THE REFINEMENT OF POWER AND THE POWER OF REFINEMENT
SURFING BATTERY WAVE
THE FUTURE IS THE PAST
It is helpful to see art as a wave flowing over culture. Some people surf the center, some the edge. Depends on what kind of thrills you like. But if you are a surfer you can feel the next wave emerging and you paddle out to meet it. Three years ago, at the same time I was experimenting with magnet and silver wire, I started to experiment with battery powered digital and reported my results to you all. I could sense the battery audio was about to break....surfs up. I did not know at the time that the ultra outer edge of the audio arts would some day be surfing on the type of power supplies my father used for his radio when he was a boy and a frankfurter cost five cents.
DREAMS HAVE POWER
Las Vegas is a paranormal American city. More people have had direct or indirect contact with UFOs in this city than in any other place on earth. So it did not surprise me that my father who has been dancing in heaven for eight years visited me in a dream while I was a personal guest of Tom Bodette, who left the light on for me at Motel 6. In the dream my father, Henry, was about sixteen and he was in his living room with his mother and father. She was knitting and he was reading the newspaper while my father was doing his homework. Everyone was listening to the radio and my father stood up and with one hand pointed to the big lead acid battery that was under the table that powered radio above it, and pointed towards the sky with the other.
That was the dream. Doctor, What does it mean?
My father was reminding me of the rip in the space/time continuum that occurs in all the (audio) arts. We are in the midst of the second battery revolution, and it is a time conundrum: we are now returning to the past to leap into the future. My father was reminding me that at one time all audio circuits were powered by batteries, and as you know there were battery trucks that would deliver freshly charged batteries to your home. Guy R. Fountain, the founder of Tannoy , started his career in the audio businesses with home battery charging service. This was the world before AC rectifiers. And by pointing to the sky my father is telling me that I may need batteries to reach the outer limits of Music Hyperspace.
My experiments with batteries began about a three years ago, and was stimulated by Dick Sequerras battery power supply for the Radio Shack CD which transformed a turd into a rose. As you know there has always been a BLF, battery lunatic fringe and when, in the early 1970s. moving coil cartridges became important the only way to power moving coil step-up devices was with batteries because they needed very low noise power supplies, Thermionic techno-shamans have been experimenting with and using batteries for bias voltage on tube preamps for as long as I can remember, justifiably claiming superior results.
When the battery bug bit me I bought a new Rolls Royce Corniche for $175,000, and took out its two batteries and had the car trashed. I like the sound of Rolls Royce car batteries in spite of their slightly recessed harmonics at about 17.5K. They have a midrange as silky as the cream filing in a Godiva chocolate. Soon I discovered that Herb Reichert of AudioNote USA cherishes his Edsel batteries believing that they are the golden standard for audio use, but (dont tell him I said so) he is completely wrong. Because of my obligation to YOU I felt I also had to experiment with Sears Die Hards because they are always on sale and very affordable, though they dont have the same silky midrange as Rolls Royce batteries. On the other hand the Sears have the ability to present the Nth Dimension of Music HyperSpace with the type of galactic clarity and resolution I only experience using the Mt. Polamar telescope to view the Crab Nebulae, and none of the classic European batteries have this harmonic quality, though the Citroen batteries from the late 1950s came very close, especially on French mono 78s of Django Rheinhart at the Hot Club.
(NOTE: I called the following companies to determine if the rumor that all of them were going to introduce battery models of their highest end digital gear for the auto market. I figured this was really big news because for the first time in the history of car business, the sound system will cost more than the car. All of the companies refused to confirm or deny the rumors, but all thought it was the right idea at the right time.
Results of my battery experiments appeared in both Positive Feedback and Hi Fi News and Record Review. The improvement in sound to both Audio Alchemy and Rotel digital gear, which I connected to a bipolar power supply made from Sears DieHard car batteries, confirmed my suspicion about the nature of digital discombobularity; namely much of it is due to the sonic signature of solid state rectification, solid state regulation and line grunge. A few months after my articles were published I noticed that Audio Alchemy was offering a battery power supply, which I am sure they were working on for quite a long while. Get my point about surfs up on battery audio.
AC REALITY BITES (This may be the best pitch for line filters)
Lay down on a table and have your friend and your wife tie you down. Use straps or ropes or anything that will keep you from hurting yourself when you are thrashing. After you are tied up, have your trusted one put a lead bullet in your mouth or a nice pine stick, so that when the pain become too horrible to bear you can bite down to keep from screaming too loud. Are you ready for the red hot AC poker up your metaphoric butt?
It is a fact of modern life. Your AC line has become so contaminated with electronic toxins that it makes Chernobyl seems like Disney World. Yes, line filtering can help clean up many of the electronic poisons, but dont forget that all of the equipment is also interacting with each other through the AC line. And there is little we can do about. Tube regulated power supplies make a big difference in getting rid of that toxins, but this is about as common as a virgin at the Playboy mansion. So we suffer, and we must suffer knowing that these AC line electronic toxins are predatory and attack the weak with the greatest ferocity. Digital gear suffers the most from these relentless electronic toxins that poison their power supplies. Now you can scream, thrash and bite.
Of course you have read Mike VanEvres articles are the problem with AC so you are not in the dark about this subject.
OLD TIME WISDOM
Please forgive this pedagogy, which I have been beating over your head for decades...an amplifier (whether it is a line stage or a power amp) is a modulated power, which means the sonic signature of the power supply is as or more important than the modulator, which is why I have been pushing tube regulation of power supplies so hard. Properly designed active regulation is superior to non-regulation but even regulators have sonic signature. Which is why in our ultra simple single-ended triodes the sonic signature of the power supply is so apparent which is why tube rectification is the de regeur....if you are not using tube regulators. This explains why in Japan, pre-1960s Western Electric tube rectifiers sell for more than their pre 1960 300Bs, and why they will soon be delivering new production. But what about equipment that doesnt have or cant use tube rectification.
All solid state rectifiers, even the ultra fast hexfreds suffer with high order harmonic nasties and you can hear it, especially in digital circuits. Unfortunately there are no acceptable low voltage tube rectifiers that can be used in solid state equipment. The audio potential of all solid state gear, including solid state amplifiers, preamps, and all digital equipment is being compromised by solid state rectification. I also asserting that the combination of solid state rectification and aluminum electrolytic capacitors is a bitchs brew of high frequency nasties, and why chokes make so much sense in solid state amplifiers is that they squelch much of the high frequency electronic toxins produced by solid state rectifiers. Have any of you solid staters experimented with what happens when you cut way back on the electrolytics and start using oils caps and chokes....and dont complain to me about bass response, we are on the hunt for King Tone, the Keeper of the Juice. Let me us know the results of your experiments.
So how do you create a pure, clean/stable DC supply for all of your audio modulators that is completely pure, and totally uncontaminated? Orthodoxy is that you use multi-tiered solid state regulators in the hope that with low enough impedance and low enough noise harmonic sweetness shall prevail. Wishful thinking! And there are many savvy savants who claim that sophisticated multi-tiered regulators make everything sound metallic, and use tube rectification and chokes in their tube preamps ONLY. Is less more here too? Are batteries a facet of the lessening of less? No more power supplies! (Note: At the end of this article all of you hyper-techies will start experimenting with battery power supplies and be shocked at what happens to your steady state harmonic distortion measurements, and remember you can hear more than you can measure).
THE TRIODE GUILD BULLETIN BOARD
Have you been checking the chat room bulletin board and reading how our brothers are using batteries to bias tubes, there by taking less is more to an even higher plane of less? This is extremely important because it is a confirmation of the essential time conundrum in the audio arts...the future is the past. Notice how the edge of the audio arts are getting further and further away from the center which supports my notion that the audio universe is expanding at the speed of a 1961 Volkswagen.
Will anyone have the guts and glory to offer a kit or a manufactured product with batteries?
UNPLUGGED and IS SOLID STATE SAVED?
Is it possible that the future of high end digital is batteries and they will be included in our toys? As the audio industrys only certified paranormal thinker I am predicting that General Motors will come to our rescue very soon, by ..... (choose one) (1) Producing big fin Cadillacs again or (2) making their battery technology developed for battery powered cars available to both the consumer and pro market. Modern high tech recording studios sound soo bad because all of those thousands of solid state ICs, transistors and digital chips are being poisoned by solid state rectification toxins, and we can here it. A battery powered recording studio is the only way to save digital from itself. This battery technology is now available, and as it become widespread and much cheaper we will start using it. Do we at the fringe have a choice? Let me know if you find one. I have already experimented with wind, water, and mule powered audio gear, and it doesnt work well.
Holy Trans-sister, is the Guildmeister of the Triode Guild saying that solid state never got a real chance to prove its worth? Am I suggesting that much of the bad rap that solid state gear gets in our community is not because of its intrinsic dis-harmonic character, but is due to the disharmonics of power supplies used for these devices? Hey Mr. Silicon, try the battery experiment and make your own evaluation, and let us know.
