Slipstream Magic Bullets
as reviewed by Dave Clark
I have a history of being a tweak. If someone makes some gadget for an audio system, doggone it, I try it. Some have made subtle differences, but not really improvements. Others made a difference for the worse, while others have made a difference that, while subtle for some, were enough of an improvement for me to make them permanent additions to our system. Unfortunately, none fall into a single category. For example, cones and feet fall into all three categories:
1) Some make a difference, but I could live with the sound either way, so who cares?
2) Some make an improvement.
3) Some make things sound worse.
The truth is—different system, different listener, different results. Then, along came the latest and greatest from Jack Bybee. I have been interested in the Bybee devices for some time and even acquired a sample pair to review a year or so ago. However, since it was necessary to solder them into the speakers at the positive terminals, and since my preamp inverts phase, what would I do if I got another preamp for review? Too many choices, too many decisions! I guess I was not sufficiently motivated to take the plunge, so off they went to Francisco, who fell in love with them and has now installed several pairs in his speakers.
What we have here is a different animal. These are the new Bybee Slipstream Magic Bullets or Slipstream Quantum Purifiers, not the older Quantum Purifiers. These carbon-fiber-based purifiers represent Jack's continuing development of his technology to address noise at the quantum level. Noise at the quantum level, you ask? Well to make it as simple as possible for you, and even more so for me, let me quote from the Bybee website:
If that is not simple enough, or perhaps too simple, Dick Olsher of enjoythemusic.com explained it a bit differently in a review of the older Purifiers that appeared over a year ago. I assume that Dick's explanation applies to the Slipstream version, and that the new version is simply better at addressing quantum noise. Dick wrote:
Let me see if I've got this straight. Noise is unavoidably generated at the quantum level by the flow of electrons, in either a component or wire. This noise is not heard as noise, but as an obscuring of the music signal, much like the corona of the sun distorts the visual edge of the sun's circumference, or how a soft-focus lens hides the finer details of a photographic image—you can easily see the image, but it is blurred. If we could remove this quantum noise, the musical signal would be cleaner and more defined, with less distortion. We would hear more of the music, as it snaps into greater focus. We would not be retrieving details lost in the mix, but the overall clarity of the recorded event, and we would not only hear more detail, but gains in soundstage, ambience, air, palpability, etc.
Perhaps also, quantum noise requires greater unconscious effort on the part of the listener, who must listen past it to get to the music. If so, putting the Slipstream Quantum Purifiers in a system should cause the listener(s) to exert less effort, thereby creating less stress. Other tweaks have similar results, but these are usually related to a smoothing of the musical signal by a softening of the top end. There is plenty of noise that rides above the music's highest frequencies, and removing this noise is paramount in getting to the music on an LP or CD, but too many products address this by cutting too deeply into the higher end of the frequency spectrum. The ideal is an extended top end with no added noise from the AC and other crap that pollutes the sonic environment. I use many approaches—AC filtration, dedicated circuits, Walker Audio High Definition Links, and more—to fight this evil scum, all with excellent results.
So if we are right, then both explanations indicate that the Bybee Quantum Purifiers address noise in a way that is not frequency dependent. Therefore, while the Slipstream Quantum Purifiers presumably make it easier to listen to the music by eliminating noise, it is not at the expense of a rolled off top end. There should still be plenty of top end detail—possibly even more—meaning that the Bybees will not make a bright system or recording less bright. It might even make them brighter!
So far I have only tried two Slipstream Purifiers, one per channel at the inputs of the amplifiers (that is, at the ends of the interconnects coming from the preamp). While I could just as easily have used them elsewhere in the system, I reasoned that if they "filter" the quantum noise created within the audio chain, it is best to do so as close to the end of the chain as possible—at the amps, before the noise is amplified or passed onto the speakers. Though the amplifiers, speaker cables, and speakers generate their own quantum noise, the speaker versions did not like my terminations and did not stay put. Several manufacturers are now using the Slipstream Quantum Purifiers inside their speakers for this reason, and then there are all the guys who use them inside CD players at the outputs and/or the AC inputs. I know people who use the Slipstream Quantum Purifiers at just about every connection, so I am going to try two more at the outputs of the preamplifier. Since I am running three-meter interconnects, it may be a good idea to have the benefit of another set, although this may be too much of a good thing. I will report on this in a follow-up.
For now, all I can say is that the Purifiers do what they are supposed to do, and do it very well. With the two Purifiers in my system, the music flows with a greater sense of ease—it is simply more musical, and more whole. There is less stress (to the music and to me), with no loss of detail or treble extension. I hear more of everything that I want to hear, as the music comes across with an increase in clarity and presence. There is more air, more space, more thereness—it sounds so much more like real music. It is as if the Purifiers have removed an ever-so-subtle soft focus. Images stand out with greater dimensionality and there is more space. I hear further into the mix with a lot less effort, and the ebb and flow—not only of the music but of the instruments themselves—comes across with more power and ease. Texture is turned up several notches, as is that ever-elusive quality of musicality. With the Slipstream Quantum Purifiers in the system, music rocks!
Get rid of quantum noise and you will be amazed at how good things can sound. You never knew it was there until it is gone. It's sort of like wearing glasses without knowing that you need an adjustment in your prescription. Get that new prescription and wow, things look so much crisper and cleaner. I thought my system sounded great before, but now it sounds even better. Are there any downsides? None, except the cost of admission, and while the Bybees are not exactly cheap, their cost is quite reasonable given their effect. Oh and they did not make things brighter—just better! Highly recommended. Dave Clark