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|Reviewer: Ken Micallef
Digital Source: McIntosh MVP 861, McCormack UDP1, Linn Unidisk 1.1 [on loan]
Analog Source: Kuzma Stabi/Kuzma Stogi turntable/arm combo
Preamp: Shindo Monbrison
Amp: BAT VK-75 (equipped with Tungsol, Raytheon VT-231s, RCA 5692s), Art Audio Concerto [on loan]
Speakers: Ars Aures Mini Sensorial [in for review], DeVore Super 8 [on loan]
Cables: Stealth PGS-XL and 3D ICs, 3MLT Hybrid speaker cables [in for review]; Auditorium A23 speaker cables, Crystal Cable Micro Speak interconnects
Stands: Salamander Archetype rack, 2" Mapleshade platforms (8" x 15" x 2"), Blue Circle custom amp stand (for BAT)
Powerline conditioning: JPS Labs Kaptovator, Shunyata Black Mamba and Anaconda Vx Powersnakes
Accessories: Mapleshade Surefoot and Heavyfoot brass points and IsoBlocks; (8) RPG ProFoam damping panels/ceiling treatment, Mapleshade Ionoclast for static cling, HALO-O Tube Dampers
Room size: 24' x 12' with 10-13' sloped ceiling, short-wall setup
Retail Price: $400/pr including cable
Super Tweeters! Ultra Tweeters! The Omnipotent Tweeters of Infinite Impending Doom! The very words super and ultra put me in mind of an advertising campaign for Mr. Clean glass cleaner. These tired Madison Ave. derived phrases light up all those invaded neurological synapses that savvy marketers love to control and then harness in our consumer-addled, free-market driven brains. On the other hand, consumers often tune out hype. Does anyone believe anything is really 'super' or 'new and improved' anymore? But enough moaning. You know better than to be taken in by such folderol. You do your home work, listen and compare, then come to a reasoned decision based on hours of note taking, A/B'ing of gear and scouring of reviews. So when a product like Golden Sound's Ultra Tweeter comes along, you allow them the unimaginative name and get down to a serious evaluation of their stated claims.
A look at Golden Sound's online literature states that the small, barely 1.5"x 3"x 2.5" oval shaped wooden donuts will perform the nearly impossible but don't expect to 'hear' them as you would a conventional speaker. "These remarkable speakers," the site claims, "sold in pairs, operate at extremely high frequencies -- much higher than the audio band -- actually in the microwave band above 1 Gigahertz. The Ultra Tweeters are connected to the output terminals of existing speakers with speaker cables -- preferably light, flexible ones -- since the Ultra Tweeters themselves are quite light. The Ultra Tweeter principle of operation is very unconventional. They don't generate sound in the audio band or even in the 20-100KHz band like super tweeters. They function in the Gigahertz band normally used for satellite and microwave communications. Ultra Tweeters organize and improve the energy flow in signal conductors as well as the internal wiring of speaker drivers, making the audio system perform more efficiently and synergistically."
|If I read this correctly, the Ultra Tweeters work far above the range of human hearing and thereby somehow affect|
|the very internal wiring of your main speakers, making them work in a more proficient and capable manner. "With Ultra Tweeters installed, the audio system produces a wider frequency bandwidth, lowers its noise floor, generates more 'air' and lower distortion. Ultra Tweeters are compatible with all speakers and because they operate at such extremely high frequencies, one does not have to worry about beaming, time alignment of drivers or matching the acoustic output of the existing speakers. Operation: Ultra Tweeters may be placed on top of the existing speaker cabinets. They may also be placed in any other convenient location since they do not behave like conventional super tweeters. In fact, Ultra Tweeters will even improve the performance of systems that already include high-performance super-tweeters."
Understanding that I could place the Ultra Tweeters literally anywhere and still receive their benefits, I put them in the most obvious place, atop the DeVore Super 8s I have on loan (they wouldn't fit on the sloped cabinets of the Ars Aures Mini Sensorial). The connecting cables that came with the Ultra Tweeters (which themselves arrived extremely well packed) was quite inferior and so thin I could bend it like a coat hanger. I replaced it with a run of moderate gauge, off-the-spool Rat Shack cable. [The entire concept of the Ultra Tweeters is deeply mysterious. Their operational bandwidth is 1000 million times above any actual signal encoded on any known CD, SACD or vinyl record ever pressed. How do they even derive a GHz signal? These are passive devices. Whatever frequencies they emit must thus be triggered by the random voltage that is the music signal. This fluctuating voltage then either modulates the Ultra Tweeters or becomes simply a form of steady-state ultrasonic noise/dither. Common wisdom attempts to isolate circuitry and wiring from ultrasonic pollution, not deliberately generate it inside the listening environment. And what type of device lives behind what has been styled like the slot of a compression driver - a coil or piezo driver? And what electrical or mechanical parameters in an audio system are supposed to be affected by this ultrasonic noise? And how? Needless to say and as with the Intelligent Chip, far more common sense questions are raised than answered - Ed.]
