I thought that the AudioQuest GroundGoody ground wire was going to be, by far, the simplest of these new earthing products I’ve set out to review. After spending time with the Nordost QKORE grounding system, a very thorough, expensive and effective way to reduce noise in your system, I moved on to the Atlas Cables Grun earthing system, which integrates ground wires into the actual runs of Atlas Cables’ Mavros interconnects and speaker cables. Then I’d tackle the GroundGoody last, and it would probably be a very simple and straightforward review, sort of a nightcap.
The QKORE system consisted of three compact and heavy grounding hubs that create an artificial earth, while the Grun grounds everything to a distribution block inside a power strip. Both systems are fairly elaborate, as well as expensive. You’ll have ground wires going everywhere, and that requires a bit of planning and experimentation when it comes to what you want to ground, and how you want to ground it. The AudioQuest GroundGoody, on the other hand, is a single ground cable terminated on both ends with silver spades.
You’ve done this a million times, right? Hooked up a ground wire from your turntable to the grounding hub on your pre or phono pre? Simple!
That’s what I thought, anyway. I imagined how easy it would be to perform A/B comparisons with a single wire swap, something that was almost impossible to do with either the Nordost or the Atlas—there were far too many permutations and configurations, and a wide spectrum of results. I’d perform my normal “noise reduction” test, putting my ear close to the speaker cone and really listening to the noise floor. This was a method, discovered almost by accident, that worked well with the Furutech NCF Boosters I’ve been using. I used the same method to evaluate the QKORE and the Grun.
You can learn a lot about your system, I originally posited, by turning up the volume (with nothing playing, of course), and listening to the quality of the silence. The Furutech, Nordost, Atlas and AudioQuest GroundGoody wires ALL reduced noise, and it was easy to hear the difference. With the NCF products, I was swapping a few of the Boosters and my head happened to be right next to the woofer on the Trenner & Friedl Osiris. Shifting the position of the NCF Booster clearly affected the level of noise coming from the woofer cone. Tweeter, too.
That’s all I need to evaluate grounding and earthing components, right? An ear, firmly pressed? My experience with the AudioQuest GroundGoody wires taught me otherwise, and it was a humbling experience.
Do You Need an AudioQuest GroundGoody in Your Life?
The existence of AudioQuest GroundGoody ground wires seems to answer a very specific question: can you improve the performance of a ground cable, that one that goes from your turntable to the lug next to your phono inputs? Makes perfect sense to me, especially after evaluating the $350 Nordost QWIRE and finding that superior design, terminations and materials went a long way in lowering the noise floor. All ground wires are not the same, I concluded, so don’t roll your eyes until you listen for yourself.
The AudioQuest GroundGoody line consists of just two models, the Saturn and the Jupiter. I received them in 1.5 meter lengths, so that’s $31.95 and $279.95 respectively. (AudioQuest offers the GroundGoody in several lengths between 0.6m and 3m.) I know, that’s a big jump between the two models. What’s up with that?
The biggest difference between the Saturn and the Jupiter is simple. The wire used for the Saturn is copper, and the wire used for the Jupiter is silver. Held up side by side, there are very few visual cues that one cable costs roughly 10X more than the other. One’s black, one’s dark blue. Maybe one is slightly thicker than the other, but I need a pair of precision calipers to be sure.
Of course, it’s a little more complex than the differences between copper and silver, and AudioQuest isn’t using just any old metal in there. We’ll circle back to that in a bit.
Why I Instantly Liked the AudioQuest GroundGoody
First, let me tell you a story about why I thought I needed an AudioQuest GroundGoody, either model, before they even arrived. In the last few years, I’ve received a handful of turntables that didn’t include a ground wire. Weird, huh? Okay, in one case I found the ground wire between the flaps of the cardboard packing box—as I was packing it all up and shipping it back. But that’s not the point!
Evidently there are times when you need an extra grounding wire as a backup. Or, you simply don’t want one of those fluorescent green ground wires within thirty feet of your Dan D’Agostino Momentum phono preamplifier in all its spectacular glory.
That’s where the AudioQuest GroundGoody Saturn comes in. It looks great, like a skinny little AudioQuest cable with an attractive navy blue jacket and nice spade lugs. Is it worth $27.95? Of course it is. It looks classy. It looks like you care about getting the best performance for your modest but beloved analog rig.
How about that $300 AudioQuest GroundGoody Jupiter? The reason for this model should be obvious to most audiophiles. You have a fantastic analog rig already, and you want to take your noise floor even lower. As I evaluated both products, that specific stepped to the forefront of my mind, and I felt like I had a good handle on what to expect.
That’s exactly what reviewers are NOT supposed to do, by the way.
Saturn vs. Jupiter
The biggest difference between the two AudioQuest GroundGoody products is that the Saturn uses AQ’s “perfect-surface” copper conductors (PSC), and the Jupiter uses the silver version of the same (PSS). Both use the same Direct-Silver Plated spades, with AudioQuest’s Garth Powell explaining that:
“Even though a grounding wire can eliminate a ground loop (hum), the direct silver-plated spade connector can’t (or at least is no better or worse in that regard than a non-plated or bare wire connection). We do that (direct silver plate), for superior draining of induced radio-frequency noise.”
(Ah, more foreshadowing.) An interesting note: the Direct-Silver isn’t shiny because it contains no underlying layer of nickel, which is often added to make silver shiny.
