Clean AC power

The power to my house comes from the pole on the road, then underground to a large box that I assume is a transformer. This supplies power to my house only: there are no other houses within 1000’. Does this mean that I am getting very clean power?
vgizzi >>>

Dirty power is one of, if not the greatest bugaboo we have to deal with in this hobby.

I have a transformer in my backyard that feeds my home and a few of the neighbor’s homes as well. I had no idea how dirty the power was until I learned how to deal with it.

Over the past three or four years, I’ve concentrated on cleaning up my power with great success. We cannot fathom how dirty the power is, and the negative effects it has by introducing noise into our systems. This is the noise that you don’t know is there until it’s gone.

Most of the noise reduction I’ve obtained was through using Perfect PathTechnology products like The Gate, TC, the Omega Mats, The Omega PLUS Mats, and other products they offered at the time. Sadly, this stuff is no longer available.

So, I would say in your case, the power coming from the pole is dirty, and you should work toward cleaning it up.

Look on the used market here on A’gon and perhaps AudioMart for PPT products coming on the market second-hand. I know a couple of "Gates" have been sold recently. Not cheap by any means, but they provide for a VERY substantial improvement in lowering AC noise. Look for the Omega mats too, especially the Omega PLUS mats.

Also, look into things like the aftermarket fuses that are talked about on this site ... they lower noise too.

The difference in sound quality through the use of these products is totally amazing.

Thanks for the suggestions. You said you found out that your power was very dirty. Did you actually measure it or just discover it by adding the conditioner?
^^^ The only measurement gauges I own are my ears.  The differences can be clearly heard, and are quite striking.

In my opinion none of the stuff works. I’ve bought lots of it and tried lots of it and couldn’t find any difference in sound. I live in now housing development and if it was gonna be dirty it would be dirty by me because there is lots of houses with lots of people on computers. Spend your money on good quality equipment and you won’t have to worry about your powerMost of the companies have stuff already built and that automatically cleans it
@raysmtb1 same here. Could tell no difference at all and sold all my power conditioning gear.

Not saying that it is snake oil, just made no difference in my house.

"The power to my house comes from the pole on the road, then underground to a large box that I assume is a transformer. This supplies power to my house only: there are no other houses within 1000’. Does this mean that I am getting very clean power?"

I live in a rural rea with a similar situation-- we have our own transformer, as does each house on our sparsely-populated road.  
A friend who was a PS Audio dealer at the time brought over one of their upper-tier power regenerators and neither one of us could hear any effect, whatsoever. Am I suggestion you wouldn't benefit from power conditioning ? No, but I am suggesting the only way to tell is to try it. No-one here can give you a definitive answer. 
Don’t pay attention to anyone who advises you against trying something for yourself. Every system is different and you won’t know until your try. A good company will have a return policy and you’ll know the minute you try a power conditioner.

I always thought the power at my place was clean enough. I tested the AC throughout the day and it never varied more than a point of two. Thinking is was stable and reading that all amps have power conditioning led me to believe that it was unnecessary.

When I tried it, I discovered I was wrong as it made a big difference.
You see, I tried it for myself.

All the best,

nonoise, what specific methods and/or gear are you using to clean up the power? Thanks.
@ vgizzi

The majority of "dirty power" in the home is created by electrical usage items found in the home.

LED lighting.
Electronic ballasts/florescent lighting.
Light dimmers.
Switched mode power supplies.
Appliance/equipment micro processors.
Air handler VFD (Variable Frequency Drive).
Switching on and switching off of electrical motors.
Hair dryers.
Excessive unbalanced 120V loads on the electrical service.
Loose and or corroded electrical connections. ( can/will cause excessive harmonic distortion on the mains.   
Last but not least, audio equipment.

