Mains improvement, after the wall socket

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Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-06-27 21:53

I've been following the Optimal House Wiring thread with interest, as I have previously installed dedicated circuits for the hifi - but currently I cannot do anything as the apartment is rented and only switched wall sockets are available, not ideal.

So my questions relate only to what can be done after the wall socket.

Currently I am using a 6-way powerstrip, unswitched and no LED. Thank you, Charlie1! This generic item is very slightly cleaner and more musical than my previous generic 4-way strips. It connects two sources (Radikal and DS), Sagatun Monos and Tundra Monos. The LSNAS and network switches (GS105s) are connected to a 4-way strip plugged in on the opposite wall.

I am about to have home trials of equipment claimed to improve system performance by addressing EMI, RFI, signal grounding, and mains filtering. This line of investigation goes back seven years, when I first heard a system which had been treated with Vertex AQ items. When I heard a completely different system, also treated with Vertex AQ, the following year at a different show, I realised that they shared a very clean, low noise, relaxed presentation which was very distinctive amongst the other systems at these shows. Vertex AQ kit is not cheap, however, so I never followed up until now.

In August I will be home-trialling some of their kit, including two versions of their six-way mains block, power cords and some signal-grounding boxes to go at one end or the other of the speaker cable. Before that I will be trying some similar equipment from Puritan Audio and Entreq.

So the questions:
1. The mains blocks are all star-earthed - is that compatible with Lejonklou, and if not what is the expected impact?
2. Does anybody have experience of similar experimentation, or is using similar kit?
3. Can anybody suggest other items to consider as system improvements? (I'm on the case with better supports than the current Isoblue.)
4. Am I completely mad?

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby Sopper » 2018-06-28 07:39

David Neel wrote:4. Am I completely mad?


Yes (my opinion)

Are you not satisfied with the music you are hearing right now?
If that’s the case, anything related to power would be the last thing to investigate.

Proper acoustic treatment and accurate placement of speakers to your main listening position are the first 2 things that will contribute the most.
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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-06-28 08:43

Sopper wrote:
David Neel wrote:4. Am I completely mad?


Yes (my opinion)

Are you not satisfied with the music you are hearing right now?
If that’s the case, anything related to power would be the last thing to investigate.

Proper acoustic treatment and accurate placement of speakers to your main listening position are the first 2 things that will contribute the most.


Good to know I may be mad! If there is no significant improvement to be found, I will not be spending any money. :)

The speakers and the listening position have both been carefully adjusted, to good effect. Acoustic treatment is modest but reasonably effective (thick carpeting, absorption at the half-way point and irregular surfaces along one side wall, front corners have improvised bass traps, removal of central coffee table) as the apartment is rented.

So, given that, I'm going to investigate with an open mind, but happy to learn from others.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby Sopper » 2018-06-28 08:57

Sopper wrote:
David Neel wrote:4. Am I completely mad?


Are you not satisfied with the music you are hearing right now?


Didn’t answer this question
# Linn KRDSM/1 # Lejonklou Sagatun + Tundra # Harbeth SHL5+ 40th Ann # Mogami Neglex III 2803 + 2804

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby lejonklou » 2018-06-28 09:24

David Neel wrote:Currently I am using a 6-way powerstrip, unswitched and no LED. Thank you, Charlie1! This generic item is very slightly cleaner and more musical than my previous generic 4-way strips. It connects two sources (Radikal and DS), Sagatun Monos and Tundra Monos. The LSNAS and network switches (GS105s) are connected to a 4-way strip plugged in on the opposite wall.

Hi David!

Three thoughts when reading the above description:
1. Have you checked your LP12 for the Radikal-pressing-against-Trampolin/Urika-problem?
2. Have you compared your GS105 switch with a GS108 (of which there are several models and I'm unsure of which is the best one but I have the 108T)?
3. Have you tried plugging that 4-way strip with NAS and switch closer to the 6-way strip? Maybe to the same wall outlet, if it's possible? How did that sound?

I read some on the Vertex AQ website. They have a bunch of practical advice scattered across the pages, some of which I've tried and don't like the effect of at all. That's enough for me to understand that they are not using the Tune Method but are seeking something else.

In particular I would avoid anything that you connect electrically to the system, such as "signal-grounding boxes" to the speaker cables. Unless you know exactly what those boxes contain and do, don't connect them!

