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Low studio voltage[/audio quality,equipment failure,etcetc
Old 10th September 2012
  #1
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Low studio voltage[/audio quality,equipment failure,etcetc

I'm seeing extremely low voltage in my home studio on/off for the past few weeks.hot weather isn't helping.
furman power strips are going down to 100-98 volts
small console..lots of outboard.
my avocet and Bricasti are not happy.
older mid century house.my electrical definitely needs an upgrade asap.

anyone share experiences w/ outright equipment failure and loss of audio quality due to low voltages?
thanks in advance!
Old 10th September 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
The one other thing you can check, because it's cheap (and does not require a re-evaluation of the whole-house wiring) is to check for corrosion/loose connection at the "main service entrance". This is a major cause of "sag" in an older property.

Do the folks you share a power pole (or transformer) with have a similar problem?
Old 10th September 2012
  #3
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➑️
I'm seeing extremely low voltage in my home studio on/off for the past few weeks.hot weather isn't helping.
furman power strips are going down to 100-98 volts
small console..lots of outboard.
my avocet and Bricasti are not happy.
older mid century house.my electrical definitely needs an upgrade asap.

anyone share experiences w/ outright equipment failure and loss of audio quality due to low voltages?
thanks in advance!
Hi

That's California power issues compounded with out of date wiring being the probable cause.

If the house has not been rewired recently with adequate numbers of power sockets you may be stringing out lots of power strips to distribute the power to your equipment.

You could use a digital multimeter on AC volts to see if you are getting voltage drops in the individual sockets in your room.

It's not an easy question to answer but most sensibly designed gear should have good headroom in the power supplies so they should not drop out of regulation between, for instance, 115 volts and 100 volts.

If they do that's wrist slapping for the designer of the gear.

Might be worth having a qualified electrician around to check things and quote for upgrade.

One thing that amazes me about the USA, putting men on the moon, etc., is the archaic 1920's policy of stringing power wiring and transformers on wooden poles down the streets making a lattice work of HT wires over intersections.

A tree falls, a car hits a pole, and electricity is cut for hours or days. Recently two people were killed because a car hit a fire hydrant, then a power pole. Rescuers were electrocuted in the pool created around the car.

All preventable if the cables were buried in the street... But that's more money, less profit, etc

Posted from my iPhone
Old 10th September 2012
  #4
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
thanks for the replies guys.
I'm not sure if my neighbors are having the same issues.
the ac panel on the side of the house is pretty old.
the Bricasti shuts down a relay or something[clicks] audio stops passing leds freeze.
the cranesong avocet remote stops and resets itself constantly.
with all this voltage sag,just wonder if the headroom/sonics on all the pre's /console are affected as well
Old 10th September 2012
  #5
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666666's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Good replies above....

I'll just add... if you continue to have brown outs and its due to bad service from your utility (which you may not be able to do anything about, you can complain but it may not be rectified so fast, if ever), you may want to just run an isolation transformer in front of your gear. They're not cheap, but they provide super clean, super steady power.

The transformer will give you a constant 120V all day long, regardless of the incoming power. Well, pretty close anyway. I forget the specs, but if the incoming power drops to say 105V, the transformer output might only drop just a volt or two below 120. Overall, it'll keep you going just fine during brown outs, awesome regulation.

I just came across this snippet from a recording article I wrote a while back:

--If brown-outs and other power irregularities are a problem, a Sola-Hevi-Duty CVS ferroresonant transformer is a good choice. Ferroresonant transformers such as the Sola CVS series are rated to keep voltage at +/-1% at all times, even during severe brown-outs, plus offer very low harmonic distortion and excellent spike protection. The only "downside" is that the unit is large, heavy, makes noise and throws off heat, all normal for such a unit. It is best to locate a ferroresonant transformer near the breaker panel, and NOT inside your recording room.--

Here's a link to the CVS isolation tranny that I use:

http://www.emersonindustrial.com/en-...-Hardwired.pdf

These units are for hardwired applications, but I added flexible cords with male and female receptacles to mine so I can take it anywhere and just plug it in ahead of my gear. But indeed the thing is heavy and makes noise, you need to keep it somewhere outside the recording work space. It's gonna give you some seriously safe, clean and stable power.

You just need to figure out and choose the correct VA size for your application. You don't want to go too small or too big. I think mine is a 1000VA and it seems fine for handling quite a few racks of outboard and a somewhat small / medium mixer... but if you were running a really huge console and/or big tape machine etc, you'd very likely need something bigger or maybe multiples.
Old 10th September 2012
  #6
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drBill's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I'm in so cal and have had similar. I could NEVER get any decent response from edison until the local transformer completely torched, and coincidentally I completely rebuilt the house/studio/electrical with a major remodel/addition.

I'm not sure which did the trick, but power has been more stable as of late. I've had edison deliver anywhere from 90v to 140v in a 24 hour period (low during afternoon, over the top @ night.).

I ended up getting a few of these :

Furman AR-1215 Voltage Regulator at zZounds

90-140 in and I'm still getting 117v. Did the trick.
Old 10th September 2012
  #7
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🎧 15 years
Hi 666666

That's a good call... I had forgotten about those transformers that I studied at college 40+ years ago. Good to see they still have applications and still available.

Just mount it well away from your studio gear....

Posted from my iPhone
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #8
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1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff_T ➑️

Hi 666666

That's a good call... I had forgotten about those transformers that I studied at college 40+ years ago. Good to see they still have applications and still available.

Just mount it well away from your studio gear....
Cheers, Geoff!
Old 10th September 2012
  #9
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RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
excellent information.thank you.

So have any of you guys ever experienced a drop or deterioration in audio quality when your voltage got super low?
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #10
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drBill's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➑️
excellent information.thank you.

So have any of you guys ever experienced a drop or deterioration in audio quality when your voltage got super low?
Absolutely. But it's a game of degree's.
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #11
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RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill ➑️
Absolutely. But it's a game of degree's.
absolutely Bill.
I'm second guessing my current mixes..thinking its the low power and not my actual lack of talent lol!
Old 10th September 2012
  #12
Gear Addict
 
C.Judd Karn's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Round badge,

Get a balanced power unit. I had the same problem; low power causing both my guitar amps and recording gear to sag, thin out and loose headroom. Monster balanced power fixed it so well that I bring one with me when I do locating recording. Worth every Nickel
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #13
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666666's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➑️

...So have any of you guys ever experienced a drop or deterioration in audio quality when your voltage got super low?...
Never quite measured, studied or compared, but I'd say you might experience a slight "difference" in the performance of the gear as opposed to a "deterioration" of performance.

A few times while recording during times of fluctuating voltage (before I got my isolation transformer), I did notice a slight difference in sonics between different sets of takes (during the same session, with all other factors exactly the same), as if the response of the mic pres had been changing. During this project the voltage may have fluctuated as much as 15 volts (from say 108 to 123V). I never noticed anything similar when the voltage was steady (using the same gear). It's possible that what I observed was due to some other gremlin factor, but it wouldnt seem too far fetched for a fluctuation of 15 volts to cause a slight change in the response of electronic gear. After I got the iso-transformer, I never had that experience again.
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #14
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Mixing Suite's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRJanuary ➑️
The one other thing you can check, because it's cheap (and does not require a re-evaluation of the whole-house wiring) is to check for corrosion/loose connection at the "main service entrance". This is a major cause of "sag" in an older property.
Great advise!!! 9 time out of 10 this is the culprit with older wiring. This would definitely be my next move.
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by C.Judd Karn ➑️
Round badge,

Get a balanced power unit. I had the same problem; low power causing both my guitar amps and recording gear to sag, thin out and loose headroom. Monster balanced power fixed it so well that I bring one with me when I do locating recording. Worth every Nickel
Thanks Chris.problem is I had a monster unit catch fire and nearly burn the old place down.. faulty build my tech said.
a bit weary of monster power products lol.
Old 10th September 2012 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 ➑️
Never quite measured, studied or compared, but I'd say you might experience a slight "difference" in the performance of the gear as opposed to a "deterioration" of performance.

A few times while recording during times of fluctuating voltage (before I got my isolation transformer), I did notice a slight difference in sonics between different sets of takes (during the same session, with all other factors exactly the same), as if the response of the mic pres had been changing. During this project the voltage may have fluctuated as much as 15 volts (from say 108 to 123V). I never noticed anything similar when the voltage was steady (using the same gear). It's possible that what I observed was due to some other gremlin factor, but it wouldnt seem too far fetched for a fluctuation of 15 volts to cause a slight change in the response of electronic gear. After I got the iso-transformer, I never had that experience again.
interesting.thanks.
Old 10th September 2012
  #17
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KRStudio's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
2 years ago I got wild fluctuations in voltage and cycled about every 40 seconds. Turned out to be the neutral into the house was loose. SDG&E came out and fixed it. No more issues. Ask Edison to come out and check the supply coming into the studio. Also ask where to send the bill from damage caused by poor power. They will be out ASAP.
Old 10th September 2012
  #18
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➑️
Thanks Chris.problem is I had a monster unit catch fire and nearly burn the old place down.. faulty build my tech said.
a bit weary of monster power products lol.
Hi

I don't think balanced power will make any difference to wildly fluctuating AC input voltages... It will just pass them on to the secondary winding.

There are lots of products like that that were never available nor needed for decades in pro studios. If the studio is set up correctly they should not be necessary.

I agree that either an electrician or the power company should come out and check the input wiring to the building.

