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HE2006: 666 Day of the Devil

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by Josh Ray on June 06 '06

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."

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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?

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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.

Comments

Hanging Monopoly game white die iron pieces -thimbles, shoes, wheelbarrows, racecars, & hats all over your room work better then your toothbrush. Did you notice a difference with toothpaste on the bristles?
Monopoly pieces probably sound excellent. Interestingly, I got a shot of one company at HE putting little statues inside of their speaker stands. Cracks me up.
So are the Special Gold Bowls, Pyrite "Fools Gold"? Or have they been processed by a Golden Shower?
It's all about the last 5%, don't you know that already!!! Someone told me that if I listen to my system while standing on my head, with a Quarter stuck to my forehead and my toenails painted blue it would improve my system. So I thats how I listen. Oh yeah I can only listen if the humidity is over 50% and the moon is full, it just doesn't sound right otherwise. Good thing too because painting the toenails is a b@#$^.
Darn it too late Josh, I just paid $5000.00 for 10 sheets of Purple Toilet Paper and it ain't even 2 Ply! ;0)~
LOL. Brilliant, Josh. Me, I walked away with a pack of three Gutwire Notepads. At $15 each (show price), there was little to lose, and unlike these freaky devices, it doesn't take an act of faith or spreading of chicken blood and voodoo chanting to actually hear a difference. They are mentioned somewhere on 6moons, you can do a search there. I get your point, but what would be of this industry without these requisite moments of comic relief? :D
A quick aside on the Gutwire front- I tried their Chime interconnect (a loaner from a local dealer) and can honestly say it was the first time the thought crossed my mind that a $1K+ cable was justifyable. I didn't buy it, but it made a clear and obvious difference in my experience of the music, and I'll head back Gutwire's way when I get my sheckels together... In the ridiculous tweak category, IMHO, few things can compete with Brilliant Pebbles: http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina17.htm Pet audio rocks. Jeez.
I've always prefered the clock myself. http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina41.htm Why?
Despite everyone's scepticism, I had a personal demo a couple of years back that convinced me that these little jewelry bowls actually do affect the sound. I walked into the their CES booth and noticed a female vocal playing (big surprise) - I sat down and thought that the voice (center image) was ridiculously wide (as if Krall had gained 400lbs). I told the jewelry guy (don't recall the name) and he said 'OK - hold on' and proceeded to adjust a few bowls. I listened again and the voice was back down to size! Very cool. I was impressed, but at the same time, there are less expensive ways to adjust sound (move the speakers, get some synergistic equipment for the speakers, and get some reasonable room treatments ...
So serving 400+lb. female vocalist beer nuts out of these little bowls would bring them back down to size too?
I have to chime in here. I am both an owner and a dealer for this remarkable product. A controlled demo done on numerous occasions have proven defianatively that these little devices do work and add a degree of music realisim that is hard to believe! The othe thing is that the acoustic system resonators have been scientifically ananylized and the findings state they do what they aw they do! Many people will refuse to acknoledge what they can't mentally grasp. If you ask an electrical engineer that you could hear a three foot pair of power cable he would say you are insane. So it all depends on your perspective. These things work and it is a magical transformation.
Hi Dave, Could you post a link to the scientific analysis?
Read more about it: http://www.hifi.nl/recensies.php?id=2646 use http://babelfish.altavista.com/ to get the english version. Apperently it helpes to make you sleep better. The reporters mention that it even helps to closed doors. I personally like the tip by hanging the room full of violins to get the extra resonanceses.
"laminar airflow hugging the walls"?? Priceless...
Priceless, Josh. Well, OK. Pricey, but, well you get the idea. I just avoided the whole tweak-centered rooms at the show this year -- not worth the time, nor the electronic ink used to write about them. But I did cover one tweaky room last year: http://www.bigpicturebigsound.com/article_440.shtml. Our show coverage this year focuses on more mundane stuff like 1080p HDTVs, speakers that don't require a second mortgage, and amplifiers that do (I *want* one of those Von Gaylord UNIs!). Later, -Chris