Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sbooster for Auralic Aries: Yes.

Image credit to Positive FeedBack Online 

Replacing the external linear power supply on my AURALiC Aries was not exactly high on my list of priorities. The AURALiC LPS was no slouch in my mind, and I have been very happy with the sound of the Aries since it's inception. But could I do better?

Mark Gurvey of Source Systems had been encouraging me for quite some time to try the SBooster power suppy on my Aries, and  I finally caved in after hearing what it could do for a Lumin D1 Streamer/DAC.

Inside the AURLiC LPS. Nice. (Image Credit to PFO)
Mark sent me the SBooster BOTW P&P Eco 15v with the Ultra option. MSRP $550. The SBooster is physically larger than the AURALiC, and contains quite a bit more circuitry. A two stage mains filter, and a ground choke for noise reduction of the incoming AC before it reaches the large toroidal transformer.
SBooster even states that the power supplies are also very efficient. Consuming only a little more than a switch mode supply of the same voltage rating. Nice, but how does it sound?  We're getting there.
Inside the SBooster.

The Ultra option is a $100 add-on active filter that attaches to the end of the SBooster's DC cable. It further reduces noise and ripple to "negligable levels". You need to order the proper voltage Ultra for your SBooster, as they do have voltage rated versions.
I had the 15 volt version for the Aries. It attached firmly to the DC out cable on the SBooster, all that was left now was to select the proper sized termination to fit the Aries from several that were included in the packaging. 

Listening

Wow. What a difference! The Sbooster was fuller, richer, quieter, had better bass and just sounded more correct. I had always complained that Tidal streaming, even though it was lossless, still did not sound as good as the same 16/44 FLAC file streaming from my server. It was thinner, more bleached out sounding. With the SBooster powering my Aries I did not hear that "bleached out" quality as much. This made listening to Tidal immensely more enjoyable.

For the local files, including high resolution all the way up to DSD sounded significantly clearer, smoother richer and just way more involving.  Why did I wait so long to try this?

The SBooster really allows the Aries to reach a higher level of performance. EVERYTHING is better and more involving. That is saying something, because the Aries on it's own was a superb streamer. I agree completely with Dave Clark's thorough assessment of the Aries, and the LPS
"...No, the stock Aries with its power supply rocks, but for sure it can be elevated to compete with the way bigger, badder boys by spending more money on a better NAS and so on—tweak it. And certainly by adding the SBooster… yeah baby, now we are clearly hanging with the really, really cool people at school."
Bottom line: If you own an Aries, buy the Sbooster. 'nuff said..




Monday, December 19, 2016

The Copper Saga Continues: Getting More With Less.


It's sub zero in Denver today, and I am no way going outside for anything. Even the dogs don't linger outside. They go out, do their business, and run right back in. This is the perfect day to experiment and publish more findings on my copper room treatments.

I've actually not stopped experimenting, and learning about copper and it's effects on the room. Much like the Frank Tchang's and Synergistic Researches acoustic resonators, copper seems to have an effect on the way one's speakers work in the room. The simplest way I can put it is this: Even with conventional acoustic treatments placed very carefully, the audio system seems to fight with the room. One can literally sense this as congestion, veiling and pressure. You can "hear" the room that the system is in.  One can make the speakers disappear with judicious placement, but making the room disappear is another matter altogether.

With somewhat careful placement of differing sizes, gauges and configurations of copper, the room seems to depressurize and let go of the music at all frequencies. You can hear it and feel when you listen to recordings with a good sense of space (artificial or real). One is more convincingly transported to the venue, right in the middle of the stage at times. Clarity is improved without increasing brightness, decays go on forever, dynamics improve, extremely low level detail emerges, and all is done with a naturalness that appears to the listener as a more "real" sound.

What Have I learned?

So what has changed since my last posting? Quite a bit has changed, and I have learned quite a bit as well.  Let me cover what I have learned first.

