I would guess that all audiophiles have at one time struggled with ground loop problems, such as hum. I know I have. I have used cheaters, tested for minimum leakage voltage, and tried system star grounding ideas. In the main, I have been able to deal with hum and other noise associated with ground loops. Ground loops always loom as a possibility when a component has a ground pin connection to its chassis as is required by Underwriters Labs in the U.S. In addition to that ground, using wire interconnect between components allows a second ground of typically a different potential through that other component and its AC ground. Having multiple dedicated lines, each with a different route to ground, further aggregates this.
About four years ago, I noticed the Granite Audio Ground Zero while at CES. Their talk was convincing, so I bought one. When I tried it in my system, I was somewhat disappointed. It featured three levels of impedance to ground for each of three sets on connections. Inside the central box, after the selectable impedance, all are connected to the main ground through an AC plug with only the ground pin connected. It did help slightly.
My H-Cat electronic’s circuit is very sensitive to ground loops, even if inaudible. The manufacturer strongly recommends having only the line stage grounded. This is how I have been running my system the last several years. Most recently, I have been using cheap cheaters from Home Depot that were later “Quantum Tunneled” by Synergistic Research. These are the best cheaters I have ever heard. This was the state of my system when TriPoint Audio approached us for a review. Since I have the reputation as always interested in tweaks, I was assigned to review their Troy passive EMI/RFI filtration system, which I thought was quite like the Granite Audio Ground Zero. It is substantially more evolved. As TriPoint says, “Come experience the holographic transportation of the real musical event with our proprietary passive filtration that eliminates EMI/RFI from the signal and impulse signal flow. Hear what your electronics, room, and vibration control really sound like.” I did exactly that. According to TriPoint, “Music without Tripoint is nothing more than amplified noise.” It does eliminate ground loops also.
The Troy is the first product of Tripoint. The motivation behind it seems entirely one of achieving the best possible sound using the very best materials that the ear can identify. For proprietary reasons, we are told little about what goes on in this smart looking African Bubinga chassis with 14 coats of clear piano finished box. You see three Cardas pure-copper binding posts, a three-conductor, substantial fixed “power” cord with an Oyaide P-79 male plug, which only has the ground pin connected, and the solid silver grounding cables with Oyaide spades for connecting all your components. A continuity check shows the three binding posts are connected to each other and to the grounding pin on the wall plug, possibly only at the wall plug.
The investigation of how this device works should note: it is passive, it has no transformers, no caps, no ferrites, no coils, and no LEDs. It has impedance ground matching, vibration control tuning, and composite materials that absorb EMI and RFI. It is heavy and apparently uses a non-metal box. Finally, there is an Apollo model with only two Cardas binding posts for a thousand dollars less. This seems to me to not be a good way to go.
The Tripoint was merely added to my existing system sitting on the floor on its brass points and with provided brass cups protecting the floor. This is where I was encouraged to set the Tripoint by Miguel Alvarez, the designer and owner of Tripoint. With one exception, I used a chassis screw on components to attach the provided grounding wires. The other end was connected to the binding posts on the Tripoint. One component had a ground lug. Each unit comes with four pure silver cables for grounding components to the Tripoint. There are: one 3 meters, two 2 meters, one 1.5 meter grounding cables with Oyaide spades.
At initial turn on, I realized that the Tripoint was quite audible. The sound stage was encompassing and the noise levels had gone down substantially. But after a good deal of settle-in time with the Tripoint, it was on Sinatra at the Sands Reprise, a live recording with the big Count Basie orchestra with much audience noise, that I first realized the magnitude of the improvement it gave. While I have had substantial improvements over time in reproducing a facsimile of being there with this recording, it still did not have the placement of Frank, the orchestra, and the audience that was plausible. And when the orchestra raged, all plausibility was lost. The musicians were just back there on the stage. Some of the quieter songs with only Frank and a single piano (Basie) were better. My vinyl copy was much better but still failed to have a satisfying realism.
I chose the disc off my music server (Exemplar through the Exemplar/Xindak DAC 5) and was totally taken aback. I was there, and at a choice table in Vegas! I listened through the entire disc, with the exception of several talks by Frank. Symphonic works show some of this space and realism, but you get a sense in studio records of more limited space in the recording venue. Even some live recordings, such as Clark Terry’s Clark Terry Live at the Village Gate, Chesky, suggest a much smaller area, especially for the band. The point is that the TriPoint has a major benefit in the realism of the sound stage.
Frank Sinatra’s Only the Lonely, an Original Master Recording from Capitol is a monaural recording. With the Tripoint, it has an outstanding open and encompassing sound that makes it nearly stereo. This is an excellent recording and performance both by Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle. Songs, such as “One for my Baby” and “What’s New”involve you in the pathos intended by the composer.
Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis have a new album, Two Men with the Blues. It is a live album of some pretty funky music, such as “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”and “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It”. I have always enjoyed the music, but struggled to understand my perspective on the music to have a realistic sense of the recording venue. Last evening I happened to play it. My involvement was now assured, and I tapped my way through the entire recording, wishing that I had a further opportunity to hear them together. Since the only thing that had changed since I last listened to this disc was the adding of the Tripoint, it gets the credit for greater realism and involvement.
I should say that my H-Cat electronics and the Synergistic Research cabling and power cords and conditioning I use contribute mightily to this holographic imagine, but the Tripoint takes it over the top. Wow! Since several others have noted this great improvement in sound stage when using the Tripoint in their systems, it must have similar impact in a wide variety of systems.
Tripoint does not recommend lifting the AC grounds on your components, but H-Cat does need all but the line stage lifted. I decided to see what the sound was like were I to also lift the AC ground on the H-Cat line stage. Earlier doing so was not the equal of having it grounded. Now, with the Tripoint, I thought lifting the line stage ground improved both the top- and bottom-end of the frequency response. The treble was more delicate and sparkling, while the leading edge of the bass was better defined and more realistic. The dynamics and apparent volume also improved. This was most evident on the Two Men with the Blues album above.
I don’t know, of course, whether all other systems would be so advantaged when using the Tripoint, but I do suspect so. Many are concerned that lifting their grounds is unsafe, but this is not really lifting the grounds as all components are well grounded through the Tripoint. Furthermore your sound may be greatly improved.
I could say more about what I heard on specific recordings, but there is little need to do this as the benefits hold for everything I have tried.
The main test of the Tripoint was withdrawing it from the system. This entails unplugging the wall plug, as well as removing all the connector wires to the components from the binding posts behind the Tripoint. There is no need to turn the system off, so it is a relatively quick A/B comparison. The sound was comparatively more two-dimensional with it out of the system. Involvement with the sound stage and depth were lost. With it out, I realized I needed to ground the H-Cat line stage. Doing that improved the sound substantially but not to the level using the Tripoint. I listened to this sound for some time to let everything stabilize before reinserting the Tripoint. On doing so, I must say I was somewhat disappointed, but then I recalled that earlier I had noticed that the Tripoint somehow seems to settle in. At least in my system, with the benefit of settling in time, the Tripoint is a monumental improvement. The cost, however, is also substantial! I have heard interconnects that cost this much, speakers and amps that cost many times this much, and even AC filtering and power cords that cost this much, but this is a grounding unit. I suspect that many will have to hear a demonstration of the Tripoint before they begin to struggle, as I am, about whether to buy it. Listen at your own peril.
By the way, in my conversations with the designer, Miquel Alverez, I learned that after his initial success with going the “all out design” with the Troy, he sought to reduce the price by going to less expensive parts and material. He gave the connecting wires as an example. They are solid silver and a heavy gauge with a high labor cost and cost $450 each. When he sought to use less expensive cables, according to him, the “magic was lost.” I did try a simple smaller gauge solid silver wire I had and did indeed notice that the sound was not as good. There is no question that no limits were place on the costs of the materials used in the Troy.
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