Tice R-4 TPT & Coherence ElectroTec EP-C "Clocks" John Atkinson March 1991
If it's true that the Tice TPT Clock does have a small but audible effect on the sound of your system, how could this be so? Having read the Tice literature, I think that the official explanation of what is going on is plain wrong. It seems to me that if the Clock does effect an audible change, the reason would fall into two separate categories: a) the Clock has an effect on the system; b) it has an effect on the listener.
Looking at the latter first, what if that the Clock emits negative ions into the air? These are generally accepted to have a positive psychological effect—several companies sell ionizers to help people relax, although I use mine to rid the bedroom air of pollen in allergy season—and the slow spread of ions from the clock into the air would explain Tice's specified need for the device to be active for 15 minutes before having an effect. The fact that the ions would not immediately dissipate upon the device being unplugged would also explain why the effect is said to die away gradually. On the other hand, nothing about the clock would suggest that it is a particularly good generator of ions—no high-voltage needles to spray charge into the air, no fan to spread those ions into the room.
What about the system? Mr. Tice states that conventional electrical tests fail to reveal the existence of the "electron noise" that the Clock is supposed to reduce in level. What if the Clock is itself a source of noise on the AC line? I remember UK amplifier designer Denis Morecroft once telling me that LEDs were anathema in high-end systems, the reason being that, like zener diodes, they generate a significant amount of wide-band noise, the RF content of which creeps through power supplies into the audio circuitry. (An amplifier power supply may have a very low impedance at audio frequencies, shunting noise to ground, but this is not necessarily the case at radio frequencies.)
In addition, any seven-segment or alphanumeric display is multiplexed—only one segment of one character being illuminated at any one time—to lower power consumption, thus generating a considerable amount of HF switching noise. A number of hi-fi components that feature such displays—the Rowland Consonance preamplifier, CD players from Arcam and The Mod Squad/McCormack—allow them to be switched off for this very reason. Given that the Tice Clock's power supply is rudimentary, it might be possible that all this digital hash would leak into the AC mains, thus modifying the behavior of the audio components.
This, of course, is also conjecture, but it would explain why TJN's friend felt an untreated Radio Shack clock to have the same effect as the TPT Clock. It also fits in with my intuitive feeling that, with the exception of a filter, plugging any active device across the AC power line can only add, not subtract, something. However, it does run counter to the experience reported by Sounds Like... reviewer Myles Astor of witnessing George Tice demonstrate the TPT effect by plugging a "treated" length of speaker cable into an AC outlet! In addition, none of the measuring equipment that we have access to is sensitive enough to pick up this hypothetical RF noise produced by the Clock.
Ideas, anyone?—John Atkinson