can ungrounded power make tube amps sound dull and dark?

vanguard

Member
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2,515
I moved into a new house a few months ago and discovered the outlets aren't grounded. All the classic symptoms are there: buzzing, popping, electricity running through the strings, etc. I swear, however, that my amps sound dark, dull, compressed, and generally ******. Could this be a symptom of ungrounded power as well? I can't find anything online about it. My 60's fender amps are in good repair, and I tried changing tubes.

And yes, I know it's dangerous, and I plan to update and ground ASAP. It's just really expensive, and I want to know why my tone sucks now.
 

ericb

Gold Supporting Member
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10,994
NO , if the change strictly is grounded to ungrounded. BUT the new place might have different line voltages than your normal places you've played and that can change the sound. My 1st suggestion is to take your amp(s) and plug them in anywhere else.. Do they still sound the same? IF they sound good again , then I'd try to measure the line voltage at home ,, or get a voltage regulator that will set it to 120. Good luck ,Eric
 

JB6464

Member
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5,171
I have this problem in my old house.
It's caused from line voltage dropping down to low so I bought a voltage regulator from amazon for around $50.00 and it keeps it around 120v now.
But every time it drops to 100v or less my amps sound dull and lifeless , best thing I ever did was buying that voltage regulator .
 

lkft

Member
Messages
1,294
Is it a new "new" house or a new "old" house? Any new construction would not have ungrounded recepts. Assuming your house is old, meaning old glasstic type outlet boxes and nothing metal to ground to I would suggest having an electrician come over and drive a ground rod and set you up with a nice, clean source of 110VAC power for you music gear tapped off the service entrance. If you want to DIY then let me know for some additional details, it's not hard to do. I'm also assuming your owning the house and not renting. If renting complain to the landlord and have him take care of it, after all it is a safety hazard. Good luck.
 

vanguard

Member
Messages
2,515
Is it a new "new" house or a new "old" house? Any new construction would not have ungrounded recepts. Assuming your house is old, meaning old glasstic type outlet boxes and nothing metal to ground to I would suggest having an electrician come over and drive a ground rod and set you up with a nice, clean source of 110VAC power for you music gear tapped off the service entrance. If you want to DIY then let me know for some additional details, it's not hard to do. I'm also assuming your owning the house and not renting. If renting complain to the landlord and have him take care of it, after all it is a safety hazard. Good luck.

Yeah, it's an old house from the mid 60's, "new"to me. I have a voltage reader that reads about 117 usually, but the lights do dim momentarily if I run a saw, or shop vac, etc. I would LOVE a DIY fix for the few outlets in my studio at least. I called an electrician and he estimated 6-8 grand to do the whole 1,000 sf house:messedup
 

lkft

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1,294
Ok great. Does the house have a panel board w/breakers or a fuse box? Is your studio on the first floor, basement, upstairs? I'm thinking the easiest way to get a decent ground is to find the closest copper water pipe and use that to clamp on a ground wire, run it to one of the outlets. Can you snap a pic or two of studio, panel board/fuse box and post?
 

zenas

Member
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8,871
Last place I lived had a shop building anytime you'd run a saw or grinder the lights would dim and brighten as the tool came up to speed. When I had it rewired the power was running about a 100 ft to the pole through the a very small wire. The kind of stuff you wire outlets and light bulbs in a house with. Not something you put under ground even.

Long story short it sounds like your house is under wired.

I'm not an electrician so do not take my word for it !!

But lights dimming doesn't sound good.
 

Silent Sound

Member
Messages
6,248
The voltage may be the main cause of your problem, but the dimensions of the room could also be contributing to the problem. Smaller rooms tend to make lower frequencies sound more congested and emphasized and make the higher frequencies sound less prominent by comparison. Small, square rooms with low ceilings can make any amp sound bad. About the only thing you can do about that is throw up a bunch of very expensive bass traps. Cheap acoustic foam won't help you there.
 

scotth

Member
Messages
1,498
The way you describe it, it sounds like it may be voltage drop.

