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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S; Canary Audio CA-308s
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk 1.5; Gallo Reference 3
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Zu Cable Varial and Ibis, Zu Cable Birth on Definitions; Stealth Audio Cable Indra, MetaCarbon & NanoFiber [on loan]; SilverFi interconnects; Crystal Cable Reference power cords
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan
Review Component Retail: $1,250 for 6-ft power corditioner; $490 for TV Enhancer
Certain cable people in the know readily admit that any minor or major true technological breakthroughs in their field nearly always coincide with declassified military materials or technologies. That's not surprising. Consider the combined brainpower at work for the National Security Agency and the vast resources of its defense contractors. They simply dwarf the best intentions and hardest work applied to audiophilia. However, people who've worked for such government agencies occasionally end up in audio. Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata immediately comes to mind. So does Jack Bybee whose infamous Quantum Purifiers are said to have originated with military applications where they're still widely used.
"Within any playback system, musical and visual information is transmitted by electrons flowing through conductors. As electrons interact with the conductive materials of cables and circuits, very low-level (quantum) noises are generated. As quantum noise energy accumulates in the propagating signal, low-level details pertaining to ambience, soundstage, timbre, dynamics, color fidelity and picture resolution are obscured, robbing the presentation of vividness and life.
Bybee Quantum Purifiers operate on the quantum mechanical level to regulate the flow of electrons that make up the signal. Current flow within the Quantum Purifier is unimpeded and ideal. During transit through the Quantum Purifier, quantum noise energy is stripped off the electrons, streamlining their flow through ensuing conductors. Unwanted quantum noise energy dissipates as heat within the Quantum Purifier rather than emerging as a layer of contamination residue over the audio/video information."
|"The benefits of this process extend beyond the physical length of the Quantum Purifier. As electrons speed through the purifier, a "slipstream" effect is formed which facilitates current flow in the surrounding conductors of the playback system. Introducing Bybee Quantum Purification into the electron path reduces quantum noise and increases signal velocity, resulting in performance improvement beyond what is attainable by any cable alone, no matter how well designed."
Modifiers like Chris Johnson of the parts conneXion rely on Bybee devices for their most upscale workovers while Reflection Audio's Stephen Balliet uses them extensively in his top-model preamp and Benchmark mods. "In 2003, there were breakthrough developments concerning the theoretically ideal materials and physical form needed to optimize noise reduction and electron flow through the signal path. Advances in materials science and fabrication technology have resulted in a unique new carbon fiber-based Quantum Purifier with electron noise reduction and electron Slipstream transmission properties that are distinctly audible and visible and superior to Jack Bybee's earlier developments."
I know folks who've tried the Bybee devices and did not like 'em. Regardless, anyone who's actually listened to them agrees: They're definitely doing something. Disagreement merely concerns itself over whether these effects are considered desirable in a given system. Those who like them tend to feel the more the merrier. I know of systems that are fully bybeefied, using dozens of these devices in various circuit and connective junctions. Jack's latest contribution to our collective audio madness? "Magnum PI" power cords. Okay, that's not how they're called - but the addition of a highly polished 1-inch diameter "gun" barrel at the receive/IEC end readily suggests such nomenclature. The cords are half-inch flexible affairs with a black mesh over yellow or black substrate. Their apparent ordinariness and ease of handling are a far cry from the super-shielded ERS-wrapped 'el stiffos'; the ridiculous 4-inch wide 'ribbonites' that look like 8-lane electron highways; and the Carbon-fiber 'networkers' perched on their chromed stilts like big bugs. The only detour from ordinary here is that metallic 5-inch erection on the - um, tail end. With the obligatory bend of the cord proper against a wall, this amounts to about 10 inches of requisite clearance behind a component to be installed. It also puts more than the usual strain on the component power inlet via the weight-bearing lever action of the barrel. What's inside those barrels are advanced Bybee devices with Carbon fiber nano tubes and 10-gauge gold and silver leads. Each power corditioner includes enough 14-carat gold for "eight penny weights" and the actual cable conductors are 10 AWG high-purity copper.
|Bybee's technical explanations -- shrouded as they are in generalities to protect intellectual properties -- naturally bring to mind Bill Stierhout's QRT or Quantum Resonance Technology, employed to excellent hot-rodded effect in Lloyd Walker's Velocitor S passive powerline conditioner, two of which perform their acceleration magic in my main rig to separate analog and digital. Should I think of these power cords as "Velocitor inside" contraptions then? Jack Bybee assured me that his technology is "completely different" from QRT. He had dispatched two 6-foot power corditioners and one TV Enhancer, a 1-foot power cord extension with the same barrel into which plugs your television's -- usually captive and ungrounded -- cord. Based on the same technology as the cords but without the gold applications, the TV gizmo is tuned differently to address a retrograde signal which Jack claims is emitted by especially plasma screens. Yes, that's in object defiance of FCC radiation regulations but those have apparently been bypassed nonetheless by the mega plasma makers. The TV Enhancer was designed to deal with these harmonic distortion products that are dumped back into the line by such televisions. The promised effect, in essence, is a mo betta picture. With two Sony Trinitron CRTs in our household, that would be easy to verify. Sonics first, though.
