A New Ground -- Benefits of introducing the Synergistic Research Active Ground Block SE
Dedicated ground solutions are not a novel idea but over the past year it seems everyone has been coming out with their version. For a few months I’ve been thinking about introducing one to my system and had considered Entreq, Telos, Nordost and others. Although I have a bunch of Synergistic Research (SR) kit I had dismissed their older basic ground block as too rinky dink -- however when I heard about the new Active Ground Blocks I thought that could be the way to go. The Active Ground blocks are smallish devices with a mains connection and a plethora of outlets for grounding cables to every component. They incorporate a range of the latest SR UEF tweaks http://www.synergisticresearch.com/isolation/ground-isolation/active-ground-block-se/
While the blocks alone are quite expensive ($2995) you will also need to lay out for connections to all of your components -- ideally the HD links. In my case as I have two distinct zones in my system I needed two ground blocks and 13 links -- quite an outlay
Question is is it worthwhile? Most certainly yes. The impact of implementing a full grounding solution in my system was one of the most profound changes I’ve experienced. It’s not a change that can be described in the usual audiophile terms of dynamics, frequency response, transparency etc. Instead it’s a shift in the wholeness, the verisimilitude, the gestalt of what you are hearing. Probably this is most obvious in a couple of places. Firstly is in background washes of sound (e.g. classic synth backings, or massed strings, or the whoosh that opens "Private Investigations") -- which now take on a scale, texture and clarity that had previously been completely masked. Secondly in vocals where a whole level of shading, nuance, breathwork, and subtly inflections are now audible. This is not simply more "detail" or a "reduction in the noise floor" it’s as if things which you did not know previously existed are suddenly there, as they had been all along
The effect is enhanced the more things you ground -- obviously all active components but even stands (my GPA stands are conductive so I connect a basic ground link to the bare metal inside the stand posts -- the surface metal is varnished and non conductive).
While I obviously can recommend the SR products I imagine any ground solution will bring similar benefits and would strongly suggest that anyone with a high resolution system explore some form of ground solution
ps For those in the now the music to accompany this review is A New Ground
Well, I do own the SR "rinky dink" ground version you refer to. I personally like it very much. You don’t have to buy the $$$ SR links I made my own.
SR uses the 2mm banana plugs which is rare and hard to find. But, I found adapters that can convert the 2mm input to accept the standard 4mm banana size which opened up the possibility to use all kinds of quality wire to use. I am using mostly pure silver wire.
I find that SR does come up with clever items for audio but there pricing is way out of line for the materials used.
Sorry @ozzy wasn’t trying to denigrate the old grounding blocks just that I was looking for something with a connection to the wall like the Telos so when the new SR came along it seemed just the ticket
Regarding cables do you find that they are very sensitive to how they are dressed? That’s always been my experience with the grounds for my FEQs and now with the new leads. They have to be off the floor, no loops, away from active power cords etc
"regarding cables"... Not really. I actually have a bare 12 gauge 4 nines pure silver wire going from the SR grounding box to the outlet wall. The other leads that I am using are inside teflon tubing. Also, contrary to what SR says I have found grounding to a outlet outside of the system to be better. ozzy
I did a survey of a number of grounding systems by interviewing the owners and having them do a few tests (as best as I can make out, these were similar to the SR, but none of them were SR units).
What I found was that in audio systems where a grounding system made an improvement, universally there were also bugs in the way that the associated audio equipment was grounded, which is why the grounding boxes were helping.
Just my opinion of course, but if the manufacturers of the various products (amps, preamps and the like) in those audio systems were to fix the bugs in their products, the result would be even better and at worst just as good as the (IMO rather expensive) grounding system add-ons.
My conclusion was that if a grounding box was helping, that was an indication that the associated equipment had design flaws in their grounding implementation.
@atmasphere if that was the case then why would grounding the stands after everything else had already been grounded to the SR box make an improvement? And why would changing the cables used for the grounds make an improvement? I use equipment from a wide range of manufacturers so can't believe they all got it wrong out of the gate... I think there's more going on here than your hypothesis
I also have the Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block System and I am extremely impressed with the positive changes it is affecting. I have previously used the Acoustic Revive RG-24 grounding system and this is head and shoulders better. For those that have a dialed in system I think strong consideration should be given to auditioning the Active Grounding Block.
I wish Ralph of Atmosphere would give one a try in his system and report back to us. They are sold with a full refund policy,
My Eddie Current Zanna Deux Tube amp is an OTL amp as are Ralph's Atmosphere amps, and it certainly sounds better with the Grounding Block in place.
if that was the case then why would grounding the stands after
everything else had already been grounded to the SR box make an
improvement? And why would changing the cables used for the grounds make
an improvement? I use equipment from a wide range of manufacturers so
can't believe they all got it wrong out of the gate... I think there's
more going on here than your hypothesis
All it takes is one component to short out the grounding scheme on the other equipment.
How it works is, the chassis of the equipment should be grounded to the ground pin of the AC cord which in turn is grounded by the house wiring. There is no current on this connection, in contrast to what is claimed by SR's website page on their grounding block.
The circuit ground of the amplifier, preamp or whatever is **not** connected to the chassis in a proper setup but is instead 'floated' at ground potential by a simple circuit which might simply be a resistor or resistor/diode arrangement. In this way ground loops between equipment are prevented and the chassis is allowed to act as a shield while not also acting as a ground return.
If only one piece in the system has the circuit and chassis be the same thing, then its connection to the rest of the system will compromise the grounding of the rest of the system. Now you have to do something about it and that is what these grounding block thingys do- at a tremendous price though, as a better solution would be to simply have the offending piece repaired by the manufacturer.
Ralph, thanks. That all makes sense from a technical standpoint, as far as I am concerned. Question: Could similar adverse effects occur to an audible degree if rather than circuit ground and chassis ground/AC safety ground being connected directly together in one or more of the components in a system, they are instead connected together through a resistor whose value is simply too low? For example, I’ve seen in some ARC designs that resistors as low as 10 ohms are used for that purpose.
The resistor is there to prevent ground currents and often 10 ohms is enough to do the job, just as you see in the old Dynaco gear.
I like a little more myself, and its not a bad idea to place some high current diodes in opposite directions in parallel with the resistor. In this way if a component is damaged and places the AC line on the chassis, a fuse will blow rather than just cooking the resistor.
I've not played with the resistor value to see what effect it has, but it stands to reason that a value too low mitigates its use and not in a good way :)
Sorry Ralph -- you're dodging my question. If I accept your argument then installing the grounding box fixes all of the issues that the designers of the original equipment caused by (as you hypothesize) grounding the chassis of some but of kit somewhere along the line
Ok with this fixed why the hell should it then matter that I ground a passive piece of metal and carbon fibre (the stand) -- or is it equally valid that these huge bits of conductive material are picking up god knows what nasties and the ground path is a way of getting this crap out of the system?
And btw SR acknowledge your main point in their description anyways, to quote
The high-speed, SR Active Ground Block provides a conductive path for this ground, separate from the normal current-carrying path of your components, which under certain conditions can add up to 10 dB of noise if poorly designed
My point is that even a well designed grounding system can be contaminated (why else do we put filters on our grounds entering the house as well?) and providing a fast path to remove this contamination is and likely will be in most systems, a good thing
Sorry Ralph -- you're dodging my question. If I accept your argument
then installing the grounding box fixes all of the issues that the
designers of the original equipment caused by (as you hypothesize)
grounding the chassis of some but of kit somewhere along the line
with this fixed why the hell should it then matter that I ground a
passive piece of metal and carbon fibre (the stand) -- or is it equally
valid that these huge bits of conductive material are picking up god
knows what nasties and the ground path is a way of getting this crap out
of the system?
Actually I'm not dodging anything. However FWIW I'm not making sense out of the second sentence of your first paragraph here and I'm happy to address it if you can clarify.