Try plugging into the receptacle nearest the electrical panel. Does that help?

If so, have an electrician install a dedicated circuit specifically for your music gear. Ask him to oversize the wire by one size.
 

zenas

Member
Messages
8,871
Cheap method is a long enough extention cord to reach a good outlet on the neighbor's house. If it's cold where you live be sure you don't unplug his truck. He'll be really pissed if it doesn't start in the morning.

Really shouldn't be too hard to fish a new wire down to the fuse box. Unless the house is really old there should be a ground there. I've had to do that in this old house for the kitchen.
My amps are in the basement and that's been upgraded but there's still a mix of two and three prong cords on the other two floors.
Also the fuse box is gone and there's a breaker box now.
 

vanguard

Member
Messages
2,515
Ok great. Does the house have a panel board w/breakers or a fuse box? Is your studio on the first floor, basement, upstairs? I'm thinking the easiest way to get a decent ground is to find the closest copper water pipe and use that to clamp on a ground wire, run it to one of the outlets. Can you snap a pic or two of studio, panel board/fuse box and post?

There's a newer panel board with breakers. The house is only one story, on a 4 ft crawl space. I'll get some pics this afternoon. Thanks!
 

Ramblin Hymns

Member
Messages
696
I would do as said; run a dedicate circuit back to the panel and use 12\2 with grd romex and grd it in the panel. That way you would have a dedicated circuit for your music. The ground wire needs to be grounded from the panel so you won't have a grounding potential at that receptacle. Ground potential is a hard thing to explain on the internet. Maybe find a site and read up on it or ask an EE on here about it. I think that would be the cheapest and safest way. I've got the same problem where I'm fixing to move but I've done electrical for 40 yrs.
 

lkft

Member
Messages
1,294
Ramblin has some good advice. However that's under the assumption there is a good, solid ground at the panel. If the panel was installed correctly there should be a GR driven and evidence of a ground wire coming in from the bottom of the panel and connecting to the ground bar of the panel. But what if the install was done by someone who is just a DIYer and decided to skimp on the grounding, after all it's not necessary for operation and when you can save $25 on materials it tends to happen fairly often. If you have a copper water line nearby you can pickup the ground from there with a $20 clamp and 40ft of #12 cu THHN green wire all from Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Fishing it to your desired recept may be a PITA but at least it'll give all that transient noise a place to go to ground at and should take care of your prob.
 

Ramblin Hymns

Member
Messages
696
Also being an older house, your grd is probably tied to the neutral bar because it was allowed to tie the grd and neutral together. That's not the case today. Usually the grds are tied to the neutral bar. If no grd wire is in the panel; I would drive a grd rod and put it on the neutral bar until you have the house rewired. The neutral is tied to the grd at the xformer and if it isn't ,you have a big problem. It is tied though or you would have already found that problem out. If the neutral is not grounded you will have voltage on your neutral and it will burn up things that are 120v. So you are grounded somewhere and I would think you also have a grd in the panel to. That's a guess. If not in the panel I would consider you drive a grd rod just for safety and tie to the neutral. That way you have another grd to the neutral in case the one at the xformer broke lose and I have seen it loss at the service entrance. Contact me if you need more info.
 

lkft

Member
Messages
1,294
NO! That is NOT OK per building codes for a ton of reasons.

:facepalm

I'm not saying put the whole house to code using a copper water line for crying out loud. I'm suggesting a fix for his buzzing, popping and yucky tone for one recept where he plugs his amp into for less than $20. I an elect engineer btw.:wave
 

8len8

Member
Messages
15,224
You may be an EE or I think that is what you are saying, but Kyle B. is right. If you are an EE you should know that.

Just because someone's an EE doesn't mean they know everything about electrons. Things that are being discussed here are more "electrician" type info rather than "electrical engineer" type info.
 




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