to another meeting of Audiolics Anonymous, the place for the insatiable tweaker.
Hopefully your Thanksgiving went well, and you've bought all your Christmas
gifts for the loved ones. Why? Because I've decided to present my products of
the year a month later than usual. First though, I'd like to discuss a tweak
I've been playing with for several months that is good value for the money,
especially when you build some of their iterations yourself like a good tweaker
should. I'm referring to...
1. Do It Yourself: Large Quantum Purifiers at $80
each for 4 to 15 Amp projects, the 0-4 Amp Small Slipstream Quantum Purifiers at
$90 each and the 0-4 Amp Small Silver Slipstream Quantum Purifiers at $160 each.
2. Ready Made Products: Bybee Slipstream Magic
Bullets for $400 per pair which have male and female RCA's with Small Quantum
Purifiers in the middle for interconnects, and the XLR Magic Bullets for
balanced interconnects for $880 per pair, and the Ultra Speaker Chargers for
$880 per pair, The Angel Song speaker chargers for $1,200 per pair, or with 6
feet of his ribbon cable for $6,500 per pair, and various forms of Angel Song
interconnects. Finally, for $550 the IEC Power Chargers.
Knowing my Scottish heritage and my tweaker's mind,
you know I took the cheap way out and went with product line 1. Also, due to my
cheapness I used the units where I thought they'd do the most good. While
somewhat cheaper (maybe) than heroin, these units are just as addictive. Use one
set and you'll be hooked. They do exactly as Dick and Max described. Every place
I tried them, they removed noise from the system. More on that later.
The Power Charger's replacements were fairly easy
to construct. You can order the large Purifiers with male and female IEC plugs
a set of plugs and purifiers costing a total of $250 to $300 depending on the
quality of the plugs. Add about 6 inches of 1-inch diameter shrink-wrap, and
about $0.10 of silver solder, and about 20 minutes of work per unit. I built two
of these for the inputs of my Walker Audio Velocitors, which then covered the
six outlets of those units. Even cheaper and probably better, I soldered the
Large Purifiers directly to the insides of my third Walker Velocitor. Remember
to also use them on the grounds as significant noise can come through there
also. If you have the bucks, and the skill, solder them between the AC inputs
and transformers on each piece of equipment.
One can also use the small Purifiers between the AC
inputs and transformer leads of low wattage pieces of equipment. Also each of my
speakers had one soldered between their positive and negative inputs and my
silver ribbon speaker cable. The final experiment consisted of soldering the
Silver Purifiers to the inputs of my main speaker amplifiers, and replacing the
small Purifiers on the speakers with them.
First, a word of caution. I did use the small
purifiers in places not recommended by the manufacturer, who obviously doesn't
want to get sued by somebody who uses a 4 Amp product on a 20 Amp amplifier.
Also, Mr. Bybee recommends the small Purifiers in circuits and interconnects and
the silver slipstreams primarily for use in the circuits of digital equipment.
He recommends the Large Purifiers for AC and speaker wiring, especially woofers.
The outcome was that every place I tried them, there was an improvement in the
With AC, the biggest change was a decrease in
background hash, but not the same noise that line conditioners work on. I don't
know what they are doing to the AC, and don't understand the scientific
explanation, but there is a decrease in the noise floor above and beyond what
the Sound Applications and Velocitor units accomplish. It removes a slight haze
that hangs in front of the sound stage. I can't describe it further. In visual
terms, its almost like clearing the air of a mild fog.
A similar effect occurs with use at the loudspeaker
terminals, where further haze is lifted. Also, by clearing up the sound stage
instruments are more defined. The Silver Purifiers worked even better than the
small Purifiers on my low wattage speakers, but again, I use horns that rarely
use more than 1 watt, so don't complain to me if your 80dB per watt speakers
don't work with them. I'd experiment and start with the large Purifiers on
woofers and the small Purifiers on the mids and tweeters and then maybe go with
the silvers. The one place I didn't perceive any difference was using them at
the amplifier and preamp inputs. I don't know whether this was system dependent
or whether using them at the other places in my system negated any further
What was surprising was the marked effect heard
with the small purifiers on the ac inputs and the Silver Purifiers on the
outputs of digital equipment including my Denon 5900 Universal Player and my EAD
8800 Pre-Pro. Digital is much more susceptible to AC line noise than analog, and
digital must also impart some noise to the analog output of D/A converters,
because adding the purifiers at both places significantly improved the
soundstage, making especially SACD's more analog-like and three dimensional. I
only had enough of the silver units to do the left and right front channels, so
did not experiment with 5.1 improvement, but even 5.1 recordings were improved
with the Silver Purifiers in place on only 2 channels.
So, all in all, the Bybee Purifiers work as claimed, and are certainly worth their cost. I'm surprised that some manufacturers haven't picked up on adding these internally to their equipment, calling it an update and charging significantly more. Well, maybe some are? A reply from Mr. Bybee:
Of The Year
It comes in a little jar with about enough to fill a teaspoon, but that amount will do every connection, from AC to speakers. While he makes the original Super Silver treatment still for $70, don't cheap out: get the $150 Extreme for two reasons. First, it is that much better. Second, this stuff is a pain in the butt to clean off every contact. Do it right the first time.
Of The Year
What this Magic Box does is
ensure that the total current flowing through the two tubes (and hence in the
output transformer) is absolutely constant
-- so if one tube's current goes up just one microamp from (say) 60.000
milliamps (mA) to 60.001mA, then the other one will come down by exactly the
same amount, from 60.000 to 59.999mA. This completely solves the microdynamic
losses in a conventional P-P amp where these currents are not in any way
precisely controlled, and hence allow/cause the cancellation of subtle but vital
musical information within the output transformer.
The circuit works in spades. The units have the
clarity and deep bass extension of solid state, the microdynamics and midrange
of single ended tubes. Missing though for the single ended guys is that luscious
second order harmonic distortion that the SET crowd loves. In its place is a
crystal clear soundstage.
TheVV-32 amps worked superbly for driving the
mid-tweeters, but they didn't quite have that 300B or 2A3 luscious midrange when
used with Plinius stereo 50 amps in balanced mode driving the woofers. I
borrowed a set of 300 B amps from a friend just to see how the VV-32 DPA amps
would sound in the bass range. Wonder of wonders, the bass obtained was the
tightest I'd heard yet in my system, far surpassing what the Plinius solid state
amps would do for control of the woofers. In addition, the bass was more
defined, giving that feeling of low frequency energy which completely permeates
a concert hall that is felt more than heard.
This amazed me considering I was using one 18 watt
monoblock tube amp driving 2 12" horn drivers instead of dual 50 watt solid
state amps in Class A mode. I was so enamored of the results that I decided to
have him build a new set so that I could bi-amplify using 300 B tubes. I placed
my order late last fall and finally was able to bring them home when I went over
to the Munich High End Audio Show in
May. This way I brought them with me on the airplane, thus skipping shipping
charges and customs duty, and possible shipping damage.
The night I picked them up at Alan's
apartment-workshop, I had trouble prying them out of his hands as these were the
first of the 300B type produced, and he loved the sound compared to the KT-88
units he had been listening to. He was using them on a set of full range
electrostats he had modified and the sound was superb. During that time, Alan
had finalized his circuit and made several improvements:
First, hum control pots were now placed on the top
of the chassis directly behind their respective tubes. No more need to tip the
amps on their sides for this adjustment. On the other hand I needed to do it
only once with the VV-32 units and there has been no change in over a year.
Second, balancing the magic box is much more
accurate than with the original units. The meter that came with the first units
gave a relative value for the balance of 0, but there was no way of knowing the
absolute variance, and Alan felt this was not accurate enough. It has been
replaced with two banana plug sockets directly in front of the tubes. One only
has to plug in a voltmeter, set it to millivolts and adjust a pot on the back of
the unit to perfectly balance the output current of the tubes. Once the tubes
warm up and are balanced, good ones will hold to less than +/- 1 millivolt once
warmed up and broken in, the latter taking about 1 hour and the former about two
to three weeks.
This method also has a second advantage. One can
tell whether the tubes are matched when one puts them into the amplifier, as
with the pot at its mid position, they should balance pretty closely. I had one
set from a Chinese company of 300B's that were supposedly well matched, but the
unit couldn't bring them into balance. A second set from the same company needed
to be adjusted daily, and after three weeks were so far off that they couldn't
be brought into alignment. Guess that company's quality control was not quite up
to snuff. Just think, with all other push-pull amps made, if either one of these
sets of tubes had been used, the amps would never have worked up to par, and you
would not have been able to prove why they sounded less than optimal. With
Alan's circuit, the output should be perfectly balanced at all times.
Third, he has removed the meter and balancing dial
on the front of the amp. While I preferred its retro look, others didn't.
Fourth, the circuit has been designed such that it
will take any tube with the same filament voltage, with a simple resistor change
for the self biasing circuit. Thus he has a line for 300B, VV30, 32, 50 etc.,
and a second for KT-88 type tubes. My 300B amps are biased for 15 watts output
and the 32's conservatively for 18 watts, while the KT 88 can put out 25 watts
triode or 50 watts ultralinear with one set of tubes or four per amp in
push-pull parallel for double the wattage. He also can use transmitter tubes
such as 845's and 211's.
