More opinions please - this time on mains power

Experiments over the last year or so have given some useful results, and we have had lots of useful comments - thanks. So far…

  1. You can genuinely improve a good rack and/ or wall shelf without vast expense - but actual SQ improvements are small (even for the LP12) and very room-dependent and some are volume-dependent too.

  2. On a ‘light and rigid’ support, an LP12 is to me better with no base than with a Tramp. However, the SRM base is an improvement over no base and works well with the matching platform. Without the platform, and on a good wall shelf, I am not convinced that my LP12 with SRM base sounds materially better than a newer LP12 with Linn’s aluminium base - it is the base and platform together that get my vote.

  3. For any who do not believe that all cables sound identical, Witch Hat to me beats Naim for sound and convenience (e.g. Morgana beating Hi-Line), at least in my room and system.

  4. My record cleaner is so effective that my Krystal looks good via microscope after well over 1200 hours and may do another year. Don’t assume the max lifetime numbers suggested by some makers or sellers of cartridges apply to you.

  5. There is no material and consistent SQ difference between playing a CD, ripping and serving a CD and just using Qobuz - but there are plenty of albums where streams are clearly better/ worse than my CD.

I think that last thing to investigate will be power, an area that encourages me to expect twaddle and worse even more than mega-expensive interconnect cables.

My hi-fi is powered by a double-socket on the wall. One socket powers a 4-way Hydra from Grahams (so 4 kettle leads), and that powers Supercap for 52 and Superline, PS for CDS2, XPS2 for NDX2 and 250.

The other sockets has a Grahams-supplied 6-way power block. That powers the Lingo 4, Nakamichi tape deck, ethernet switch and a standard lamp.

First question, should I change that?

Given the quality of my kit (high) and of my house wiring (uninspiring), should I be organising all that radically differently? Can we beat the Grahams-supplied powerblock and Hydra in SQ?

Please bear in mind that answers that begin with a complete rewiring of my house and pulling all the wires out of the walls imply a lot more dedication that I have.

Second question, Powerlines (or rivals) instead of the old and basic Naim kettle leads?

I have previously assumed that there is no point having one or more Powerlines for electricity that has already been through this non-ideal route from street-to-powerblock. Is that probably fair, or should I (for example) be powering everything off the powerblock (discarding the Hydra) and should the cables from powerblock to Supercap, XPS2, XPS and 250 all be Powerlines? And what difference can that sort of cable make to a Lingo 4?

Third question - does anything else need doing? My exposure to WH has encouraged the view that perfect cable dressing on Hi-Lines et al may well make the SQ difference of Naim versus WH very small, suggesting that EMF issues from my bad dressing is a contributor to the unnoticed low-level mush that can get in the way of the music. Applying that to the ultra-obvious area of main cables suggests that I might need to think about shielding (and knot-avoidance) here too, but what else?

All suggestions and opinions gratefully received.

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Is there absolutely no chance of getting a dedicated HiFi Mains circuit to your HiFi? For many years I assumed this wasn’t possible, but eventually found a route that worked well. If the answer is no, can you elaborate to give us a chance to change your mind possibly?

Nick,

I can only recount my own experiences. When I had my expensive Naim kit we were in a duplex apartment and rewiring would have been a nightmare. I found that the best sounding and most musical way to power my system was via a Graham’s Hydra - job done. This was before the days of Powerlines though.

We now have a bungalow. Again re-wiring or dedicated supply impractical - too much of a pain! I have Moon amps/CD player now with Melco digital player/library and I changed all the stock power cords for a Chord S6 block fed by a Chord Epic mains cable. All leads from the block are Naim Powerlines. Previous block was an Olson (good quality industrial block but not dedicated for hi-fi).

The improvement is vast in both sonic and musical terms. far more bass weight/slam, a more open natural sound, more dynamics etc. etc. but all in a completely natural and un-forced way. Music just flows so much better and makes more musical sense - much like the effect of upgrading to a better source component.

I have no idea how it comapres to other mains leads/blocks. I chose the Powerlines not only for their sound but also because they are highly flexible which makes dressing so much easier than with some very stiff cables.

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Hi @GadgetMan - I don’t know!

Major re-wiring work sound awful, and likely to require lots of re-plastering and redecorating afterwards, so I’d need a lot of persuasion if that is right.

Also, all the wiring is pretty old, including what comes to the new main circuit board from the street. Does that mean creating a dedicated circuit for the hi-fi would be a bit pointless?