Stephen Mejias went into more detail on Perfect Surface:
“The ‘Perfect-Surface’ is enabled by the exceptional drawing and annealing processes, which reduce impurities and create longer grains. But, no matter how carefully the conductor metal is fabricated, the drawing process will always create a directional pattern and an overlay of grains at the conductor’s surface. This, in turn, causes a directional difference in impedance with induced radio-frequencies. We use this to our advantage, controlling the direction of the conductor so that high-frequency noise travels away from where it will do the most harm.”
AudioQuest goes into greater detail here, by the way: https://www.audioquest.com/theory-education/article/83-directionality-its-all-about-noise.
My gut told me I would hear differences between the AudioQuest GroundGoody wires. Based on my experiences so far with the Nordost QKORE Grounding Units and the Atlas Cables Grun Grounding System, those differences would be located along a spectrum of noise and hum. While using both the Nordost and the Atlas, I was able to steadily reduce noise as I made more grounding connections through the system. Sometimes it made for a huge mess on my rack, as well as some unsightly photos of my system in my PTA reviews, but it was always worth it.
With either the AudioQuest GroundGoody Saturn and Jupiter installed in the system, there was either a noise or there wasn’t. I was able to use a simple green ground wire as a control, and even that came close to the same amount of noise reduction. This data, of course, was gathered with my ears pressed against the woofer cones of various speakers I’ve used over the last couple of months.
So I’d say that both the Jupiter and the Saturn were both equally effective at eliminating ground loop hums, and the skinny green wire came in a distant but still decent third.
However, extended listening started to reveal the subtle differences between the Saturn and the Jupiter. With the Jupiter, I heard a little more detail. I think that’s a predictable response from me—I’ve always felt that way about silver vs. copper. Occasionally, like with the Koetsu Sky Blue Urushi, the silver can bring a warm, lush sound a little closer to neutrality. Often, it goes too far the other way and sounds a little too lean.
The AudioQuest GroundGoody Jupiter followed the path of Koetsu and just made my Technics SL-1200G reach just a little deeper into the grooves and extract something fresh and new from the sound without sounding too analytical.
“It’s Right on the Box!”
After a busy day testing out the AudioQuest GroundGoody on two Technics turntables (the SL-1200G and the 1210GAE), I felt that I had a handle on what it did for my system. I wrote up the review, sent it off to Stephen Mejias and Garth Powell, and a few days later I received a response from Stephen that gently suggested I might have missed a couple of basic things about grounding. So I got on the phone with Garth, and he explained the bigger picture concerning this new wave of grounding and earthing products in high-end audio.
At some point it was mentioned, “It’s right on the box!” So I looked at the front of the box of the AudioQuest GroundGoody and yes, it says that the Saturn or Jupiter in your system “prevents hum and drains radio frequency noise.” The true purpose of better earthing/grounding products, the ones that have begun to enter the high-end audio market, isn’t to eliminate ground hum (which it does), but to “drain” all the noise from the system. The AudioQuest GroundGoody wires are “direction controlled” to flush that noise and distortion directly from your system.
Why is this noise a problem only now? Well, as Garth Powell explained, we have all these new wireless technologies and they’re adding to the noise floor. This takes me back to my old power conditioning story where I could hear my neighbor’s cell phone calls over my high-efficiency speakers. That power conditioner, the first I’d used, fixed that. But it did make me think constantly about all that untethered noise floating around in my listening room and whether or not I should be concerned about what I was or wasn’t hearing.
For so many years, we had grounding figured out. But as a former puller of miles and miles of low-voltage cable through supermarket attics, I’m used to saying the words “stupid wireless technologies, ruining everything.” That’s why grounding has become more important in the last few years. I’ve suspected this in the past, but I completely missed this while evaluating these grounding products so far.
It’s easy to eliminate an audible ground hum with a simple ground wire. It’s a notable achievement to create something that can drain so much noise and distortion from your system that everything sounds a little cleaner, a little more revealing of the entire system.
So the AudioQuest GroundGoody tonearm and ground wire–tonearm refers to the fact that the Jupiter and Silver are designed to drain noise away from the cartridge when you follow the directional arrows—certainly do reduce ground hum and other bits of noise from my music. That was the easy part.
The deeper and more important evaluation comes from noticing how this removal of hum and RF noise affects the overall sound. I’ve always maintained that a quiet system “allows more music to come through,” and that’s certainly true, but when you’re actively draining the noise and distortion from your audio system you’ll also hear sharper transient edges, and a generally more open sound. It’s like a focus pull.
As far as choosing between the Jupiter and the Saturn? I did hear those initial differences between them, but they were the normal differences I’ve heard between silver cable and copper cables. So it’s not about using one on less expensive ‘tables and the other on your TechDAS or Kronos, but which one sounds the best to your ears. It is a big leap from $30 to $300, and you might even find you prefer the Saturn and it will be the best $30 you’ve spent in audio since your first pair of Sennheiser HD-414s back in the ‘70s.
As for me, I’m keeping the AudioQuest GroundGoody Saturn and Jupiter around for all future turntable reviews. I actually do prefer the Jupiter slightly, especially with tube amps in the system. But the simple fact is you can buy a Saturn, hear the differences for yourself without feeling foolish for spending a lot of money, and know deep down that it’s the little things in audio that often make it all worthwhile.