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Thunder Melody

INNOVACOM SP. Z O.O. Oddział Henryków
Henryków 28C, 67-300 Szprotawa | POLSKA




translation Ewa Muszczynko
images Wojciech Pacuła

No 221

October 1, 2022

THUNDER MELODY is a Polish audio brand set up in 2019. It was established by Mr. KONRAD RAŚ and Mr. RAFAŁ HŁADZIAK, and specializes in vibration damping, noise reduction and supply voltage conditioning products.

HUNDER MELODY IS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST audio companies on the Polish market. It is not the youngest one, as these are created almost every day. However, it survived its first year, then the next one, and seems to be slowly, unhurriedly but surely developing. It interested me immediately when Mr. KONRAD RAŚ, responsible for the company’s technology, wrote to me. And this was because in his email there was no usual waffle, but mere specifics. My attention was also drawn to a kind of self-confidence. Not conceit, but just confidence in the chosen method and results achieved thanks to it.

Already the first product that came to us for testing, the MONUMENT anti-vibration platform, stunned me. On the one hand, it surprised me with the high price but, above all, the incredible sound quality it allowed me to achieve. It was the most expensive, but also the best anti-vibration platform I have listened to. Better than anything I have had in my reference system (HF ⸜ No. 198, test → HERE).

The solutions used in it were developed by the company itself, which reminded me of another Polish manufacturer that offers equally interesting and equally innovative products in the same field of exploration – the VERICTUM company. Both know what they are doing, have the right techniques to do it and a clear goal. Both are also equally persistent in ensuring that the knowledge they have accumulated does not fall into other people's hands. For, as Mr. RAFAŁ HŁADZIAK, co-founder of Thunder Melody, says, this is the real value that cannot be bought.

Other products from the company that I tested, the VACUUM INFINITUM BLACK filter (HF ⸜ No. 204→ HERE) and the ESTACADE BLACK cable stands (HF ⸜ No. 218, test → HERE), showed similar thinking about sound and a similar goal. I could briefly describe it as "blackness". Blackness behind the sounds, blackness behind the recording, blackness instead of a galaxy of blurry lights.

Let me remind you that Mr. Raś and Mr. Hładziak "found" each other, quite by accident, on the forum. As the former says, it worked out only because his partner is an "open-minded man" and "knows how to listen." As he adds, it's also vital that he wants to test, not just theorize. And this is important because Konrad Raś is an experimental physicist who works in the software industry. He approaches issues in an organized way, knowing what he wants to achieve. Their products attest to the fact that they have found the golden mean in their business.

On a rainy August morning, at the editorial office of "High Fidelity", KONRAD RAŚ and RAFAŁ HŁADZIAK were interviewed by WOJCIECH PACUŁA.


WOJCIECH PACUŁA We are meeting on the occasion of testing the supply voltage conditioner – as this is what it may be called – the AC Graal.
KONRAD RAŚ Yes, this is the Graal in the Silver version.

WP Earlier we talked for a while about the different versions in which the Graal can be made. Such richness is a rather unprecedented business model. Your devices are scalable, modular and upgradable. But even the cheapest versions are more expensive than the most expensive versions of many other companies – where do these costs come from?
RAFAŁ HŁADZIAK Everything is hidden inside. We try to make our products as well-made as possible and to make them look as good as possible, which also costs money, but what is most important is inside. The components we use are very expensive.

KR But also techniques. It is as if we do something "just like that" or very precisely. To a layman, the result may seem similar, but in audio these are two different worlds. In our work we use all the good practices known in the world and those we have developed ourselves. And this takes time, requires using expensive materials, etc. In a word – costs. But only in such a case you can achieve really interesting results. To tell the truth, our margins are still not what they should be, they are too low.

WP To make things clear – does it mean that the components you use are so costly, more expensive than what the competition uses?
KR Yes, such an approach is truly expensive. The costs are so high that Rafał, for example, does not have some of the top Black versions of our products in his system, only Silver ones. I, too, am still getting to the Black version. But there is also a purpose in it, because although we are satisfied with the performance of the Silver version, we know that the Black version takes it to the heights.

