Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Unconventional Room Treatments: Copper

Unconventional Room Treatments

The listening room. One of the three pillars that make the foundation of any great audio system. Some say it is accountable for up to 33% of your audio system's performance. Yet many of us neglect optimizing our listening environment. There are of course legitimate reasons; aesthetics, space, and lack of knowledge of where to begin or what to do. Less legitimate are laziness, lack of patience, and "I can just buy more gear and/or tweaks as a bandaid".

Getting a room and system to sound great takes time, patience, and a lot of experimentation. For those that take the time and are curious enough the reward is enveloping, engaging sound that is relaxing and exciting at the same time.

Room treatments that used to be large, unsightly and heavy are at least getting lighter and better looking. Offerings from GIK Acoustics, Stillpoints, and ArtNovion have a pleasing aesthetic, and won't make your listening room look like a Naval radar testing facility. The costs are far less than what many would spend on a component or cable upgrade as well.

There are also unconventional products that are worth a listen as well. They work on the room in unconventional ways, take up less space, and visually can be quite appealing, or non intrusive.

This is part of my journey  on using the conventional and unconventional methods of turning a typical listening room with it's usual problems of too many flat, reflective surfaces, bass nodes and other sonic ugliness into a room that now allows me to hear more accurately, enjoyably, and listen more deeply to the music I love.
Sonex Whisper Wave Acoustic Absorbers. Lightweight and very effective. The ceiling rail
system from Picture Hanging Systems allows me to hang, move and remove the acoustic
treatments anywhere the rail is installed. Even over a window!

Terms: 

Conventional Room Treatments

I have posted on room treatments before, with details of how I installed conventional treatments in my listening room via a rail system. This system has been extremely helpful in dialing in the right amount and types of treatments. The rails allow me to add, subtract, move, and replace treatments rapidly and painlessly. It also allows one to hang art on the walls in the same manner. Making the room aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing. 

Anyhow, on to the definitions...

Absorbers - Usually foam or fiber filled panels that should absorb sound uniformly throughout their bandwidth.

Diffusers - Diffusers do not necessarily absorb sound, they scatter it. Much like a light diffuser in photography scatters light for more even coverage of the object being photographed, an audio diffuser scatters soundwaves evenly over it's rated bandwidth. They come in many shapes and sizes and are made of wood, styrofoam and MDF.

Bass Traps - Bass traps are more like low frequency absorbers. Often larger than standard absorbers, and also often shaped to be placed in corners where bass frequencies can build up. My advice is use effective speaker placement first, bass traps second.

Unconventional Room Treatments

Unconventional Passive treatments - Passive simply means unpowered. These devices use materials, mechanical resonance, or are activated by movement of air to absorb/scatter soundwaves.

Resonators - A perfect example of an unconventional passive acoustic treatment. Resonators are devices whose resonant properties enhance the spatial etc. aspects of the sonic presentation. This is nothing new. I've seen gold, silver, brass, platinum and copper resonators. I've seen these resonators take the form of small cups, bowls, and quasi-plate shapes. How they work is a bit of a mystery. But there is no doubt on their effects when placed carefully in a room. My take is that they resonate sympathetically to reflected sound, thereby cancelling the smearing effects of room. With cancellation there is more of the correct phase information reaching the ear, which in turn creates the effect of a larger soundstage.  Different metals have different resonant frequencies and therefore different bandwidths that they affect. In addition to the different metals, the way they are shaped and their thickness can also effect their properties. You can see that this can get rather complex rather quickly. This, coupled with the mystery of how they work exactly has kept them from the mainstream of audiophilia. But not from Tweek Geek. :)

The Dark Side - I didn't know what else to call these treatments. They are occasionally similar to the Active Unconventional Treatments, but are unpowered. Crystals, Pebbles, and other materials are sometimes used in raw form or suspended in epoxy, paint, or other mediums to affect sonics in a room. Strange things indeed whose effects can range from awful to glorious depending on their implementation and makeup.

Super Sonic Tonic consists of wooden cylinders filled with proprietary materials that are placed
strategically in the listening room. The net result is a wider soundstage, fuller, warmer, richer tone
and enhances low level resolution and phase coherance. Definitely a Dark Side room treatment.
Unconventional Active treatments - These are products that work on the room need power to work. Stein Harmonizers, Bybee Active Room Neutralizers, and Tweek Geek's forthcoming powered Super Sonic Tonic are prime examples of unconventional active room treatments. The Harmonizers claim to actually work on the air in the room, making it more pliable and viscous. Much like a bubbler in an olympic diving pool works, they put the air molecules in a state of momentum, thereby making them easier for soundwaves to propogate through. The proof however, is always in extended listening.


Using Copper As A Passive, Unconventional Room Treatment

If you have been reading my blog, you know that  I have been experimenting with copper and it's influence on room acoustics for quite some time. Experimenting with different shapes (bowls, cups, sheets and rods) as well as thickness of materials and gauges can produce a more spacious and dynamic sound presentation. Opening up the room so to speak. My extensive experimentation has lead me to find just the right diameter, purity, shape and process of copper that allows me to disperse the material across the room without over doing the effects. My past experiences have taught me that Too small a gauge/diameter of rod/wire and the sound can become too bright very quickly. Too large a diameter and the midrange can become harsh and thinned out. The copper rods that I use are 1/2" in diameter and are oxygen free. I polish them, then heat treat them for a beautiful visual effect. The last stage is to cover them with a clear lacquer to protect from further oxidation. They are beautiful to look at and really add to the listening experience.

I found that tiki torch stands make a perfect copper rod stand. One rod per stand holds the rod steady, and is light enough to allow me to move it around the room to find the right placement. Once I have the placement, I can then find a more permanent, aesthetically pleasing mounting solution for the rod.
The Tiki Torch Stand. $11 plus shipping.

Opening Up The Room
As mentioned in previous blogs, with the copper rods properly placed transparency is improved as well as the clarity of high frequencies. Micro and macrodynamics also improve. Vocal richness and midrange layering seem to be "de-veiled" as well. Musical decays, be they ambient caused by the recording venue, or electronic from reverb all seem to sustain longer and sound more 3D.

Placement
I start with placing one or two rods along the side walls a foot or so in front of the plane of the loudspeaker baffles.

Secondary is the wall behind the speakers.  I place one rod along the wall, centered behind the speakers. When you do this, two things happen. One, the center image is more focused. Two, the sense of depth that the speakers are producing also becomes greater. This effect increases with more rods.

Third, if not using Shakti Hallographs, I place them in the corners of the room behind the loudspeakers.

Mitigating "Room Boom"
The copper rods can also mitigate "room boom" to a degree. That midbass/midrange overloading of a room. For example: Your room is small to medium sized, and for aesthetic reasons you might not be able to place your speakers far enough from the sidewalls to get rid of a nasty speaker/room interaction. Placing one or more of the copper rods along the side wall and in front of the speakers can help to reduce the sense of too much bloom/boom. Another trick I use is simply playing some music with bass and walking close to the side walls, listening for the room nodes. I place rods along the wall where the bass energy seems strongest.

Copper rods with mounts, Stillpoints Apertures, Sonex Whisperwave absorbers, and Shakti Hallographs.

So far I have 4 rods along the wall behind the speakers, 1 each to the outside and just in front of each speaker, 1 each to the  side of the listening position and 2 more behind the listening position. The overall effect seems to be a more live, dynamic, more transparent and open sound. The system is now better at capturing nuance and texture as well as portraying those non musical elements that make reproduced sound appear more live.

Where to buy?

I get copper from onlinemetals.com  - Specifically I use the 101 oxygen free copper rod.  They are about $50 for a 4 foot 1/2" raw copper rod. I clean, polish, heat treat and clear coat them for use in my room. If you do not clear coat them, the finish will oxidize and become dull. My polishing and heat treatment makes each piece of copper a unique work of art.

The tiki torch holders are from a restaurant supply store for around $12 each. Not the best looking, but work well and won't tip over easily. Great for temporarily placing the rods until you find their best locations.

I am working on a stand that will make use of a rectangular vase (about 31" long x 6" wide x 16" tall) that I will fill with decorative stones and be able to place 1 to 4 rods in. This will be used on the side walls in my room. Pictures coming soon.

As for the wall mount holders, my machinist makes those for me and I can have them made upon request for $35 each.

It's my hope that some of you might be adventerous and curious enough to try the copper for yourself. For me it's another tool I can use to address acoustic issues in the listening space while being a bit artistic at the same time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Dark Energy Cables: Redefining The Sweet Spot on the Value Curve


"In more specific audio 'tone' terms, I would say that with tinned-copper cables the timbre of instruments sounds much more accurate and 'real' to me, with lots of meaningful natural nuance resolved.
Tinned-copper cables also offer a rather remarkable resolution of tone color (those chordal variations resulting from adding additional pitches to three tone triads that give different styles of music their 'sound' and emotional feel), which I think jazz enthusiasts (like myself) should take particular note of, as jazz employs the extensive use of complex and exotic tone colors."- Jeff Day, PFO

The Value Curve

The expense of our hobby, like many others,  spans the pricing spectrum. You have the extremes, and then you have what I call the "Sweet Spot". This is where, in my opinion, you get near the highest performance but aren't paying the extreme prices. You are well outside the entry level of the hobby, but still are far away from the cost-no-object ultra performance products. 
My very non-scientific representation of the price to performance value curve for audio cables.

The Quest

The process of choosing the wire for our cables necessitated a long-term project. Wire, both raw wire and pre-jacketed off the spool wire were sampled over the course of 5 or more years. Our mission was to come to market with something that would engage the listener, and continue to provide an enjoyable musical experience over the long term. For this, a combination of musicality, dynamic realism, and resolution were the criterea. Too much of one variable over the other and the cable would always fail the long term listening tests.
The Dark Energy 14 power cable

The Wire

With the above goals in mind, we chose wire from Duelund as the foundation of our cables. Duelund wire is simple, and perhaps a bit counterintuitive in today's market of hyper pure copper/silver, complex geometries and exotic shielding methods.  On paper, those things look promising, but ultimately did not win out over the simple design of the Duelund wire. Jeff Day of Positive Feedback Online writes very comprehensively about the makup of the wire, and his impressions of it in his review titled "An Adventure in the Art of Tone with the Duelund Coherent Audio DCA Series of Tinned-Copper Cables, Part 1". 

"...these tinned-copper cables were also very satisfying in the way they portrayed the non-musical artifacts of the recording process, like imaging, the soundstage, the soundspace, resolution, and transparency, of a recording, which gave the music a reach out and touch it sort of realism that was very vivid, and viscerally enthralling. 
In fact, these tinned-copper cables changed the way I thought about the importance of the reproduction of non-musical artifacts from the recording process, and how they could enhance the enjoyment of the recorded music listening experience." - Jeff Day, PFO

The Cables

All Dark Energy series cables make use of Duelund wire in various gauges, premium connectors, and Sonic Tonic suspended in epoxy then molded to the vacant areas inside the connectors. Getting the Sonic Tonic as close to the wires as possible makes it much more effective, and also improves the durability of the connection, acting as an additional strain relief on the wires.

Speaker
The speaker wire is simple at it's essence. We found that three runs of 16 awg per + and - to be ideal. We use the Wireworld Uni-term terminations for their quality of materials, "do-no-harm" sonic qualities, and the best part: The ability to change the terminations to bananas or spades by the user on the fly. Essentially the body of the Uni-Term termination is a silver clad copper "socket" into which a spade or banana of the same material can simply screw in. Here at the Tweek Geek Cable Laboratory we treat the wire to socket junction with Sonic Tonic, and we also treat the socket to banana/spade junction with Furutech Nano Silver/Gold mixture for enhanced conductivity. The cables still ship with 8 spades and 8 banana terminations, so if your needs change, you can change the cable terminations to suit them.

Additionally, the aluminum barrel shaped + and - cable splitter on each speaker cable is filled with Sonic Tonic.
Dark Energy Speaker Cable

Interconnect
The RCA interconnect consists of  20awg Duelund tinned copper conductors with
KLEI connectors. Embedded inside the connectors is our Sonic Tonic in an epoxy mixture.

Power
There are 2 different power cords.  A high Current, and moderate current design. Both feature Sonic Tonic inside as well as rhodium plated copper connectors with a carbon fiber sleeved chrome plated copper shell. The High current is only for the highest current drawing components like large tube amplifiers, as the 14awg rated moderate current design is equipped to handle 15 amps of current.

The Dark Energy Value Curve

Here we see the Value curve again, but this time we have overlaid the cost of the Dark Energy cables vs. what we feel confident is their performance. 
Yes, this is a totally subjective curve, but it is based on over 20 years of evaluating hundreds of different brand name cables at all price levels. We've listened to a lot, but not all, cables over the years and this is our best evaluation. We are not in the business of disappointment, so understand our motivation is to give you good information, of course hoping you will try our cables and agree with our assessment. It's no fun for anyone making a sale and getting a subsequent return. 

With that in mind, we also offer in-home auditions of the Dark Energy cables.

Who are these cables for?

These cables are for the listener who is looking for the ease and flow of the music. You appreciate a wide and deep soundstage that wraps around and outside of the speakers. Dynamics and texture are important to you as well, as Jeff Day puts it the non-musical elements that make reproduction more musical. They excell with well made recordings in large halls, acoustic recordings, vocals, and electric guitar. The magic of the midrange are these cables' strengths.

