Jan 262018
 

VolcanoThis review is dedicated to the memory of Hugh Masekela – RIP.

 

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 
― Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland 

 

Coconut Audio is dead long live Audiophile Rocks, that was the essence of part of the email exchange I had with Kamilla Liljegren of Audiophile Rocks who’s email to me was headed ‘Another Review ?’ After a brief exchange, a review was arranged of a number of Audiophile Rocks ‘Tweaks’ – as they call them – and a few days later 5 items arrived in the post to be reviewed: the Glo, Black Hole, Volcano, Rockwood and an RCA plug called the Noise Terminator.

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I must say I thought Coconut Audio’s name was pretty unique and in a world of – to a degree – identikit audio companies a unique name and usp stands out from the crowd, though I guess there will be those who say that placing crystal covered items on audio gear and expecting a difference pretty unique enough to stand out from the crowd.

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Being as frank as I was first review around I was very sceptical about these types of audio tweaks being pretty sceptical until I tried the previous tweak from Coconut Audio, the Vibradome Blue Star, the placing of which on several audio components made an easily audible difference.

This time round I am no more able to offer any kind of explanation as to why the Blue Star made a difference as it did, and under blind listening conditions as well as sighted listening. I recall only to well the look on faces when listeners were able to correctly identify the effect of the Vibradome Blue Star, when it was sitting on the audio equipment and had then that effects absence once it had been lifted off.

The differences, improvements were described in similar ways to what I had heard and being frank all of us were left with our ideas regarding what could and could not make a difference challenged, and I found myself severely perplexed, never mind those who did the blind testing part of the Vibradome Blue Star review who’s incredulity was swept away by the reality of hearing a crystal covered dome improve the sound of music.

This time round Kamilla’s email arrived in the in box of someone who at least had an open mind, and relished the idea of a second go at listening to the latest tweaks.

Audiophile Rocks products will be reviewed with a similar listening methodology to the Coconut Audio review and that will also mean blind testing.

Product Descriptions.

VolcanoMarantz

Audiophile Rocks say this about their products basic technology –

‘All our products use natural based piezoelectric (1) quartz crystals, minerals and ores of selected types, which are treated with proprietary liquids and ultrasonic waves of different types. This is a lengthy process that lasts two months per batch to complete. It has taken 6 years of trial and error to perfect this H2U2 Crystal Formula. The H2U2 Crystal Formula has been fine-tuned by ear into 0.01 gram accuracy and is very sensitive to external contamination, therefore we have tightly pressed and vacuum sealed it inside all products we build.’

And about their making process and materials –

‘Around the H2U2 Crystal Formula we use either wood or PVC depending on the product. This wood/PVC has black crystals pressed into it using a proprietary technique that has taken years to develop. The amount of crystals on the surface is very important as well as how deep the crystals are pressed inside the wood. We finally place a very thin layer of proprietary varnish around everything which makes the device water resistant while holding the crystals in place.’

Having looked a little into this, I am still none the wiser as to how this can have any effect on a piece of audio equipment, but it or some other factor, please no calls of placebo or delusion, must be, because not just myself can hear an improvement in music reproduction.

This time round Kamilla has sent more products to try, so with no more ado here are the details of the items up for review this time.

Product Description

Here are the details:

Volcano

audiophile rocks VolcanoThe Volcano is suitably named as that is exactly what it looks like, a small red volcano. It is 6.3 cm wide at its base reducing to a 2.2 cm at its top, with a 5cm deep depression in its top. The red material it is made from is embedded with black crystals.

Audiophile Rocks have this to say about it

‘The Volcano is our new crystal design for the lowest cost. It costs as much as our old popular VibraDome Blue Star while also being bigger with our newest and best H2U2 Crystal Formula. This filter is surrounded with red PVC, black crystals and varnish. ‘

The next ‘tweak’ in for review is the

Glo

audiophile rocks gloThe Glo looks for all the world like a snow ball, its 4.5 cm tall, 5 cm wide and has a flat bottom. The surface is covered on black crystals and some other crystals a colour I am struggling to decide what it is.

