Bybee Golden Goddess
'Super Effect' Speaker Bullets
Review By Wayne Donnelly
here to e-mail reviewer.
We audio reviewers dream of
turning our readers on to breakthrough product. The problem is that real
breakthroughs are, to say the least, few and far between. But when they do
occur, it is pretty hard — for this writer anyway — to contain the
resulting enthusiasm. So I am delighted to be telling you about Jack Bybee's
latest — and certainly greatest — product invention, the Golden
Goddess 'Super Effect' Speaker Bullets. I was all set to proclaim these
remarkable plug-in devices "the greatest tweak ever." But on further
reflection, that seems an inadequate characterization. For one thing,
their $4,200/set price seems steep for a tweak. More importantly, the
Bullets (as I will refer to them henceforth for economy) have transformed
my system to a degree that is well beyond any tweak I have ever
experienced — and I have experienced a lot of them, including
earlier developments from Jack Bybee.
A Little History
I first met Jack Bybee at the 1996 Consumer Electronics
Show in Las Vegas. He showed me some products — accessories for
AC, interconnect and speaker cables, and a power conditioner — and soon
after we had both returned to the San Francisco Bay Area Jack brought to
my house an assortment of his offerings, which I subsequently reviewed in
the late Fi Magazine. The review was highly positive, and I wound
up buying all the review samples. Soon after, I also began acquiring quite
a few of Jack's Quantum Purifiers, the small devices at the heart of the
plug-in accessories, which I had learned were very effective for
internally modifying audio electronics and loudspeakers. Within a few
months, virtually every piece of equipment in my system sported a few
Quantum Purifiers in strategic locations, and I was having an enormously
enhanced home music listening experience. Those little Bybee inventions
forever changed my ideas about what listening to recorded music could be.
In the years since, Jack has continued to innovate new
and better products, refining his core technologies,
materials and techniques as he goes. During that time we have also become
friends. Because of that friendship, I have in recent years refrained from
formally reviewing Jack's products, not wanting my praise for them to be
thought prejudiced by personal regard. But this time I say to hell with
it. If anyone wants to dismiss my comments here because Jack and I are
friends, so be it. My conscience is crystal-clear, and what I describe
here is what I have heard.
But I digress. To bring the history up to date: About a
year ago, Jack Bybee was commissioned by a Bay Area friend, a
perfectionist audiophile and early Bybee adopter, to create an ultimate,
no-holds-barred version of his Speaker Cable Tails for some new five-way pent-amplified
(!) speakers. The performance of Jack's costly one-offs was so dazzling
that the customer began telling many of his friends in the audio business
about them, and soon Jack was getting requests for the Bullets from
manufacturers and reviewers and their buddies. As of this writing, Jack
tells me he has already sold in excess of 100 sets, based principally on
word of mouth raves and a few preliminary writeups.
What Do those Bybee Things Do, Anyway?
Basically, the technology gets rid of the noise you can't
hear. And no, I'm not being a smartass. At the quantum mechanical level,
as electrons flow through conductive materials, various types of noise
phenomena occur—1/F noise, shot noise, etc. This quantum-level noise is
not itself audible to the human ear, but its presence nonetheless has a
degrading effect on the purity and accuracy of the information being
transmitted. Jack's devices strip out or greatly reduce such noise,
enabling the musical (or video) content to emerge without that overlay of
electronic grunge. The technology was originally developed for the U.S.
Navy, and is still used in various classified military applications.
The best explanation of this phenomenon that I have seen
is by our esteemed Senior Editor Dick Olsher — like Jack Bybee, a
practicing physicist — in a review of the Bybee Quantum Purifiers a few
years back. Dick's article is still available in our Review Archives, and
I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. And that's as far as I
am taking this discussion, as I am not a physicist and have never even
played one on TV.
On To The Bullets
The Bullets incorporate new and somewhat different
versions of Jack's purifiers, combining carbon fiber nanotubes, gold and
platinum. (Jack is not interested in sharing the details of how they are
put together, and I don't blame him.) A single set of bullets, treating
one pair of loudspeaker terminals, comprises four cylinders, roughly three
and a half inches long and five-eighths-inch in diameter. Eichmann
five-way Cable Pods at one end accept speaker cable spades or bananas, and
silver-clad copper spade connectors attach to the speaker terminals. The
spade connectors may be carefully bent if necessary to adjust the angle if
your speaker terminals are recessed, as mine are. If your speakers
are bi-wired, like my Analysis Amphitryons, two sets of Bullets are
I cannot emphasize too strongly that the Bullets require
substantial burn-in time. In my system, the sonic improvement initially
seemed somewhat nebulous. After 20-30 hours I was definitely hearing
improvements, at that point similar to the effects of Jack's older Golden
Goddess Speaker Cable Tails — very desirable, to be sure, but not the
heart-stopping, mind-bending revolutionary transformation I was hoping to
hear. But bit by bit, evening after evening as I sat down in front of my
system, the sound continued to evolve, getting better and better. My best
guess is that it took 200+ hours of listening time before the Bullets
reached their full performance, though of course following their
development was a fascinating and pleasurable process in its own right.
So be warned. If you are going to pop for these things,
be prepared to give them enough time. In my setup big, powerful amplifiers
were pushing music through the speakers at quite robust levels most of the
time. So if you have, for instance, a 10-watt SET amp driving horns, you
could be in for a very extended burn-in time. But I can promise you that
the Bullets are worth investing your time.
