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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.10 in direct/integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, RWA-modifed Astell&Kern AK100
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03
Power & integrated amplifiers: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; Crayon Audio CFA-02, Bakoon AMP-12R, Goldmund/Job 225, Gato DIA-250, Clones 25i [on loan], Aura Note Premier
Loudspeakers: soundkaos Wave 40, Boenicke Audio W5, German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Audio Submission
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom; KingRex uArt, Zu Event and Light Harmonic LightSpeed split USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; Van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fiber Toslink
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 + Vibex Two 1R on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Desktop system: iPod/AK100 digital transports, Wyred4Sound minT, Gato Audio DIA-250, Gallo Strada II + TR-3D
Room size:
Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 9.5m open floor plan combines the living/listening room, kitchen and office. Added to this space the speakers see the air volume of the entry hall and a long corridor plus the 2nd-storey 6 x 9.5m loft. Wood-panel ceiling slopes up to the loft. Parquet flooring. Lots of non-parallel surfaces ('vertical gable' windows, twin-angle ceiling, spiral staircase enclosure, fireplace enclosure). For a pictorial tour, see here.
Review component retail in Europe: €2'000

Cliff Orman of Vibex is a—free—radical
. The free relates to being an English man emigrated to Spain. 'nuff said. The radical pertains to his predeliction for sweating stuff others wouldn't even consider. So consider this now: "I recently began researching screws and bolts and how they affect cartridge sound. The truth is that although I have for many years been using Nylon screws and rarely ever revert to stainless steel, I did not expect much difference between different types. Almost all cartridge manufacturers supply theirs with stainless steel screws. Obviously this does not imply a best but rather most expedient choice. My opinion was that the energy generated by the needle tracking the vinyl had to leave the area as quickly as possible. If we use screws of a totally different mechanical impedance, the energy won't dissipate as easily. Another factor was weight. Stainless steel screws weigh about 0.5 gram each.

"Nylon screws have demonstrated a clear advantage with a more natural sound, more correct timbres and lower distortion. Recently I discovered carbon fibre screws in the US. They're 2mm and use methacrylate nuts. Not only did they lack the correct 2.6mm thread and the nuts were a different material, $200 per was a bit much. Which brings me to my final discovery: Peek screws. Peek is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic with excellent mechanical properties. It provides the rigidity we want, the low weight and the correct mechanical impedance to prevent the energy from attempting to exit through the screw itself. The results are rather amazing. The sound is much cleaner, the silence infinitely better than with the other screws. Information is greatly increased and music flows much better. At $10 for two with washers and nuts all in Peek, this is a major improvement for an incredibly low price."

A man and his nuts. Er, screws.*


* "It is amazing how much you can improve the sound of any component by using the right thermoplastic screws. Even I have been surprised by the effect Peek screws have on a turntable. I recently listened to and changed, one by one, all the metal screws in a Fletcher Audio Omega 5 to different thermoplastic screws with amazing results. I found that even screws nowhere near the arm and cartridge made a massive difference in sound quality. Screws that hold say the armboard in place are even more important as you might expect. I think you are right to think that I am a bit nuts about my nuts. Even so it is surprising how something so insignificant can prove to be so decisive in our equipment."

Which isn't yet what today is all about. Under his Vibex brand, Cliff has offered very high-performance powerline products to which Nagra's sales manager Matthieu Latour had first introduced me. They'd been using them religiously in both their resident listening room and for their engineering personnel where the kit helped generate far more consistent laboratory measurements. Since my discovery of Vibex powerline conditioners and DC filters, I've used them in my main system. Prior active and passive conditioners were consigned to secondary duty elsewhere. Before experimenting with DC filtering for both high-signal amplification and low-level sources, I'd not given the subject a first thought. It was only when power amps in my flat had learnt the bad habit of going off for stretches before reverting to desired inaudibility that I began to get suspicious. Whatever my neighbours were up to—by which I had to include everyone connected to my power mains down the block—caused unpredictable but recurring incidents of DC on my power line. This oversaturated transformer cores to get them buzzing like angry bees. I love their honey but the bees themselves could buzz off.

My Vibex Three 11R source-stack power center with all Zu Event power cords

A chance mention to Matthieu Latour had brought up Vibex. I'd ordered a single i/o DC buster with the generous offer to return it should it prove ineffective. It didn't. It worked exactly as advertised. My swarm of bees migrated to elsewhere never to be heard from again. Saying so in my review prompted Cliff to propose that I try the same tech on my source stack. I frankly was reluctant. None of my source components had ever exhibited even the faintest transformer hum. Surely DC filtering them was trying to cure a non-existent ailment. That'd be typical audiophile idiocy. Yet I had to eat crow. The Three 11R couldn't leave again. The sonic uptick it caused was far too important. So I purchased that 11-outlet combo AC/DC filter as well. Since then I'd not given the subject a second thought. Until Cliff announced his brand-new Granada as "the very best DC filter I've ever offered. It really is a large step forward. As you can see (the man still had his nuts but clearly lost his screws) there are no more screws to hold the sockets in place. Every socket now has an individually damped pocket filled with elastomer. The only screws present hold the base. And those are thermo-plastic, not metal. The Granada has no mains filter. The massive difference is the double DC filter. I think this is the first time anyone has done this. Filtering both live and neutral legs is a major advance."

Remembering what clients in my past life as massage therapist had told me, I only had two words for Cliff. "Do me." He duly popped a Granada with US socketry in the post. Yes I live in Switzerland now but spent my formative power delivery dollars whilst living in the US. Hence all my power cords sport US socketry. I use quality three-prong Swiss-to-US adaptors at the wall since Swiss plugs aren't shared by any other country in the world and everything thereafter is Americain.