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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, 1TB iMac via FireWire 800 into Weiss DAC2
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03 (transistor), ModWright DM 36.5 (valves)
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5
Speakers: Gallo Strada & TR3 [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline
Stands: ASI HeartSong - 2 x 3-tier stands, 2 x amp stands
Powerline conditioning: 1 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters, Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall & Corner units
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.

"I'll have what she's having." That's of course the improvised line from When Harry Met Sally, just after Meg Ryan has faked her famously animated orgasm sitting in a NYC deli. Public embarrassment be damned, once you read what Rainer Weber, technical director of Kaiser Acoustics and designer of the Kawero speakers, has to say about the Blackbodies, you might want to have what he's having:


"My system consist of an Oyaide power distribution block; Echole cables; VertexAQ platforms and power conditioners; Holger Stein tuning feet and auxiliaries; GTE Trinity DAC and AMP; Weiss Vesta Firewire to S/PDIF converter; xxhighend software; dedicated music PC; Mastersound 845 monos in their Signature Edition; Absolare pure tube preamp; Kuzma Stabi XL4 with 4-point arm; My Sonic Lab cartridge; and Kaiser Kawero speaker. And a lot of acoustic room treatments.


Kawero with Raal ribbon, Audio Technology mid/woofer, Mundorf & Duelund filter parts
 

"Meanwhile I have seven Blackbodies in the system. They work fantastically. I must admit that even the step from #6 to #7 is very clearly audible. In my system these devices work very well in the vicinity of the power sections of the components I use. Near the power distribution block is also a very good place to put them. Even on top of our external tweeter housing—made from very rigid and inert bullet-proof 'tankwood'—the improvement was audible. I only removed it there because of design issues. With seven Blackbodies I now achieve a more stable improvement which means that just moving one Blackbody does not completely disturb the effects.


"Those effects are better timing and transients; more clarity; less shouting at high volumes; no loss of staging, articulation and involvement at lower levels; and an incredible increase in soundstage depth with very solid focus. All this is typical for reduced RFI and EMI interference.


"I also have four Steinmusic H2 (2 x variant A, 2 x variant B) in the showroom. I think the Lessloss BB is better at optimizing the tone colors or secondary harmonics whereas the H2s are phenomenal at improving the soundstage. In general both devices improve the sound a lot and I would not like to remove them. The Steinmusic effect is adjustable by pot. Be careful. Too much is too much and the sound then gets a little artificial. The Lessloss performance increases and increases when you add another BB. Until now I have not encountered the limit of BB units where you say that adding another one is no longer an improvement or even worse, becomes too much. Anyone who wants to listen to the system with the Blackbodies is welcome to visit me in Regensburg, Germany."


It's exceedingly rare to see a science-minded audio professional and manufacturer go on public record about somebody else's clearly esoteric and likely quite controversial audio accessory. Because Rainer was having what I was having—or more precisely the reverse since he'd gotten there first—I felt it meaningful to include his AudiogoN comment from the previously referenced thread. It's the more relevant for Rainer's obviously strategic employment of professional acoustic treatments. Those did not render the Blackbodies redundant. It underscores that the realm they operate in is not addressed by conventional acoustic absorbers, diffusors and reflectors.


Where's my compass? Louis Motek then threw an additional consideration on the fire. "Situate yourself facing south. Place the Blackbodies in front of you facing north. That should give you or your gear the ultimate effect. I don't know why this is. I only speak from experience with gear because my hearing is very sensitive and I trust it completely. When the Blackbody looks through the gear towards the north, the best sound is achieved. It follows that, actually, the setup of an audio system in a room can be sensitive not only to the acoustical phenomena but also to the magnetic direction the speakers and gear are placed in. So it could very well be that the best of all good purpose-built listening rooms have to take direction into account, too. There's an opera house in Vilnius which is notorious for its bad acoustics. Also see the saga about the infamous acoustics and all the projects done in the New York Philharmonic hall next to the wonderful sounding Metropolitan Opera House. They are located at 90¬į angles to each other. The Metropolitan was great from the start, the Philharmonic hall horrible and all later reconstruction effort did not save it from disaster."

The very first place I set up two Blackbodies was in pincer fashion around my iMac, one on either end of the screen. It didn't take long to notice that my brain no longer felt assaulted from this powerful computer's radiations with its Blutooth mouse and keyboard. Whether this meant wholesale elimination of its emissions or just a significant enough reduction to provide tacit physical relief I couldn't say. What mattered was that as far as an electromagnetically hyper-active physical presence went, the iMac now felt no different to me than the conventional Ancient Audio CD player it replaced. Yousa. I subsequently learnt that one Blackbody on the iMac already did the trick. Two devices were overkill. This also meant I could retain the wireless Magic Mouse and keep it within reach in the listening seat once I get a small wooden side table for that purpose.


