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Consummate Ground Cable

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, contributor Glen Wagenknecht had indulged his keenly honed ground nerve to keep warm. He was having all of Gutwire's ground cable fun. He had worked his way through their Perfect, Ultimate and Consummate models and left nothing for me. I still hadn't even attained to their Perfect level. I was still just normally grounded. Hence my sense of injustice itched fiercely. But the company's Herbert Wong felt duly sorry for me to suggest that they send me their best for a follow-up assignment. I accepted. Which begs the question.

Why would connecting a component's chassis or RCA/XLR ground to AC ground 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 for more mischief? Just think of all the switch-mode power supplies that busily inject HF hash into your home's power grid. There's your television, computer, router, network switch, class D amps. Then there's more industrial motors in your appliances like refrigerator, freezer, washing machine. Then there are sundry ceiling, wall and table lamps with LED. Then there's your WiFi kit. What prevents any of their noise to creep up your newly established ground-drain connection like that itsy bitsy spider in the nursery rhyme? To see this whole picture clearly, I had to let Herbert and his partner Alex Yeung induct me into their ground rules.

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 contents remain a secret but tend 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 dangling freely off the back of your gear; or your gear being wired up to a central grounding box like the first type which, as Gutwire contend, will saturate over time unless connected to a wall outlet.

With Glen's 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 their best ground cable could do for my system. Gutwire recommend against using a free AC conditioner power socket. Some of the company's customers reportedly buy a ground wire for each of their components but Gutwire suggest to start with your DAC or preamp.