POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 27
Golden Goddess "Super Effect" AC Corditioner
as reviewed by Marshall Nack
I have to admit that on first glimpsing the Bybee Golden Goddess Super Effect AC Corditioner, a minute sigh escaped and I deflated a little. Not because the box only contained two power cords—I was expecting that, even though the product name is AC Corditioner. (That is not a typo: this is a power cord and conditioner rolled into one.) It was the cosmetics, or lack thereof: the 6' length of unembellished, heavy-duty industrial wire; the various exposed screw heads; and the plain aluminum conditioning barrels on either end with self-adhesive "Bybee Technology" labels. The cable was otherwise unmarked: I wasn't sure if I was looking at an entry-level or the top-of-the-line offering.
They have the appearance of being hand assembled by a small, in-house manufacturer, with suggested an MSRP around $400 - $600. But here's the rub: I had been told they cost $1550 each. (It should be noted that Marshall had an earlier version of the cords and current versions look as pictured at the beginning of the review - Ed.)
I plugged the two PCs into gear I didn't plan to listen to for a while, so they could burn-in off to the side, so to speak.
first, the Head-Fake
The next day, however, even plugged in off to the side, I knew something was up. It was unmistakable. Mind you, I hear anything connected to the wall, in parallel or not, in my room.
A ton of vulnerable low-level information was coming through that I know hadn't been there the day before. In addition, the reproduction was smooth, relaxed, very quiet, sans irritating artifacts and hugely atmospheric—but also too dark, too warm, and dynamically dull. Two cords, even connected in parallel, produced this effect.
a convincing Illusion of Big Space
I then put the Bybee GGs in line on my analog front-end, connected to the Lingo speed control for the LP12 Turntable and to the phono preamp at the load end, and to the TARA Labs IDAT power conditioner at the other. Used as a power cord between an active conditioner and the analog source, the illusion of a huge, foreign space was doubly convincing. The "reach out and touch me" was very present—I was definitely not in the same place I started out. It was as if I had been transported to a large, wood-paneled room—make that a rosewood-paneled room, because it was also rich, dark, and sumptuous, and had that a quality of being illuminated from within. Lower midrange was enhanced, treble was reduced, and transients were softened. The annoyingly loud pops and clicks I know are on my copy of Handel Water Music (harmonia mundi, HMU 7010) didn't pop or annoy nearly as much.
This was a mixed bag: possibly too much of one good thing, the spatial resolution—not enough of some others. Hmm… maybe that's because I already had a battery of Harmonix tweaks giving me effects along the same lines. So out went the Harmonix RF-66ZX footers from under the phono stage, replaced with the quite neutral, and almost as weighty, TAOC ones. Ah… AH… YES. (Alright, enough ear-gasm.) It still feels and smells damp, but the transient edge, along with treble extension, have returned somewhat. Everything this PC does moves in the direction of increased relaxation and beauty. This includes some treble Rx, i.e., rounding and softening the top and avoiding any kind of stridency. In addition, it has that kind of presence and intimacy one hears in the low-powered SETs. However, by far the most powerful change was the abounding acoustic cues and atmospheric details. The listener is taken elsewhere and nothing in the stage before you disturbs the illusion. The manufacturer claims the Corditioners expunge quantum mechanical noise (electronic noise outside the audible range), with the principal effects being noise reduction, low-level detail retrieval, spatial resolution and emotional connection to the music. Check.
Don't know how many hours the cables had on them when my editor shipped them to me, although he did say a preceding reviewer burned them on his Audiodharma Cable Cooker (that's why I only waited a day before listening to them). So now, I emailed Jack Bybee. He replied that reliable Beta Testers told him the GG needed around 300 hours for full burn-in. On that note, I stopped critical listening and let them cook for a couple of weeks.
the second take
Put on an audiophile spectacular, such as the Quo Vadis soundtrack (London Phase Four LP, SPC 21180). With my Harmonix Studio Master power cord, a tuned cable, now between the Linn LP12 Lingo speed control and the IDAT, you have BIG sound: very full range, full bodied, timbrally rich, and super dynamic. Just don't pay too much attention to the soundstage—it's not a minimally miked recording, that's for sure—and you'll be impressed in a wide screen, cinemascope kind of way. The music ain't too bad, either.