There is no one size fits all 
As much as I tried to simplify implementation, there is just no one size wire/rod, one length or concrete placement that works for everything. Here are the variations I have worked with:

- Copper rod: Size (awg) matters. Don't even mess with wire thinner than 6 awg. Wire thinner than that tends to over emphasize high frequencies, and gets ugly pretty quickly. The thicker the wire/rod, the lower the frequencies it works on. I have used up to 1/2" thick copper rod with wonderful results, and have larger diameter on the way. I have heard positive effects as low as 250hz with the larger rods. 2 18" segments do wonders for midbass/lower midrange issues in a room.
1/2" copper rod in a cedar block. Placed to the side and
behind the plane of the speakers. These are VERY
powerful!
The 1/2" diameter 18" tall copper rods are extremely powerful. I have kept them near the floor, near the level of the midbass drivers. They seem to be able to manipulate the soundstage, pulling it towards their location. They also add body / texture to vocals, and tighten up midbass.  I have 2 more rods coming, they are slightly larger at  .625" in diameter. I plan on placing the next two behind and outside my listening position. About where I have 2 of the 4 Harmonizers. It should be interesting...

- Copper Sheet: I hung 2 - 1/16" thick x 4" wide x 24" long pieces on the wall behind my speakers, and about 2 feet apart. It helped focus the center image, and created an expansive soundstage across the entire back wall. I have a feeling they might work well on side walls  too. I will be experimenting with that in the future.

- Copper cups: The Sertodo Copper cups, specifically the shot glass, and the 12 oz cup, work well. The shot glasses are the ambiance makers. Good at ear/tweeter level and in corners, or first reflection points. The larger cup I tend to put centered on the wall behind my speakers, but can go out in the room as well.

- Letting it ring vs. damping: I use a combination, but can tell you that when you let the copper ring, as in hang or stand a copper rod up so that most of it is not touching anything, you increase the chances of accentuating certain frequencies and getting narrower coverage of a room. Meaning you can only have so much copper freestanding and free-resonating before it gets out of balance sonically. That may mean you have more spotlit areas of your room, rather than a diffuse coverage. A little goes a long way.

Where We Are At Right Now

I titled this section "Where We Are At Right Now" because this is an ongoing journey. It was a good stopping point today because I am getting better sound than I was with the freestanding copper rods. I only use the large 1/2" copper rods now. I found that using smaller sections of copper rod, and attaching them to the walls and ceiling made significant improvements over copper rods placed about the room, plus it didn't take up floor space. 

Random Placement & The Rear Wall
It started when I removed all the copper in the room, and began randomly placing 6" sections of copper over each wall in the listening room.  After listening for awhile and determining it was worth pursuing, I started removing pieces of copper to determine which ones were more effectively placed.  I found that the upper left & right quadrants of the walls behind the speakers benefitted most from this. I also found after further experimentation that I could use even shorter segments of copper.
The right corner behind the speakers. Note the
sunburst patter of copper on the wall directly
behind the speakers. Note also the copper rod
sitting atop a Stein Harmonizer.

This made the soundstage clearer, and with more width and depth behind the speakers. The center image focus was still in tact, as were instruments placed to the left and right of the soundstage. Detail improved greatly as well. Height is a factor in placing these small bits of copper. Placed at tweeter height or above seems to enhance the soundstage, placing them at woofer height seemed to warm up the sound, but narrow the soundstage. The takeaway: Height and amount of copper are important. If the sound starts getting bright or hollow sounding, back off the amount of copper placed at tweeter/ear level and higher. To warm things up, a few pieces of copper placed along the side walls at woofer height can add warmth and more midrange richness too.

The Ceiling
I then took to the ceiling. In my listening room there is a drop in the ceiling of about 1 foot where the system sits. It drops from 8 to 7 feet right over my listening area, and I can hear it affecting the sound, particularly the image height. 
Note the pieces of copper placed on the low section of my  ceiling. This is the
area where the system and speakers reside. The 1" pieces of .1875" copper rod
cover this entire area of the ceiling.