Regarding your questions:
1. Star grounding is not a problem. As long as the units really are grounded, this is just a matter of in which order each outlet on the mains block is connected to ground. If you remember our discussions around "Radikal first" versus "Preamp first" and how they sound slightly different, this is a third way. What's likely to have a bigger effect is however how that mains block is built.
2. In the past, yes, lots. Practically everything I tried was expensive degradations when applied to a well installed system. These days I instantly dismiss companies that use inaccurate technical jargon and home cooked, usually complicated, theories for the "problems" and the "cures" they've discovered.
4. No, not yet.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-06-28 11:19

lejonklou wrote:
David Neel wrote:Currently I am using a 6-way powerstrip, unswitched and no LED. Thank you, Charlie1! This generic item is very slightly cleaner and more musical than my previous generic 4-way strips. It connects two sources (Radikal and DS), Sagatun Monos and Tundra Monos. The LSNAS and network switches (GS105s) are connected to a 4-way strip plugged in on the opposite wall.

Hi David!

Three thoughts when reading the above description:
1. Have you checked your LP12 for the Radikal-pressing-against-Trampolin/Urika-problem? Yes, no problem.
2. Have you compared your GS105 switch with a GS108 (of which there are several models and I'm unsure of which is the best one but I have the 108T)? No, but as I remember from past commentary, 105/108 were very close. At some point I'll get around to it, but vinyl is the main source.
3. Have you tried plugging that 4-way strip with NAS and switch closer to the 6-way strip? Maybe to the same wall outlet, if it's possible? How did that sound? Not tried, would be very difficult to make all the cables connect!

I read some on the Vertex AQ website. They have a bunch of practical advice scattered across the pages, some of which I've tried and don't like the effect of at all. That's enough for me to understand that they are not using the Tune Method but are seeking something else. Exactly what I'm concerned about, and why I want a proper trial - will it kill the tune?

In particular I would avoid anything that you connect electrically to the system, such as "signal-grounding boxes" to the speaker cables. Unless you know exactly what those boxes contain and do, don't connect them! Can they do damage? Otherwise I don't see the harm in trying?

Regarding your questions:
1. Star grounding is not a problem. As long as the units really are grounded, this is just a matter of in which order each outlet on the mains block is connected to ground. If you remember our discussions around "Radikal first" versus "Preamp first" and how they sound slightly different, this is a third way. What's likely to have a bigger effect is however how that mains block is built. Thanks.
2. In the past, yes, lots. Practically everything I tried was expensive degradations when applied to a well installed system. These days I instantly dismiss companies that use inaccurate technical jargon and home cooked, usually complicated, theories for the "problems" and the "cures" they've discovered.
4. No, not yet. But I'm working on it!

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-06-28 11:21

Sopper wrote:
Sopper wrote:
David Neel wrote:4. Am I completely mad?


Are you not satisfied with the music you are hearing right now?


Didn’t answer this question


I'm enjoying it thoroughly - but I always want to know what more is possible, and at the moment I have time to experiment.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby lejonklou » 2018-06-28 15:02

David Neel wrote:Can they do damage? Otherwise I don't see the harm in trying?

If connected electrically to the system, absolutely.

David Neel wrote:Not tried, would be very difficult to make all the cables connect!

What I meant was: Don't you have two wall sockets side by side in the wall? If so, have you tried plugging one strip into each? Or do you have to plug one into the socket on the other side of the room?

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-06-28 16:23

lejonklou wrote:
David Neel wrote:Not tried, would be very difficult to make all the cables connect!

What I meant was: Don't you have two wall sockets side by side in the wall? If so, have you tried plugging one strip into each? Or do you have to plug one into the socket on the other side of the room?


Streaming is a very distant second to vinyl. At the moment I have my LSNAS away from the system and on the floor, hidden from the speakers in the acoustic shadow of a sofa. This is because I discovered that placing it on a low bookcase shelf beside one speaker noticeably degraded the sound. Hence the current inability to plug it in anywhere near the main system. The TV normally lives in the hallway, as I watch very rarely and it equally degrades the sound. I am restricted on positioning the two GS105 network switches (one for DS and LSNAS only, the other for the unimportant stuff like TV and laptop) because of the length of my ethernet cables. I selected the best of some generic CAT5 cables several years ago and don't wish (yet) to introduce more variables. So I recognise that the streaming has potential for improvement, and I will work away at that once the vinyl is optimised. Or, did you mean that using the adjacent socket might help the rest of the system?

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby lejonklou » 2018-06-28 17:50

OK, thanks for the explanation! Sounds well thought through.

No, I don't expect the vinyl playback to benefit from switch and NAS moving closer to the system.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-06-28 20:22

lejonklou wrote:No, I don't expect the vinyl playback to benefit from switch and NAS moving closer to the system.


Thanks, that keeps the variables manageable!

On a separate note, one reason I'm not buying a new equipment rack just yet is that I don't know whether I should be allowing an extra shelf for the Lejonklou MC phono stage.....

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-09-01 18:36

I guess I owe you all an update...

I had an interesting afternoon several weeks ago. My Linn dealer came round with some bits and pieces: mains cables, interconnects, speaker cables, signal grounding boxes. Too much actually; we only played with the mains cables. Once we had done these comparisons thoroughly, there was not enough time left. And more importantly, I didn't want to confuse myself.