Recently bought a Puritan Audio 156. Major improvement. As oregonpapa said, easily heard, but easily measured with my EMI meter.
I'm using a Audioquest Niagara 1200 power conditioner.  A basic unit with no regeneration. My gear is humbly comprised of a Marantz PM-15S2b integrated and matching SA15-S2b SACD player along with an older model Marantz tuner, my OPPO 103 blu ray player, cable box. TV and a soundbar. 

The sound just got calmer, has a quieter background, there's more see-through, better air and extension in the highs on down to the lows, lost that nervous edge on some music along with some shrillness, etc.

@vgizzi ,
I didn't take any noise measurements; only AC volts which ranged from lows of 118 to highs of 120.4 at any given time of day. At least I knew it was stable despite being an old building. I never took any reading after getting the power conditioner.

All the best,

Look at my system page.

When I installed the Puritan, my readings were cut in half.

Been experimenting with different configuration of all my components. Makes a difference.

Example: My mobile phone charger on a dedicated line ........ the decrease was 10 mV. Have all my wall wart power supplies into my Hydra 8 digital outlet, for an additional decrease of 10mV.

You need an occiliscope to see the dirt i.e. what looks like little lines 
going up and down along the AC arc making the sign wave look thick and scribbly because they are very small voltages .
These lines can be in the mega Hz range and down to the hearing range of 20,000 Hz and below and.

I do know that the creator of the dirtiest in-house electricity are motors ,
the refrigerator , the washer and dryer and dirtiest of all the furnace fan moter and the heat pump .  Flourecent lights are a close second .

Most of my AC conditioning is passive , PS audio noise harvesters ,
Greenwave noise filters and everything that is plugged in goes through
a Tripp-lite ultra surge/filter outlet box .

oregonpapa said it best ,
it's noise that you didn't know it's there until it's gone  !
OP conditioners are different from regenerator, and the PPT products Frank mentioned at the top are neither. Using a conditioner or regenerator is compatible with PPT (I use a PS Audio P3 and a PPT gate-“filter”).
I forgot to mention that in addition to everything I listed above, I also use a Sound Application Power Conditioner. I've upgraded the outlets, and pasted the entire inside with PPT's Total Contact. The Total Contact made a very significant improvement to what was already an excellent power conditioner. 

Here’s a review:

I use two Chang Lightspeed CLS 709 power line filters.

One on main stereo system, and one on home theater system.

As mentioned, your system may sound noise free, until you add a noise reduction device, and notice a big change....more 3D soundstage, very quiet background, clearer, brighter video, etc.

Thanks. The improvements you report are just what I'm wishing for. Was hesitating on regenerators, with PS Audio's entry-level being double the price of the Audioquest. Believe I will start just where you did and, with luck, maybe need look no further.

Dirty power = Distortion (noise) comes from 3 primary sources:

1) The utility company – coming into the house circuit breaker panel.

2) Appliances within the house – eg: TV’s, computers, fluorescent lighting, refrigerators, HVAC, hair-dryers, etc.

See: Jea48’s post above

3) The audio components themselves – especially, the digital ones.

Each digital component – modem, router, streamer, bridge, DAC, etc – regurgitates noise back into the audio circuit – as well as throughout the house – and visa versa. Eventually, this noise creates distortion in the audio signal.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The only measurement gauges I own are my ears. The differences can be clearly heard, and are quite striking.


If ’something’ seems off when listening to music - such as a harsh vocal or a ringing piano note or a strident violin  - ask yourself:

Would that ’something’ be allowed on that recording:

- By the recording engineer?

- By the mastering engineer?

- By the record producer?

- By the record label?

- By the recording artist?

Probably not. There’s a good likelihood that dirty power is the culprit. Its causing distortions that shouldn’t be there.

I also use Chang Lightspeed gear, I think the model is 6400.  It works well for my system.  I have read some negative comments about Chang's components some time back, but it seems to work well in my experience.
Everything makes a difference. My electronics allow the user to turn off the displays while in operation. Things always sound better with the displays off. It is the same type of noise reduction being discussed here.

