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October 2007
Superior Audio Equipment Review

Bybee Golden Goddess
'Super Effect' Speaker Bullets

Beyond Tweaking
Review By Wayne Donnelly
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 

  We audio reviewers dream of turning our readers on to breakthrough product. The problem is that real breakthroughs are, to say the least, few and far between. But when they do occur, it is pretty hard — for this writer anyway — to contain the resulting enthusiasm. So I am delighted to be telling you about Jack Bybee's latest — and certainly greatest — product invention, the Golden Goddess 'Super Effect' Speaker Bullets. I was all set to proclaim these remarkable plug-in devices "the greatest tweak ever." But on further reflection, that seems an inadequate characterization. For one thing, their $4,200/set price seems steep for a tweak. More importantly, the Bullets (as I will refer to them henceforth for economy) have transformed my system to a degree that is well beyond any tweak I have ever experienced — and I have experienced a lot of them, including earlier developments from Jack Bybee.

 

A Little History
I first met Jack Bybee at the 1996 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  He showed me some products — accessories for AC, interconnect and speaker cables, and a power conditioner — and soon after we had both returned to the San Francisco Bay Area Jack brought to my house an assortment of his offerings, which I subsequently reviewed in the late Fi Magazine. The review was highly positive, and I wound up buying all the review samples. Soon after, I also began acquiring quite a few of Jack's Quantum Purifiers, the small devices at the heart of the plug-in accessories, which I had learned were very effective for internally modifying audio electronics and loudspeakers. Within a few months, virtually every piece of equipment in my system sported a few Quantum Purifiers in strategic locations, and I was having an enormously enhanced home music listening experience. Those little Bybee inventions forever changed my ideas about what listening to recorded music could be.

Bybee Golden Goddess 'Super Effect' Speaker BulletsIn the years since, Jack has continued to innovate new and better products, refining his core technologies, materials and techniques as he goes. During that time we have also become friends. Because of that friendship, I have in recent years refrained from formally reviewing Jack's products, not wanting my praise for them to be thought prejudiced by personal regard. But this time I say to hell with it. If anyone wants to dismiss my comments here because Jack and I are friends, so be it. My conscience is crystal-clear, and what I describe here is what I have heard.

But I digress. To bring the history up to date: About a year ago, Jack Bybee was commissioned by a Bay Area friend, a perfectionist audiophile and early Bybee adopter, to create an ultimate, no-holds-barred version of his Speaker Cable Tails for some new five-way pent-amplified (!) speakers. The performance of Jack's costly one-offs was so dazzling that the customer began telling many of his friends in the audio business about them, and soon Jack was getting requests for the Bullets from manufacturers and reviewers and their buddies. As of this writing, Jack tells me he has already sold in excess of 100 sets, based principally on word of mouth raves and a few preliminary writeups.

 

What Do those Bybee Things Do, Anyway?
Basically, the technology gets rid of the noise you can't hear. And no, I'm not being a smartass. At the quantum mechanical level, as electrons flow through conductive materials, various types of noise phenomena occur—1/F noise, shot noise, etc. This quantum-level noise is not itself audible to the human ear, but its presence nonetheless has a degrading effect on the purity and accuracy of the information being transmitted. Jack's devices strip out or greatly reduce such noise, enabling the musical (or video) content to emerge without that overlay of electronic grunge. The technology was originally developed for the U.S. Navy, and is still used in various classified military applications.

The best explanation of this phenomenon that I have seen is by our esteemed Senior Editor Dick Olsher — like Jack Bybee, a practicing physicist — in a review of the Bybee Quantum Purifiers a few years back. Dick's article is still available in our Review Archives, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. And that's as far as I am taking this discussion, as I am not a physicist and have never even played one on TV.

 

On To The Bullets
The Bullets incorporate new and somewhat different versions of Jack's purifiers, combining carbon fiber nanotubes, gold and platinum. (Jack is not interested in sharing the details of how they are put together, and I don't blame him.) A single set of bullets, treating one pair of loudspeaker terminals, comprises four cylinders, roughly three and a half inches long and five-eighths-inch in diameter. Eichmann five-way Cable Pods at one end accept speaker cable spades or bananas, and silver-clad copper spade connectors attach to the speaker terminals. The spade connectors may be carefully bent if necessary to adjust the angle if your speaker terminals are recessed, as mine are.  If your speakers are bi-wired, like my Analysis Amphitryons, two sets of Bullets are needed.

I cannot emphasize too strongly that the Bullets require substantial burn-in time. In my system, the sonic improvement initially seemed somewhat nebulous. After 20-30 hours I was definitely hearing improvements, at that point similar to the effects of Jack's older Golden Goddess Speaker Cable Tails — very desirable, to be sure, but not the heart-stopping, mind-bending revolutionary transformation I was hoping to hear. But bit by bit, evening after evening as I sat down in front of my system, the sound continued to evolve, getting better and better. My best guess is that it took 200+ hours of listening time before the Bullets reached their full performance, though of course following their development was a fascinating and pleasurable process in its own right.

So be warned. If you are going to pop for these things, be prepared to give them enough time. In my setup big, powerful amplifiers were pushing music through the speakers at quite robust levels most of the time. So if you have, for instance, a 10-watt SET amp driving horns, you could be in for a very extended burn-in time. But I can promise you that the Bullets are worth investing your time.

