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At RMAF 05, Audio Magic's Jerry Ramsey demoed a new product called the Quantum Physics Noise Disruptor. It's designed to combat unwanted electro-magnetic interference or EMI. The effect of him placing and then removing the paperback-sized plastic boxes from the top of components -- preferably over power supplies -- was enough to have me request a pair for review. There is a smaller version for use inside components too. In fact, Audio Magic now includes the Noise Disruptors inside their line of PLCs. Jerry didn't say much about what exactly is in these mysterious devices. Apparently there are three different materials subjected to extreme pressure and then treated via a special gaseous procedure that enable the innards to work their magic.

The boxes are sealed so I couldn't inspect the insides. However, there appear to be some sort of pellets inside as I could hear them rattling around when I moved the Disruptor. I don't have a technical explanation for how this product works but the effects were real to me and not unlike the Shakti Electromagnetic Stabilizer products. My guess is that both products are similar in design and somehow absorb and dissipate electromagnetic interference.

Placing the Noise Disruptor on top of my CD player or next to components and even power cables, I mostly noted an overall reduction in noise and hash. My system's noise floor seemed reduced as I could hear more low-level detail during music playback. I didn't note enhanced soundstaging or imaging per se. However, dynamics and overall drive and coherence were improved. The overall effect was less electronic grunge and more music. While I view products such as these with some skepticism, both versions of the Noise Disruptor are hardly expensive and are worthy of further investigation unless you happen to live inside a giant Faraday cage (in which case you probably won't need 'em).

I then decided to check out Calgary-based Skylan Stands after enthusiastic recommendations from Green Mountain Audio's Roy Johnson and fellow 6moons writers Stephæn Harrell and Jeff Day. For further info on Skylan and cool assembly pics, see here & here. When I purchased my review pair of GMA Callistos, I bought a pair of standard hollow steel stands filled with lead pellets as opposed to the effective yet expensive stands first borrowed from a local dealer. With my new stands, the performance of the Callistos took a small yet noticeable hit. No matter where I positioned the speakers, I was plagued with a slightly bright, hard metallic edge and a lack of body as though bass extension was rolling off a little earlier than with the other stands. This all became quite distracting. I couldn't figure it out. Can stands have that much of an impact on speaker performance? Then I remembered how Roy Johnson mentioning that Skylan stands were an excellent match with his speakers (he even recommends them on the GMA site). So I fired off an email to Skylan's Noel Nolan. Needless to say, a pair of 24" stands, custom designed for my Callistos, appeared on my doorstep within days. That's right, custom designed.

As Jeff mentioned in his review, Noel's stands are a breeze to set up and arrive well packaged with detailed instructions and even a wrench and funnel for adding ballast (mass loading). The only task left was to pick up a bag of silica sand normally used for sandblasting. My local building supply center to the rescue. It took all of perhaps thirty minutes to set up the stands, level them and fill them with sand.

Skylan's stands consist of one or more hollow columns made from a custom extruded polymer (blended grades of poly vinyl and virgin vinyl) with 1/8" wall thickness. This material has excellent strength without the resonance issues of steel. The MDF base features die-cast threaded inserts for the included adjustable steel spikes and flat feet while the top plate, also MDF, incorporates neoprene decoupling pads to improve the speaker/stand interface plus sealable openings for adding sand. The stands are quite attractive with their rounded corners and understated black finish.

Noel pointed out via email that "I have the top plate on your stands set up a bit differently than normal as the Callisto cabinet is very heavy and supported by a small footprint. There are two steel discs at the front of the top plate with a very thin layer of a polyester polyurethane on top to give the speaker base an almost direct contact with the stand and allow resonance to pass into the stand but not allow the Callisto's marble enclosure to vibrate on the steel discs. Since the speaker is heavy, the two rear polyurethane tabs are widened to give a high coefficient of friction and coupling between the cabinet base and stand's top plate while adding a safety factor."