Regarding the latter paragraph: FWIW some years back at my house I found it a good idea to ground my equipment stand (Sound Anchors custom stand) as floating it seemed to cause a little hum in the phono. But oddly(? perhaps not) as we improved the grounding scheme in our equipment over the years, for some reason grounding the equipment stand no longer has any effect. I know I don't have a lot of RFI in my location, so I suspect that grounding a metal stand in a noisy environment is not a bad idea. But all that is needed for that is a bit of wire.
Note also that all depends on the house wiring being correct. In that regard the green wire on the AC outlet is the ground wire... and that's the one that is tied to house ground. Now the neutral (white) wire is also tied to that point, but the neutral carries current while the ground wire does not. So the ground wire will not carry any significant current if the audio equipment is properly grounded. This will prove to be an effective sink for RF noise and the like which is always present in some form.
Thanks thanks very much @davehrab and @atmasphere these explanations really make sense and are very helpful
one final question/observation is regarding turntables. Most turntables and phono amps have a chassis ground that in many systems will be connected (it is in mine as in the case of one of my two cartridges it sounds better that way). Does the existence of this ground path mess up all other grounds that may have been well designed? Or should phono stage designers have a different grounding arrangement (for my AR Ref Phono 2 it's a simple chassis tag, and on my table the ground on my wooden arm is to a tag on the turntable itself)
No. The ground of the arm is independent of the audio signal.
In fact what is happening is that the tone arm is a balanced source which in most cases is being operated single-ended. That's why you wind up with that grounding wire which other single-ended sources don't seem to need.
At any rate the ground wire is independent of what is the signal ground in the preamp.
Is this a add for these guys?? Reads like a add My friend has all his stuff When we go to his home to listen. We laugh that crap sucked all the sound Away. Maybe only a small amount of bells and sticky things. He should have. And all the Lights on every wire. Stop it its like a disco tech behind he's junk
Check out this review on the Gutwire grounding approach. They don't think boxes are the answer since they eventually become saturated and have to be disconnected every few months and "shaken" to clean them out. Their approach is to drain the ground directly from the circuit board by using an unused input, out to the ground in the AC outlet.
After reading the article, I'm thinking of trying one out myself.
@nonoise I agree, it’s always seemed odd that the boxes like Entreqs could really act as a ground while separate from the electrical ground.
my problem with what Gutwire propose is that you need a hell of a lot of cables if you have a complex system like mine, and more to the point a lot of available outlets sharing a common ground.
I have prior experience grounding my FEQs to a different outlet to the one they are powered from and that didn’t sound at all good ... it is interesting that Gutwire actually specify that the ground for their cords should NOT be shared with the rest of the electronics ... oh well, lots of room for different approaches I guess
Folkfreak, your concerns mirror mine. I've gotten to where I actually like the way everything looks now so if I were to get one, it would involve a long cord to get the next outlet box and even then, it may not work the way I thought it would.
The thing that keeps me interested is the high praise that Glen gave the Gutwire. He's not prone to hyperbole and the sometimes maddening prose that Srajan employs. He gets right to the point and rarely raves about anything. For him, it either works or it doesn't.