I know that there are a zillion causes of electrical noise within the home. I'd like to know --just out of curiosity--what effect on the mains power the following have:

Step-down transformer feeding my house. It is at the end of the line, no other house being supplied. Does the transformer by nature clean up the power?

All audio equipment on a dedicated circuit and single heavy duty outlet. I suspect that the outlet is only better than a standard one in safety specs.

I cleaned up and reseated the hot wire coming from the breaker in the panel. I also removed a fair amount of grunge on the breaker clip. Don't know if this had any audible effect.

I tried a 1-to-1 transformer to feed all the front-end electronics. It was a fairly cheap unit but rated sufficiently. Can't say I herd any difference.

Any insights on these measures?
I've posted they before but some time ago I spoke to an AT&T tech who doing an install in my neighbors apartment. He used to teach electrical engineering at the local community college but preferred to work out in the field. 

He told me that they were sending up to 5 TBs of data using the fields generated by the power in the lines across the city. That doesn't just stop at a transformer, and if anything, engulfs it. More than some of that will make it's way down the line to your place, to dirty up the AC.

That was years ago and it doesn't seem too much to think all carriers are doing something of the sort all over the place.

All the best,
Post removed 
I forgot about those devices as I'm still hooked up to the old time meters that some poor DWP worker has to schlep around narrow back corridors to get their readings. 

But how better a way to transmit the data back than to use the fields generated by the power lines themselves, adding to all the mess we hear on our AC lines. When you look at it that way, nothing is safe or clean.

All the best,
    OP,   The greasy ’grunge’ that you removed from the breaker clips is called N0-Ox, and is intended to keep the breaker contacts that were covered with it, clean, and free from oxidation. If they were protected, with No-ox, they aren't now. Try try again.
Generally speaking, everyone’s electrical situation is unique, components differ in their resistance to electrical noise, audio systems differ in their transparencies/resolutions/noise floors, and people have different hearing preferences and abilities.  While you may be able to draw some general conclusions, everyone’s situation is unique.

I suggest trying yourself to see if any sonic upticks- seems most folks do.  To save $ find vendors w free trial or buy used and resell if you’re not satisfied.  
An Audioquest Niagara 1200, AQ Edison receptacle, AQ Thunder power cord to amp, and an AQ Z3 power cord from Niagara to the receptacle. Dedicated circuit 12/2 to 20 amp breaker on panel. Relatively low expenditure but good results. Surplus receptacles provided by a Furman pst-8. One and done! All electrical work performed by me...saved $$$.
Doesn't keeping your audio components on a dedicated circuit protect them from noise generated by other household appliances? If not, what purpose does a dedicated circuit achieve?
4krowme, The grunge I cleaned off wasn’t greasy, or oily like the de-oxit spray. It was the sort of powdery oxidation that’s so common.

Also, I have the same question about a dedicated circuit. What is it actually doing?
vgizzi OP6 posts


4krowme, The grunge I cleaned off wasn’t greasy, or oily like the de-oxit spray. It was the sort of powdery oxidation that’s so common.

Are you referring to the line side of the breaker contact to the Hot bus tap connection? Is the electrical panel Line bus copper or aluminum? If copper is it bare or plated? Manufacturer of electrical panel?

How did you clean the electrical connections surfaces? Abrasives should not be used on electrical aluminum bus in an electrical panel. The aluminum bus and aluminum alloy neutral/ground bars are plated. Even light sanding can remove the thin plating.

Also, I have the same question about a dedicated circuit. What is it actually doing?
Basically a dedicated wiring circuit is used to feed a specific, dedicated, load(s). Like audio equipment.

Unlike a convenience outlet branch circuit that may feed several outlets and in some cases will also feed ceiling lighting fixtures/lights. The convenience outlet branch circuit has many electrical connections. With the passage of time and connected varying loads over time the connections may/will loosen and or corrode. (Methods used for making the connections can very. From very good, to not so good). Poor electrical connections can add series resistance to the branch circuit wiring. Also a loose and or corroded connection can cause micro arcing which can/will create electrical noise on the wiring. Add to that the integrity of the wall duplex receptacle female contacts. Most houses have cheap residential grade outlets installed. With the passage of time, and use, the outlets lose their contact pressure and ability to grip the male plug tightly. When a load is connected the poor contact connections will cause micro arcing and put noise back onto the branch circuit wiring. Last but not least the loads that are connected to the convenience outlet branch circuit will add their own noise directly onto the circuit wiring.

A dedicated branch circuit in most cases will not have any splices/connections from the breaker, neutral, and equipment ground connection in the electrical panel to the electrical wall outlet. No other loads are connected directly to the branch circuit.

The type of branch circuit wiring used and wiring method used can greatly influence the quality of how your audio system will sound.

You will need an oscilloscope to see the sinusoidal waveform of your AC coming into your home. If you're dead keen on seeing it, that's what you want to use.

What you use in your house / stereo system will introduce noise into the supply, especially localised noise.

What I liked that sold me on the idea of the Puritan PSM 156 power conditioner is the no nonsense approach. Twin transformers to allow for good current flow with no bottleneck, DC (direct current) removal (also can been seen using an oscilloscope) and each receptacle is isolated from each other by using a high pass shunt of electrical energy to ground, from both neutral and active, individually. It also has circuit protection.

And it's one of the least expensive, with the most features.
I'll admit it, I am a performance buyer, with limited budget - so it had better perform!

Household Circuitry: 101

All household circuits are tied together at the circuit breaker panel. Kind of like a train switchyard. The rumbling of a train will be most severe on the track it’s traveling. But, the other tracks will still suffer the effects of milder rumbling since they’re all connected.

Most residential houses in the U.S. have a circuit breaker panel with two hot buss bars and one neutral buss bar - along with a ground connection. Each hot buss bar is tied (connected) to the one neutral buss bar via the circuit breakers. In other words, no matter how many circuits you have in your house, they all meet at the two buss bars and the one neutral. The one neutral is shared by every circuit in the house. Here’s how Bob Vila explains it.

A dedicated circuit for audio that is properly installed will help isolate it from the noise on other circuits caused by various household appliances. A dedicated circuit is definitely a major improvement. Yet, a high resolution audio system will still reveal noise (distortion) that’s polluting other circuits – such as a hairdryer that’s being used in the upstairs bathroom. Many dedicated listening rooms that have multiple dedicated circuits – also have power conditioners behind the equipment rack.

Most audio systems sound best after midnight during the week - or on Sundays - when the town’s electrical grid is less taxed. Apartments in apartment buildings share the noise from their neighbors. Houses in housing developments share the noise from their neighbors.

Much depends on how resolving the audio system is – and one’s hearing sensitivity. Curiously, the cleaner the power supply, the easier it is to hear anomalies. Imagine looking a white wall that is randomly speckled all over with black dots. Your eye will wander around the wall. There’s plenty to look at, but specific areas are ignored. Now, imagine looking at a white wall with only one black dot. Your eye will zero in on that one black dot. A low resolving system is like the first wall. A high resolving system is like the 2nd one. The black dots would be points of distortion. (nota bene, Christo).

Safety warning: Do not poke around a circuit breaker box - if you don’t know what your doing. Instant death may occur.

jea48: My panel is a Challenger SB40. The buss material is hard to determine; it is clearly not raw copper, but has a shiny metallic finish. The contacts in the breaker are copper.

I cleaned the load wire with a fine metal brush until the copper was shiny, then sprayed Deoxit: same for the the load end. Didn't touch the buss connector.

Thanks for your detailed response to my last question.
vgizzi, steakster has a great overview above. The only quibble I have is the main improvement we get with a dedicated line is nothing to do with isolation, it is all from the wire running continuous. Most circuits are run outlet to outlet, with each outlet adding a number of connections and each connection adding a lot of micro-arcing and noise. So that is the main benefit, and they should be called direct instead of dedicated. But whatever. 

