After my recent experience with Coconut Audio’s Vibra Dome Blue Star, I didn’t think I would be quiet so soon reviewing another somewhat unusual tweak for an audio system, and I guess bar a chance exchange it probably wouldn’t have.
Let me put my cards on the table, while I am a subjectavist (enough in some places to be burn’t at the stake) and both acknowledge and have heard interconnects, speakercables, mainscables, various types of equipment supports, types of plugs improve and alter the sound quality of a system and individual components I have generally drawn the line at the so called ‘tweaks’ of what many might call the ‘loony fringe’ of this hobby of ours. So the likes of Coconut Audio, Mad Scientist Audio’s ‘tweaks’ – which depending on ones view point might easily qualify as belonging in that loony fringe – would have slipped past my attention or garnered a raised eyebrow in response.
I am not aggressive re my incredulity at such things, because I have experienced enough in my life to know not everything is so certain, particularly in audio for me to totally dismiss the possibility something might render an improvement, even if it seems unlikely or perhaps at my most dismissive belongs under a heading of magic. However there is so much we still don’t understand or have the ability to measure that dismissing things without trying them is I feel ultimately foolish as is offering any comment on them based purely on prejudice rather than direct experience.
Anyway I like to think I have an open mind, and having challenged incredulity with the Coconut Audio Vibra Dome, heard an improvement with using one, I guess my mind was open enough to accept an offer from an end user to try a pair of Mad Scientist Audio Magic Tubes.
Mad Scientist Audio
This New Zealand based company is owned and run by Bob & Kay Prangnell with a posse of Mad Scientists. They make interconnects, mains cables, isolation footers, and tweaks, the Magic Tubes being one of them.
‘Bob is the Chief Mad Scientist, and Bob also runs a software company, and is a decent photographer. He’s been tinkering with audio gear for the past 40 years in his spare time. Electronic and Software engineer by trade.’
And that is as much as I can tell you about the company, or the product, apparently Bob doesn’t know why these Magic Tubes do what he claims they do, which is one of the reasons why the word Magic is used.
‘Magic Tubes are small glass tubes, about 4-5cm long and 6mm diameter. They contain a mixture of black and white powders. (The powder is sealed in the glass as it degrades on contact with air.) The reason for the “Magic” moniker is down to the effect they have on audio system components. It seems so unlikely, that such a thing can have any effect, let alone a profound one.
To use Magic Tubes, attach to various elements of your audio system. Typically these places are the first to try:
Interconnects – attach to one end or the other, just after the RCA plug. Can use sticky tape. Or try attaching to the plug. Usually works better at one end or the other, so try both.
Loudspeaker cables. I use on both ends, on both wires. Again, I attach with sticky tape or double-sided tape.
Power Cords – stick on the IEC inlet plug.
DC power umbilical cords, and transformers, inductors in crossovers, etc.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Some people get good results on digital and video components. Personally I don’t. But there seems to be no limit to the number you can put on your system while still getting audible improvements. I have around 30 at the moment.’
There you have it, Bob’s instructions on use, where to place and thoughts on the Magic Tubes.
The Magic Tubes are small 4.5 cm long by 5mm wide glass tubes sealed at both ends by flattened and what appears to be heat sealed glass, basically folded and fused.
Mad Scientist Audio obviously want to keep the contents of their Magic Tubes secret, as white and black powder is meaningless, so the proof in the pudding is trying them which is what I did, on an interconnect between a CD player, interconnects between pre-amplifier and power-amplifier, mainscables and speaker cables.
The company site suggests using sticky tape to attach them, I used a little blu tac, which facilitated quick swapping in and out.
My usual reference system was used: Moon Andromeda CD player, Balanced Audio Technology VK52se pre-amplifier (earlier listening BAT VK31se pre-amplifier), Music Reference RM200 mk1 power-amplifier, Anthony Gallo Reference 3.5s (earlier listening Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1), Atlas Mavros XLR interconnects, Atlas Mavros speaker cable. Audience AU24 mainscables, Analysis Plus Power Oval, Mark Grant mains distribution strips. Clearlight Audio Aspekt racks, Mana Reference table. RDC platform, SSC platform, M8 cones, Telos caps.
The Dali Demo CD
I took Mad Scientist Audio’s advice re fitting the Magic Tubes and leaving for a day before listening, so first up over the first initial weeks listening was the interconnect between the Moon Andromeda CD player and pre-amplifier.