You may find other cables have more extreme high frequency sparkle, but those cables tend to sound more mechanical and electronic in my opinion.

In conclusion, we feel that the Duelund/Dark Energy range of cables capture the magic that makes the reproduction of music more real, and more enjoyable for long term deep listening. Get in touch with us to Audition them today!




Friday, September 29, 2017

From Jack Bybee: Using the Bybee iQSE as a Room Treatment

The Bybee iQSE can be used inside/on top/below audio components, and
now on walls to enhance one's listening experience.

So I get an email from Jack Bybee today, it says:

"After much extermination on three distinctly different rooms, different electronics and speakers...we were able to come up a basic placement diagram for the iQSEs that results in a beautiful listening experience where all the walls, floor and ceiling virtually disappear.  I hope this diagram will help.


...Mike I hope you try this with the iQSEs because it creates a very unique listening experience.....very easy to set-up.  It does take about 30 minutes to reach full effect because the atmosphere in the listening needs to become active. If you try, please let me know your experience. "

My Experience

I had already been experimenting with Sonic Tonic in my room. I was getting ready to publish another blog post on my results using Sonic Tonic, ACTIVE Sonic Tonic (coming soon), Sonex Acoustic foam, Copper rods, and Shakti Hallographs. I have been getting beyond excellent results with the above combination. But I took Jack's advice. I removed my Sonic Tonic, replacing it with the Bybee iQSE's, and adjusting the placement to fit the diagram Jack Supplied.

The effect was a very immersive, involving listening experience. Odd, because I wouldn't think that a product designed to work inside a component would work in this application. However, after speaking with Jack at length, it turns out the magnets used in the iQSE allows it to be self activated. A stronger, external EM field will energize it even more, but place them in the room in the right location and there is a positive, audible effect.

I would say it is similar to the Stein Harmonizer system in that it expands the soundstage and allows for that sense of the venue space to be conveyed with more audibility. Midrange layering and tone are outstanding with the iQSE's in the room. This is their strongest attribute in my opinion. The Stein Harmonizers seemed to work best on higher frequencies. They sweetened the mid high/ high frequency region a bit more and a bit better.

What's best for you? I don't know. Overall I preferred the effect and the price of the Bybee iQSE setup in my rig when used with my system for treating a room (more on that later).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sometimes, You Get What You Pay For: The Furutech DPS-4 Alpha OCC-DUCC Power Cable

I've been on a bit of a quest for a high value power cord. It's turned in to a great time of discovery about my own audio system, and the dramatic effects a power cord can have on the performance of our audio components.

Good power is one of the three pillars of your audio system's foundation.  The other  two are proper speaker placement, and an acoustically friendly listening room. Today we are going to focus solely on some power cords I have been listening too. A power cord is the first bit of wire that your component encounters. It is an important part of your overall power conditioning. I recommend a dedicated AC line and power conditioning before investing in power cords. Without the other two in place you might not hear all of the benefits that a good power cord may offer.

Below are my thoughts on the Tweek Geek Built Furutech power cords. Furutech makes some darn good wire and sells it in bulk to the DIY'ers. I decided to 1), audition this wire along with some friends, and 2), after auditioning it, I wanted to offer this wire to the non-DIY crowd as an assembled, and yes tweaked out, product.

All of the cords have the option of 2 very good copper/rhodium terminations, and my Sonic tonic inside. The Sonic Tonic (equivalent to 1 full set of Sonic Tonic per end) is embedded in a moldable epoxy and placed on the wire and connectors. It hardens, and provides the greatest benefits of Sonic Tonic that I have heard. The noise floor is dramatically lowered, subtle textures and microdynamics are taken to a more realistic level as well. All of this is invisible to the viewer because the Sonic Tonic is covered by the shell of the AC connectors.

Anyhow, the cords.
Tweek Geek Built Furutech FP-S022N Power Cord - perhaps my all round favorite.

Furutech FP-S022N. The 14 awg Furutech cord is my all around favorite. Why? Because it is very balanced across the the audio spectrum. Open, spacious, smooth and extended. The high frequencies and air are particularly sweet.  If you are only replacing 1 or 2 cords, this is a great place to start.

I might use this cord on my source and preamp, and phono stage, and warm things up a bit with either the FP-S55N or the FP-S032N.

FP-S022N Strengths: Balance, soundstage width and depth, plus a sweet high frequency presentation.
FP-S022N Weaknesses: A little light in the bass region


Furutech FP-S032N. This is the 12 awg version of the  TG Built Furutech cord. Again, it like it's smaller brother possesses excellent clarity, but with perhaps a little boost at the very top and bottom end of the sonic spectrum. Good for warming your sound up a bit.
Tweek Geek Built Furutech FP-S55N Power Cord
FP-S032N Strengths: Warmth, powerful bass.
FP-S032N Weaknesses: Highs are not quite as sweet as with the FP-S022N.

Furutech FP-S55N. This 10 awg cord is for those who need a very high and quick current capability.  The sound is quite a bit like the FP-S032N, perhaps a tad less sparkly in the highs.
FP-S55N Strengths: Warmth, powerful bass, open mids, and sweeter highs than the FP-S032N.
FP-S55N Weaknesses: More analytical than the FP-S022N.
Tweek Geek Built Furutech DPS-4 Power Cord, Naked Version


Furutech DPS-4 Alpha OCC-DUCC. That's a mouthful to be sure. This 11AWG cord is Furutech's top of the line wire. Not only is it Nano, and OCC, they have taken it a step further and had Mitsubishi Materials Industries cast the wire under extreme quality control. MMI is the leading manufacturer of the highest-purity oxygen-free copper in the world.
DPS-4 Strengths: Ultra quiet, dynamic and resolving. One would have to spend twice as much for a brand-name power cord to get even near the performance of the DPS-4
DPS-4 Weaknesses: If used on several components, the DPS-4 has a tendency to get a little too analytical. Use it on your amps, or your source and pre, but probably not both as one might have too much of a good thing with a full loom of DPS-4.

The Tweek Geek Dark Energy 14 Power cord works extremely well with
the more analytical Furutech DPS-4 power cord. Offset the analytical nature
of the DPS-4 with the Tweek Geek Dark Energy 14.
Needless to say, the DPS-4 copper is pure, and silent.  A dynamically startling performance can be wrought out of whatever audio component happens to be receiving power from the DPS-4. Resolution was very high as well. This did make the system lean oh so slightly more to the analytical side of the spectrum. If you are a resolution junkie on a budget, your journey ends here. If you are like me and are a lover of high rez and musicality, one or two DPS-4 paired with the new Tweek Geek Dark Energy 14 power cord's warmth and musicality is a match made in heaven. Both cords are very dynamic, and they compliment one another's strengths. Providing a net high resolution, with warmth, texture body and slam. Guitars and vocals are simply stunning. Soundstages are expansive and holographic. Very musical, quiet and pure.

DPS-4 Strengths: Very Quiet, with a ton of dynamic pop. Holographic imaging with low level detail and wide bandwidth.

DPS-4 Weakness: Perhaps if one's entire system is outfitted with this cord, it may lean towards the analytical side. Pair with a cord that has a warmer characteristic for a fantastic balance.





Friday, June 23, 2017

5 Lessons About Sonic Tonic & Bybee iQSE


I and a few of my customers have been doing some experimenting with The Bybee iQSEs, and even more recently, combining the iQSE with Sonic Tonic. The following are lessons learned from my own experiments as well as feedback from customers on placement.

Lesson #1: One Per Component

It started with my installing iQSE's on some of the DAC's in my showroom. They all exhibited a dramatic improvements (more on that later). Being the typical audiophile I thought "If one is good, two must be twice as good". Makes sense. Unfortunately placing two Bybee iQSE's inside component for the most part degraded the performance of the component to a point that it sounded worse than it did with no iQSE's inside. Lesson to learn: Only one iQSE per component.

Lesson #2: Experiment with Placement

Experimentation is key. One customer found that placing the iQSE near the power inlet was good, but moving it to where the transformers and voltage regulators were located was much better. The point is even if you hear an improvement, you may find a placement that offers even more improvement. Keep experimenting!
A set of Sonic Tonic. 4 little blue bottles filled with epoxy and
the materials that make up the Tonic.

Lesson #3: Sonic Tonic Synergizes

Combining the Sonic Tonic inside a component with a Bybee iQSE has proven to work really well. The tonic can be placed in different areas inside a component and the two tweaks appear to work together really well.

Lesson #4: Buy an Electromagnetic Field Detector

An EM field detector can help one zero in on placement of tweaks designed to utilize/absorb EMI like the iQSE and Sonic Tonic. They are not cheap, but well worth the money if you are serious about lowering the noise floor on your audio system, this is an indespensible tool.
An Electromagnetic Field meter can
help you locate the EMI hotspots in
 your audio gear.

