So if you have been following my ramblings over the years (of which I tend to ramble—hence the title of my column) it is obvious that one of my goals with our system is to minimize noise. Not my music per se, since much of it is noise, but the noise that rides in the AC and within components and such. By lowering this as much as possible, we are able to hear further into our music with a wider, deeper, and more palpable soundstage. There is more music and less stuff… or noise getting in the way. Things are cleaner, clearer… more there. More tangible and real. Less crap.
How so? We have swapped power supplies from SBooster for the SMPS that come with various devices. Added LAN isolators from Acoustic Revive along with better Cat 6 cables from Sablon, Audioquest, and JCat/JPlay. Added here and there where they do their best, various USB "fixers" from iFi, Audioquest, and UpTone Audio. Better USB cables from just about anyone and everyone (they all have their own characteristic). AC filtration from ByBee and AudioMagic… combined with better power cords from Dynamic Design, Sablon, Kubala-Sosna, WyWires, and many others—each serving their purpose on whatever they sound best feeding the AC. A dedicated NAS from Certon, and by going with a streamer like the Aries from Auralic or the N100 from Aurender, allows us to get away from noisy computers and a general purpose NAS. Toss in various feet, cones, supports and yeah, things get crazy.
But the final area to deal with, is what might be going on in the ground of either our AC or within any one component. Yeah, for sure the AC ground unit from Audio Magic works wonders plugged into the AC circuit, but is there more to be done?
So here we have the grounding units from Entreq. A brief bit about what they are going after, from their site…
"Every home has a range of products that cause interference & pollutants to enter the main supply. These products can range from a simple fluorescent light, heating control, or even the humble domestic appliances, scattered around your home. Many modern home appliances use switching power supplies, LED lamps, and dimmers. These are particularly bad for polluting the mains with high frequency interference. This interference, from a music lover's perspective, can litter the ground/earth plane with noise & also create strong, stray magnetic fields. This in turn can severely affect the sound quality of the music lover's system/setup. An inherent problem with three phase electrical systems is the level of "stray voltage" which is invariably present. Excess power or energy is returned to the ground or earth point, where it is joined to the earth in the fuse box or / and additionally to the protective ground, also found in the water pipe system of your home."
Additionally from their site…
"These devices (modern home appliances) give rise to stray voltages that can generate, amongst other things, strong magnetic fields that then flow around the system looking for an attractive earth point. This action results in the noise floor being raised, the dynamics being limited, and the flow and timing of our audio being deteriorated. Therefore solving the problem becomes obvious—the difficulty is draining away the newly added noise & the unwanted overtones/ magnetic fields—while at the same time preserving the fundamentals of the power. As we have discovered, if you drain those away as well, the resulting sound becomes dark and lifeless with no dynamics at all. You quite simply throw the baby out with the bathwater!"
So the Entreq units offer this noise traveling on the ground a pathway to freedom by means of a different grounding point. Meaning the Entreq boxes are a grounding endpoin—or at the very least an option to drain away noise and such that is in and on the ground plane of your components. The Poseidon is quite heavy while the Olympus, at a third the size, is like… a third as heavy. But then it is one third of the Poseidon, or another way of thinking is that the Poseidon is three of the Olympus' in one box.
Oh, and more from their site about the Poseidon… "The Poseidon can be best described as three totally independent Olympus MinimUs in one neat enclosure. With its three pure solid Silver binding posts the Poseidon offers a tremendous level of performance & an almost limitless set of options. One option in particular is the ability to now ground each channel of your amplifier, via the negative speaker terminals, while simultaneously & independently being able to ground your Pre-amp or Dac at the same time. This option alone offers an unrivalled level of performance yet to be attained in any other single Entreq Ground box. This is just one option; please let your imagination and your dealer take you further."
And about the Olympus… "The Olympus groundboxes are fundamentally different from both the Tellus & Silver Tellus. The idea for the Olympus was sparked when we designed the "supercharging"qualities of the Atlantis MinimUs & Tellus. There were so many unique and interesting details on this development that when we decided to make Olympus we had to free ourselves to implement all that we had learned with no fixed parameters. It was exciting, almost like starting afresh. Poseidon can also be a good choice for those who find the Olympus Tellus either physically difficult to accommodate but want the Olympus benefits and where the single outlet on the Olympus MinimUs doesn't offer enough flexibility with connectivity."
And lastly…"So in the Olympus line we have an all new mineral-mix, as well as a reduction of the quantity of some metal particulates, there is the inclusion of some all new metals (for example Magnesium). Olympus MinimUs, like our other MinimUs, has only one outlet but in this case it is now solid Silver. Needless to say it is now the top model in the Mini Groundboxes. Olympus is primarily designed for ground Pre-amps and Dacs. But it can also do a very good job with the grounding of our cables and our CleanUs line. The most significant difference in performance, compared to the Silver Minimus, is more texture and air in the lower frequency as well as more detail and better overall flow in the music."
Now, I can't say that any of this has or has not been measured or quantified in any way. Of course if it has, there would still be naysayers out there and if it hasn't then the units shouldn't really do anything. After all, if I have a fever that is measurable, then taking something to reduce that fever makes sense and I feel better. But if I know that I don't have a measurable fever, then taking that would make no sense… and I wouldn't feel any different. But if I am not sure I have a fever and take something for a fever, and then I do feel better, then perhaps I did have a fever… I think… that makes sense.
