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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Holy Sh*t Moments: Part 2 - The $75 DIY Tweak That Will Blow Your Mind.

I don't understand why the following DIY tweak/project does what it does. But it is effective and if you take the time to make and place the items I am discussing, you will find your music to be more enveloping, engaging, dynamic and satisfying.

My motivation for telling you this? Nothing other than I want you to experience the amazing benefit of this DIY project. I make nothing off of this.

A Serindipitous Discovery

This all came about when a customer of mine called and relayed a story to me. He was telling me about a day when he was listening to his audio system. His wife had acquired an antique copper kettle, and proceeded to put it on a shelf behind him in his listening room. It changed the sound in a very noticeable manner, for the better. The following weekend they were travelling, where he was in a gift shop and spotted some solid copper cups and shot glasses. He remembered the tea kettle, and picked up a few of the cups with the intent of seeing what effect they might have on his listening room. They worked, creating a more relaxed, spacious sound, with improved dynamics. He liked the effect so much he kept going, adding more cups, and then experimenting with copper wire. Bending the wire into shapes and placing it about the room.

I took this information and bought some of the hammered, solid copper cups myself. 4 shot glass sized cups and 2 of the 12 oz. tumblers. Figuring if it didn't pan out, I had some nice shot glasses and could make Moscow Mules for 2...

When the cups arrived, I placed the two larger cups at ear level, directly in front and behind my listening position within my room. There was a definite increase in image focus and more texture in the vocal ranges. I then placed 2 shot glasses on top of the stacked Stillpoints Apertures in the corners  behind my speakers. The remaining 2 shot glasses were placed at my sides, again at ear level. This brought a sense of air and spaciousness that also seemed to move the image into a space that now surrounded me. Dynamics and energy seemed to increase as well. Not a bad improvement for around $120.
Sertodo Copper cups. Available at Amazon. The shot glass is on the far left, followed by 2 12 oz. cups.

Further Experiments

Still it wasn't cheap, and I really didn't feel like filling my listening room with copper cups. I started thinking about alternatives, and experimenting. The easiest and cheapest solution was to use solid core copper wire. I bought several different gauges, 18,16, 14, 12, 10, 8 and 6 awg wire was ordered up, shaped into various sculpturesque shapes, and tested in my room. I learned that It doesn't take a whole lot to make a difference, and second you want to allow it to resonate freely in order for it to be it's most effective. Nearly all of the wire I tried with the exception of the 6 awg, added shrillness or brightness to the room. The 6 awg while tough to bend into shapes seemed to offer the best sound without becoming bright or shrill.

I experimented with shaping the 6awg wire into self supporting triangles, then setting them atop my corner placed Apertures, and positions off to the side of my chair, as well as behind. Even hanging off of the ceiling. It was interesting, and quite nice. With the right amount there was more depth, detail dynamics and the sound went from sitting at the front row of a concert to being on the stage, depending on where I placed the copper bits that were at my side walls. The image expansion seemed to depend on where the triangles at my side walls were placed.

Still curious, I ordered up some OFC copper rod from I started with the .1875" rods in 4 foot lengths. I cut up a cedar 4x4 fence post, sanded and finished it, then drilled holes in it to accomodate up to 4 rods. After much experimenting, I settled on this configuration as the best solution. I could shape the rods a bit to make them look a little more like sculptures, and less like some crazy project. I chose 2 rods for each base. Placing them in front, back and to the sides of my listening position.
Four .1875" x 4 foot long copper rods in an 18" long piece of cedar
4" x 4". I sculpted the rods by bending them around a steel pipe. It
gave them their wavy shape. 

Important things to note

  1. Copper seems to work the best. Brass, Bronze and steel were awful sounding in my room. Immediately shrill and unlistenable. Gold and Silver at those lengths and diameters was impractical.
  2. Larger diameter rod/wire seems to work best. 6 awg wire works and .1875" rod works well. I tried .3125" wire and it did seem to work on midrange frequencies well, but it was easy to get too much too fast. One rod max is enough in my opinion.
  3. The rods or cups need to be near the wall to work their best. They lose about 50% of their effectiveness if you move them a foot or more out from the wall. 
  4. Whether you use rods or cups, having them at ear level increases their effectiveness as well. With the 4 foot rods, it was no problem for the stands to be placed on the ground, with  the height of the rods extending to ear level and above.
  5. It's easy to overdo it. Too much and the sound becomes too hollow, bright or shrill. I would start with 4 to 8 copper rods and 4 wooden stands. 


