Shortening wire length

June 19, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

In yesterday's post, we posed the question of what might happen if we were to lower or even eliminate the impedance inherent in the AC power wires feeding our home.

The answer is simple. Dramatically better sound.

Something we all want!

But, how best to eliminate or significantly lower the impedance of hundreds (often thousands) of feet of connecting power cables shared by our neighbors?

Traditionally, lowering impedance inherent in wire can be handled in two ways: shortening its length and/or increasing its thickness.

Increasing wire thickness from the standard of 14 gauge copper, which is about 0.06" thick, to something ridiculously heavier like 0 gauge wire, which is nearly ten times the thickness (times 3 conductors), would help but wouldn't solve it. Only thickening and shortening the wire to mere feet would get the total impedance where we would want it, to perhaps 0.01Ω or lower.

The problems with taking these steps would be one of practicality (or the lack thereof). Let's start with thickening the wire. 3-conductor 0 gauge wire is about 1.5" thick and weighs in at about 1.5 lbs per foot. That's going to be a bear to install in the walls (never mind the impracticality of tying that wire into an AC receptacle). But, let's say we managed all that copper. We still need to shorten it to mere feet. To do that we'd have to move our home next to a noisy, stinky, coal-fired power generating station.

We might get some spousal pushback.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. A power amplifier.

Let's back up a moment.

If you want to power a pair of speakers you won't get very far connecting the output of your preamplifier to them. Preamps can't drive speakers because their output impedance is too high.

To lower a preamplifiers output impedance you need to add energy, something a power amplifier is very good at.

Power amplifiers have high input impedance and low output impedance.

Does this sound like something that might interest us in our quest to reduce the impedance of the power line from high to low?

Methinks, maybe.

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22 comments on “Shortening wire length”

  1. So Paul's 'wet dream' (above) just wont fly because of the impracticalities that he has outlined.
    Ok, I'm gonna show my ignorance here & ask,
    'Isn't that why we should use a power regenerator...not only to 'clean up' & stabilize the power supply to the audio component, but to also minimise the impedance?'

    Worthwile Snippets:

    Time stamps: 2:32 Josh Smith & Kirk Fletcher
    11:55 Jason Scheff, Tim Pierce, Grant Geissman & Jason Sinay
    17:30 Jarred James Nichols & Michael Lemmo

  2. I am still looking for an explanation why most manufacturers of power amps strongly recommend a power connection directly to the wall wart and not to add any device claiming to purify the mains current. Or is there any manufacturer of power amps - besides PS Audio - recommending a power regenerator for getting the full sound potential of his product?

    1. That's a great question. The simple ones are always the best ones. I do wonder if regeneration is a 21st century solution to a 20th century problem.

      From what I've read, manufacturers using switch mode power supplies, most frequently the Hypex designs, recommend plugging into the wall. The two SMPS I've used for a number of years, Linn positively advise against any such power devices, Devialet just say there's no need. For those two manufacturers, and there are no doubt others, the power supply is the beating heart of their components with long-term R&D of power regulation and management making them indifferent to the incoming mains, and they draw very little current, my unit about 0.2A. These have been around for around 15 years and other similarly priced products in those days were using bespoke Hypex designs, before Hypex started to make them available off the shelf and prices fell dramatically.

      There are some people, and some reviewers I would consider independent, who say power regeneration benefits their SMPS powered units. That was not my experience, as I had a regenerator but did not use it as it made no difference. There are numerous reasons why experiences may differ, real or imaginary.

      To my surprise, benefit was derived from a good power cable plugged into the wall, and I don't use expensive cables. A few years later, a passive device made things even better. I have no idea why this was, whether it was electrical noise generally, high frequency noise or grounding.

      One or two things I've read on the internet make it very clear that mains power is extremely complex and it is probably the case that a little knowledge can be very dangerous. For example, Paul says "total impedance where we would want it, to perhaps 0.01Ω or lower". Why? How is that relevant to my amplifier, or yours or anyone elses? What about 0.1Ω? Or the European standard of 0.25Ω?

      So the simple answer to your question is, I think, equally simple - because manufacturers are aware of the issues of mains power and increasingly design their components to manage those issues.

    2. Here's a simpler answer, Paul. Regeneration is relatively new and not something manufacturers know much about. As a whole, we're a pretty closed bunch of people.

      Most of us who manufacture audio amplifiers have a bad taste in our collective mouths for power conditioners. They "clean" but at an expense. I have never once found an overall benefit to them. Quite the opposite.

      Years ago I trained our staff to always ask an unhappy amplifier customer if they had a mains filter (or worse) an isolation transformer connected to our amp. Inevitibly, removing that fixed the problems they were experiencing. Prompting us, as well as o=most other manufacturers, to make blanket statements about plugging directly into the wall.

      We did it to keep our customers happy hoping they wouldn't buy into the hype of power conditioner manufacturers.

      Truth was our amps didn't need power conditioning and were better off without it.

      That all came before proper regeneration hit the market. Few, if any, amp manufacturers ever tried it or even understood it. Simply easier to just use the same old warning about power conditioners. Safer that way.

      1. What if we eliminate AC from the whole chain? Since some home solar systems are including large banks of batteries, wouldn't it be practical to get clean DC directly from the batteries?

        1. That was exactly my proposal to Paul McGowan when he asked the readers of his post for ideas for a future-proof audio system a decade ago. 🙂

      2. I can’t confirm that all power filters or power conditioners I had supplying my stereo system (Burmeister, Shunyata, Audio Agile) finally degraded the sound (dynamics, punch) and never fulfilled the most promising marketing claims. Only the next trial inserting a PS Audio PPP showed no sound-degradation - in contrast to a PS Audio Ultimate Outlerbbalun filter. But sound improvements??? I still use the PPP for it’s surge protection function. On the other hand there is a lot of research showing that the mains quality due to the increasing number of wind-energy and solar-energy plants feeding the power grid.

        1. paulsquirrel,
          You didn't finish your last sentence.
          "On the other hand there is a lot of research showing that the mains quality due to the increasing number of wind-energy & solar-energy plants feeding the power grid."
          You didn't finish your description!

          1. Thanks. “Much worse”, of course. A problem similar to the huge contamination by DECT telephones and smartphones forcing the manufactures of medical devices to better protect their products!

    3. Never had that problem with Richard Marsh’s early 90s groundbreaking Z-1 Impedance Stabilizer, but then again it wasn’t a line conditioner, it was a passive filter that worked in parallel with the A/C line. You didn’t plug components into it, you simply plugged the unit into the wall outlet near the amplifier. The Z-Strip served the power needs of source components further extending the sonic benefits of properly designed passive filtering.

      I upgraded to a complete Shunyata Power Management system over a decade ago and the sonic benefits far outweigh any negatives which is simply the cost of the system. The Shunyata Hydra Power Distributor is not a line conditioner per se but also a passive filter that addresses the issues of power line noise and source component isolation in concert with a chassis grounding system. The power amp always sounds best plugged directly into the wall outlet.

      Due to the fact that everyone’s specific system, power line and power management application is different there are no universal power management solutions though several choices exist today.

      1. Shunyata cables are power conditioners and had a beneficial effect on my system.

        However, the Shunyata Hydra Alpha had an obvious and not-so-subtle impact. It was not about noise as my system is dead quiet. It was a an overall increase in clarity.

        I don't know if its due to grounding, filtering, impedance, resistance, Umpalumpas and as far as I know the thing is full of of Spaghetti al Ragu, but what ever it is, it works, and I don't really care why.

  3. Ahh eliminating all the mains harmonic noise on the incoming house supply, then eliminating the I squared Z losses going into our power amplifiers output stage, sounds wonderful but it's not a simple task.
    Voltage sag, extrinsic noise, intrinsic noise, resistance, impedance, capacitive and inductive reactance... They're all out to destroy our listening pleasure! So much simpler once we manufacture some clean stable DC for our equipment.
    R&D takes a long time.. certainly the regenerators are a step in the right direction. I wonder if an integrated solution is on the cards?
    Meanwhile I'm just dying to see (& hear) those speakers Paul ;o)

  4. The answer of PmcG to the question of psquirrel was exactly what I was thinking (BEFORE I read the answer !).
    Although I don't have 0,0000001% of PmcG's knowledge, it made/makes sense to me that a manufacturer is not keen on telling his customers that their amp will sound better with good power, ergo a power regenerator. No matter in what country you live (yes, even in England)
    The electricity grid in my hometown is excellent, but I also have neighbors.
    You know, the 98% (or is it 99% ?) of the population that doesn't give a s**t about good sound and ruin the quality of my electricity by using theirs for the washing machine, fridge, television etc.
    So, if I had to start from scratch (e.g. house burned down), I'd begin with a power regenerator. That's a no-brainer.

    1. But I addressed the fact that highend audio manufacturers are warning adding a power regenerator and highly recommend direct wall-outlet connection despite of numerous mains power problems. And I do not assume that the power amps of these manufacturers were “voiced” for a poor mains power supply and masking the negative effects.

  5. The beauty of a regen PP is you don’t have to start over. Start now! 😀

    I’m waiting for table top fusion to generate my own power. Less than 1 meter of super large super conducting supply cable. Dedicated to home audio only. I’ll use the shitty utility power for everything else.

  6. Fat Rat,
    20 years ago I installed a dedicated power line, so, yes, in my new house (after the fire) I'd certainly do it again.
    That said, I think that without a dedicated powerline the advantage of a generator might be even bigger.
    Fortunately, up to now I don't smell something burning. 🙂

  7. Power line conditioners took the life out of my system. I quickly learned there must be another way. For now it's directly plugged into the wall outlets. Just make sure to use top quality receptacles regardless of whether you are hooked up raw or to a power plant. And don't overload an outlet. Use multiple outlets on different circuits. Especially try and keep high current components like amplifiers on separate circuits from lower current components.

  8. Paul, dramatic? Please, define dramatic. Is this only "ear-measured"?
    I'm all in with SMPS and no devices.

    You stated before how good your power supplies are, why do we need anything in front of them?

  9. The thing that has always given me pause about high end power cords is that in most places built to a standardized electrical code is that on the other side of the electrical socket is plain, old "lets use the cheapest wire we can get away with", wither it's Romax or whatever. Ditto for the electrical sockets themselves. Many, including Paul, sing loud hosannas about their cables of choice and I cannot say that they are wrong in their experiences. However, at the modest (but still more than adequately good) level I operate at, I will go with buying music, either new releases or filling gaps in my physical media library. "You pays yer money and makes yer choices."


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