Being honest I wasn’t expecting to hear anything so when I did I was surprised. I listened to one track a few times with the Magic Tube in place, and then removed them a distance away from the system and had a listen.
The track was Stimela (The Coal Train) by Hugh Masekela, a beautifully recorded piece of music, and it was clear there was a drop in openness and detail with the Magic Tube removed. I quickly replaced them and listened again and while Mad Scientist sort of suggest this isn’t an ideal way of doing this, but I found that what ever was causing the effect was easily heard by adopting this methodology. However to be clear I did not do this until the Magic Tubes had been in place for at least a day.
With the Magic Tubes in place, there was more definition, detail and focus and the recordings ambience was more obvious. During the opening of Stimela a cow bell is struck and with the Magic Tubes in place the shape, and decay of this instrument was more clearly delineated within the soundstage and I could easily here the echo of the instrument in the recording space. The skin of the drum was more clearly defined, as was the percussion in use, the cymbal strikes had more easily heard shape and decay, the shimmer fading off into a very 3 dimensional space.
When the vocal began it existed very much within a real ambience, with body and solidity, almost like the voice was present for real within my listening room – like my room had been peeled away to afford me a glimpse into the recording venue.
Now Stimela as a track normally has much of what I describe above, but the Magic Tubes being present on the CD player interconnect gave me more than normal, the window glass less there than before. I will avoid the window cleaner analogy and say the glass of that window was less in the way.
Removing the Magic Tubes resulted in the glass of the window re solidifying and a degree of opaqueness returned, openness and air reduced. I guess almost like a thin film of noise was reintroduced to the music, thus reducing the fine details of the music.
Placing the Magic Tubes back, and listening to track four of the Dali Demo CD, The Yuri Horning Trio, Walking on the Moon brought about the same increase in openness and detail, which was heard in the same areas as on Stimela. Of note a metronome like ticking that can be heard behind the music, in the right channel was more obvious and three dimensional with the Magic Tube on the interconnect than not.
Moving on I placed the Magic Tubes on the interconnects taking source signals from the Balanced Audio Technology VK52se pre-amplifier to the power amplifier. As before I left them in place for a day before returning to listening and repeated the listening tests as with the CD player source and I pretty much heard the same as with that application, though one area that seemed to benefit a bit more here was in terms of soundstage depth. Both tracks acoustic seemed deeper and there was a smidge more openness and air.
I repeated going back and forward numerous times and removing the Magic Tubes closed this down to a degree, much as it had before.
Next up was the mainscables. I placed a Magic Tube on the CD player mains cable and the Pre-amplifier’s and here I am afraid I heard no differences at all, I tried repeated listening and nope I could hear no change to the plus or the negative with the Magic Tubes placed either on the IEC plugs as Mad Scientist suggests or on the actual cable near the plugs – Strike One.
Next up, and slightly more awkward to get at, was the speaker cables from the back of the Music Reference RM200. As before I placed the Magic Tubes on the cable and left, in this case, them in position for two days before returning to the review. Once again Stimela and Walking on the Moon were the tracks used and I am afraid to report that as with the mainscables I could hear no improvement with the Magic Tubes in place and no drop in quality with them removed – Strike Two.
I can’t explain this as placing the Magic Tubes on the CD player interconnects and pre-amplifier output cables still render an improvement in sound. In Bob’s own text above he says, ‘Some people get good results on digital and video components. Personally I don’t’, so I guess there is room in this for my experience to be to the negative of Bob’s experience and that of others, in that I heard an improvement with my CD players interconnects.
I can’t really offer any suggestions as to why these glass tubes, containing powder alter the sound of music in the way they do. Not knowing the contents of the Magic Tubes I am at a loss, maybe there is some effect upon RFI or magnetic fields or…. well I just don’t know, but I heard an audible effect to the positive when they are in place on the interconnects from my CD player and pre-amplifier, and as such I think its worth trying Magic Tubes in that application, elsewhere, well your mileage may vary to mine and might well tie in with Bob’s and others.
Another listening experience to add to the file, of not sure why, but it made a difference. As such I feel this tweak is worth a try, with the caveat that your application, system and listening environment might mean what you hear and where might not reflect mine.
Product – Magic Tubes, a Mad Scientist Audio Tweak.
Source of Loan – End Customer User.
Magic Tubes Retail Price: $49 pack of 2, $99 pack of 5, $199 pack of 12, $499 pack of 36. Available direct from companies website.
Website – http://www.madscientist-audio.com/
Mad Scientist Audio Ltd
1 Ellivani Rise
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