Friday, April 29, 2016

The Bybee Gold Crystal Slipstream RCA Adapter: Crazy Musicality, Texture & Depth.

Springtime in Colorado. You have 300 days of sunshine here, and the other 65 pretty much occur between March and May. Right now it's snowing, and I am not stepping foot outdoors. It's a great day to evaluate the latest tweak from Jack Bybee, the Gold Crystal Slipstream RCA adapter

I evaluated the copper or Standard Crystal Slipstream adapter a few blogs ago, along with the High Fidelity Cables Magnetic RCA adapters. The end result of that blog was a discovery of a synergistic combination of the two adapters, and the Bybee bringing smoothness and musical flow to the somewhat analytical but wonderfully detailed & dynamic High Fidelity adapter.

I used the Gold adapter on my coaxial output of my Auralic Aries to the Aqua La Voce DAC. I kept the High Fidelity adapter on the source end of the cable, and had the Gold adapter on the destination end, just like I did with the Standard Crystal Slipstream adapter.

If you are short on time here it is. Buy the Gold adapter. Right out of the box, It gives you even more of the wonderful liquidity, musicality and detail of the copper adapter. It digs deeper into low level detail and presents it with clarity and appropriateness. Keeping everything in balance. There is a haze that is gone and not at the expense of musicality. In fact, the presentation is even more musical. But the biggest improvement is in subtle tones, overtones and texture.

Listening to Alexi Murdoch's "Breathe" from his album Time Without Consequence, there is so much low level information and texture hidden in this recording. Much of it is masked by noise. Not with the Gold RCA adapter in place. In the opening section, there is a solo acoustic guitar playing, and a drum and symbol crash in the distant background. Normally here you can tell its a drum and you hear a bit of the crashing symbol, but with the Bybee Gold in place you can hear the skin of the drum stretch when the drum stick hits it, and hear the air around the symbol crash. It helps to create the sense of space. You can also pick up more texture and tone from the acoustic guitar. Later when the cello starts in, there is much more texture there as well. More overtones, more bow on string. It makes you sit and just listen.

Taking it Further

Having the time to fart around with tweaks today, I decided to add the second Gold adapter right after the High Fidelity adapter, making it a crazy combination of adapters and extra connections. The real reason I did this was to break in both adapters. I was not expecting better sound. This should have suffered some loss of detail. But what I achieved was just a sick level of detail without turning into a musical scalpel. Glorious resolution, creating a wrap-around soundstage with layers, textures and flow that had me glued to my seat.

...And Even Further

So I ran out of adapters to string together, but I had a set of Shakti On-lines handy. I placed one one each adapter. This further fleshed out textures and very low level information, while still remaining musical.

The On-Lines and Shakti Stones have been around a long time, and us fickle audiophiles have forgotten about their effectiveness in our continuous search for something new. You know what? They still work, and work well. At $99 a pair they are definitely worth pairing with the Bybee RCA adapters. A very nice synergy indeed. As an aside, try putting one of the big Shakti Stones on your breaker box for a reduction of grit and grain on your AC lines...

Confirming My Sanity

I then removed all of the adapters to re-establish a baseline. The sound was...Uninvolving and hazy, simple as that. I could not un-hear what I just heard with everything in place. My ears strained to recognize hazy details that were crystal clear moments before. Some details were outright lost in the fog.

Adding one Gold RCA adapter returned a fraction of the detail, air and space, and added a nice sense of musicality.

Adding the High Fidelity RCA adapter at the source end brought a nice sparkle and clarity to the highs and dynamics (micro and macro) improved. The holography of the soundstage improved as well.

Adding the other Gold Bybee RCA adapter gave me more. More of everything in a very musical way. Surprisingly the low end improved as well.

Finally the finishing touch of the Shakti On-line. Added subtle texture and detail. Now we're talking!


Back to our original purpose: Evaluating the Gold Bybee Crystal Slipstream RCA adapter. In my situation and for my tastes the Gold wins out over the Standard version in terms of more detail, with more musicality. A fog was lifted, details were revealed, and music flowed.  If you are suffering from harshness, grainy sound or digititus that has you reaching for the remote to turn down the volume, the Bybee RCA adapters are definitely worth trying in your system. The Gold takes you deeper, but at a higher cost. I simply can't go back after hearing my music through the entire combination of Bybees, High Fidelitys, and Shaktis. They just add a sense of...Wait for it... Ease to the music along with a tremendous amount of resolution and enhanced dynamics. I highly recommend trying them out, and with our in-home audition program, you can do just that..

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Moving Day Part 4: Acoustic Treatments are a Component, Not an Accessory

The finished product. Read on to learn how I got here...
The fundamentals of ANY audio system performing it's best are:
  1. Dedicated AC lines and proper power conditoning
  2. Optimal speaker placement
  3. Acoustic treatments
Skimp on any one of these and you are cheating yourself out of the best possible sound for your dollars spent. One can spend a lot more money trying to get around doing any one of these through component purchases, cables and tweak purchases. Without the proper foundation, you are just putting band-aids on the sonic problems.


The new listening room was coming along. The electrician finally installed the dedicated lines and wired them with Audience 10 AWG in-wall cable. Man, what a difference! I had (and still have ) a 14 AWG dedicated line in the same room. The Audience cable allowed my system to be quieter, more dynamic, and have way better bass. A great investment.

The Room

The room looked like the intersection of two rectangles, with the entry way and stairs in the middle along one long wall. The total useable area of the room is 39 feet by 14 feet. The first rectangle is 14 feet wide by 29 feet long, this intersects with a rectangle shaped area 20 feet wide by 10 feet long.
The speakers are placed along the 20' wall,  8' apart, 38" from the back wall and firing into the large area. 

The speakers themselves are a controlled directivity design with single 12" front firing midbass drivers, waveguide loaded air motion transformer high frequency drivers (80 degree dispersion horizontally, 30 degrees vertically), and 2 opposing powered 12" subs per speakers. At 98dB efficiency they easily fill the space with powerful sound.

Room Acoustics

So it was time to focus on room acoustics. In the most general terms, one wants the right combination of surfaces that absorb sound (absorption), as well as scatter it (diffusion). What one does not want are flat reflective surfaces that sound "bounces" off of and arrive at your ears with enough delay to "smear" the sound coming directly from the loudspeakers themselves. You want the directly radiated sound and not so much of the reflected sound.

To start, the wall behind the speakers should have a combination of diffusion and absorption, for the side walls I prefer mostly diffusion, and the walls behind the listening position mostly absorption. To my ears too much absorption results in an overly "dead" room. It sucks the life out of the music and makes the room feel small. Too much diffusion and the room is still too "live". You don't get so much slap echo, but the midrange can have too much energy and sound artificial.

The Problem with Room Treatments

The problem lies in finding the right placement of treatments, as well as the ratio of absorption vs. diffusion. This is difficult because placing acoustic treatments on a wall is like hanging art. It leaves holes in the wall and is a pain in the arse.  So how to hang acoustic treatments in a way that 1) does not damage the walls every time you swap or move an acoustic treatment, and 2) allows one to experiment with placement.

I came up with a pretty slick solution for the particular treatments I was using. I incorporated a rail system used for hanging art, and "McGyvered" the acoustic treatments so that they could be hung by cables and slid along the rails of the picture hanging system. This system also allowed me to adjust the horizontal and vertical placement of each treatment. Perfect!

The Hanging System

I used the Stas Mini Rail picture hanging system found here.  It consists of a small rail that is installed along the length of the wall (or as long as you want). Cables with hooks on one end are then hooked into the built-in rail and can be slid along it's length. Spring loaded hangers are placed on the cables and hook on to fasteners installed on the acoustic treatments by me (more on that later). This enables one to move on the horizontal or vertical plane, and it allows you to easily swap absorbers and diffusors. Limitless experimentation, at least for the walls in your room.
Mini Rail hung 2" from the ceiling with cable installed.

The Absorbers
Sonex Whisper Wave hung from the ceiling.

I chose the Sonex Whisper Wave 24" x 48" panels for my acoustic absorbers. I liked the shape and the light weight. They are perfect for hanging from the rails and will get the job done. A set of  4 24" x 48" panels in unpainted white is $248 plus shipping. That should be plenty for most rooms.

The Diffusors

I chose the GIK Acoustics Grid Fusors for my diffusors. Again they were light weight, and looked aesthetically pleasing. The surface was also paintable. They came in sets of 4, 24" x 24" panels and the cost was $214 per set. You may need more than one set of Grid Fusors, as a set of Grid Fusors covers about half as much surface area of  your walls as a set of Whisper Waves.

Modding the Acoustic Treatments for the Rail System

I needed to install something on the acoustic treatments to accomodate the hooks that will hang from the cables. It had to support the weight of the treatment, be durable ( I often bump into things when I am working behind my system). I decided to use some heavy duty self drilling drywall anchors. They were large enough to not pull out of the treatments and could hold the "screw eyes" (yep, that's what they are called).
Self drilling drywall anchor

Drywall Anchor with screw eye installed on a GIK Grid Fusor

Drywall anchor and screw eye inserted into the Sonex Whisper Wave
These worked out perfectly.  I installed the hangers on the tops of the Sonex Whisper waves, and on the tops and bottoms of half of the Grid fusors, while the other half just the tops. My plan was to hang two Grid Fusors beside one Whisper Wave, that would make both the diffusor surface area and absorber surface area nearly equal. Making for a tidy display along the wall.

One Whisper Wave panel hanging from the rail.

Bass traps

Let's not forget bass traps. A great way to even out room response in a mechanical way. I had 4 bass traps from Acoustic Geometry's Curve system. They consisted of the corner trap plus the Curve diffusor. 2 were placed in the corners of the wall behind and outside of the speakers. 2 more were stacked in the corner opposite the left speaker in the 20' wide section of the room. The picture below illustrates placement, with the bass traps indicated in red.

Acoustic Geometry bass trap (Stein Harmonizer on top).

GIK makes bass traps as well. They are available in a wide variety of colors, and start around $229.

Getting More Creative

I had also made a DIY absorber out of 1" thick remnant pieces of industrial felt that I glued to a piece of Baltic birch ply. For those more inclined to DIY their room treatments, this was super easy and looked pretty cool when finished. Cost was about $100.
My kids love this piece because the "dots" are not glued down. They can move the dots around to create different patterns. The colored dots are simply spray painted felt pieces. They lose some of their absorptive properties when spray painted, so I left the majority of them their natural color.


The results, so far, have been outstanding. Imaging has improved, the soundstage has more width and depth, and it doesn't smear nearly as bad as it did before. No smearing at low to moderate levels, with a slight bit of smearing and echo when the volume goes up. Which tells me there is more work and experimentation to do. My next installations will most likely be on the ceiling, which right now is the largest reflective surface in the room.
Standing at the back wall, behind the listening chairs. Three absorbers and two sets of two diffusors currently behind the speakers.  Off to the right side are 2 more sets of 2 diffusors. To the left, one absorber. This is how it currently is, but could change at any moment. :)  I feel I need to experiment with the ceiling next. Perhaps another blog post.
Taken from the right corner, you see the bass traps in the opposite corners. The shape of the room makes the bass a little boomy at around 30 and 60 hz. The bass traps help immensely, but DSP will help further.

From the right corner, facing out into the room. To the left, my felt "art" that acts as an absorber, and on the far back wall, two Acoustic Geometry absorbers on either side of the double doors. The length of the room takes care of a lot of slap echo problems, but as one turns the volume up, the need for absorbers on this wall makes itself evident.

From the left speaker, facing out into the room. You see the entry into the listening room, with the "horn-shaped" opening.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Moving Day Part 3: A Funny Thing Happened While Waiting For The Electrician...

Moving Day Part 3

Well,  the original electrician selected for the job flaked out. After several phone calls and promises to drop by, no dedicated line as of yet. Time to find a new electrician who needs the work. In the meantime I took the opportunity to evaluate my existing AC situation more thoroughly. As it turns out, I have a sub-panel in my basement which is where my listening room is located. I already have dedicated lines, wired in the same phase. Cool!

The existing wiring however is a puny 14 awg romex, nothing in comparison to the cryo'd, 10 AWG high purity copper from Audience that awaits it's installation, but far from awful. But even as it is, it's not terrible.

So as my disappointment over the situation subsided with the discovery of the existing dedicated lines, the gears of my tweaking mind began to whir at high speed.

Below are the following tweaks I have implemented to the existing AC circuits:

Tweak #1 Stillpoints ERS

Stillppoints ERS is one of the first products I carried back in 2003. It is a cloth/paper like product that has metal coated carbon fibers incorporated into the pulp. It absorbs RFI and has on average about 66 db noise reduction in it's 10meg to 17 gig range. I placed some Stillpoints ERS on the inside door of the main breaker box. This was quite a surprise. Not only is the Stillpoints ERS inexpensive at about $25 for an 8"x10" sheet, it was one of the most powerful improvements. But first a warning...

Stillpoints ERS IS conductive. You are at risk of a severe electrical shock if it comes into direct contact with live AC current. 

With that said. I placed two sheets inside the front door of the sub panel that houses my dedicated lines. I used duct tape to hold it in place. The placement inside the door brought it close enough to the breakers that it was effective, but kept it away from exposed wires. I heard about a 10% improvement when I did this. Meh. But this is also where it gets a little weird. Not satisfied with the improvement, I went "upstream" to the main breaker box, and did the same thing; Two sheets taped to the inside of the front door.  Holy shit! Wow! This was way better than I was expecting. Especially from the breaker box that was further away. My thoughts were that the breaker box further away was subject to more noise pollution from all of the circuits in the house, plus the incoming electricity coming off the grid. Placing the ERS there, it had the opportunity to absorp more RFI before it got to the sub-panel in the basement.

Tweak #2 Akiko E Tunig Gold MK II

I've not been a big fan of this tweak on AC cords. It seemed to mellow things out too much. Somehow softening the highs beyond what I prefer. However, I tried placing the E Tuning Gold MK II on the top of the breaker box where the incoming and outgoing AC wires were entering and exiting. This seemed to mitigate the edginess (Almost always caused by RF) on the AC, making things subtly quieter too. Sold.

Tweak #3 Bybee Quantum Signal Enhancers

I haven't finished my experimenting with these just yet, because I want to add more. I placed 2 right above the Akiko device, one on each side of the AC wires on the sub panel, and fastened them together with velcro. This seemed to enhance the fluid nature of the music on my system. I have several of these placed under components and power cords as well. They all seem to take the system in a more musical, less electronic sounding direction. I want to place a few on the main breaker box to see if the effect will be more powerful there then at the sub panel.

Tweak #4 AudioMagic Pulse Gen ZX

The Pulse gen ZX is a little black box from AudioMagic. It has 2 wires coming out of the box that one uses to attach to the incoming AC of a component. The Pulse Gen ZX is then adhered to the inside of the component. It attacks RF by actively emitting a cancelling field inside whatever component it is placed in. In this case however, I placed it inside the breaker box, since there was enough room. If I could describe the Pulse Gen ZX in one word it would be "presence". With the Pulse Gen wired up and in the Breaker box, music had more of an organic, live energy to it. Very impressive. If you do not have room behind the front door of your breaker box, I would recommend hiring an electrician to install the Pulse Gen ZX behind the front panel, inside the breaker box itself. You can power it up by wiring a separate breaker just for the Pulse Gen ZX, or as I did, I fashioned a power plug to the end of the existing wires on the Pulse Gen ZX, then plugged it in to an AC outlet that was very close by. I did it that way so I could power the unit down for A/B testing.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Getting More with Bybee and High Fidelity Adapters

The traditional approach to audiophilia is when one is bored with their existing gear or curious to see if they are missing out, a new component is researched and auditioned.  Many times through this process a purchase is made, and we step onto the Audio Merry-Go-Round.