Finally, whom does one get to do this sort of major wiring work?

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Thanks @anon33182107 - Chord block and Powerlines must be an option if I do anything at all.

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I don’t think it will be pointless, as what you are in fact doing is effectively bypassing all your old wiring. In my case the job cost <£700 and involved running a 40meter 10mm SWA cable up the side of the house, though 2 lofts, and out the other side, then down the wall. Not a job I’d like to do, but for an electrician, its bread and butter.

If you don’t mind humouring me a little further, can you describe where your meter is, where your Hifi is, and also if you have a solid concrete floor?

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The hi-fi is at the front of the house, perhaps 10M from the pavement (and presumably mains wiring).

The circuit board/ breakers are at the back of the house in the kitchen. The meter itself is outside on the kitchen wall, so a long way from the hi-fi (it’s pretty much the opposite corner).

All my floors are very bouncy wood.

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Hi Nick,

There’s another potential option open to you on the Graham’s Hydra. Hydras sound “good” because they allow for 5-star earthing but not all Hydras are equal. Grahams’ Hydras use the stock Naim kettle leads, ergo it could be possible to improve on these by using a Hydra with better cabling/shielding. I use a Hydra from CHC, it’s a lot more money than the Grahams hydra but uses far better components (IMHO). When I bought one a few years ago I listed all my Naim kettle leads on eBay, there’s a ready market for them and I was able to get back some of my outlay.
As for mains blocks, my dealer (Cymbiosis), loaned me a Titan Audio block and lead soon after they became a UK dealer for a home demo. It was less than a third of the price of my Russ Andrews XBlock but it was a noticeable improvement, particularly on my TV and they’ve got awards galore to back their products up with. Can’t say if they’d be any better than your Grahams’ one but with a free home trial, why not give 'em a go?

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Compared to the cost of your kit et al, I’m with @GadgetMan on this.

Wiring in relative terms is quite cheap and can often by surgically installed (for want of a term). If you are using an elderly (30 years +) house wiring feed, then a new hi-fi installation with dedicated CU/RCBO(s) and say 10mm feed(s) to x sockets, plus perhaps up-rated house mains fuse (or clean it!), would serve you nicely.

As regards mains cabling, one important bit is the benefits of a better IEC connector, one which grips the prongs better and also manages any eddy-currents.

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Having moved from a home with a dedicated supply to the hi-fi to running this off a ring main, I tried a MusicWorks The Reflex Ultra G3 and found it made a very noticeable difference.

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Can you draw out a quick plan (pencil on paper, then photograph), but it sounds like you could do the similar to me, and run cable from kitchen, drill hole to outside, run a SWA cable up the wall into the loft area, across to near the hifi, and down the wall. If you are detached, then you would run the cable up and down at the ends of the house, or possibly behind the back of a drain pipe, to hide it.

I did find it strange that the cost for me was less than two powerlines

On a cautionary note regarding dedicated mains supplies. And I’m fully aware that this goes against the grain regarding most people’s experiences, though one or two have reported similar findings.

At a previous bungalow I did install a dedicted supply. Separate consumer unit with tails and earth back to the meter. 10mmsq twin and earth to a Crabtree double socket, as per Naim’s recommendation.

At first I found it an improvement. After some weeks I kept feeling that something wasn’t quite right so I plugged back into the standard ring main. I was shocked by the improvement. Everything sounded far more natural and musical, without the over-exaggerated hyped-up feel of the dedicated supply.

I only recount this for information. It’s just my own experience and as I say it flies in the face of accepted good practice. But maybe sometimes, in some circumstances, a dedicated supply is not always better…who knows?

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Nick, I’m with gadgetman here. You are contemplating Chord blocks and PowerLines, which will cost thousands. If your house is detached or semi detached, and if your existing consumer unit is on an outside wall, and if your system is on an outside wall, it’s pretty easy to run armoured cable around the outside. Ours crosses the front of the house buried in the flowerbed.

The cost, compared to fancy mains blocks etc, is not large. It will likely make far more difference. Why tack £thousands of fancy blocks and wires onto the manky old house mains? Wise man builds his house on rock, foolish man…

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Posted in the green place as well but this place is so much nicer.