WP The Thunder Melody offer is divided into three levels.
RH Yes, each of our products can be ordered in the basic "budget" Silver version, the advanced Gold version, and the top Black version. With the latter, there is actually no upper price limit, as you can then use multiplied techniques. Virtually each of our products can first be purchased in the Silver version and, over time, you can move towards upgrades to the Black version. Only some of the products do not offer this possibility due to design considerations, but the customer is informed about this in advance.

KR What is also costly is obtaining these materials and components, especially recently, for the last two years. The world is going crazy and prices, year by year, rise by 50%, and some even by 200%, not to mention poor availability of components.

WP An average audiophile, even one well-versed in the subject, has a problem with Thunder Melody products. Other power strips or conditioners can be dissected and looked at. And even if one understands little of it, they are convinced about the manufacturer’s transparency. And your product cannot be taken to pieces. Why?
KR We have already talked about components and materials, but know-how is the most expensive element. Obtaining it and accumulating knowledge until we get better results than the competition.

WP What did you start with? Where did the first TM products come from?
RH The story of our company started with Konrad and more modest ideas.
KR As an experimental physicist, I knew something about ways of obtaining the results that I’m interested in. It was necessary to gather the available knowledge together, so as not to do the same job twice, and then start to develop it, which means experiments and conclusions. That's what it is to know "how". So, I have a slightly different frame of reference than people who have been involved in audio from the beginning. From the very start, we have focused on other things than classic audio companies. And this is the knowledge we talked about earlier and our capital at the same time. That's why we don't want to share it.

I have such an analogy of mine, one related to the city of Toruń. During an astronomy exam, I was once asked the question: "What do we owe to Copernicus?" The answer is simple, but requires a slightly different type of thinking than normal. It is because Copernicus changed the point of reference, chose a different coordinate system. Just that – and as much as that. Before him, astronomical phenomena were also observed and described mathematically. Only that if the reference system was the Earth, corrections still had to be made in the formulas, as some anomalies crept into the results. As soon as the reference system was changed and the Sun was set in the center, the anomalies disappeared and the formulas began to "make sense".

It is similar in our case. We would always say: “noise, noise, noise”. This is our point of reference and the basis of operation. Everything is derived from the elimination of noise. We don't manipulate characteristics to make things "nice", because these are pre-Copernican corrections. Depending on where you use them, the results are... different, unpredictable.

RH But you need the right techniques for that.

WP So, first there was an idea, but then it was necessary to do something with it. So, where did you obtain the abovementioned techniques from?
RH It is the result of two years of intensive laboratory work. We are still working in the lab, but the beginning was the most important. We search, test and experiment. We don't do it haphazardly or randomly, but methodically, knowing what we want to learn. This is our capital.

KR Now we are at the stage of "budding" (multiplying) these initial ideas and working on their implementation.

WP And is it possible to fairly measure all this and interpret such measurements?
KR The problem is that in measurement theory, in order to measure something, you have to use a measurement system at least one order of magnitude more accurate than the element being measured. If we are dealing with phenomena that have a small measurement footprint, that are below the common background noise, then you would have to have even better cables, etc., than ours to measure them, and have even lower background noise in the measurement system. And that can't be done – it's like measuring zero Kelvin experimentally. Therefore, we rely on indirect experiments and conclusions.

WP So, how is it that such tiny changes, as they cannot even be correctly measured, influence sound so much? In other words, why do small changes in signal result in big changes in sound?
RH You see, the Pareto principle also applies to audio: 20% “microsignals” (when it comes to value) do 80% of the work.
KR You’ll probably be picking on us later on, but in practice it appears that we are the last to laugh… Over time, priorities and the importance the listener attaches to various elements of sound change. Everyone analyzes and delights in "bands", while we delight in the scale of reality, tangibility, truthfulness. Then, the things that previously occupied us recede into the background, but they also manifest themselves with something else.

RH The deeper we go into what is good in sound, the more things start to marginalize, and the importance of elements that we previously did not even consider begins to grow. Those things that are "revealed truths" for every audiophile today, such as acoustics, quality of electronics, etc., all lose their previous importance at some point.

