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Voltage Regulation and concern for my Cambridge Azure 640A

 

Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 14
Registered: Mar-09
Hi folks, I'll try and keep this simple and to the point. I have a Cambridge Audio Azure 640A stereo receiver that has worked perfectly for two years or so. With the heat and a new tenant above us also stressing the electrical system in this old farm house, I've noticed the lights dimming when the AC kicks in for sometimes a second or two. I have my audio and visual system hooked up to a Monster Blackout HDP 650 power strip, and have not noted any sagging or interruption in performance of the stereo/TV. However, just this evening we were hooking up the laptop to stream a movie. There was no sound being received by the receiver through the line we've dedicated for this. The laptops output is fine, tested with headphones and no damage exists with the cable. I switched the source buttons on the Cambridge several times to no avail. Once I powered down, unplugged, replugged and started the Cambridge back up, all seemed to be OK. It really, really worried me, and I quickly ordered two of the following http://www.amazon.com/APC-LE1200-Automatic-Voltage-Regulator/dp/B00009RA60 out of fear of really ruining such a great system.

I'm still rather worried about this. Have I already done irreparable damage to my system for not purchasing such a regulator prior to all of the variance in my voltage? ....and yes, the Cambridge is beyond warranty. I fear I might have stressed it and fried something from neglect of power regulation. Am I worrying too much, or what? Please advise.
 

Gold Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 1713
Registered: Oct-10
If the receiver seems ok, keep an eye on it and get that regulator in place ASAP! If you own the house, maybe see about upgrading your wiring. If not, maybe see the landlord about it.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 15
Registered: Mar-09
As of my posting this thread last evening, the entire system has been disconnected until the regulator arrives, and Amazon declares it as shipped! So, now it's a finger-crossing waiting game. We rent the first floor of a large 200+ year old farm house, and the owners just use it as a cash cow with no intent on doing anything but sucking money from tenants until it falls to the decay of time. We are looking for a house of our own as I write this. But I'm so worried about my beloved Cambridge.

Is there anything in particular I should be looking for specifically, that might indicate burned-out or compromised parts?

Many thanks!
John
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16523
Registered: May-04
.

Isn't it amazing how modern electronics operate? I copied your URL for the voltage regulators and plugged it into a search engine. Which did what? It gave me this thread as its only hit.


You might easily be reacting to the wrong thing. Every now and again it's not unusual for a digital source to not make a good "handshake" with the other component. If the receiver had all of its panel lights lit despite not outputting any sound, then the receiver probably didn't notice anything overly peculiar about the AC voltage. While the Monster line power strip is only reasonably small to no protection against under voltage conditions, I can't tell you the voltage regulators you've ordered are going to improve the situation. First, I can't find what you've ordered and, second, you are stacking up AC "protection" devices one on top of the other. In a way, this is somewhat like having a broken leg and then gargling with mouthwash to make sure you don't have a breath issue. You need to identify the actual problem and then attack it from a more logical path than the cheapest route avalable. A call to an electrician might be (read; "is") in order to ask about upgrading the service panel and possibly moving your audio gear to a dedicated line which wouldn't have a shared ground path with other appliances in the house. This would also provide a typically quite noticeable improvement in sound quality for your investment.

Stacking volatge conditioners is normally a bad idea as they more often than not interfere with the actual current delivery to the system. This in turn starves the dynamics of the system when large current reserves are called on - a not at all uncommon situation when watching movies. This is a common compliant with lower priced AC products such as the Monster power strip - the system actually sounds better with the strip out of the way. Additionally, if the strip has been in place for more than two years, the devices which serve to "protect" the equipment will eventually age and loose much of their ability to perform adequately when called upon. Though probably not what you want to ear, most of these strips are rather ineffectual at "protecting" the system to begin with and only become more so over time. Panamax and Furman are the devices of choice for adequate AC line conditioning and protection and even they should be replaced or serviced periodically - more so if you live in an area with large voltage spikes or service disruptions.

So, bottom line; you aren't certain from what you've posted the receiver was subject to any under voltage conditions. Under voltage is far preferrable to over voltage as the latter can seriously damage components in a short time. Have an electrician measure - or show you how to safely measure - the actual line voltage at different times of the day. You should have some idea whether the line is holding steady at about 110-120 VAC or whether large fluctuations are occurring. Lights dimming will be an "undervoltage" condition. The system shouldn't be seriously bothered by that - though computers are highly sensitive to voltage fluctuations - and the receiver should be fine for now. I would be worried about any spikes in voltage which might occur as the line comes back up after a large appliance turns on plus I would want to isolate the system from the ground plane related noises of such appliances.

If it were me, I woudn't bother with applying BandAids to the probem. I would call a qualified electrican and have the house problems taken care of as best as possible for an old house and your budget. And I would eventually investigate a higher quality AC conditioning system than the Monster power strips.




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Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 16
Registered: Mar-09
Well, I can contact the landlord about getting an electrician in, but most likely they'll say there's no problem to be worried about and tell me to have a nice day and hang up the phone. They saw no need to respond to my insistence that the old outlets be changed to grounded ones when we moved in about four years ago. So I changed them myself. There had been a ground line run through most of the house including the outlet the stereo is connected to, but they never bothered to put in new outlets. I wired in new grounded outlets, checked them for safety and all unbeknownst to the landlord. This is however the extent to which my expertise lies.

I could call an electrician myself, but a) that could get expensive really quick, and b) they wouldn't be able to touch anything without consent of the landlord.

So, I figure we're back to the band-aide option until we find a better place to live. It sucks having discriminating tastes on a shoe string budget.

Should I dispense with the Monster Blackout when the the regulator arrives? Or just keep it in line for extra outlets?

Here is another link to the item. Just paste it into the address bar and it should come up.
http://www.apc.com/products/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=LE1200

Thanks for everyone's help! Much appreciated.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16529
Registered: May-04
.

Personally, I'd dispense with the Monster unit. But the APC unit isn't rated for much in the way of current - 10 amps - and its surge entry rate is pretty low.

Are you certain the ground wire was actually connected to anything? If there is no earth ground on the system, the effective disipation of any surge protector is halved as there is nowwhere to dump the voltage other than on the ground/neutral leg of the AC line. There needs to be either a grounding rod somewhere outside of the building that makes a good earthing scheme or, at the very least, a cold water pipe ground. If you have neither, you have no ground no matter what outlets you have.




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Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 17
Registered: Mar-09
Well, the reviews looked good and it was the best thing I could afford and I needed two of them. One for the stereo and one for the computer. Are there any devices in the less-than $60 per unit range that you would suggest. I could always return these I suppose. I want to protect my gear, but I can't go overboard here. I got a car in the shop as we speak with a tall order. Thinking now of that ad slogan from Morton Salt "When it rains it pours."

I'll check the fuse box down stairs and see if that ground is connected to something. Wouldn't the outlet tester disclose an improper ground if there was a problem?

And thank you again! I truly appreciate it!
 

Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 18
Registered: Mar-09
I was able to trace the line from the outlet to the mess of fuse boxes and the spaghetti bowl of wires and cable. All I can deduce is that it's a mess of wire and boxes. Sad, I know. It is what it is, but I can tell you that my pocket sized outlet tester tests this outlet, and all that I've changed, as good. That's about all I can say on the wiring .....unfortunately.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16533
Registered: May-04
.

Then you have to go with what you got and can afford.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 2489
Registered: Oct-07
You MAY have opened yourself to some liability by messing with the electric in ANY way other than plugging stuff in.

Perhaps, ratting the owner out about sub code electric in a rental place will get some action.
Maybe, paying for the electrician out of your OWN pocket can later be deducted from the rent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Receptacle_tester
This and a DVM and you can check your grounding situation....
But an electicain may have a 'megger' to check actual ground resistance.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 19
Registered: Mar-09
Leo, thanks. I do have one of those testers featured in your link. The outlet, and all others I changed, check out OK. The wire running through the house from the boxes downstairs are definitely newer and have a ground as part of their construction. It looks like they ran the line, most likely connected at the boxes but never connected the other end of the ground to the old outlets, because there was nothing to connect them too. But this is all I know.

As far as liability, I'm not too concerned. I honestly don't think they would have any clue who installed new outlets. If you met them, you would understand.

I also just received my APC voltage regulators yesterday, and in the process of hooking it up to the stereo/TV and getting it situated, I must have nudged the voltage switch from 120v to 110v. This explains the "high voltage" indicator light staying on. I tested the stereo before realizing this, and the stereo played just fine. It was on for maybe an hour or so, before I noticed the voltage switch had been nudged. While nothing happened to give cause for concern otherwise, I am concerned none the less. It's properly set to 120v now and all seems OK, but could I have done any serious harm in that hour?
 

Gold Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 1741
Registered: Oct-10
Did you mean that the voltage switch was on 220 volts? 110 volts certainly won't hurt anything and I can't imagine why a voltage regulator would switch between 110 & 120 volts. Pls clarify before we go any further. Thanks.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16551
Registered: May-04
.

All the light means is the voltage was higher than "110VAC". You would need to know the actual voltage, as I suggested above, to have an idea about under or over voltaging the equipment. I can't honestly imagine the voltage in your area has reached a dangerous level. It's not uncommon for the voltage in any one area to fluctuate over the course of a day, a week or a month as demands shift due to varying situations. Most manufacturers - other than the real cheap kind - have built in sufficient headroom in the products to have no problems with short spurts of higher than normal voltage. But, I will restate the issue, you need to know what the actual voltage at the outlet is over the course of a day, a week and a month. If your electric supplier is delivering 130VAC on a near constant schedule, then you have something to worry about. Since that is extremely unlikely to be the case anywhere in the US, there is really nothing to worry about as far as over voltage. Be concerned about the grounding of the system and any noises which would be entering the system through the ground plane of the AC wiring. Switch on/off of major appliances can cause quality probems and might possibly wear down power supply components. But you can stop worrying about your equipment being damaged by over voltage once you've checked the outlets. Keep the computer away from any under or over voltage conditions by keeping them on the APC units.



.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 20
Registered: Mar-09
Thanks guys! Much appreciated. I have an old multimeter that I really don't trust. I've been meaning to buy a good one, and now looks like a good time to consider that. I did recently read about some ways of testing to see if something is "bootleg grounded" as described in Leo's link (toward the bottom of the article) and I'll do that test then, but I've never heard anything but music, or the film being watched, coming through the system, it's always been dead quiet save a little reel-to-reel tape hiss from the master source, so I guess that's a good sign.

SuperJazzy: No, in fact the exact three designations on that switch are 110V, 120V and 127V. Judging by what you and Jan have just said, it would seem a little odd they would have such close designations. But it's good to know I'm safe. I will say these units inspire confidence in their build alone.

Thanks so much for your input!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16552
Registered: May-04
.

Those are fairly common settings for a voltage switch. They respresent the typical "norms" for where you want to see the incoming voltage average out. Or, at least, the first two do. I would say the last setting, the 127VAC, is there only to warn you of severe over voltage conditions which might be caused by spikes. Spikes are far more damaging than would be a continuous high average voltage. Let's say the AC and the refrigerator both turned on at the same time. The resulting dip in voltage and high current draw might be followed by a short term spike which could be rather high as the sagging line voltage attempts to come back up to its average voltage. While the spike is only momentary, it can be quite dangerous to sensitive electronics which are designed to run on millivolt levels. Such spikes are typically accompanied by a ragged looking up and down AC voltage which slowly tapers off to average. As stated, line voltage fluctuations are almost constant in some areas and most consumer audio gear can deal with those conditions. Old houses can be quite a problem due to insufficient updating of the elctrical systems. Most old houses that haven't been brought up to code will have low amperage service panels, often two wire, and some might even still have screw in fuses and old tube and knob wiring. I live in a historical district of Dallas and there are numerous century old homes that are not at present city code level. Pretty much no one sells two conductor Romex as a stock item nowdays so you'll see a lot of three conductor cabling with no ground attachment or only a shoddy grounding scheme that is not safe in areas that have been remodelled aesthetically but not physically rehabbed to bring them into the 21st century.

If you are lving in an area of the country which is subject to electrical storms and power outages, Jonathan, you might eventually want to look into a better all 'round protection system for your audio system and computer.


.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Stratquack

Near Philly

Post Number: 21
Registered: Mar-09
I will be looking into that Jan. As this house is unquestionably older than 200 years, it's electrical system, as visually described above as spaghetti, is a real mish-mash of stuff. The main box is newer and is a circuit braker type, as is the one for the apartment above. The box for our floor is old and holds screw-in fuses that I've not had to replace, fortunately.

With some changes in jobs and so forth, we are looking to move within the year. I will be continuing some research into these things as I want to make sure to avoid as many problems as possible in our next home - once bitten....

The APC units seem to be doing their job well though, I was just listening to "21" by Adele and while the lights flickered a few times while playing, the APC unit "clicked" to transfer on the relay (as I've read it's supposed to do) and there was no audible or performance glitch in the slightest. Even one small light run through the APC lluminating the turntable, remained constant while others around it and not connected to the APC unit, flickered for a split second. So I guess this is a good sign.

Again, thank you all!
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