Telos Audio Design Grounding Noise Reducer (GNR) review

The Mission... Cleaner Electricity

When I started my audio den some years ago, a number of audiophile friends shared to me that having your main electrical supply properly grounded is crucial in getting rid of unnecessary electrical noise in the audio system. I realized what they have shared to me was of great substance. Therefore, I decided it was necessary to spend some energy and monies into it. Thus, I have taken out one out of three phases from my electrical main to be dedicated to my audio den. This phase is isolated from all other electrical uses but only for my audio components. In addition to the main electrical grounding, this dedicated phase enjoyed two number of dedicated grounding; both comprised of pure copper strips to two number of pure copper rods planted at two spots, into the soil that is near to a drain. That was purposefully done so that the ground copper rods constantly planted in moist soil to improve the potency of the grounding. The above efforts resulted in a much quieter audio presentation, bigger soundstage, better imaging and density.

Later, Frank Voon introduced his wonderful creation, the Frank Power Bank to me. In short, it is an independent "shun reactor" for sudden and improved power delivery for any audio component in connection with it. He proposed to have the Frank Power Bank to be connected to the MCB and/or the ELCP of the electrical phase in the electrical distribution box. Thus, all audio components in that electrical phase will enjoy its benefits.  Suffice to say, I was so impressed with this product that I bought quite a number into my system. I will have more details to share about the Frank Power Bank in an upcoming dedicated review at Mono & Stereo.

And I thought I am done in term of electrical supply and grounding. Then, some audiophile friends shared to me the idea of having dedicated ground for the audio components that is independent from the electrical main. They recommended chassis grounding, input and output connector grounding, tonearm grounding and wherever it's safe and possible for grounding. I said to them that I am interested to try. Sooner than I thought, I was introduced to the Entreq Grounding System.

Enter my First Dedicated and Independent Grounding System

The then local distributor, Swedish Statement Audio Boutique brought me the Entreq Tellus (Copper version) grounding unit and the recommended Entreq Eartha copper ground cables. Upon hooked up, I heard some differences in the audio system presentation. I noticed that there was a tad lower noise floor and that the soundstage width, height and depth improved. Everything seemed a tad clearer; images enjoyed a clearer definition, delineation and separation. To me, that whole experience then drew me to the importance of the added independent grounding for the audio components. 

The next level?!

The Silver version of Entreq Silver Tellus with its Atlantis Silver ground cables were a whole new level (I testified in advance). Upon their introduction into my audio system, I heard better articulation in the lower bass. The higher frequencies sounded cleaner, extended and airier. The above contributed to the naturalness in the presentation of stringed instruments such as violin, guitar and even the cello.

The game was later up another notch with the next introduction. The Entreq Cleanus which could be added to my power distributor, the Shunyata V-Ray 2 and ground connected to the Silver Tellus. Immediately, I noticed that the whole audio presentation enjoyed another level of lower noise floor. What were once in the foreground and blur enjoyed a certain clarity, definition, tangibility and density. What were subtle, remained subtle but enjoyed clearer role in the whole presentation. I think I am able to understand and enjoy the music better with the addition of the Entreq Cleanus in my audio system.

Ambition was raised!

Then, I thought my pursuit of a fine electrical supply and grounding for my audio system was at an end. That notion maintained until I met Jeff Lin, the Founder and Chief Designer of Telos Audio Design, Taiwan at the Munich High End Audio show 2014. I invited him to come to Malaysia to introduce his products, especially the Grounding Noise Reducer (GNR). 

Jeff Lin decided to take up my invitation and visited my audio den. He did a presentation of the Telos Audio Design GNR together with some of his other fine products here. He connected the GNR with its dedicated grounding cables (that came with all sort of options from RCA, XLR, HDMI, LAN, USB, Spade and etc, all connected to the ground pin or connection only) to one component at a time and then finally to the rest or remaining of the playing components (the Entreq were disconnected throughout that session). Upon the first connection to the unused output of the preamp only (Vitus Masterpiece MP-L201 and FM Acoustics 268C), I heard a more profound lower noise floor in the whole presentation. I could almost testify that the noise floor was a tad lower than the whole Entreq set up.

The experiment continued with the GNR connected to the unused output of the source components such as the phono stage (Vitus Masterpiece MP-P201 and then to the FM Acoustics 223) and the Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC-Vitus Masterpiece MP-D201). The whole act of my audio system improved to a whole new level that I have yet experience. All that were clouded and veiled were suddenly lifted up. The transparency to the source was so much improved as if the glass affixed to the window was removed. 

