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Sometimes it's time. Stop. Take stock.
The most recent cause came from the Vibex power filters which I'd bought in the wake of their reviews. One is solely a DC filter - one socket in, one socket out. The other is an 11-outlet version which adds standard AC filtering to its DC blocking. I placed the former ahead of my passive GigaWatt power block which feeds my power amps and Zu Submission sub. The big Vibex Three 11R replaced my active GigaWatt conditioner on all my front-end components. The only reason I even pursued DC filtering was a cyclical on/off buzz from the Submission's Hypex plate amp. Its self noise went from nada to mega and back in endless loops. It had me conjecture that the mega incidents coincided with DC on my power line. What I needed was a DC blocker to test this hypothesis.

During one of my visits to Nagra outside of Lausanne I'd mentioned this to Matthieu Latour who promptly referred me to Cliff Orman, a British expat in sunny Spain whose power products Nagra use for their reference system and on their lab gear where it's become indispensable to get precise repeatable measurements during R&D. When the Vibex Two 1R killed off the Submission's noise to never be heard from again—good riddance!—I decided to take a chance on Cliff's casual claim that system-wide DC blocking would be very beneficial. None of my source gear transformers ever hummed audibly. I thus was skeptical that anything would happen. Yet the Three 11R killed the very good GigaWatt in ways which I described in its review. The lesson learnt was that removing DC components which hitch rides atop your alternating wall current—occurrences which might be cyclical, could originate with things neighbors are doing but needn't translate as obvious transformer buzz—is indeed a very worthwhile thing to accomplish for one's entire system. The sonic improvements are of the accelerator/energizer sort rather than the isolation-transformer damping type. An embedded lesson here is not to cuss out arising hifi ailments or shrug the ones off which mysteriously come and go. Investigate. Not only will it solve the cuss, it could improve your sound in other unexpected ways. It's exactly how shit happens intersects with good customer service. Proper support never frets over mishaps. It's the mishaps which present you with an opportunity to demonstrate sterling customer service which makes friends and leads to unsolicited referrals. So make shit happen.

Another thing I learnt was that women—whose bags men know to be very mysterious things from whose bellies emerge the most useful items when sorely needed—fret about where to put said bags when dining out. Do you stuff your trophy bag beneath the chair? Do you hang it over your seat where a passerby might abscond with it? It turns out that properly accessorized fashionistas have the perfect solution for this conundrum. It looks like a miniature round pill box. Except that it doesn't open unless it incorporates a miniature mirror. What it's got instead is a wraparound quad-hinged loop which unfurls. And that becomes an inward-facing hook hanging off its body like a lazy tentacle. It's a very useful thing to have also for hifi menschen. It's perfect to hang a headphone from beneath a table top. No screws, no glue and it only occupies negative space rather than clutter up your desktop.

Back to properly serious matters of the sort real men sweat over, my lengthy review of Zu's giant Submission sub—which since spawned a twin in Marja & Henk's single-driver hornspeaker system—continues to remind me. Infra bass is to emotional involvement what super-tweeter extension and ribbon-tweeter finesse are to airy detail. I haven't as yet come across a single speaker which I'd be able to man-handle up my three flights of stairs in the first place which wouldn't benefit from subwoofer assistance below 40Hz. This isn't about silly attempts to mesh micro speakers with Sunfire subs at the THX-approved 80Hz. It's about adding a true sub merely for the full or half bottom octave where your mains peter out, perhaps even dialing in some boost at 20Hz to get proper in-room balance.

This type of bass isn't about boom trucks or raves. It isn't about bass per se. It's about scale, depth, higher overlay of recorded venue ambiance on your own, richer colors, more guttural transients and generally higher substance. While your mains hold down the fort on upper and mid bass where stereo coverage is mandatory, the sub merely augments the very bottom. The difference is quite literally profound. And it's a smart solution too. It means you needn't worry about full-range mains with their concomitant strains on size, weight and price. As long as your mains can hit a solid 55Hz, this type of mono sub addition works brilliantly. The only potential decorator blemish? The ideal location is smack in the middle of your front wall. Perhaps you'll have to turn it into a plant stand with rapunzel-type leaf cover. Or get M&H's Arcadian System Pnoe horns which'll have a Submission look positively puny.

Either way, if you were snobbish or inexperienced enough to think subs unfit for real hifi and admissible only for home theater blockbusters and 20-something punks, think again. I predict you didn't really know just how much you've left under the table unless you had a proper subwoofer set up correctly. Related to this discovery—of augmenting nearly full-range speakers with a true sub—I came to another conclusion. Ported bass is evil! That's one of those all-inclusive statements which can never be right by design. There are always exceptions. But thinking back over some of the speakers I've owned or still do (Vandersteen 2ce, Gallo Reference 3.0, Gallo Strada 2, ASI Int. Tango, Aries Cerat Gladius, Boenicke Audio B-10), what they all had in common was being sealed. At the most they sported tiny 'breathing holes' without attached port tubes (Tango). Smaller ported monitors like Amphion's Ion+ don't yet cause the problem I'm getting at. It's big ones whose ports are tuned for the mid 20s like AudioSolution's top Rhapsody 200. Those can become super problematic. Unless powered by an amplifier with a true Shaolin death grip—I had such choke-hold results with Hypex Ncore monos and the Job 225—lack of damping creates boom and resonance you'd swear were room modes.

So you dutifully muck about with placement, get out your laser measurement tool and have your impressive full-range towers occupy every square inch your particular setup allows for. When nothing remedies the bloated bass, you're left thinking your room incapable of supporting true low bass. You've committed that basest of audiophile follies. You've bought too much speaker for your room. On a lark you decide to plug the ports as tight as can be. Suddenly the problem diminishes. It's not gone but less intrusive. So perhaps room modes were innocent after all? If you're truly lucky, you'll next chance upon your iron-fisted KungFu amp. With the speakers back in the most compromised earlier position, it suddenly eliminates boom completely, ports wide open. It's only then that you fully appreciate just how problematic—that's a far better word than evil—ported bass systems can be. Because by comparison sealed speakers in the same 'compromised' position don't cause their problems nor do they rely on ultra-low damping factor to play nice.

In my book ported bass is a cheap trick to force insufficiently large boxes into giving up extra extension and power. Even in the best case it introduces timing errors. In the worst case it causes messy room interactions. Why not settle on sealed bass instead with a box sized to harmonize with your environment, then augment the missing cycles with a sealed self-powered true subwoofer? Having listened and reviewed in at least 9 different homes since I began this writing gig, I never had the reach, linearity and cleanliness of bass I now enjoy with my Submission sub. For me the subject is thus closed. I won't pursue 20Hz bass from any pair of passive main speakers again. I'll be looking at and listening to something smaller, lighter, less intrusive and cheaper all at the traditional base of the hifi triangle whilst a self-powered mono sub with EQ more or less in the middle of that base adds oomph and reach without invoking any dreaded room boom or resonances. And them's my lessons for 2013. As far as the year has progressed. More could be coming...