Bring out your best
So many records to choose from! As a record reviewer for various publications, I'm sent more CDs than I can ever listen to. Some are good, most are trash. Still, my coffers are always flush with tunes. What would you do - stick with a standby that you know well or try something new? I opted for a new record by acclaimed French jazz guitarist Philip Catherine. Brussels Jazz Orchestra's Meeting Colors [Dreyfus FDM 38675] is a big band/orchestral recording with the guitarist maneuvering explosive charts, a few rich ballads and a handful of almost soundtrack-worthy selections, with the overall vibe one of guitar flames and big band fireworks. Performing Catherine's exquisite compositions, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra proves that the big band format is as resounding, rich and expressionist as ever, enabling the guitarist to sail though the songs with a glimmering, beautiful flow. By simply disconnecting the positive wire from the Ultra Tweeters, it was easy very to judge their benefits or lack thereof.
|Playing the Catherine disc with the Ultra Tweeter engaged, I could discern added resonance and extension mostly in the upper treble. Snare drum and cymbals had more bite and slightly more sheen and trumpet also displayed a higher, hotter sound. Massed brass instruments were more defined and discernable. Perhaps more interesting, upper bass response seemed improved, acoustic bass having more articulation and focus. Was this change any more than I would have heard by placing some Walker ValidPoints under the CD player or perhaps exchanging my already energy-inducing Crystal Cables ICs for something even more pronounced and transparent? I don't think so. For 400 bucks, the Ultra Tweeters extended the
|treble response of the Super 8s if only to a tiny degree. A subtle improvement was there without added glare or grain but I am not sure if the difference was something I would miss later on. And it was not so much an improvement as a different sound - a different view into the music. Whether that view would be your view can ultimately only be determined by an audition but I can comfortably report that the Ultra Tweeters did perform a desirable change in my system. Would they perform this same subtle change of sound and color with less pricey speakers?
I am reviewing the Onix three-in-one value system for Downbeat magazine (Onix SP3 tube integrated, Onix XCD-88 CD player and Reference 1 LE speakers) previously covered in parts and raved over by Srajan. I experienced the same satisfaction as our head honcho with this Australian designed, Chinese built combo. The star of the system is surely the SP3 integrated amp, followed by the LE1 speakers and the XCD 88 player. Would the Ultra Tweeters enable the $299 Onix speakers to sing more sweetly and soar more succinctly or swear like a sailor?
Mini system, big sound
I pulled out an old favorite to evaluate the Ultra Tweeters with the Onix system, Miles Davis' Milestones [Columbia Legacy CK 85203]. Recorded in 1958, the record has amazing upper treble transients compliments of Philly Joe Jones' dexterous snare drum jabs and ride cymbal, Red Garland's sparkling piano work and Miles' muted trumpet glare. Milestones simply explodes from the speakers no matter how many times I play it or whatever system I drop it into. I ran the evaluation process in reverse this time, beginning with the Ultra Tweeters in line, then removing them.
|Everything sounded dynamite! The '50s quintet smoked on opener "Dr. Jackle", played topsy-turvy on "Billy Boy" and blew down the house on Monk's classic "Straight, No Chaser". The music sparkled with life and information both in the midrange-to-treble areas as well as in the overall presentation, which though small of scale through the Onix system, was fully fleshed out and believable. Upright bass was fat and nutty if overripe and one-note-y. Philly Joe's ride cymbal was particularly well portrayed, his loping energy, funky articulation and dry cymbal tone snapping and crackling throughout. I was almost afraid to remove the Ultra Tweeters, concerned that the energy would flag and the soundstage collapse.
And that is pretty much what happened. With the UTs out of the system, that wonderful sense of flow, energy and sparkle had gone missing. Everything still snapped but with nowhere near the potency of life force. The music became blander, less exciting and much less focused. The tight soundstage I enjoyed with the UTs now sounded more diffuse and bloated. Bass increased though - and not to a small extent. So while mid to upper treble suddenly became sallow and sodden, bass weight increased. Still, I much preferred the zing, snap, crackle and pop the Ultra Tweeters delivered.
The Golden Sound Ultra Tweeters performed literal wonders with the $299 Onix LE1s, improving their performance in almost every area. They made the small bookshelf speakers come alive with great detail, extension, snap and focus. They truly gassed the small system to what must be the height of its performance. I wouldn't want to listen to the Onix speakers without the UTs. The Ultra Tweeters made much less of a difference with the DeVore Super 8s, only slightly altering their already exceptional treble resolution. And the change was not so much an improvement as a change of color and a very subtle change if at all. So ... results will most likely vary in your rig and with your speakers. The UT's talents may not depend on price points either but how well they mesh with a speaker's particular crossover point, driver selection and even room placement. One other thing remains to be learned about Golden Sound's Ultra Tweeters. What the heck does JSMR mean emblazoned across these devices?
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