On to the build. The chassis is made of anodized
aluminum, to stop eddy currents, in a sort of retro-modern look. All wiring is
point to point using his superb silver foil. Transformers are top of the line
Lundahl, and caps and resistors are high quality. In other words, like his other
products, Allen builds these to highest professional equipment standards.
Driver tubes are the 6H30pi "Super Tubes"
from Russia. One can use any output tube one wishes in the 300B series just by
changing a resistor to adjust for operating current balance. Bias is fully
automatic thanks to the "magic box". There are inputs for single ended
RCA's, but balanced input is preferred using either the XLR or Redel plugs.
Output is either by two sets of gold plated banana plugs or Centronics computer
plugs if you use his loudspeaker foil.
An IEC plug allows use of any high end AC cord.
Setup is easy. Turn the amps on, and after about two minutes of warm-up a
solenoid clicks on the B+. If there is any 60Hz. hum, one adjusts the two pots
on the top of the amp until the amps are dead silent. And I mean dead silent.
Until I turned on the preamps, even with my head near my 108 dB per watt
efficient speakers I could hear almost no tube hiss.
One then plays some music to warm the units up,
then attaches a voltmeter to the two banana plugs on the top of the unit behind
the driver tubes, sets the meter to millivolts, and adjusts the pot on the back
of the amp to as close to 0 millivolts as possible. The two tube outputs should
be as close to perfectly balanced as possible. This will need to be done at
least daily until the tubes break in. Mine stabilized after about two weeks.
Interestingly as I stated above, I could not bring one set of tubes into
alignment right out of the package although the box stated that they had been
matched, and a second set's balance began degenerating after about two weeks to
the point where they could not be brought into alignment. One could hear the
change as a coarsening of the sound and a decrease in both the microdynamics and
width and depth of the soundfield.
A little hint. Parts Connection from Canada are
having a super sale right now on some superb 300B's from Electroharmonix in
Russia for $109 to 129 each for a matched set. I have tried several of them over
the past few months and they have both functioned and sounded superb, mating
extremely well with these amps. I have my stash already so feel free to get some
yourself. The gold plated tubes sounded very similar to a set of new Western
Electrics, at least in this amp, with a beautiful midrange and crystal clear
highs. I couldn't say how the bass is as I have no way of using them with my
bass amps. Interestingly, Alan notified me that he is also evaluating these
tubes as his primary.
To me, these amps have all of the strengths of both
solid state and tubes, single ended and push-pull, without any of the
weaknesses. The VV-32 amps put a stranglehold on the woofers, giving tight, deep
chest compression type bass, while the highs on the 300B amps extend out to
beyond where my flat to 16kHz. tested ears can hear. The midrange is lush and
full but without the bloating of second harmonic distortion single ended amps
produce. The microdynamics give life to voices and instruments allowing one to
hear inflections previously buried, while their quietness and lack of crossover
distortion open up the soundstage to the low volume information that allows one
to feel as if one is in the presence of live musicians with the right
recordings. And don't be afraid of their relatively low wattage compared to the
mega-amps. Remember, they beat my 50 watt "Class A" amps and were able
to drive a difficult electrostatic load.
I feel these units are the closest I have heard to
the proverbial "straight wire with gain." They could be put up against
any amps at two to three times their price, which is rarefied atmosphere indeed.
They have made my job of testing other products over the past six months far
easier as they let all of the information through, warts and all. That's enough
hyperbole. I think you get that I'm enamored and will live happily ever after
Unlike most of my colleagues, I won't go into what
they do for various recordings for two reasons. First, most of you probably have
never heard the recordings used so you can't understand what was listened for.
Second, no two people hear the same or listen for the same characteristics of
sound, so what I hear may be completely different from your perceptions. On the
other hand I will state that with the two sets of his amps in place, on
recordings I've played several hundred times I've been able to hear things
previously hidden that have added to the feeling that I'm at the original
Up till now, the major problem with Alan's
equipment has been a building bottleneck, as he was the only one that he felt
could build them to his exacting standards, and Germany isn't exactly the most
business and audio parts friendly place to work. Also, Alan's modification of
Sony SACD players has been selling like hotcakes. Luckily he's seen the light,
has been training two associates to his standards, and is moving from Germany to
Switzerland just down the street from the Benz cartridge factory. Unhappily I
couldn't talk him into moving to the USA as his significant other wanted to stay
in Europe, but he now has a distributor here. His factory should be up and
running by January.
Price for the amps per pair in kit form will be
€4,950 and finished and tested by Alan for 9950, both with tubes but plus
shipping. There may be a price increase once he gets his dealer network in
place. At that price, these amps are a steal. And at the present winter rates
for trans-Atlantic flights, you could go over there, pick up the amps directly
from Alan, spend several days touring Switzerland, and hand carry the amps home
with you for less than it would cost for transport and duty if they were
shipped. Such A Deal! Now, a few words from Alan: