Wall sockets, surge protectors and mains conditioners - opinions?

myrrhman

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Apr 24, 2020
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A couple of things I read recently made me test my hitherto sceptical approach to the influence of power supply on sound quality.
Firstly, someone on this forum (sorry, I forget where) recently posted that Tacima mains conditioners and their ilk should be discarded because of their effect on SQ. I then read an amp manufacturer's website advising that their product should be plugged directly into the mains, preferably without any TV, computer etc. plugged in nearby.
I won't go into the sordid detail of what goes on behind my hifi / tv stands, but suffice to say it involves a 6 socket Tacima in one wall socket, and a 4 socket surge protection extension strip into the other, which between them support everything from my amplifier to my telephone.
Out of curiosity, I unplugged both spreaders and stuck my amp and DAC into the wall sockets (not possible with deck & phono as that would need 3 spare sockets...), after first listening to a favourite Tidal Hifi track...playing it again direct from the wall sockets, it wasn't exactly a 'wow' moment, but there was a noticeable increase in sound quality, a subtle increase in clarity and resolution.
The thing is, ever since a power surge blew my radio-cassette and phone charger in a hotel room, I've been paranoid about surge protection. I'm not sure I would trust the fuses on my domestic wiring to prevent damage to expensive electronics unaided. Could I retain much of the SQ by ditching the Tacima and getting a simple surge protected spreader socket (this I can test myself)? Do I need to unplug my TV and landline phone when listening to my hifi? Interested to know what others think, particularly anyone with a bit more knowledge of electrical wiring than I have.
 

abacus

Well-known member
Sep 24, 2008
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Surge protection yes, as even the best electrical system can have spikes. (Plus if you buy a decent one it will have a warrantee to replace your equipment if it fails to do its job)

Conditioner is a bit of a waste of time as it can only take stuff away, and while it won’t affect sound quality in any way (Its purely placebo if you think it does) there is no reason for it unless in lab conditions.

A re-generator is your best bet as it totally isolates your equipment from the mains and provides a constant voltage, (The voltage on the mains varies during the day) which means the power supplies of your equipment will have an easier time. (Power supply failures are the most common fault in electronics)

Cable management, lay them neatly, make up (Or have made up) shorter leads if necessary, and avoid any fancy cables from Hi-Fi cable manufactures as they are just a rip off.

Bill
 

iMark

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May 16, 2008
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Surge protector? Yes!

Mains "cleaner" etc seems a lot of expensive nonsense. Equipement with a Power Supply Unit (PSU) is supposed to work properly within regular tolerances.
But if you believe in "mains cleaners" they will certainly have an effect. The brain can trick us in many ways.
 

plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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you may want to check russ andrews' website on this one...

he states that many mains "conditioners" increase the impedance of the electrical circuit that can cause a decrease in a systems dynamics - true ?

"fancy" wall sockets are designed to, yet again, reduce mains impedance by using higher pressure contacts and in many cases gold, rhodium or silver plated contacts (with silver having the lowest electrical resistance) with some eye watering prices - once again true ?

his "powerkord" upgrade mains cables are, once again you guessed, claimed to reduce the mains impedance (as well as r.f.i) also by using more and thicker conductors than compared to the supplied free stock power cables. its also why he recommends installing a dedicated mains ring circuit so you can wire your house with his high current / low impedance woven cable - 3rd time true ?

a good tip is to periodically clean the plugs and contacts throughout your system with a contact cleaner such as deoxit as this, as claimed by many, keeps the electrical impedance down also.

maybe when you unplugged your kit you actually helped clean you plug contacts ?

for what its worth i tried some russ andrews powerkords and some cables from clearer audio in my system(s) years ago. my system has always just been a cd player and integrated amplifier plugged direct to the wall so no extension blocks / surge protection ever used.

the result ?

i never noticed any improvement by testing these upgrade cables (russ andrews woven design vs clearer audio shielded with ferrite filters) but maybe my mains supply was "clean" or my kit was designed with good power supplies to cope in the first place ?
 
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12th Monkey

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Aug 31, 2015
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I bought a mains filter a long time ago, and there were small but worthwhile improvements. Well-designed ones not only protect from spikes but push the mains back towards even voltage and a perfect sine wave - as your equipment is designed to work with. As well as surge protection, a well-designed one doesn't strangle dynamics - it will have different sockets for high current devices (such as power amp) and for digital and analogue sources.

(If you are of the opinion that mains devices make no difference I'll respect that - just don't feel the need to tell me - that's not very interesting and I am, after all, the only one who heard it before and after.)
 
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plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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I bought a mains filter a long time ago, and there were small but worthwhile improvements. Well-designed ones not only protect from spikes but push the mains back towards even voltage and a perfect sine wave - as your equipment is designed to work with. As well as surge protection, a well-designed one doesn't strangle dynamics - it will have different sockets for high current devices (such as power amp) and for digital and analogue sources.

