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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S; Opera Audio Reference 2.2 Linear; Raysonic CD128 [on extended loan]
CD Recorder: Olive Symphony with Red Wine Audio battery mod
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic; Bel Canto Design PRe3; Wyetech Labs Jade; Supratek Cabernet Dual [on loan from owner]; Melody I2A3 [on extended loan]
EQ: Rane PEQ55 active merely below 40Hz
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S; FirstWatt F3 & F1; Bel Canto e.One S300; Eastern Electric M-520
Headphones: AKG K-1000 w. hardwired Stefan AudioArt harness; audio-technica W-1000
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Pro in custom lacquer; Anthony Gallo Acoustics Ref 3.1
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Zu Cable Varial, Gede, Libtech and Ibis; Stealth Audio Cable Indra, MetaCarbon & NanoFiber [on loan]; SilverFi interconnects; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; double cryo'd Acrolink with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer; Crystal Cable Ultra loom [on extended loan]
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular five-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S fed from custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Extreme SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Walker Audio Reference HDLs; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 15' x 35' living room
Review Component Retail: $199
The devil has a name
Lloyd Walker. His mere mention strikes fear and terror into the hearts of the Sunday churchgoers who think that tweaks are the work of the cloven-hoofed one. Outside his massive and mondo expensivo Proscenium Gold Reference turntable, the devil specializes in far more affordable performance enhancers. Think outboard Zobel filter, CD/DVD cleaner, contact enhancer, outboard motor controller, passive power center with QRT, hi-mass stand. And now, the new Walker Audio Talisman destaticer for CD, DVD, SACD and LP. Satan's lip gloss?
Lloyd Walker. If he gets you on the phone, you'll be invariably regaled. With tall tales of audiophile exploits. Predictably ending in home boy victory. Though to be sure, he'll also acknowledge occasional defeats. Those spoil his upstairs chicken soup. Admission, as you'll learn, is mere setup for future revenges. Defeats make Walker retreat to wherever tweakers retreat to tweak some more before they pull white rabbits out of pointy black hats again. And you'll be the first to know when Walker's next rabbit is due. The devil is wily and his workshop always busy.
Another matter entirely is whether you can keep up with his nearly insatiable appetite for leaving no stone unturned, no "good enough already" unpunished. How I signed over my soul to accept the Talisman for review is one of those mysteries. Perhaps the devil's at turns boisterous and self-deprecating, eventually irresistible mixture of braggadocio, charm, persistence and promise of five virgins? Probably. Walker would have made one helluva travelling door-to-door sales man. I can just see him hawking vacuum cleaners, health insurance and exterior siding. Which he never did. But the bloody invention of the phone merely compounds his effectiveness and reach. All the way across the Atlantic. (Lloyd doesn't do e-mail. That's his wife's department). The only instance that'll stop the devil is wood. "How do you keep an erection? Stop fucking with it." With audio, however, he never follows his own advice.
So I reached for my audiophool Viagra to dutifully inspect this latest dispatch from the Walker factory of go-faster audio accessories. While bulk-head erasers predate the Bedini, the Bedini can lay claim to establishing the product category of the disc demagnetizer. Bedini's general fringe profile allowed hard-core cynics to write off the original as charlatanacious without ever trying one. Furutech's corporate bearings and insistence on laboratory corollaries have since made that a lot harder. Their equivalent RD-2 -- and its latest offshoot, the massive DeMag intended for LPs, shiny discs and cables which none other than Michael Fremer found to deliver as advertised -- contribute to the genre what Furutech calls a ring magnet array and a gradual ramp up/down of magnetic fields. This also keeps the CD or LP - um, static rather than turning as the Bedini did.
Walker's take on the subject is utterly passive. There's no AC cord nor any batteries to recharge or replace. Ever. To apply the Talisman means the user herself has to make the requisite mesmerizing passes. Physical contact with the disc or LP provides the necessary path to ground. Low-humidity atmospheric conditions could mandate that the human ground connection destatic itself first on the metal equipment rack or any other suitable object.
Needless to say, keep cartridges, cassette/video tape and other sensitive items far enough away from the powerful nearfield effects of the Talisman. (Its radiated field attenuates steeply beyond half a foot. Record needles are perfectly safe beyond 6 inches). Refer to the Walker website for precise usage instructions but essentially, you perform three circular passes one inch above each side of a disc, starting with the label side. Needless to say, the Talisman effects are short-lived. Simply spinning a CD/LP during playback will recommence the static-producing routine. To acquire a Talisman thus equates to a forgone conclusion. You'll have to use it each and every time you hit play. Else, its benefits will quickly vanish. If you own a top-loading CDP with the ubiquitous magnetized disc puck -- the Zanden ingeniously avoids this source of magnetization by mounting a merely mechanical puck to the lid -- you could rightly wonder about the puck's ongoing mesmerizing influence.