To attack this issue I staggered 1" pieces of .1875" OFC copper rod and secured them to the ceiling with Loctite Fun-Tak (the hardware store version of Blu-Tak). I covered the entire ceiling in my experiment, and that is the way it remains for now. It definitely helped to restore image height, but also added more depth and detail to the sound. While the sound was now filling the space, with the speakers and the room "disappearing", the image stopped about where my listening position was. It makes sense because my listening chair sits about 4 feet outside of the "low ceiling" zone, and there was no copper placed to the sides or behind me yet.

The Ceiling, Part 2
Taking lessons from what I learned on the low ceiling, and the wall behind the speakers, I decided to try using the "sunburst" pattern of copper pieces that I used so successfully on the wall behind the speakers on areas of the higher ceiling. I placed three sunbursts on the ceiling behind my listening position. One to the left, one centered behind me, and one off to the right.
Not The "sunburst" of copper pieces on the ceiling. 
Why the Ceiling and not the wall behind my speakers? My room is rather long, and the rear wall is too far back (rougly 20 feet) for the copper to have as dramatic an effect. I opted to place three sunbursts about 6 feet behind my listening position. 

After placing the sunbursts on the ceiling, Image height was further enhanced, as was the "wrap around" effect of ambience.  I was immersed in sound, and it was good.

Where Will This Go?

My next experiments will go to heavier copper rod, more copper sheet, and perhaps even to copper plate. From what I have learned recently, I think more mass and a shape with more surface area may have a greater effect. I think a lot of magic is yet to be discovered. Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Reference Tweak Alert: Bybee Active Room Neutralizers

A single Bybee Active Room Neutralizer (ARN)

Does Jack B. Sleep?

It would seem that he doesn't. Perhaps, like our president-elect, he survives on very little sleep. All I know is with the prodigious amount of tweaks that he produces, he can't have much time for sleep. For every one tweak that actually makes it to market, dozens are tested and tossed. Jack has been developing cutting edge, often controversial (to those who never hear his products, but authoritatively pontificate on forums) tweaks longer than I have been the Tweek Geek.  I met him in 2000 and was "converted" when I tried a set of his Purifiers on my Legacy Audio speakers. I remember the moment. It was jaw-droppingly good sound like I had never experienced before. I had good equipment, B&K, Legacy audio, Kimber Kable, but the Bybee Purifiers were the icing on the cake. I was so excited about them I had to tell everyone, so on to the forums I went. Wow, that was another experience I won't forget, but don't care to discuss because it's irrelevant, and Jason Victor Serinus' most recent Stereophile article covers the topic in a positive, very well worded way.

The Active Room Neutralizer

The Active Room Neutralizer (ARN) is a white rectangular shape about 2" wide, by 6" long and 1/2" thick. A thin, 10 foot long white AC cord  eminates from the bottom and is terminated with pretty standard 2 prong AC plug. Inside the plastic cover is a proprietary blend of materials that when activated by AC, resonate with the air molecules in the room, enabling the transmission of sound without the usual time misalignment of frequencies. They work well with other room treatments such as the Steinmusic Harmonizers, Shakti Hallographs and Stillpoints Apertures.

The instructions say to attach them to a wall with blu-tak or similar adhesive. They need to be around 5 feet off of the ground. Where you place them in your listening room depends on how many you have. Experimentation is always key. 

Break in is also key. Although you will hear something almost immediately, they will continue to improve over several days. Give them at least 48 hours of being installed and plugged in before evaluating, and another 48 before rendering judgement.
ARN Installed on a wall using blu-tak.

Listening

I knew it would take awhile for the ARN's to acclimate/break in to the new listening space, so I unboxed them the afternoon they arrived, plugged one into the wall behind the speakers, and the other into a position behind my listening seat. Being the holidays, there were plenty of activities to occupy me for the next 48 hours, so it was easy not to "peek" at the results.