First, a listen to the system as is, using vinyl. I have a six-way extension socket feeding Radikal, Sagatun, Sagatun, Tundra, Tundra, DS, in that order. Or so I thought.... somehow the DS was plugged in to the first socket, and the Radikal to the last socket.

So, a very quick and cheap improvement, plug the Radikal into its intended place, first. I was genuinely surprised at the difference. Then we tried two Puritan power cords on the Sagatuns. Hmm... the noise floor was definitely lower, and the bass was cleaner, but was everything else okay? So we went back and forth (once) without a firm conclusion.

Now add a power cord to the Radikal, a bit better. Then to the Tundras. Now the system is definitely sounding better, but I remained unsure of the musicality. So, remove all the Puritan cords and back to standard. Now I'm aware of what's been lost... so this time we add the cord to just the Radikal. Bingo! There is an unequivocal result. Adding all the other four cords back in has less impact than the one on the Radikal. And yes, the tune is easier to follow.

Then I changed the order of power leads from the strip, so that I had Sagatun, Sagatun, Radikal, DS, Tundra, Tundra. This was also an improvement, and more obvious than I had thought possible after reading of others' experiences.

Since then I've been loaned a Puritan PSM136 mains purifier and some cables, but not enough to hook everything up. The purifier, on its own, seems to be slightly better than all the mains leads together (here I'm relying on memory), but the ADS and Radikal benefit also from the power cords.

Then I got a big box of VertexAQ stuff to try out.... well it certainly made a difference, but there was nagging feeling that some of the tune was being lost. The best result was from the most expensive unit, approximately the cost of a Tundra, but which kept the tune. So all of this was returned, and I was left contemplating far too much money for the result I wanted. The distinguishing feature of the most expensive Vertex strip was that it had DC-balanced output as well as all the conditioning.

So a few days of thinking about it left me with some questions. A conversation with Puritan had them suggest I try a cheaper product, the Purist 108, which has no supply filtration, it's just built like the proverbial outhouse. Long story short, I've now compared the basic 108 with the 108-DC (which is DC-balanced) both with Schuko sockets and cables, and preferred the DC version. Today my dealer came back for a listen, and we also compared his 108-DC which has UK 3-pin sockets and cables. I have kept the 108-DC Schuko version, and I am very happy with the result. Not cheap, but good value.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby Spannko » 2018-09-01 23:47

David,

Would it be possible for you to post videos of the changes? The videos posted by Charlie1, beck, ThomasOK and co have been invaluable in letting us hear the changes for ourselves. So helpful in fact, that I now think that videos demonstrating the differences should be mandatory!

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-09-02 11:20

Spannko,

As somebody who has never listened to music on my phone, never made a video on my phone, never posted a picture in a forum because he doesn't understand (and can't be bothered to learn?) how to do this, and not listened to any of the playground clips, I'm not a prime candidate for doing this! I will also own up to distinct scepticism about this method of evaluation. I know, I know, I haven't bothered to listen....

I evaluate on how well the music is communicated and how well it engages me. If the music is easier to understand (good communication) and I want to listen for a longer time (more engagement), then it is better. There are plenty of times when there is greater apparent detail, but less communication: sonic beauty is to me secondary to musical engagement. Unless I've completely misunderstood, this is tunedem, and it works for me.

Anyway, enough of my grumpy old git persona! If someone would be kind enough to post an idiot's guide to doing this, I'll have a go. I should emphasise that I have only retained the final choice and the starting point.

EDIT: The last of the Luddites has now discovered how to make and post videos in the playground! Anybody reading over there may already have worked out that this whole comparison is being re-evaluated and replayed.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-09-07 21:49

Spannko,

You opened a real can of worms! Thank you! During this exercise I have discovered that: there is a BIG difference between different wall sockets; a Tundra Mono takes time to warm up, even if the downtime is about 60 seconds; and the non-DC filtered power strip I borrowed was actually DC filtered (it was a switchable demo version, with the switch engaged).

So previous posts were all as I found at the time. I've now redone the comparisons. I prefer the purist version without DC balancing (your findings may vary, depending on your electricity supply). And the power cables were arguably more important than the power strip. And schuko is slightly better than UK 3-pin.

My thanks to Mike Lester of Puritan who was happy to answer my questions and tell me that theory doesn't matter, what counts is what you hear. He was even prepared to make me a hybrid (a mixture of schuko and 3-pin, or a mixture of DC-balanced and plain) if I thought I needed it.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby Spannko » 2018-09-08 10:20

Great stuff David!

I think it’s brilliant that more people are catching on to the idea that recording videos of our systems really can reveal a new level of insight.

I’ve noticed that some people are trying to introduce it on the Swedish Linn forum, seleri, too. At the moment, there’s a fair bit of resistance to the idea, but they’ll soon learn!

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby sunbeamgls » 2018-09-24 14:28

How did you manage the 15-20 minute warm up times DN?

It must make back to back comparisons very difficult.
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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-09-24 15:41

sunbeamgls wrote:How did you manage the 15-20 minute warm up times DN?

It must make back to back comparisons very difficult.


It certainly does, hence the caveats I've posted since! I couldn't go back and redo all the comparisons with the Vertex AQ kit, but I did live with most combinations for a while in addition to the quick ABs. After I realised that a warm-up was important, I re-borrowed the different Puritan configurations and re-tested, this time allowing a minimum 20 minutes with all connected before critical listening. And I made notes at the time, as I had done earlier. The sequence went:

1. Standard power cables into generic 6-way strip
2. Substitute Radikal power cable
3. Substitute Sagatun and Tundra power cables
4. Substitute DC-balanced power strip
5. Substitute Schuko for 3-pin (different DC-balanced power strip and cables)

This sequence had the intended advantage that any positives immediately on changeover should only improve with warm-up, which was always completed, and several tracks heard before any further change.
As a result, I confirmed that i) the power cables made the difference I had found earlier, ii) the addition of the power strip (with DC balancing) offered more improvement, and iii) so did the use of schuko rather than 3-pin. So these earlier findings were repeated.

After this I hooked up a switchable (on/off for the DC-balancing circuitry) power strip (also with schuko) and let it warm up fully with DC switched on. I listened for an hour or so before switching DC-balancing off (now power-down required) and concluding that it was more musical with the DC circuitry off.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby David Neel » 2018-09-28 15:53

As a collector of quotations and aphorisms, Sam Goldwyn's sayings provide me much fun. Today's theme is his statement that: "my indecision is final"....

The methodology listed above SHOULD have delivered me a result, but yesterday I reverted to the generic strip and Lejonklou/Linn cables - and I'm thoroughly enjoying the music. There is a renewed sense of musical communication and emotion. So what went wrong? Why did I recognise successive changes as improvements, applying tunedem to the best of my ability, then remove them in one fell swoop to discover that I had actually lost a little musicality with them? My best analysis is that i) short evaluations make subtle losses in musicality less easy to spot than more obvious sonic/clarity gains, despite being on guard for them, and ii) an extra pair of ears would have been useful.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby tokenbrit » 2018-09-28 17:48

I know what you mean about an extra pair of ears - I try to use my wife for that, but she hates being put on the spot to choose A or B, preferring C (leave the room), which is a shame as she has a fine pair of ears, and can reliably pick which is more musical if I make changes. I just need to do so without telling her, and watch for her reaction to the music, or lack thereof. I try to do the same, and not listen directly as that often leads me astray. If I am doing something else, while listening, it's easy to ignore differences in clarity, but improvements in musicality will find their way through. Be aware though that it's not as reliable if you're aware that you are deliberately not listening, if that makes sense... ? Just listen (passively :)

Improvements in clarity tend to be clearer (by definition ;) whereas musicality tends to be more subtle and elusive, especially in a test scenario as the sonic elements are often an easier point of reference & comparison. Finding that you are more engaged with and moved by the music often takes more time, and a more relaxed approach...

For me, if I'm just listening *to* something (the music) that's a good sign; if I'm listening *for* something (the sound) that's not good, and is often at the expense of the musicality.

Congrats, btw.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby beck » 2018-09-29 07:21

tokenbrit wrote:
Improvements in clarity tend to be clearer (by definition ;) whereas musicality tends to be more subtle and elusive, especially in a test scenario as the sonic elements are often an easier point of reference & comparison. Finding that you are more engaged with and moved by the music often takes more time, and a more relaxed approach...

For me, if I'm just listening *to* something (the music) that's a good sign; if I'm listening *for* something (the sound) that's not good, and is often at the expense of the musicality.


Agree.

David Neel, this will not be the last time you will be mislead by the hunt for “better” sound. People might think what we are doing here using “tunedem” is crude and simple but it is not.

You will be surpriced if you sometime in the future get a glimse of where you would end getting it totally right ( as we all will).
Ivor has left the building.......

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby Charlie1 » 2018-09-29 09:09

tokenbrit wrote:I try to use my wife for that, but she hates being put on the spot to choose A or B, preferring C (leave the room)

Lol :)

I know what you mean David. HiFi is certainly frustrating at times. Hope you find the best route forward.

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Re: Mains improvement, after the wall socket

Postby Spannko » 2018-09-29 12:59

Welcome to the My Indicision is Final Club, David!

I totally agree with your analysis number 1, which is why I prefer longer comparisons in the “passive” way tokenbrit describes.

But let’s be honest. If it was too easy, we wouldn’t enjoy this crazy, frustrating hobby half as much!


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