I don't have a lot of respect for the power companies because, if they set up the generation and distribution correctly for the assessed load, there is no excuse for brown outs. Think Enron and the tricks they played.

Posted from my iPhone
Old 10th September 2012
  #19
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cinealta's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
How many amps is your service? May need to upgrade that?
Old 11th September 2012
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
When I lived in LA, the LA DWP was horrible. I rarely had brown outs, but I regularly had major overages coming in. I'd call and the operator would say "but we haven't had other complaints.". I had 140 volts coming In and I blew up a Furman pl-plus. The purchase of an AR-1215 was one of my best purchases ever. At least with that, the DWP couldn't ruin my gear. I also bring an older AR-117 with me on all my remote gigs and it has saved my butt when I'm in a club and the fridge causes the voltage to sag.

Good luck with it and protect yourself because the utilities certainly won't.

-Ben
Old 11th September 2012
  #21
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gainreduction's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
This is a little off topic and I'm not offering this as a solution, I'm just curious.

Since you're in LA, wouldn't it be possible - in theory at least - to run an entire studio on solar power?

Expensive investment, I know.
Old 11th September 2012
  #22
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Greg Curtis's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
A bit OT, but his is a professional recording forum, so it still fits the general vibe here:

An issue that is being subtly broached here is home studio versus commercial studio. Most home studios are not legal businesses, i.e. not in zoned commercial or mixed use areas (or have a variance), do not operate under a business license, do not have business insurance and liability insurance, do not have commercial accounts with the power companies, and are not legitimate LLCs that have that street address listed as the place of business. So, complaints about power disrupting businesses will fall on deaf ears because it is a house, not a business.

At worst they could get a hit when the power company suddenly decides to make them a commercial customer, with an different rate and hefty fee structure. Then they tell the city zoning department... Grab those ankles...

Household electrical service is a different tier of service from commercial power. You can't expect them to care if your professional gear is not operating at a residential service point.

For example. My house, which sits on 1 acre in Los Angeles and is worth as much as my studio, has terrible power. Our transformer is black and rusted from age and forest fires, the power goes out monthly. The voltage is all over the place. The lights dim when the AC goes on, flickers when the coffee roaster is running. Terrible service, and my requests for upgraded line equipment is pretty much laughed at. Because everything that this normal house has works fine. And so it is...

My studio, on 7,000 square feet of land in Glendale is worth as much as a nice house, but far less than 90% of the businesses around me. I had an issue with some lights in the studio blinking occasionally. I called DWP, and they were out in less than an hour with a crew of 5 guys, climbing all over the place. They left a data recorder and logged the issue. They discovered the problem quickly (neighbor's switching gear on their printing press was going bad) and it was resolved in an impressively professional manner.

That is commercial service versus residential. Our commercial utility fees are astronomical, but it is cheap insurance against disaster. You get what you pay for.

Back on topic:

I would call my electrician and have him go over the panels and the entire service. Once everything is tight and clean, I'd then have him quote a new subpanel for audio only off of the mains. I actually did this when I moved to a new house last year. Now I know that the issues I will/do have comes from the lines, not shorts in the house. You wouldn't believe the amount of differed maintenance on old houses...

Greg
Old 11th September 2012 | Show parent
  #23
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Rick Sutton's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by KRStudio ➑️
2 years ago I got wild fluctuations in voltage and cycled about every 40 seconds. Turned out to be the neutral into the house was loose. SDG&E came out and fixed it. No more issues. Ask Edison to come out and check the supply coming into the studio. Also ask where to send the bill from damage caused by poor power. They will be out ASAP.
Yeah, that can be a real scary situation. We had that happen here and the voltage spikes were so severe I had to shut the studio down until it was resolved. It took one trip from an electrician and three trips out from the power company before the loose neutral was discovered at the power pole.
That was a high voltage situation and we also had a low voltage event years before that was sourced to a corroded "split bolt" on the service in the attic of the building.
Old 11th September 2012
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➑️
my avocet and Bricasti are not happy.
older mid century house.my electrical definitely needs an upgrade asap.

anyone share experiences w/ outright equipment failure and loss of audio quality due to low voltages?
thanks in advance!
Interesting, because at a seminar I attended with a number of top mic pre designers, they got insulted when the subject of low voltage and power supply design was brought up (and yes, Dave Hill was there...) , the pertinent comment being along the lines of, "do you really think that we don't know what we're doing..." so I would not expect problems from the Avocet, but maybe your power drops below what even a good power supply design can handle.