Two days later, we came home late from one of our holiday activities, and I went downstairs to unwind a bit while listening to some music. Unwind I did. So much so I fell asleep! Usually a good sign that the system was not suffering any ill effects from the newly installed tweaks. Alas, the critical listening would have to wait until tomorrow morning. 

With the next morning, I headed to the listening room, with coffee, pad, and pen. Below are a few tracks I listened to while evaluating the ARN's.

Patrick O'Hearn, I Could Live Here - Slow Time: This opens up with some bongo drums lightly played in an acoustically ambiant space, with a backing synth track. It's good for checking soundstage. A piano starts playing single keys, adding to the sense of ambiance. About 2 minutes into the track the bass line comes in low, giving a great feeling for bass depth of the system. The tune swirls around the room, behind the listener and enveloping one in the space of the recording. With the Active Room Neutralizers in the system, I forgot about the room I was listening in, and felt transported to the actual venue. I had also picked up on some small details within the track. Synth lines that floated around the room, very low level but more noticeable with the ARN in place. This was a familiar effect that occured over most recordings.

Jennifer Warnes, Ballad of the Runaway Horse, (Unknown version): This opens up with an acoustic bass and jennifer's vocals in an ambient space. I listen to the acoustic bass for the artist's fingers plucking the strings, for the tone of the instrument, and for the sense of space it resides in. I look for the naturalness of tone and texture in the bass and Jennifer's voice. I look for the layering in the vocal harmonies by the accompanying singers. There is also some interesting playing by a cello in the background at a very low level. Only a very resolving system can get every nuance of the cello. With the ARN's in place I felt like I was in the recording space, not my room. There was a sense of naturalness that lent to a very realistic portrayal of the bass, cello and voices. The low level information was more evident than without the ARN's in place, the tone and textures were simply amazing. The best I have heard my system sound.

Trentmoeller, Evil Dub, The Last Resort: Recorded in Q Sound, it offers up a huge, wrap-around 3-Dimensional sound on a well set up system. The bass is deep, pulsing and nuanced. Believe it or not, the little bleeps and blips on the song can either sound flat, or have a bit of decay on them, depending on the resolution of your system. With the ARN's in place the decay was clear, as were many other fine details in the mix.

Stop Swimming, Porcupine Tree, Porcupine Tree: A Haunting, sad song that is fairly well recorded. The song opens with drums that are dynamic with a sense of space around them. It continues with piano, solo vocals synth and a bit of orchestral backup. It draws you in, and relaxes you at the same time.
ARN peeking out from behind a Stillpoints Aperture

Tradeoffs?

I have heard tweaks that produce a holographic effect at the expense of losing image focus, this is not one of those tweaks. It creates a huge sense of width, depth and holography without the loss of image focus. I can literally find no tradeoffs with the Active Room Neutralizers. At least for my sonic tastes and in my system. Everything is clearer, more natural, more spacious with microdynamics, textures and low level resolution.

Conclusion

This relatively simple looking device has rocked my world, and being the "Tweek Geek" that is saying quite a lot. I am surrounded by tweaks and have been for nearly 14 years now. For at least 7 of those 14 years, the Stein Harmonizer system has been my absolute reference, desert island (provided there is AC) tweak. Whenever a new customer would ask "what is the best tweak you offer" I always replied "Hands down, the Stein Harmonizer system". Now I have to qualify statement in light of the stellar performance of the Active Room Neutralizers. If you don't have a minimum of $2k to plunk down on a Stein Harmonizer system, the Active Room Neutralizers are absolutely the best tweak I have to offer and have heaard in quite some time.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Wireworld Hits A Home Run With Cat 8 Ethernet


I've never really heard a sonic difference in Ethernet cable. That being said, my experiments with ethernet cables has been using only what came packaged with products, having some made up off of a spool of Cat5 or 6, and buying some inexpensive ethernet cables from the local megamart. I've wrapped them in Stillpoints ERS, used Shakti On-Lines, still no audible differences.

I recently received a shipment of Wireworld's new Starlight Cat 8 ethernet cable and decided to give it a try in a few key places within my network.

