a worthwhile investment in an older home where the electrical system was largely an unknown. At least the electrical service had been upgraded to 200-amps with a modern circuit breaker panel during an earlier remodeling by the prior owner. Thus, one of the first home improvement projects we undertook was to install two dedicated circuits into the audio room. As before, this step, while not cheap to retrofit into an old plaster-walled house and not a panacea, is definitely worth the investment in terms of better sound quality.

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#2
My Early Reference Standard

My absolute reference for clean electrical power in the years in my prior house was what my reference audio room system sounded like when I opened the main circuit breaker on the other 200-amp service to the house. Under those conditions, the only electrical power in the house was that feeding the up to six circuits I was using just to power my audio components.

This simple experiment was enlightening, but also both humbling and disappointing. I had expected my special house wiring, together with careful plug orientation, to basically take care of giving me clean power. I thought I'd handled everything the best way I could with the knowledge then available to me and with a reasonable budget for the project. Perhaps I could have achieved better results if I'd used 3-wire twisted Romex wiring as some reports have since claimed sounds better. However, the then-current electrical code in the Illinois county where I built my home required conduited cable runs and specifically forbade Romex house wiring in new construction.

But this experiment showed that while my audio system certainly sounded somewhat better powered from my separate service box and dedicated circuits than it did when plugged into the "normal" outlets in the audio room, there was still apparently a huge amount of even local power contamination getting through and affecting the sound.

It was amazing how clean, powerful, and three-dimensionally solid, focused and stable the sound became when the rest of the home's power was turned off! High frequency nasties evaporated and the bass seemed to gain in power, extension, punch, and definition. Even with my separate electrical service and dedicated wiring, the difference was night and day.

My goal became to get as close to that sound as I could through power treatments which still allowed electrical power to the rest of the house. It was fairly easy to check my progress or lack thereof by just opening that 200-amp main breaker on the other electrical service in my home and comparing the sound quality—but it's best to do that sort of thing when you have the house to yourself, of course!

Techniques That Did Not Produce Better Sound

In my quest to move the sound quality in my old audio room toward the reference I heard when I cut off the rest of the home's power, I tried and later abandoned a number of audio tweaks and devices. Most of the things people try for cleaning up power don't work at all, I found. In fact, their cure was often worse than the disease. Among the ones I tried and found wanting were:

Ferrite Clamps

Many sources recommend using such ferrite clamps around one or both ends of power cables placed a few inches from the source or load. As far as I could hear, these made little difference sonically. If anything, they rolled off the highs and blunted dynamics, sometimes even seeming to add, rather than remove, audible grunge. I concluded that I preferred the sonics without them. Some OEM power cords on audio equipment have these built in. I encourage owners to experiment with another power cord. While these may be fine for some equipment, I never found an instance where an aftermarket detachable ferrite ring/clamp made a positive contribution to better sound.

Glorified Power Strips

I tried versions from Furman, Tripplite, API, and Monster. Of these, the Monster were by far the best, especially the HTPS 7000 Signature which I kept for years for home theater use and bedroom use in other systems. All of these, at least when used to feed the multi-hundred-watt power amplifiers I used in my audio room, seemed to squash dynamics a bit or more compared to plugging the amps straight into the power outlets.

When used in lower power systems, the Monster products seemed to eliminate a bit of sonic haze, grit, and brightness and were thus somewhat beneficial. I still use the API in my very low power, never-played loudly, office system. It provides some removal of brittleness and hash in the upper registers when so used. The Furman and Tripplite units had no redeeming sonic value and were soon discarded or sold.

While I'm sure that some of the high-priced power filter strips available today perform better than some I used before, I would be very careful about ANY unit which claims to provide surge protection. Most of the electronic devices which can do this must of necessity squash power inflow and may thus dampen the dynamics your system can produce when connected directly to clean wall power. In addition, many of the components used for surge and brown-out protection can themselves be instantly or progressively knocked out by repeated exposure to such conditions.

In addition, most such devices do not claim to provide any sort of power factor correction, which is something my ears tell me is vital in the quest for best sonics from your home system. See the discussion below of devices which I've found to work well.

Power Regenerators

I really wanted to like the sound of the PS Audio P300 and P600 units I purchased and the P1200 unit I auditioned. But while I used them for a while, they really made little positive difference compared to plugging things straight into the wall in my audio room. They were of course non-starters for powering large power amps. But even when limited to sources, preamps, and equalizers, I eventually concluded that the cure was worse than the disease. Dynamics were squashed, and highs were brightened and glazed, kind of "transistory." While the bass sometime was made a bit stronger and better defined, this did not in the end make up for the problems higher up in frequency. The so-called Multi-Wave options did not help matters any, either adding noticeable sonic colorations, inducing mechanical transformer hum in the connected components, or both.

I also tried a much larger capacity unit from Pure Power. While it was rated to produce the full output of a 30-amp circuit, it proved to have easily perceived sonic colorations (muffled highs and colored mids), flattened the soundstage and images, plus it produced way too much mechanical hum to be compatible with my very quiet basement listening environment. This 90-pound monster was shipped back for a refund.

While there may well be better regenerators out there now, what I heard from the units I tried was enough to keep me from further exploring such devices for my current small listening room, especially since most are big, heavy, suck a lot of power, and are quite expensive. This was especially so in view of the results I obtained with other techniques, some of which are quite inexpensive and none of which involve large, heavy, power-sucking equipment. I see that PS Audio's newest regenerator, the P20, is now claimed to be able to provide output equal to that of a full 20-amp USA circuit. It costs $10,000, weighs 96 pounds, and measures 17" x 14" x 11". I'll pass on that.

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#3
Techniques That Produce Better Sound

AC Plug Orientation


At the time Enid Lumley was writing, many if not most audio components were built with electrical connections which did not include the third round earth ground plug. Some two prong electrical plugs, then as now, were "phased" in that one was too wide (without modification) to plug into the hot side of an outlet. Enid recommending measuring the chassis potential to ground of each audio component with a simple voltmeter and comparing the chassis potential of each orientation. The lower voltage orientation was almost always the better sounding orientation, she said, and I agreed. Sometimes the measurable difference was only barely visible on the meter, but the marginally lower voltage was always the better sounding orientation.

The audio component should be disconnected from your system; all interconnects, speaker cables, and other wires from it to any other component or electrical supply should be disconnected at the component. Then you connect the black/ground probe of your AC multimeter to a known earth ground, such as the round-ish ground hole of a properly wired three-hole electrical wall outlet, and the red/hot probe to a convenient ground on the component (RCA jack sleeve, grounding screw, or unpainted metal spot on the chassis). If the probes are of the detachable type which you plug into jacks on the meter, follow the meter's instructions as to which probe should be connected to which socket for measuring AC voltage. Use the lowest voltage scale on the meter which does not peg the meter when you do this measurement. The orientation which produces the lowest voltage reading on the meter in this test (the lowest voltage potential on the chassis with respect to true ground) will also sound the best. Bingo, you're done.

