audio is usually a hobby of self-indulgence. It is rare that your significant
other or family members would know what you want or need even if they wanted to
further your quest for musically induced bliss. And forget that 135 pound
amplifier. Santa isn't as young as he used to be and OSHA now has size and
weight restrictions as to what he can carry and what will fit down the chimney.
Add to that, the Elves are now unionized and inflation is over 8% for 2011
alone! To help you out I've made a list of products that have crossed my
listening room during the past year which fall into the category of realistic
expectation for gift requests, plus or minus... depending on whether you are
still employed. If not, spin the music with what you've got and love the one you're
with. Love is the greatest song you can sing. So print out this list and star
the items you'd like. Then leave it laying around where that certain someone
will stumble upon it and let the magic of Christmas work out the rest. If this
methodology fails, take charge of your life again on December 26th.
It should go without saying that I highly recommend all of them.
And Disk Analoguer
But if you're wondering if you could get away
with just the Disc Analoguer and forego the Black stuff on the label side, I did
some comparisons. After listening to the untreated CD I sprayed the Disk
Analoguer side only and listened again. There was a substantial improvement with
just treating the silver side of the disc. Then I treated the label side with
the Black Analoguer and listened again. It does indeed provide more improvement,
but not twice as good. The law of diminishing returns sets in. Then I reversed
the test with another CD, listening first then treating the label side only.
Again, there was a substantial improvement. Then I treated the silver side, and
again experienced improvement, but not violating the law of diminishing returns.
Thereafter I treated both sides of each CD after sampling songs from the
untreated disc. Every time the music became more analog-like, leaving only the
benefits of digital to enjoy. Better focus led to greater transparency. The
delicate nuances of vocals and the decay of instrumental notes revealed textures
where none had been before. Listening was a lot closer to Being There. It was as if each CD had been transformed into
an expensive Re-mastered Gold Edition. Or on the hardware side, as if the Calyx
DAC I have in for review was magically reincarnated as a Berkley Alpha
DAC. That's a difference of $3200, making the return on investment HUGE!
Not bad for a product that basically removes mold release
agent, fingerprints and static. (I didn't test for peanut butter and jelly).
These bottles will fit into your Christmas stocking very nicely and you will be
hard pressed to pull yourself away from the music for Christmas dinner. ($45
each/individually or $78 for the set).
Jean-Pierre tells me Chisto also offers Easy Groove, a great anti-static and cleaning solution for vinyl which might also be worth trying. ($45)
Audio Sensibility Grounding
A lot of time was spent to determine the optimum materials and develop the manufacturing process. Steve sent me versions with both RCA connectors and pins to try on my speakers and components. They don't work everywhere in your system, but when they do work it sure puts a smile on your face when you recognize the improvement they bring to the music. They currently reside in the negative binding posts of my speakers, on one of the RCA outputs of my CD player (which is used as a transport only), and in one of the digital inputs of my DAC. However, they really messed up the sound when used on my preamp. It is a trial and error kind of tweak and Steven offers a 45 day trial period which is way more than you will need. I had been using them for several months when Steven asked me to try the new Statement 2.0 version. They were noticeably better on all the same pieces of equipment. They lower the noise floor and reveal more inner detail, but perhaps even more important, they remove what sounds like slightly delayed side reflections. Since they operate on the signal before it leaves the speaker I surmise the Grounding Devices are eliminating some kind of echo or reflection in the circuitry that is ultimately embedded in the signal and otherwise projected from the loudspeakers. Whatever it is, it's gone, and you feel like you're another couple steps closer to the microphone in the recording chain. Note that each addition of a Grounding Device created a cumulative improvement in my system (except in the preamp in my case). I recommend starting with at least the speaker version and one RCA version to try on your various components. Or save Santa the trouble and ask him to bring as many as you think you might need all at once. A final word of caution: after un-wrapping them at Christmas, install them immediately lest they become lost amid the piles of wrapping paper and tossed out by accident.
version (for loudspeakers)
Statement version (for components)
Audio Sensibility Statement
Synergistic Research MIG Footers
Nordost Sort Kones
With one set of AC Sort Kones under my DAC (and MiGs under everything else) I was very impressed with the even tighter focus. The soundstage had a very solid and continuous feel to it. Because of the configuration of my room and speaker placement I always have a wide and deep soundstage, but the Sort Kones took the sharp focus right out to the extremes in width and depth. Yet they were subtly different than the MiG footers. The Sort Kones are to be placed “Point Up” and are therefore easy to use, like MiGs. Acoustically, however, the Sort Kones give the music a presentation as if recorded in a studio session with every microphone perfectly placed. Focus and transparency are both improved and you feel like you've moved up a step or two on the recording chain. The MiGs, on the other hand, make you feel more like the recording was done “live” at a performance in a real venue, rather than a recording studio. The sound is not quite as perfect with the MiGs, which I found to be more forgiving of difficult recordings and more soothing if I was stressed out. The MiGs give a more visceral connection to the music, while the Sort Kones appeal more to the intellectual or cognitive appreciation of the music. And this is terrific because now we have two excellent products that will help us tweak our various components in different ways to achieve our individual preferences. Both footers are outstanding and the differences I've mentioned here are small in comparison to the benefits each brings to the music. If you're the kind of person who just sets his components on a shelf and lets the music fly, you have no idea of what you're missing. Santa will give you the gift of enlightenment, no matter which one he brings. Beyond that, I'm wondering what the Bronze and Titanium versions of the Sort Kones might bring to the dance.
AS (Aluminum with Steel coupling bearing) $65ea
Black Cat Veloce 75 Ohm
Finally, a humble bow to the
people who bought new and used cables from The
Cable Company this past August. A portion of those sales went to
a worthy cause in the fight against world hunger. The Cable Company, in
conjunction with participating manufacturers raised $30,839 which with some
creative leveraging with third party matching funds ballooned to $370,073. This
marks the 16th year of their generous effort.