CAT7 vs. CAT 8

Starlight Ethernet is the first production cable that meets the proposed requirements for Category 8 networks. The proposed standard for Category 8 networks will extend speeds to the staggering rate of 40 Gigabits per second.

The current standard is CAT7. Category 7 cabling was created to satisfy the demands of 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Even though most media networks now run below that speed, cables that support higher speeds have been found to improve the quality of audio and video streaming.

One of the reasons why CAT7 cables do not meet the proposed CAT8 specifications is that they allow too much crosstalk (mixing) between the four signal channels. To control crosstalk, conventional CAT7 cables use four twisted pairs of conductors with one foil shield on each pair. An overall two-layer shield reduces outside  interference. The problem with twisting is that it makes lengths of the conductors uneven, which causes timing errors called skew.

To support the higher data rate transfer speeds of CAT8 the Starlight 8 ethernet cable incorporates Wireworld’s patent-pending Tite-Shield™ Technology. Wireworld's Tite-Shield technology isolates the four channels with a three-layer shield on each conductor pair. Those shields are so effective that twisting is no longer needed and conductor length differences are eliminated.

Starlight’s unique flat design provides greater physical separation between the four conductor pairs to provide lower crosstalk, supporting higher transmission speeds than conventional designs. The cable also utilizes Wireworld’s proprietary Composilex® 2 insulation to minimize triboelectric noise. The refined transmission properties afforded by these technologies ensure uncompromised performance in the next generation of streaming applications.

Why Do Ethernet Cables Matter In Streaming Audio?

A fantastic question, and one that I have been asking for awhile. Many argue that ethernet cables cannot possibly make a difference, and they are half correct. If using what is called TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) for sending data over a network, then it is very difficult for an ethernet cable to make a difference because the packets of information sent via TCP are guaranteed to be received in order. TCP is all about this reliability — packets sent with TCP are tracked so no data is lost or corrupted in transit. Unfortunately, audio streaming to your DAC or streamer is not sent this way. It is sent via UDP.

UDP stands for User Datagram Protocol. This is how streaming audio and video are sent. — a datagram is the same thing as a packet of information. The UDP protocol works similarly to TCP, but it throws all of the error-checking out in favor of speed. All the back-and-forth communication and deliverability guarantees of TCP slow things down.

When using UDP, packets are just sent to the recipient. The sender won’t wait to make sure the recipient received the packet — it will just continue sending the next series of packets. If you’re the recipient (streamer) and you miss some UDP packets, too bad — you can’t ask for those packets again.

If you experience just a minor packet-loss, the video or audio may be distorted for a moment as the video continues to play without the missing data. We've all seen what poor UDP does to a video signal. That's what it can do to your audio signal as well.

Now that we have all of that out of the way, let's get to the review.

My Network

Currently, the modem that connects to the internet resides upstairs in the opposite corner of the house from my listening room. There is a long run of Cat 7 ethernet connecting the modem directly to a switch in my basement workshop. From that switch, I run an ethernet cable to a wall jack which is then connected to another wall jack in my listening room. It's a 15-20 foot run. From the wall jack in my listening room another ethernet cable connects directly to my AURALiC Aries streamer. A more visual representation looks like this:

Cable modem ----> Switch in the basement ----> Wall jack in shop ---> Wall plate in listening room ----> Streamer

I was able to put the Wireworld cable in two locations, so it looked like this:

Cable modem ----> Switch in the basement >>CAT 8>> Wall jack in shop ---> Wall plate in listening room >>CAT 8>> Streamer

Before we get to the listening and results, let's take a look at why ethernet cables matter when streaming audio.

Listening

With the Wireworld Cat 8 cables in place, I began to listen to some familiar tracks.

Track 1 - Ballad of the Runaway Horse, Jennifer Warnes
The vocal textures were more lifelike, and the plucking of the string bass had more....Pluck. I would call it microdynamics.

