“For years, one of the best-kept secrets in hi-fi has been that the single most cost-effective upgrade you can make to any system (regardless of price or ambition) is to provide it with a dedicated AC supply equipped with a parallel, clean ground,” writes Gregory. “That might seem like a bold statement,” he acknowledges, “but consider the issues for a moment and the logic is unassailable.” Indeed it is, when we consider that the AC supply is basically the raw material from which our systems are striving to recreate the musical performance, while at the same time providing the sink down which all unwanted electrical noise is supposed to drain. “Which leads us directly to the crucial question of noise floor….”
A crucial question indeed, given that “Arguably the biggest challenge facing any audio system is matching the dynamic range of real life: not just the power and scale of real instruments, but also the micro dynamic subtleties, harmonics, and the immediacy of the energy they produce.” Collectively these are the qualities that underpin a system’s ability to deliver a musical performance that’s real and true-to-life; natural and organic; alive and fully present.
As Gregory notes, we can keep on adding power to our amps and increase the efficiency of our speakers to give the system greater headroom, but that quickly gets expensive and its only half the battle. “At the other end of the scale, banishing noise – making the system quieter – delivers equally if not more impressive gains and does so at a fraction of the price and domestic impact.”
Enter the Ground Controls – GC1 and GC3 – from Computer Audio Design. “Attractive, practical, and supremely effective,” says Gregory. Singled out as a ‘Hot Product’ at the 2016 Munich High End Show, the Ground Controls tackle noise reduction at the level of signal ground and mains earth. Specifically, they provide an effective sink for high frequency noise which is absorbed and converted to heat, resulting in a reduction of noise in your audio components from the very high kHz range up to over 10 GHz. Their methods of doing so borrow technology from the aerospace and telecoms industries, combining proprietary materials in an ultra-precise internal construction.
“The difference the Ground Controls make is so profound in my system – a system that already has a fully realized, dedicated AC supply and two parallel clean grounds – that they have become indispensable… worth every penny,” writes Gregory.
“Connect a GC1 to a digital output of your CD player or DAC, or a USB socket on your server, and what should you expect? No prizes for suggesting a substantial drop in noise floor – but what does that actually mean in musical terms…” “the background gets way blacker with separation and clarity both improving, along with instrumental texture, colour, and character”. “There’s a new sense of crispness and focus… along with increased dynamic range, the ability of the music to jump in level, and the speed with which the instruments respond to input.” “[this] brings with it an increased sense of rhythmic precision and articulation in the playing. You can simply hear more clearly and accurately where each note starts (and stops) and how it relates to the other notes around it. Phrasing becomes more explicit, there’s greater dramatic contrast in the performance and a greater sense of ensemble, the band playing together. In broad musical terms, the performance gains presence and immediacy, emotional and dramatic impact. It sounds more like people and they sound like better musicians. Which is all pretty impressive stuff. But it gets better…”
From there, Gregory begins to experiment, as suggested by CAD’s designer Scott Berry who explains that the degree of difference you hear will depend on how you use the Ground Controls in your particular system. Experience has shown that the best results are often achieved by connecting a Ground Control to the noisiest device in your set-up – typically a digital component. But the possibilities are many and varied, hence the value of experimentation. “If you thought the GC1 was impressive on your digital equipment then wait until you hear the GC3 on the main system ground!” Gregory enthuses.
“Simple and stunningly effective, both the GC1 and GC3 get the highest possible recommendation.”
Read Roy Gregory’s full review and article at www.hifiplus.com/articles/stand-your-ground/
Discover more about CAD’s Ground Controls and find your nearest dealer at www.computeraudiodesign.com