I’m fascinated by this subject but have not thrown money at it. I messed around with star grounding in the past, did have one of those cheapy Granite Audio boxes that, to my understanding, was like star grounding everything at one place, but gave you switches to mess with the ground planes or impedances of various "channels’ of connection. I used it temporarily to ameliorate some hum, but the answer turned out to be my Lamm ML2 amps. When I bought them, the previous owner had disconnected the wire of the circuit board to the chassis and no hum, but when I sent the amp to Vlad to go over, some years ago, it came back with the hum. We looked and that little wired had been replaced. I don’t like cheating the grounds, but that seems to be the only solution (unless I get into the unit which I’m reluctant to do). I have a new isolation transformer that was just installed --a 10kVa and it doesn’t really address ground since, by code, it has to be connected to the main household ground (a Ufer, installed when this house was restored, along with all the electrics). I did install a separate or "clean" grounding point within the room- not isolated-- one of those big copper bars with holes (looks very much like the top of the passive Synergistic ground block) that runs back to the main household ground via a 4 gauge cable. That, obviously, didn’t make much difference either. The electrics for the hi-fi are dedicated, and pull from a subpanel to 20 amp hospital grade receptacles using 10 gauge Romex. The feeders are 4 gauge. I gather Ralph is talking about inter-component grounding differences that cause the hum or weird ways of grounding a particular circuit within a piece of gear. I get the concept that external star grounding as a supplement (not as a replacement) for grounding equipment could theoretically quiet a system- my speakers are very sensitive at 104db/meter so you here every gremlin. I did get into a discussion with an EE who said the isolation transformer does zip unless it has an isolated ground, but I gather there are still benefits to nasties on the hot and neutral. My plan was originally to build a separate building in the backyard of this house-- we had the feasibility study done, and zoning pre-approvals. In the meantime, the system is installed in a large loft space at the top of the house and it isn’t bad. In fact, even the current out of the wall-- the so-called "dirty power" is way better than what I had in NY metro-(up in the country), quiet, more stable, no brown outs (so far) despite the considerable heat here in central TX. The room is made of shiplap-- old planks (although covered with drywall in this upstairs loft area) and seems to sound very good, though I’m only just beginning to dial in the system. The whole grounding thing is a bit of a puzzlement--I should ask Vlad- since he has always been very responsive to me, and I love the sound of these old amps. Otherwise, I haven’t heard the really fancy external or supplemental grounding boxes but call me intrigued.
@atmasphere , Ralph, I understand when you say that all components must have the safety ground wired to the chassis, which in turn is grounded to the ground pin of the AC cord. When connected to a properly wired circuit box with separate ground and neutral, there should not be any grounding problems. Two questions; will all components then have the same ground potential? Star-grounding a component is an improved grounding technique, but does it change the ground potential from a traditional component grounding design as stated above?
Whart, It seems to me that your problem can be solved by the tweak that Ralph recommended further up the thread. Where Lamm has re-installed the connection between the PCB audio circuit ground and the chassis, place a 10- to 100-ohm resistor, or I use Ralph's alternative suggestion, "back to back" high current diodes. To do the latter, you may need to do some additional reading; it's not quite as simple as it sounds. But what is simple is the resistor trick.
I should add that I have a pair of amplifiers (not my Atma-sphere amplifiers), where the chassis is one and the same with audio ground. Every audio ground, everywhere, is connected to the chassis. Thus it was impossible to separate the two without major surgery. So what I did was to use the back to back diode trick between the ground pin on the IEC connector and the chassis. So the chassis stayed with the audio ground, but it is isolated from earth ground by the diodes. The amplifiers went from "iffy" in terms of hum and noise, to dead quiet.
If you’re working with vintage equipment, you would be confronted by a similar dilemma quite often, I think. Because that's how they did things back then. (These are Beveridge direct-drive amplifiers, designed and built 47 years ago.)
@lowrider57 i cannot comment on the ground zero as I believe it performs a different function
fact is the SR system has no effect on hum or background noise in my system. If anything it creates some new potential hum sources with all the additional cables that need to be dressed. If your ground problems manifest as hum or audible noise then you need different solutions such as cheating or the zero
what the SR box (and from reviews other like devices) do is change the sound of the system without affecting the classic "ground issues"
i should also observe at this point that not every component responds well to grounding to the SR box in my system. In the case of my phono stage connecting it to the SR ground box flattened the dynamics and dulled the sound ... so be prepared to experiment
@lewm thanks. I do believe there is something already wired into the connection between the circuit ground and the chassis/main AC ground receptacle inside the amps, but I don’t feel comfortable messing with it. I will continue to investigate, perhaps talk to Vlad- since I’m sure this came up at one point over the years. I suspect it may have something to do with the woofer amp that is part of my Avantgarde Duos- I think there is something internal I could do with the speaker (have to check the manual on the speaker, but I think that is user-permitted), not sure. @atmasphere Ralph- using my Fluke, I measured .2 at the ground pin on the amp cord, unplugged. Measuring at the RCA input to the amp, with everything, including speaker cable, disconnected, the shield or collar side of the RCA jumped around radically, nothing nearly as low at the ground pin, but high voltages, lower voltages- and no OL type reading on the meter suggesting it is "off scale." Why is that so? (FWIW, I use the XLR input on the amps, not the RCA (though these amps are not a balanced design, i just prefer the integrity of the connection). @lowrider57 I can offer this much-- the Granite Audio as far as I know-- mine’s in a box somewhere- is very much like an external star ground that supplements but does not replace the AC ground. It does allow some switching of the impedance of the grounds depending on which channels on the back you plug the wires into, and how you position the switches relative to each other. I don’t think it does much else. I’m also not sure how star grounding overcomes some inter-component grounding problem within a system if everything is still hooked up to the normal AC grounds, but at one point, it did minimize noise when I was first setting up this system in NY some years ago. Beyond that, I cannot say. The passive Synergistic looks very much like a standard copper bus(s) bar, mounted in a small box that may have some additional passive material in it. (The connection to the wall is only for ground, not to power it, I believe, much like the Granite Audio). I cannot speak to the SR Active device, but there are, as you know, a host of things available now as @folkfreak mentioned in his OP.
