Most Wanted Components of the Decade: Cables and Accessories

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AudioQuest Niagara 1200 AC Power Conditioner Most audiophiles tweak their systems on a regular basis. Generally those changes yield small incremental improvements in some sonic element or the other, whether a set of cables, new tubes, a platter mat, or what have you. By contrast, the Niagara 1200 is one of those very rare ancillary components that immediately made my entire system sound better. The conditioner yielded a lower noise floor, greater detail, better frequency extension (especially in the bass) and just an overall more natural presentation. Designed in house by AudioQuest’s Garth Powell, the 1200 got rid of noise I didn’t even know I was there. Plus, at $999.95 it’s somewhat of a bargain. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and to emphasize the point I put my money where my mouth is: I bought the review sample. (Greg Simmons) 

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Black Cat Cable Coppertone Wire (Speaker cable-$394 for a ten foot pair and RCA IC’s-$199 for a three foot pair): I have had far more expensive wires in my system in the last decade than these Chris Sommovigo designed and hand built cables, but none really out performed these wires to any great degree, regarding their ability with timbres, “meat on the bone” imaging, expansive soundstaging, and excellent top and bottom extension. I use full looms in both my systems because they offer wonderful performance at such a low cost it’s kinda absurd. (Terry London)


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bybeejack.jpgJack Bybee (The Man) and his products: As perhaps one of his biggest fans, I’ve personally witnessed the evolution of both the man and his products for the past 20 years. Starting out with his Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets back in 1999 or thereabouts, I was gobsmacked by the ease of flow, transparency and dynamic capabilities these devices. Difficult to manufacturer played a big part with a price tag at $5k for a set of 4. Gifted with the keen ability to enhance audio systems coupled with a vast background in quantum mechanics Bybee (the Man), continued to improve on a series of products that could improve ones listening experience. At age 90, he’s not slowed down a bit. Moreover, I believe he’s created the best product of the many dozens he’s invented over the past two decades: The Bybee iQSE Clarifiers (latest incarnation of his iQSE Mk IIs), are his most potent as well as the most affordable. At $100 a pop, I started with a set of four. Placing them on the 18″ woofer magnet inside of my beloved (and old) Sunny Majestic Horn loudspeakers. The iQSE Clarifiers instantly removed the noise, glare and distortion by perhaps an order of magnitude. Of course, I’m speaking of a level of noise that never existed – prior to the installation of the iQSE Clarifiers! I could go on and on with glowing illustrations as you know however new Stereo Times’ contributor Richard Willie kicked a hornets nest when he asked to join the masthead. His first assignment was the iQSE Clarifiers. He’s only heard of Bybee but never indulged with his products, that is – until now. Please read his follow-up to Greg Voth’s enlightening prose on these amazing products. My only hope is that Jack Bybee continues developing products for another two decades! Hats off to you for you’ve allowed many of us here to experience music in ways never believed possible. Thank You Jack for being awarded Stereo Times’ Man of the Decade!  

 
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Bybee iQSE Clarifiers ($100): There is serious synergy going here with the Tekton Double Impacts and these new Bybee’s iQSE Clarifiers. Adding the Clarifiers to both woofers and midrange drivers on my Tekton  DI magnets brought forth an undeniable naturalness, musicality and weight: with a lower noise floor and greater impact to dynamic content. (Reviewed here – Greg Voth


Bybeev21fl.jpgBybee iQSE Fatboys ($400) and iQSE Clarifiers ($100): I want to acknowledge physicist, inventor, friend Jack Bybee. His ability to think outside the box to produce audio tweaks has provided a profound contribution to the production of sound in my audio system and listening room. I appreciate Clement Perry introducing me to Jack and his products years ago and have been using them for the last decade with superb results. Nearly all of my many audiophile friends have at least one of his unique tweaks in their audio systems and are glad they do. Jack continues to be an audio elder statesman and is still perfecting devices to improve our listening pleasure. Best wishes to Jack and Happy New Year! (Dan Secula/Moreno Mitchell)
 

Bybee iQSE Clarifiers ($100):  I recently acquired a number of these and, while I have yet to install them inside of my Tekton Ulfbehrt speakers, I have placed them next to several of the drivers on the front baffle as well as other locations in the equipment chain.  The results are simply amazing, lowering the noise floor to an extent I wouldn’t have thought possible.  The result is an increase in transparency that allows me to hear deeper into the musical performance.  One of the least expensive means to improve virtually any system! (Ron Cook

Bybee iQSE Clarifiers: To tweak or not to tweak, that is the question! If you’ve been at this hobby for more than a little while you have probably tired of the endless parade of superlatives that have been heaped upon various and sundry Products claiming to transform your music listening experience. This has included products from the very beginning of the chain (starting with the power coming into your breaker panel) to the very end of the chain (the speakers) and then on to the room and the air that resides in it! It’s a fascinating and endless journey populated by some bright (and some not) minds who have tried their best to create products to help us closer to the “magnificent illusion”. I could give you details and details of how these Bybee’s positively impacted my listening experience… this space is not the place… but check out Greg Voth‘s recent review here at ST for a more detailed snap shot. I felt it best to just “heap“ (forgive me!) my personal praise on these cost-effective and seemingly magical devices from the BRILLIANT mind of Jack Bybee. (Ed Van Winkle)

 

 

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Dynamique Audio Zenith 2 speaker cable, Digital cable Halo 2 cables and AC Cords
 (Halo 2 interconnects – $1440, Zenith 2 speaker cables – $4060, Halo 2 AC cords – $1440, Digital cable $1100): A mix of Halo 2 & Zenith 2 series cables had me giggling with excitement and disbelief. The utter cadence and PRaT these British cables created alongside the Struss Audio DM250 strapped to a pair of Tekton Double Impact SE’s proved closest thing to Nirvana I’ve heard at this price point. Naturalness is the word that keeps coming to mind over and again despite this cable’s ability to remain literally devoid of character. (Review in the works Clement Perry)


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Dynamique Audio Tempest Cables ($600
 spkr cable, $350 interconnect, $450 AC cord): The Dynamique Audio Tempest 2 cables arrived for review just after I had added Bybee iQSE ll OEM’s to my Tekton Double Impacts, and their addition to my rig delivered a super fast response with added clarity. Dynamique’s minimalist materials approach and choice to use silver/silver-plating in their construction brought life to the highs and transients. The Dynamique Audio Cables come highly recommended for their high performance/price quotient. (Greg Voth)


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Dynamic Design Titania Titania Speaker Cable ($5,200 1.5 meter pair) and XLR Interconnects ($3,600 1 meter pair): This small Chicago-based company continues to be my favorite cable company for going on 17 years now. They produce some of the very best audio cables available and compete with anything available.  The build quality and parts selection are first-rate and all Dynamic Design offerings are very pleasing to the eye.  The Titania Series is very neutral, dynamic and detailed.  The Titania cables will let you hear what your equipment is doing in the audio chain and present your music selections as they were meant to be heard without adding any character of its own.  The Titania really goes a long way towards getting out of the way and letting you enjoy your music. (Mike Wright) 

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Entreq Silver Tellus Infinity/Olympus Infinity ($2000/$3000): The new and improved Entreq Silver Tellus was a welcome addition to my audio system.  I recall back a few years when I was first introduced to the Entreq line by Clement Perry how much of an impact their equipment had on my audio system.  The flow, speed, musical punch and absence of noise was a pure joy.  With the addition of the new Silver Tellus Infinity paired with the Olympus Eartha Infinity cable line my joy meter has increased ten fold. 
The Entreq line is for the more serious listener, it will take you to a level most are not familiar with. A must have! (Moreno Mitchell)

 


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Essential Sound Products The Essence Reference II Power Cords ($2,500): These are to be considered as a true reference power cords.  The Reference II’s made everything they were connected to perform at a higher level. Each time I listened to my system with the Ref II’s installed I felt my electronics were performing at their best and that I was enjoying music at a higher level than I had previously thought.  Background noise was greatly reduced, the low-end performance spoke with greater authority, and transients seemed to be more realistic.  Across the board, all of my gear seemed to have additional air and sparkle to them.  Ref II power cords back up all of the claims that audiophiles have been making and more. (Mike Wright)


 

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Hemingway Audio Z-Core series cables: Can’t believe designer Doyoung Chung has produced a line that is said to be above his Creation series which I have fortunate enough to call my reference for a few years now. Super transparent but never harsh nor forward, these cable redefine the oveused meaning of see-through! Outrageously expensive when noticing the asking price but  dare you compare? You too may come away with a new reference! (review in the works Clement Perry)   
 

