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michiganjfrog
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Does house wiring affect audio sound?

I realize this audio-related issue might not be appropriate for the Stereophile crowd, but here goes nothing, anyway....

In the "Extreme Snake Oil" thread, I mentioned an observation I recently experimented with (but discovered some 10 months ago), while I was busy installing a light switch (dimmer style, but it doesn't matter). The observation being that my audio sound is affected by how the light switch is wired to the house wiring. I'm not speaking in the traditional sense of the Romex leading to the electrical outlets. I'm talking about the fact that a standard light switch (NA 120v) can be connected either of 2 ways to the house wiring; ie. red -> black or red -> red. It will normally work either way, as far as the light coming on is concerned.

But one way always seems to sound better than the other way. The difference in sound is similar to traditional means of polarity reversal in an audio system; ie. switching speaker wires. It's probably best heard on stuff like piano music, or horns. One way has clarity and musicality to it, the other way is less distinct. (I wont say which connection I think is better, lest I be accused of introducing expectation bias). If you can't hear polarity differences, or simply think they don't exist, it's a safe bet you won't be able to lock in to this one either. To me however, it's an important difference. It could mean the difference between an involving system, and one that isn't. When I say it affects audio sound, I mean any audio sound. Which unfortunately kills any theories that it is somehow affecting the line that eventually leads to your audio gear. I say this because I have always used an mp3 player to test the effect (it's just more convenient for me, because I can test without leaving the location of the switch).

I'm wondering if anyone has made a similar observation (although I doubt it), or is willing to repeat the experiment? (If you do, **make sure you turn off the power, before you start!**) I've only tried this on two or three occasions myself, but I'm pretty convinced it's a consistent effect (not imaginary). I plan to study it further in the future, when I get more serious about it, but if anyone else has any input, that'd be great.

BTW, I know many would be thinking this and some of them would be eager to tell me this, so yes, I already know there isn't a conventional explanation for it. That doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?

I haven't experienced this, Frog, but when we moved into the house fifteen years ago I checked every outlet for correct polarity. I've had no reason to change anything other than to add a few outlets which have always been red=red and then checked again with the outlet tester just to be certain. Unfortunately, none of the outlets are easily accessible to make a swap.

Does one outlet in the living room affect the sound if I'm in the other end of the house? Or is proximity involved here?

Buddha
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?

MP3 player, as in sitting with earphones and listening to it with no connection to your Hi FI gear?

I am full of agreement about the effect you mention as it relates to gear that may be plugged in, not clear as to how 'apart' you mean your listening is from the actual Hi Fi system.

Do you notice different effects in random places when you listen to your MP3?

That would be interesting...

With all the idiots of the world wiring things, you'd almost think you could identify properly wired rooms
you encountered!

michiganjfrog
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?

I haven't experienced this, Frog, but when we moved into the house fifteen years ago I checked every outlet for correct polarity. I've had no reason to change anything other than to add a few outlets which have always been red=red and then checked again with the outlet tester just to be certain. Unfortunately, none of the outlets are easily accessible to make a swap.

You're talking electrical outlets. I'm talking light switches. There's usually at least one in every room, and they're placed high so easily accessible, and fairly easy to rewire.

Does one outlet in the living room affect the sound if I'm in the other end of the house? Or is proximity involved here?

No, proximity is not involved, from what I've seen so far. If my observation is correct, the wiring of any light switch will affect any audio system. As you know, some people change their electrical outlets to Hubble hospital grade (as I once did). I suspect the light switch wiring though, may have a more important influence on the sound. (But don't quote me on that, as I have never compared the two tweaks directly).

michiganjfrog
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?


Quote:
MP3 player, as in sitting with earphones and listening to it with no connection to your Hi FI gear?


Yes, exactly.

I am full of agreement about the effect you mention as it relates to gear that may be plugged in, not clear as to how 'apart' you mean your listening is from the actual Hi Fi system.

Do you notice different effects in random places when you listen to your MP3?

That would be interesting...

Yes, I think it is interesting. It doesn't matter where I am in the house. The wiring of the light switch affects the sound on the MP3 player, as much as it does any audio system in the house. I classify the effect under a phenomenon I call "advanced polarity". Which itself is part of a larger phenomenon, of which you can probably guess by now.


With all the idiots of the world wiring things, you'd almost think you could identify properly wired rooms you encountered!

No, I'm not that good. I can only identify what I think is properly wired, after opening up the light switch and critically listening to both conditions. Although I don't necessarily feel I've done enough of these experiments to put a 100% stamp on this (hence the post, to see if anyone was willing to help with my research!), I've never not been able to identify a difference in the attempts I've tried; be it at my place or a friend's. But I don't listen to a stereo and say "Hmm.... I think what's wrong with the sound here is the light switch must be wired wrong". However, I have been known, often enough, to properly identify incorrect speaker polarity, without knowing in advance there was a problem with the wiring.

cyclebrain
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?

Maybe I misunderstood something in the original post.
First of all under no circumstance should anyone use a dimmer control on any circuit that contains any load other than an incandessent lamp. Ever. Dimmers use either SCRs or TRIACs both of which do terrible things to the shape of a sin wave.
Normal AC wiring uses Black and White wires. Red wires usually are reserved for 220 or circuits with two circuit switches.
While an AC signal by definition has no polarity, One should not switch the wires to an outlet because many appliances are designed based on the electrical code using the larger left side connector as being tied to neutral and not being hot.

michiganjfrog
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?


Quote:
Maybe I misunderstood something in the original post. First of all under no circumstance should anyone use a dimmer control on any circuit that contains any load other than an incandessent lamp. Ever. Dimmers use either SCRs or TRIACs both of which do terrible things to the shape of a sin wave. Normal AC wiring uses Black and White wires. Red wires usually are reserved for 220 or circuits with two circuit switches. While an AC signal by definition has no polarity, One should not switch the wires to an outlet because many appliances are designed based on the electrical code using the larger left side connector as being tied to neutral and not being hot.

Maybe you misunderstood a few things. We were talking about light switches, not electrical outlets. 110/120v stuff. Sometimes the wiring is black/red, sometimes black/white, and sometimes you can't tell, because at my friend's place where I was installing the dimmer and doing the audio experiment, the insulation is burned up, so both wires are a shade of grey/black. I never talked about using a dimmer on anything but an incandescent fixture (halogen, actually). Although some fluorescent bulbs and fixtures can handle this. Yeah, I'd rather not use a dimmer, for all the corruption it does to the line and whatnot, but I felt it was really necessary in this insatllation.

Stephen Scharf
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?

Can't say I've ever looked into this, but I guess I could on a rainy day when things are slow at home.

My only experience is with the polarity of electrical outlets.

papaned
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?

Frog-is your sound system on a separate dedicated power line comming from it's own cct. breaker in your power panel ?

michiganjfrog
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Re: Does house wiring affect audio sound?


Quote:
Frog-is your sound system on a separate dedicated power line comming from it's own cct. breaker in your power panel ?

It wouldn't matter. As mentioned, the change in sound could be observed on a battery operated mp3 player, as well as electrically operated audio gear.

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