Over the years, as Jack's products have improved, the kinds
of improvement have been quite consistent. Yes, they affect the usual
audio checklist areas. Getting rid of that quantum mechanical noise yields
quieter, blacker backgrounds, more exciting dynamics, purer tonality, more
precise and expanded spatial resolution, etc., etc. I have often tried to
summarize their effects by saying that they make the sound more natural,
more like hearing live music, and less electronic–sounding than
even the most elite system can achieve without them.
Jack was initially skeptical about turning the Bullets
into a standard Bybee product. For one thing, he personally hand-assembles
each one, and it is a very long, tedious and delicate task in which one
slip-up can ruin hours of work. He also feared that the retail price would
scare off most potential buyers. As an interim step, Jack recruited a few
beta testers — yours truly among them — and asked them to write up
their impressions. One of those gentlemen was Michael Vice, a scientist
and engineer who has at times collaborated with Jack. Michael Vice's
essay, along with a few others from early testers, may be read by going to
the home page of Jack's website and clicking on the underlined quotation.
I strongly urge the interested reader to check out those accounts. But in
addition, I want to quote Mr. Vice's words on his listening to what has
long been among my own very favorite orchestral recordings and reviewing
"So what exactly do the Bullets do to the sound? To
answer this question a direct comparison was made of the playback of
Leonard Bernstein's Candide Suite, performed by the Minnesota
Orchestra (Reference Recordings), with and without the Speaker Bullets.
This piece was selected because it is exquisitely recorded, musically and
sonically complex, dynamic and delicate. It is a tough workout of a system
and very revealing.
"In typical fashion, the piece was listened to carefully
a few times without the Bullets. After installing the Bullets, it was
played again. The very first impression was that something was missing. A
more profound sense of interspatial and inter-temporal silence eventually
explained the mysterious absence. Counter-intuitively, the silence was
most compelling during crescendo passages, rendering individual
instruments discernable when [previously] a more composite din of harmonic
voices blurred the details. At this point the absence was recognized as
"As though made discernable by the silence, a sweeter,
almost angelic rendition of the violins evoked an emotional response from
me that did not occur in the previous auditions. Longer decays followed
each violin note and I lamented their cessations, [which were] unhindered
by the simultaneous progress of subsequent notes. I was being drawn in..."
I admire the subtlety and precision of Michael's
observations, which I think capture very well the hard-to-describe but
very real benefits of the Bullets for a careful and attentive listener.
And I can testify that the Bullets produce the kind of "angelic"
sweetness he describes in many ways: the "in the room" flesh and blood
immediacy of well recorded vocals, the almost physical evocation of the
breathiness of Ben Webster's saxophone, the startlingly full and rich
harmonics of Olga Kern's grand piano. Nothing else, in all my decades of
listening, has so vividly and uniquely transformed audio into musical
Who Needs Them?
In an ideal world, the answer to that question would be "everybody."
I don't believe there is any audio system, no matter how astronomically
priced, that would not benefit tremendously from adding the Bullets. But
in the real world, alas, the $4,200/set retail price will necessarily
limit the potential buyer pool. Not too many people will be ready to fork
over four grand — eight if you bi-wire — for an upgrade. For the
more budget-limited, I do suggest trying some of the other, more
affordable if still not cheap, Bybee accessories. They may not equal the
Bullets, but they will still help your system make more beautiful music.
But I would urge the dedicated music lover and
audiophile (sadly, the two are not always synonymous) who wants the most
musically truthful sound attainable to give serious thought to
transforming his or her system with the Bullets. Heck, in these days of
escalating prices — you can pay five figures left of the decimal point
for a pair of interconnects — $4,200 for what the Bullets can do
is a solid investment. I don't think any typical system upgrade — new
cables, better preamplifier or amplifier, upgraded CD player, etc. — for
which you might spend that kind of money, or even a lot more, is likely to
deliver the kind of fundamentally altered and exalted musical experience
offered by the Bybee Golden Goddess ‘Super Effect' Speaker Bullets.
the years, a few companies have made OEM deals to enhance their products
with Bybee devices. I certainly hope that some good manufacturers whose
egos are not too big to recognize someone else's genius will talk Jack
into providing his Speaker Bullets technology for incorporation into
cables, speakers, electronics, or whatever, and hopefully make them more
widely accessible and affordable. For now, Jack's Bullets occupy a
solitary peak of achievement.
I want to thank you
for the excellent review of my Golden Goddess SE Speaker Bullets. It is most gratifying to see my product understood and described so clearly.
Over the years I have spoken to many speaker designers, amplifier designers, and cable manufacturers about 1/f noise and possible methods to reduce it. Typically their eyes glaze over and they start looking at me as if I am from some alien planet. So now I no longer try to explain how and why 1/f noise occurs. For your readers who are interested in the phenomenon, I second Wayne's suggestion that they read in your archive
Dick Olsher's 2002 review of my Quantum
Purifiers, which addresses 1/f noise more clearly than I could do.
The new Bybee SE Speaker Bullets were created to reduce 1/f noise, which otherwise gets embedded in the musical signal. Wayne's closing suggestion about right on target making their function internal is right on target. That is the logical next step. The SE Speaker Bullets are add-on devices; imagine how much more effective they could be if the devices were actually built into cables, speakers, or electronics, without requiring extra connection interfaces. I am already working on such an implementation. But in the meantime, I am truly pleased that you recognized what the removal of this type of noise can do to improve music reproduction.
Type: Loudspeaker tweak
Warranty: Lifetime, parts and labor; physical breakage excepted
Price: $4,200 per set of four
2072 Touraine Lane
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019