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!





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..