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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref, AURALiC Vega
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000/5000 and Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: $1'099
Up in the cold white Canadian north, Glen Wagenknecht had honed his ground nerve to keep warm. Translation – he was having all of Gutwire's ground cable fun. He had worked his way through their Perfect, Ultimate and Consummate models to clean up on all of their options. Meanwhile I still grounded conventionally which is to say, with quality power cords and conditioners. I was a virgin on separate grounding. So Herbert Wong suggested that they send me their best for a follow-up assignment so I could have my own experience. I accepted. Which begs the question.
Why would connecting a component's RCA/XLR ground to safety earth become a one-way noise drain for your circuit board's ground plane? Why wouldn't noise which already propagates on your AC ground—be that the wall outlet's or power conditioner's—gain a fresh new back door? Just think of all the switch-mode power supplies that inject HF hash into your home's power grid. There are your television, computer, router, network switch, class D amps. There are industrial motors in your appliances like refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, dryer. There are sundry ceiling, wall and table lamps with LED or dimmer. There's your WiFi kit. What prevents any of their noise to creep up your newly established connection between signal ground and earth like that itsy bitsy spider in the nursery rhyme? Herbert and his partner Alex Yeung had to induct me into their ground rule.
Of course their bets on your wallet aren't the only game in town. Acoustic Revive, Computer Audio Design, Entreq, Faber, Nordost, Synergistic Research, Telos and Tripoint all promote their own ground cells filled with HF-absorptive material to act as a trap or 'black hole' for ground junk. Components connect to this cell via umbilicals like a standard star ground scheme.
This active ground block from Synergistic Research with up to 44 umbilicals illustrates the basic external star ground concept.
Akiko and Verictum promote cables which terminate in such miniaturized traps.
Akiko, DR Acoustics and Shunyata also sell AC conditioners which run each of their power feed's three legs through such traps. At left we see DR Acoustics' smaller conditioner with its three absorption chambers.
In all cases, the trapping content remains secret but tends to include pulverized crystalline compounds. Gutwire use Japanese ubame-oak charcoal and an unspecified rare-earth element for their abilities to "absorb RFI/EMI".
In Gutwire's best ground wire, the cable contains these two materials for passive filtration, then plugs into the power grid. This differs from cables with stuffed cylinders which dangle freely off the back of your gear; or your gear being wired up to a central ground box like the first type which, as Gutwire contend, saturates over time unless connected to a wall outlet.
With Glen's reported excellent Gutwire results and the simplicity of the concept—just use a free AES/EBU, RCA or XLR socket plus a free AC port—I was keen to hear what this could do for my system. By the way, Gutwire recommend against using a free AC conditioner power socket. And, some of their customers reportedly buy a ground wire for each of their components. Gutwire themselves suggest to start with your DAC or preamp.
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