The next Blackbody was aimed at my Walker Audio Velocitor S which supplies all the low-level components with AC. Then the Weiss DAC got one and the Esoteric C-03 another. I lived with that for a number of days before I placed one behind the FirstWatt F5 angled at its power transformer. Whether by addition and critical mass or whether this high-level component benefited to a more pronounced degree than the low-level devices I don't know but #5 was sonically very pronounced.


The type of change these devices accrued is very audible in transient peaks particularly on percussive noises whose startle factor—the degree by which they shoot out of the surrounding sound carpet and trick you into small adrenaline rushes—gets very pronounced. Tiny tinkles and clacks and tizzes from fingering noises peel out more of their surroundings. The effect is quite similar to hearing very good time-coherent speakers like the Gallo Reference 3.5s after listening to transducers with more severe phase shifts. The soundstage is sorted better and transient acuity is higher. Subliminal blur gets steadied, fuzziness wiped away. Everything gets more on the money. And yes, cough, the fiscal part here still remains to be discussed.


The second aspect which intruded without conscious volition into my attention were the tone colors. This was similar to cleaning up bass and thus, diluting its overlaying thickening action on the midband. The sound got thinner not by washing out but by crystallizing into more harmonics. It shed some fake warmth that was really obscuration and shadows. This reminded me a bit of getting 'tchanged', i.e. exposed to Franck Tchang's acoustic resonators and then his implementation of the same thinking in resonator-enhanced loudspeakers. With his devices, upper harmonics and their fine impact on shifts in tonal hues become more pronounced as something which previously damped them is removed. It's not about adding faux sparkle. It's about subtracting darkness. In their own way, the Blackbodies did something similar. Besides being able to hear more deeply into tone modulations, I enjoyed a greater penetration into the far reaches of the soundstage. Greater clarity farther back.


Relatedly, the overall sense of purity enhanced. This I related to a lowering of inner noise as opposed to obvious external noise from background din, transformer hum, tube microphonics, ground loops and such. Unlike certain powerline devices which can inject negative silence by overdamping, this type of silence—less etheric activity is perhaps more accurate— felt perfectly benign and easy. It neither choked nor conveyed an absence as some noise killer devices can. Threading these observations together meant higher intelligibility at lower levels. This I prize very highly as an intelligent practical quality that doesn't need to shout to convey all of the intended message. Conversely, playing loud now delayed the onset of 'too much' where the nervous system overloads somehow and asks pointedly for a reduction in output.


Dollars and sense: I'm inclined to concur with Rainer's assessment. The Blackbody action might be quite endlessly additive (or should that be addictive?). What it strips away is subtle gunk. This reveals more of what's underneath. It cannot strip away anything it shouldn't - like real signal. It can't diminish treble, add bass or work as an equalizer or tone control.


I can however imagine to ultimately not needing more than a fixed number of Blackbodies once a given listening room is sufficiently purged where more EMI/RFI trapping no longer registers appreciably. The real test for this effect comes when one removes the Blackbodies after having settled into their changes. Once the—quickly forgotten— coarseness from before reasserts itself, one wants to go back immediately. As Marja & Henk put it, that's quite a scary implication. The forcefulness of this impulse is the meter by which the material cost of the Blackbodies should be judged.


Louis Motek clearly spent money on appearance which arguably does nothing for effectiveness. But he runs a business, not an audio charity. All is as it should be. $6.000 for a sextet is serious change of course. That sum can buy a complete and completely rocking system. I actually have one just like it. Mine is an AIFF-loaded iPod with Peachtree Audio iDecco, Gallo Stradas on stands and a matching TR-3 subwoofer leashed up with some cryo-treated ALO Audio cabling. Clearly an owner of such a system is not expected to double his investment with LessLoss and call that a sanely balanced expenditure. Once you're $20.000 or a lot deeper into this game however, I'd expect you to be quite comfortable knowing what component upgrades, cable swaps and various doodads can and cannot accomplish. Then you'll probably acknowledge that this particular Blackbody benefit isn't to be had by any of them.