It was never our intention to take a never ending ride of upgrades, sideways moves, etc., but human nature being what it is our curiousity propels us down a path that is sometimes circular, but hopefully propels us forward.

I discovered long ago that our components are often times capable of providing greater performance than we are aware of. The room, speaker placement, the electricity feeding our system, mechanical vibrations, and yes our cables are coloring, hindering and robbing our components of their best sound. I would submit that in most cases of upgradeitus that the original owner never realized the full capability of the component they are offloading.

This is where the art of tweaking becomes most useful.

This is also what leads us to this particular blog. Today I want to talk about some recent tweaks from High Fidelity Cables and from Bybee that can help one realize more of the sonic potential offered by one's audio components.
High Fidelity Magnetic RCA Adapters

The High Fidelity Magnetic RCA Adapters

These took the internet by storm about 2 months ago. The adapters from Rick Schultz of High Fidelity Cables are offered in 2 varieties; One for the transmitting end of an interconnect, and one for the destination end of the interconnect. Therefore both ends of the interconnect cable can be treated with magnetism. The reason for the two varieties lies in how the adapters do their thing. They use a series of neodymium magnets whose poles are aligned in such a way as to align the magnetic field in one direction going from source to destination. This alignment is said to reduce noise and to increase signal transmission efficiency.

Our take - We were only able to test the interconnects from source to preamp, as our preamp to power amp connection is balanced only. The Magnetic RCA Adapters appear to remove a haze surrounding all frequencies, Highs seem cleaner, more distinct and clearer. Phase information appears to improve as well, perhaps from a lower noise floor. Bass is cleaner and more distinct, and dynamics improve over the whole spectrum. In our system one set on the destination end from source to preamp provided the most benefit. Many customers have reported that two sets work best for them. Friends, this is why we always recommend auditioning the products in your own system before buying. Every system, every set of ears, and every sonic preference is different...

The Bybee Crystal RCA Bullets

Bybee Crystal Slipstream RCA Adapters

The latest version of Bybee RCA bullets makes use of the existing purifier technology, and the newer crystal technology from Bybee. The build quality on the new series is the best yet, with a hefty feel and a locking barrel to secure the adapter to your component. The sound can best be described as organic and liquid. This was not due to a softening of the highs or dynamics, the music was simply more musical and less electronic sounding. Yes there was more air, more space and a bigger soundstage too. Those familiar with Bybees products will immediately recognize this. But it was the liquid, relaxed flow of the music that I had not heard like this before.

The Combination?

Not being quite as enamored with two sets of High Fidelity Magnetic adapters as we thought we would be, we decided to try the combination of Magnetic and Crystal adapters. The first experiment was with the High Fidelity adapter at the destination end of the interconnect, and that was plugged into the Bybee Adapter which was then plugged into the source component.  It looked something like the illustration below.

Source>>> Interconnect>>>HFC Adapter>>>Bybee Adapter>>>Preamp

This proved to be a synergistic combination. Preserving the clarity and dynamics of the High Fidelity adapter while giving it a musical touch from the Bybee. Placing the bybee at the end of the interconnect, followed by the High Fidelity Adapter which was then connected to the component  proved to be not as good.

Source>>>Interconnect>>>Bybee Adapter>>>HFC Adapter>>>Preamp

The highs were rolled off too much for my tastes. So the Magnetic adapter has to come first, then the Bybee adapter.

With that in mind, our last experiment was to use the source end Magnetic adapters on one end of the interconnect, and the Bybee adapter at the other end.

Source>>>HFC Adapter>>>Interconnect>>>Bybee Adapter>>>Preamp

 This proved to be very similar to the "stacked" adapters at the destination end. A very nice combination indeed.

Digital Too

The combinations worked in the digital realm as well. The overall effect was enhanced low level detail, dynamics, a larger more dimensional soundstage and a better musical wholeness and flow.  The great thing about using the adapters on your digital cable is you only need half as many, reducing your cost.