It is clear that better gives better results – the better the acoustics, the better the electronics and the better the effect. We do not marginalize this. Being at a certain level, however, it turns out that everything starts to turn upside down. By the way, let's look at your system – the "around-the-system" components, such as cables, anti-vibration elements, products for minimizing or managing noise, etc., cost as much as the electronics and speakers. This is because mechanical and electrical de-noising of the system turns out to be the most important thing. After such a procedure, room acoustics cease to matter much.

KR And this is all against what is most often said, even against intuition. You must hear it to understand it – there’s no other way.
RH At first glance this is a heresy, but it is so – we have come to this based on the experiences of our customers. We wondered how to describe why this happens. It turned out that better and better de-noising of the system allows it to show finer and finer information contained in a recording.

KR Contrary to what is said, there is a lot of information in recordings – also on a CD or even in lossy mp3 files. It's so dense, so much information is there, it's hard to believe. And the so-called lossy mp3 shocks you when you get a whole lot of effects known from CD.
RH And it just so happens that this finest information in music is information on the acoustics of the recording itself. If, when playing music, we get dense information on the acoustics, then the acoustics of the room in which we are listening cease to matter much. It can't get through it.

KR Let me give an example. We have speakers and a listener, and the system reproduces a sound wave through a transducer. This wave reaches us in two ways – as a direct wave and as a reflected wave. When there are no low-level components in the signal, as in acoustics, these two ways overlap and we get their resultant with their "ups and downs." However, when we start "reproducing" more and more micro-information, it will only reach us as a direct wave – it is too small to be reflected and are extinguished by the walls and distance before they reach us as reflections.

If we have more and more of it, it is denser and denser, then the acoustics of the room become secondary, because the most important information about the acoustics, only that from the recording, reaches us "80%" directly anyway. Only that this information has to be extracted and reproduced from the recording. Please try switching a TV channel with an infrared remote control. You can do it directly, or bounce its beam off the wall or ceiling – we often do this and the phenomenon is widely used. But it is enough if the batteries are low (i.e. the signal is too low in amplitude) for this to fail – we need to point the remote control directly at the TV. This is the nano-information we are talking about.

WP OK, but how do you do it?
KR There are a bunch of such techniques and they are the company’s specialty.

WP Are these already existing things, just adopted by you? It is known that de-noising is also of importance to the military, computer, medical and measurement industries, etc.
KR I don't even know if such techniques are used in industry and on what scale. "It is enough" to observe the nature of phenomena, look at them and their results from a different perspective, draw conclusions and harness them to your work.

RH Taking everything apart, it is clear that some techniques are common. But we look at it differently – we see something different. Hence the different conclusions.
KR I am interested in other aspects. Perhaps that's why, at first glance, none of our solutions are associated with audio.

WP Can these things be patented?
KR Yes, most of our solutions meet patent requirements. However, we don't do that because we would have to disclose and describe them. And this is something we have worked on that has cost us a lot of time and money. We assume that if someone wants to get somewhere, they have to do it themselves.

Knowledge is the most important thing. For example, why does VACUUM work at all, even though it is not plugged into the audio circuit, but in the kitchen, for example. It's because the audio circuit is nothing special, like the Earth in our solar system. And everyone gives a separate fuse to it anyway, and that's it. And that's a mistake. It's the quintessential "good enough" approach which is good in consumer devices where we want to get good margins.

WP OK, let’s assume that de-noising is the most important thing in audio. But is it gradable?
RH Of course.

KR This is due to the structure of our hearing organ and our natural analyzer – the brain. Many people believe that they are too advanced in age to invest in audio equipment. They assume that since they are 70 years old and have a natural loss of high-frequency reception, they won't hear any changes in their system and, on top of that, starting a "new era" after 20-40 years of experience in audio is pointless, since one has already "flipped" so many hundreds of kilograms of electronics. And this, after all, is not the case.

The important thing is not whether the bandwidth decreases or not, but whether it decreases in an equalized way. This is because our brain acts like a bridge in measurements. When we measure very low resistance, we don't measure it directly, because we can't, but through a bridge, so we use differential measurements. And, let me remind you, small signals are the most important in audio. The brain analyzes space for us, and these are phase differences, time delays counted in milliseconds.

But it is also the case that we have strong and weak signals in this information. And the weak ones are "made" by our head. This cannot be captured even with the best measurements. You can do something by eye – that's helpful, too – but the result will only be a scalar, and here we start playing with vectors and tensors. Can we measure it with an oscilloscope, its power supply, its cables, its techniques?

