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The Neoteric Listener - The Tweek Geek Dark Matter Stealth AC Power Purifier v.2

06-07-2019 | By Dean Seislove | Issue 103

If you're all in when playing the game of high stakes audio, the Tweek Geek Dark Matter Stealth AC Power Conditioner is for you. Will you hear a noticeable difference? Yep. Is it worth the cost? That depends on your stash of ready cash and your obsessiveness with elevating your system's impact. Face it, ours is a ridiculous pastime. Absolutely none of my family or friends can be coerced into sitting in the red listening chair to witness my latest audio system epiphany. Philistines! But those discoveries, however incremental and even infinitesimal, are real and appreciable to me. 

I once brought a faulty LED light to Home Depot and told the sales clerk, "This light still works, but I noticed that, sometimes, there's a faint buzzing. I can just barely hear it, but now…"

"You can't unhear it."

Yep, exactly. And that's how I feel about certain types of audio gear. It makes enough of a difference that, once I hear it, I know that unhearing it will bug me to no end.

When I encounter a fixed mindset against the efficacy or value of a particular audio product, I reflect on Positive Feedback editor Dave Clark's assertion that, "Everything makes a difference." That being said, I admit that there are often times when, after demonstrations of something touted to miraculously unveil the "true" recording, I am compelled to say that I don't hear any difference at all. Some people can hear electrical changes down to the reversal of the earth's magnetic field in their system. I am not blessed with such abilities. Fortunately, you don't need the ears of a Labrador flushing out waterfowl in the brush to discern the effect of the new. 

Before relating my impression of the new Dark Matter Stealth, I should probably describe exactly how it works. Unfortunately, my electrical engineering expertise is limited to peering into the outlets on the back panel. Faced again by my limitations, I concluded that the wiser course of action was to ask Tweek Geek's Michael Garner to explain what's going on. His email response was clear and informative:

A little history

I essentially got my start as an audio retailer through the discovery of the Bybee Purifiers nearly 20 years ago. I was so excited about the benefits of putting them on my loudspeakers that I started selling them. Little did I know how controversial they were to some. I was undeterred by the negativity because I knew what I was hearing, and loved what they did for my enjoyment of the music. I knew that there were others like me who would love his products. That was essentially the start of Tweek Geek, selling Bybee Purifiers online.

After about 10 years of doing business with Jack, he approached me to build his AC conditioner. He licensed the original design to me, and I began building the Bybee Power Purifiers. Jack was great in that he allowed me to experiment with the design. If a different or new part sounded better than the original, there was no offense taken when it was implemented into the design. This allowed us to use any brand of part or tweak inside the conditioner. The goal was to make the best sounding power conditioner we knew how, and that is what we continue to do. Jack continued (and continues) to improve on his Purifiers, and we have pretty much changed every other part inside the conditioner except for his Purifiers and the John Curl designed surge protection circuit.

We use parts from Furutech, High Fidelity Cables, Stillpoints, and our own Dark Matter Technologies in addition to Jack's Purifiers. 

What's in the Dark Matter Stealth?

The Dark Matter Stealth is a combination of traditional capacitive AC filtering, and the not so traditional parts that make our product unique.

The capacitors we use are what's known in the industry as "X-Rated." I know there's a joke in there somewhere, but what that means is that if a capacitor inside the Dark Matter Stealth should ever fail, it will fail to an open circuit. Why is that important? Because other types of capacitors may fail to a short circuit, ruining equipment, or even worse, shocking anyone who touches the chassis.

We have 2 levels of capacitive filtering inside: one main filter that the power flows through before the connected AC receptacles, and one more filter on each duplex receptacle.

In addition to the capacitive filtering, which is effective on the hot and neutral legs of the incoming AC, we also have a proprietary ground filter on each duplex receptacle. [This design is] Essentially electrically isolating each duplex AC receptacle from the others. This allows you to plug digital components into one receptacle, and analog gear into another without getting any cross contamination.

The unconventional filtering / conditioning consists of special Bybee AC Purifiers on the hot and neutral legs of the AC, and Bybee Slipstream Purifiers on the capacitive filter networks used on the Duplex AC receptacles. We also use High Fidelity AC wave stabilizers on the hot, neutral and ground legs of the AC.

We incorporate passive power conditioning / filtering in the form of Jack Bybee's latest QSE V2 devices internally, along with our own Dark Matter Technologies Qubes on each duplex.

All of this is hooked up with Furutech's top of the line DPS 4.1 wire, finishing with Furutech's top of the line GTX-D NCF AC receptacles.

Finally, the chassis is constructed out of CNC machined aluminum for more RF rejection.

With this knowledge in tow, I began listening to the Dark Matter Stealth in a system of the Gold Note IS-1000 integrated amplifier and Kubala-Sosna Imagination speaker cables, running to a pair of Nola Contender loudspeakers. Given the assemblage of premium parts and A-list design, it would be a shame if the new Tweek Geek Dark Matter Stealth didn't live up to its promise. Even in the exorbitant world of high end audio, most people want to hear something pretty special after spending over seven grand. Further piquing my interest was the fact that I also had on hand the original Bybee Wire "Stealth" Power Purifier that Dave Clark wrote about in his "Audio Ramblings" column (HERE) way back in 2011. Dave wrote very favorably about that unit, so I laid out a plan of first seeing how well the original Stealth Purifier matched his experience in my system, and then examining the improvement, if any, offered by the updated version. 

In my recent review of the Gold Note IS-1000, I mentioned that I've just completed a tortuous construction remodel. Unfortunately, the spacious living room that I had hoped would serve as my new listening room turned out to be beautiful in everything but acoustics. The price of transforming that ringing hall of echo into something listenable could only be achieved by adding a ton of unsightly acoustic treatments and subtracting one happy spouse. No deal. Fortunately, I have free reign to destroy a small bedroom to create a very nice nearfield audio chamber. Electrically, however, the only concession made to audio was the inclusion of a dedicated 20 amp outlet (standard grade outlet, audiophile grade model to be added this summer). Compared to the 100 year old knob and tube wiring of my previous home, the sound in the new room is smooth as a summer lake in the gloaming. Frankly, I expected the impact of either Stealth Purifier to be negligible, at best.

Turns out, I was way wrong. After playing the Gold Note IS-1000 connected straight into the socket for a month or so, I unplugged it, plugged in the original Stealth Purifier, and then plugged the IS-1000 into that. All of sudden, I immediately thought of Dave's review. I could say it differently, but probably not any more accurately: 

"Not sure what to say… don't really want to put any one off or offend anyone, but phucking shit… you got to be kidding me?! What the hell just happened? This unit is so far down the road in going deeper into the music with more color, life, energy, presence, separation, imaging, resolution, air, light, slam, dynamics, ambiance, extension, palpability, naturalness, involvement, neutrality… gee anything else left to add… I mean really, what the hell?"

Even using gear in a room that I've only listened to for a few months, the improvement made to the sound quality was immediately obvious. Changed? Transformed? I have no problem using either of those terms to describe the qualitative upgrade in sound made by adding the original Stealth Purifier to the system. 

The original Stealth Purifier's strong performance made me wonder how the new Tweek Geek Dark Matter Stealth Power Purifier would be able to follow that act. Those who have purchased the original Stealth Purifier might be relieved to know that the difference between that model and the new upgraded model is not nearly as striking as going from nothing to the original Stealth Purifier. If you have the original, you still have a wonderful product. That isn't to say, however, that by holding pat you wouldn't be missing out on some noteworthy refinements. If I tried to sum up the difference between the old model and the new in a word, I'd have to say "sophistication." All of the revelations produced by the original model are not just enhanced, but done more completely, so that the overall feel and texture of the music has been elevated. Soundstage and imaging seem more defined, tonal balance more discernible, and dynamics more impactful. It may be a false analogy, but my experience in comparing the two Stealth units frequently had me comparing it to the advances made in DAC implementation over the years. The new Tweek Geek Dark Matter Stealth Power Purifier bests the previous model in conveying the subtleties of music. Woodwinds have a softer, rounder tone, snare drum snaps with an extra crack, and live recordings exhibit improved separation and dimension. My review sample includes two upgrades available for those who purchased the original model: $995 for Bybee's new V2 iqse with Dark Matter Qubes and an additional $400 for something called the Wormhole option. Is the total price of $1395 for the full upgrade worth the price of admission? Again, it depends on your needs and circumstances, but the upgrades are substantial and definitely worth considering. 

Like I said when this column began, audio is a strange hobby. What is or is not worth the money is something only you can decide. The Dark Matter Stealth delivers on its promise of improving the sound of my audio system. If you're reading this column, that kind of change is probably important to you. As a sweetener, Tweek Geek offers the option of an in-home audition, so you determine whether or not all of this works for your system. Having heard how the Tweek Geek Dark Matter Stealth Power Purifier elevates the quality of music in my home, I won't be able to unhear it. And it'll bug me to no end…

Dark Matter Stealth AC Power Purifier v.2 

Retail: $7344

Tweek Geek