Then Jeff Lin recommended that the GNR be connected to the audio rack and then to the Shunyata V-Ray 2 chassis. I could not believe what I have heard?! What were already a WOW! turned to a double WOW! (WOW!). A few of my audiophile friends and I whom were present in that session with Jeff Lin's demonstration decided to invest into the GNR and its dedicated grounding cables (of different connectors). 

Enter the Star; Telos Audio Design Grounding Noise Reducer (GNR)

A few months later, my audiophile friends and I received our respective GNR and the dedicated ground cables. I connected most of my audio components to the GNR, except the mono amplifiers (Vitus Masterpiece MP-M201) and the loudspeakers (Gryphon Pendragon). Later, Jeff Lin called to inform me of his intention to revisit his new found fans in Malaysia. That time, he suggested to me that I should consider another GNR for my mono amplifier and (the powered bass towers of the Pendragon) loudspeakers. (REALLY?!) I told him that I would not mind to try out that suggestion. 

The second GNR was sent to me and I had it connected as per suggested by the designer. At that same time, I received the Tripoint Troy Signature passive grounding for comparison with the Entreq and Telos Audio Design GNRs. I thought to myself then that my audio den had been grounded!

Bring in the Cellist...

Many believed that the piano key was not easily reproduced through an audio system. A lot of the audio system's set up (fine tuning) must be recognized and optimized to get that piano key sound "just right". Even a real piano has to be fine tuned from time to time to have it sound right? I believed the same can be said for the reproduction of a cello through an audio system. I meant the strings of a cello with the realism of the strings backed by its wooden frame. Too often we heard the cello being reproduced 'bigger than life' through the audio system, with the mid bass and low bass exaggerated that ultimately muddled up the strings. Here, I would like to play the vinyl album of Antonio Lysy at the Broad, "Music from Argentina" (Yarlung Records 95968-517V). I admit that I was stunned by the first tone from the cello in that recording through my audio system with the GNRs installed. I meant that each string was clearly played out with the touch of naturalness that was from the wood of the cello chassis. I have heard cello sounded so unreal as if the strings were of metal and the cello's chassis was of plastic (or worst, of metal). There were no mid bass and low bass boom or exaggeration. Both low frequencies were well articulated, defined and within their intended boundaries. Thus, the mid mid frequency to the higher frequencies were unperturbed. I could hear a certain touch of refinement (especially) in the higher frequencies. That presented the cello with scale as a whole instead of just where the bow touched the string(s). In addition, the movement of the bow as it cut across the desired strings was clearly heard and felt. I could hear the bow cut from the low to the mid and then to a higher note. To me, that was a testament of the naturalness of tonality (that was clean from the low to the high frequencies).

The accompanying piano...

I have written quite a bit about what I expected in the reproduction of the piano key through an audio system. I have learnt to appreciate that better ever since the inclusion of the GNRs into my audio set up. Imagine that every piano key was presented in its entirety, both frequencies and energy. The differences between a high and low key, and the position of each key in the piano could easily be appreciated. That surreal experience was not just heard but (near) visible (if the recording permits). The GNRs have cleaned away much unwanted noise in the audio presentation that tended to mess up the mid and lower region of the frequencies. Of course, the higher notes were able to enjoy their intended course. I felt that whenever an audio presentation has too much cloudiness in the mid frequencies, both the low frequencies and high frequencies suffered in term of articulation, direction, definition, separation and etc. In addition, the decay of each piano key played out clearly and accurately. That completed each note from the play.

Here in the same album, both the cellist('s cello) and the pianist('s piano) were clearly separated in space. Each enjoyed its own certain 'air and atmosphere'. I could easily close my eyes and appreciate each  musician's play in that presentation. That brought about the realism of the play, as a whole. 

Throw in the human voice into the mix

On the subject of cello playback, I picked my next vinyl album, Rob Wasserman Duets (MCA Records 42131). I love to play the track "Ballad of the Runaway Horse" by Jennifer Warnes, where I found her voice then to be most soulful and recognizable (at the peak of her career). The problem in that track was the cello tended to overwhelm the mid low frequency. That brought to suffer the separation between the vocalist and the cellist. Here, the GNRs brought that cello under control, and allowed it to enjoy its own space. 

Thus, Ms. Warnes's voice did not have to compete with powerful play of Mr.Wasserman's cello play. I could easily appreciate the expressiveness of the artistry and emotional content of the vocalist. I have written in my previous reviews of how easily the human voice is recognizable. Many have judged the performance and/or decided on an audio system from the reproduction of their favorite singer's voice. I will say this that the GNRs do not change the voice of the vocalist from my audio system. They are just independent grounding units that supposedly reduce the unwanted noise generated by the many audio components and the incoming electrical main. In addition, they are not in the signal chain of the audio system. Maybe I should have this emphasized at the very beginning. But I raised this here for an obvious reason (to me, anyway), knowing how much we care and sensitive of the reproduction of our favorite vocalist through our audio system. Many have bought certain audio component(s) just to have the right (coloration?) voicing of their vocalist(s). You can rest assured that the GNRs did not change my audio system's voicing. They managed to stay the same but clean up the mess (that before the installation of the GNRs, I was not aware that there was any mess) that clouded the whole presentation. Therefore, I could more easily appreciate the fine nuances and multi layered texture in Ms.Warnes's voice. Her artistry was more visible through her control of breath and pronunciation of the words in the lyric. In short, the GNRs allowed another layer of resolution into the presentation. It's not more analytical, as some would have deduced from this writing, but just more music from the same material source (remember, the GNRs were not in the signal chain).

Bring in more into the mix.

Lately, Mike Valentine through his label, Chasing the Dragon have been producing some great audiophile albums. I felt strongly to bring about his latest effort into play for this review, the "Big Band Spectacular by The Syd Lawrence Orchestra" (VALDC002). It's never easy to reproduce through an audio system the spectacular of a big band. It's just too much at play in the same time and same space. Most often than we care to admit that our audio system reproduce a muddled version of the play. As the above indicated what the GNRs brought into the performance of my audio system, the presentation was tonally balance throughout the frequencies bandwidth thus contributed the articulation and nimbleness from the low bass region to the high treble. And, the Big Bang Spectacular was presented with well spaced out musicians too. I could easily appreciate what each musician's contribution and role in the presentation as a whole. Not to mention that the flow and direction of each section in the Big Band were easily followed. The value of the addition of GNRs into my audio system did increased tremendously as I appreciated more complicated presentation that involved a larger number of musicians. 

Rock the Boat!

Here, I brought out my Japanese vinyl pressing of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax (Polystar 13S-200) and played it loud (100dB+) to rock the boat! At that playback level in most audio system would have been a disaster (to say the least). The whole mix would have been too confused to enjoy as a musical presentation (to me, anyway). The GNRs maintained the play's sense and sensibility throughout the (extreme) high volume as if you were hearing it at the right volume level. I believed that it was the tonal balance that brought about the articulation throughout the entire frequencies bandwidth. Here, the mid bass notes and transient were clearly and cleanly defined. I felt (and saw) the speed of the woofers at my Gryphon Pendragon Bass towers and their effect aided the transparency (even) at the lower frequencies. It was articulation and transparency throughout the entire presentation. I could appreciate the GNRs' contribution in the improvement of integration of my four towers loudspeaker system, The Gryphon Pendragon. 

I am grounded (for good)!

After having (almost) every audio component in my system grounded to the independent grounding system from Entreq, Telos Audio Design and Tripoint, I am convinced that it is necessary to have them in any respectable and serious audio set up. 

Comparatively, many would have spent so much more in cables, power distributors, tweaks, footers, coasters, and even an audio rack. The result of the addition of any of these branded independent grounding system is obvious enough to justify the additional expenses. I believe that the more revealing the audio system is, the more the benefit from these independent grounding system will be.  

Among the three branded grounding system, my preference leaned towards the Telos Audio Design GNR. To me they represent my quest for transparency to the source of my music and at real world price with performance to match against any competitor...enjoy

On a separate note, the competition...

I have on loan the Tripoint Troy Signature independent passive grounding together with its dedicated silver ground cables. It has came into my attention that the model in hand was not the current and latest design. Therefore the following impression is of that discontinued model and do not represent the latest effort from Tripoint.

Upon installation, the Tripoint Troy Signature did impress me with an immediate effect of a dark and jet black background. The quietness in the background did allow what were at the foreground of a play to come out more vividly. The images of the musicians and their respective musical instrument have good delineation, boundary, definition and density, but maintain the same scale and size. On the other hand, the Telos Audio Design GNRs did not have the character of a dark and jet black background. The GNRs were more into the separation between the elements in the music. The musicians and their respective musical instruments were well space out thus enjoyed a fuller body and presence in the presentation. Comparatively, I did find that the GNRs presented a wider, higher and deeper soundstage.

In term of the lower frequencies, I found the Tripoint did present an attractive mid range that could explained the rounded bass. Some may find such presentation to be to their liking (no argument here). The caveat here is that the Tripoint does not present the low as low, and as well articulated, detail, solid and punchy as the GNRs. I believed the Tripoint's attractive mid range could be the anchorage of a freer high frequencies and detail, compared to the GNRs. 

Associated audio components in this review:

1) TriangleArt Apollo MC cartridge,
2) Koetsu Blue Lace cartridge,
3) Ortofon MC Anna cartridge,
4) My Sonic Lab Eminent BC cartridge,
5) ZYX Omega Gold cartridge,
6) Vertere Reference tonearm,
7) Miyajima Kansui cartridge,
8) SoundSmith Strain Gauge,
9) Graham Phantom 2 tonearm (9"),
10) Breuer tonearm,
11) Aquilar 10" tonearm, Acoustical System, Germany
12) TechDas Air Force One turntable,
13) Kronos Pro Limited production turntable,
14) Linn Sondek turntable with Lingo powered,
15) Clearaudio Statement turntable & dedicated Statement linear arm,
16) FM Acoustics 223 Phono Master stage,
17) Vitus Masterpiece Phonostage MP-P201,
18) FM Acoustics 268C pre amp,
19) Vitus Masterpiece Pre amp MP-L201,
20) Vitus Masterpiece Mono Amplifier MP-M201,
21) Gryphon Pendragon Loudspeaker System,
22) Skogrand Beethoven Loudspeaker cables,
23) Skogrand Tchaikovsky Balance interconnects,
24) Vermouth Red Velvet XLRs,
25) Gobel Lacorde Statement XLR,
26) Gobel Lacorde Statement Power cord,
27) Shunyata King Cobra Power cords,
28) Shunyata V Ray 1 & 2 Power Distribution,
29) Frank Acoustics Power Bank Storage PB-15000Ws (6 units),
30) Nordost QX (2 units),
31) Tombo Audio platforms, 
32) Stillpoints Rack and footers,
33) Harmonix 666 Million footers,
34) Harmonix 999 coaster,
35) BSG Technologies QOL "Signal Completion Stage",
36) Telos Audio Ground Noise Reducer (2 units),
37) Entreq Ground system (Silver and Copper units),
38) Tripoint Troy Signature ground system

Dato' Danon Han

The concept of GNR

Grounding Noise Reducer – Active Grounding Unit

II. Description

Under normal circumstances, close to 100% of electrical signal transmission from transmitter to receiver can be achieved with good matching impedance. When the zero potential of both the transmitter and receiver starts drifting; under circumstances such as long distance transmission or high input impedance. Even with good matching impedance, error will still be present when signal is received due to instability of the zero potential. In the case for digital signal, this instability will cause time base error such as jitter and during worse case scenario it will cause bit loss. For analogue signals, it causes a lack of fidelity of different levels and affecting audio visual signal’s realism. Traditionally, within the devices, very large cores of grounding conductors are used to reduce the impedance or the use of star connection grounding, in order to create an equal zero potential. However, different devices within the system usually relies on signal cables to get connected, conductors have limitations and is difficult to achieve star connection concept.

This creative solution is based on systematic concept, developing of a new original approach, where the product of this device, the GNR can be realized. As reflected in the picture below which illustrates the concept of grounding between devices; connection of all devices within the system to the GNR via low impedance cables based on star topology architecture. GNR provides equipotential to all devices connected and filters noise. A catharsis channel is also created to allow these consolidated residual noises to be removed.

III. GNR normally provides multiple points for connection to devices. The circuit architecture is reflected as below. Every point has an independent noise filtering module which will first convert noise from each connected device into heat to be dissipated. The noise filtering module consists of capacitors, resistors, inductors and components which generate eddy current. After this filtering process, the devices’ grounding cables will then be channeled to the Centralized Switching Control Unit. This process will prevent noise from devices from cross contaminating and will allow each device to have similar zero grounding potential. The Environmental Potential Generation Circuit is dependent on the device’s environment and together with the “Live” and “Neutral” phase of the power supply mains, a potential difference will then be generated. The analogue digital sampling circuit (ADC) changes this potential difference into a digital signal which is then mathematically processed by a microprocessor. The microprocessor will then determine the power supply mains; the “Live” and “Neutral” phase before activating the Centralized Switching Control Unit to implement the correct change, allowing the unified devices zero potential to be connected to the power supply mains grounding potential again for an absolute reference zero potential. This will result in system’s stability and low noise zero grounding potential. This is effective in preventing grounding error; which causes signals interference and lacking in fidelity.