I know it is grounded now, but will hum unless I lift the ground. I do have a decent meter and will poke around without opening up the units.
That suggests that the audio and chassis are the same thing FWIW...
Two questions; will all components then have the same ground potential? Star-grounding a component is an improved grounding technique, but does it change the ground potential from a traditional component grounding design as stated above?
1: They better! 2: It better not! The reason is there should be no current in the ground connection.
Measuring at the RCA input to the amp, with everything, including speaker cable, disconnected, the shield or collar side of the RCA jumped around radically, nothing nearly as low at the ground pin, but high voltages, lower voltages- and no OL type reading on the meter suggesting it is "off scale." Why is that so?
Sounds like an impedance that might involve an inductor.
I will talk with Vlad and look at the Avantgarde manual re the internal ground settings that are user adjustable. My bet is that’s where the issue is coming from. Thank you all. I’ll continue to follow this thread, not for my issue as such, but for general learning on the grounding subject, which is (strangely) fascinating to me. Disclaimer: I do not mess with electricity - got a healthy respect for it. But trying to decode the EE level discussion and make sense of it in audio applications is no easy feat sometimes (at least for me), even leaving aside the ’wire is wire’ approach. The Gutwire thing mentioned above is also pretty fascinating, but I need time to read 6 Moons. Maybe I’m just slow. :) regards, bill hart
Thanks @folkfreak . So, the active SR system is for SQ and most likely lowering the noise floor. It does not affect the ground of a component with an inherent grounding issue.
Thanks @whart . The Granite system is doing exactly what Ralph stated; attempting to correct the grounding of components that have an internal grounding issue. Possibly plugging a component into one of the star-ground inputs lowers it's grounding impedance to get it closer to the other components' ground potential.
Two questions; will all components then have the same ground potential? Star-grounding
a component is an improved grounding technique, but does it change the
ground potential from a traditional component grounding design as stated
1: They better! 2: It better not! The reason is there should be no current in the ground connection.
Thanks. Your answer confirms what I thought should happen.
