After acquiring a copy of Audio Reality, written and published by Mr. Bruce Rozenblit, I had to have the Grounded Grid preamplifier in my humble tube based audio setup.
The kit arrived safely, very well packed and the shipping costs were not over-charged as do some sellers.
Assembly time was 6 hours broken down into 2x 3 hour sessions in the afternoon and early evening in a single saturday.
The product is very well thought out, but the real charm is in the design of the preamp circuit.
Right from the start I knew that this Preamplifier was an order of magnitude better than my Dynaco PAS-4 and Vintage PAS-2/3.
Having heard many Audiophile preamps in the past such as the Atmasphere MP-1 and MP-3 plus the Convergent Audio Technologies CAT, the Grounded Grid was at least as involving as the MP-3 but exhibited less gain than the CAT.
For users who demand the best sound for under $500 USD, the Grounded Grid exceeds any and all expectations.
Furthermore the layout and chassis allow for the installation of additional inputs as well as the fact that the selector switch can provide switching for a total of 6 Inputs.
For those who enjoy Kit building the Transcendent preamp is a charm.
My versio has a 100K Stepped Attenuator instead of the standard 50Kohm Dual Volume potentiometer. For those wishing to install a set of tape outputs a 100 Kohm volume control would be the minimum recommended value so as to minimize the effects of Tape-Deck or Recorder inputs loading the input impedande down reducing the gain.
Subwoofer outputs can easily be installed. And the IEC power connector allows for power cable experimentation.
A simple, stripped-down design with lots of mucic and very little frills. Great performer but will reveal limitations in one's system.
The unit provides amazingly taught Bass. Some people have experienced poor Bass response. This may be more due to room acoustics and limitations in the source or audio chain. With such a transparent design, transient information may exceed the ability of a given amp-speaker combination that does not have similar bandwidth or slew-rate.
Very light weight and no-nonsense design. A unique preamplifier for a very confused Hi-Fi world.
This review is about a factory assembled unit only. After reading all the wonderful reviews on this product in this forum plus the factory telling me "it will blow the doors off most other preamps" I was intrigued. Not being very good at soldering plus not really having the time I went for the factory wired unit. I then knew it would be put together the best it could be. Also, the website said I could try it out for 2 weeks. Via the internet I also ordered the unit with an extra set of inputs and outputs and a 24 step attenuator as I wanted to use the preamp in a home theater setup. After a looooooong wait I was eager to try it out when it finally arrived. Visually it seemed so small and light I wondered if it could really do the job. (My current preamp was the Adcom 750 which is fairly hefty by comparison.) I also wanted to try tubes again as I remembered how much I enjoyed their sound many years ago. After keeping the unit on for a few days and playing a variety of music, I sat down for a serious listen over my Magnepan 3.6s and Audio Concepts subwoofers. My first impression was how quiet the unit is. As I played very familier cds, I heard a similar presentation to my Adcom; extended and silky highs with perhaps a bit more micro dynamics than I was used to. Soundstage was about the same but as I listened down into the frequency range I started to hear some big differences. Particularly the deep bass. The Transcendent seemed to get loose even though it was reaching the same depths as the Adcom. On movies it didn't quite have the same impact as the Adcom. I thought maybe it might need a bit more breaking-in but over the course of a week things remained the same. After long cd listening, the preamp seemed so smooth as to be a bit unenvolving. Consequently, I felt the unit wasn't much of an upgrade over my old preamp. Thankfully, I thought, I can return it within the 2 weeks. When I emailed for permission to return the preamp, I was told that that was not possible as I ordered the unit with the extra inputs and outputs and the preamp could not be resold. (The 24 step attenuator had not been installed, as I'd hoped, so that was not a problem). Though I could not find any information regarding this condition on their website, I was forced to keep the preamp. So this review is to alert anyone contemplating purchasing a wired unit. Overall, the preamp is probably a good value in kit form but I would say it's about average as a wired preamp.
