There is a very simple explanation for why this topic is so important. It comes via my technician when I asked him why he thought the PranaWire Linebacker was so effective. Earlier I wrote that when he measured its effectiveness he was expecting to find no greater than 10db or perhaps, at the extreme, 15db of reduction. What we found instead was that the attenuation we were able to measure was at the noise floor of the measuring equipment. In other words we were only able to measure to 60db of attenuation before the noise generated by the equipment itself masked further results. Though measuring equipment with higher resolution exists, and I would be very happy to see those results, I am content with being able to say that the attenuation is at minimum 60db.
If you are familiar with how a piano is tuned you will understand immediately, but for those who do not, let me digress into what is happening with “just” verses “tempered” intonation which will have bearing on my explanation:
The intervals in just intonation are derived from the physics of a string. When you allow your finger to lightly touch a string at exact fractional distances between the bridge and the nut you will hear different tones. The table below explains:
So we can see from this chart that the octave, fifth, third, minor third, natural second, minor seventh and major seventh are all derived from the natural harmonics of the string.
Thepoint is that there is a physical basis for the derivation of each note based on the actual subdivisions of a vibrating string. This is what happens naturally on any single string of an instrument whether on a Bosendorfer or a one string Indian Ektar. When viewing a video of a vibrating string in slow motion, you can actually see these nodes at work.
The tempered scale was invented for the purpose of creating the ability to transpose from any of the twelve keys into any of the others while maintaining exact proportional relationships. In order to accomplish this the naturally derived scales had to be slightly and precisely detuned.
When two strings on an instrument that are out of range of each other are gradually brought closer together in intonation there is a threshold of closeness where they will begin to interact by creating a rapid beat. As they are brought closer and closer to the center of the pitch the beat slows until, at zero, the beating disappears altogether. When tuning the intervals on a piano, the technician listens for and counts the beats per minute (generated by detuning) to determine the precise intervals that create a proper tempered scale.
So what happens when two frequencies in the megahertz range are within beating distance? They behave in exactly the same manner as two strings. The periodicity of the beating generates a fundamental that occurs within hearing range. Noise is a cloud of frequencies. As a result there are myriad frequencies interacting, generating a myriad of audible fundamentals. High frequency generated noise can and does impinge on the circuitry within a given component affecting the manner in which signal is delivered to the next component and so on. It impinges from without (other components, cables, home wiring, phones, wi-fi etc.) and also as self generated noise from within. The attempt to generate signal has as a by product this "dark matter" called noise. A system comes into being in an environment already rife with noise, and the complexity of interactions within it and its environment are likely beyond our current means of measuring except in the broadest sense.
When we remove high frequency noise from a system, audible veils are removed. Therefore, the absorption and dissipation of high frequency noise is a topic that should be of paramount concern to all who design components and those who seek to put them together into a coherent whole.
As the aspect changes, new colors come into view, their modulating sheen endlessly fascinating. Millions of points of light define object and space. The air is carved into deeply solid shapes and volumes. Airbrushed arabesques fly through splashes and riots and clouds of color. A crack of thunder rents the sky as rain falls on the living room floor. Horns caress and cajole the ears. I am wonderstruck.
You may think, “I want what that guy is smoking!” And, if you are thinking, “I want to hear what that guy is hearing!” you’d be on the right track. (Not that there’s anything amiss with the former.)
This conversation has been about what happens when a system is well and truly treated with all things that facilitate its ultimate performance, when nothing has been held back, no stone unturned. In that context, when you arrive at a certain plateau, smaller and smaller upgrades yield larger and as yet unimagined vistas.
So here’s an interesting conundrum: I have an important person coming to visit, I have just performed one of two planned “minor” tweeks, the first of which has sent me into orbit. In fact, I’m so deep into the process of absorbing the effects of this one that I have decided to postpone putting in the next, even though it will without question propel the system further. Is this a mistake? Let me just say that the fullness of the current experience is so breathtaking that it is hard to imagine what could be better, but, as I have recorded here in this sequence of blogs, these breakthroughs continue unabated.
This tweek comes to me by way of a good customer in D.C. who has gone further with his cartridge than I have dared. Not that I am unwilling to investigate, it’s just, like I say, I need time.
So what is this tweek? See the photo just below.
My good friend Jeff Whitlock got me thinking about the fabulous Clearaudio Double Matrix record cleaner. I mean, who wouldn’t love to own one: press a button and it performs a complete cleaning, vacuuming and demagnetizing of both sides of an LP in 2.5 minutes, automatically! He also mentioned that you can program it for a double cleaning or for an indefinite period of brushing with fluid, and it’s only $6000 - a bargain, if you have that kind of spare change.
I’m not lazy. I mean I don’t mind getting up and down to change LPs, and I don’t mind the cleaning process, EXCEPT, there’s a definite limit to how long I can stand there holding a brush against the LP, so I end up with far shorter cleaning periods than is optimal.
Recently a reviewer, whom I respect, had this to say about another reviewer’s comments on our reference system, “But I have some impression that under informal circumstances, audio people can get excited and come to debatable conclusions.” This is a fair enough comment, (To be clear, he has not heard the system, but is rather commenting from afar.) however, it got me thinking about the methodologies of inquiry that are commonly accepted practice and the weight that is given to them. It’s not that I think the typical review cycle of: listen to baseline system, insert new item, listen and repeat, and in some more rare instances, measure the device, is wrong, but rather, is that any more valid than say, visiting a room at an audio show and granting it a ‘best of show’ award?
The effect of any given tweak on your system will be directly proportional to its level of resolution. What may yield a negligible effect on one system will have a profound effect on another. Elsewhere I have commented on "The Myth of Diminishing Returns": Common wisdom holds that there is a point beyond which continued effort and expenditure begins to yield less and less. I have demonstrated to my entire satisfaction that this is just not the case. In fact, I hold the reverse to be true: As the system becomes more and more resolving, it yields ever-greater gains with ever-smaller upgrades (not to mention the benefits of major ones). And the good news is that those gains are cumulative so that the next tweak builds with greater efficiency upon the last and so on.
The Acoustic Revive RR-888 is a case in point. On its own it can contribute important improvements to the behavior of a system. It is now common knowledge that its effects can be improved with a robust linear outboard power supply such as the King Rex unit. It has also been demonstrated that using more than one in a system can further increase the overall effect. How and why it works is a topic for another day, but the key point is that it is a device that does not need to be plugged into the same circuit as the system and nothing from the system plugs into it. People have experimented with placement around their rooms and discovered what works best for them. Since the RR-888 needs to be a minimum of 4.5 feet off of the floor, in our case, the only option is on top of the refrigerator, which is behind the listening position on the right side.
We started out with just one unit in place with the King Rex. The improvement was unmistakable. At a certain point I had to find out what a second RR-888 would do, and since I had another King Rex unit available, up they went - again there was a definite uptick in performance. The effect of these two upgrades seemed to be in the realm of greater density of information and an overall increase in clarity.
Months went by, and given that my mind is always presenting me with new and interesting options based on past experience and available materials, I came up with the notion to add weight to the RR-888. If you've ever held one in your hand you know that it is feather light. You might think, "Where's the beef?" if you hadn't experienced what it can do. A given principle in tweaking is that isolation and added weight are generally a good thing. Since the RR-888 has a hump in its top, I thought the way to do this was to cut a sheet of fo.Q SH-22E 2mm thick damping material to size and load the top of it with weights that are used to balance car wheels. Placing this "weighted blanket" on top delivered a significant improvement along the same lines as previously described.
Now remember that we are tweaking a device sits on top of the fridge, unconnected to the system on a separate circuit that puts out a very short burst of signal at a frequency of 7.83Hz. You might well ask what I am smoking. (Call me for an answer to that!)
Most recently we received an order for some Acoustic Revive HQ-4 Hickory wood cube isolators:
And again, the wheels begin to turn. Why not use these to further isolate the RR-888? It would be a good opportunity to test them. For good measure I chose to add the fo.Q SB2025 small platforms underneath the King Rex Supply:
Here is the entire arrangement:
Unpacked - A Hidden Garden of Delights
Since I did not do this incrementally, I cannot yet comment on the effect of each individual part, but the effect of this arrangement was staggering. Frankly, when I started, I didn't expect any improvement at all. I mean, how far can you take things, right? Wrong. See "Myth of Diminishing Returns" above.
Let me put this in context: The sound was stellar before I began. It was only in retrospect that I was able to realize that the higher frequency impulses had been compressed: What seemed like single-point-in-time events became something else: If you've ever used audio editing software you know that you can zoom in on the waveform. This was similar in that the event seems to have been magnified. What was a point before now had a beginning, a development and an end. You could now witness the full "landscape" of the event. All sense of being impinged upon was gone and replaced with wonderment. It was (and is) akin to discovering a new hidden garden of delights.
The Lotus Group Granada Loudspeaker with X1 Crossover
Lotus Group built custom turntable with Redpoint Platter, bearing and motor pod
Durand Kairos tonearm
Ortofon Windfeld Cartridge
Airtight ATE-2005 Phono Stage
EAR MC4 Step Up Transformer
Airtight ATC-2 HQD Preamplifier
SMc 125 watt Stereo Amplifier
PranaWire Lalit Phono Cables
PranaWire Vajra Power Cables 1.5m
PranaWire Cosmos Power Cable Custom 1.5m
PranaWire Cosmos Power Cable 1.5m
PranaWire Sukhavati Power Cable 2.0m
PranaWire Avatar Speaker Cable 2.5m (Woofers)
PranaWire Sukhavati Speaker Cable 2.5m (Main Drivers)
PranaWire Arhat RCA IC 1.5m
PranaWire Sukhavati IC RCA 1.5m
PranaWire Sukhavati XLR 1.0m
Acoustic Revive RCP-1 Power Line Conditioner
Acoustic Revive RR-888 Ultra Low Frequency Generator
fo.Q AB4045 Hybrid Ceramic Platforms
fo.Q Hem-25 Footers - Sets of 4
PranaWire Linebacker XE In-Line Passive Power Conditioners
Furutech NCF Boosters
fo.Q TA-102 Damping Material
fo.Q TA-32 Damping Material
fo.Q IP-11 Cable Supports
Misc. Stuff / Custom etc.