Sometimes it's not quite so simple to conduct this test. With phased two-prong plugs—ones where the ground side noticeably wider than the hot side—to do this experiment you will either need to file down the wider ground plug, or insert the plug it into a so-called 3-to-2 prong "cheater plug" and file down the ground side of the cheater plug if necessary. If you use the cheater plug, also cut off the metal earth ground tab if the cheater plug has one to avoid that tab contacting any ground.

Also, there were and are today many more components where the measured potential to ground did not vary enough to be seen on the meter. This is common with components which use an outboard "wall wart" power transformer. With such components you just have to judge by ear. With some, the plug orientation makes little or no discernible audible difference, but with others, the difference is rather obvious and you can easily judge which orientation sounds better.

Components with three-prong plugs definitely also should be tested. To do so, you need to insert the component's power plug into a 3-to-2 prong cheater plug, one on which you have filed down the ground side of the cheater plug. Also cut off the metal earth ground tab if the cheater plug has one to avoid that tab contacting any ground.

Hopefully, the hot and signal grounds of the three-prong component plug have been properly oriented and the test will show lowest voltage with the 3-prong plug oriented as it would be if all three prongs are inserted into the outlet. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is not always the case.

If you need to reverse the polarity of the hot and signal ground prongs for best sound, you have to make a choice. You can (a) ignore the problem and rely on the earth ground to reduce the voltage potential on the chassis, (b) lift the earth ground by using the cheater plug to correctly orient the hot and signal ground wires at the wall plug end of the power cable, (c) use a modified power cord to reverse the polarity of the hot and signal ground prongs, or (d) rewire the hot and signal ground connections to the power inlet inside the component.

In my experience, sonically (a) is a non-starter. I have usually chosen either (b) or (c). Choice (c) is the safest since it does not defeat the safety earth ground. It is fairly easy to wire up a special power cord which reverses the wiring at the male plug end: just cut off the plug and replace it with a hardware store or better plug wired to reverse the polarity of hot and signal ground wires. That is usually but not always easier to do than to the rewire the power entry socket on a component as in (d).

But note well that (b) and (c) will almost never sound the same. Lifting the earth ground will almost always cause a change in the component's sound of a magnitude which even a novice audio listener can easily hear in seconds. Generally, lifting the earth ground will open up and enlarge the sound field quite strikingly. To this day, this effect is so desired by some audio enthusiasts that they routinely cheat all the earth grounds in their audio system despite the safety concerns this poses. I must confess that, time was, I did this, too.

But, besides safety, the other side of the sonic coin is that lifting the earth ground generally will also produce a bit more background noise and more high frequency hash and grit. And while the stage and presentation size is enlarged by ground lifting, imaging tends to be less specific and more wanderingly uncertain. This tendency is stronger today with modern mostly digital systems which are routinely subjected to strong RFI both from the system components themselves and the environment more soaked with RF from cell phones, computers, satellite, cable, and Wi-Fi signals. Thus, these days, my general preference is for (c). See the discussion below under the Grounding Schemes subheading. Thankfully, most modern three-pronged components I've purchased have the hot and signal ground plugs correctly oriented so I haven't needed to use (c) for years now anyway.

Sometimes, proper plug orientation, besides affecting audio quality, also affects spurious hum, hiss, and other noises you might be hearing from your speakers. Most recently, orienting the two-prong plug of the wall-wart power transformer for the Koss E90 amp which feeds the Koss ESP950 electrostatic headphones I now use with my desktop computer system completely cured the low-level ripping/tearing/squealing noise from one or both channels I was encountering. This sort of noise is frequently encountered by owners of this headphone system, the cause is not well agreed upon, and the cure seems either hard to come by or temporary for most. For me, proper plug orientation was the complete, immediate, and (so far) permanent cure.

This plug orientation procedure is a no- or low-cost and fairly easy electrical power tweak I heartily recommend. No matter how sophisticated your other power cleaning techniques may be, if you don't get this right, you are not going to come close to the sonic potential of your audio system. With many components, the sonic betterment of getting this plug orientation correct is audible in seconds to even audio system novices.

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#4
Grounding Schemes

As time went on, more and more of the components I used had earth-grounded three-prong power plugs. In addition, with passing years the amount of RFI and EMI in the atmosphere and on the power line continued to increase as computers, Wi-Fi, cell phones, cable TV, satellite TV and just general industry proliferated.

The movement toward more digital audio and video components undoubtedly also produced larger amounts of high frequency electrical noise on the power line and elsewhere. I remember my experience with the first DAC I ever purchased, a Theta Generation III, which produced so much RFI that it wiped out the TV reception on all channels below UHF received by my TV antenna mounted about 20 feet away in the attic above my listening room—and that was before 1990 when I moved into the house with the dedicated audio room and power system. Needless to say, I sold that Theta, but even other one-box CD players seemed to produce some visible distortion of VHF TV channels received by my antenna.

One question I grappled with was whether to "cheat" any of those earth grounds on audio equipment for best sound and, if so, which ones. Classic grounding theory calls for star-grounding a system to a single earth ground back at the electrical service. But by this time, based on my experiments and experience, I'd grown skeptical enough of accepted electrical practices to listen rather than just follow formulas in my attempt to get closer to that reference sound. About that time I wrote an article for The Stereo Times, "A Well-Grounded Education" which explains theory, my experiments, and my findings, which I won't rehash here.

Mondial MAGIC: The Remedy for Cable-TV-Induced System Hum

One particular modern source of electrical noise, Cable-TV-induced hum, does have a complete and easy low-cost solution. Back around 2005, 60 – 120 Hz hum on all audio/video system inputs where a cable TV is connected to any system component was a recognized problem with some cable TV providers. It is much less common now that cable is distributed in many USA areas via fiber optic cable rather than coax. It's caused by a difference in grounding potential between the cable coax and the rest of your system grounds. There were a few isolation boxes on the market aimed at fixing this sort of problem. I used to use the one marketed by Mondial (then Klipsch) known as the Mondial Antenna Ground Isolation Circuit or "MAGIC" box in the USA. It did in fact work like magic to eliminate such cable-TV-caused problems. I no longer have the problem and no longer use that isolation box. But if you still face such a problem, you can find used units on eBay, I'm sure.

DNM HFTNs

If you happen to own DNM interconnects and/or speakers cables, adding these HFTN devices will further cleanse and clarify the sound you are hearing. They won't counteract the lightweight bass of such cables and interconnects, but they will further clean up the sound in the way DNM cables can seem to. They are a worthwhile addition if you've already made the investment in DNM cables and want to stick with them. But the HFTNs, while fully compatible with the EVS Ground Enhancers discussed next, make a relatively small improvement in the sound and the price is more expensive by a factor of 10.

