On High End Audio

From an unpublished article commissioned by WIRED Magazine.

Transparent OPUS MM Speaker Cables

“superior resonance control through the use of costly, hand made carbon fiber…”
  • Greg: Uh, resonance effects in speaker cables?
  • Dave: If your speaker cables are resonating more than your speakers, get rid of the speakers and just use the cables.
  • Erik: $27,000 for the cable plus an additional $65 for the iPod mini plug.

Recommendation: Perform a double-blind listening test against cheap lamp cord from the hardware store.

Wattgate 24K Gold Plated Audio Grade Outlet

“triple gold plated, solid brass”
  • Greg: Rather than vaporize the gold plating (the arc potential is only a few volts) why not accessorize? Put it on a neck chain, call it the “Bling 120.”
  • Dave: You should really use gold plated plugs too.
  • Erik: An orange isolated ground outlet draws equal current and attention at a fraction of the price.

Recommendation: Use Twist-Lock AC connectors for secure connections.

Machina Dynamica Brilliant Pebbles

“now comes as a thin clear plastic bag that contains various minerals/stones”
  • Greg: Wow, the atomic mechanisms of the rocks are very powerful. Sounds a lot like Kryptonite to me.
  • Erik: Fortunately the phonon interaction in the crystal lattice is unaffected by the intervening plastic bag.
  • Dave: The pebbles are quite nice but I think they should placed in the ears rather than on the cables.

Recommendation: Play bean bag.

Genesis Power Cable

“Our goal to craft one of the most fascinating audio products you will ever hear!”
  • Erik: After traveling across utility poles for miles, don’t your electrons deserve to be pampered for the final five feet?
  • Greg: $6,700.00 for a 5 foot power cable is obvious, but isn’t the extra $8.00 a bit excessive?
  • Dave: $147.95 for triple-wipe design, $13,416 for “precise musical timing”

Recommendation: Before purchasing, perform a test between the cheap power cords you already have lying around. Preferably free from distractions and in your own listening environment.

The Hallograph Soundfield Optimizer

“produces a stunning increase in realism”
  • Dave: A stunning increase in realism using a phenomenal decrease in common sense.
  • Greg: How does a funny-shaped diffuser reduce “chaotic” reflections? And what effect does the violin propped against the base have?
  • Erik: I’m pretty sure I saw this listed as a tie rack in the SkyMall catalog.

Recommendation: Use with the Brilliant Pebbles for playing bean bag.

audiodharma Cable Cooker 2.5

“breaks in more thoroughly because the cabling is exposed to extreme signal levels and a special waveform”
  • Erik: Yes, but how long does the Cable Cooker have to be broken in? Is there a “Cable Cooker” cooker?
  • Dave: From the FAQ: “Over-Cooking can reduce the performance.” I suggest medium-rare.
  • Greg: Might be useful if it causes a breakdown in the Schottky junctions formed by dirty audio connections. However, it would be better to replace the bad connections.

Recommendation: Use low capacitance, OFHC cables.

Golden Sound Ultra Tweeters

“operate at extremely high frequencies — much higher than the audio band — actually in the microwave band, above 1 Gigahertz (GHz).”
  • Dave: The FAA frowns upon any device which radiates at these frequencies since it interferes with aircraft transponders.
  • Erik: FCC WARNING: operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) this device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) if an aircraft crashes into your listening room, it’s your fault.
  • Greg: I think gamma rays might be more effective in this application.

Recommendation: Open the shades and flood the room with lots of high frequency sunlight. It might not affect the audio, but it’ll make you feel better.

Bonus: The Intelligent Chip, the Magic Ring, and the Ultra Tweeter – Three new gizmos from Golden Sound

Precision Audio Cable Elevators

“Many users report increased ‘bass slam’ with Cable Elevators.”
  • Erik: Probably due to people tripping over the cables.
  • Dave: The power company uses these as insulators for power lines. I used to climb poles along the abandoned railroad tracks for these as a kid.

Recommendation: Styrofoam cups make a great insulator, too. Better
yet is to keep your audio cables, speaker wires, and power cables

Silver Rock Potentiometer Signature Version

“Distorsion: almost unmeasurable at all frequencies”
  • Greg: How do you turn a multi-tap transformer into a potentiometer? Put it in a sealed wooden box.
  • Dave: Transformers inherently add distortion and phase shift to an audio signal. Some people like this sound.
  • Erik: The “mahogany upgrade” uses three linear feet of mahogany. Hand selected at the lumberyard: $24. Your cost: $960.

Recommendation: For a clean sound, use a rotary attenuator with precision resistors. For a colored sound, experiment to taste but realize you’re only getting further from the sound of the original recording.

Nanotech Systems Nespa #1 CD Finalizer

“discs sound more natural, more detailed and less fatiguing – more ‘vinyl-like’”
  • Dave: Does “vinyl-like” mean it raises the noise floor?
  • Erik: Requires 230 volts and basically shines a car headlight at your CD.

Recommendation: Adding energy to a storage medium implies an increase in entropy. Keep your CDs out of the sun and away from high energy sources such as Xenon lamps.

Gläss CD Improver

“Simple and effective: the 36° bevel. The beam diffusion cannot be avoided by error correction.”
  • Erik: I wonder what it smells like during shaving of the CDs. I bet Claude Shannon would say it stinks.
  • Dave: Get a Bit Error Rate (BER) meter and see if this device makes an improvement to your CDs.
  • Greg: This might actually work!

Recommendation: Keep your optical discs clean and fingerprint-free.

Greg Gualtieri is president of Pendulum Audio (pendulumaudio.com), a manufacturer of vacuum tube recording equipment. He holds degrees
in Physics from Columbia and Princeton Universities and spent 10 years
as a research scientist at Bell Laboratories.

Dave Amels holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and is
a producer, performer and recording engineer with over 100 album
credits. He’s a co-founder of AnaMod Audio (anamodaudio.com)
and Voce, Inc (voceinc.com).

Erik Gavriluk built a noted Los Angeles recording studio and audio processing
company (bombfactory.com). He developed “The Mastererizer” – a
CD mastering tool with an “on/moron” switch. It is included with every
Digidesign Pro Tools system.