Lloyd Walker of Walker Audio makes good shit. Regardless of which of his many inventions I've laid hands and ears on, I've always come away impressed that his self-asssured salesmanship of exuberant enthusiasm and colorful war stories finds itself perfectly balanced by verifiable aural confirmations in my own system. And, I have an alter ego in Doctor Bill Gaw of EnjoyTheMusic.com who's long since found himself in a similar beneficiary role of Lloyd's ongoing review offers. Just like me, Bill continues to go to print with yet another highly favorable Walker review. That's usually accompanied by an admission of defeat, about how the unexpected premium results forced him to purchase the item in question -- once again -- lest he suffer serious withdrawal symptoms. Want to know what Bill's unwitting defeat tally of ADA (audiophile deprivation avoidance) amounts to by now just on the Walker count? Four Velocitors; one of Lloyd's statement Proscenium Gold turntables with all the trimmings; Vivid optical enhancer for CDs; assorted Omega Mikro and Silent Source power cords; and likely sundry High Definition Links, Valid Point resonance control devices and whatever else I forgot.

I stand no chance of ever catching up with the good doc's lead - but that doesn't at all negate my appreciation for Walker's products. Just consider me a minor league player by comparison. Incidentally, Bill's Audiolics Anonymous column, now in its 52nd chapter, always makes for an interesting read and should be on your monthly consumption list.

Our joint Walker saga continues now with Lloyd's introduction of SST. Say what? Super Silver Treatment. It's a dangerously conductive compound of silver particles suspended in a special paste that looks similar to expensive silver paint as you might find in an upscale art supply store. I deliberately use the phrase 'dangerously conductive'. The instructions are very clear - applications on tube pins and center pins of RCA or XLR connectors should treat no more than two-thirds of their respective lengths to insure no excess that could short-circuit once inserted or installed. Using the enclosed women's makeup applicators of two differently sized foam tips on a flat plastic bridge (think Q-tips with porous rather than fuzzy ends), care needs to be exercised to not paint this pliable but very adhesive gook such that it creates a connection between, say the pin and barrel of an RCA socket.

Go for the jugular, not the leg - or never mind the barrel, go for the pin. Leave the jugular to your Siamese attack hamster. Seriously, take your time with SST. Be methodical and meticulous, and a couple of hours later, your system's various contacts -- power cord pins, IEC pins, RCA pins, spades, bananas, tubes -- should all find themselves glossed over with molecular silver. None of this is anything but common sense. After all, a contact enhancer's job is to increase conductivity, ideally by the highest margin possible. But proper employ of SST is distinctly not a rush job but rather, something for a rainy day when you're not distracted by another long to-do list and can attend to what in my system amounted to 20 power cord contacts; 12 speaker cable connections; 20 RCA connections; and 64 tube pins. Hey, why should women be the only ones to suffer for beauty?

Previous experiments with Hamada Lab's ionically charged ZW-1 water and the Japanese silver and gold pens had ascertained that improvements with contact enhancers were audible but nowhere near drastic. In my personal "tweak" hierarchy, they slotted in far below resonance control and power delivery, ending up somewhere around CD cleaning/demagnetizing benefits. To account, somewhat, for the finality of today's treatment that wouldn't allow return to the untreated condition for an aural A/B/A, I first treated the two KT88 and two 12AT7s in one of my AUDIOPAX monos to retain some semblance of comparative control. I needn't have worried. The treated amp sounded clearly louder, necessitating a balance offset on my Bel Canto PRe6 between 1.5 and 2dB. Besides an overall increase in clarity and 'pop', the area most affected was the bass, this despite my actively amplified DUO subwoofer which derive their signal high-level from the tube amps' speaker binding posts.

Encouraged that Walker's stuff didn't bother with she-loves-me/she-loves-me-not aural insecurity, I nearly nixed the next step in my anticipated sequence of protocol. Just to be more scientific about it, I decided on the extra safeguard of one more unequivocal A/B/A: I treated the connectors of one set of Analysis Plus Solo Oval interconnects, used a solid-copper Y-connector on my digital source and ran a second untreated Solo Oval into a second preamp input. Clearly less overt than with the tubes, the differences were still well beyond imaginary or doubtful and again operated in the realm of increased clarity or directness, encompassing exactly the kinds of changes that imperceptibly goosing the volume always entails.