Electronic Visionary Systems (EVS) Grond Enhancers

I've written about the EVS Ground Enhancers in other discussions in Tom's Corner here and a bit more here, so I won't rehash my description in this thread. Suffice it to say that I attached these small, inexpensive devices to most every component in my system for over a decade, both at my former house with the basement audio room and in my current home's audio room system. They are most beneficial when attached to the speaker binding post inputs, next most effective on the amp binding post outputs, but adding them to an unused input or output of each component or attached to a grounding screw on a component usually further enhances the positive effects. Most all aspects of the reproduced sound seem at least a little better, with increased blackness of background, more naturally bass-weighted tonal balance, and increased audibility of small details while simultaneously significantly reducing perceived brightness, being particularly significant.

The only downside of these devices is a slight—and I do mean slight—truncation of high level dynamics, most noticeable on piano transients where perhaps the tiniest smidge of added grunge could also be noted. I lived with this known issue for a decade because of the many salutary benefits of these devices and because, in my subjective evaluation, the negative effects were truly tiny compared to the benefits.

But within the last few months I decided to re-evaluate the effect of the Ground Enhancers in light of the fact that my system is totally different these days since I last checked their effect. Lo and behold, while I definitely still preferred certain aspects of the presentation (more natural tonal balance, less brightness) with the Ground Enhancers, dynamics seemed to be unleashed and the system just sounded more "relaxed" without them. Removing the Ground Enhancers led to the discovery (or I should say re-discovery) of the goodness of another old friend, the . . . .

MIT Z-1 Stabilizer (Original Version)

Here we have an oldie, but still exceptionally goodie! This Richard-Marsh-designed unit was greatly loved by HP of The Absolute Sound. It was on his recommendation that I bought one and then two of these original MIT Z-1 Stabilizer units, which at the time cost about $800 each new. I had the original version which looked like a cream-colored breadbox which nothing plugged into. It had no electrical outlets in it, just a short 3-prong electrical cord. It is best used plugged into one of the outlets on the same circuit feeding your power amplifier.

The operating theory is basically parallel line conditioning via power factor correction and line filtering. Richard Marsh explains the operating theory in an old MIT whitepaper here.

In my initial years of use of the Z in my old basement room, I learned than one Z-1 worked better than two. Regardless of how I deployed the two Z-1s I had, the effect was never as sonically beneficial as just using one connected to a receptacle which also fed one of my amplifiers. Two seemed somehow to "fight" each other, stretching images and somewhat confusing the soundstage.

Using one, however, brought high frequency hash and brittleness to a new low, creating more filigreed highs, improved all aspects of bass and midrange reproduction, lowered perceived system noise, made the amps sound more powerful, enhanced clarity and the audibility of low-level detail, enhanced the blackness of the background, reduced all sorts of high frequency hash, brittleness, and edge, and expanded the soundstage in all dimensions while more firmly rooting and rounding images on that stage. Using a single Z-1 moved the sound of my basement system closer to that reference sound I heard when turning off the rest of the home's power than any single technique or combination of techniques I'd tried. To a lesser degree, the Z-1 also seemed to improve the sound and video quality of other systems elsewhere in the house, despite it being plugged into the audio system's dedicated electrical system.

But after I discovered the EVS Ground Enhancers, they took top honors in approaching my reference sound. In addition, the combination of the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer and the Ground Enhancers seemed not so good as either separately. Thus, in moments of weakness, I ended up selling first one and then the other MIT Z-1 Stabilizer.

Once I eliminated the EVS Ground Enhancers from my current system in my current home, I thought I'd try the Z-1 again. The original version is not common on the used market. Fortunately, I was able to find one in good shape on e-Bay for $200 and purchased it.

Okay, what can I say? After warm-up/break-in of about 100 hours, this thing, for $200, truly made an incredible improvement to my current system minus the EVS Ground Enhancers—the same kinds of improvements I described for the Z-1 above, but on major steroids! In addition, the slight compression of high-level dynamic range caused by the Ground Enhancers did not occur with the Z-1. As before, the Z-1 also somewhat improves sound and video quality elsewhere in the home. If you can find one, I highly recommend snapping it up . . . that is, unless you want to spend more than 10 times that much to take the next trip with me, the . . .

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#5
P.I. Audio Group UberBUSS

Why the UberBUSS?

Here's the current star of the show, the P.I. Audio Group UberBUSS. The P.I. Audio Group is actually just two people, each of whom basically work alone. Dave Elledge is responsible for all the power line products while Greg Rael handles the acoustic treatment side of the business. Upon recommendation from David Janszen, I started using the P.I. Audio Group's AQD diffusor panels Greg Rael handles when I was using the Janszen Valentina Active speakers. I still find these panels invaluable for handling reflections off the nearby walls in my small audio room.

Thus, when I started thinking about the direction my search for further power line treatment should take me, I looked into the UberBUSS manufactured by Greg Rael's partner, Dave Elledge. Throughout my dealings with Dave, I've found him to be very responsive, honest, and straightforward about how I should implement the Ubers in my system, given the components I have. For example, once he knew I was using Benchmark electronics to drive my Harbeths, he steered me away from his own power cords and suggested those made by Triode Wire Labs to get power from my wall outlets to the Ubers, saying that this would provide a more neutrally balanced sound since that was his perception of my system achievement in pairing the warmish Harbeths with the incisive Benchmark equipment.

Another reason I decided to pursue purchase of the UberBUSS was the fact that, unlike most other power treatment products, the reviews of the Ubers are almost entirely enthusiastically positive. I say "almost" because I'm sure there are one or more out there which I did not see which are less approving than that. But I can honestly say that I've never seen a more consistently highly praised product than the Ubers, particularly in the realm of power treatment products.

Further, in making the UberBUSS, Dave Elledge eschews any attempt at providing surge or brown-out protection. Dave wants to keep the dynamics of which the system is capable intact—and it shows! The enhanced rendition of high level dynamics is in fact one of the stellar achievements of the UberBUSS.

While technically fitting into the category of "glorified power strips" which I rejected above, the UberBUSS is subjectively truly special. Yes, at about $1,300 each (I bought two) for an 8-outlet version with the recommended specially modified Pass & Seymour 5362A outlets, it's expensive, but it is not nearly as expensive as some high-end power strips out there. Still, to this $1,300 cost must be added the cost of whatever power cable you want to use to connect the UberBUSS to the wall outlet.

The Sonic Improvements

The audible improvements over the sound of plugging all components directly into one of my two dedicated lines (Benchmark AHB2 amps and HPA4 line/headphone amp—the analog components—into one line, with the digital components—Auralic Aries G2, Oppo UDP-205, Kanex Pro HDMI Audio De-Embedder, DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4, and Benchmark DAC3 HGC—into the other) include the following made by the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer, but to a markedly greater degree:

  • stamped out high frequency hash, brittleness, edge, and grunge

  • created more filigreed highs with cymbal shimmer and sheen and upper partials of string sound especially benefiting

  • improved all aspects of bass and midrange reproduction

  • lowered perceived system noise

  • made the amps sound more powerful

  • enhanced clarity and the audibility of low-level detail

  • enhanced the blackness of background

  • expanded the soundstage in all dimensions while more firmly rooting and rounding images on that stage

In addition, dynamics—both low level and high level—are truly enhanced, rather than squashed as with other "glorified power strips" or power regenerators. Compared to power straight from the wall outlets, there are more levels of low-level detail and high-impact dynamics audible, as well as more dynamic gradations in the middle, with the result that everything is much more nuanced and continuous dynamically.