Audiophile Rocks say this about the Glo

‘This Glowing Light Orb (GLO) is our new crystal tweak that replaces our old Night Glow tweaks for the same cost. They have been very popular among our customers over the years. Our first model Night Stone was even voted “Product of the year 2012” which was using the old Alien Crystal Formula, since that time we improved the formula many times until we reached perfection with the H2U2 Crystal Formula.’

And next

audiophile rocks RockwoodV6KingRockwood V6

The Rockwood V6 is 5 cm tall, 3.5 cm wide and is round, slightly domed at the top and has a slight depression underneath it. It’s surface is covered in black crystals.

Audiophile Rocks say this about the Rockwood

‘Rockwood is the most neutral and transparent tweak ever designed, and it was built to last a lifetime. It’s handcrafted from wood and black crystals on the surface which makes it almost impossible to break. It’s our only tweak that can be placed under the equipment as isolation feet if you buy 3 units.

The V6 model is our best version that is a large step up from all the other Rockwood versions and the Hill Crystal models we designed during year 2016-2017. ‘

Next

audiophile rocks CrystalBlackHoleBlack Hole

The Black Hole is a free standing flat bottomed black object, bulbous at the top and thinning slightly to its lower body. Its 5 cm tall, by 4 cm wide at the top and 2.5 cm at its bottom. The surface is speckled with black embedded crystals, mostly buried in the surface  There is a hole in its bottom, which ends in a flat faced crystal.

Audiophile Rocks say this

‘Black Hole is our new crystal tweak that replaces the old Black Star tweak for the same cost. Black Hole is twice as large and has a Black Obsidian Pyramid inside. The older Unreal Crystal Formula has been upgraded into our best H2U2 Crystal Formula which is placed inside the rock. Around this rock we use black PVC, black crystals and varnish.’

As before the proof in the pudding is the listening.

audiophile rocks NoiseTerminatorNoise Terminator

The Noise Terminator is 5cm long, by 1cm wide. It comprises of a bare metal RCA plug, black plastic body and at the opposite end to the RCA section there is a recess filled with small crystals. Currently Audiophile Rocks don’t have any other type of plug type available so potential customers wanting XLRs or any other connector option will have to ask if they can offer them.

Audiophile Rocks say this about the Terminator

‘Cover up the empty RCA holes in your audio system and prevent RFI from leaking into your music.

Noise Terminator has been one of our most popular tweaks. Over the years we have improved the original Alien Crystal Formula and now we have it available in “the end of all” H2U2 Crystal Formula which took 6 years to perfect. We have even improved on the aesthetics and durability of the Noise Terminator which really sets it apart from our older versions.’

Noise terminators are not a new addition to the music lovers arsenal of tweaks, as companies like Cardas, and Telos offer cap covers, so it will be interesting to see what this particular item does to improve the listening experience.

Review System

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This time round I opted to use my second system: Balanced Audio Technology VK300 se integrated amplifier, Veracity Audio Mystra DAC, Sony HAPZ1 music player, Accuphase DP56 CD player, AMG Giro turntable, AMG 9W2 tonearm, Air Tight PC3 MC cartridge, Pass Labs X Ono phono stage. Anthony Gallo Reference 3.1 speakers. Cabling: Audience AU24 XLR to XLR, Atlas Mavros,

Music Used

I used my usual reference recordings and many more during this review, but in the main I used these two.

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Dead Can Dance – Into The Labyrinth.

Dali

The Dali Demo CD – Various Artists.

 

Listening

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With 4 Audiophile Rocks to assess as well as the shorting plug I tried to keep this as simple for myself as I could and thus I started with the amplifier alone, then a source. However after doing this I also introduced using two rocks on the source and amplifier.

What I am not going to do here is examine every option in detail, as I think that would lead to an unwieldy review and for some readers a boring one, instead I will focus in detail on some aspects and more generally on others.

Volcano

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First up was the Volcano, as Audiophile Rocks state it was the replacement for the Vibradome Blue Star.

The difference the Volcano brought to the track was a wider soundstage, extra clarity to the space and air of the musics acoustic. There was also a greater sense of instruments and Brendan Perry’s voice being more dimensional and a greater sense of layering within the music.

These improvements were right the way across the treble, mid-range and bass. I would say there was no tonal change, no shift in focus or spotlighting music was simply appearing to be reproduced with improvements in the areas mentioned.

This wasn’t a subtle improvement and yet I did a fair few Volcano on, Volcano off comparisons before I could really accept what I was hearing. In all honesty despite hearing the positive effects the Vibradome Blue star had made to my other system I was still shocked and surprised this item could make such a difference by just sitting on the amps case. Its not heavy enough to damp it and yet it was making a difference and a positive one – frankly I don’t know how.

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I also tried it on the source but felt that it gave more benefit on the amplifier, but there was an improvement while sitting on the top of the Sony HAPZ1, just not as large a one as there was while on top of the amplifier.

Next up was the Glo.

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Placing the Glo on top of the BAT VK300se brought a difference to the presentation and a very slight shift in focus. There was a smidge more detail and definition in the mid and treble and a very slight shift in the soundstage coming forward, with a little more depth to the image.

Using the Glo on the Sony didn’t bring the same degree of benefit as the Volcano had but there was still an improvement, and one worth having.

Rockwood V6

002_549x412I did a number of on, off comparisons, and to the Volcano and was left speechless as to how this could possibly do what it was doing.

Trying the track Birds also off Into The Labyrinth by Dead was very useful regarding how the Rockwood altered the soundstage. At the beginning there is an intro with numerous bird sounds and to the far right of the soundstage a number of bird calls appear. With the Rockwood on top of the BAT there was an extra realism to these calls that helped create the illusion that the bird making them was half way out into the room. Swapping back to the Volcano saw the bird call shrink slightly back to the right speaker.

Percussion, and drum sounds had extra impact, decay and nuance, the strikes on skin and subsequent trail off into the acoustic was breathtakingly real sounding.

Black Hole

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The Black Hole had a similar effect to the Rockwood V6 but I felt that I just preferred the Rockwood in that I felt there was a very slight forwardness to the way the Black Hole worked in the system. In saying that this was pretty subtle and during the blind testing part of the review period the blind listener was not always able to discern whether it was the Black Hole or Rockwood, but could always hear the effect of the tweaks sitting on the amplifier.

The Noise Terminator

NoiseTerminator1piece

My methodology re this was to use it in a source, Marantz CD7 digital output and an unused RCA input on my Balanced Audio Technology VK300se integrated amplifier.

I started with track four on Dead Can Dance’s album Into the Labyrinth, The Carnival is Over with the Noise Terminator not in place and then with it in the BAT VK300se.

004_412x549It was immediately obvious that there was a change, the harp at the beginning of the track had more space, and air round it, detail of the strings being plucked were much more obvious and within the soundscape of the track the harp was more 3 dimensional than it had been. The swirling keyboards also benefited from the same change as did Brendan Perry’s vocals.

Separation of the various elements within the track was improved with every aspect now clearer. The drum which beats like a heart in parts of the track was also so much more clear and defined as was the percussion elements towards the end. Another aspect that was better was the fade out where Brendan speaks. With the Noise Terminator in place his voice stood out more even as the track fades away to nothing.

I then placed the Noise Terminator in one of the digital outputs of the Marantz CD7 and had another listen. This was better than without but not as marked a difference as in place in the amplifier.

Switching back again to no Terminator in the amp, just to recheck my listening experience and then back to the Terminator in place really was an expletive moment, I swore. This time round I was able to concentrate on other aspects of how this track sounded, and the increase in soundstage width and depth, and the track appearing to sound a smidge louder (volume setting were not changed) stood out more. I think it important to do several back and forward comparisons and this was revealing.

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Next I tried Stimela (The Coal Train) by Hugh Masekela and listening today was tinged with sadness at his very recent death, but also in awe of his great talent. First I listened with the Terminator in place and then with and I had another expletive moment. The clarity of the drum at the opening, cow bell and far right soundstage keyboard with the Noise Terminator in place was impressive and had all the same types of improvement there had been with the Dead Can Dance track.