I installed the older Synergistic grounding block about 3 weeks ago (purchased brand new) at the LA AS. Upgrade the power cord to their HD power cord and am using the stock wires from my equipment to the grounding block. I add some spade connectors to the end of the wire that goes to my equipment. I have a very simple system Pre Amp, SACD/Cd player and Amp. The Pre Amp and Disc player had a rear connection for the grounding wire. The Amp did not, Synergistic Research recommended I use one of the open RCA connectors on the amp since i run XLR cables through out the system. I checked with Mark Levinson about this and they said NO do not use the RCA for grounding. So for right now just the 2 pieces are connected to the grounding block and it is plugged into a separate wall plug than what i am using. I did not like the sound right off the bat. It seamed like some of the life was sucked out the music. Some sounds where clear but very thin sounding. After about 8 days of listening the sound and richness returned. With maybe a small hair more clarity. The sound stage is not as wide open as before. Its getting better but not what it was. Maybe i need to find away to ground the Amp to the grounding block? Or i could try their HD cables on my disc player and preamp? But they are not cheap. The sound is slowly getting better, but a little disappointing for this tweak. Enjoy Pete
one please make sure you are using the system as SR specify I.e, you should connect to an open/unused active outlet (RCA or XLR) and not to the provided grounding posts (other than in phono setups). Sounds like you are facile with a soldering iron so can connect some RCA jacks to the wires SR provide if needed. I’ve no idea why your amp manufacturer warned against doing this (likely they thought you meant using the RCA as a safety ground) - give it a try, worst it will do is nothing
secondly you must connect the ground from the block to the same spur (i.e. Pair of outlets) that is powering all the rest of your equipment. If you connect to a different spur it will sound thin and lifeless as you describe - my suspicion is that this is the root cause of your poor experience. Most setups have a power conditioner on one outlet to which all the equipment is connected and the ground takes the second outlet
finally the stock SR cables are absurdly sensitive to dressing. The need to be well off the floor, in loose loops (never kinked or coiled) - try lifting them up in your hands and you should hear the sound open. The HD cords are much less sensitive in this regard
if none of this helps given you have a straightforward system them the Gutwire type approach may be a better fit for you
Hello folkfreak Thanks for the info. The dedicated ground hooks ups on my PreAmp and Disc player are designated for adding a outside ground . It even suggest it in the manual , that the sound may improve by doing this. Both pieces are in the Esoteric line. My amp is on its on dedicated 20 amp line. the other pieces are on a 15 amp line that is feed by a High Fidelity MC-6 Hemisphere. So grounding every thing in the same plug is just not possible. I all so have 21 High Fidelity MC O5s plugged into the open socket of each line-total of 42. With 2 more plugged into the open sockets of the MC6 Hemisphere. I could remove 1 of the MC O5s from a socket on the Hemisphere and plug the grounding block into it. I may try that next week, but loosing the MC O5 from my system does not excite me. The MCO5s are the best upgrade or tweek on the market for the money. enjoy Pete
Ok on the dedicated grounds then on the Esoteric stuff. Do you have a duplex outlet connected to your 15 A line? The hemisphere should go in one of the two outlets, the ground in the other. The ground should not be connected to the hemisphere. Any other configuration just will not work and you would be better off sending the grounding block back for a refund
Hey I am "dinky" and had Verastarr design all Grounding cables after I was ripped off by buying 3 of their single string HD Grounding cables. How do I know about the one string. ? We cut the HD cables up to 👀👀 ha the UHF stuff in there ?? Yea right. Mind games I tell you!!! Witchcraft !!
What a rip!!! The AC HD cable was $495.00 🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑. Yes that is $500.00.
Well Mr Dinky sure grew some hairy balls as the new Verastarr cables made the "string UHF ZRU or what ever BS they say they stick in there sound embarrassed.
Yes Fork does write eloquently what has happened with the GB and cables in my system.
No way I am giving SR $3K for anything they make!!!!! $595.00 was top $$$ for me. That’s how they do their marketing, make you feel like the dinky Mr. Dick will never grow up to be big Mr. Dick Tracy !! I must say they got me on the cheap A$$ HD wire.
Now the new tranquility base is off the charts great and a wonder in my system. $1150.00 is my very top limit to "FORK" 🤓 Out To the master of new and improved SE Mk 32 SR.
Fork, good description on what these guys do in ones system!!!
@glory thanks for the kind words, I do like to try and get down in words the subtleties of what these small changes can deliver
Anyway in the spirit of further getting the most out of the SR grounding solution I have found some small incremental benefit from getting the footers right under the grounding boxes. My rule would be firstly get it on some sort of spring or ball based islolation, I have one on the floor on the voodoo ISO pod ball footers. My other is on a GPA amp stand which itself is on ball based Apex footers, this one sounds best coupled to the stand via rigid Marigo type footers, having two ball footers in sequence seems to lead to them fighting one another and a blurring of the sound