The Gy8 Electrical Installation

Previous experience has shown the fundamental value of a meticulously configured AC supply feeding any high-quality audio system. Indeed, it’s actually a pre-requisite when it comes to maximising performance potential and achieving consistent results, within and between different systems and equipment.

However, in a review context it’s not as simple as go for the best solution regardless, as one of the equipment categories that needs to be tested is AC distribution and conditioning devices, including those that aim to ‘correct’ the inaccuracies and eliminate pollution from standard domestic AC supplies – an important consideration for listeners (such as those in apartments) who find it difficult or impossible to improve the wiring beyond the wall socket. Fortunately, with three listening spaces to work with, a range of solutions offering different scenarios was possible. After lengthy consultation with Russ Andrews, one of the first to bang the drum when it came to AC supply quality and still one of the most forward thinkers, especially when it comes to the electrical infrastructure within the house (as opposed to the system) we arrived at the following three topologies.

Existing Electrical Layout

The building is a large structure originally built around 1700 as four separate but conjoined properties (two cottages or a cottage and workshop, a Cuverie [winery] and barn). These have been combined over the years to create a single dwelling, finally completed by the addition of the barn, although this organic growth has left the services (water, heating and electricity) as something of a patchwork. Thus, although the building receives a single feed from the national grid, which is then divided between four separate fuse-boards/zones. These roughly translate into:

  • Main house downstairs (including the Studio)
  • Main house upstairs (including the reading Room)
  • Kitchen, and bathrooms.
  • Garage and barn (including the Music Room)

This has the benefit of at least separating the three listening areas, as well as keeping them distinct from the ‘noisy’ kitchen and bathroom circuits, with their appliances, water-heaters, fans and the like. More problematic is the structure of the building, with solid walls up to 75cm/30” thick. Fortunately, local electricians are well used to such challenges and come equipped with drills that wouldn’t look out of place in the Terminator’s arsenal.

The Studio

The Studio is both the smallest space and the one most distant from the main AC inlet. As such it seemed the most sensible (as well as practical) option for preserving a ‘standard domestic supply’. The only audiophile provision was the creation of a clean ground for use with in-room AC treatment or distribution solutions, for which we used a short run of Russ Andrews Technical Ground Weave, crimped to a standard ground post, sunk in the back garden. The cable is an eight wire, woven, low-impedance, low inductance design closely related to the Kimber woven speaker cables and sharing their self-shielding resistance to RFI. We might live in a relatively low RFI environment (my mobile will only find two networks, one of which is ours and the other is very weak) but I have no desire to make that situation worse by connecting the AC safety ground to a series of aerials capable of collecting stray RF energy, whether it belongs to us or somebody else.

The only other remedial action taken was to clean and tighten the connections and contacts in the wall socket that feeds the system. This is of course an EU type Schuko, but that’s my preferred type anyway and the one I chose to use, even in the UK.

Read more

The Reading Room

The reading Room is located almost adjacent to the main AC inlet for the building. This allowed us to adopt an extremely direct, if slightly unusual approach to the system supply. First we installed a Russ Andrews Upgraded Non RCD Consumer Unit to create a totally separate, dedicated ring for the audio installation. Being in France, we were able to select the plastic housing version, which in our experience sounds better than the metal-bodied units mandated by UK electrical standards. The main AC inlet is located in a stairwell on the front of the house, allowing us to run cables up the tower and then through the main wall, directly behind where the system is sited – a total distance that’s a little over two metres. We used Russ Andrews Superior Mains Install Cable to create the ring (a 16-wire weave with a central, heavy duty ground and PTFE insulation, running in a wide-diameter external, flexible trunking) but instead of terminating at wall sockets, Russ suggested that we hardwire directly into one of his eight-way PowerBlocks, equipped with European UltraSockets, thus creating the most direct and lowest impedance supply. It is an incredibly neat solution that is only really practical because of the short cable runs involved (the block arrived with the cables hardwired in place).