People talk about noise in terms of obvious stuff like a blow dryer. The number one thing to keep in mind is every wire is an antenna. RFI is everywhere. So every wire is an antenna bringing RFI into the system. The AC can be somehow perfectly clean, yet the first inch of wire coming out of it starts picking up RFI. This is probably one reason power cords make such a difference, but whatever. Not the point. Point is noise is everywhere, so the fixes must be everywhere, there is no one silver bullet. 

Transformers work primarily because of the way they are designed. The alternating current in the primary creates a rising and falling magnetic field that induces a current in the secondary. There is no electrical connection, just the alternating field. The same happens by the way with the output transformers in an amplifier, or a SUT for MC cartridges.  

Ever notice the difference high quality transformers make in these cases? It is huge. Why? Because it is hard to design one to work across a wide range of frequency. The alternating field in a AC isolation transformer is designed to very efficiently pass 60 Hz AC. But higher frequencies not so much. Most of the line noise we are trying to eliminate is RFI, radio frequency, very high. Any old transformer will filter RFI just fine. It is just not that hard. Once you understand the principles on which transformers work it is pretty easy to understand why they are used all over the place.  

That answers your transformer questions. And your dedicated circuit question.  

As for the stuff you tried, the proof is in the pudding. It does no good to ask what if. Who cares what the transformer at the end of your street is doing? To know you would have to move your stereo to the house up the street. Or run a line from before that transformer. To what end? Why? Such questions are academic.  

What really works is to deal with what really works. Sorry, but if you try something and hear no difference then by definition it doesn't really work. All the stuff I am talking about, it really works. You will hear it, and not just barely either. 
vgizzi OP7 posts


My panel is a Challenger SB40. The buss material is hard to determine; it is clearly not raw copper, but has a shiny metallic finish. The contacts in the breaker are copper.
@ vgizzi

Approximately what year was the house built?

vgizzi OP8 posts


@ vgizzi

Your electrical panel may be an electrical fire hazard just waiting to happen.
I strongly suggest you hire a licensed electrician to check it out. I also recommend you do not pull the panel cover off again until you do.

Here are a few links for you to read:

Hey Guys - I live in miami so power surges are common as well as momentary cuts in power…sometimes power cuts last 15-60 seconds…

….so here’s what I’m thinking… 

Wall outlet to commercial grade Amazon sign-wave battery back-up. The meter on the backup tells me I’m never exceeding more than 20% of the units capacity. It’s already kicked in 3-4 times when the power “blinks” during storms. 

Then AQ Niagra 5000 into the battery back-up and then my components into the 5000…(waiting on the 5000 to arrive)

I’ll let you know what I hear.

My gear is all pretty new so as far as I can tell, it all sounds pretty quiet now.

jea48: Who would have thought that cleaning a circuit breaker's contacts would be so dangerous? Should I move my family to a hotel until the problem can be fixed?
Anyone remember that scene from Fight Club where Ed Norton's character goes down into the basement and wades in waist deep water to replace an old style screw in fuse that's sparking all over the place?

All the best,
Post removed 
vgizzi OP9 posts


jea48: Who would have thought that cleaning a circuit breaker’s contacts would be so dangerous? Should I move my family to a hotel until the problem can be fixed?

Should I move my family to a hotel until the problem can be fixed?

LOL, No.... Just don’t try to overload a 15 or 20 amp circuit to see if the breaker will trip open. It may or it may not trip open.
House was built in 1992 and it is still standing.

When the electrician comes out to look at the panel he will pull out the breakers, (not all at once) and inspect the breaker bus connectors for arcing damage as well as the connector on the Line side of the breakers. He may also look for discoloration on the branch circuit breaker hot conductors insulation as well as the branch circuit neutral wire insulation for discoloration. (Two causes. Loose connection. Wire overloaded for an extended time for possibly months or years).