Lesson #5: Put Them In Your Breaker Box

Everyone is in total agreement on placing the Bybee iQSE's and Sonic Tonic in/on your breaker box. The sonic benefits are clearly audible. You can break the most breaker boxes can accomodate both and still one should be able to close the breaker panel door. Please do not take the panel off of your breaker and try to install these items inside unless you are a licensed electrician. The wiring to your breakers is not usually protected from short circuits and the amperage/voltage will kill you. 

What Lessons Will You Share With Us?

Help us by contributing your experiences with Sonic Tonic and the Bybee iQSE's. We will be sure to give you credit for your discoveries.

That's the great thing about this hobby. Discovering and sharing. At least we think so. 

That's it for now, we look forward to sharing more discoveries soon!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sonic Tonic: A Journey Of 10+ years Becomes A Product

Born of Experience, Friendships & Love Of Music

Being in business for nearly 15 years, you get to meet, and share experience/knowledge with some really great people. Some well known, some relatively unknown. This post is about the birth of a product, I call it Sonic Tonic,  as a culmination of over 10 years working with Mr. Jack Bybee, and a fellow group of like minded music lovers whom I will call my "Tweak Gurus".

 A Bit of Mad Science Too

I owe a great deal to these people. Together through our love of music and what we think it should sound like when reproduced, we  continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with audio through very unconventional means. We are mad scientists, given completely over to the dark side. The experiences we share are available to you, if you decide to trust our experiences, our anecdotal evidence, and our ears.

It's a lot to ask. I know. Hell I'm about as scientific minded as they get when it comes to anything else except audio. That's because my ears and the ears of my colleagues/friends have heard things. Things we can't measure (with conventional tools/methods), things we can't really put into adequate words, but can only hint at with rambling cliches. It's wholly inadequate, but I've found a way to get beyond words, hype, bullshit and the like. I let you put my experiences to the test, try them in your own system on your own time, and see if they are for your ears. It's simple, costs little to do, and cuts through the crap.

Everything Makes A Difference

I have been experimenting with crystals, metals, and other materials in respect to the effect they have on signal transmission and room acoustics. Let me just say that everything, EVERYTHING in your listening room has some effect on the sound of your audio system, and in more ways than you think. Even the air in the room, it all affects performance, and can be altered.

You've seen my experimentation with Copper rods (still ongoing, with more blogging to come...) alongside conventional acoustic treatments within a listening space. This is a fantastic, and inexpensive tweak. The copper brings openness, naturalness and enhances dynamics. Even a well acoustically treated room. That was my first unconventional means of attacking a common problem. inexpensive to try, and I make no money from it. It is simply me sharing something that brings more excitement to the listening experience.
A 1/2" copper rod suspended from my ceiling.

Playing The Field

Then there are the crystal based products. Not necessarily cheap, but that is about to change...

For the crystal based products there are of course Jack B's latest inventions: Room Neutralizers, Quantum Signal Enhancers. Let's not forget the Stein Harmonizer system, Synergistic Research HFT, UEF, Audio Magic P.E.A. and PulseGen technology. All of these use crystals, resonance and either are energized by or produce a "field" that enhances certain aspects of music reproduction. All do something to the sound, or to the listener perhaps, that enhances or at the very least changes the sonics of a system and/or room.

These have all been an inspiration of sorts, and I have listened to them all. I have much respect for these manufacturers. It takes hundreds, even thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars to develop a product such as this. That's before one dime is made. Think about that the next time you read or hear someone bashing a manufacturer for egregious pricing in light of parts count and cost. It's the original idea, the research, the time, and money invested beforehand with no guarantee of return.  This needs to be calculated into the MSRP in addition to the material cost of production. Then one has to project how many will be sold (good luck with that in the audio industry) and hopefully come up with a number that will produce a reasonable profit. But I digress....

Rolling My Own

My own experimentation began by placing large crystals of quartz, amethyst, tourmaline and other stones on top of cables, components etc. Most had next to no effect, some made me think there was a good improvement, only to determine later that it made the sound to bright and edgy. Not to mention looking like a crazy person to my family and friends.

I also learned that the process of evaluating the effect of crystals is a difficult process. This is why I also think that Crystal based products get a bad rap sometimes. Their effect takes time to develop, sometimes a few days to stabilize. Removing them from the room does not immediately remove their effect either. It appears the room itself needs time to "discharge" once the crystals are removed. Usually an hour or two.  Up until I learned this I made too many snap judgements. Removing crystals and listening immediately afterward had me thinking that some made no difference. However, returning to the "un-crystallized" room hours later I would notice their absence. This was the cause of many re-evaluations.