In addition, a secondary option was provided, in the shape of a pair of UK-type UltraSockets, fed from the standard domestic ring, allowing the use of UK-sourced in-room treatment products (as well as all those UK power cables sitting in my cupboards). Both these and the eight-way power block were provided with a clean ground path, again run with the Technical Ground Weave.

Read more

The Music Room

The largest, most ambitious and purpose specific of the three listening spaces, the Music Room is designed to offer a room worthy of the most capable and extravagant systems available. As such, you might think that it would be a prima facia case for the direct elegance adopted for the primary feed in the Reading Room, but two factors militated against this: the first was the lengths of the cables involved, practical considerations making free runs an almost obligatory requirement. Even so, we could potentially still have hardwired a distribution block on-site, except for the second factor – the number of big systems that actually require more than eight sockets! With multi-box digital sources becoming evermore prevalent and the requirement to run duplicate, equivalent units within the system as an essential review function, the need to run ten or twelve power cords is actually becoming the rule rather than the exception. Finally, adopting conventional sockets would also allow us to offer representative operating conditions for the AC distribution and treatment products that are so important to and such a crucial part of those extravagant, high-end systems.

The Basic hardware and topology is the same as that employed for the Reading Room, with a dedicated DCU and Superior Mains Install cable ring running from the AC inlet across the garage area and into the barn, a distance of around eight-metres. The cable is routed down the outside of the Music Room wall before feeding directly through a large diameter channel cut through the substantial stonework, this an attempt to minimize direct acoustic energy from attacking the cable run. Once inside the listening environment, a simple wooden box was created to space the two UltraSockets off of the solid wall. The ring was then extended a further five meters (again, outside the listening space itself) to another UltraSocket at the far end of the room, beside the speakers, creating an AC supply suitable for powered or part-powered designs (sub-woofers, electrostatics or speakers with active bass) or mono-blocs if we should choose to site them at the speaker end of the room. These sets of outlets offer the only AC on this side of the room, a basic domestic ring being provided on the far side, away from signal or speaker cables, to power record cleaning machines, the LP DeMag and other such devices. Naturally, all sockets on the dedicated audio ring are in turn connected to a dedicated clean ground with a pair of horizontal and vertically disposed rods in the garden (adjacent to the well – one day, if I’m feeling brave I might try hammering a ground post straight into the bottom of the well, but there’s a significant jungle to be tamed first!).

Read more

Results And Importance

With the ability to use clean grounds or not as well as to compare the domestic feed to the dedicated audio AC supply (in the Reading Room) the benefits of the Russ Andrews installations are quite literally clear to hear, with a significant drop in noise floor and grain within the soundstage, resulting in a blacker backdrop and pretty dramatic and musically important improvements in dynamic range, resolution, dimensionality, tonal color and immediacy. None of that is exactly a surprise, especially if you’ve used the Russ Andrews AC components before. But as a reviewer, there were two important fringe benefits – the consistent sound of the various systems, making time of day or day of the week far less of an issue (a critical consideration when working to deadlines, but equally important if you don’t get to choose when you listen) and the ease with which we could hear both the character of review units and any changes in system set-up or presentation. With so many wide bandwidth speaker systems in play, the ability to hear the impact of tiny shifts in position is crucial to ensuring not just that the speakers are delivering their full potential, but that we reach that point in the shortest possible time.

Experience with the new installation has already proved just what a critical contribution it makes to the reviewing process, both in terms of ensuring that the systems perform as they should and also to the limits of their ability, vital if the conclusions reached are to have any value to readers – or any lasting comparative value. But as well as making reviewing easier, the dedicated AC supplies also make the systems much, much more engaging and enjoyable to listen to, which really matters if listening to music at home is going to remain a pleasure rather than just a job. That the systems spread throughout the house continue to deliver so much musical pleasure is both important and further reinforces the contribution of the AC foundation provided by the dedicated AC components. It doesn’t take long to realise that, having had this particular tool in the box, there really is no going back. You can read more about the Russ Andrews products and AC installations in general at: