Puritan Audio Labs GroundMaster CITY and RouteMaster system by Terry London
Imbedded in my review of the Rockna Audio Wavelight DAC (reviewed here), I shared my total amazement when I inserted the Puritan Audio Laboratories GroundMaster device into the Puritan Audio Laboratories PSM-136 power conditioner to ground my system. The effect on the performance of my system was a type of “audio alchemy,” concerning the purity of tonality of instruments; a level of transparency that allowed the smallest micro-details to be heard. The sense of ease and overall dynamics/wallop of the music was also increased. These qualitative improvements were not subtle but were easily heard in a system that had tweaked to the max to get every last scintilla of musical reproduction. I explained that to use the GroundMaster device; you had to drive an eight-foot copper grounding rod in your backyard at least six feet from your home’s foundation and run a copper wire directly to the ground pin of the Puritan AC conditioner. More than ten readers relayed their experiences as well. They described installing the GroundMaster and copper grounding rod, and all reported that they too were bedazzled with the effects this had on their system. Another aspect of this experience that was quite eye-opening was the cost vs. performance ratio. The Ground Master costs $290, and the external copper grounding rod and wire added another $30 to the total installation. I have seen many audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on tweaks and, at most get minimal sonic improvements in their systems. So, here’s a grounding system that costs less than $400 that can dramatically kick up the performance of any system’s enjoyment.
Because of my experience with the original Puritan Audio Laboratories GroundMaster, when the resident genius of this company, Mike Lester, was coming out with two new products, the GroundMaster City, which retails for $250, and the RouteMaster (which retails for $700). I was asked to be a Beta tester to compare the original GroundMaster to the Ground Master City and the new device, the RouteMaster. The US importer, Brian Tucker of Pro Audio LLC, and retailer Mike Kay of Audio Archon expedited this. I am not an electrical engineer, so for the technical explanations/questions about these devices, I would refer you to either the Puritan Audio Laboratories website or Brian Tucker or Mike Kay if you want to inquire about how this grounding system works. I know what its effect is on the performance of my system are, but not as clear about how it goes about doing its “audio alchemy” to achieve this remarkable improvement.
Mike Lester developed the GroundMaster City to bring this grounding device to listeners who cannot connect to an external eight-foot copper grounding rod outside. Individuals who live in hi-rise apartments or condos with rules understand this all too well. The GroundMaster City comprises a small black box connected to a high-quality three-prong plug via a 3″ cord. Additionally, a wire is provided to connect the GroundMaster City to a power conditioner. To run the experiment to compare the performance of the GroundMaster/external grounding rod to the GroundMaster City, I removed the original and replaced it with the new GroundMaster City. After hours of comparison, my verdict was that the Ground Master City got at least 90-percent of the performance of the GroundMaster/external grounding rod combo. So, if you can’t or don’t want to bother with installing an external seven-foot copper grounding rod, you now have the option of getting virtually all the sonic benefits with just plugging the GroundMaster City into your wall socket.
Mike Lester discovered that using signal grounding (not chassis grounding) in what’s called a Star grounding configuration and isolating this grounding grid (instead of going through an AC power conditioner) increased the already superb sonic changes to an even higher level of performance. Hence, the RouteMaster was born to do all the routing between your components and GroundMaster or GroundMaster City.
The RouteMaster is a small box with nine connections and comes with high-quality wires (your lengths may differ) with banana plugs for the RouteMaster’s inputs and different inputs (RCA, XLR) for the inputs of your system’s gear. The RouteMaster is connected to the GroundMaster or GroundMaster City through a single wire attachment.
When my system was connected entirely to the GroundMaster City and the RouteMaster, the improvements were not subtle. Everything I described in the opening of this review (purity of tonality, disappearing noise floor, increased dynamics, more open soundstage, etc.) went to a higher level. I quickly heard these improvements even compared to the vast improvements I experienced with the original GroundMaster/external grounding rod through the power conditioner!
Remember, the total cost of the GroundMaster City and RoutMaster is $950. Based on what I shared regarding the tremendous improvements in tonality and spatial qualities, I believe these devices are some of the most amazing bargains in high-end audio. For comparison, Nordost offers a very similar grounding system/device called the QKORE6 which they sell for $5,000. They also charge $220 for each grounding wire compared to the $60 that Puritan Audio charges for each of their wires. I don’t know how others validate charging exorbitant sums of money. Puritan Audio Labs has two new products that cost less than $1000 combined, and that will take your system to a higher level of sonic excellence while keeping you engaged in the music.
Ground Master: $290
Route Master: $700
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