About the bass range I have to add that the combination of subjectively better low frequency extension, detail, impact, warmth, and power must be heard to be believed. One would think that warming up the midbass and upper bass/lower midrange warmth regions would automatically reduce the audible bass detail. But it just isn't so—both are made better, more true to the warm-yet-detailed sound of live acoustic bass as heard from a good seat in a great hall.

The Ubers also add a great deal of tonal subtlety from the bottom to top of the frequency range, with moment-to-moment changes in harmonic structure within notes and musical phrases, making the reproduction so much more realistic when compared to what one hears in a live unamplified concert of acoustic music from a good seat in a great hall. The Ubers add back the dynamic and tonal art and subtlety to the music playing/making, art and subtlety which is stripped away by most reproduction.

The Ubers add a good deal of vertical size enhancement of the images produced by my Harbeth M40.2 speakers in a way that line sources do, but without the loss of vertical focus or over-stretching which line sources frequently produce. This is hard to explain, but my Harbeths still sound like point-source reproducers, just that the "point" is much larger and of more lifelike size. It is akin to the effect of the large square array of four midrange drivers I experienced with my old Legacy Audio Whisper speakers.

I hesitate to say this, but I think another sonic betterment the Ubers bring to the table is in the area of timing, what some have labeled PRaT, for Pace, Rhythm, and Timing. I usually am not very attuned to supposed sonic differences components can make in this area. But with the Ubers in place, I noticed right away an increased sense of rhythmic drive, of tight groups of musicians playing together (or not so much together in poor ensembles) at a particular or varying pace toward a musical destination, both phrase by phrase and in the sense of the overall composition. This quality makes music listening yet more interesting and exciting. I have to admit that I find myself tapping my foot, bobbing my head, conducting, etc. a lot more than I used to when listening, suggesting a greater emotional involvement with the music, just as the PRaT camp has always suggested as a touchstone of good-sounding reproduction.

The overall result is mesmerizing, enthralling, and oh so much fun to listen to!

Oh, and did I forget to mention that these effects are all present day or night, regardless of what else is going on in the house or on the powerline? Well, they are!

Or that these effects are present even on relatively low-resolution sources such as 128 kHz mp3 internet radio sources, not just on CD or high-res sources? Well, they are! No, the limitations of low bit-rate reproduction are not eliminated. For example, the edge/digititis often present in such reproduction on high string overtones is still very much present, as is the bit of "shattering" quality of soprano voices in their high range which is almost always present from low-bit-rate sources. But the benefits listed above are fully imparted even to this low quality of source material, making even such sources much more enjoyable.

While I no longer have an easy reference sound to compare to as I did in my former home, there is no doubt in my mind that the UberBUSSes haved moved the sound of my current audio room system very close indeed to that reference sound I heard when turning off the rest of the home's power, closer than any single technique or combination of techniques I've ever tried. In fact, the improvements I describe above following the bullet list definitely were not true of or present in my old reference sound. In those ways, the Ubers take the system sound beyond my old reference.

Note that I have not been successful in getting the UberBUSSes to play nicely with the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer. As was the case in my former home when I had two Z-1 Stabilizers, the Z-1 and UberBUSSes seem to "fight" one another, producing less sonic improvement than when either is used separately. This is so whether I plug the Z-1 into one of the Ubers or directly into a dedicated line's wall outlet powering the audio system. Why the two UberBUSSes don't "fight" each other, I do not know, but there you have it. You should choose either the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer at much lower cost (if you can find one!), or go with one or more of the much-yet-better-sounding, but much more expensive, UberBUSS units, not both.

[Continued below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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#6
The Uber Design

I'm sure Dave can make the UberBUSS in a variety of cases you might specify. My "standard" UberBUSS design is a plain seemingly wooden rectangular box with rounded edges measuring about 10.5" x 7" x 5.5", weighing about 10 pounds, painted with glossy black crinkle paint. The outlet plates and outlets are also black. It looks business-like, not cheap and not fancy. It is supplied with small, thin adhesive rubbery feet which the owner can install on any convenient side of the box, depending on system needs and preference.

Different configurations of power input and the power outlets are also offered. Because of the configuration of my electronics, rack, wall outlets, and acoustical treatments, I chose to have all the outlets and the IEC power input all mounted on the same side of the box. Each of my Ubers has eight power outlets, four duplexes.

How do these UberBUSSes achieve what they do? I've mentioned the specially modified, cryo-treated 20-amp-rated Pass & Seymour 5362A commercial spec grade outlets; for more about these outlets, see the entire thread starting here. Beyond that there is power factor correction (as with the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer) as well as "goo" inserted inside the box which is claimed to absorb both radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI). There are also interference-fighting electronic filter networks. Noise filtration is applied both at high radio-like frequencies as well as (unusually) well down into the audio spectrum range.

Dave Elledge admits that while no electronic component is perfectly neutral, his goal is to do no harm, only eliminate problems. To this end, the Ubers do no offer any sort of surge protection because Dave has found all methods of doing this are either unreliable and fail after being subjected to repeated surges, or they damp down macro dynamics and are thus sonically doing harm to the music, or they do both. Neither of these characteristics are acceptable, in Dave's estimation. He wants to only build a device which will deliver all the power and dynamics the power circuit the Uber is connected to can deliver.

Here is what Dave Elledge had to say about the performance and construction of the UberBUSS in correspondence with me:

Music erupts out of blackness with enhanced, not muted, dynamics. That is why I developed the BUSS concept. With my many years in recording studio technology as a guide I set out to develop a first do no harm power conditioner that didn't squash dynamics, especially leading edges of transients. That is where impact lives especially in percussion. I'm a has been R&R drummer (or as my bandmates used to call me - the concussionist) and when kick drums and snare don't have the appropriate "whack" well... that's just wrong. The other victim of many other power treatment devices is the upper register harmonic series. Most of them sounded broken to my ears. Ergo the BUSS: a non-inductive power filtration device with Power Factor Correction to keep and improve inherent dynamics.

. . . The Uber is capable of handling 40A internally 24/7, so with that in mind the higher current connectors are just good ideas. I've attached some options for the Uber, but there is another one that just came out of development that is not listed [this is the one I picked]. It is a hand polished version of the P&S 5362A that incorporated a combination RFI absorbing and mass loading material. My whole thing about audio is that I prefer playback to be as natural and honest as possible. One of my clients named it the "Uber Puerto" and as his go-to receptacle after trying everything including the GTX NCF from Furutech . . . .
My UberBUSS Set Up

I use one of my two UberBUSS units to treat the power of each of the dedicated lines in my audio room. At Dave Elledge's suggestion, I am using a six-foot length of Triode Wire Labs Seven Plus power cables to connect each Uber to the wall outlet for its respective dedicated electrical circuit.

