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Something New from audiodharma Cable Cooker: the Ground Breaker

01-02-2023 | By Marshall Nack | Issue 125

I'll share a snippet from an email exchange with Alan Kafton, proprietor of audiodharma, the company that makes the Cable Cooker. The subject is the long anticipated, but now available, Ground Breaker adaptor set for the conditioning of power cables.

Good morning, Alan

I just finished cooking a pair of power cords. One PC used the standard power cable adaptors; the other got the new Ground Breaker set. I'll give them a day or so to settle in, then do a quick A/B for a down and dirty comparison for proof of concept, as we discussed.

I'll keep you posted.

Never Been Done Before

The backstory, as Alan relayed it, is that every cable conditioning device on the market (including the Cable Cooker) treats the positive and neutral conductors in a power cable. The third wire, the ground, was untouched—until now. The Ground Breaker is the world's first conditioning device to treat the ground. Never Been Done Before. This was very exciting news, as the ground in power cords and components has emerged as a frontier of growing importance. An entire class of accessory products has arisen to deal with ground related artifacts from companies such as Nordost, Synergistic Research, and Entreq.

conditioning ethernet cable and power cord at the same time

Proof of Concept A/B

While I'm well acquainted with the Cable Cooker's effects on a power cable, the Ground Breaker was terra incognito. How would it sound? Alan wasn't telling and instead suggested I do a proof of concept A/B before getting too involved in this follow-up to my Cable Cooker review from last year. Having a matching pair of AudioQuest Dragon power cables on hand, I connected one to the standard Cable Cooker adaptors and gave it five days, then cooked its mate for five days using the Ground Breaker adaptors. The Ground Breaker replaces the standard power cable adaptor set shipped with the Cable Cooker (and is sold separately). It does the full job: positive, neutral, and ground wires, plus the ground contacts within the power cable plugs. (Those contacts have a good deal of mass on some of the premium plugs). They were allowed to settle in for a day, then I plugged each in turn into the AQ Niagara 1200 Power Conditioner dedicated to my streaming front-end.

Two can't miss differences popped up. The Ground Breaker-treated PC showed a marked increase in image density and soundstage dimensionality. Instruments were hanging in space with so much physical presence and palpability they seemed downright heavy. Stage width expanded modestly, but depth layering really caught your attention. The second area of impact was the quality of the treble. It became softer, more relaxed, with less tendency to stridency, and displayed beautiful refinement. In my system, treble energy dipped a little too much, leaving the frequency curve unbalanced. I simply removed a couple of Audio Bastion cable lifts (which add bass, among other things), and we were back to a linear response.

From the Review

Those observations had a familiar ring. I reread last year's review and, yes, I had reported much the same.

…with the cooked [Audience] frontRow IC in line, the orchestra spreads out and becomes more spacious on Saint-Saens Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso. There's a bit more punch on the bottom and, sure enough, Milstein's top notes are tamed somewhat, the treble is less aggressive than with the uncooked cable.

What's going on here? Either 1) I'm losing it and everything is starting to sound alike, 2) I'm running out of ideas and repeating copy, or 3) the Ground Breaker adaptor impacts the sound in similar fashion. Joking aside, it's perfectly logical the Ground Breaker continues the process, as it subjects the ground wire to the same conditioning algorithm as the positive and neutral receive.

Time to get serious. I engaged my much more resolving CD front-end using my DAC for the power cord swap, and put on the Martinů Violin Concerto No. 2, with Frank Peter Zimmermann, soloist, and Jakub Hrůša, conductor (BIS-2457 SACD). The second movement of the concerto is marked andante moderato. Accordingly, the orchestra proceeds at a relaxed, walking tempo.

Beyond treble integration, the Ground Breaker brought warmth and sweetness. Dynamics navigated the spread from piano to forte with easy give and take. Clearly there was less spurious noise clouding the picture, less extraneous stuff to filter out. Everything I was hearing contributed to the cause of conveying the message. It fleetingly crossed my mind possibly it was simplified? Could there be less information? But that's what it seems like when there's less grunge to sift through to get to the stuff that matters. Your brain is not working as hard.

These observations also rang a familiar note. Last year's review largely dwelled on how the Cable Cooker enhanced PRAT, brought out acoustic aspects of the sound and, ultimately, promoted efficient communication of the musical message. In the current comparison, I'm describing how the Ground Breaker treated PC compared to one that's only received time on the standard power cable adaptors. The Ground Breaker's impact is similar and continues the process.

Crystal Cable Monet PC

I did one further experiment. I have been using Crystal Cable Monet PCs on my digital stack for about a year. They've never received the benefits of the Cable Cooker because the standard power cord adaptors do not fit their Oyaide plugs. The good news is the Ground Breaker has a universal female AC wall plug that fits. I gave a Monet PC 1.5 days on the Ground Breaker.

Ground Breaker AC plug

This cable moved from never-been-cooked to Ground Breaker level and when it went on my DAC, the impact was extraordinary. More air was pumped onto the stage. Air gives the music life and brings out subtle dynamic shadings. Air embellishes body with an additional array of overtones and beautifully nuanced treble. A little bump in the mid-bass smoothed out, even as bass notes plunged deep and taut. Sonic events were emanating from all points on the stage, with more separation and explicit depth cues. Well, I can tell you the Monet PC never performed at this level before.

Cooking Time

The guidelines for using the Ground Breaker are the same as for the standard power cord adaptors. The optimal time to cook a given cable depends on many design elements: the number of conductors and their gauge; the dielectric material; the complexity of the design; the quantity of metal used in the parts… the list is long. Hence, there is no "one-size fits all" conditioning time. The instructions from the web suggest 4 to 5 days for new power cables.

Periodic cooking-and-listening tests are essential to determine the optimal conditioning time for each design. For instance, if you cook a new interconnect for 24 hours, listen to it briefly, then give it another 6 to 8 hours on the Cooker. Repeat this cycle of cooking and listening until you find little or no improvement from the previous test. At that point the cable is probably fully conditioned. Cables that have been in a system for quite some time can improve greatly with a 24 to 36 hour recharge on the Cooker… with speaker cables and power cables, sometimes a bit more… A "periodic recharge" of a system's cabling every 3 or 4 months insures that a system will be at its optimum performance level… Conditioning is not a one-time phenomenon.

Alan elaborated on the "periodic recharge":

One thing I do want to emphasize....the primary raison d'être for owning a Cable Cooker is to perform the recommended "recharges" so that one may maintain a high level of system performance over many years.  It's not just for brand-new cables, a point that many audiophiles are not aware of. 

Cables also need to settle in after a bout of cooking. This could take anywhere from several hours to several days after being plugged in—another variable.

For a rundown of Ground Breaker features click HERE.


I'll get right to the point. If you own a Cable Cooker, I assume you know what it does. A power cable that's been cooked with the standard Cable Cooker power cable adaptor set sounds like you moved up to the next level within the brand. An AudioQuest Dragon power cable still sounds like an AQ cable and won't be mistaken for an Audience frontRow, but it will reveal previously hidden potential.

Taking the standard power cable adaptor set as the baseline, the Ground Breaker is like a booster shot to build up and strengthen the effects. It doubles down on the standard adaptors, so to speak. The result is even more efficient communication of the musical message, and more enjoyment of every recording.

I can state with a degree of certainty that owners of compatible Cable Cooker models won't want to be without the new Ground Breaker adaptor set for power cords. It sets a new standard—your power cable will be the best it can be.

Ground Breaker Set for Power Cords

Retail: $429 

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