PranaWire Super Enhanced Ground Plane ready for shipment to a high end manufacturer who includes it as an internal upgrade to his product line. You can check out the full lineup of SEGPs here.
If you have been reading my blogs you will have noted that I struggle with language to describe what it is I am hearing. In my attempt is to be as accurate as possible, a simple and true description appears as hyperbole. If I say that this system is at the very least on par with any other top system in existence, I can say it with confidence and yet know that many will not take such a statement seriously and will even view it with disdain as the ramblings of a deranged egomaniac. I’m willing to live with that. Nevertheless, never in my experience have so many elements been combined into such a coherent and cohesive whole. Never has amp spoken to speaker like this. Never before have I experienced sound that reached right into my nervous system and played it like an instrument.
You can only decide whether what I say is true is by hearing it for yourself, and for that, you will have to come to us. I have no plans at present to haul this precisely calibrated and highly tweaked system to a show. The word will have to be spread by those who take it upon themselves to test the validity of my words in person by making the pilgrimage.
Things were fabulous in previous incarnations, but two recent events have pushed us over the edge into Holy Grail territory:
1. Upgrading the SMc Audio custom amplifier that drives the Feastrex D5e Type II field coil driver (full range from 200 cycles up. The Lotus Group Granada Loudspeaker is a calibrated two-way, actively crossed over, open baffle loudspeaker), and,
2. Replacing the speaker cables that connect that amp to the drivers with our magnum opus Sukhavati cables. Since they both arrived at the same time, more or less, and since we started off with a new calibration it is hard to say exactly what each is contributing, but the result is staggering. We are not finished yet, there are more improvements to come.
The stage is limitless. It can encompass a club, The Barns at Wolftrap, a stadium or interstellar space. Each sound arises from nothing, proclaims itself to the firmament, dies and is resurrected in a cosmic cycle.
Let’s be clear: To say that the speakers disappear would not wholly or accurately capture what is occurring here. It’s as if their purpose is not to make sound directly but to send invisible bolts of energy from left and right to the precise point in space from which the sound will arise, and create a new driver there, more solid than the physical one – a driver that lives and breathes and converses with space. That source exists in its own being at that one point, nowhere else. Pulsing in all directions, it floats with absolute freedom, sailing, coasting, soaring, stomping, pirouetting, while echoes illuminate boundaries and fade away.
A chorus of life-size men stands arrayed around the lead singer as drums and guitars, basses, voices, concertinas and horns come forward, filling the stage from floor to ceiling, side to side and front to back. Light splashes onto everything. It spills onto the performers clothes, the bell of a horn, and beads of sweat on the singers’ chests.
I stare ahead, mouth agape, immersed, drinking deeper than ever before. The pleasure centers have been hard wired and are lit up like a Christmas tree.
Sukhavati, as I have previously explained means “Realm of Bliss”. That would be correct.
I've been meaning to write about the more than decade long process of building this wonderful table, and will do so in detail in the near future. In the meanwhile I wanted to give a plug for my friend Norman Cones at Stereo Squares.com who did such an amazing job building this perfect dust cover. I can't recommend his work highly enough.
What happens when you run out of superlatives?
Here are a few that are used repeatedly in high-end audio:
"Epoch Making", "Ground Breaking", "Earth Shaking", "Unprecedented", "Jaw Dropping", "A Revelation", etc.
Many times when these phrases are used, they are in fact accurate. For example, Jeff Day after installing the Acoustic Revive RPC-1 Power Supply Conditioner says, "it was quite a revelation to hear my system after the high-frequency noise was removed by the Acoustic Revive RPC-1 Power Conditioner." Jeff Day, Positive Feedback.com I would certainly concur. See my blog below, "Further Adventures in Realms of Bliss".
How do you quantify a "revelation" or an "earth shaking" event? Is one man's dropped jaw another's yawn? Or would it be, that if we could all hear the actual system described in the review that 95% of us would have the same reaction?
So how can I go about describing what one Sukhavati Power cable is doing in our reference system? Use all of the superlatives listed? Say that after installing the two Sukhavati interconnects I am now at a loss for words?
"Gobsmacked" "Gobsmacked combines the northern English and Scottish slang term gob, mouth, with the verb smack. It suggests the speaker is utterly astonished or astounded. It’s much stronger than just being surprised; it’s used for something that leaves you speechless, or otherwise stops you dead in your tracks. It suggests that something is as surprising as being suddenly hit in the face." www.worldwidewords.org
That'll have to do for now.