No matter what designer piece of hifi you might buy; no matter how shiny, expensive, overbuilt and sonically awesome; it will always be an EMI generator that's susceptible to other EMI generators. No man is an island, no audio component operates in a vacuum without leaving traces. While going from a $2.000 to a $5.000 preamp might produce changes in tone color, image density and dynamics which fully justify the expense, continuing on that route ad infinitum quickly hits seriously diminishing returns. The undeniable Blackbody benefit reminds us to (first or eventually) create more benign operating conditions for our present components. They should more fully deliver what they're capable of. If they already did, the Blackbodies should be utterly ineffective. Which they clearly aren't. That fact may not preclude the desire or need to upgrade solid components if by implication we view the Blackbodies as more 'etheric' in how they function. It simply means that once our system has arrived at a certain base level of maturity and equilibrium, it's sensible to worry about creating more pristine working conditions for it. Listening next to a machine shop isn't sensible after all. Nor is denial about our increased exposure to ultrasonic radiation. Just because that's invisible and inaudible doesn't mean it's not real or has no effects on our senses and our audio kit.


In sequence of offenders to our goals towards unmolested audio playback, acoustic interference from the room itself is by far the biggest. That gets a life sentence. Physical vibration contamination is very concrete and real too but secondary to the gross linearity deviations which are caused by acoustics. If it were my money, I'd first address those two significant items after I'd acquired my sound makers of audio hardware to actually have sound. As a recent adopter of serious PC audio, my inclination would be to tackle much of the room equation in the software domain directly on the digital files. Physical vibration control is handled by purpose-designed stands and loudspeaker decoupling from the floor. To sort through the available offerings and allocate the necessary funds takes time.


At what juncture should the Blackbodies enter our upgrade considerations? Louis Motek would obviously prefer sooner than later. I'd say that room acoustics and bad physical vibes are far grosser contaminants that need to be handled first to some practical extent. Then experiment with the Blackbodies. I predict you'll easily hear what they do. I also predict you'll agree that just where and how they accelerate audio progress is unique and not readily duplicated by another device (at least none I'm currently aware of). How many Blackbodies you'll consider sensible as based on their cost I can't predict. It seems obvious that they add up quickly both on the checkbook and on sonic benefits. I'm not sure where in the Blackbody scheme of things the cost/benefit ratio of how many to use begins to level off. At the very least, I'd not want to live without the one on my iMac and one—of the finally two—on the power amplifier. Those two gave me the biggest bang.
After the previous two pages had published, reader Dr. Ing. Michael Graw felt compelled to write in as follows: "What I would recommend is to have the Blackbodies additionally installed in the vicinity of the loudspeaker crossover boards. The effect is jaw dropping. I believe that once the Blackbody effect is understood by the design engineers, it will revolutionize the design of  electronic circuits for audio as well as the design of the housing (materials?). So please encourage people like Louis Motek who are looking for optimizations on new roads away from old school paradigms and who dare to apply lateral thinking. In ancient times these people were condemned and burned by the church in Rome!


"The situation reminds me of a discussion I had with the designer of one of the first real digital amps, the TacT Millennium. He argued that a "better" power cable would have no influence on the reproduction of his "bit-perfect" design. My experience was most different. Adding the Blackbody technology, this amp now plays in a different league.
"

Wrap: While LessLoss' published background on what led up to the Blackbody's creation reads like science fiction, any Jules Verne reader from fifty years back has to agree that much outlandish technology described in those entertaining books is commonplace today. Read current works on String Theory. You'd invoke Jules Verne again were those authors not cutting-edge scientists chasing explanations for phenomena which the Newtonian world view didn't account for.


Why should the mirror which fine hifi holds up to our senses be immune? 50 years from now, Blackbody-based technology could be ubiquitous. Considering the rate at which we pollute our 'etheric' atmosphere with powerful ultrasonic frequencies, such technology seems mandatory in fact. That ordinary civilians not working in government think tanks or secret military labs should brush up against such technology in a harmless pursuit like hifi is quite the deal. The only reason why it'll bother some people is that the broader field of science behind it is presently not articulated enough to lend itself to translation for the common man. To intelligently argue any subject requires sufficient familiarity. How many of us are fluent enough in this to do so?


We needn't be. Having two ears and some curiosity is enough. Then we'll have to admit that even though Louis' published explanations so ripe for detractors to poke at might have holes, they must to be close enough. Otherwise how could he have devised a passive device based on them which demonstrably works?


Quality of packing:
Excellent.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: 100%.
Condition of component received: Perfect.
Completeness of delivery: Includes manual.
Quality of owner's manual: To the point.
Website comments: Very well assembled and presented. Other companies should take lessons.
Human interactions: Friendly.
Suggestions: Allow for a brief settling-in period. Apparently a quite effective antidote to computer radiation in the sound room quite beyond the audible effects described.

LessLoss website
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