Track 2 - Roadhouses & Automobiles, Chris Jones
Chris has a big voice, and the vocal textures with the Wireworld in place were deeper, which lent itself to a better sense of realism. The subtle sounds of crickets in the background were a little more noticeable, and the decay/reverb on the background singers seemed to hang in the air a little longer.

Track 3 - Trentmoller - Evil Dub
I use this track to listen for low bass reach, as well as the 3 dimensionality and high frequency smoothness/deliniation. The album is actually recorded in Q-Sound, and has some very interesting 3D effects if your speakers are set up properly. The sounds can quite literally be projected from behind you. The bass was strong and the tings, pops and other effects were very 3d with good attack. About 1:15 into the song the symbols come in quickly. I listen for speed, emphasis, and attack. Most of the time the attack can sound spitty when done wrong. The highs here remained smooth, fast and with good microdynamics.

Track 4 - Muddy Waters - My Home Is In The Delta
A great demo track. Despite the simplicity of the recording, there is a lot going on here, and a lot to listen for. The Subtle movements on the guitar for one, the incredible dynamics of Muddy's voice captured on the recording, and the ambience/reverb. Listening at moderate levels can be immersive, and it was with the Wireworld Cat8 in place. Again reverb and decay seemed to hang in the air longer and ambient cues were abundant.

Overall, two things were immediately apparent. The possible lowering of the noise floor and lower distortion in the high frequencies. What I mean by that is that I heard more low level information. Air, space and texture seemed to improve and be more realistic. The highs were more defined, delineated but withought being exaggerated or brought to the forefront of the musical presentation. It sounded cleaner, and clearer.

Upon further listening, my previous impressions were confirmed. Regarding texture for instance, an acoustic guitar had a more wooden tone to it. When fingers strummed strings, and glided acrossed frets is was more like the live sound of hearing fingers strumming strings and moving up and down the neck of the guitar. The same went for double bass. Vocals also had more emotion due to hearing more of the microinflection. The enunciation of lyrics was clearer as well.

Conclusion

The Wireworld Starlight Cat 8 ethernet cable is a relatively inexpensive and effective way to help lower noise and distortion your streaming audio. Whether it be from your own music library or from the internet, you simply get more information with the Starlight ethernet cable in place. Even if you cannot do an end to end run of Starlight ethernet, every little bit seemed to help. In my system I was able to replace 2 runs of standard issue Cat5 and it made a significant difference.

I give it 3.5 tinfoil hats!


Friday, November 4, 2016

Learning More About The Equi=Core


I and some audiophile colleagues have been experimenting a bit more with the Equi=Core balanced power transformers in a power cord and have a few new insights. The Equi=Core is one of the best values in a power product we have come across in quite some time. I personally use an Equi=Core 300 on my AURALiC Vega with amazing results.

1. Plug it straight into the wall - I've tried it plugged in to a few power conditioners vs. straight into the wall. The Equi=Core prefers the wall.

2. The most cost Effective tweak may be to just swap out the ends - We have been experimenting with a few different terminations and rhodium plated copper ends that we use to terminate our power cords seem to offer a smoother high frequency response than the stock ends.
These Ends work very well with the Equi=Core. Offering a nice
improvement to the already excellent sound. Email us for more info.

3. You HAVE to put one on your music server/Audio PC/NAS - Aside from the DAC, this is a most significant improvement. It significantly lowers the noise floor, providing for a deeper soundstage and more detail coming through. We use an Equi=Core 300 on a power strip that feeds balanced AC to our server, external hard drive, and router.

We haven't found a better performing power product near this price point. If you are shopping for a power cord, power strip, or conditioner you absolutely need to try an Equi=Core before buying anything else. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Just The Facts: The Telos Audio Grounding Noise Reducer



Ground noise reducers have become a bit of a thing in audio over the last couple of years, and with good reason. There is a ton of noise riding on your signal and AC ground lines coming from inside and outside of your audio system. Manufacturers such as Akiko, Entreq, and (for the 1%) the Tri Point grounding devices. All have their own unique way of cleaning the noise off of ground lines, and all sound somewhat different as well.