Dedicated mains spur seemed an improvement to me but I think by far the best thing I did was install a separate socket for each component negating the need for any type of multi-way power block. This was done on a single spur off the dedicated one (daisy chained). All the kettle leads are naim/Linn from the box and they live under the racks away from interconnects. I am going to make up a custom kettle lead from components sourced direct from the manufacturer that are used by one of the well reviewed power cables (which one depends on how easy the bits are to source). When I’ve done that I’ll swap it between the units to see if I can hear anything good. Budget will be under £100. But this project will only happen after I’ve re-painted my motorbike helmet the same colour as my bike (you needed to know that :grinning:).

That sounds unusual, but always good to offer other experiences. A couple of thoughts are:

  1. Can you tell us what’s in your HiFi Consumer Unit (photo?)
  2. I wonder when the electrician took the earth back to the meter, did they clean the terminal first. Mine was filthy, so I cleaned it first
  3. It’s possible all the connections have settled down and could do with a retightening

Thanks to all.

A cable run round the outside of the house looks less intimidating than replacing existing wiring or lifting floors.
IMG_3521

The window far left is less than 2m from the hi-fi - it’s in that corner. The electricity meter is far right of shot, just next to that bin.

Can we pin down exactly what sort of electrician I should be asking to install exactly what?

I like the idea of having no powerblock at all, and just having lots of sockets on the wall (I am not expecting to sell this house in my life), but fitting (say) 8 may be messier in reality than it sounds. If a long, thin power block is not going to make SQ materially worse than separate wall plugs, and particularly if it is low enough to slide under the rack (8cm or so), that might be ideal

That bay window is just over 1m to the left of this shot.

As a connected issue, this sort of arrangement will leave a lot (but not all) of the kettle leads much longer than they need to be - several could happily be under 50cm. Is tucking all that extra power lead under the rack ideal or should I really be looking for short kettle leads (or Powerlines)?

@HappyListener, @anon4489532 and @GadgetMan - what wires and sockets? And would you do wiring first or instead of even trying Powerlines?

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I would find a sparks at the outset – I would aim for a domestic sparky sole trader set-up, as they should be cheaper and perhaps more responsive to your project. An influential factor will be how you manage to separate-out one armoured feed (usual 3-core – assuming you go the armoured route) in to 8 (say) surface mounted sockets - bearing in mind it seems some kit doesn’t like being on the same circuit (potential earth loops and all that).

You could try just say 2 sockets to start (having established you could have 8), run a 'block and see how things go.

The sparks will detail what they are prepared to do – which is the important bit.

I wouldn’t be reducing the length of power cables – just make sure they aren’t coiled-up. If the sockets would ideally sit to the left of the stack(?), then you may need the extra length?

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You can ask any electrician. There are very few that understand why we want it like we do, but all want the money, and will do it. I’ll happily give you a suggestion of words that will help you get started with them, then by all means come back to us depending on what they say.

Looking at the photo, it looks like a bit of trenching will be required at the front, to help bury the cable, but they won’t need to go very deep, so shouldn’t cost more than say 0.5-1 days work. Ultimately what I suggest below is my idea, but the electrician will have more experience and will work with you to come up with the best solution, with minimal work. So in first look, I’d put a double socket to the left of your hifi, and a 10mm SWA cable will come out of the wall at that point, down the wall, then possibly a trench to take it out to the front garden in lien with front of porch. Then trench along parallel to front of house , then turn left around the porch and come out by corner of porch by the lower black brick. You could then follow it along the wall above the black brick, then under the door around to near the meter. The new consumer unit will ideally be near the existing CU - again a photo of the existing CU would help here. Just ideas, but an electrician will guide you

Grahams recommend that

  • the Hydra is only used to power up Naim equipment, and
    -no heads should be unused.

If you don’t comply, the sound will be compromised.

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What a lovely house you have Nick, and a lovely looking system.

Regarding sockets vs. Power block. When I had the demo of the Chord S6 block we compared it with firstly, all equipment (Naim) plugged into separate wall sockets and then with all equipment plugged into the Chord block with a bog standard kettle lead from block to wall socket. All other leads standard leads. The results were very clearly superior with everything plugged into the block, even with all leads being bog standard. All present agreed on this.

As regards spending money on a dedicated mains installation as opposed to using a block on the existing mains I don’t think it’s quite as simple as some might have you believe. Obviously experimentation here is not possible. But don’t automatically assume that a dedicated mains will out-perform a good quality block on the existing mains.

Of course there may be other factors at play which influence your decisions. Good luck with whatever you decide on.

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