As I said before, the copper offered up a pleasant, relaxed ease. It seemed to diffuse the electronic tension that was present. It also seemed to depressurize the sound in the room, making the walls less of an obstacle to the sound. My guess as to why is that the rods vibrate sympathetically to energy bouncing off of the walls, sort of mechanically dissipating that energy before it gets to your ears. That would explain the sense of ease, the room sounding larger than it physically is, and the need for the copper to be placed near walls. I also heard more clarity and detail, less smearing of the higher frequencies, and especially with the large cups, I heard more body and texture to the vocals. It was all very natural sounding.

This was in a system that was already using acoustic treatments and many tweaks, including Stein Harmonizers and Bybee Quantum Plugs. The copper still had a positive impact that was different from that of the Stein and Bybee. Not to mention that 8 copper rods and an 8' long 4" x 4" cost about $75.

Sure I could have made up a story about the exotic nature of the particular copper I was using, or how it was treated, or how the wood was an integral part of the process. I could have charged a small fortune for these room tuning devices, but for me it would be wrong to call it or make it anything more than what it was.

Try It Yourself. It's not expensive, and takes almost no time to put together.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Holy Sh*t Moments: Part 1

I have been in a creative mode lately. Lots of ideas have been born and tried. Some worked, others were learning experiences in what doesn't work.  I will quickly elaborate on two that have worked, producing "holy shit" moments that have me grinning from ear to ear, and don't cost too much.
The Bybee AC Module: Mine are specially wired with Furutech 12 AWG "nano wire". Yes you can buy them from Tweek Geek. We can also install them in Equi=Core balanced power conditioners for you as well.

Holy Sh*t Moment One

My first experiment involved installing a "special" Bybee AC module inside an Equi=Core 300. This would be powered by my new Dark Matter conditioner, then ultimately power my Auralic Aries streamer. So the chain of power goes like this:

Wall > Dark Matter Conditioner > Equi=Core with Bybee AC Module > Auralic Aries.

Even I will admit this seems like excessive power filtering and conditioning. There's no doubt to the normal person (which I am definitely not) this seems like crazy overkill.

The net result was stunning. So much more low level information, vocals were smoother, more textured and engaging, and the horns on my test track "Isn't This A Lovely Day" by Ella and Louis didn't want to rip my head off, even at ludicrous listening levels the horns sounded like...horns. Not tinny, metalic noisemakers trying to make my ears bleed. Muddy waters "My Home Is In The Delta" had superb vocal textures and the dynamics in his voice were un-believable.

Granted the combination of the Equi=Core and Bybee AC Module were just under $2000, the sound I was getting from the Aries was the best it had ever been.
The Core Power Technologies Equi=Core 300. Excellent on source components, preamps, and your music server.

Holy Sh*t Moment Two

So, thinking I have pretty much maxed out the power conditioning in my system, my thoughts turned to my server, and associated peripherals located in the adjacent room. It's no secret that PC's, powered external hard disks, routers, etc. are notoriously noisy beasts, so why not see what balanced power could do for the sound when powering networked servers and other bits.  I plugged a second Equi=Core into a Wireworld Matrix power strip, then proceeded to plug my server, the powered external hard disk, and the switch that is managing the network connection from the internet to my server and Aries.

This too was a step in the right direction. Not as jaw-dropping as the modded Equi=Core on my Aries, but again lower noise, more ultra low level detail emerging, and a less mechanical/electronic sound. The sound had more soul, more flow, less artificial tension in it.

Color me stunned.

My next post will cover a more "artistic" tweak I have discovered that, bang for the buck, I don't think can be topped. I am giving this DIY project away, as it is so simple I think it would be criminal to label it as something more exotic than what it is. Stay tuned...