The electrical cure
Stereophile|November 2021
ANALOG CORNER
MICHAEL FREMER

Rex Hungerford, Edward DeVito, and Craig Bradley rode into town last week and, together with Audioquest’s Garth Powell, solved all the electrical problems that have plagued my audio system for years.Garth Powell, a name familiar to many Stereophile readers, is AudioQuest’s electricity guru and designer of the Niagara series of power conditioners; he is also responsible for the company’s line of AC and signal cables. Bradley is a local electrician and audio enthusiast who has done electrical work for me in the past, including replacing dedicated lines—one for the low-power signal components and another for the amplifiers—with a single line, hoping that might solve years of annoying ground hum and other noise issues. You’d think the ground potential would be almost nothing between two sets of adjacent AC jacks on the same circuit, but the ground potential between the jacks remained unusually high, and the hum wasn’t gone.

I had tried many times to troubleshoot and fix my ground-loop problem; once, I even sought help from a highly regarded New York City studiotech wizard. But I had put the problem on hold until, for reasons unrelated to audio performance, I installed a backup generator.1 The transfer switch inserted in the line damaged the sound to the point where reviewing audio equipment would have been impossible. It was, as Powell described it, the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Two PS Audio Power Plant AC regenerators got me through, a P15 and a P20—many thanks to PS Audio for the loan. But the regenerators merely masked the problem; I needed a “ground up” solution, no pun intended.

Last winter, Hungerford and DeVito emailed me, having read about my electricity issues in those previous columns. They offered to fly in from their Seattle-area home base to investigate.

Hungerford is a master electrician, licensed in Washington state. DeVito owns commercial fishery businesses in Alaska and Maine and is also a highperformance audio dealer, specializing in power-related products including his own Audio-Ultra Performance Series Power Distribution box. Both are avid audiophiles. Both are obsessed with electrical infrastructure quality, and they’re eager to spread the electrical-upgrade gospel.

While the two collaborated on my project and may occasionally work together again (“sort of like Mick and Keith,” DeVito joked), they later told me that they’ve started operating independently; see the box at the end of this review for their contact information.

By the time Hungerford and DeVito emailed, I’d already arranged with my auxiliary generator contractor to bypass the transfer switch with a direct line from the meter box to a new, dedicated subpanel in the utility room adjacent to my listening space. This setup would bypass the transfer switch and the rest of my home’s wiring. A win-win, I thought.

During that dead-of-winter visit, Hungerford inspected the property and examined the house’s electrical infrastructure inside and outside, starting on my roof where the Rockland Electric line from the transformer across the street connects to the mast running down the side of the house into the recently installed, Wi-Fi–enabled “smart” electrical meter. “The wires are rubbing on the roof,” he shouted down from the ladder. “That’s not good!” A subsequent inspection indicated no apparent wear.

The meter was new, but everything else out there was old. Hungerford removed the meter box cover and pointed out the heavily corroded aluminum mast wires and corroded clamps to which they were attached nearly 50 years ago when the house was built (for a family named Kuzma; probably related, Franc commented in an email). The old-style meter box clamp had a single ridged contact point. “All of the electricity in your home first goes through that corroded clamp’s tiny ridge,” Hungerford said, adding “You don’t think you hear that?” He also pointed out uncovered outdoor AC receptacles that he said probably “sparked” when wet; that, too, would produce line noise.

Hungerford inspected the auxiliary generator system contractor’s work and declared it very well done, which is what I thought he’d find, since the same people replaced our heating and air conditioning systems a decade earlier and did excellent work. “Of course, it meets code and is a very nice job, but code isn’t sufficient for what we are after,” Hungerford said, precisely mirroring something Powell had told me earlier.

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