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Positive Feedback ISSUE 26
july/august 2006


From Clark Johnsen's Diaries - Should a Columnist Express Second Thoughts?
by Clark Johnsen


johnsen_typewriter_web.jpg (4673 bytes)

Seems like just yesterday I gave the world Lotions Eleven, although in fact it happened… three days ago; and already I have second thoughts. Fortunately for me it was specified that the conclusions reached therein were based on experience in one system only, and now there's another one under my belt.

Here's how it played.

Kwame and I are at Steve Klein's, intent especially on hearing the new Nanotech Music Strada speaker cable about which Bill Gaw raved in EnjoyThe Music.

As Steve's Sounds of Silence is also the distributor of the Nanotech 8500 CD fluid, I have brought along the Lotions Eleven winner, Liquid Resolution, to demonstrate.

Steve's system, as usual, has morphed since our last visit. Instead of Beauhorns we find the tall, handsome Polish-made Acuhorn 175 one-way horn-loaded loudspeakers, complete Kondo electronics and the new Stibbert Bluenote Mk. II CD player beloved of Harry Pearson. But in my opinion the system is not as good as I remember. What happened? Steve's a careful experimenter, but any one of us can manage to devolve our systems incrementally and hardly notice it.

Instead of the expected Music Strada he has in an expensive set ($2500) from Z Cable, just this day deemed sufficiently burned in. Could that be it? Also Steve relates his problems with the Stibbert. After several days he begged the distributor to take it back, but the fellow wisely demurred, telling Steve to keep playing. Switching off, he removed the shielded Z Cable Red Lightning power cord ($600) and substituted the highly regarded Black Lightning (also $600). Voila! Next he replaced the stock 6922s with Falcons. Voila a deux! Et mon Dieu!

How could anyone have ever liked the Stibbert without such modification?

He wonders. Indeed.

While we had not foreseen this visit as an experimental session, it soon becomes that, as so often happens when audio guys get together. First we choose a useful CD, which turns out despite my distaste for "female vocalists"—what ever became of sopranos, contraltos, etc.?—to be Jennifer Warnes' The Hunter. Played straight, it sounds digital raw. Treatment with the Liquid Resolution + Rinse produces a sound with astonishingly greater clarity, space and musicality, without digital edge. We all three get it within two measures.

Then I clean the disc with ClearDisc and apply the Nanotech 8500. Oh geez!

The voices have greater weight and bearing, the bass more power—but at the expense of space and presence. Here we behold a totally different presentation, equally enjoyable but lacking the distinct plusses of the previous.


Next we apply the NESPA Pro and everything improves, but the Liquid Rez thang is still not recaptured. Scratching our heads, we decide to put in the Nanotech speaker cable and omigosh! This stuff is good! Much better than the Z Cable. Just like Doc Gaw said, and it's only (only!) $960/8 feet. Steve then reveals that he has sold his Kondo cables ($8000). Looks like Music Strada is king of the pile, for now; I'll be getting it myself, as will Kwame.

Then we turn our attention to the Z Rollers on the cables ($400 each). I suggest we remove them, and Steve assumes a pained expression. Yet almost with the very first notes we all throw up our hands in... Despair? Delight? Much better!

But, [sigh] pity we didn't do this first. Although who knows where to begin when performing such experiments? With outcomes unknown, as well as the degrees thereof, one must perforce begin somewhere. And now we're stuck with the assumption that the noted fluid differences will stand through these later improvements.

While I speak to my editor on the telephone about how to handle an update, Steve and Kwame remove Z Rollers from his interconnects and report similar results. As now we must depart, I miss that particular thrill.

What to conclude?

First, your mileage may vary with these two fine fluids, and it will be a matter of taste which you prefer with your own player on any particular disc, so you'd better have both—or, more.

Second, it's senseless to spend top dollar on a CD player when even a magnificently-reviewed item such as the Stibbert can be so immeasurably improved with a power cord, and moreover requires proper prep on the discs themselves. Not only that: these fluids can change it from one type of sound to a whole other. Why is that? Why has such a phenomenon not been addressed and solved in the twenty-plus years of CD regnancy? What say the "bits-is-bits"istas?

Finally, because this always works for me, as a rule the best way to make your system sound better is to entertain helpful, eager visitors. 

Z Cable


Music Strada

(Nothing is online there about it yet, but contact information is provided. A trusted associate in San Diego writes, in response to my express concern that perhaps it works best only for high-efficiency systems:

"They were transformational in a system with Mark Levinson feeding Wilson Watt Puppy 7s; a Berning feeding Vandersteens; a Mactone feeding 86dB inefficient Marten Design speakers; and most profoundly, a 100-watt Rogue amp driving Dali speakers - 85dB.

"No matter what's being connected, or what's being compared... the results have been resoundingly positive!")