And that's all the techno foreplay the Talisman merits. Why CDs and LPs can get mildly magnetized to absorb a charge has long since been laid at the feet of ironic - er, ferrite and other impurities in aluminum, colorants and inks. Whether you believe that their small percentile presence could have an audible effect or not is open to debate. Ditto for questioning whether the trouble is really worth the payback. It does take a genuinely committed character to chase maximum sound pleasure with this level of permanent tweak wood. My ill-disguised weariness in that regard is testament to the fact that my present system gives plenty of pleasure as is. Being thus pleased with myself nearly disqualifies me for being worshipped by the devil. But I can appreciate his approach. He's only too keenly aware that his go-for-broke turntable is merely for the very few. To put food on the other table, he must sell commodities which the many can afford. The general category of tweak has long since become his special expertise. It fully overlaps with his credo about the devil and them details. It implies that cheap components tweaked to the max can raise hell on expensive components treated carelessly.
|Should it surprise us to learn that dealers have built up intense resistance to Walker's recipe? Most of them want to move expensive components. They don't want to sell cheap tweaks to make cheap components outdo proven cash calfs and sacred cows. Where's the profit in that? Of course, cheap tweaks can also make expensive components sound better. Alas, then you admit that expensive doesn't equate to entirely turn-key. Lloyd suspects that most dealers simply don't want to open that door. They want to sell plug'n'play perfection.
Even the remotest suggestion that there will be additional work required from the new owner must be kept under wraps. Otherwise it destroys the sacrosanct illusion -- or presumed implication -- that expensive means the maker has taken care of everything. Not. Money isn't the issue at all. Unpredictable component and room interactions are.
This at least is the dark one's belief: everything can be made to sound better. If this advocates a permanent state of malcontent and unending tweaking ... well, whoever told
|you that eternal bliss was the devil's work? I distinctly recall something about damnation.
So let's get off our lazy butts and tweak before we're found wanting in the diabolical department. That just wouldn't do. I'll put it to you straight then. The Talisman works. Is it a fire'n'brimstone difference? Not even close. When you take two identical CDs, one played a few times to presumably be contaminated with residual magnetism and the other freshly Walkerized, the latter sounds a bit crisper, cleaner, deeper and opened up. As you play the Walkerized disc, you eventually wonder. Are the effects wearing off or did the improvement that seemed quite obvious upon first cue-up hold? You go back to the first disc for a reality check, same advanced track you'd gotten to on the demag'd one. Less difference. At least that's what I thought. That raises a few questions. How much of a charge can a CD hold? In total? Is there a saturation effect beyond which added play doesn't compound the issue any further? If so, how many full playback cycles does it take to load up a disc with maximum magnetized malady? Are a few tracks enough to tip the balance?
Based purely on subjective impressions, even partial playback -- say halfway through -- already dilutes the merry "Bingo!" when you first performed the switch between treated and untreated discs. However, I also know just how quickly our ear/brain mechanism adapts. We can take improvements for granted minutes after the first encounter - especially if the changes were subtle. Yet I don't think that today's device is marketing malarkey. Nor that the initial improvements available from disc demagnetizing are imaginary. It's simply that for my slightly weary level of tweaker happiness, they're minor enough to soon be swallowed up by the music as it continues past the first few tracks.
The devil has customers
The Talisman strikes me as a device for the man who has everything. What do you buy a dandy for his birthday? His audio system is already all set. Or so he insists. The Talisman is something he won't yet have. It does wipe off a fine sheet of gray from the music. And to use it takes all of 5 second. Badabeep, badaboop - leave the gun, take the cannoli. Next scene. Especially if you're in the habit of only playing select tracks and routinely go through a whole series of discs in one session, the Talisman is well worth your consideration. There is a demonstrable difference when you first cue up the demagnetized disc. It'll only set you back the price of 10 CDs. And it'll never wear out or break.
Others may echo Danny Glover's cop in the Lethal Weapon series. I'm getting too old for this shit. They already have addressed room treatments, resonance control, power delivery, cable dressing and path length equality. They never turn off their digital. In short, they've covered all the bases that are relevant to their achievement of good sound. At what exact point should one call it quits? ERS cloth? Marigo dots? Ceramic cable lifters? CD circumcision? Intelligent chips? Magic clocks? You tell me. If your tweak wood still points upwards, put the Talisman on your Wanted list. It definitely works. Whether it works long enough or offers too fleeting a satisfaction is your call to make. Will you eventually resent having to do it over and over and over again? Here's a confession from the trenches. I own the Furutech RD-2. I only use it for audiophile show-off demos. The Walker effect seems just a bit more pronounced than the Furutech. Still, I doubt I'd talisman on a regular basis. I'm not getting enough of a kick out of doing it. See, I am getting too old. That's what it is.