 

The Sound
Over the years, as Jack's products have improved, the kinds of improvement have been quite consistent. Yes, they affect the usual audio checklist areas. Getting rid of that quantum mechanical noise yields quieter, blacker backgrounds, more exciting dynamics, purer tonality, more precise and expanded spatial resolution, etc., etc. I have often tried to summarize their effects by saying that they make the sound more natural, more like hearing live music, and less electronic–sounding than even the most elite system can achieve without them.

Jack was initially skeptical about turning the Bullets into a standard Bybee product. For one thing, he personally hand-assembles each one, and it is a very long, tedious and delicate task in which one slip-up can ruin hours of work. He also feared that the retail price would scare off most potential buyers. As an interim step, Jack recruited a few beta testers — yours truly among them — and asked them to write up their impressions. One of those gentlemen was Michael Vice, a scientist and engineer who has at times collaborated with Jack. Michael Vice's essay, along with a few others from early testers, may be read by going to the home page of Jack's website and clicking on the underlined quotation. I strongly urge the interested reader to check out those accounts. But in addition, I want to quote Mr. Vice's words on his listening to what has long been among my own very favorite orchestral recordings and reviewing selections:

"So what exactly do the Bullets do to the sound? To answer this question a direct comparison was made of the playback of Leonard Bernstein's Candide Suite, performed by the Minnesota Orchestra (Reference Recordings), with and without the Speaker Bullets. This piece was selected because it is exquisitely recorded, musically and sonically complex, dynamic and delicate. It is a tough workout of a system and very revealing.

"In typical fashion, the piece was listened to carefully a few times without the Bullets. After installing the Bullets, it was played again. The very first impression was that something was missing. A more profound sense of interspatial and inter-temporal silence eventually explained the mysterious absence. Counter-intuitively, the silence was most compelling during crescendo passages, rendering individual instruments discernable when [previously] a more composite din of harmonic voices blurred the details. At this point the absence was recognized as decidedly advantageous.

"As though made discernable by the silence, a sweeter, almost angelic rendition of the violins evoked an emotional response from me that did not occur in the previous auditions. Longer decays followed each violin note and I lamented their cessations, [which were] unhindered by the simultaneous progress of subsequent notes. I was being drawn in..."

I admire the subtlety and precision of Michael's observations, which I think capture very well the hard-to-describe but very real benefits of the Bullets for a careful and attentive listener. And I can testify that the Bullets produce the kind of  "angelic" sweetness he describes in many ways: the "in the room" flesh and blood immediacy of well recorded vocals, the almost physical evocation of the breathiness of Ben Webster's saxophone, the startlingly full and rich harmonics of Olga Kern's grand piano. Nothing else, in all my decades of listening, has so vividly and uniquely transformed audio into musical magic.

 

Who Needs Them?
In an ideal world, the answer to that question would be "everybody." I don't believe there is any audio system, no matter how astronomically priced, that would not benefit tremendously from adding the Bullets. But in the real world, alas, the $4,200/set retail price will necessarily limit the potential buyer pool. Not too many people will be ready to fork over four grand — eight if you bi-wire — for an upgrade.  For the more budget-limited, I do suggest trying some of the other, more affordable if still not cheap, Bybee accessories. They may not equal the Bullets, but they will still help your system make more beautiful music.

But I would urge the dedicated music lover and audiophile (sadly, the two are not always synonymous) who wants the most musically truthful sound attainable to give serious thought to transforming his or her system with the Bullets. Heck, in these days of escalating prices — you can pay five figures left of the decimal point for a pair of interconnects — $4,200 for what the Bullets can do is a solid investment. I don't think any typical system upgrade — new cables, better preamplifier or amplifier, upgraded CD player, etc. — for which you might spend that kind of money, or even a lot more, is likely to deliver the kind of fundamentally altered and exalted musical experience offered by the Bybee Golden Goddess ‘Super Effect' Speaker Bullets.

Over the years, a few companies have made OEM deals to enhance their products with Bybee devices. I certainly hope that some good manufacturers whose egos are not too big to recognize someone else's genius will talk Jack into providing his Speaker Bullets technology for incorporation into cables, speakers, electronics, or whatever, and hopefully make them more widely accessible and affordable.  For now, Jack's Bullets occupy a solitary peak of achievement.

 

Manufacturer Reply
Wayne,

I want to thank you for the excellent review of my Golden Goddess SE Speaker Bullets. It is most gratifying to see my product understood and described so clearly.

Over the years I have spoken to many speaker designers, amplifier designers, and cable manufacturers about 1/f noise and possible methods to reduce it. Typically their eyes glaze over and they start looking at me as if I am from some alien planet. So now I no longer try to explain how and why 1/f noise occurs. For your readers who are interested in the phenomenon, I second Wayne's suggestion that they read in your archive Dick Olsher's 2002 review of my Quantum Purifiers, which addresses 1/f noise more clearly than I could do.

The new Bybee SE Speaker Bullets were created to reduce 1/f noise, which otherwise gets embedded in the musical signal. Wayne's closing suggestion about right on target making their function internal is right on target. That is the logical next step. The SE Speaker Bullets are add-on devices; imagine how much more effective they could be if the devices were actually built into cables, speakers, or electronics, without requiring extra connection interfaces. I am already working on such an implementation. But in the meantime, I am truly pleased that you recognized what the removal of this type of noise can do to improve music reproduction.

Best Regards,

Jack Bybee

 

Specifications
Type: Loudspeaker tweak

Warranty: Lifetime, parts and labor; physical breakage excepted

Price: $4,200 per set of four

 

Company Information
Bybee Technologies
2072 Touraine Lane
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

E-mail: bybeepure@aol.com
Website: www.bybeetech.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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