Even this early into the game, one thing was already clear: This contact enhancer would slot in well above CD cleaning/demagnetizing tweaks with its before/after performance delta. I next treated all interconnects, listened, then the speaker cable connections, listened, then all power cord junctions. While I'm the first to admit that ultimately concrete, precisely quantifiable statements require a different protocol, today's setup simply conspired against it unless I had multiple sets of cabling in-house; which I didn't. Even then, simply inserting an untreated connector into a socket that had previously housed a treated one might have left some silver-compound residue to render cut-and-dried comparisons flawed.

Regardless, I feel fairly confident about the following observations: The effect of treating your connections with SST is massively accumulative; things continue to improve as though you cooked a meal with a certain ingredient -- let's call it mushrooms -- and slowly distilled all other ingredients out of the mix, making the mushroom taste more and more prevalent as you remove conflicting flavors. That said, not every step mushroomed forward in the same proportions. The tube treatment was more powerful than the interconnects; the power cords similar to the tubes; and the speaker cables somewhere in-between. So what's this mushroom flavor, pray tell?

The same as playing your system at least 3dB louder. Even though I couldn't conveniently use my preamp's 0.5-step digital display as before, I'm convinced that the total gain after all connections were treated amounted to readily that - or at least the accompanying aural effects. And we all know how increased voltage gain translates subjectively. It usually doesn't change frequency response but brings things into stronger focus, intensifies presence. If the output level you started out with fell below the threshold where the system hadn't kicked into its power band yet, hadn't yet opened up to lift the curtains and sound all there? You would also notice changes in the frequency extremes as they correlate with the Fletcher/Munson curves.

Something of that sort happened here, too. The extent of literal gains in relative bass prominence was validated because tonal balance in my system is partially a function of bass attenuator and crossover settings on my hornspeakers' bass modules. Cleaning all connections up-ended my carefully calibrated prior balance. It now necessitated a readjustments of two clicks down on my DUOs' subwoofers, to regain the subjective prior level of bass versus midrange and treble. In hindsight, this doesn't seem entirely surprising if we consider that bass transients require by far the most current. A truly effective contact enhancer should optimize the transfer of current through the entire chain of audio components, from the wall all the way to the loudspeaker. If this transfer of electrical energy truly increased, shouldn't it be most audible in the bass? That's really not all that different from replacing your old spark plugs, is it?

Quantifying the improvements in the treble with the same certainty proved impossible since changing the bass automatically also affects our treble perception as a function of redistributed balance. All I will say then is that the treble seemed more open, extended and brilliant. Put differently, Lloyd Walker's SSTworks like ultrasonic jewelry cleaning. If you've ever observed the before/after difference with a heavily worn, gunked-up gold ring with a precious stone, you can relate - there's more sparkle, fire and brilliance once the jeweler is done with it. In audio terms, the Walker treatment cranks up the volume - and not in a subtle way that might or might not be audible. No, the SST application is obvious in the same way that a dishonest demonstrator can rig a speaker comparison, making you prefer the speaker he wants to sell by playing it louder or not matching dissimilar loudspeaker impedances. That's what the SST does - it rigs the comparison. That's a very good thing in this instance as it doesn't entail purchasing new components. Rather, it makes the ones you already own operate at a higher level of can-do.

Which brings us to the cost of the Super Silver Treatment: Less than $100. Lloyd and compadres are still fussing over packaging and presentation, deliberating whether to go the all-basic route or to embrace dealer requests for upping the sex quotient for display purposes. Regardless, Lloyd's adamant that the final kit won't cost more than one hundred greenbacks. And that's good enough for me; because whether it ends up at $80 or $95, it's one of those no-brainer inventions that even die-hard skeptics of all things tweak will embrace. The results are that obvious. And that's without broaching the subject of video, an area where onlookers tend to enjoy far more agreement than listeners, and where Lloyd claims more patently 'duh' reactions. We'll leave video to others more heavily into it than your tunnel-vision, audiocentric scribe.

But make no mistake - just like the phenomenal $100 Stereovox HDXV digital interconnect, SST is one of those discoveries. It costs very little but pays back in nearly inflationary currency. It makes you feel very young again, dad magically turning your one-dollar note into a fistful of shiny pennies and nickels. And while old dad ultimately did play a trick on you there (which doesn't at all detract from your pre-adolescent sense of wonderment and satisfaction), I must confess that the SST played a trick on my expectations, too. My prior experiences with contact enhancers had prepared me for a rather modest forward step; but SST delivered far more. For that, it deserves an award. And to my fellow tubular maniacs, I'll say this in all seriousness: Don't dare consider tube rolling until you've silvered up your pins with SST first. You could be home-free without knowing it. Wouldn't that be nice for a change in this endless rat race called audiophilia?

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