How wild and crazy is this idea? Well it is as complex as making a milk shake. Take any typical solid state preamp or digital gear and it is a snap to convert it to battery operation...if you know what you are doing. Battery power supplies should be an optional feature on low current gear because the battery hook up option is so very cheap and very easy to install in the manufacturing process and again it should be optional on all serious equipment. Just connect your batter power supply and throw the switch when you want to take the high road. Why doesnt someone take a typical Japanese receiver and experiment by running it on batteries and report their findings? My bipolar battery supply cost me $60 and I used my car battery charger to recharge them.
There are more and more companies getting into the BATTERIES INCLUDED mind and they are also offering automatic battery recharging, which makes sense. Different battery types have different sonic signatures and they should. Am I crazy? Just ask Ken Kessler, who in the November 1997 issue of Hi Fi News and Record Review wrote Battery Madness, which was a rave review of LSDs (the company not the drug) line of battery powered solid state gear.
Most have told me that this is too far out, which proves to me they dont understand the dialectics of art. What was yesterday totally too far out, is todays mainstream. If our artistic community doesnt keep on exploring the perimeter of the audio arts it will perish. Batteries solve a real technical and artistic problem; one that is not going away. It is not for everyone, yet it should be considered by those who are in real pain when they hear that enormous disharmonic electronic hash that appears in solid state gear. Professional tweakers will start offering battery modification services. That Adcom and Hafler preamp could sound really amazing. And all of those solid state phono preamps just might pick up some of that tube smoothosity when battery powered. Even if the battery experiments dont work it is totally cool to have a big black battery in your living room. Batteries could be the technical catalyst for solid state gear, in the same way directly heated triodes stimulated a whole new view of tube amplifier art.
A BOLD VISION OF THE FUTURE FROM YOUR NEXT PRESIDENT
For me to totally blow your mind you will just have to accept one premise: Because my campaign for the Presidency on the Triode Ticket will be successful there are going to more and more high efficiency loudspeakers...because it will be the law. Once we have high efficiency loudspeakers, then five and ten watt battery powered solid state amplifiers will hit the market. These will be amplifiers of extraordinary refinement and extremely cheap because they will have no big fat heavy and expensive power supplies. Now sit down for this: Every single driver in your loudspeaker will have its own dedicated solid state battery powered amplifier. You tweeter will have a one watt battery powered amplifier, your midrange will have a five watter and the woofer will have a ten watter, and if you have ten woofers you will have ten amplifiers...and all will be powered from one car battery per side. And yes there will be batteries freaks that will use one battery for each amplifier, and will have shelves filled with different brands of low powered, lightweight, low cost and very high quality battery amplifiers. Battery power electronic crossover will become available. This will also be the renaissance of the American audio kit business, because these battery powered amplifiers will be so easy to build.
There is a goober of inconvenience here, but that is the good part, because we are putting the fun and involvement back into the arts. Why should Bill Johnson, or Nelson Pass design and sell battery powered amplifiers? Do I take this challenge seriously? David Berning has told me he wants to design a ten watt battery powered version of ZOTL. What could be cooler than being the first company to manufacture a battery powered OTL?
There was another meaning in my fathers ghostly appearance. He was not only pointing to the battery under the table, but pointing down, so I should delve deeper into the meaning of batteries. This kind of thinking is the benefit you get from spending twenty five years in psychoanalysis wondering my your mother never loved you. The deeper meaning of batteries is the rediscovery of the tubes that were designed for batteries. So let me say this plainly to all of you so that you have time to get your guns loaded because you will be taking aim at me...those old battery tubes, which are miniature directly heated triodes, are the concresence of harmonic coolosity.....according to the Japanese. Nothing sounds better, IF, and it is a very big IF, you can tolerate or fix their microphonics...the type of frustrating microphonics that are a plague on Nuvistors...if you know what I mean. And what did I discover? Glass Audio (6/97 issues) in a cover story by Eric Barbour confirms what the Japanese have known, but are keeping a secret...the 1930s is still the high point of the thermionic arts.
So what do I mean? I mean that when all of the tube entrepreneurs have saturated the market with their new 300Bs, 6550s, El 34s and 6L6s, they should start concentrating their efforts on developing new directly heated miniature triodes that have the harmonic quality of those old battery tubes and are not microphonic, which will obsolete all tube gear that is peopled with the common miniature triodes of the 12AX/T and 6DJ8 family. The thermionic arts pendulum swings: as the second golden age of the output tube matures, attention will swing to develop a new generation of those classic miniature triodes from the 1930s, and they will stimulate the next level of the thermionic revolution. How long ago were directly heated triode output tubes from the 1930s taboo in America? Get my drift about surfing dynamic dialectical of the thermionic arts.
LOWTHER CULT : PAY ATTENTION
Of all the speakers that I can imagine that would benefit from the harmonic refinement that is realized with batteries the Lowther is top of the list, and I hope that the chat room will report on this soon.
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