Tweakin' with the Bybees
Marshall Nack
2 May 1999

Iím starting to get a reputation as the "anti-audiophile." I spend an equal amount of time removing yesterdayís time-honored tweaks as I spend playing with new toys or fiddling with room acoustics. It used to be that one tweak built upon the effects of others and was complimentary. But the latest gizmo to come in is an exception to that rule. Let me explain.

Tweaks Iíve removed and/or modified lately, and their benefits, include:

Shatki Stones. I had one of these over my amp transformer to improve definition. It clarifies the stage, and sharpens imaging. To some extent, it also makes images smaller.

Harmonix products. I had a combination of the tuning bases (discs which stick onto circuit boards) and the larger tuning feet that go under components. They removed harshness and glare, and maybe some odd-order overtones. The presentation became more relaxed. The big bonus -- previously unlistenable discs were cleansed of treble stridency with these products.

Pre-Amp Outputs. Iíve changed the outputs on my McCormack TLC-1 from passive to buffered passive. Previously the pure passive outputs always sounded truer to me. There was a wonderful naturalness and credibility and dynamic effortlessness. On the other hand, the buffered outputs offered: greater dynamic range, and more energy in the presentation of low-level passages, but introduced some grain, and constriction of the stage. These pitfalls were too significant a trade off for the pluses the buffered, and I always preferred the pure passive.

All of these adjustments were made around the time when the BYBEE products arrived.

The first time I heard Bybees in a friendís system was a jaw-dropping experience. I knew the system in question well. It was better than average, but not knocking at the edge of the art. Tonality, dynamics and timbre were very good. The presentation was fine in musical terms, but there were problems regarding soundstage if the listener was of a more analytical bent. Balance across the stage and from front to back was unstable, as was the location of instruments. He had just a few tweaks installed -- a basic power conditioner, homemade isolation feet and a homemade component rack.

When a pair of Bybee Quantum Chargers was applied to the AC inputs of his amp and pre-amp, the presentation was transformed. The acoustic space no longer had the characteristics of his room. One now had the impression of being, if not at the recording session, in a room much larger than before. I did notice after a few hours that this new space did not change greatly from recording to recording, however.

The other big Bybee effect was a reduction in grain, haze and other signature electronic artifacts. All good stuff.

When the Bybees arrived at my address, I simply added them to the tweaked system I had in place. The effect was not nearly as dramatic as at my friendís house, even though I was using more Bybee products -- Interconnect and Speaker filters and Signature line conditioner.

Then I started to remove the Harmonix stuff. Each piece taken out allowed more of the Bybee effect in and multiplied as other tweaks were removed. The "naked" Bybees went further in addressing problems than the combined corrections of my tweak stockpile.

I discovered that many of the best tweaks are addressing similar problems in our systems. Bybee filters are an advancement that incorporates previous sonic improvements, but then goes a step further. Bybee products work best with an un-tampered signal. In my system, they were not synergistic with other signal-adjusting enhancers. Suggestion: you can sell all those other tweaks to help defray the high cost of entry.

Postscript: I have since changed back to the pure-passive outputs of the pre-amp. I

found there was still some hardness and sometimes distortion, especially in crescendo passages, when playing less than perfect source material, using either pre-amp outputs. But these negative effects were much less when using the pure-passive outputs. This implies that just adding buffering increases audible artifacts.

Note, the degree of distortion was greater in all configurations when the Bybees were out of the system.