Next came the soundstage and images on it. The cable eliminated false height information. For those who equate tall planars with tall images, that is a fallacy. Unless the recording contains height information, the vertical soundstage dimension should not be exaggerated. With the Perfect Ground, soundstage height remained at a correctly fixed level with the aforementioned provision that when the right condition arose, the hall became all encompassing. Soundstage dimensions in width, depth and forward projection all expanded outwards. Most would anticipate that a corresponding expansion of image sizing with added diffuseness would follow but in fact the opposite occurred. Images were more tightly focused and delineated. The increased cubic volume simply added more space and venue information between the objects. Those images featured improved dimensionality and palpable solidity especially luminous in the critical midband. Nutshell translation: superior soundstage and image reproduction. Whilst the vivisectionist breakdown was impressive, the holistic amalgamation was considerably more than the sum of the parts. An audio signal reproduced correctly is akin to a pebble dropped in calm water. Ripples expand outwards in all directions. Speakers representing a point or line source can accomplish this and that happened with a vengeance with the Apogees. The system created objects with an instantaneous dimensional pop that moved outwards with incredible intensity, creating palpable pressure waves at all frequencies. The system's dynamic acuity meant that quick instrumental attacks could light up a room, startle with unnerving solidity, then melt rapidly into inky blackness or when a recording demanded, decay slowly into rich venue ambiance. Complex material exhibited an incredible range of ebb and flow that could swell with power or intoxicate with infectious bounce. That's how the system should work under ideal circumstances and how it did with the Perfect Ground.

Now came the difficult task. The Perfect Ground had yielded such impressive improvements in all parameters that it was going to be very tough to better. Could the Ultimate Ground be better than perfect? While the results were similar to its lesser priced brother, there were indeed improvements and differences. The Perfect system was revealed as being mildly romantic in the lower mids through midrange, emphasizing mass and dimensionality to a small degree and therefore offering a presentation which was a little darker and organic. By contrast, the Ultimate system drew attention a few notes higher in the spectrum, doing superior work in those parameters that deal with transparency. The system became a touch leaner in the lower midrange and upper bass, cleaning up vocal lines a wee bit more. This shouldn't be confused with dryness. It was simply a very minor balance shift that preserved the Perfect's addictive broadband vividness.

In detail and dynamics, the Ultimate matched the superb gradation and resolution of the Perfect and added additional transient attack, making fast material more emphatic and dazzling in revealed complexity of technique and talent. The soundstage and image presentation built on the strengths of the Perfect with a further expansion in width but retained the focus and specificity of the sibling. Dimensionality was very slightly reduced due to the small tonal shift but as compensation, there was an increase in venue information to define locations in space. The hall was a little more illuminated, making distance between objects as well as placement a little clearer and more obviated. In total, where the Perfect fell a bit onto the organic side, the Ultimate leaned a bit into the transparency camp. Choice would depend on where the voicing of the system needs to be. Both options would satisfy any traditional audiophile checklist and both interpretations were compelling enough to spark an internal debate of live acoustic versus master tape presentation.

The last listening session placed both cables into the system to see how much more could be achieved. The results proved interesting. Image specificity and front-to-back placement were a bit tighter with slightly greater solidity. There was also a mild increase in dynamic nuance making events slightly more vivid. But overall the change wasn't as dramatic as the original introduction of either the Perfect or Ultimate. The change amounted to a consolidation of character, with tonal balance taking on a little more of the Perfect description whilst detail and attack held up the Ultimate side of the bargain. There was a little tighter focus, a little more dimensionality, a slight lowering of the noise floor not individually in drastic amounts but accumulatively quite noticeable. The overall system character teetered on both sides of the organic/transparency line. Was this organically enhanced transparency? It certainly was and a very pleasurable hybrid indeed.

Here's where I would normally make a comparison against competing product but that proved difficult in this case. GutWire are the first and up until very recently only manufacturer to offer this type of product. That leaves the box solutions by Computer Audio Design, Entreq, NordOst, Telos, Tripoint or Verictum which use different approaches to attack the same problem. Since those have not been in house, direct references can't be made. Reports from the field indicate very positive results where the GutWire was employed in conjunction with or as an alternative to these choices. Additionally, descriptions of the grounding box solutions gleaned from their reviews parallel my own observations of GutWire's cable approach. They all appear highly effective. Where the GutWire has a clear advantage is cost. The ground box solutions demand far more and still require the purchase of connecting cables.

The conclusions are obvious. The Perfect and Ultimate are spectacularly effective. They remove distortion that most people don't realize is crippling their audio system. Up to this point, only those of means could enjoy the benefits of real solutions. GutWire now blow the doors off that exclusive club with modestly priced products to put a higher musical truth into the hands of the masses who will find that there is less wrong with their recordings and more to love about their existing components. The Perfect and Ultimate ground cables reset the inherent abilities of your components and redefine the expectations of the playback medium. There is no downside, only more music.

How big a difference do they make? Given an existing system comprised of quality gear, I would estimate that it would take an expenditure of conservatively $5'000 to $10'000 in traditional componentry to accomplish an equivalent step up. That makes the GutWire a spectacularly sound investment and an intelligent foundation from which to pursue future system decisions. Audiophiles who have aspirations and not yet invested in other grounding solutions should consider either of these mandatory. Those who have invested may still want to look on these as augmentation. These are proportionally the most effective products I have encountered in forty years of audiofoolia. They are phenomenal in their ability to cut the distance between reproduction and real and therefore earn my very highest recommendation. Or as I wrote our editor when handing in this review, "this product forces me to recalibrate every prior and current decision. These are mandatory for the infected wireless age. People simply don't realise the amount of electrical pollution that sucks away musical life. These are not only a cure but a cheap cure by audiophile standards. They get every star or moon I can award."

Publisher's comment: It's quite rare that we affix an award to cables. One, results tend to be very system dependent. Two, cable prices have risen to where a single power cord might cost more than a good amplifier. It's hard to see value in that. In today's case, not only is the price realistic, the delta of improvement was stunning. In fact, Glen confided that where his what-would-it-take-otherwise figures are concerned, he substantially low-balled their values. A cable award was thus truly mandatory for a change. What's the world coming to?

Quality of packing: Quality black retail box with a stylish black velvet drawstring bag for the Ultimate Ground. Smaller white retail box for the Perfect Ground.
Reusability of packing: Great for storage.
Condition of components received: Perfect.
Delivery: Picked up from dealer and manufacturer.
Website comments: Clean, easy to navigate and informative.
Human interactions: Responsive and helpful.
Warranty: GutWire Audio Cables Ltd. warrants to the original retail purchaser that this product is free from defects in materials and workmanship when used in accordance with its printed instructions for a lifetime warranty in normal home use, from the date of purchase from a GutWire Audio Cables authorized dealer (with the standard legal provisos excepting abuse, accidental damage or unauthorized tampering). "If there are any problems under normal usage, bring the cable back to the dealer and we will fix it at no charge. Product must be accompanied by a written description of the defect and a proof of original retail purchase is required."
Final comments & suggestions: These are a breath of fresh air. Just when the HighEnd seemed mired in the pursuit of overpriced esoteric minutia, GutWire release a pair of affordable products that prove absolute truth still rests on fundamentals. I'm heeding my own advice and buying a pair. Sacre bleu!

Gutwire website