Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Esoteric UX-1, Yamamoto YDA-01
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS 36.5
Power amplifier: ModWright KWA-150
Speakers: ASI Tango R
Cables: ASI Liveline loom
Stands: 2 x Ikea Molger, Ikea butcher-block platforms with metal footers
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: €899 for the below set
Nikos Mendrinos is the head moderator of the Athens Audiophile Club. He also has 35 years in the audio biz under the belt and now his own NMSonic products up his sleeve. Dubbed purifiers, they are passive absorbers meant to combat the electromagnetic fields radiated by all hifi components. Understandably guarded about the exact composition of the lightweight compound he molds into round cookies, bars and sticks, he confirmed my guess that they contain aluminum shavings (plus other metals) and crushed quartz crystal suspended in resin. DIYers will instantly rush to their local machine shop for some free metal dust, grind up some gem stone rejects, concoct their own binder, stir up the mixture and then let it settle inside a porcelain tea cup mold. Merry baking to you.
Those more inclined to let others do the work continue reading. Aluminum filings for extreme shielding enjoy a precedent in the JPS Aluminata cables. Solid and crushed quartz has been used in earlier Audio Magic line conditioners. The VPI Brick was meant to be placed atop or in the immediate vicinity of audio transformers. Ditto for the Shakti Stone. Its On-Line sibling meanwhile predates the Greek cigar-sized cable version with its concave back which attaches to power and signal cables with included tie wraps. In short, such devices and materials have already made the rounds.
What's their rationale? Siltech's Edwin van der Kley showed in an impromptu scope dem during 2009's Doelen Lente show in Rotterdam how unless 100% effectively shielded, power cords radiate a 1-meter field around them that affects all signal-carrying cables (and components) in their proximity. Sonic interference effects from radiated transformer fields are well understood too. It's why better audio transformers are encased, sometimes even in mu metal and always strategically oriented. But it doesn't stop there of course. Anyone with halogen lights on the desk top for example is bathed in the radiated fields of their transformer bases. If you believe to be impervious to such radiation, you probably won't mind micro waves from Bluetooth devices either. You won't think anything of prolonged cellphone use, GPS satellite uplinks, geopathic stress zones and exposing your body's fine electrical fields to the massive influx of ultrasonics from switching power supplies, WLAN networks and the rest of modern communication appliances.
Our household believes otherwise and in the core principles of Feng Shui and radionics. For reasons well beyond audio -- what good is great hifi if the listener is unwell -- we employ ASI acoustic resonators by Franck Tchang, Tachyon devices by Marco Raffaello di Dozio including his big Pharos II and BioGenesis product throughout the house to minimize our exposure to electro smog. This could suggest a few areas of personal investigation, into the potential that addressing hifi sources of EM radiation might have benefits beyond audio: "I am happy to hear that you are aware of the electromagnetic pollution which is so very dangerous for the human body and brain. My devices are environmentally completely safe and non-toxic without nickel or lead."
Naturally, hifi is no stranger to unconventional devices which suggest outright voodoo and unguarded gullibility to some. Many shut down at the mere mention of the Schumann Resonance, glance only slightly less askance at cable lifters. Others run indoor water fountains and simply smile when asked why. Some don't mind synthetic carpets and their static. Others use Hemp insoles and embrace cotton-sleeve cables with wooden housings perhaps for the same reasons they prefer organic foods to pesticides. Beliefs and personal experience intersect. They constantly cross feed in what only becomes a vicious circle if one insists on getting at any 'objective' truths. What is whacky to one person is personal experience to another. Proof doesn't even factor.
In audio, the ultimate consumer test gear is the bio computer. Anything affecting the ear/brain influences our audio readings. If things sound better because we feel better, because we're more relaxed or alert, it won't show up on any conventional audio bench. Alas, it might in a clinic if blood pressure dropped, breathing slowed or brain waves switched patterns (meaning measurable if one knew where to look). Viewing the audio experience as one-directional -- the hardware does, the listener is done -- is faulty. Clearly the listener does something to the experience or personal mood shouldn't matter. Ultimately, anything that affects the listener ought to be considered when we envision the perfect listening environment. Those who talk about their sonic temple have the right idea. To be crude for a moment, don't shit where you eat. What if electromagnetic radiation is shit on a number of levels? Should we tolerate it in our sonic or physical temples?
To account for the contrarians next, if a placebo pill lowered your blood pressure, why consider yourself a gullible sop instead of basking in results without chemical side effects? All this by way of suggesting that this type of device which purports to address radiation effects by absorption, by acting as a broadband RF/EMI trap, will likely not work on just the equipment. The extent of listener affection then depends on personal sensitivity to electro smog. Moreover, your susceptibility should fluctuate just like bio rhythms. As the black magician in the Tibetan movie Milarepa put it to his disciples bent on evil mischief, "everyone has white and black days where their personal power is highest or lowest. To defeat your enemy, you must plan your attack when one of your white days coincides with one of his black days."
