More of the same? What’s not to like…
By Roy Gregory
In the past few years, parallel clean grounds have become one of the big areas of improvement in system performance. Starting with massive and massively expensive options like the Tripoint products, or the folksy but still expensive Entreq units, the market has evolved and expanded at an astonishing rate, with products becoming increasingly effective and more affordable with each passing year. At the same time we’ve seen the emergence of a split between what we might term ‘focussed’ or ‘single application’ products and ‘general solutions’, larger products that target an entire system.
What isn’t quite so widely appreciated is that each grounding solution and even each unit within a range has its own particular character and attributes, its own specific range of operation and effectiveness. So, in broad-brush terms I could describe the CAD (Computer Audio Design) Ground Control GC1 as working from the top down, where the Nordost QKore units operate from the bottom up. I could also describe the original GC1 as a ‘focussed’ product, intended to be narrowly targeted on a particular unit/noise source. Factor in the larger GC3 and the humungous GCR and you get a progressive shift towards wider bandwidth, full-system solutions. So that even a system with a GCR soaking up unwanted ground noise from its amplification, might still benefit from employing one or more GC1s on the digital electronics.
In fact, it was arguably CAD’s elegant and cost effective GC1 that started the trend towards smarter, more compact and yes, more focussed grounding solutions. This narrow, deep yet stylish box has been an essential part of my system tuning toolbox since it first arrived. Not surprisingly, given its origin, it has an almost uncanny ability to absorb and dissipate the high-frequency noise and hash that emanates from digital components (but which can pollute entire systems) and that has made it indispensable when it comes to optimising digital playback, whether streamed or from optical disc. Devoid of features, save the two 4mm banana sockets on its back panel, you might think that it looks expensive at first glance, but connect it to the signal ground of a digital component via its own, specially developed grounding cable, and you’ll be shocked at the difference it makes to the sound.
When I hooked up the GC1 for the first time, it was something of a revelation. The improvement in immediacy and dynamic range were immediately obvious, the blacker background and increased focus equally apparent. Of course, a blacker background doesn’t mean that much in itself. What matters is what it does to the music – and that was expressed in the improved dynamic discrimination and ‘jump’, the added sense of direction and purpose it brought to the performance. Upper harmonics were clearer, adding tonality and colour to strings and woodwind, creating a sweeter, more natural overall balance and a more developed acoustic space around the band or orchestra. The upshot was the addition of a healthy dose of musical enjoyment to an already existing system.