I also had a brief phone chat with Noel who, as an audiophile, is quite passionate about his work. It quickly became obvious that Noel is very old school. That is, no BS pseudo science, just solid trial-and-error experimentation and common sense engineering with a dash of customer service and an eye for the little things. Examples? Hand-written instructions, clever packaging, the nice fit and finish of the stands and the included wrench and funnel.

Upon firing up my system with my Callistos perched on Noel's stands, the unwelcomed edge and hollowness I heard via my old stands had gone poof. I also scooped up a touch more bottom end. Across the board, my GMAs sounded smoother and fuller and offered greater bass definition. While I'm sure that certain SOTA stands exist that might improve upon the Skylans, they no doubt cost considerably more than the roughly $200 Noel's stands retail for. The performance of the Zu Tones I'm currently auditioning also went up a notch or two with the Skylans. This brings up another point in their favor: Noel offers custom stands not only for Green Mountain Audio but also for Omega Loudspeakers, Zu, Harbeth, Reference 3A and others. Give him a call or fire off an email. Noel will be happy to build stands for your speakers. He also offers custom component stands and isolation platforms. At $227 for a pair of 24" stands, this is an audiophile bargain. Before you drop the big bucks on those fancy steel stands, save yourself some green and give Noel a call. These are unbeatable for the price. Needless to say, I am purchasing the Skylan stands for my continued personal use.

Several months ago, I was on the hunt for an affordable CD player that wouldn't burn my ears nor empty my beaten and battered wallet. Based on our editor's review of the Eastern Electric Minimax as well as other positive comments by satisfied owners on the various online forums, I bought one. Hey, I read reviews too and sometimes I even ignore my own advice and buy without auditioning first. I've had the Minimax in-house now for several months and heartily concur with the boss. He's not deaf after all. It's been my experience that spending big bucks on Redbook players doesn't necessarily cough up more resolution or enjoyment. In fact, many highly touted expensive CD players either bore me or attempt to jam ice-cold steel spikes through my forehead. In the realm of digital, fat wallets don't always get you phat sound. Therefore, I decided to go the other way. Instead of trying to get as much so-called resolution as possible, I aimed for smooth and non-fatiguing. If I gave up some resolution in the process, so be it. No doubt due in part to the Minimax's valved output stage, this is one of the better players I've heard at any price. Plus there's the added bonus of tube rolling, which I'll get to in a moment.

My Minimax came in handsome black livery as opposed to the standard silver. This is one sharp looking, well built player and a pretty good sounding one to boot. I can't recall hearing such a pleasing machine for so little cash. Sonics were ever so slightly velvety, even romantic without smothering the music with a wet blanket. Nor did it carve the music up with a razor blade either. This Asian import had a natural, easy manner about it with decent drive and rhythmic acuity that helped me forget that I wasn't listening to a vinyl rig. But only to a certain point of course.

As for tube rolling? Finding a decent pair of NOS 6922/6DJ8s under $100 was a tall order. The NOS market has gone nuts as far as I can tell. What sold for $60 two years ago now commands four to five times that. Heck, I saw some 6922s going for over $200 a pair on various websites. Who buys this stuff? I imagine this will only get worse as more tube-hoarding audiophiles snap up valves for their collections. I settled on a pair of Philips Miniwatt tubes which are identical to one of the myriad Amperex valves (I forget which model) that connoisseurs pay big bucks for just to get the fancy name and logo. Cripes, I want to hear the damn things, not hide them in my closet. Philips Holland manufactured tubes for several brands including Amperex. You can't always go by the name on the tube. Anyway, the Miniwatts were audibly superior to the stock Electro-Harmonix. Smooth yet vibrant, transparent with enhanced body and good bass extension were the dominant qualities of this tube. I also noted a touch more ambience and trailing note decay. I'm sure there are many other tubes that would work as well if not better in certain areas but the Miniwatts work just fine for me, thank you very much.

This Chinese disc spinner gets a strong recommendation for those looking for a CD player in this and up to two or three times higher price range. I'm happy. It's what I'm listening to in the big rig and the MiniMax shows up in each of my reviews...