After many months and nearly ten thousand dollars (this stuff really adds up over time) I did hit upon something, and I call it Sonic Tonic.  The great thing about it is it doesn't take a lot of material to be effective, therefore 1) it's relatively inexpensive, and 2) it can be made in a small enough form factor to be discreet and versitile.  My initial experiments were in the same blue vial/bottles that are used now. A little Blu Tak on the bottom of the bottle and they adhered to all of the connectors on my power cords. After 100 or so other tests, I was prone to be underwhelmed. This time was different.
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Sonic Tonic.

There was an immediate change. A lowering of the noise floor and an increase in the purity of the music at all frequencies. Sometimes it might start off a little bright, but after 24-48 hours, things would settle down. With more time came more benefits as well. Dynamics, micro and macro seemed to improve and have more jump factor. Really complex harmonic musical passages were more intellegible. For instance, a complex acoustic bass that before sounded like one note being played actually turned out to be 2 notes being played simultaneously. The same goes for the highs. There was more clarity in complex passages or instruments playing chords. Be it guitar or piano or voices.

And the warmth, texture and richness that were now apparent in guitar, piano and vocals was outstanding, mezmerizing, and just super fun to listen to. I did not expect this from a little blue bottle.

It's hard to express magnitudes in audio these days. The entire industry is a crowded street bazaar with everyone trying to use ever more colorful hyperbole in order to rise above the noise of the crowd. Sad, but it's where we are.

In light of that, I offer you this. I have been the Tweek Geek for nearly 15 years, and working with audio and tweaks for twice that long. This tweak ranks right up there with the offerings from Bybee, Stein, Synergistic and Audio Magic. I know first hand that it synergizes with every one of those manufacturers' products, and adds something to the performance that none of them do. I am also confident that Sonic Tonic can improve ANY system at ANY level of expense or tweakery.
A Bottle of Sonic Tonic on an XLR connector. 
I not only say that, I stand behind it. I want you to try Sonic Tonic. Simply purchase a set or two on line and if you don't like it within 30 days, I will refund you in full and pay your return shipping. There is absolutely no risk to you.
I especially liked the Tonic on Power cord connectors. Perhaps because of the
high em fields usually found in these areas.

Perhaps the best part. The price. $99 for a set of four bottles. That's enough to do 2 power cords, a stereo set of interconnects or set of single wire speaker cables. I could have easily charged twice that and it would still be a great value. I did this because I want to have a reputation for producing products that are a great value. I am also  really convinced you will buy more, and when I come out with my line of cables that are "Sonic Tonic Enhanced" you will find those a great value too.


It's Not Just Me

Finally, one of my beta testers who actually wrote back to me after having the Tonic in his system for about 5 days writes:

The sound is much more revealing due to the lowered noise floor.  When distortion is reduced, the inner details are readily heard.  And, a bonus, the volume sounds louder even though I am using the same volume setting as before!  
Vocals are greatly improved.  The intelligibility of lyrics is much better  -  vocals sound more natural.  
Electric guitar is filled with greater textures and beauty  -  more purity, less glare.  Some climactic passages are downright majestic!
I am hearing detail in the bass (which is prodigious) that I didn't know existed.  What fun!  
The highs have this nice "sparkle" that I find pleasurable (and natural to their instrument  -  cymbals, bells,chimes).
The Sonic Tonic renders complex musical passages easy to follow.  Quite a feat.
Orchestral music is more lifelike and emotionally impactful.  Very satisfying indeed.
I now have an "endless soundstage."  No walls  -  just sound beyond my room's limits.  Who knew?

Conclusion

So there you have it, a product that promises a lot, doesn't cost much to try, AND is guaranteed to produce  results or your money back.  Properly placed in your audio syste, Sonic Tonic is the little blue bottle that will arouse your senses and heighten your listening pleasure, guaranteed.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

NEW TWEAK ALERT: Bybee internal Quantum Signal Enhancers

Jack B. continues his creative streak with his latest product, the iQSE

iQSE's. What are they?

The Bybee Internal Quantum Signal Enhancer (iQSE) is a small 4" w x 2" d x 1/2" h passive device housed in wood. The units that were sent to me were prototypes, and not quite as pretty, they were plastic. They are meant to be installed inside the chassis of an audio component bringing it closer to the energy fields generated by the internal circuitry. There is no soldering, or any type of electrical connection required. It adheres to the inside of the component via double sided tape.  Since it is passive, it works on any range of voltages, and in any component where it can fit.
The prototype iQSE installed on the underside of my DAC lid.

How Do they work?