If by chance in the winter months you use a portable electric space heater I would suggest you have the electrician pull the wall duplex receptacle(s) out of the wall box where the heater was plugged in and inspect the wire connections on the outlet. If the circuit was overloaded for hours upon hours over time the wire at the terminals will be discolored. Insulation on the wires near the terminations will be discolored, maybe brittle and or cracked. If the duplex outlets were used for in and out connections for the branch circuit wiring then all duplex outlets upstream toward the electrical panel on the circuit should be checked for damage.
15 amp branch circuits, 14awg wire, are the most abused, overloaded, by things like portable space heaters and such.

It may have been a blessing you cleaned the terminations on the load side of the breaker and posted it here on your thread.
You can thank @ 4krowme for peaking my interest and asking you who the manufacturer of the panel is/was.

I am not familiar with Challenger electrical panels. I have never seen one around here. I am quite familiar with FPE (commonly called F****ing Poor Equipment), and Zinsco (GTE-Sylvania). Both were sued out of existence.

Some of their breakers might trip open. Others were/are nothing more than ON/OFF disconnect switches.

There are ways of checking how clean your power is but the fact that you are so far away from everything and everyone else helps a lot as well as having your own dedicated transformer. Your power should be just fine in all of these cases unless you are overloading the transformer or the transformer is making the power line noisy because it is wearing out.
vgizzi- Who would have thought that cleaning a circuit breaker’s contacts would be so dangerous? Should I move my family to a hotel until the problem can be fixed?

A little background and perspective on the zeitgeist here. Couple years ago when I wanted to add a pre-amp out to my amp it seemed a pretty simple mod others here would have done and so I asked. No one had anything the least bit helpful. Three or four times I was WARNED and CAUTIONED to NOT look INSIDE as tube amps have LETHAL VOLTAGE. I said well I was planning on unplugging it. IT WILL KILL YOU EVEN UNPLUGGED! LETHAL VOLTAGE!!!!

No kidding. Zero useful information, pure flat out fear mongering. The answer turned out to be as simple as this Two resistors, $2 total, half an hour tops, hour including the trip to the electrical parts store. For this I was told to spend $5k on an amp I don’t need, or die, burning down my neighborhood in the process. You may notice I do not often ask questions here. Now you know why.

The practical, useful and ultimately truly safe way to look at it is to understand voltage and current. Once you do, well that is how I have been able to completely wire a house, completely install and wire a whole panel, run 240V with a step down to my system, modify countless components, on and on, all without killing myself or burning down the neighborhood.

You can do it, too. Shame anyone wants to frighten people away from learning practical useful skills that ultimately help you become a more capable, independent individual.

Shamless plug:
I have some PPT Omega + Mats listed for sale on Audiogon now...

Post removed 
Heh. Good one. What I'm talkin' bout. Perfectly simple thing anyone can undertake with a little common sense. Instead of, "You can do it, just pay attention and be careful" we get a 500 word horror story.  

Reminds me of when I was a kid learning to drive. Instead of actually teaching anyone how to drive they spend the whole time on horror stories and oh by the way red means stop.  

Silly people. Never will stop. 
@jea4 - yeah when I'm opening a panel with 3 phase VAC I step to the side and have had some pretty interesting looks when I've told people to step aside and move way back, and I'll absolutely wait for them to comply.

The PPE I have worn when training for 480 three phase, gave me some idea of how dangerous even that is (high joule rating). ISOLATION. Lock out, tag out.
Anyone doing electrical work on their own home, I would highly recommend purchasing an AC detector pen.
I often use it to quickly troubleshoot motor controls, easily finds faults on three phase monitors, motor starters etc. (and then I break out the Fluke). And if it's right there I'll wave it over the conductors just to be super sure, I've absolutely isolated the correct circuit.

Almost every test in my instrumentation course I did, covered how many milliamps it took to stop a heart.