February
2024

Country of Origin

Netherlands

Loudspeaker Improver

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, 40GB RAM, Sonoma 14), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 & SW-6 switch, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & Gold Note monoa on subwoofer; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Kinki Studio Earth, Furutech; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: FiiO R7 into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Amplifier: Kinki Studio EX-M7; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF, Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Head/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1;
Headphones: Final D-8000 & Sonorous X, Audeze LCD-XC, Raal-Requisite SR1a on Schiit Jotunheim R
Upstairs headfi system: FiiO R7; Headphones: Meze 109 Pro, Fiio FT3

2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €995/2 

Aramis. They coulda/shoulda called it Akiko Audio Aramis? It'd be sexy alliteration yet we clueless on what it is. Instead our pragmatic Dutchies from Maastrich call it the prosaic Loudspeaker Improver. That's about as sexy as a Floor Wetter aka moist mop but clearly states what it does. Surely that's more important? Fitted with a single non-captive umbilical terminated with either fork or banana, our potted small black box doesn't run across the speaker terminals like Lloyd Walker's Reference HDL aka Zobel filter did which I reviewed back in early 2006. Unlike the LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers, it doesn't run in series with the signal either. Instead it's a parallel noise trap. It connects like a single biwire off the same post that already receives signal from your amplifier. If your speaker cable is banana, order Aramis with a spade; or vice versa. This arrangement drains off HF noise which hitches a free ride on our speaker cables. Which terminal to use you'll learn below. For now, rerouted then heat-converted noise can't intermodulate the music signal. Less grunge, grit, hash and subliminal hissiness particularly through tweeters all promise more natural relaxed sound. This isn't about audible ear-on-tweeter surf from noisy power supplies. This is about the bat sphere of out-of-band noise which nonetheless interacts with thus taints the audible band. Such noise we cannot hear per se, only its effect. That we only recognize by subtraction, never before. It's because such noise embeds in the signal. It doesn't stand aloof as a separate entity like ground-loop or transformer hum. Those are easily identified as not belonging. Likewise for vinyl's pops and clicks. Ultra-high frequency noise meanwhile occurs magnitudes of bands beyond our hearing. As such it's easy to think that it either doesn't exist; or doesn't matter. But we can't see infrared or ultraviolet either yet still get sunburn, have remotes work invisibly, never mind get speeding tickets from radar traps or WiFi signal in a concrete tunnel.

It used to be only underground brands which plied this particular accessory trade. Mainstream brands were too worried over voodoo fallout tainting their no-nonsense rep. Now there's mounting evidence for the efficacy of UHF noise traps. So they proliferate in lockstep with the ever-growing intensification of electro smog from 'wireless everything'. Even High Street brands like Furutech, Nordost and Ansuz have gotten into this gizmo act. The consumer enjoys more choices. Those weary of non-textbook solutions by boutique tinkerers can feel reassured by big-brand cred to give this product category a gander and possible go. Being old, grey and experienced now to trust my ears over worrying about what others might think, I've lived with and benefitted from Franck Tchang resonators, Akiko's Corelli and Triple AC Evolution, the LessLoss passive speaker filter and Furutech AC noise traps plugged into empty outlets. My passive Furutech power distributors exploit NCF² short for nano-crystal formula. I've heard the benefits of replacing copper RJ45 cable with fibre-optics between router and music computer. And our household is allergic to WiFi radiation's impact on the brain to hardwire everything. So we bench our smartphone in the car purely for emergency roadside use. When Sanders of Akiko asked whether I'd give their latest a listen, I didn't hesitate. I already know that if executed well, this kind of gadget can have audible benefits. And I already enjoy two Akiko products, one per system. Twice pleased, thrice willing.

Akiko Audio Corelli Corundum, a passive parallel AC noise filter on lower right rack behind the speakers.

Time for the small print of common sense. Big things trump small things. Unless you're Indiana Jones, don't bring a whip to a gunfight. We can't expect subtle changes to register when they're still overlaid by domineering big problems. It's only when our hifi has attained innately high resolution from thoroughly sorted basics that the proverbial polishing chrome goes beyond looking cool whilst doing nothing for raw performance. Today's thing isn't for starter rigs but mature systems. Core sound-making hardware must be finalized to eliminate or seriously diminish big issues. Today is about noise-unmaking hardware. Our hifi must already be transparent to subtler changes which no longer occur on the surface but a few layers down. Otherwise a noise trap can't register. It makes us guilty of slander or fake news if we proclaim voodoo which does nada but steal our money. End of small print. Sign here that you understood. Now we can continue when this brand-new device lands in County Clare.

First, "R&D took time. It's a passive parallel filter for a speaker's minus terminal. It has some similarities with our Castello ground conditioner but we discovered that the negative pole of a speaker has different requirements for the construction and mineral mix. It's theoretical fact that electrical high-frequency noise has the property of flowing to a zero-energy point which here is our device. But there's more. The filter may be labelled 'passive' but the mineral mix certainly is not! The composition is precise. Since we always look for noise reduction without changing tonal balance, testing took a long time. The intricate wiring diagram in the unit is our own invention to enhance efficacy. We also added gold to the mix for that little bit of warmth. A major advantage of our parallel filter is that it won't affect or alter the technical specs of your speaker cables¹, amplifier or speakers. It's unconditionally safe to use and can be placed on the floor behind a speaker, attached to a stand or sit on its plinth." I had three places to try Aramis: on sound|kaos Vox 3awf in my office shown above with alternate EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1 monitors; Qualio IQ in the main system; and MonAcoustics SuperMon Mini in the smaller system. Plug 'n' play. What could be simpler? "The included umbilical features silver-plated copper conductors in Teflon insulation and can be up to 1.5m in length. The housing is double insulated and contains no active power filtering or electronic parts. Each box weighs 1kg and measures 13.5 x 9 x 6.3cm LxWxH and can be ordered individually like for a centre channel or subwoofer." Included instructions then suggest stability after 7-21 days, with actually playing music shortening this period.

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¹ We could certainly replace the included non-captive umbilical with an existing jumper cable in our inventory. To maximize the effect of shunting noise to a low-impedance trap, we'll obviously want a short cable of very low resistance. If we biwire or bi-amp our speakers, we'll have two minus terminals per channel. With just one Aramis, should we use the upper or lower one? Let our ears be the judge. If we don't trust them, why bother with this kind of stuff in the first place?…