Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid Preamplifiers

Grounded Grid

Stereo Preamplifier Kit

User Reviews (26)

Showing 1-10 of 26  
Bob Lavoie   AudioPhile [Jan 11, 2017]

Well I built one of these for a friend as a kit about 15 years ago, and never really cared or took the time to listen to it. Fast forward to now, and I recently acquired a Transcendant Sound single ended OTL and am so impressed. I run it with Klipsch RF 280P towers. So I bought a used Grounded Grid on E-Bay, this one has two sets of outputs which is nice. The sound of this preamp is just fantastic to my ears. I couldn't be happier. Yes it sounds great with the Transcendant single ended OTL. But is mates very well with other amps I have, both solid state and tube. I love how light and simple it is. Very clear window into the soundstage, not too tubey or syrupy, very nice presentation. I am completely satisfied and I have owned Audio Research LS-3, LS-7, LS-2, Krell KRC, Krell KSA-2, lot of stuff. This holds it's own against any of them IMHO. Yes I would recommend it, especially at its price point. A no brainer.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Sherminator   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 07, 2006]
Strength:

Simple.
Ground breaking circuitry
Musical
Quiet, no popping sounds between inputs

Weakness:

Could have a better quality LED assembly.

Fantastic clear performance. Such a simple design produces a very nice musical presentation. It may not be the ultimate in refinement, but for 500 bucks you can't have a better Tube Preamp.

Customer Service

Excellent, Bruce is a quiet e-mailer. Communication was simple and effective

Similar Products Used: Dynaco PAS-3 and PAS-4
McIntosh C-28
ADCOM GTP-400
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Rich Sherman   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 07, 2006]
Strength:

Unique technical design.
Looks.
PC Board quality
Simple assembly.
Musicality

Weakness:

None for such a bargain

I just want to second all of the positives. The GG Preamp is a great starter kit and provides music, nothing else.

Customer Service

Excellent communication. Bruce is not a very verbose person, seems to be a busy guy.

Similar Products Used: McIntosh C-28
Dynaco PAS-3
Dynaco PAS-4
Adcom GTP-400
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Richard Sherman   Audio Enthusiast [May 12, 2006]
Strength:

Music, sound and design. Very low noise floor. Transparent almost clinically neutral soundstage. No pops or clicks when changing sources. Uses readily available economical 12AU7 vacuum tubes. Not very sensitive to variations in 12AU7 tubes, proving that the design has been optimized and is not overly sensitive to variations in tube characteristics. Nice front face plate and chassis that is easy to machine and modify. Non-magnetic aluminum chassis and excellent hum rejection. Super low noise floor compliments the Grounded Grid's wide bandwidth. Can use a good break-in period to sonically ripen. I estimate about 100 Hours to fully break in all components.

Weakness:

The kit could use some better quality electrolytic capacitors and output signal capacitors, but this would increase cost. Yet this it is easy to order the kit, inventory the parts and seek better quality substitutes. The Grounded Grid preamp unit will not work very well in applications that require large values of gain so make sure that your amplifiers can be driven by this wondefully clever preamp before deciding. The gain of the Preamp is specified at 12 dB as compared to my Dynaco PAS-4 at 18.5 dB. Maximum output voltage is 20 VRMS vs. 40 VRMS for the Dynaco PAS-4. Just make sure your sources and amplifiers are able to work well with a 12dB line stage.

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.

Customer Service

No issue so far. Fair pricing and shipping costs.

Similar Products Used: None, this product is a one-of-a kind design. Nothing in the market to faily compare the unique curcuit topology.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tinear   AudioPhile [Jun 26, 2004]
Strength:

Stone quiet with very good micro dynamics. Small and light weight. Good highs, midrange, soundstage. Probably a good value in kit form.

Weakness:

Loose bass. Kind of looks like a kit. Not a good value in preassembled form. Read the fine print on the website.

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.

Similar Products Used: Over the years: Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Adcom, too many others.
OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
2
MBoydell   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 14, 2004]
Strength:

Speed, detail, low noise, soundstage. You can brag about how you built it, and mod it easily if you get the urge. If you don't want to go the DIY route, you can buy it pre-assembled for an extra 300 clams. I don't make $300 bucks for 7 hours of my time on a weekday evening (or any other time, for that matter), so for my money, building it yourself is a great deal.

Weakness:

It's a kit, so you could mess it up if you tried. The case is kind of "bulldog ugly" when compared to high-end gear. The face sure ain't pretty, but it DOES look like it means business. It is probably narrower than the rest of your gear, so if that bothers you, you'd have to bodge together a more "standard" faceplate. No remote, so you'll actually have to get off your butt to change sources and volume. Consider it part of your de-couch-spudification program, if it makes you feel better. There is no phono section (Transcendent sells a stand-alone), tape out, or second line out. Only 3 stereo inputs. These issues could be "fixed" with a little ingenuity. Wait... Here's an actual complaint! The power-on LED doesn't seat well in the faceplate, and seems a little dim in a lighted room when seen from the side. The instructions say you could use a little contact cement to fix that, and you could always get a different LED at Radio Scrap. However, if you don't have any, it is 10PM and you want to finish up that evening, you're stuck with it until you can get to the store the next day. That's really all I have to kvetch about, so this might actually work out as a compliment.

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.

Similar Products Used: Owned: Mac C712, Sony TA-P9000ES, B&K PT3, Proton 1100, Jolida 202a and 302a integrated amps, Yamaha RX-V1200 HT receiver preamp section. Store demos: A range of Rotel, Adcom, NAD, Parasound, Audio Refinement, Mac, Audio Research, Sonic Frontiers, and other SS & tube preamps.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
henner   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 06, 2004]
Strength:

dynamic, realistic sound, good staging.

Weakness:

requires patience to get and build. Bass is a bit wooly.

I believe this was first oferred for $1200 back in 1998. Now it is available as a kit for $500 or assembled for $800 from Bruce Rosenblat at transcendent sound. It took about a month to get my order, I figure this was due to its popularity and apparently the business is a one man operation. If I was in this business, I'd have kits boxed up and ready to go. Being a DIY specialty product, longer order times are probably not uncommon, just be ready to wait awhile when you order one. I have been using it for awhile and with my pass amp, it is not bright at all, so I'm not sure about all the people who say it's bright...guess it depends on the amp you use it with. Also I think I should note that I upgraded the volume control, selector switch (with Noble pot and Grayhill switch), and output capacitors (Ansar). The grid gives a nice dynamic and clear sound. One thing that I notice so far on the minus side is the bass, which is somewhat wooly (a bit fat and lacking tightness), maybe this will reduce with more "break in", another user mentioned the same thing on the transcendent message board and he used all the original parts, so I'm not alone in this perception. It took about ten hours to build and as everyone says, very good directions are supplied. Is it a $3000 giant killer for $500? I don't know I'd never spend $3000 on a preamp. That's why I got the grid. I can say that you'd be hard pressed to outdo it for $500, unless you are a very experienced DIY person who can build from scratch. It is a very good preamp, it is dead quiet (as everybody says), and you can throw off the shelf new tubes (Tesla, electroharmonix, Ei) in it and it works great, I can't say the same for the PV10 I used to have. That alone makes is a huge plus in my book. I had no idea how dynamic my little Monitor audio studio 2 speakers could be, the grid gives a full piano tone akin to the real thing. Soundstaging is good, but not artificially so, I always felt that ultra pinpoint 3D staging is an additive quality because I never hear it in any live music setting (Jazz, classical, rock- small venues and large). The grids main strong point is simple- it boogies and it swings with rock and jazz, and its smooth and spacious with classical... I like it alot. It is reasonably priced and infinitely tweakable. Those who like to get into the nuts and bolts of audio gear should try one, then you realize that "high end" multi-thousand dollar preamps actually cost a small fraction of their price in parts. Don't expect $3000 dollar performance because no preamp costs anywhere near that to build.

Similar Products Used: Adcom GFP555, Conrad Johnson PV10
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Taniane   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 15, 2003]
Strength:

No 300% distributor, dealer, retailer, advertising, etc markups. The schematics of this product are available readily (book: Audio Reality) there is nothing to hide here. Very reliable. Sounds amazing.

Weakness:

Supplied volume pot needed to be replaced due to low level channel imbalance. This is easily solved and may not be necessary depending on how much low volume listening you do. Non uniform chasis size - not that any such thing exists. But it is generally less wide than many other components. Unable to audition locally. However there are a number of associates which may be able to demonstrate the unit to you depending on if there are any in your area.

The Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid is the best sounding preamp I've heard - solid state or valve based. There is nothing tubey about this preamp - it's lightningly quick and silent as a tomb and reliable! I bought it as a learning excercise, I didn't expect to to replace my existing preamp (Musical Fidelity A3CR Pre). Should you need extra inputs - adding them is childs play. A quick trip down to my local electronic parts retailer, $10.00 later and two more sets of inputs. Order the kit, assemble it yourself and save yourself $300. Building it yourself is a great learning excercise and surprisingly easy. There is plenty of room to work inside the chasis. All the parts are clearly seperated and instructions are well illustrated. You won't know what you're missing until you've tried it. Giant killer indeed.

Similar Products Used: Musical Fidelity A3, Rega, Electrocompaniet, Linn, Rotel, Krell, seperates.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
paul661   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 12, 2002]

I wanted a tube pre as a front end for my Anthem Amp 1 so I ordered the Grounded Grid. Up to this point I've been using a Marantz 5 channel receiver as a preamp. Delivery was a little slow (about a month due to Bruce waiting for enclosures) and the shipping costs were a little steep ($20 US to Bruce and $45 CDN to UPS (surprise!)) but the kit was fun to build and sounds great, so now that it's built, I can't complain. Building the kit took me about 6-7 hours over 3 nights (I didn't rush). This is the first time I've ever soldered anything, so this kit was a bit of a gamble for me. Fortunately, the instructions were perfect, the circuit board was well labeled and the parts were well organized. In fact I was surprised at how much thought and effort went into making the kit easy and enjoyable to assemble. I was also surprised when the kit worked the first time I plugged it in, given that my soldering technique was pretty bad until half way through the kit. The GG sounded good on the first day, but I'm pretty sure it sounds better after a couple of weeks. I guess there is some break in time. My system is now incredibly detailed and I'm hearing things on recordings that I've never noticed before. I've been listening to music (vinyl, cd) and movies (vcr and dvd) and all sources are much improved compared to the marantz. Some Cd recordings can sound a little nasty coming from my budget toshiba dvd player so I'll have to upgrade that. Some new speakers would be nice as well. Unfortunately, the GG will expose any weakness in your system. I've tried some different feedback resistors - the stock 100k, a 220k and no resistor. Now that the GG is broken in, I've gone back to the 100k and I'm happy with it. I also added a blue LED in place of the stock red LED just for fun and it looks better in my opinion. I have not compared the GG to other pre amps on a reference system, but it has made my system better. I'll likely post another review after my cd player and speakers are upgraded. Overall, I recommend building the kit. It's easy and rewarding to build and the finished product is excellent.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Chad   Audiophile [Jan 30, 2000]
Strength:

pls see earlier post.

Epitaph to the Transcendent Grounded Grid:


Sad Note is that Bruce from Transcendent has decided to discontinue the Unit. Not because of performance but because of its relative slow mainstream sales. It seems that most people equate price with sound quality and because of its US $1000 price category, people arent willing to try it out. Well Soundstage did and it became Soundstage Reviewers Choice Component 98 for preamps.

Let me tell you audiophile snobs,you have missed out on a
true blue killer preamp.In my system, it replaced a $$4000++
big name tube pre. The Stock Grid is one of the quietest and fastest tube preamps at any price.And with the help of Bruce and others on the Transcendent site, many Grid owners have upgraded the caps and power supplys to make their grids even more superior. I call mine with upgrades , the Grounded Grid Deluxe BR.

On a more positive note, Im sure many of you Grid owners have now realised that you should hold on to your Grids as they have reached the superclassic status. I wont be selling my mine now even at double the original cost.IMHO,
so superior is the topology, I have plans to rewire with better cables and throw in a better volume pot for the final "Signature Touch".

Thanks agin to Bruce for all his advice and for offering a great real world preamp.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 26  

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