Okay, but what do we hear when they are in place? Well it is quite interesting and somewhat difficult to say as the Entreqs do not allow for a quick A/B test. What, you say? See the units require some time for the grounding to have an effect—like several hours at least with more happening hours later… like up to 24 hours for the whole experience to be solidified. So popping one in and out is not going to happen. Well, it can and it did, but it was hours later before I started to experience their benefit. And then you have different cables for different applications and sonic differences… combinations!
So I set up the Poseidon with the amplifier (left negative to left terminal and right negative to right terminal), the PS Audio DirectStream DAC (S/PDIF) to the middle terminal, and the Olympus' single terminal to the USB on the Aries and S/PDIF on the Playback MPS-5. Sweet… though swapping the Cary SLP-05 preamp for the PS Audio was not a happy camper making thing, too bright and forward… but that took a few hours to raise its pointy little head. Go figure.
But with it configured as noted above with just the amp and DAC(s)… wowzers. Yeah, I am relying on my aural memory based on it taking some time to gel, but then this is the system we have been listening to for many days and months... and damn it, we know what it sounds like. But with the Entreq items in the system… we clearly heard a cleaner presentation where dynamics and drive are pushed that much further towards maximum drive. Now, what I find interesting is that prior to the Entreqs, we found the system to be quite excellent in presenting the music as we wanted to hear it—articulate, space, air, delicate, subtle nuances, swing, drive, dynamic, palpability, slam, extended… the usual checklist was checked off and we were really happy.
Toss in the Entreq units and it was like… "Hey, what were we listening to before?" "This is more of all that and then some…" More weight, dynamic slam, drive… bigger, better, faster. Transparency and resolution above what we had prior… this is way cool. Not the least bit analytical or in your face… all very balanced and right. But what is that I hear at lower volumes now? What was missing prior to the Entreqs? Delicacy. Subtle nuances… space. Clarity. For sure as one turns up the volume things grow and blossom… which is why we tend to reach for the volume to hear more of what is there. The room swells with music and things get loud. But the Entreqs, while still doing their magic at higher volumes, really shine at lower volumes: as we turn the volume down, previously we sort of lost things. We have less than before because we have less overall. With the Entreqs you get it all at any volume. This is way cool. I mean, damn… listening to the music at conversation or reading levels and we are hearing it all. The room is still filled with music. Turn it up and it gets louder while staying cleaner, and well… we have had a number of friends over to listen to various titles (PiL, My Disco, Haxon Cloak, Fourtet, Squarepusher, Ben Frost, and so on,)… all sitting there totally enraptured with the sound. Smiles ear to ear, bobbing and grooving… all to the force, scale… slam and dynamics of our music. Clean and articulate. Expansive. Like I said wowzers. Jump factor times 11.
Meaning that since they do make a difference audibly and musically—one that many here can attest to—then there must be something going on, on the ground… or in the ground (or both!) as they purport. Yeah, the explanation appears to hold water that something—noise—is affecting the signal and hence the music. Do something, like what the Entreqs do, and things get way better… even with my new AC panel grounded to not only a solid Earth ground (8 foot copper rod), but to the house's plumbing as well. All to code and all done right… and the Entreqs still make a significant difference.
Trade-offs? None that I can put my finger on… other than the cost…. And having more boxes lying around. But yeah, it always comes back to the cost. Sigh. And we just retired too! Sadly the Entreq products are not inexpensive, though compared to some of the competition; one could consider them rather affordable. But even so, the Poseidon is $4995, the Olympus is $2599… and the cables range in price from $99 to $1639 each (1.65 meters) depending on which cable with which termination. Need a good number of cables and things get real pricey, real fast.
Now I was only sent two different sets of cables out of the six offerings, so my comments on what the cables do, is limited…. very limited. What arrived here were several of the Eartha Apollo ($699) which they describe as being neutral, but very open and detailed, and several of the Eartha Atlantis ($1639) which they describe as being very detailed and neutral. The cables included a mixture of RCA, USB, and spade connections. These cables are purpose built to do what they need to do—have very low resistance. The cables are silver wire with a simple termination and cloth jacket. No Teflon, no plastic… very elegant and clean. Simple and effective.
So all I can say is that with these cables used as noted above… what I wrote is what we heard. Am thinking that their description is spot on and that the copper version would be warmer, richer, and less detailed…?
A thing to be cognoscente about here is that the products from Entreq are not tone controls or something you use because you don't like the sound of your system... and how it presents your music and so are out to change it. No, they are something you use at the end to make sure you are getting all that you deserve after you have your system doing what you want with your music. Not so much a tweak but think of it as the last piece of the puzzle.
The Entreq offerings are stellar in every way I can think of… highly recommended. They work as described and make our music that much better. I am hoping this is the end of tweaking and all I am stuck with is components and such (like the PS Audio DirectStream DAC, the Vandersteen Quatro Wood Carbon loudspeakers, cables from Purist Audio)… Oh damn! Stay tuned.