Hemingway Audio Z-Core Beta Series cables (Speaker cables $14,000/3 meter pair and XLR Interconnects $7,800/1.5 meter pair): The Z-Core Series revolutionary technique implements a unique “Z” shape in the winding of the conductors with a double-ground at the center of the cable. The sonics were pure and coherent, and yielded extremely natural timbres. Simply thrilling! Mr. Chung created a new benchmark against which all others will be measured. (Key Kim) 

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IsoAcoustics GAIA Isolators  (GAIA I $599.99, GAIA II $299.99, GAIA III $199.99): When I purchased a pair of Tekton Encore Speakers, I thought they were the best sounding speakers I had ever heard in my listening room. These speakers could do it all, in bass, midrange and high frequencies. However after attending the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I attended a demonstration given by a company I had no knowledge of. The demo included 2 sets of speakers of the same brand, one pair on a set of IsoAcoustics Isolators and one pair without. They performed an A-B test switching between each set of speakers while playing the same tracks. The differences were astounding. The pair with the IsoAcoustics Isolators were so much clearer, the bass was tighter, midrange was oh so liquid and smooth. I could hear so much more with the Isolator pair than I could from the speakers without them. I immediately requested a review sample and received them a couple of months later. My full review will post soon, however to give you a snapshot, the IsoAcoustics GAIA 1 underneath my Tekton Encore Speakers is something to behold. I am still in shock at how much better my overall system performs with the addition of the Tekton Encores and the IsoAcoustics Isolator GAIA I. A must have for any audiophile/music lover who wants to take the next step up. (Moreno Mitchell) 

 

 

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PerfectPath Technlogies The Gate, Omega e-mat, and Total Contact ($4999, $599, and $299): The formulation of TC, with its unique combination of components, has never been done before. Coupling that with its performance, it’s my opinion that TC has made all other contact enhancers obsolete.  Whatever the The Gate and Omega e-mats are doing to the electrical signal and the components in my system, the effect on music reproduction was not subtle and the transformation of my system occurred in ways that I’ve never experienced by the changing of any components, cables or tweaks.  With the The Gate and e-mats, I’m immersed within the soundstage and imaging, as part of the soundstage is now present behind me.  All music systems would benefit from the excellent PerfectPath Technology products. (Mike Girardi)

 

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Soundstring Gen II Platinum Series Cables: Len Miller and the folks at Soundstring have been making cables for many purposes and for many years, and all of their talent and wisdom has produced a real winner: The Soundstring Generation II Platinum Series cables. Suffice to say, these are not just my longtime references because of their wonderful neutrality, these are the cables that finally made me ask myself, “Why would anyone spend more for cables?” (Dave Thomas)   

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SurgeX SA-20 Standalone Surge Eliminator ($449.00):  Living in severe-thunderstorm-prone Dallas, Texas, I have had several valuable pieces of electronics destroyed by lightning in the past few years despite using dedicated conventional surge protection for my equipment.  Buying the SurgeX SA-20 has relieved my anxiety.  SurgeX items have been used mainly in pro setups until introducing home units in the past few years.  Unlike virtually every other surge protector on the market, SurgeX does not use metal oxide varistors (MOV’s) which sacrifice themselves to save your equipment (but often don’t!).  Instead, two opposing air core inductors are used to slow down and decrease the current, then sending the remainder of the surge to a clamping board and bleeding it off, while your equipment sees normal voltage and current.  All devices in the SA-20 are non-sacrificial, which means they’ll last essentially forever!  The SA-20 contains two AC outlets, but if you need more, the SA-1810 has ten for only a small price increase.  In addition, these units contain EMI/RFI filtering, and I can assure you that your sound quality will not be harmed, and indeed may be improved.  The SurgeX products have given me peace of mind – and aside from sound quality, what’s more important?  (Dave Allison) 

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Star Sound Technologies Platforms (Apprentice SP-SA-103-3 $589, Sistrum Rhythm $2,175, Sistrum Rhythm RP2 $4,000): My friend, and fellow Stereo Times reviewer, Terry London, introduced me to Robert Maicks and the Star Sound Technology products.  I looked into the Star Sound products a little reluctantly at first but soon found myself having these hour-long discussions with Robert almost weekly. Finally, I took the plunge with a couple of the Sistrum Apprentice Platforms to place under my Tekton Design Double Impact speakers, and things took off from there.  To go along with the increases in extension at the frequency extremes, there was this wonderful connectedness to the performers, both in terms of having them seemingly being in my room but also in what they were saying through their music. I moved my mono-amps to the Apprentice platforms and placed my speakers on Rhythm platforms and things went to an even higher level of performance with even more dimensionality, increases in stage width, spatial depth and air around and between performers. If you need to stack electronics on their own shelfs, the Sistrum Rhythm RP2 would be a recommendation.  Whether you use one platform or three set up like a shelving unit, there is no compromise in the sonic character of what the Star Sound Technologies provides. (Mike Wright)

