Dear friends, it is 6.6.06, day of the devil, and as midnight draws near, I'm loath to tell you that our immortal audio souls are in grave danger. Yes, folks, there is a serious cult taking over our beloved industry. Angry e-mails be damned, It is my sworn duty to speak of that which must not be spoken.
So what horrors are taking place in the halls of HE2006? The tweaks, my friends, the satanic, head-twisting tweaks. Witness below three pagan devices from the mysteriously-named Acoustic Systems. Brace yourselves. The first picture shows the AS resonators, combining the Wiccan earth-elements wood and metal to summon room-treating spirits. About the size of a deck of tarot cards, you stick these things on all four walls (sometimes two a wall if you're really with it). Prices range from $200 a pop for the copper/silver version to $2500 for the platinum model. And "more," like everything in life, is "better."
In addition to the precious metal bowls, you also get two semi-precious stone nugs near the top. I hear mention of little BBs that go somewhere on the wood scrap, but I try not to stare at the pictures too long, lest the dark visions corrupt my innocent mind.
Now let me be very clear. These things may, in fact, work. I mean, they could work the same way bleeding chickens over a pentagrams get you good grades (I should know, I went to a liberal arts college). Then again, I've demoed these guys at a publisher's house and I can't hear a damn thing. Am I an uncultured, audio-blind punk? Probably and, hey, you may be able to notice that last 1/4% performance increase from $10k of Platinum resonators around the room. If that's worth $10k to you, well, may the power of Christ compel you to purchase them.
Moving on, we now come to the side-wall hockey pucks. I think these are still in prototype stage since I didn't hear mention of pricing and I can't find them on the web site. Since they don't have the metal bowls, price is probably much more reasonable like, say, $500. Witness:
See those arrows? This two inch dowel slice is, in fact, directional (arrows coordinate with grain direction, duh). I was told that when you place them on the first order reflections -- the demo room had three each side -- the laminar airflow hugging the walls is modulated for optimal performance. The puck can be twisted vertically if a number of factors like moon phase, numerology and perfect polarity deem it necessary.
Of course, these may, in fact, work. But when I was receiving the demo with the pucks twisted into their vertical alignment, one piece of Scotch double-sided tape became faulty, causing the device to fall off the wall. The sonic changes were, as they say, profound.
Finally, we have the bowl resonators modified for speaker ports:
As described in general Acoustic Systems literature, the sonic contributions "are activated by sound waves present in a room and produce subtle overtones which define the sound color. This coloring is often lost during the recording process, and when it's replaced it always improves the sound experience."
Awesome. But then I began to wonder what other products could be used to return the musical color lost during the recording process. Is it possible some device other than a metal bowl could work? Like, say, a tooth brush? I decided to find out:
Definitely a greater sense of air and a fuller midbass, though the blacks weren't as crisp as before. Must be the bristles regulating the port's laminar air flow. Profound. Then I thought that if the changes were so impressive for a passive model, would an active "spinning head" version give me even more of what I was looking for?
Since the bristle alignment isn't the same, some top end clarity was lost but, when activating the alkaline resonance system, I noticed more bass definition and tonal weight. Through what I can only surmise is a reduction in magnetic fields, the inner note, as opposed to the outer note, became much more musical.
Ugh, I think I'm going to be sick.
Back to reality, maybe this stuff works for you, but the moral of the story is that these products scare the living daylights out of church-going consumers. If I had a say, there would be special rooms at shows, probably in the basement, where all these tweaks would be demoed. Incense, candles and cat skulls will provide the mood while masks will be available at the door to hide your country club identities. Play with these demonic devices to your heart's content, just keep them away from the God-fearing men and women who may actually purchase equipment.
One pale-faced man come up to me after the 30 minute gold bowl demo and asked me what I thought. I just shook my head and said "voodoo." He seemed relieved to know HE wasn't completely filled with madmen.
So am I overreacting? Being too hard? Not appreciating the finer nuances of audio? Let me put it is way: when a freaky tweaky company has ONE OF THE LARGEST ROOMS at HE, the most important consumer audio show of the year, then there is something seriously wrong. To put it in perspective, the Acoustic Systems room was twice the size of the Totem room, three times the size of the Thiel room and equal in size to some little companies you may have heard of: Pioneer, Dynaudio, McIntosh, MBL, Vandersteen, KEF, MusicDirect and this company that starts with a "W." WIlson something-or-other.
I mean, this is insanity. The last days of the Roman empire must have felt like this. Vice and debauchery involving $11,000 speaker cables (Acrolink). Unspeakable pagan rituals taking place on $15,000 equipment racks (Harmonix). The list goes on and on, as do the number of average audio hobbyists who, after hearing these prices, vomited pea green soup. And I don't like vomit.
So, dear readers, speak to your audiophile friends. Tell them to reject overpriced tweaks. If we act now, the dark ages may not last long.