Please Do Not Waste Your Money on Fancy Power Cables, Plugs, or Outlets

Stereophile reviewer Jason Victor Serinus owns what appears to be a half-million-dollar-plus Hi-Fi system. It includes, among other things, a dCS Vivaldi Apex DAC, a Vivaldi Upsampler Plus, a Vivaldi Master Clock, an Innuos Statement NextGen Music Service, a Dan D’Agostino Momentum HD preamp and Progression M550 monoblocks, Wilson Alexia V speakers, various Nordost cables, a Grand Prix Monza 8-shelf double audio rack ($29,500 alone!) and amp stands, and power conditioners from AudioQuest and Stromtank. (Don’t get me started on his absurd review of a Nordost network switch, which remains in his system.)

According this this recent review, Mr. Serinus has also spent tens of thousands of dollars (and likely more) hiring consultants and electricians to upgrade the wiring in his listening room, including adding AudioQuest outlets and a dedicated line with “10-gauge copper conductors in metal-clad cable, the hot, neutral, and earth ground conductors twisted around each other instead of running parallel as they do in typical cable (think Romex).” According to Mr. Serinus, “[t]wisting the conductors helps with common-mode noise cancellation, the grounded metal sheath shields noise, and the large, 10-gauge conductors reduce the resistance of the circuit.”

Putting aside the accuracy of those claims and the effect (if any) on his system’s performance, Mr. Serinus goes on to admit that despite his large investment, he “could do nothing about the aluminum wiring” running “underground from the transformer across the street” from his house to his electric meter. This aluminum wiring, according to Mr. Serinus, is “notorious for adding noise to the line and muddying bass.”

So let’s get this straight, Mr. Serinus spent tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade the wiring from his electric panel to the outlets in his listening room despite knowing that his panel is fed by many meters of aluminum wiring (and who knows what before that). I find that baffling, if not insane.

For starters, given his perfectionist (some would say snobbish) tendencies, Mr. Serinus is not going to power his extravagant Hi-Fi system with the “dirty” power coming through that aluminum wiring; he is going to use one of his three(!) power conditioners to ensure his expensive equipment gets “clean” power. So what difference does it make whether that “dirty” power goes through several extra meters of standard copper wiring, outlets, and power cords (or aluminum for that matter)? If those expensive conditioners work as advertised, it should make no difference at all. In other words, why spend tens of thousands of dollars cleaning up the last leg of your power delivery system if you are going to filter the power anyway? Mr. Serinus never says. ( I recognize that the $100,000+ amplifiers reveiwed by Mr. Serinus required him to bypass his power conditioners, but that is not the norm for his system and he did much of the electrical work before being tasked with that review. In addition, as dedicated as he may be, I can’t imagine he would expend that much money and effort to facilitate a single review.)

Moreover, even if Mr. Serinus planned to abandon his power conditioners permanently, he does not explain how upgrading the last several meters of his power delivery system could possibly improve the sound of his system given the many meters of “noisy” aluminum wiring immediately preceding those upgrades, not to mention the countless miles of unknown wiring preceding the transformer at his curb, which itself is likely “noisy.” Even the strongest proponents of bespoke copper wiring, outlets, and power cords would have to concede that they do not filter or improve “dirty” power. At most, they simply do not add any additional “noise.” So if Mr. Serinus’s power is coming through many meters of aluminum wiring, upgrading the copper wiring that follows is not going to remedy the “noise” or “muddiness” problems that he identifies. Yet that did not stop Mr. Serinus from spending lavishly on that upgrade, for reasons he does not explain and which remain a mystery to me.

The larger point here, however, is not about Mr. Serinus’s house. It is about the snakeoil salesmen who tell you that replacing an electrical outlet or a power cord with fancy copper is going to improve the quality of the power reaching your system. It will not, in part for the reason Mr. Serinus inadvertently identifies: we do not control the miles of wiring in the power grid preceding that outlet. Barring some defect, a standard electrical outlet or a standard 12 gauge copper power cord is going to transmit power from your wall to your equipment without having any perceptible effect on the quality of that power. To the extent you have “dirty” power (which can in fact be measured), the cause is almost certainly out of your control. So do yourself a favor and don’t buy into the hype.

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