There are a number of devices whose sonic effects belong in the same class and differ merely in potency. Bybee devices; the above mentioned QRT-enhanced products (QRT's own, Walker Audio Velocitor, the Harmonix/Combak Reimyo conditioner by Kiuchi-San); Audio Magic's Quantum Purifiers; Mark Hampton's ZCable ZSleeves and other applications of ERS Stealth cloth (the Japanese have their own paper-type version of ERS which is used by Zanden Audio inside their components); Furutech's GC-303 which appears inside their power strips and embedded in barrels straddling their top-line cables; and Ben Piazza's original Shakti Stones. More devices will exist in this RFI/EMI absorbent and repellent category but these are the ones I know of.
My initial problem was that in order to fairly test the powercorditioners in my reference rig, I should have really eliminated the Walker Audio Velocitor S conditioners. By virtue of radiating their QRT field signal throughout the room, they need to be unplugged to be "out of the loop", period - never mind that nothing should be plugged into them in the first place. Alas, I need the raw outlets provided by my two Walkers to run the system. Using one of Jack Bybee's corditioners on just one component within that Walkerized/QRT'd context at first yielded no audible changes I could ascertain. Only when I replaced the Crystal Cable Reference cords between wall and Walkers did I see the light. Now the Bybees were allowed to affect the entire system and thus, each component in it. The Bybee action could now compound. By dominating sufficiently over the potent effects of the Walkers, this action became audible.
|The long and short of the Bybees is that they're pacesetters just like the Walker units. Microdynamics; startle factor; transient acuity; enhanced separation and articulation as a result thereof... that's the domain of aspects in which the Bybee cords operate. Unlike transformer-coupled conditioner boxes which are noisekillers, bass builders and often timbral fatteners but just as often also dynamic dampers, energy subduers and deccelerators, the Bybees aren't guilty of taming, slowing, blunting or dulling musical energy. Rather, they support and enrich it. You could think of them as a dose of caffeine or a Tylenol blood thinner. To get a handle on their potency, I reverted to two passive Furutech conditioners [one above] which lack the QRT modules of the Walkers but still use GC-303 lining on their insides. I simply did not have a plain-Jane outlet multiplier box without some in-built address at RFI filtering.
With at least the QRT effect successfully banished from intruding into the test, the Bybees in the wall/powerstrip junctions (I use two strips/conditioners to separate digital from analog) became more overt in their contributions. Compared to the Walker Velocitor S boxes, the Bybees approximate about 50% of the Walkers' efficacy on their own and less than half that when combined with the Walkers. You could thus use one Bybee powercorditioner between wall outlet and whatever powerstrip you currently use to mimic the Walker Velocitor effect by about half its potency - but also less than half its impact on your wallet. That math works! I was less thrilled with the TV enhancer. I did see differences but rather than positive, I thought they were slightly deleterious. When I asked Jack Bybee, he admitted that this device was specifically designed for plasma screens. On a superior CRT like our small Sony Trinitrons, the effects would be far less dramatic. What I saw was a softening of black tone details in the shadows and a softening of color hue definition on complex textiles as are abundant for example in Martin Scorcese's Age of Innocence.
My wife is a painter and textile artist. Her eyes are as attuned to color as my ears are to sounds. She saw these effects before I did and clearly preferred the Furutech-direct connection. Now my conceptual mind kicked into overdrive. Why didn't I observe audio-equivalent effects thereof in the big rig? If picture quality on a CRT seemed somewhat softened and less articulate, how come I heard the opposite on music? I don't know except that the TV Enhancer is optimized to deal with plasmas and tuned to filter a specific signal plasmas dump back into the line. Final judgment on the TV Enhancer must remain reserved for a video specialist with access to the intended monitors. For audio purposes, the Bybee Corditioners, while not cheap, work and are especially recommended in the most vital power distribution juncture between wall and power strip. They're easy to work with due to their deliberate flexibility and are named cunningly to telegraph that these are really passive in-line power conditioners, not just power cords. Pretty clever, Mr. Bybee - and good stuff!