Unlike all of the above mentioned devices, the Telos GNR (Ground Noise Reducer) is an active ground noise reducing component whose goal is to achieve a "reference" 0 volt ground for every component connected to it.  The GNR is separated into three sections. On the left and right hand sides are Telos Audio's Quantum Noise Resonator modules. The middle section houses a CPU that is the core technology of the GNR. There are six binding posts to connect your audio components to. The two Quantum Noise Resonator modules aid the GNR in cleansing the ground noise out of your system. 

The chassis is quite heavy and milled out of a block of copper (photo courtesy of Mono & Stereo).


Cables are available in lengths from 1.5 to 10 meters and can be configured with all sorts of termination options from RCA, XLR, HDMI, LAN, USB, Spade, etc. Of course, all are connected to the ground pin only. The overall dimensions of the GNR are 9.75 in deep (including binding posts) x 15 in wide. The weight is approximately 17 pounds.
The Telos Ground Noise Reducer sitting atop MagicHexa footers and an Ikea Aptitlig bamboo cutting board.

Initial Listening

I attached the GNR to my preamplifier first, which was already connected to an Entreq Olympus. The result was a quieter background with more detail. I then connected cables to my Aries Streamer, and my Vega DAC. With each subsequent addition, I heard a bit more detail. The GNR was definitely working on my already very quiet system. 

The difference I noted between the Telos and Entreq devices was that the Telos leaned to the analytical side slightly, while the Entreq leaned to the more euphonic side slightly. The two combined worked together splendidly allowing for loads of detail to make its way through, but in a very musical way, if that makes sense.
You can see the LED's from the Quantum resonators on the right and left, as well as the LED's from the CPU.

Conclusion

The Telos' unique approach of actively removing ground noise by creating a reference 0 volt ground was effective, and sonically different than the Entreq. I liked having 6 binding posts for up to 12 components, and I liked the multiple cable termination options. I totally concur with Dave Clark of Positive Feedback and his review on the Telos, the combination of Entreq and Telos is outstanding. The Telos has the advantage in the sheer number of components one can connect to the GNR, but the Entreq has the ability to connect to the negative binding posts of amplifiers and speakers, something the Telos Can't. Each product has definitely earned it's keep in my system.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Holy Sh*t Moments #3: Enhancing the Copper

If you've been following my blog or my web site for any length of time, you know that my all-time favorite tweak is the Stein Harmonizer system. It psychoacoustically expands the boundaries of one's listening environment (the room and space sound bigger than they are), creates silky smooth mid & high frequencies, and reveals subtle textures and information like nothing else I have used to date.
A Stein Harmonizer - Still my favorite tweak.
It's also really expensive to do properly. You need at least 2 Harmonizers, then there are the Blue Diamonds to place atop the speakers, and the blue suns to disperse about your room that adds even more to the effect. It's amazing when implemented properly.

An Opportunity To Experiment

I had lent out my Harmonizer system in late September, and it would not be returning until right before RMAF. I missed them terribly while they were gone, but it also gave me a chance to experiment with my other tweaks, trying to recreate the effect of the Harmonizer system I had lent out.

The net result of the absence of the Harmonizers was the DIY tweak consisting of .1875" and .3125" copper rods along with copper cups was proving to have a mind bogglingly good effect on the system. Similar to the Stein in that it made the room appear larger sonically, also enhancing dynamics and resolution. It was not as powerful as the Stein, but still pretty darn good on its own.

I didn't have a whole lot of time to see how the copper interacted with my other room tweaks with RMAF approaching, as I had removed all other tweaks from the room and had them packed away. But that would allow me to do one of my favorite things once I returned from the show to a "tweakless" room. 

Starting With A Clean Slate

I like removing all of my tweaks and disassembling my system every few months, it serves as a sanity check (along with having a group of audiophile friends whos ears I borrow once in awhile). I get to re-introduce tweaks one at a time to asses their effect, and synergy with the other tweaks.

So, returning from RMAF with copper "sculptures", copper cups, Bybee QP's, and the Stein Harmonizer system, and some other tweaks that were lent to me by my friends at Stillpoints (more on that later), I began re-introducing the tweaks.

The Experiment

Starting with the Copper cups and sculptures. I ended up with 2 .1875" rods centered in front of me, 2 .1875" rods off to the left and right of my listening chair, and 1 of the larger .3125" rods behind me. This had a pleasant, warm and rich tone with, nice dynamics a fairly holographic soundstage. Nice but not the Steins.

Stillpoints Ultra 6 under the AcousticImagery Jay-Sho preamp
I had several Stillpoints Ultra 5's and Ultra 6's to experiment with as well as a new active grounding conditioner from Telos. The short story here was the Ultra 5's and 6's shocked me with the improvement in high frequency clarity, transient attack and dynamics they allowed my system to reproduce with such ease. The Telos worked in addition to the Entreq ground boxes I had in place already. Further reducing the noise floor by creating an active reference ground. More detail without becoming sterile.
Stillpoints Ultra 5 under speakers - Whoa...

My system was starting to get to a very good place, with focused imaging, incredible dynamics, and a pretty wide soundstage. If I had never had the Harmonizer system, I would be very happy, but I knew I could achieve more..
Copper rods in stand, 2 copper cups.
The next introduction would take more time. It was re-introducing the Bybee Quantum Plugs. This has to be done over time because the Quantum Plugs need to charge, or settle in. It takes a day or two. I started with two at the back of the room. It's a long room and they were roughly 20' from my listening chair. I let them settle in overnight and came in to listen the next morning. This was a subtle, but pleasant improvement in the wrap around effect the soundstage was producing. I was getting more ambient information, decays were longer, and the immersion into the soundstage was more pronounced.  Moving forward cautiously, I only added 1 Quantum Plug. I placed it as close to the center along the wall behind the speakers as I could. 
.3125" copper rod. I hit this with a torch
to get the colorful look.
The next morning, the front to back, as well as side to side aspects of the soundstage really began to fill in. This was about 80% of the Harmonizer system's effects, especially when implementing the large 12 oz copper cups in the center behind the speakers as well. The speakers had disappeared, leaving a wrap around soundstage, with focused imaging and fantastic dynamics. If I had never heard the Harmonizer system, I could stop there and be extremely happy.
A Bybee Quantum Plug.
So there you have it. My "Poor Man's Harmonizer System". It consists of the following:
  • 6 .1875" copper rods, placed in 18" long 4" x 4" boards that I had sanded and finished.
  • 1 .3125" copper rod in a finished wooden board like above.
  • 3 Bybee Quantum Plugs - You may only need 2, depending on the size of your room.
  • 2 large 12 oz Sertodo copper cups.
  • 2 small 2 oz Sertodo copper shot glasses.
This will get you 80% or so of the effect of the Stein system, and cost under $600. 

Some things to note

  1. More is not necessarily better - Too much copper, or too many QP's and the sound gets a little artificial. Move slowly, take your time. Start with the copper first, then start adding QP's.
  2. Placement of the QP's does not have to be exact. The front and back of the room placement is more important than being placed exactly at the center of the wall they are plugged in to. If you are concerned about this at all, buy a 3 prong extension cord for the QP. Then you can place it precisely. 
  3. The copper rods work best near a wall. These too do not necessitate exact placement. If you have a choice between placing them exactly but far from a wall or slightly off but near a wall, near a wall is the way to go.
  4. If you have a Harmonizer system already, don't sell it!  The rods and the QP's will work with the Harmonizer products really well. Think of it as having more tools to treat your room. I use 2 Harmonizers, 2 blue Diamonds, and 3 Blue Suns along with the copper and QP's.  I found this to provide the best blend of dynamics, texture, tone and resolution.