The soundstage width and depth were improved and audience sounds had much more clarity and detail, individual voices more real than the slightly more homogenised non Terminator presentation, within the also improved acoustic of the club venue.

Hugh’s vocal had also gained greater clarity and detail as had the nuances of his trumpet playing.

I remember hearing a similar effect the first time I had placed Telos Caps on the unused RCA sockets of my system at that tine, but this improvement was brought about by just one item, not all the sockets being covered by caps. Where I originally lived the environment was much more noise filled than where I am now, I lived near a busy airport, with all its electronic devices, radar etc so to find this degree of improvement in my current environment begs the question what noise is the Terminator dealing with now ? I am not sure, but its effect, that of just one was big enough that I am very impressed with what the Noise Terminator was doing to reproduced music within my system.

Blind Testing

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As with the previous blind listening tests conducted at the time of the Vibradome Blue Star original review I did not tell the experienced listener what I was doing but simply played the same piece of music several times, both on a short comparison and over a slightly longer period of time. I know some favour these sorts of comparisons to be done over longer time periods than I allowed but I was fairly confident that the comparison methodology I adopted would identify differences in presentation, detail retrieval, tonal changes, and general improvements.

With the Volcano the blind listener was able to hear improvements in imaging, clarity and there were also tonal improvements. Glo brought about increased clarity in the treble, midrange and vocals. There was also an increase in soundstage width. Rockwood, and Blackhole improvements were audible but as mentioned above the blind listener was not always able to discern which was which as he felt the improvements were broadly similar. After exploring this further he felt the Black Hole’s soundstage was slightly bigger than the Rockwood V6, but there wasn’t much in it between the two, with both improving the soundstage by revealing more air in the acoustic, greater dimensionality, and subtle nuances in the music also became clearer.

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My own listening experience roughly paralleled, the blind listener with a few differences in description, and interpretation of what we heard, but the main point is both of us heard these items improve and make a difference to the equipment they were placed on, be it the BAT VK300se integrated amplifier, the Sony HAPz1, Passlabs Xono or the Marantz SA7 and later on during my own follow up listening to a Marantz CD7.

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Conclusions

“have i gone mad?
i’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.” 
― Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland

Well what can I say, once again incredulity was stretched and smashed once again. These items as I said in the last review should make no difference what so ever to any piece of audio equipment they sit on but they do, and once again I am lost as to how or why.

Being frank while I can’t explain this, I have reconciled myself to the reality that they do make a difference as the Vibradome Blue Star did before and based on Audiophile Rocks money back 90 day try in your own system guarantee I think at the very least that sceptics and the curious should give them ago. Of course there will be those who pour scorn on these products, my once again positive review, and Audiophile Rocks in general, but they won’t have tried them and therefore their opinion is somewhat worthless, in my view. Maybe they too should try them and then have an informed opinion to offer and possibly end up using them in their system as I am.

If you want an easy, or less controversial entry point into Audiophile Rocks product portfolio then give the Noise Terminator ago first and then try the other ‘tweaks’ at a later date, but being frank surely anything that improves music reproduction in your system, regardless, should be welcomed and the music enjoyed anew.

Recommended

 

Neil 

(1) Wiki entry relating Piezoelectricity – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piezoelectricity#Synthetic_crystals

 

Source of Review Items – Original Manufacturer

Audiophile Rocks – http://audiophile.rocks/index.html

Contact – Office address:
Kamilla Liljegren
Lysviksgatan 42
12342 Farsta
Sweden

Email – info@audiophile.rocks

Organization number: 9201264307
VAT number: SE 92012643070

Review Products:

Rockwood V6 – £60

Glo – £60

Volcano – £60

Blackhole – £60

Noise Terminator – £30

 

© Text and Photos Copyright 2018 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio. Except album sleeves/manufacturers images. Copyright resides with those owners. 

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

 

 

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