More Of The Same – But Better!

The Chord Co. PowerARAY

By Roy Gregory

Everybody loves a basic plug-n-play upgrade. Customers love them because they are simple to apply, easy to evaluate (and best of all, often all but invisible – or at least easily hidden). Dealers and distributors love them because they are low-maintenance, universally applicable and a perfect excuse to revisit existing customer systems. Reviewers love them because they are simple to write about, portable (meaning they can move easily from one system to another) and they’re cheap enough that more often than not, the manufacturer doesn’t demand their return. Magazines love them because they’re a ready excuse for another one-page review (and another advertising pitch – maximum return meets minimum outlay). Me? I love them because they can deliver fundamental performance improvements that won’t break the bank: performance improvements that we’ve all learnt the hard way, you can’t get simply by replacing core components.

From my perspective, these devices might seem simple: they might not sit in the signal path or even connect directly to the system components; they might (although not always) seem absurdly cheap compared to your electronics or speakers; they might not be big and sexy. But none of those things means that you shouldn’t take them seriously or that they can’t make a serious contribution to system performance. In fact, it’s precisely because they address issues that are neglected in, or external to, the vast majority of audio components that they can make such a fundamental difference to system performance. Recent examples include the Neodio Origine B2 Acoustic Purifier and The Chord Co.’s elegant yet incredibly impressive GroundARAYs. Both of these products are capable of having a transformative impact on the musical performance of even quite modest systems. In fact, their use starts to question the term “modest” at all. In the context of a serious high-end rig, their effect can be jaw-dropping. Given how effectively these two examples operate in concert, it is no surprise that one of these products primarily influences the mechanical/vibrational domain, the other the electrical – or more precisely, residual noise on the electrical ground.

Getting right to the point…

Since they first arrived, the various GroundARAYs, each built into their own, designer lipstick-like tube, have become a permanent part of my various systems. I deploy them on digital components, analogue components and even the TV: insert a GroundARAY into a redundant HDMI socket and you won’t believe what it does for picture quality! But much as I love the different GroundARAYs, their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. Why do they work so well? Because you can place them right at the noise source you are trying to kill. No external wires to act as aerials, no trying to act at a distance: Simple, direct treatment, right where you want it; Great for performance – not quite so great for perceived value. At £550 a pop, the GroundARAY isn’t exactly dear, especially compared to the price of the equipment it more often than not finds itself plugged into. But look at a serious system, with two or three digital boxes (not to mention a streamer and a network switch), a turntable, phono-stage, line-stage and one or two power amps and that’s a lot of individual components that you might want to ‘GroundARAY’. If those components are genuinely dual-mono, you are going to getting even better results using one GroundARAY for each channel. That adds up to a lot of £550 purchases. It might only put the GroundARAYs into the same financial ballpark as a Nordost QKore 6 or a CAD GC3, but that’s not the point. Suddenly, what people viewed as a £550 spend has turned into something else. Yet subconsciously, in performance terms, they still view it as a £550 upgrade… Suddenly it doesn’t seem like quite such a bargain. After all, both the QKore 6 and the GC3 are bigger and significantly heavier than even a dozen GroundARAYs.