I've had my Grounded Grid preamp for about a month now, and I am absolutely delighted with it. I purchased the kit unheard and with some trepidation, but was able to build it in about 6-7 easy hours. I haven't soldered anything more complicated than a few speaker cables and lamp cords for years now, but had no trouble at all with this kit. The instructions and photographs are very clear, the parts well organized and the boards very well marked and laid out. I haven't built a kit since I helped my Dad put together a Heathkit voltmeter back in the 70's, but never felt unsure of myself thanks to the excellent directions provided.
After triple-checking my work, I closed up the case, plugged in in and tried it out after a short warm-up. I was unable to remove a serious S...-eating grin from my face for the next couple of hours. It was a marked improvement on my Mac C712 or TA-P9000ES, which I was (and am still) very happy with for other uses.
I am using a Jolida JD100 CD and a Marantz DV8400 SACD/DVD player as line sources, with a Mesa Baron 5881 and a pair of Maggie 1.6QRs on the business end. The GG brought out small details that I didn't know I had been missing, while at the same time removing the hard edge to cymbals, vocal sybilants, and brass that I had noticed from time to time with my Mac and TAP. The treble didn't sound soft or rolled-off at all, just more "live" and less fatiguing. Midrange and bass are fast and accurate, and the whole thing is dead quiet. I listen to everything from electronica to blues and classical, and it does very well on all of it.
My Baron is very input-sensitive, and I had assumed I would have to put up with more noise by moving to a tube pre that didn't cost me all of my play money for a few months. NOT the case! I normally listen at 85-90 dB, with the Grid's volume pot at only the 7:30 or 8 o'clock position. I have to turn the pot all the way to 1 or 2 o'clock before I get any detectable noise out of my speaks with my ear a foot away. I'm sure if any signal hit them at this level, my Maggies would shred almost as quickly as my eardrums.
I can't claim to have demo'ed a wide range of other preamp options in my home system, but as an audio junkie, I never pass up the chance to listen to good gear at a dealer or fellow enthusiast's place. I was, and remain, VERY impressed with the performance of the Grid, especially at this price. With Maggies, I prefer it to any of the sub-$3k SS preamps I've listened to (Rotel, Adcom, NAD, Arcam, Audio Refinement, Sunfire, Parasound, B&K, Classe, Mac, etc.). The only preamps that I've heard that I prefer to the GG with my Magnepans are some of the Audio Research, Sonic Frontiers, Lamm and other pre's costing a few thousand more. Even then, the differences were small, and on my budget, I'd prefer to spend the difference on a couple of hundred recordings. I've never heard the GG with dynamic or horn speakers, but I don't think my opinion would be any different. That's a moot point for me, anyway, since I can't see giving up my Maggies except to trade up to another set.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a trio of new Yugoslavian Ei 12AU7s included with the kit. I was expecting to find some cheaper Sino tubes that I'd be tempted to replace immediately. I've read that the Ei tubes can be pretty microphonic, but I haven't been able to detect anything of the kind in this application.
Another advantage of the simplicity of the Grid's design is that you could easily change out components such as pots, selector switches, and caps. So far, I see no reason to, although Bruce Rozenblit's step attenuator is intriguing because of it's sensitivity at low levels. I'm sure you could easily put Alps, DACT, or other upgrades in if you felt the need to tweak. I've come across a fair number of articles on discussion boards about how to add tape outs, extra inputs, and other tweaks I might be tempted to try out. There is plenty of space to do so, and you won't need an engineering degree or the manual dexterity of a Persian carpet weaver to lay it out, either.
The only other comment I have is thanks for Bruce Rozenblit's customer service. As others have mentioned, I'm pretty sure it's a one-man shop, since I got the man himself on the phone when I called to check on my order. It had been about three weeks since I had placed it, I was going on business travel for a few weeks, and was concerned that it would arrive and sit on my front porch in the salt air while I was away. Bruce was very friendly (and busy), and the well-boxed kit arrived a few days after my "hurry up, please" request. Thanks!
Note: The kit doesn't come with solder, so make sure to get some beforehand. I still had some Cardas quadeutetic from for the aforementioned speaker cable project, so I lucked out. I wouldn't go with water-soluble flux, since I bet the power supplies wouldn't take too kindly to being washed after you finish.