As purely passive devices that don't plug into the power distribution loop or signal path, we might expect that any audible effects from today's purifiers would be subtle, not overt; that a system's base level of resolution might limit the degree of audibility if increased resolution means rendering tiny changes more apparent by magnification. One should certainly attend to basics first -- speakers matched properly to room and amp, proper set up, room treated as best as parallel living conditions allow etc. -- before getting lost in 'psychic' tweaks.
The turn of phrase is deliberate. We're talking about energetic phenomena after all. Those presuppose existential acknowledgment and personal sensitivity. If you're immune to good and bad energies (vibrations in New Age lingo), you need not bother with purifiers for well-being. You're a perfectly adapted modern man, not an antiquated humanoid whose body hasn't yet copped to the latter-day implements of the industrial revolution with equanimity. If you're sensitive -- the contrarians might call you hyper suggestive but never mind -- you could experiment with such devices purely for their physical benefits. If working a lot in front of a computer for example, you might place these NMS cookies strategically on your Internet router, your PC power supply and power cords to minimize your radiation exposure which saps your brain and leeches your immune system.
In physical terms, the Nikos Mendrinos devices come in four different sizes - small bar (Standard, 7.5 x 2.5 x 1.6cm WxDxH for power conditioners, €100/ea.); flat oval cookie (Reference, 8.5 x 7.5 x 1.4cm WxDxH - for low-level components, €200/ea.); tall round cookie (Signature, 10cm diameter, 3cm high - for high-level components, €300/ea.), and stick (Cable Standard, 14 x 1.5 x 1.8cm WxDxH, €100/ea.). The €899 Power Pack combo includes 4 x Cable Standards and one each of the other three to package a €100 discount. Detractors will snort that rocks would work as well - particularly if made from gold. Without any pure gold bullion or raw nuggets, I couldn't tell you.
Where on the index between wide-eyed mysticism and staunch ridicule over such devices one falls could be further weighted by prior experience with not exactly cheap audio tweaks. Did or did they not deliver? Were they fair return on investment or outdone by active 'real' components for the same or less coin? Did any initial wow soon fade when the novelty factor wore off? Did they do anything at all or were they just money down the drain? Here's where you'll want to know about the NMSonic gizmos - or better, my experience with 'em.
They're lightweight, glossy and plasticky. Inverse to the charged borosilicate Tachyon devices we use, the NMS feel 'negative' i.e. absorptive and inert, not radiant. Given their claimed function, that's apt. They seem sufficiently heat-resistant to handle the kind of temps tube amp transformers can throw off. I was sent two Signatures, two References, one Standard and seven Cable Standards. I had to revert to my own review photos to ascertain where exactly the transformers were located on the ModWright preamp's external power supply, the Yamamoto DAC and the Esoteric transport. What I learned were three things: it's important that the devices be placed exactly as their efficacy seems proportionate to proximity; low-level components are more important that the amplifier; I did not like the cable standards on either power cords or signal cables and consequently took them off all cabling and used them on components instead (they stripped away musical energy on the cables by acting as dampers).
Optimally installed, the benefits were crisper attacks, better microdynamics, improved intelligibility or presence and consequently, better sorting in the soundstage. In terms of where the improvements occur, I'd relate them to going from time-incoherent to coherent speakers (higher transient precision) and installing effective broadband resonance attenuation equipment racks that lower the overall noise floor. In terms of magnitude of improvement, I've gotten greater gains with better (not costlier than previous) cables. In the food chain of importance, I'd rate the room first, the speakers second, the amp third, the remainder of hardware including racks fourth, cables fifth and the NMS sixth. Other items on the audiophile to-do list are far more important. And/but, once those have been addressed to satisfaction and you want to move further, these Grecian absorbers become sensible. They're not cheap yet chances are that once you've accomplished the far greater task you should have before even thinking about them, their expenditure will constitute less than 5% of your total audio investment. Within that type of math and in that place of priority, they seem perfectly valid. Put differently, the domain in which they operate isn't addressed by anything other than RFI/EMI traps or energy converters. Whether you're a Shakti woman or NMS man or find yet another solution in this class is irrelevant. What does seem relevant is to acknowledge the existence of radiation pollution and to explore ways of addressing it. There our obsession with sound becomes a feedback mechanism. I've long since found that as our living / listening spaces begin to feel better, they also sound better. Quite as though the two were interlinked. That couldn't possible be. Or could it? ...
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