WP OK, let's say this explains the operation of the power conditioner, power filters, ground, etc. But then, what about anti-vibration, how does it affect noise in the system?
RH It is also a kind of noise. Electronic components are subject to vibration as a result of the so-called microphone effect. It is assumed to be a problem in tube technology, but it actually also affects passive components and semiconductors, as well as cables.

WP Do even such small changes affect sound?
RH Of course – the less noise in the system, the better. And microphonics is a serious problem. It is thanks to mechanical and electrical de-noising that we get spectacular space.

KR People often confuse such inflated, supernatural and spectacular "space" with the real space that is in the acoustics of the recording. I'll give you one example of an experience familiar to anyone who used to listen to FM stations in stereo on headphones and necessarily used an analog "knob" for tuning. When we are untuned to an FM station, such as 100 MHz, we hear mono noise. We start to move the knob closer to the frequency of the station, and a moderately audible broadcast "pops up" before this station, already in stereo, but with noise. But then there is hyperspace, outer space, abstracting from the content of the broadcast.

We tune down further and we have 100 MHz and – "focus", black background and quiet (compared to this hyperspace). Untuned space is spectacular, tuned space is normal. Which is more real? Why is it so? Let the reader think about it. When they understand this, they will look at what they have at home, their views and long-standing knowledge differently. Only they must also keep in mind what the nature of stereophony is and how it is "understood" by our brain.

KR At the same time, from talking to people, it seems that improvement in audio is something like reaching a limit, and the closer we get, the less change there is in it.
RH I know what you want to say :)
KR We see it differently, not as an asymptotic curve, but as a fractal. The deeper we go, the more happens, not less. What was small opens up and becomes big, and so on, endlessly.

WP You have a ready-made offer. Which parts in the audio system are the most important, where would you start?
RH It's actually simple – from the power supply. This is the basis of everything. If we allow ourselves to make big compromises, we can have a system for two million and it won't play as well as it could. But let's put up a system for thirty thousand, but one taken good care of by us, and it will play 10 times more satisfactorily. Power supply plays a key role in this. "We listen to what we feed the system with”.

KR That's why we've recently specialized in "gutting" our customers' power boxes. We start with the cabinet. We use our techniques and components, etc. We replace all the automatics with fuses equipped with our technologies. Plus, we add our wiring. What comes out of there goes back through the speaker and flows back to the power plant through the box. Looking at a speaker, I see, to put it simply, the tip of a transformer soldering iron.

WP Most non-electricians get the impression that current in speakers comes from a source, such as a CD or turntable.
KR That’s not the case. The current in speakers comes from the amplifier power supply socket, though it is modulated by current from the source. Hence the importance of power supply in signal creation and transmission. So, you have to start with the box, through cables in the wall, if possible, the conditioner, and then the filters.

Anti-vibration should be the next step. No matter what kind of cables we have, how good the current situation is, it will change strongly with good anti-vibration equipment. This is the case with our cable stands. We have had some situations where, after putting them under cables, the owners stated that "now I see that these are very good cables", so "why change them?".

RH Yes, everything was suddenly starting to sound good. And I would still start by de-vibrating the power supply. The Estacade stands are, by the way, the best choice, because by inserting the Monument platform under one element, we improve only that single element. And by inserting several Estacade stands in different places in the system, we get much more than with a single element.

WP I will also ask you about grounding – all TM products have it. How much weight does it have in relation to the basic range of operation of platforms, filters, etc.?
KR Grounding is like a sewer.
RH Grounding is a component that allows you to remove noise from the system. It can be omitted, but in this way we do not fulfill the potential of our products. Anyway, audio requires a comprehensive approach. It can be done point-by-point with individual products. However, it is much better to make corrections in many different places, even if they cost as much as one big correction. The effect will be much better.

RH Often a small element "finalizing" the corrections makes everything "jump" into place. That's why it's not worth neglecting little things.
KR For us, audio is a manageable thing. Not voodoo, not chance, but the sum of moves that can be planned and whose effects can, to a large extent, be predicted. It is knowledge, engineering and experience.