 

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Symposium Acoustics Ultra Platform ($800 19”x18, sizes and prices vary): I would not consider myself a tweaker, but as a good friend of mine is always reminding me, “foundation is vital.”  I noticed that another friend of mine was using the Symposium Platforms throughout his system, including supporting his Convergent Audio Technology preamp and mono-amps, Tekton Design Double Impact SE’s, and a Townsend Rock 7 to good effect. Okay, he’s got one of the better sounding systems that I’ve heard. After that experience I just had to have a Symposium Acoustics Ultra Platform. Once I placed it within my system, under my Marantz SA-7S1 the increases in sonic performance were not subtle. There was more detail, more air, more bass, musical information, all emanating from a quieter background. This was noticed on the first night of playing and only got better as the days went by after that initial listening. Symposium Acoustics says after initial set-up probably a week’s worth of break-in, but I think you’ll be presently surprised to see continued improvement even after a week. This a must have for your system. (Mike Wright)


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Symposium Acoustics Svelte and Svelte Plus Isolation Products (Many standard and custom sizes available. Price varies by model and size): Sometimes we fail to acknowledge the little things that provide the literal foundation for future success. I know I have done that for years. When I recently placed my fourth order for Symposium isolation products, I was reminded of how much I have depended on them over the years. I initially started with a Svelte Plus pad (18″x19″x1.125″) to tame vibrations from seven (yes, seven) fans in a Laufer-Teknik Memory Player. The expensive audio rack it was installed in was not getting the job done. Ever since then Svelte Plus (or Svelte platforms when faced with height limitations) platforms have been my go-to isolation device. I have recently also employed Fat Padz, which are essentially mini platforms, for smaller equipment and where I wanted to keep exposed the beautiful wood in my Claro (California) walnut racks.

Once at an audio show a vendor showed me individual footer isolation devices. With a huge smile he proudly announced they make a difference where you place them. My unspoken thoughts were “Great, just what I need; something else to obsess about. This is not a good selling point.” Platforms are much easier to install under large equipment and do not require tweaking of placement like individual footers do. With individual footers I have had negative effects. While the degree of improvement has varied from application to application, unlike individual footers, my experience with Symposium platforms has always been positive. (Donald Shaulis

 


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Synergistic Research Black Box 
($1,995): The largest component in one’s system is the listening room yet it is the one component that is commonly overlooked and misunderstood.  The SR Black Box is a passive low frequency resonator array, which is designed to effectively cancel out low-frequency standing waves within one’s listening room. Coming at a size of 9.5″ W x 9.5″ D x 6″ H – 8″ H, The Black Box doesn’t resemble anything like the massive bass traps I’ve seen at many High End Audio Shows and in fellow audiophile systems yet it’s designed to perform the same function.  With The Black Box in my system, the bass response was clearly better in all ways but the magic really occurred in the midrange and high frequencies. The improvement in soundstage was undeniable with each recording displaying a greater sense of depth … the music sounded liberated in a way while percussion instruments displayed a faster transient response.  “Synergistic” is one word I would use to describe the combination of SR HFTs, Atmosphere, FEQ and Black Box working together in my listening room to eliminate the negative impact of my listening room. The Black Box is a must have component if you really want to hear your system at its full potential. (Mike Girardi) 

 

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Synergistic Research Galileo UEF AC Analog and Digital Power Cords
 ($5,600): The many design innovations contained in the Galileo UEF power cables was clearly demonstrated in the enhanced performance of my system. Like the SR Galileo UEF speaker cables and interconnects, the power cords make components sound exceptionally neutral, rich in texture, full of body, powerful, fast, spacious, and detailed while allowing my system components to reach their full potential. The improvements brought by the addition of the power cords were in some ways more significant than the improvements brought by the signal cables, and the combination of the two in my system took a major step in the achievement of the absolute sound.  Synergistic Research nailed it on the Galileo UEF Series cables. (Mike Girardi)

 

