Recommended Components Fall 2021 Edition Miscellaneous Accessories

Miscellaneous Accessories

Audio Research Tube Damping Rings: $5 each
Damping rings for all AR products are now available to the public at large. They're made of a proprietary polymer material that converts kinetic energy to heat, and their improvements are not subtle, exclaims BJR: tighter, cleaner, deeper, more dynamic bass; more coherent transient attacks; crisper, more extended highs; plus "improvements in the reproduction of subtle gradations of low-level dynamics." Give 'em a whirl—the cost is minimal. (Vol.23 No.2, Vol.26 No.8)

AudioQuest binding-post wrench: $17.95
A great idea improved—similar to the original Postman, but with a metal sleeve reinforcing the sockets. (Vol.20 No.9)

Ayre Acoustics Irrational But Efficacious System Enhancement CD: $20
Ayre's test CD includes five tracks of various white, pink, and brown noise, as well as two glide tones that sweep from 5Hz to 20kHz. The disc produced a less electronic sound in JM's system, while lowering the noisefloor and improving microdynamics. "I am flabbergasted," said he. "Highly recommended."AD adds that this CD should be used "with caution, and with the understanding that, as with trying to measure a transformer with a DVM and unintentionally magnetizing the core, negative results may ensue and may take a few days to fade away." ST points out that "weird shit goes on in hi-fi. Don't dismiss it until you try it. I use this thing, too. Just don't play too loud." (Vol.33 No.12, Vol.34 No.2, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

CAIG DeoxIT GOLD Wipes K-G1W-25: $24.95/25ct;
K-G1W-50: $44.95/50ct
These small pads are made of a slightly abrasive textile that has been impregnated with Caig's DeoxIT Gold contact cleaner. JM uses them on the outside of RCA jacks and on the pins of RCA plugs to treat corrosion, oxidation, condensation, and general grime. JM: "A small but powerful stocking-stuffer…You'll feel like a pro!" (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

ETI Copper LINK (Bullet) Plugs: $129 (pack of 4)
ETI Silver LINK: $279 (pack of 4)
Originally called the Eichmann Bullet, this RCA connector uses a clever design in which the hot signal is conducted by a hollow rather than a solid pin, and where a smaller, solid pin at the connector's periphery takes the place of an unnecessarily massive ground sleeve. AD heard "a more open and explicit sound" with a "deeper, more open, and more inviting" soundfield. Silver Bullet Plugs made the difference "clearer, more explicit, and even smoother." (Vol.27 No.12 WWW)

iFi iPower (5V, 9V, 12V, 15V): $49
The iPower is an ostensibly perfectionist-quality wall wart, said by manufacturer iFi to produce very little noise. The buyer selects the iPower whose output most closely matches the playback gear in question, the choices being 5, 9, 12, and 15V; beyond that, this wart is virtually universal: the AC end accepts any of four AC plugs (supplied), so that the iPower can be used almost anywhere 100240VAC is available. Its DC cable is terminated in a 5.5 by 2.1mm DC connector—but again, iFi supplies adapters for an addition three sizes (3.5 by 1.35mm, 4.0 by 1.7mm, and 5.5 by 2.5mm), along with a polarity inverter for devices requiring a center-negative supply. Can a better wart make for better sound? According to KR, "recordings with open, ambient soundstages sounded cleaner, and both instrumental and vocal music was more distinct. This was no major change that struck me every time I listened, but it did make all of my listening much more relaxing." (Vol.39 No.3 WWW)

Intona USB 3.0 Galvanic Isolator: $369 (cable not included)
This small module fits between a source component's USB Type A port and a D/A processor's USB Type B port. When HR first used it with the HoloAudio May processor, he "jumped back," he wrote. "The sound changed more than I expected it would." When he removed the Intona, "the soundstage was drier, flatter, and smaller. Instruments sounded plain. Reverberation on the recording was noticeably reduced. Music was less intoxicating." JA found no measurable differences in the output resulting from inserting the Intona between a MacBook Pro and various D/A processors. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

Littlite L-18-LED: $99.95
The latest generation of Littlite mixing-console lamps provides high-efficiency, long-life LED illumination; a rotary switch selects clear white or red light. JM finds the 18" version especially helpful near a turntable or CD player. (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Magnum Dynalab 205 Signal Sleuth FM Booster: $549
We've left this on the list forever, because there's not much for FM fans these days, and because this unusual, niche product has shown amazing staying power. This is not your typical powered antenna amplifier. It's a notch filter that preceeds the tuner with 18dB/octave edges, so it amplifies only the signal you want—sort of a pre-tuner tuner with selective gain. You can use it to attenuate signals that are too strong, and if you want to hear stations that are easy to receive, there's a pass-through. Best with old-fashioned analog radio signals. (Vol.10 No.6)

SOtM tX-USBhubIn: $350
This horribly named accessory, which requires power from the SATA interface of the computer or computer-based server into which it is plugged (a SATA Y-connector may be required), is a USB repeater intended to preserve the integrity of the signal reaching an associated USB DAC. In KR's estimation, the tX-USBhubIn "made an easily audible improvement in the sound of a system that I'd already thought sounded entirely satisfying." (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

Stabilant 22 contact enhancer: Various sources and prices
Originally sold by Sumiko under the name "Tweak, " Stabilant 22, a contact enhancer that comes in several forms, is now used mostly in the automotice industry. The most useful form for audiophiles is Stabilant 22a, in which the polymer-semiconductor-based contact enhancer is mixed with isopropynol to help it flow and penetrate connectors. Stabilant 22 is the concentrate form and must be mixed with pure isopropynol before use. JM recommended using it on all signal-level connections. Concentrate available at posthorn.com; other forms are available on eBay. (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

UpTone Audio USB Regen: $175
UpTone Audio's USB Regen is a wall-wartpowered accessory designed to regenerate both a USB datastream and the USB bus's 5VDC before either makes its way to the DAC in a computer-audio setup. Intended to be installed between the user's computer and DAC—UpTone advises siting the Regen as close as possible to the latter, and includes a solid male-to-male adapter to enable this—the Regen is built into a sturdy aluminum case just slightly larger than a Fig Newton. (The Regen's wall wart is about three times the size of the Regen itself, and is of higher-than-average quality.) As for the Regen's audible effect on a computer-audio system, ML said, "Wow: not subtle," and described the Regen as the most effective such accessory he'd tried. Commenting on the effects of the UpTone Regen on one of his multichannel systems, KR wrote, "all hints of the abiding brightness were eliminated and, as a result, the frequency balance was smooth and unaccented." In a Follow-Up, and JA found that the Regen made no measureable difference in the output signal of an associated USB DAC. He also discovered that installing the Regen without first deselecting the associated DAC as an output device and twice relaunching the file-playing software—once before adding the Regen, and again after installing it and reselecting the DAC—served to prevent his system from playing high-resolution files at anything higher than 16-bit/44.1kHz. Whee! (Vol.38 No.11 WWW)

COMMENTS
MatthewT's picture

Not much for me here, being a vintage gear fan first. Please bring back the entry-level column, there is a lot of gear at that price-point worth getting reviewed.

Anton's picture

Budgetwise, I think I would be most like a "Double A" audiophile.

Same with me and wine.

I do admit to seeing some of the top end prices for either wine or Hi Fi and thinking that there are people who have checkbooks that are 'better' than their palates/ears.

Like JA1 described in the past...there are already parts of my own hobby that are beyond my budgetary event horizon.

_

If we did have audiophile classes, from minor leagues to major league, I wonder what the price points for each step would be.

MatthewT's picture

Lets me play every now and then in the Majors. Nothing depreciates faster than audio gear. I have to admit being somewhat happy at seeing a dartZeel break while listening to it, while my beloved Sansui keeps making music.

Anton's picture

I like showing gear in the reviews to my wife and asking her to guess the price.

When I saw the OMA turntable in the latest issue, I guessed 15,000 dollars. When she saw it, she guessed 12,000 dollars, and we've been playing this game for 25 years!

Next, I asked her if I were able to purchase it for 90% off retail, would she let me. She said, "Only I promised to flip it immediately."

Then, she threw me a bone and said, "You could buy it and keep it for the 12,000 dollars that I guessed."

I'd need a 97.5% discount to have a chance at it. And even that would be wildly extravagant. I'm happy with life, this is just for scale.

tonykaz's picture

Above the PS Audio level is the world of Status & Ego. !

Which has me wondering if Stereophile is a Status & Ego type publication ? Is this a Robb Report mag that belongs on the coffee tables of private Jet Airports ? ( I've never seen it there )

Does an Anodized Red $200,000 Amplifier belong on the Front Cover of a magazine like ours ? None of us will ever have any chance to experience Velvet Rope Gear so why are we bothering with it? It being better is probably one person's opinion ( and that person probably doesn't have to buy it or own it ).

Reviews of these $100,000 +++++ pieces are man-speaking to us how our gear is deficient and unworthy, we are reading Hubris & gas lighting.

There is a World of $1,000 bottles of Wine, $25,000 Rolex Watches, Super pricy First Class Seats on UAL Flights and Political Leaders that are wealthy from insider trading. We shouldn't be reading about those things here.

Ours is like the world of our modest Canadian, revealing a new form of music discovery and writing one of Stereophile's most insightful pieces of literature about it. ( nice writing Mr. Robert S.)( is that the door bell? )

Tony in Venice Florida

rschryer's picture

Thanks, Tony

tonykaz's picture

Annnnndddd :

Thank You to the Editor that gave you the Word Budget and turned you loose.

Stereophile keeps raising the Bar !!!

Tony in Venice Florida

Anton's picture

Where on Maslow's Pryamid is a half million dollar record player?

I'm curious to see....misguided 'esteem?'

I prefer to use Swanson's Pyramid....

https://external-preview.redd.it/5cDe4MZ9E0ZfvcS10kmAUd2ynTkp6b3wfU-fYsxyNfg.png?width=960&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=be478d54ccedc0bd3a8ea8428e368fe10ed78c60

(Second from bottom left.)

tonykaz's picture

A most expensive record player would service the Ego needs of someone needing to establish themselves as the very Top of Analog Audio's Caste System.

The widely recognised Top Level Analog Format has been Tape.

I grew up in a Performing Arts household, my mother was an Operatic Performer and one of my older brothers was a Horn Player for our local Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

So, from my point of view, no Analog Audio System has ever come close to performing like a Live Audio Performance from a listening distance position.

Super pricy Audio Gear is about Status & Ego !!! ( I hear that Bob Carver still laughs at this stuff )

Tony in Venice Florida

tonykaz's picture

Yes, Brilliant Observation! ,

of which, of-course, I completely agree .

Proving the old maxim: when two people agree on something - only one is doing the thinking.

Now that I'm living in the Deep South, Swansons Pyramid is where I'm slowly migrating to. Hmm.

Y'all have a Grate Day

Tony in Venice Florida

ravello's picture

The introduction to recommended loudspeakers states that "Candidates for inclusion in this class [i.e. Class A, limited LF extension] must still reach down to at least 40Hz, below the lowest notes of the four-string double-bass and bass guitar." The Falcon LS3/5a, for example, most certainly does not reach down to 40 Hz, unless you define "reach" to include a -10 or -15 or even lower dB point, which cannot be construed as useful bass etension. This is probably true for several other speakers listed in this category. So what is happening? What is the thinking behind this inconcistency?

smileday's picture

Perhaps about -7 dB at 40Hz in this room. Fig. 6, https://www.stereophile.com/content/bbc-ls35a-loudspeaker-harbeth-measurements

It might be -3 dB at 40Hz in a broadcast van, the intended usage at the design stage.

tonykaz's picture

...performance level for all Great Transducers?

It was the very loudspeaker that brought me and my English partner into the Audio Business. ( back in the early 1980s ) -- ( my business partner and I begged Raymond Cooke for this design to import to USA - he said NO! )

Isn't it still a "Reference" for comparison ? , doesn't any new design have to match or exceed it's super high levels of performance?

This little device and a well matched sub builds an outstanding Desert Island System.

But, it's still outstanding without the Sub.

It may not be Full Range but it well earned a Lifetime Class A+ transducer system rating. ( four Decades + )

Tony in Venice Florida

Ortofan's picture

... like antique furniture, but the KEF LS50 Meta is a much more highly evolved successor.

tonykaz's picture

I'm sure that I agree with you.

I seem to have a deeeeeeeep seated feeling that the LS3/5a is the grandfather of High End music Gear.

Even during the 1980s, my little shop : Esoteric Audio in Farmington Frills, Mi. stocked most of the small mini-monitors including the LS3/5a, Linn Kann, ProAc Tablette, Spica TC50, Quad ESL63 and the whole range of other hopefuls. Performance wise, the ProAc Tablettes were the musical leaders, the Quads were the Sales leaders, the Spica was the Reviewer Favourite . We had them all on permanant comparison using a VPI player, Koetsu Rosewood, Electrocompaniet Electronics and MIT Music Hose cable interfaces. It was an exciting adventure for any and all customers to take part in the ongoing comparisons. People bought scads of 'all' of those small speakers types.

With great or outstanding supporting gear, the LS3/5a can Scale up to amazing levels of music reproduction.

Tony in Venice Florida

ravello's picture

@ smileday: With due respect, the link you posted is not to the current Falcon "Gold Badge" reviewed in 2021, which I was talking about, and which is about 12 dB down at 40 Hz (ref. 1 KHz) in JA's listening room on the evidence of Fig. 6 and Fig. 8 (red trace). This, as I was saying, cannot and should not be construed as useful bass extension at 40 Hz, so listing this speaker as "Class A, limited LF extension" is misleading (to say the least) in light of Stereophile's own stated criteria for inclusion in this category. Perhaps Editor Mr. Austin would like to take the stand on this. Furthermore, most of us don't listen to music in a broadcast van. Mind you, I am not saying that these are not truly great speakers. Indeed, I used to own the Harbeth P3ESR, which I found as nearly flawless as I suspect is possible in a loudspeaker, except for bass extension and volume (SPL) capability -- admittedly an inevitable design constraint given the size of the midbass driver, the size of the cabinet, and the benign impedance. This is why I eventually replaced them with a pair of the Harbeth C7 (40th Anniversary), which turned out to be game-over speakers in my small, 12 sqm study. Perfectly solid bass to 40 Hz and possibly below.

TowerOfPower's picture

It's surprising to not see a single Soundsmith cartridge on this list. Would like to know why.

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