House wiring for high-end audio

February 16, 2018
 by Paul McGowan

8 comments on “House wiring for high-end audio”

  1. Sometimes the building codes aren't entirely rational. If your house burns down, and your clever dedicated wiring (with specially selected wire gauges, custom power sockets, and beefy breakers) isn't in compliance with the code, you may find your insurance company declining to pay out.

    And sometimes the codes just are plain stupid. Let me give you a non-audio example. As an ex-pat Brit, I just cannot live with 110V kettles. I gotta have my 240V kettle. Paint dries faster than a 110V kettle boils. So I have a dedicated 220V socket in my kitchen (allowed by code) and a proper 240V kettle which I bought in the UK. The thing is, my local building code stipulates what a 220V socket and compliant 220V plug must look like. Those things are freakin' lethal! The UK, for example, moved on from stuff like this 60 years ago, and now has a seriously well-thought through electrical power code, even if those plugs are somewhat clunky-looking. Anyway, the point is this. What I currently have is freakin' lethal but is fully compliant with the applicable building code. But if instead I installed a UK-spec socket, I would violating code and potentially subject to having my insurance invalidated, even though my own and my family's safety would be greatly enhanced. And this is for a serious electrical safety issue, not an audiophile convenience.

  2. I have been chasing a hum in my 7.1 system for a few years now. I ran 12/2 direct from a new sub-panel (my house is technically 2 apartments so I have 2 main panels (also new) in the garage and 2 new sub-panels in each "apartment") to dedicated outlets behind my equipment rack. Originally the hum was annoying but not horrific. I finally defeated it by lifting the ground at the TV and bypassing the surge protector with the coax cable.
    Without changing ANYTHING else, I replaced two amplifiers (Krell 3-channel and Krell 5- channel) with one Wyred4Sound 7-channel amp.... and the hum came back 3x worse!
    Argh!

  3. First question: NO, you can't use a 30 Amp breaker. It is illegal and unsafe. It would require a 30 Amp outlet, which is designed so you can't plug your gear into it.

    National Electric Code is written and published by the National Fire Prevention Association, and those are the most hard-nosed people left in this country currently run by lying, de-regulating lawyers and Real Estate scammers. Everything you are prevented from doing by NEC has killed or maimed more than one person, caused firemen going out on multiple calls, over a million dollars in property damage, or all of the above.

    Arguing with NEC is literally arguing with tombstones.

  4. Second question: Conduit is great, but it has more affect stopping noise leaking out than noise leaking in. The power cords and chassis of your electronics will pick up the radiated noise of all the other wiring, so you really need conduit everywhere for effective shielding and RFI attenuation. You will likely do better with a good power filter on the audio outlet which stops conducted noise as well as any antenna affect of the branch circuit.

    I bought a house that had 100% steel armored power wiring and junction boxes so the existing circuits don't leak out all the noise generated by consumer electronics, electronic content services, dimming LED bulbs, motors and whatever else may be on the neighborhood transformer. We also have steel lathe in the plaster walls and ceilings which attenuates EMI/RFI.

    Expanding from the original five circuit fuse box to a 42 circuit, 200 Amp Square D QO* panel, every wire pulled is also shielded including RG6 for cable service (double shielded coax), CAT6S for data and 12-2 or 12-3 AC or BX for 120/240VAC. Shielded wire is all twisted, which is an effective technique for reducing EMI/RFI pickup as well - Romex is not twisted.

    I recommend not using WiFi, Bluetooth or any RF device in your house when listening to audio, so I have RJ45 ethernet jacks everywhere including video and audio locations. Note the other end is disconnected from the 24 port Gigabit switch if the jack is not in use, which means the house can have more than 24 jacks without needing a second switch.

    For shields to work properly, you need a good connection to a low noise ground. My electrician drove two copper clad steel rods into the water table when we upgraded the service, and we are less than 50 meters from a former millstream that flows year round.

    * Magnetic circuit breakers have more consistent tripping and also an RFI filtering effect. I don't know if they are higher impedance than thermal, but I feel better having them and that improves the musical enjoyment.

  5. Paul, I'm a little confused. At the end of your talk, you said a Power Plant would negate the need for dedicated circuits?
    I see you're using dedicated circuits in Listening Room 1 in addition to a Power Plant.

    I probably just missed a nuance somewhere, but
    if you could clarify, I'd appreciate it.

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