 
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Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block SE ($2,995): The application of the Active Grounding Block (AGB) to commonly ground all components while providing a ground path of least resistance proved to be a “sound” engineering concept in my system.  One of the most significant effect results of reducing the noise floor and signal compression via the SR AGB SE allowed me to listen to music at much lower volumes without any loss of detail, silence between notes, and dynamics. With the lower noise floor and reduced signal compression imparted by the SR AGB SE, music is presented with a whole new level of shading, nuance, breath work, and subtly inflections, vocals are more natural, and there is a more realistic portrayal of the soundstage at the boundary edges.  The SR AGB SE has become an integral part of my reviewing system. (Mike Girardi)

Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block SE ($2,995): First and foremost, my system (whose shortcomings I am keenly aware of) took on a much more pleasant and sophisticated character then minutes earlier! Images were smoother, fuller and more tonally complex and realistic. The quality, relative size and weight of the bass was a noticeable (and welcome) change. The various images hanging in space were just more clearly there and the space around those images, and the images themselves, just felt more defined and dimensional and present. The sense of ease was palpable and welcome yet offset by a nagging suspicion that this would have an eventual downside. As listening continued, I was relieved that I didn’t sense the loss of detail or dynamics that “ease”often causes. In fact, my sense was that the system was now cleaner, more dynamic, and more coordinated then ever! (Ed Van Winkle)

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Synergistic Research Galileo UEF Speaker and Interconnect Series Cables ($15,000 and $7,500):  Although the SR Atmosphere UEF Level 4 cables are excellent cables within their price point, the technology employed in the Galileo UEF cables significantly improved upon the performance of the Atmosphere UEF Level 4 cables on many levels.  With the Galileo UEF cables in my system, I immediately heard a more natural tonal balance, more holographic presence, a lower noise floor, and soundstage that was more uniformly constructed. The sense of space displayed with the SR Galileo UEF Series cables installed, had the effect of detaching the music from the speakers while instruments and vocals sounded lifelike and not electrically constructed. Musical lines within complex arrangements were more clearly revealed with enhanced clarity with all instruments on each recording having greater spatial definition, revealed with greater accuracy, and were fuller, richer, and more complex in presentation.  The SR Galileo UEF speaker and interconnect cables are the best signal cables I have ever heard in my system. (Mike Girardi)

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Synergistic Research
 – Powercell 12 UEF SE Power Conditioner ($6,495 w/Atmosphere Level 3 power cord, Galileo power cord option $2,995), Atmosphere X Euphoria AC Power Cords ($2,995 and $3,395 high current) and Level 3 Speaker Cables ($5,495, 8 ft. pr) and Reference Ethernet Cable ($1,050): Simply put – Synergistic Research has knocked the proverbial ball out of the park with these innovative passive devices.  In fact, the level of performance, in my reference system, has been noticeably improved with these products in place and fortunately in all aspects of the sonic spectrum. From my long-term use of these products including intense and critical listening, the degree of musicality experienced, has been immensely rewarding and beyond what my initial expectations were. Interestingly, while each of these products can stand individually on their own merits, and as such provide smaller incremental improvements, the real magic occurs when these products are combined as a system to get the full effect (benefit). Specifically, the PowerCell is the hub of the Synergistic Research approach and provides one of the most effective.  See my review for full and complete description. (Bill Wells)

 

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Wireworld Cable Technology – Starlight Platinum Cat8 Ethernet Cable ($600 per meter): Wireworld is perhaps best known for its continuing pursuit of technological innovation and advancements in the cable arena, particularly high-end audio cables. This includes a long history of providing top level interconnects and speaker cables. At the time of its introduction, this particular cable was a revelation to me – not only for what it did on its own but also as it compared to a number of various other high-performance Ethernet cables available at that time.  Interestingly, it still holds up well as various other Ethernet cables are being introduced regularly including an update by Wireworld for this particular cable.  For a full and complete description of my experience with this cable, please see my review(Bill Wells)

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Ziggy Cheetah power cable ($1100):The Hiend-Audio Ziggy Cheetah MK ll Power Supply Cable worked beautifully on my tube integrated. The Ziggy Cheetah’s delivery of power provided both nuanced and dynamic contrasts in resonance, textures and instrument tone beautifully and there were details presented that were not as evident when using my reference Oyaide cables. The Cheetah MK ll is a highly competent performer and worthy of an audition. (Greg Voth) 
 
   

 

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Stereo Times Masthead

Publisher/Founder
Clement Perry

Editor
Dave Thomas

Senior Editors
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery

Current Contributors
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery

Music Reviewers:
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter

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