Even though the wire gauge of these cables is 7, they are quite flexible and are easily routed from the wall outlets behind my speakers through the tight space behind my Salamander Archtype equipment rack and behind my two-foot-wide P. I. Audio AQD diffuser panels to the Ubers. I have one Uber mounted on the floor outboard of each of the AQD diffuser panels which treat reflections off the wall behind the speakers.

From the listening position, the Ubers and all the connected power cords are invisible. One Uber is blocked from view by the left Harbeth M40.2, the other by the right speaker.

In addition, to allow all the equipment power cords to also run behind the AQD panels and reach the Uber outlets from their positions on my equipment rack without adding any extension cords, I have the Ubers oriented so that the power input and outlets face the wall behind the speakers. This also keeps the equipment power cords maximally out of sight—keeping this small listening room neat and tidy in appearance both from the listening position and elsewhere in the room. By mounting the Ubers basically left and right in the listening room, I am also able to keep the digital equipment power cords and Uber maximally away from the analog power cords and Uber.

Instead of using the supplied adhesive feet for the Ubers, I have mounted each Uber on four small medium density rubber A/V Room Service Equipment Vibration Protectors (EVPs), discussed in another thread. I have all my electronics mounted on EVPs.

At Dave's suggestion, I have treated all the power plugs connected to the UberBUSSes with JENA Technologies Electrical Contact Enhancement Fluid instead of my usual elixir of choice, Caig Deoxit Gold G100L.

One UberBUSS feeds electrical power from one dedicated electrical circuit to my analog electronics: two Benchmark AHB2 amplifiers and the Benchmark HPA4 line/headphone amplifier. The other UberBUSS feeds power from the other dedicated electrical circuit to my digital electronics: Auralic Aries G2 streamer; Oppo UDP-205 disc player; Kanex Pro Audio De-Embedder (for converting the Oppo's HDMI output to coax digital); DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4 equalizer; and Benchmark DAC3 HGC.

[Continued below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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66
Chicagoland
#7
Break In

To get this level of sonic betterment, I had to go through a rather lengthy break-in process. It took my Ubers a bit more than a week of continuous music playback to get to the sonic level I have described. In addition, the break-in process was not a matter of linear continual improvement.

At first power up, the Ubers had great bass and warmth regions, and dynamics were already enhanced. Then the bass and warmth left the building and the highs got bright and a bit nasty for a couple of days or more. After the brightness departed, I noticed midrange resonances on some notes and considerable vagueness of imaging and staging. These effects faded, but then reappeared. Midway on the seventh day I was about to give up hope because of the midrange resonances, staging/imaging vagueness, and lack of bass.

Then, as if by magic, just after seven solid days of playback, all the problems vanished and the bass and warmth returned, better than ever. The soundstage also expanded to vast proportions. Since then, the sound stabilized or perhaps continued to slowly further improve. From what Dave says about the break-in process below, apparently continued improvements following the first week or more are to be expected:

What you describe is exactly what everyone else says... including me. Wire insulation takes a while to saturate, capacitor films need to establish bias, electrostatic fields need to establish and the Brick core material needs to polarize. Harsh, vague, closed in at the beginning. I'm glad to see it all leveling off.

I did some testing when I first started developing these 12 years ago. I built two identical units. I matched all of the components within 0.5% and the two sounded the same, measured the same and tracked each other precisely for a week. I left both of them plugged into the wall current. I used them both in system for a month and their sonic and measured performance was identical, even though I normally had low level (front end) in one and power amps in the other. I swapped them back and forth and neither I or my listening team could tell a difference in sonics. Using ProTools (a digital recording and editing system running at 88.2 kHz 24 bit) precise measurements were made by using an interface that allowed the output to be directly measured without a microphone to eliminate that variable. I then plugged all of the gear into one and left the other one energized, but unterminated.

[Inside baseball here: if current is measure on an Uber that is plugged in, but not terminated with a load there is a 3A standing current that exists. This is not power that is dissipated or lost, but is a bias current that is present in an unterminated transmission line. Lesson over]

It would appear that both units plugged in would age in the same way. Not so. After 100, 250, 500 & 1000 hrs audio performance continued to improve on the one that was loaded significantly. Measurements were repeated using identical methodology. The one that was continually loaded was demonstrably better in measurements and sonics.

I like to think of the Ubers as fine wine or brandy.

All of this just to say that the more they are used, the better they will sound. If you plan on being away for extended periods of time I recommend plugging in a small continual load so performance does not deteriorate. 100W light bulbs work great. They present a constant 0.9A load and will keep the Ubers happy. When . . . I visit the kids for several weeks at a time a couple of times a year . . . I use my Uber(s) to drive light timers to discourage thieves. The intermittent load is enough to keep them in tip top shape.

BTW - the capacitors used in the Power Factor Correction network have a 330,000 hr rated life @ 125VAC = 34 years.
Note also that actual interruption of power to the Ubers for periods of a couple of hours or days (which has happened in my room a couple of times since installing the Ubers as I've made other system changes such as those described below) will require about a week of continuous power-up to restore the sound to its tip-top shape. During that first week after repowering the Ubers I hear effects similar in nature to the break-in cycle, but much less extreme.

How Big an Improvement?

In sizing up the sonic betterment made by the UberBUSSes, it might be helpful for me to rate the improvements in my system sound caused by my audiophile tweaking of (1) room acoustics, (2) mechanical vibrations, (3) electronic equalization of frequency response, and (4) electrical power treatment.

In my room, for my system, last place goes to mechanical vibrations. This is as it has always been in prior systems in former rooms and homes. Yes, proper treatment of mechanical vibration does give you better sound, but the improvements are not so major—at least with digital sources as opposed to an analog turntable!—as the other areas can provide.

In my small (13' x 11' x 8') listening room, top importance goes to treatment of room acoustics. Even with proper speaker and listener positioning, I just can't get the speakers or listening position far enough away from room boundaries to prevent a lot of obnoxious splashing of high and mid frequencies off room surfaces. Major improvements in listening quality are to be had by attending to speaker and listener placement issues and especially the proper deployment of diffusive and absorbing materials throughout the room.

In a larger room, which I'll define as one where you can keep the speakers and listener at least eight feet from any room surface other than the floor, room treatments other than speaker and listener positioning are surely much less important than in a small listening room of the type I've usually had to work with. With speaker to surface distances of eight feet or more, the reflections of sound from the speakers off the room surface will tend to add pleasing ambiance rather than obnoxious brightness and slap echo. But you'll need a room of minimum dimensions of 24' x 20' with a 12' ceiling to make this a possibility, and then only if you adopt a near-field listening position to maximize the ratio of direct to reflected sound you hear from the listening position.

With my Harbeth M40.2 speakers well placed in my small acoustically treated listening room, I'd have to say that the improvements I hear when engaging my DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4 electronic equalization are actually less important—considerably so!—than the sonic betterment I hear from the UberBUSSes compared to components directly plugged into my dedicated electrical lines. That puts pure power in my #2 position of importance and electronic equalization at #3.