When I swapped in the GG for the Studio Master, the spatial effect once more revealed the recording venue (I imagine that's what's now occupying the front of my room, although there was some similarity here from recording to recording). A lot of congestion went away. However, I immediately connected the unblocking of congestion with the fact that the GG after full burn-in got thinner and its tonal balance became lighter. (This was the head-fake I alluded to above. It started out being full-bodied, even a little softig. What I was listening to now was on the lean side. We've moved to a maple-paneled room, with its warm lucidity and lighter tonal balance). Still, the cable does extraordinary things with timbres—this aspect of the presentation is decidedly improved. Not only does it not have any edge or brightness (neither did the SM), but also instrumental tone, especially string tone, is reproduced exceptionally well. Macro dynamics are OK, with no evidence of a ceiling or breakup, and the bottom end is well controlled, but it's not as explosive as with the SM. Tonally, the SM and the GG are kindred, both favoring the midrange, but the Harmonix is weightier, with more saturated tonal colors, and sounds thicker (these account for its comparative congestion). In terms of lowered noise floor, purity, timbre, texture, and spatiality, I feel I've taken a step back with the SM, but in terms of dynamics, weight and flesh it comes out ahead.
Now substitute a length of TARA Labs The One PC and we're looking at even more weight than the SM brought to bear, with clarity and stage organization more like the GG. Woodwind timbres and string tone are accurate, if less pretty, than either the SM or the GG—they sound like they usually do in a good solid-state system.
There was more treble energy and extension on Hilary Hahn's violin in the first movement of the Bernstein Serenade, with David Zinman conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven Bernstein, SONY SK 60584). The tympani entrance is truly explosive—dynamics with The One can be overwhelming, as with the SM. Compared to The One PC, the GG is foreshortened at the frequency extremes and a bit laid back. Compared to either The One or the SM, it is deficient in terms of dynamics and transient excitement and the stage is more recessed. The GG and The One control the signal well, better than the SM. However, the GG has that tonal beauty absent in The One and halfway there in the SM, and spatial resolution beyond either. (Make sure you completely remove the GG for these comparisons, just hanging from a power strip in parallel will skew your results.)
One readily concludes that the GG, when used in conjunction with an active power conditioner, is an average performer on the main audio criteria. Its strengths lie in secondary areas.
now the real scoop
After spending some time working on other projects and other gear, I put the GG back in, this time with an all mbl lineup comprised of the mbl 1521 A Transport, 1511 D DAC, 5011 preamp, and 9007 amps powering the Kharma Exquisite-Midi speakers. The whole system was strung together with TARA Labs The 0.8 signal wires. The difference this time was the two GGs went from the wall to the transport and DAC, with no other conditioning in between.
This was the GG at its best. Using it in combination with anything else compromised its performance. Re-visiting the Beethoven Violin Concerto on the Beethoven Bernstein CD, everything was improved. The first movement begins with well-placed, distant tympani. String tone is super—all ranges of string instruments sound great. It is warm, with the midrange prominent—the GG hits the G spot in terms of tonal balance. The blasts of tympani and low strings on crescendo certainly have impressive force and, like the string tone, require less of a leap of faith. Even at peak SPLs, there is no blockage, no congestion—clarity reigns supreme. Ditto for Ms. Hahn's violin: while her instrument is appropriately focused and small, the images cast by the tympani and low strings are proportionately huge, occupying the whole left and right sides—very well done. Then there's that convincing space created by the GG—it is something you can immerse yourself in, so holistic and complete, not broken out into parts based on frequency or hyper imaging. Stage width is as good as I've come across, depth is excellently layered, and the whole seems naturally defined. Frequency integration is superior. The adjectives that come to mind are appropriate and moderate—nothing excessive or overdone. This applies to frequency extremes, dynamics, timbre, and color. Even imaging is modest, so as not to present an overly hyped and Hifi stage. Where the mbl component lineup straddles the line between tubes and solid-state, the GG tips the balance to the tubey side, but in a good way. It is very listenable and persuasive.
The GG finds its tonal mean in the midrange. That's to say, even when plumbing the depths; the last thing you hear as a note recedes tends to be middle frequencies. This leaves the impression of everything gravitating to the middle, rather than lingering on the bottom or floating weightlessly on top. It all comes back towards the middle.
In a short audition, I A/B'd the Audience powerChord connected to their adeptResponse vs. the GG straight into the wall in a friend's system. I could not detect any difference in noise level between these two. The GG, on its own, is as quiet as the best I've heard, which is TARA's The One PC connected to the IDAT. But man-oh-man, the GG gave me a ticket to ride. Up against this moderately priced PC (powerChord MSRP $482) and very good, and expensive, active line conditioner (adeptResponse MSRP $3800), the differences were plain: while one was a good simulacrum with lots of audiophile virtues but never produced a suspension of disbelief, the other, in spite of it being less dynamic, less fleshy and lighter tonally, took you out of the room, with big-time credibility advances on this score. I know which one I would prefer to listen to in this rig.