(If you are of the opinion that mains devices make no difference I'll respect that - just don't feel the need to tell me - that's not very interesting and I am, after all, the only one who heard it before and after.)
i agree with the points you have made. i believe that filters, main cables, isolation devices and other tweaks "can" make a difference as there are many people who claim to experience the benefits in their own unique systems.

if this was not the case then there would be no market for such products !

personally i like to try and form my own opinions on cables, tweaks etc but the few items i have tried have sadly not impressed.

once again maybe the kit i had was immune to mains "problems" ?
 

Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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....the result ?
i never noticed any improvement by testing these upgrade cables (russ andrews woven design vs clearer audio shielded with ferrite filters) but maybe my mains supply was "clean" or my kit was designed with good power supplies to cope in the first place ?
At least you didn't imagine they worked.
Lesson learned? Not yet for you I fear. (Note how you're trying to justify why they didn't work - you want to believe they work).
 
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TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
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A couple of things I read recently made me test my hitherto sceptical approach to the influence of power supply on sound quality.
Firstly, someone on this forum (sorry, I forget where) recently posted that Tacima mains conditioners and their ilk should be discarded because of their effect on SQ. I then read an amp manufacturer's website advising that their product should be plugged directly into the mains, preferably without any TV, computer etc. plugged in nearby.
I won't go into the sordid detail of what goes on behind my hifi / tv stands, but suffice to say it involves a 6 socket Tacima in one wall socket, and a 4 socket surge protection extension strip into the other, which between them support everything from my amplifier to my telephone.
Out of curiosity, I unplugged both spreaders and stuck my amp and DAC into the wall sockets (not possible with deck & phono as that would need 3 spare sockets...), after first listening to a favourite Tidal Hifi track...playing it again direct from the wall sockets, it wasn't exactly a 'wow' moment, but there was a noticeable increase in sound quality, a subtle increase in clarity and resolution.
The thing is, ever since a power surge blew my radio-cassette and phone charger in a hotel room, I've been paranoid about surge protection. I'm not sure I would trust the fuses on my domestic wiring to prevent damage to expensive electronics unaided. Could I retain much of the SQ by ditching the Tacima and getting a simple surge protected spreader socket (this I can test myself)? Do I need to unplug my TV and landline phone when listening to my hifi? Interested to know what others think, particularly anyone with a bit more knowledge of electrical wiring than I have.
As long as the mains voltage is delivered to whatever, the whatever will perform in exactly the same way that it did before you added the mains lead / filter / surge protector / mains regenerator or whatever you decided to add. If you've had previous damage caused by a surge then adding a surge protector is a good idea.
 
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plus 1

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At least you didn't imagine they worked.
Lesson learned? Not yet for you I fear. (Note how you're trying to justify why they didn't work - you want to believe they work).
i dont want to "believe" they work - for me mains cable changes did nothing...i tested some and made my own mind up its what i would recommend others do...

thing is i have not tried a "properly" designed mains filter from the likes of isotek etc. in my past system(s) so i am not 100% against these products.

(just too expensive in my opinion for my modest kit).

many others however have had positive experiences in their own unique systems that i aint going to rubbish - i have not heard their systems to say otherwise.

once again there is a large market for mains filter devices - just check out the isotek range !

if these devices do zero in terms of sound quality improvements then surely these companies would of disappeared years ago ?
 

TrevC

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Jun 12, 2013
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I bought a mains filter a long time ago, and there were small but worthwhile improvements. Well-designed ones not only protect from spikes but push the mains back towards even voltage and a perfect sine wave - as your equipment is designed to work with. As well as surge protection, a well-designed one doesn't strangle dynamics - it will have different sockets for high current devices (such as power amp) and for digital and analogue sources.

(If you are of the opinion that mains devices make no difference I'll respect that - just don't feel the need to tell me - that's not very interesting and I am, after all, the only one who heard it before and after.)
Your placebo effects aren't all that interesting either. :)
 
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plus 1

Well-known member
Dec 5, 2019
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As long as the mains voltage is delivered to whatever, the whatever will perform in exactly the same way that it did before you added the mains lead / filter / surge protector / mains regenerator or whatever you decided to add. If you've had previous damage caused by a surge then adding a surge protector is a good idea.
may i ask what are your views on, and the effect it has on hifi kit performance, by increasing the mains supply impedance ?

russ andrews clearly states its a negative to have a high impedance mains supply.
 

TrevC

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Jun 12, 2013
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may i ask what are your views on, and the effect it has on hifi kit performance, by increasing the mains supply impedance ?

russ andrews clearly states its a negative to have a high impedance mains supply.
As long as the increase in impedance doesn't cause excessive voltage reduction it will be fine. You can check, stick a voltmeter on the mains and switch everything on.
 

plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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As long as the increase in impedance doesn't cause excessive voltage reduction it will be fine. You can check, stick a voltmeter on the mains and switch everything on.
so i'm guessing russ andrews, in theory, has a point but in practice it has little effect in a home hifi system.
 

plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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Any mains supply will have background interference on it, but any gear worth its salt will filter it. A single suppression capacitor across the mains will eliminate hash like that.
understood, and thanks for the sarcasm free explanation, appreciated.
 

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