As proud owner of Gallo Acoustics' Ref3 speakers, I recently perused the UK distributor's website. There I came across this startling and new-to-me bit of history as quoted in Anthony Gallo's own words: "The [original] Nucleus started out as a six-piece system. It took special movers to get it from one sound room to another. It utilized state-of-the-art wooden cabinet technologies with constrained layer damping, extensional damping, walls laminated in varying density sheets of lead and elastomer and without parallel surfaces. Each channel weighed in at over 300lbs. I was told by several people in the industry that it was the best speaker they had ever heard but that I would never sell any. It would have cost over $15,000 and this is not practical for a start-up company."

"I started trying to find a way to preserve the sound while saving money on the only component I could - the enclosure. The problem was coming up with an equally inert enclosure to the one I was about to scrap. It had to be either extremely massive or incredibly rigid. It could not have
any parallel walls and had to minimize diffraction. These were my main criteria. Coincidentally, the enclosure with the best diffraction characteristics was also the strongest possible structure: The sphere. I found that the cabinet did not need mass. In fact, the less mass it used, the less energy storage it exhibited and the better it sounded. Ironically enough, the 1.5 pound 12-inch diameter sphere used in the Nucleus Reference blew away the 300lbs monolith in terms of transparency and lack of cabinet coloration".

Going to mass thus doesn't necessarily mean what you may have thought. We find echoes of the low-mass approach throughout audio. A friend of mine systematically replaced each and every one of his stout chassis-mount RCAs throughout his system with the latest WBT Next-Gen units Steve McCormack already raved about. According to Gordon, the differences were not subtle and netted better immediacy and speed to his system. The insult to the audiophile ego? Lots of plastic. Ditto for the equivalent Next-Gen RCAs on the latest version of HMS' Gran Finale. According to designer Hans Manfred Strassner, the launch of the original Eichmann Bullet plug had him approach his long-term friends at WBT with the request to design a plug of equivalent sonic transparency but with better mechanical integrity - or he would be forced to swap suppliers. In an A/B, the 'new' Gran Finale sounds more open and energetic than the old one - and the only difference is the apparently cheesy connector.

If HighEnd means beefy and substantial to you, this plug will fail miserably. If it's the best sound you're after, the posh and glitzy he-man connectors of yesterday belong in the trash bin. Serguei Timachev of Stealth sings the same song. In fact, he contacted Eichmann Technologies to commission his own low-mass plug based on the original bullet but with three rather than one negative contact. Turned down as though such a request was an insult to the immobile perfection of the original, Timachev had to design his own. It takes the low-mass principle to the extreme by using a hollow solid silver pin whose center and surrounding body is filled with Teflon to avoid deformation while the barrel is Carbon fiber for superior RFI/EMI rejection as well as superior stiffness, damping and low mass. Our own Jules heard the Indra with and without its proprietary Stealth connector. He claims that the connector seems responsible for about 40% of the total performance. But the new sensibility of thin-is-in doesn't stop there yet.

Just like the famed dielectric constant of insulators indicates how much energy they store and subsequently re-release to overlay the original signal, so one might have to think of mass itself as having its own energy-storage constant which enabled Native Americans to put ear to ground and discern horseback cavalry approaching from miles away. If sheer mass was so good at absorbing vibrations as certain makers of ultra-rigid speakers and stands proclaim, this Injun trick wouldn't work as well as it does. Dutch cable queen Gabi Van Der Kley would probably agree and explain this as one of the reasons why her cables are as skinny as they are - it makes them less prone to internal resonance pattern.

Chris Sommovigo, maker of the original Illuminati digital cable and proud owner of present-day Stereovox, agrees - and his new digital designs for both Stereovox and i2digital respond by being as sleek, flexible and thin as Crystal. My Grand Prix Audio Monaco stand sways when bumped and weighs very little unless you fill the hollow uprights with shot or sand - and even then it's a lightweight compared to certain rigid high-mass designs. Regardless, it works very effectively. Ditto for low-mass drivers in loudspeakers. Once you begin to think of it, the list becomes rather long. It turns out that metal, though conveniently stamped, bent and machined, is a rather poor choice for electronics enclosures precisely because it rings. This has persuaded Dennis Morecroft of DNM to eschew metal altogether in his electronics boxes. Ditto for Gilles Gameiro of Birdland Audio.

In the end, much of the macho American self image embodied in the chrome and brawn of Harley-Davidson seems ill-advised for audio reproduction even though from a purely aesthetic perspective, it has countless admirers for good reason - it looks terrific and the sheer heft and solidity telegraph longevity and pride of ownership. You tell me - what would a Wilson Watt/Puppy 7 system look like leashed together with naked solid silver wire of ultra-high gauge? Clearly,
what a prospective owner expects finds its perfect visual complement in the supplied Puppy tail. Would the skinny silver wire sound better? Actual owners who've performed exactly that experiment tell me unequivocally that it does. Should Dave Wilson care? Most certainly not. He makes the most successful >$10,000 two-piece speaker system in the world. He knows exactly what his customers want. His success in no small part is a direct function of his uncompromised willingness to fulfill his carefully wrought corporate image. But next time you consider a physically puny and lightweight component or a cable of small diameter outfitted with low-mass connectors, don't automatically write them off as MidFi unworthy of your respect and attention. Not all is as it seems in this crazy kingdom called audiophilia. In fact, going to mass might be far less religiously proper than your neighbors would tell you. Think e-racism instead!