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Dedicated power to audio system—how extreme to go?


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Inspired by this post on the What's Best forum, I got to thinking about a truly dedicated circuit feeding the outlet where my audio stuff is plugged in. We're going to build an accessory dwelling unit over the garage, and it will require a new subpanel and other electrical improvements, so this might be a good occasion to make some improvements. Right now my system feeds off the upstairs subpanel that doesn't have any big appliances on it.

 

I've jiggered things around in various ways so that there's nothing else on the #12 AWG circuit feeding the audio system,  although there are intermediate outlets between the breaker box and the system. The breaker has a GFI (ground-fault interrupter), and I've read that even these can have a negative sound quality impact. In the linked post people refer to "audiophile" circuit breakers, but I didn't find any for the US market. The room lighting is on a separate circuit. The house was completed in 2005 so everything is pretty modern up-to-code, but I don't know where the utility company's transformer serving us is located.

The post says you should use wire with a 4-mm cross-sectional area for 120-volt service, and according to this calculator, that translates to #6 AWG wire, and of course you'd want to get the cryo-treated, if you can somehow coil it up to get in the cryo-fridge.

But seriously, if anyone has experience with a true breaker-box-to-outlet dedicated electrical service, I'd like to hear about it.

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Hi John,

I recently completed a dedicated media room, and installed two dedicated lines for amps and Quatros. My requirements for the electrician was 10awg wire of equal lengths from breaker box to the outlets. I didn't use any audiophile approved breakers, but I did use PS Audio power port receptacles which accept 10awg wire. My thoughts on the larger gauge wire is having less resistance from box to outlets as the box is located on the other side of my house away from my media room. That, and having nothing else sharing those breakers.

I believe the noise floor has definitely decreased as I'm hearing subtleties in music that I barely heard before (or my hearing has gotten better...doubtful!). 

Good luck on your addition!

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Great idea Jim. I had two lines installed when building the house. I use one dedicated (straight runs of 12ga copper and each has their own individual earth. Both into AQ Edison outlets).  If possible you may want to use one circuit for all your audio equipment for ground reasons.  Richard shared a few things with me about this. I use the other circuit for the peripherals like router gear with their LPS’s. It keeps that gear clean and yes I hear a very small difference when I set it up this way. YMMV 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 9/4/2021 at 2:00 PM, GdnrBob said:

I'll PM Jea48 with an invitation to join the forum.

He really (seems) to know his stuff with things electrical.

B

Couldn't figure out how to PM Jea48 so just posted the whole thing on Audiogon, and we'll see what happens. I stopped following Audiogon forums a while back because so many discussions there seem to break down into name-calling or other non-helpful stuff.

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12 minutes ago, GdnrBob said:

Whoops, just looked and saw he was the first poster.

Millercarbon's a prodigious poster, but I have to say this time he was thoughtful and to the point. This time, anyway. His suggestion to just run a continuous piece of cable of whatever size from the breaker to the outlet is appealing, and even within my modest capabilities as an amateur electrician. The hard part is dragging my old carcass up into a roof-trussed attic to fish the wire.

Edited by John Gallup
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4 hours ago, John Gallup said:

Millercarbon's a prodigious poster, but I have to say this time he was thoughtful and to the point. This time, anyway. His suggestion to just run a continuous piece of cable of whatever size from the breaker to the outlet is appealing, and even within my modest capabilities as an amateur electrician. The hard part is dragging my old carcass up into a roof-trussed attic to fish the wire.

I have a pair of skis.
Just stay on edge 90 degrees to the beams, and set the binding to a high DIN setting

If you use conduit, then a vacuum, string and a piece of cloth allows one to suck the fishing wire through.

If the bends are tight you’ll need some soapy water… and using loose sweeping bends everywhere is a good idea. Might as well have some extras for internet, low level, etc.

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3 hours ago, GdnrBob said:

If you are in the NY/Long Island area, I'd be glad to give you a hand.

Wow, what a generous offer! Alas, I'm in San Diego (a thing I don't often say). There are plenty of other complications in the job, such as spousal approval for all the holes I'd have to blow in the drywall in various places. I believe I'm just going to think on it for a while, one of the privileges of being retired.

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7 minutes ago, TomicTime said:

a single 20 amp line, no breaks and no LED on outlets will service a fantastic system.

 

I agree.  Keep it simple.  Too many folks spend thousands to put in separate box and special filters etc...  I am sure it helps. Heck, the only reason I have two dedicated lines with separate earth grounds is because it didn't cost me one cent.  The electrician who built the townhouse understands high end audio and was excited to help.  He just installed three long copper rods into the ground (at least 6' I bet) and then installed two 20 amp breakers to the loft where the system is.  

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Status report:  Donned my indispensable kneepads and went up into the attic through which the dedicated 10/2 cable would have to run. Was happy to find the roof was framed with rafters and joists rather than  roof trusses, so navigation was not too difficult. There's a 2nd-floor furnace/air handler up there, and to support it the installer had laid down plywood decking over several ceiling joists, including the point where all the cables come up out of the subpanel I'd need to access to add the dedicated line. Fishing a new wire would be possible but extremely challenging; cutting away the plywood to get access could mean damaging other cables. To make matters worse, the area from which the new cable would leave said attic was also nigh-onto-inaccessible from above due to roof slope. (Also found several useful lengths of 14/2 and 14/3 cable that another installer had left behind; not useful for this project, but if you've bought any wire lately you know it's gotten super expensive.)

So I'm abandoning this approach because, when combined with all the drywall cut-and-repair-and-paint that would also be required, it just doesn't seem worth it. Maybe when the electrician's here for the other project I'll see if he or she has any better ideas. But in the meantime I can access all the intermediate outlets between the subpanel and the outlet serving my system. I'm thinking I might run pigtails from the duplex outlet to each main run in each j-box, and then polish and solder those connections. In theory this would provide the equivalent of a continuous run of AWG 12 cable from the breaker to the audio system, with no drywall cut/repair/paint. The cost will be minimal, as will the risk of burning down the house.

Edited by John Gallup
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