You already know what I think of their overall appearance. Here are the details: the wire is 10 AWG high-purity stranded copper encased in fairly thick but flexible, smooth black plastic, which looks to me like unmodified heavy-duty industrial-grade AC wiring. The Hubbel (me thinks) AC plug is fitted into an aluminum 1" diameter by 2" long black barrel. The IEC plug is fitted to a similar 4" long shiny aluminum barrel. These are the conditioning modules. The whole thing is not heavy and is very user-friendly, but you will need clearance around back for the conditioning barrels. As mentioned at the beginning, the barrels have stick-on Bybee Technology labels. There is also a "Quantum Purified" label on the black conductor wire: otherwise, they are unmarked. It is not shielded against RF/EMI.
The "Super Effect" Corditioner reviewed here has Slipstream Quantum Purifiers on both the wall and IEC ends. There is a lower model GG Power Corditioner with only one Purifier at the IEC end, which sells for $1250.
A half dozen years ago, I fell hard for the first generation Bybee products. The Golden Goddess line is the latest application of Bybee's famous Slipstream Quantum Purifiers, based on carbon fiber and nanotechnology. These new ones are much better.
The Bybee Golden Goddess "Super Effect" Corditioner comes in about average on the main audio curriculum. Compared directly to two reference PCs in its price class, the GG does not scale new heights or fail anywhere, just slack a bit on build quality, in my opinion. Compared to a moderately priced PC with expensive line conditioner, the GG was again a little under par on the main course.
But there's no doubt that something extraordinary is going on in the Quantum barrels of the GG. For what this PC does in the less obvious, secondary areas by advancing an acoustic simulacrum and leaving the mechanical behind is magical. The Bybee Golden Goddess "Super Effect" Corditioner is a powerful seasoning (or coloration, if you will). It is not for the faint of heart. You put it in and your sound doesn't change slightly for better or worse—it makes a radical shift to the warm and sunny side, as you are taken on a perceptual journey to a convincing, well-defined space where artifacts and noise are purged and beauty and resolution are enhanced.
Many other tweaks can do something like this, but not to this degree, and you won't find these effects in a less colored PC. (The other one that comes to mind is the Harmonix Studio Master. I wonder if, had the Bybee GG come along first, would I have fallen for it, just like I did for the Harmonix Studio Master a while back?)
This is a qualified recommendation for those who seek more beauty and involvement (and enjoy space travel). If you are not satisfied with your current sound, especially if you judge it mechanical, coarse or cold, the Bybee GG will pump in midrange warmth and liquidity, timbral truth, spatial resolution and more emotional connection.
On the other hand, if you are happy with your carefully voiced system, the GG can easily disturb its balance. To make the GG work in mine, I had to strip out other devices doing similar things, i.e. some of the Harmonix footers. At any rate, plug these cords directly into the wall and use them judiciously. One or two should do the trick—more may push you into a tubey unreality. Marshall Nack
Golden Goddess "Super Effect" AC Corditioner
I would like to thank Positive Feedback Online and reviewer Marshall Nack for his most interesting and largely positive consideration of my Golden Goddess Super Effect Power Corditioner. While I might disagree with some of Mr. Nack's conclusions, we all know that differences of opinion go with this territory, and it seems to me that he tried hard to be objective and even-handed.
With one glaring exception. Mr. Nack leads his review with a description of being discouraged by the appearance of my cable, and he returns to the subject further in. He seems almost insulted that my cable, admittedly premium priced at $1550 retail, doesn't have the custom skin, molded plugs and fancy printing he expects—heck, my cable even has stickers, and looks like a $400 cable handmade in a garage!
Now, I have never spent much time admiring the cosmetics of audio wiring, although some distributors, especially in the Pacific Rim, sometimes seem more concerned with cosmetics and packaging then with sonic performance. The fact is that fancy cosmetics are easy to obtain and affordable if you have high-volume manufacturing—which I certainly do not. But those cosmetics have nothing to do with audible performance.
I find it interesting that Mr. Nack did not pick up on my product line trademark Golden Goddess. Every product marketed under that name contains substantial amounts of 14K gold, as well as my unique Quantum Purifier devices—far more costly than typical cable components. They cannot be mass-produced, but require meticulous hand assembly. Mr. Nack might be quite surprised if he knew the actual manufacturing cost of my (to him) shabby-looking power cable compared to some of the hot-looking models he so admires. My attitude is "Handsome is as handsome sounds." And the bulk of Mr. Nack's review would seem to validate that idea.
I am also slightly disappointed that Mr. Nack never tested the reason behind my dubbing my cable the "Corditioner." Members of my listening group have confirmed that this cable plugged into a quality electrical strip—i.e., one without MOVs or other sound-degrading "surge-suppression" elements—is sonically superior to many more expensive active power conditioners. Mr. Nack did mention that his use of my cable led to removing some other power conditioning elements. But a test of this value premise might have been enlightening for your readers.
Well, enough griping—I need to go and put together some more of my cheap-looking products for those customers searching for better sound. Thanks again for the review and for giving me a chance to comment.