Like it's sibling the Quantum Signal Enhancer, the iQSE is activated by surrounding electromagnetic energy. Once activated, the electric and magnetic fields effect the polarity (spin) of all electrons and protons in close proximity; affecting their oscillation by making them more aligned with each other.  This reaction creates an effect that makes the transfer or sharing of electrons between atoms more streamlined and efficient.  The results are a stunningly enhanced purity and energy of a video or audio signal.

Listening

My first tests with the iQSE was with my Aqua La Voce S2 DAC. This is Aqua's entry level NOS ladder DAC. It has the classic Aqua Hifi sound with musicality, warmth and richness. Albeit without the resolution of it's more expensive siblings the La Scala and Formula DACs.  It is extremely impressive for a $3000 DAC. It is a fantastic dac with a very easy to listen to, forgiving nature. Anyone streaming mainly Redbook CD, Tidal, or lower resolution forms of music needs to hear the La Voce S2. Anyhow, back to installing the iQSE. I opened the lid, and adhered the iQSE to the inside of the DAC, between the power transformer and circuit boards. I chose this location because my EM (electromagnetism) meter had the highest reading in this location. It was probably one of the easiest tweak installations I have ever performed on the inside of a component. Simply sticking it in place with double sided tape was all I had to do. No soldering or wiring up of anything.
As the lid on the La Voce Closes, the iQSE is nearest the point of highest measured EM.

My expectations were that it would have a similar effect to Jack's new wooden Quantum Signal Enhancers, with slightly more clarity, improved dynamics and resolution. Probably worth the $150 or so dollars spent.

I was so wrong...

The installation of the iQSE was more like a $1000 upgrade. As significant in my book as adding the far more expensive Bybee SE AC purifiers inside. Yet still different in many ways from what the Purifiers do.  There was a huge leap forward in the analog-like musical flow and ease, an increase in 3 dimensionality, and an impressive increase in dynamics. This was huge. Way beyond the asking price. I liken the effect to adding the Stein Harmonizer Blue Suns to a room, only this was completely hidden inside the component. I had to try this on my AcousticImagery Atsah 500 amplifiers, and last, inside my Dark Matter power conditioner.

First the amplifiers. It was a tight fit, but I managed to install the iQSE's inside each amp without blocking ventilation or sitting atop a warm IC.  The improvement was much like the DAC, with a more analog-like ease and flow, greater dynamic attack, longer decays and improved dimensionality. This was an indespensable tweak for all things digital, and class D.

Last was my power conditioner. I placed the iQSE right on top of where the Bybee SE AC Purifiers were sitting. Again things became deeper, wider, expanding beyond the walls and wrapping around my listening chair. Textures, and subtleties that make the music sound less electronic and more life-like were more present.

Intimate recordings in small venues had a "They are here" type of feeling to them while larger, more ambient venues gave one the feeling or "you are there".

Pairing with the Bybee SE Quantum Purifiers for AC

Being so impressed with the addition of the iQSE's to my La Voce DAC, I wanted to see how adding the Bybee SE AC Purifiers might work out. There was plenty of room inside the DAC to accomodate the Bybee Purifiers, and in about 20 minutes they were installed on the hot and neutral of the incoming AC.
Bybee SE AC Purifiers installed on the incoming AC (lower left corner).

I already had a glimpse into how successful this would be from placing the iQSE inside the Dark Matter power conditioner. I was very optimistic about how this would work out inside the Aqua DAC

Adding the SE Purifiers brought additional liquidity top to bottom, along with the characteristic layering definition of the mids and highs. The highs were clearer yet, and smoother. Ambient information and decays were easier to hear, more natural and hung in the air beautifully.  For about $1000 parts and labor, I elevated the performance of the La Voce to the realm of the La Scala. Not quite the same sonic characteristics, but very close in listening satisfaction. I could live with this modded DAC for a long time.

Conclusion

I could see the iQSE becoming an essential tweak for any audio component. With every component I installed them in, the iQSE made the background quieter, enhanced clarity, dynamics and 3 dimensionality. With digital and class D components, any hint of digital grain, edge, artificiality was gone. In it's place was a sense of wholeness, flow, and analog like naturalness. At $150 each, they are simply a no-brainer. They are unseen, but not unheard little audio gems. The iQSE is, without any doubt, Jack Bybees greatest creation yet.

One could stop at the iQSE and be extremely happy. For those who want to take things further down the Bybee rabbit hole, I highly recommend the SE AC purifiers installed on the incoming AC. We are happy to install the Purifiers and iQSE's in an optimized location inside your audio component. Contact us for details and pricing.

This one is easy. Five tinfoil hats. Keep 'em coming Jack!