The way that I have solved this problem was to have a regulated power supply. I happen to have a very old Furman AR117, long out of date... but as long as it continues to supply a constant 117 volts (+/-) to my gear, I'll keep using it. (and I've had to kick it once or twice...) There are quite a few other options, at several price point, but none are cheap. You might also consider something like Equi=Tech balanced power.
Old 11th September 2012
  #25
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shortstory's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
That's a great story by Greg regarding commercial vs. residential power. I've seen posts about 'how much electricity bills cost for studios'. When I had a commercial studio at business rates, it was upwards of a grand a month. Now I have a full studio (albeit with an AWS that plugs in to the wall) and it's under $200; but it requires the same kind of attention that building an acoustically accurate control room does. I ended up using 70 dedicated amps (out of 200 for the whole house) with transformer balanced power and star grounding (the AC ground & the equipment ground are direct to copper buss into the earth).

Does this affect the actual quality of sound? Yes- absolutely. Dead quiet and headroom for days so it's worth it in the end.

And good point Geoff- fortunately NYC is one metropolis that did bury all infrastructure including power.

Round Badge- your studio is beautiful; it's worth it to have a licensed electrician look at the situation and upgrade accordingly. I would be worried that equipment could be damaged- although it's probably unlikely unless it spikes.
Old 11th September 2012 | Show parent
  #26
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Geoff_T's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by fifthcircle ➑️
When I lived in LA, the LA DWP was horrible. I rarely had brown outs, but I regularly had major overages coming in. I'd call and the operator would say "but we haven't had other complaints.". I had 140 volts coming In and I blew up a Furman pl-plus. The purchase of an AR-1215 was one of my best purchases ever. At least with that, the DWP couldn't ruin my gear. I also bring an older AR-117 with me on all my remote gigs and it has saved my butt when I'm in a club and the fridge causes the voltage to sag.

Good luck with it and protect yourself because the utilities certainly won't.

-Ben
Hi

Rather off topic but my distaste for the DWP comes from several angles...

1. Having spent over 50 years in the UK, I arrive in CA to find tangles of wires and transformers on poles, TV news of electricity failures due to trees or vehicles hitting the poles or wires, and roads so bad it reminded me of driving in Eastern block areas in the 1960's... e.g. huge pot holes in Sunset Boulevard, etc.

2. After the Governor at the time, lacking either knowledge or qualified advisers, did deals with Enron that pushed up prices that some companies went out of business. Enron later found to be corruption personified.

3. Tony Vilar (his real name), our notorious mayor of LA, nominated (I recall) the souls on the committee of the DWP, an organisation with millions of dollars stashed away in savings, some of which they were supposed to pay the city. They didn't and our Mayor said he was powerless to resolve the renege of payment. It did get paid eventually but I wonder if those millions could be better spent on getting their service more in line with the 21st century?

One lives in hope....
Old 11th September 2012
  #27
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cinealta's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Since we're on the topic of the DWP, the San Fernando Valley (SFV) would still be an arid chaparral desert if not for a young Irish DWP engineer by the name of William Mulholland, who brought water from the Owens Valley and transformed the SFV into a farming and suburban center. That gave rise to LA's first power plant at San Francisquito Canyon. Of course, Mulholland tipped off his LA buddies (Chandlers of LA Times & Dorothy Chandler Pavilion fame etc) to buy up the SFV for cheap and flip it once the water comes.
Old 12th September 2012 | Show parent
  #28
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Fleaman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff_T ➑️
One thing that amazes me about the USA, putting men on the moon, etc., is the archaic 1920's policy of stringing power wiring and transformers on wooden poles down the streets making a lattice work of HT wires over intersections.

A tree falls, a car hits a pole, and electricity is cut for hours or days. Recently two people were killed because a car hit a fire hydrant, then a power pole. Rescuers were electrocuted in the pool created around the car.

All preventable if the cables were buried in the street... But that's more money, less profit, etc

Posted from my iPhone
Actually they didn't hit a power pole, they hit a street light pole, which broke open at that base (sidewalk), exposing the wires to the water (from the broken hydrant). There were no sparks, arcing, etc., and 2 good samaritans came to help the driver out of the car and were electrocuted to death when they stepped into the water and grabbed the driver.

So in this case, the cables were in a sense buried in the street.
Old 12th September 2012 | Show parent
  #29
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cinealta's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff_T ➑️
One thing that amazes me about the USA, putting men on the moon, etc., is the archaic 1920's policy of stringing power wiring and transformers on wooden poles down the streets making a lattice work of HT wires over intersections.
Hey Geoff, you have to remember that cities like modern London have undergrounds because they were built on thousands of years of previous civilization (Roman garrison Londinium established c.43 AD). Whereas, a town like Los Angeles has only been around since about 1770 when the Spanish came, so no previous underground cities. Thus, we have to put most everything in the air.
Old 12th September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
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drBill's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by cinealta ➑️
Whereas, a town like Los Angeles has only been around since about 1770 when the Spanish came, so no previous underground cities. Thus, we have to put most everything in the air.
What about Orange County? Developed even later than LA, and most towns there have everything underground.
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