I'm quite surprised to hear myself conclude that the sonic improvements made by the UberBUSSes are more important to me subjectively than those produced by using the subjectively best sounding electronic equalizer I've ever used, the DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4. Perhaps it is because, in my room, with the speaker and listener placement I've chosen and the use of both diffusive and absorbing surface treatments, the frequency response of my Harbeth M40.2 speakers needs relatively little correction. See my measured before and after frequency response curves here. But, whatever the reason, the Uber magic is there regardless of whether the equalization is applied or not, a comparison I can instantly make at will with the press of a single button on the equalizer's remote control. Yes, even with the Ubers in place, adding the X4's equalization makes the sound better, but not to the same degree as adding the Ubers compared to running power straight from my dedicated power line outlets. And, yes, the Ubers are that good and that important to great sound!

[Continued below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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66
Chicagoland
#8
P.I. Audio Group Customized Pass & Seymour 5362A Dedicated Outlets

Dave Elledge of P.I. Audio Group complimented my decision to make "home runs" for the audio room power by installing the two dedicated circuits I'm using. But he also recommended that further improvements—beyond that I already described because of the UberBUSSes—could be had by replacing the power receptacles I'm using in my audio room with his specially modified Pass & Seymour 5362A receptacles. These are the same receptacles Dave used in making my UberBUSSes. Dave sells these for $80 each, a bargain considering the roughly $27 stock price of such outlets and the labor that undoubtedly goes into making these modified versions.

Physically, these are a far cry from your average hardware store residential spec grade outlet. They are slightly larger (but still easily fitting inside a standard electrical box), but weigh much more, plus all the connections are quite obviously much beefier and the outlets hold plugs extremely tightly.

Thus, a few weeks after installing the UberBUSSes, I also swapped out my four original duplex receptacles (two for each dedicated circuit in my audio room) with these. If you want to do it right, you will probably have to do it yourself unless you can find a cooperative electrician and then constantly watch over his shoulder to make sure the electrician does not take any cost/time cutting shortcuts which still meet all building code requirements. Ever try getting an electrician to treat electrical connections with contact-enhancing fluid before connecting house wiring to receptacles? I thought not.

If you are looking for a helpful instructional video on how to do the basic wiring, the best one I found is here. This Sparky Channel video is particularly helpful because it shows you the most complicated situation you will ever find in terms of wiring up a quad of outlets. This video assumes a three-wire circuit with Romex and a metal outlet box. Things get much simpler if, as in my area, the electrical code requires the use of metal conduit and metal outlet boxes. With such installations, there is no need to bind the wiring to the box since the earth ground is carried by the box and conduit back to the electrical service box. Sure, you can still use a three-wire circuit with conduit and metal boxes, but the electrical code does not require it for proper earth grounding.

This video is also extremely helpful because of the links to particular recommended tools for doing such work. The Fluke Volt-Alert Non-Contact Voltage Tester, the Sperry Instruments Stop Shock GFCI Circuit Tester with Ground Analyzer, and the Milwaukee 1000V Insulated Screwdriver Set are a few of the mentioned high-quality tools which are especially helpful with this work. I was astounded, for example, at how much more secure the Milwaukee screwdriver with ECX head is for tightening the combination screw heads typically used in electrical receptacles than using a Phillips or slotted screwdriver. With the ECX you can really torque down the wire/screw connection without fear of the screwdriver slipping out of or damaging the screw head.

In terms of connecting the house wiring to the receptacles, if you are using solid-core wire, I recommend wrapping the wire around the screw as shown in the video. Reliable discussions such as this one from InspectApedia, indicate that such connections can be safer, tighter, and have greater surface area than other methods.

However, when my electrician wired my dedicated circuits, he used 12-gauge stranded wire for its greater flexibility and ease of fishing through a long conduit path he used to avoid damage to my plaster and lathe walls. With stranded wire, I suggest using the screw-clamp type of back wiring, which the Pass & Seymour outlets can make very secure indeed. My past experience with stranded wire indicates it is difficult to keep some strands of stranded wire from slipping out from under the screw heads when the screw is tightened down if the wire is wrapped around the screw under the screw head. With the screw clamp method, the stranded wire stays straight, is fully captured by the clamp edges, and no strands can escape the clamping when you tighten down the screw.

I used freshly stripped ends of the stranded 12-gauge wire when connecting to the new P&S receptacles. Before connecting the wires and receptacles, I treated the stripped wire ends, the connecting points of the receptacles to the wires, and the connecting points of the receptacles to the wall box with the Dave-Elledge-recommended JENA Labs Contact Enhancer fluid. While Dave said that he treated the internal connections of the modified outlets with a proprietary graphene-based contact enhancer he has developed, I saw no evidence that the external connecting points of the outlets had been so treated prior to shipment; therefore, on the exposed surfaces of the wires and receptacles, I used the JENA fluid Dave also recommends.

In addition, since I only plan to use one outlet in each quad of receptacles—the one connecting the dedicated circuit to its UberBUSS—I made sure to connect the house wiring directly to the electrical connections for the outlet to which the UberBUSS would be connected. I relied on the duplex receptacle's internal jumper connections to electrify the other outlet of that duplex and short jumper wires to electrify the other duplex receptacle of that quad. In other words, I made no effort to equalize the number of wire junctions made to each outlet. In contrast, the video I linked to shows the proper manner of making sure each outlet has the same number and quality of wire connections in its electrical path.

Sonic effect? Yes, after a week of break-in, there is a further improvement beyond what addition of the UberBUSSes alone created. Overall, I'd say the presentations sounds more solidly anchored, both spatially and tonally, and the presentation has greater "ease." Bass extension seems further enhanced, as is bass definition. The presentation seems yet larger and more open. When SPL is increased to the highest levels I use, the amp/speaker combination has a greater-yet ease factor, as if the amps are now several times as powerful and/or the speakers can comfortably handle way more power. The mid and high frequencies seem yet cleaner and lower in distortion. Instruments sound more like themselves in the mids and the highs are yet more filigreed.

These sonic improvements are not major in degree—nothing like the cumulative changes made UberBUSSes. I would call the improvements relatively subtle, but worthwhile and even important once experienced, an excellent investment of $320.

[Continued below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
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Chicagoland
#9
Triode Wire Labs Digital American Power Cords

Up to this point, most of the power cords from the UberBUSSes to the audio electronics were stock OEM for each piece of electronics. The one exception is that, by force of habit, I use an old Absolute Power Cord II (a product once marketed by GTT Audio & Video and probably sourced from Ching Chang—picture here) for the Oppo. I have enough of those to go around if I want to substitute them for the stock cords on the other electronics, but for the past few years, other than for the Oppo, I've been using the stock power cords.

I must admit that while I've done considerable experimenting with speaker cables, analog interconnects, and digital interlinks, my experience with after-market power cords is rather limited. Other than the Absolute Power Cord II (which I did find to be a modest improvement with some components), my only prior experience with aftermarket power cords was with Coincident brand power cords, again with modest improvements, but only with select components.

However, given my recent sonic findings with respect to electrical wiring products and recommendations made by P.I. Audio Group's Dave Elledge, I decided that the icing on my current clean power adventures would be to replace, where possible, the OEM power cords in my system. The "where possible" excludes my Kanex Pro Audio De-Embedder. That device uses an ordinary low-wattage wall-wart power supply which few after-market power cord companies address, probably because such equipment is obviously "ewwwwww, so low-end!" and thus not worthy of their attention.

Thus at Dave Elledge's recommendation, I sought the best match from Triode Wire Labs for my system. You will recall that, at Dave's recommendation, I'm using TWL Seven Plus power cables to connect my two UberBUSSes to their dedicated wall outlets. To replace my OEM stock power cords, "Triode Pete" of TWL recommended his Digital American Series for all my components except the Benchmark AHB2 amplifiers. For the amps Pete recommended his Digital American High Power power cords. After checking the prices of these, I gulped and sent Pete north of $4,000 for the seven power cables required. "In for a penny, in for a pound," I figured, also rationalizing that some high-end aftermarket power cords cost more than that per cord. A week later I had the new power cords in hand.

However, I encountered an unexpected physical compatibility problem between the TWL cords and my Benchmark AHB2 amps in the mode I have the amps configured, which is bridged mono using the NL-2 Speak-On speaker cable connections for those amps. Benchmark highly recommends using the Speak-On connections with its amps as opposed to locking banana plugs (the next best connection, in Benchmark's opinion), much less spade lugs, pins, or bare wire. The Speak-On connection for bridged mono operation is directly below and physically close to the power inlet connection—see this picture of the AHB2 back panel.

Unlike standard OEM power cords, but like many after-market cords, the TWL cords all come standard with larger circular socket and plug ends. The barrels of the power cord and speaker cable do not allow both to simultaneously fit into their respective jacks on the back of the amp. I estimate that I need at least another 1/8 inch clearance between the two.

This would not be a problem if I were using the amps in stereo mode since different Speak-On jacks are used. Since Benchmark highly recommends the Speak-On connectors for these amps, I don't want to use banana or spade connections at the amp, which would also solve the spacing problem. Benchmark does not stock its speaker cables with bananas at both ends, taking the position that if you are buying speaker cables from them, you will be using their amps and use the NL-2 Speak-On connectors at the amp end. Benchmark told me that they would fabricate a speaker cable with locking bananas at both ends for me for an extra charge, but that there would be a two-week wait for such a special order set of speaker cables.

Triode Pete came to the rescue. He told me that this spacing problem can be resolved by utilizing a slimline Furutech FI-C15 IEC connector. He apparently has made numerous High Power Digital American power cords for his customers with Devialet gear that require a smaller IEC connection. The Furutech slimline is shaped and sized more or less like the female connectors on standard OEM power cords. Thus, I shipped those power cords back to Pete for modification. In the meantime I was able to experiment with using the five Digital American power cords on my sources, DAC, equalizer, and line/headphone amp, while still using the stock Benchmark power cords on the AHB2 amps.

Sonically, yes, it was obvious to me more or less from the first moments of listening, that my system was suddenly producing yet better sound with the five TWL Digital American power cords in place of the stock and Absolute Power Cords I had been using. As far as describing the difference, I find myself agreeing right down the line with things other reviewers of the TWL power cords have been saying for years now. And that's despite the fact that I don't believe that Pete's three home reference systems described in The Interview section of this review share a non-wire component with my own.

I hear the more open sound, the added ease to the sound, increased size of the presentation, great depth with instruments both way back there and projecting forward from the speaker plane, the lifting of glare, the removing of veils, the touch of warmth without thickness and without impairing the tonal honesty of the system in any way. The TWL cords add that touch of organic life to the mids, much the way my old Legacy Audio Whisper speakers did. Bass seems yet more extended and powerful in punch, and the highs sparkle in a wonderfully life-like manner, but without any extra added "zing." I'm impressed.

TWL burns in its cables before sending them to customers. The TWL Website says:

"All cords are 'burned-in' at TWL, featuring a BRAND NEW audiodharma CABLE COOKER™ HIGH POWER Anniversary Edition 3.5 with premium all-copper billet Cardas CCGR binding posts. Only Three in the World & Triode Wire Labs has one!"

Perhaps because of this burn in process, I really heard no significant change in sound over time after installing the Digital American power cords. The audible improvements were basically there from the start. Or at least whatever changes were occurring to the power cord sonics were hidden by the usual settling in of contact enhancement fluid and the power down of equipment and the UberBUSSes which was necessary for safe substitution of the new power cords for the old ones.

A mere six days after sending the TWL Digital American High Power cords back to Pete for modification, I received them back from him with the new Furuteck FI-C15 IEC connectors on the amp ends of the cords. This connector did indeed fit fine with plenty of clearance on the Benchmark AHB2 amps even in the presence of the NL-2 Speak-On speaker cable connectors directly below the power cable entry.

This swap of the Digital American High Power cables was definitely another change for the sonic better. The improvements I heard from insertion of the five TWL Digital American power cords were in no way interfered with and actually seemed enhanced.

But another improvement was now clearly audible. Compared to the system sound with the stock 14-gauge Belden power cords, with these TWLs powering the amps there is a yet-greater sense of ease at high SPLs. The amps sound yet more powerful, with absolutely no sense of strain entering into the sonic equation.

What I previously considered either the beginnings of amp or speaker overload is now clearly just the fault of inadequate power cabling to the amps. On acoustic symphonic and choral music (the most challenging program material for such tests, in my opinion) the system now sounds clean as a whistle up to levels way above what sounds natural or even comfortable for me to listen to at close range in this small room. In other words, absolutely no sense of strain is evident now even at very high SPLs with playback of such material, whereas before a bit of strain could be heard at such levels, enough to make me think either the amps, speakers, or both were reaching their limits, a sound which encouraged me to turn it down at least a tad.

[Concluded below]
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#10
Value-Added Comparisons

Let me try to put into perspective the relative value of the sonic improvements wrought by dedicated lines, the UberBUSS, new power outlets, and substitution of the TWL power cords for my stock cords.

From my long history in having dedicated audio electrical circuits in two homes, I can say that, yes, dedicated lines can improve your sound quality, especially if you are using high-powered amplifiers and speakers which can require peak power of hundreds of watts on transient peaks at your preferred listening levels. In such circumstances, with dedicated lines the sonic stage will be larger, images will be more stable on the stage, there will be less grit and grunge in the high frequencies and these effects will be fairly consistently audible over time, regardless of the time of day. Still, late night listening will usually sound quite superior.

While putting numbers on the size of sonic improvements is tricky (a lot depends on how the individual listener values the particular sonic improvements heard), I'd estimate the total sonic improvement of dedicated lines versus regular lines at about 10%. The cost of having a licensed electrician install dedicated lines is probably at least $500 to $1,000 per circuit as a retrofit, less if it's done as part of original construction, of course.

Starting from that baseline of dedicated electrical lines, I'd estimate that, in my system, 80% of the improvements I've mentioned as happening because of the combination of UberBUSSes, TWL power cords, and special P.I. Audio outlets is the result of the Ubers plugged in with the TWL 7 Plus power cords. The additional TWL Digital American and Digital American High Power power cords connecting my electronics to the UberBUSSes account for 15% of the total improvement, and the special P.I. Audio outlets the remaining 5%.

The seven TWL cords powering my electronics cost more than $4,000. Yes, the improvements they bring are larger than the improvements made by the changing of my electrical outlets to the special P.I. Audio ones for $360. But the sonic improvements are not nearly so important as those made by the UberBUSSes ($3,200 for two with the TWL 7 Plus cords), or even the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer (for $200 used).

I'd estimate that the improvement wrought by the MIT Z-1 Stabilizer is about 40% of that wrought by the two UberBUSSes. Thus, if you can find a used MIT Z-1 Stabilizer, it is the biggest bang for the buck. But if you choose the Z-1 Stabilizer, and later choose to move to the UberBUSS, you should not try using both at once.

My conclusion is that the power factor correction and noise filtering done by devices like the UberBUSS and Z-1 Stabilizer are definitely the stars of the power clean-up show. The Z-1 Stabilizer (at least the original version I have) is a bargain if you can find one. But now that I've heard what the UberBUSSes can do for my system, I would not be without them!
 

RogerD

Well-Known Member
May 23, 2010
3,385
72
48
BiggestLittleCity
#11
I’ll have to read this when I have extra time. Thanks for taking the time to write in such detail. Of what little I read it seems we share some of the same experiences. Thanks
 
Likes: Al M.
Jun 12, 2011
36
2
8
Hertfordshire, UK
#13
Dave hangs out on AudioNervosa, if you want more info on his products.
Some may be interested in my experience of installing a separate mains spur (post 25):

https://pinkfishmedia.net/forum/thr...spur-for-hifi-make-a-difference.176820/page-2

And power control (post 46):

https://pinkfishmedia.net/forum/thr...-make-a-difference.176820/page-3#post-2664430

And some may not!

To summarize, a separate mains spur did nothing in my circumstances, and I chose a power regenerator (PS Audio P10) to power everything, including the amp.
 

wil

Member
Jul 22, 2015
53
9
8
#14
Fantastically detailed write up, tmallin! I would point out, however, that the dismissal of the PS audio power plants could be misleading to some as you have only tried the old p1200. From what I understand, the modern power plants like p10,p12,15,20 do not suffer from the same criticisms.
 
#15
Tom,

All I can say is WOW and thank you!

My BUSS-Liner of products have been a lobor of love for the last 10 years. Comparing one of my current (insert pun here) UberBUSSes to one of the originals is like comparing high school and college xxxxball. The present version of the Uber has undergone ~ 30 detail changes over the originals. From enclosure materials to the newly spec'd and PFC components, everything has provided an incremental performance and improvement of SQ over MK1. The Uber does not current limit except that which is inherent in the I/O connectors - Furutech IEC inlets and Pass & Seymour 5362A Extra Hevy Duty Hard Use receptacles. The BUSS will provide 40A of current 24/7 without limiting. The end to end resistance of an Uber is < 0.003 ohms and inductance is < 0.0025 mH. Measure a piece of 12ga wire 40" long and it will be higher.

I know of NO active device that provides the slam, punch and bandwidth improvements that the Uber does. I have been a dealer for several of power filter and treatment devices and used Topaz 2.5KV Ultra Isolation transformers in the past. That is why I designed the BUSS-Line. The Topaz is presently providing power to our 65" LED 4K TV. Adding one of my DigiBUSSes to the power chain improved the picture quality... These reasons are why I have a 100% 30-Day Money Back guarantee with an overall return rate of < 0.3% . I don't build anything that I don't or wouldn't use.

We live in a society that relies upon 120-125VAC to exist. Digital everything has created a virtual power seweralong with power lines carrying switching and telemetry data imprinted on what should be 60Hz power @ stated voltage. Sorry folks. It ain't happenin'.

My website sucks and I'm looking for a different provider and platform. If anyone has any questions, I can be contacted by PM here or info@piaudiogroup.com .

Again: Thank you Tom. It is a pleasure having you as a client as well as a resource for me. I'm selfish that way. I like good people.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
328
23
18
66
Chicagoland
#16
I'm cross-posting this from another thread since it applies to several threads I've written. Until the last few weeks, I had not used the USB output of my Auralic G2 streamer for many months. I had never before used the USB input of the DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4. Now I'm using a USB connection between the Auralic and the X4.

A couple of weeks ago I got around to experimenting with using the USB output of my Auralic Aries G2 streamer rather than its coaxial SPDIF digital output. The differences were of the same nature I'd heard before, but minus the large change in tonality and irritating brightness from USB connections. I'm speculating that the combination of my recently added UberBUSSes and Triode Wire Labs power cords (talked about in My Clean Power Adventures thread) must have eliminated RFI and other noise interference which were causing the tonal brightness with USB connections before. As before the USB connection sounds more three dimensional, has greater imaging stability, blacker background, and is seemingly cleaner/less distorted than the SPDIF connection. The tonality is still not exactly the same as the SPDIF connection, but certainly is no longer too bright to sound natural.

One reason I hesitated doing this experiment was that I'm not able to use USB all the way from my source to my Benchmark DAC3 HGC in this system. The path is interrupted by my digital equalizer, the DSPeaker Anti-Mode X-4. The X4 has a USB input, so I can go from the G2 to the X4 via USB, but then must use the coaxial SPDIF digital output of the X4 to feed my Benchmark DAC since the X4 has no USB output. What got me to experiment were the excellent results I'd recently achieved with a USB connection straight from my desktop computer to a new Benchmark DAC3 B(asic) in a separate headphones-only system.

I ordered a P.I. Audio Group/Triode Wire Labs Discrete USB cable in the recommended 1.5 meter length. The results I describe above are with using the same USB cable I found to be best of the bunch I'd tried before: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00R2R77JG/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 reviewed in TAS at https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/oyaide-neo-d-class-a-usb-20-cable/

Now that I've received, installed and burned in the new Discrete USB cable from P.I./TWL, I can only say, yes, this is definitely the best USB cable I've heard, and by a significant margin. It maintains and enhances all the qualities of the Oyaide cable I was using before and totally returns the more natural, easy, full and warm sound of the SPDIF connection.
Not only that, but with the Discrete USB Cable I'm now back to using the upsampling/resampling function of the Auralic Aries G2. Before, adding the upsampling/resampling may have enhanced clarity, but it also further increased brightness heard via either the USB or SPDIF outputs of the G2. Now the upsampling/resampling just enhances the positive qualities of the USB connection without altering the tonality in any undesirable way.

Now it is me who is saying "WOW!"
 

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