Bybee Gold RCA Adaptors
I won’t pretend to understand and I won’t try to explain, but Jack Bybee’s company produces a set of audio tweaks that originate in what sounds like a cross between science fiction and an espionage novel. The emphasis is on what the company refers to on its website as ‘slipstream quantum purification’ – the stripping of noisy electrons from a signal conductor, with enough references to atoms, energy and crystals to either baffle or to give rise to guffaws from the more cynical side of the audiophile crowd.
I’ve tried a few tweaks over the years, such as the EVS Ground Enhancers or the Audio Horizons tube buffer, seeking to improve the sound of my system. Other than footers, however, I found they invariably failed to deliver on the promise, and in some cases made matters worse. However, since I never mastered the art of judging sound quality by appearance, I am always willing to give products a listen to make up my own mind. So naturally, when Bybee Products contacted the ‘Zine with an offer to submit for review, I volunteered.
There’s a Bybee product for many applications: power conditioners, interconnects, internal modifiers. In this review, I will look at a pair of RCA adaptors that interface your cable to your component – a quick-fit pair of ‘crystal purifiers‘ that are designed to work almost anywhere but are particularly recommended to be used downstream from a source (i.e. at the next input stage of a preamp or amp).
In the interests of disclosure, I actually have the optional Bybee upgrade in my own Spectron monos, a pair of in-line purifiers that were pre-installed inside the amps when I purchased them from a dealer. Not having heard the amps without these (and because I cannot remove them or easily determine their role inside the amp), it’s impossible to say what they contribute to the Spectrons’ sonics. I do hear from owners of non-Bybee’d versions who take the plunge to have them installed later that they feel the upgrade is worthwhile, but my experience of the Spectrons is only with these already inside.
Since explaining the technology is beyond me, let me just state some facts as I see them. These adaptors are about 3.5” in length, come in a nice wooden box, look like a thick, extended RCA input-to-output extender, and cost $399 a pair. The female end receives your cable, the male end plugs into the component. The fit on the component end is adjustable by tightening or loosening the main barrel. The claim is that these will result in airier, more harmonically pleasing sound. Connect them wherever you have RCA inputs and you can test for yourself pretty easily if the claimed better interfacing is audible in your rig.
Fitting them is pretty basic. The only problem here is that the central barrel is thick enough in girth to cause some challenges in tight spaces. I found, for example, that the closely placed pairs of RCA inputs on my Raven Blackhawk integrated amp did not allow for two Bybees, so my first attempts at trying these on my tube amp were dashed. Still, the Raven is harmonically rich as is, who needs more? Better luck was found in my main rig where I tried them both with my phono stage and eventually with my main amps, the only components where I use single ended cables. Let’s take these in order.
My ARC Ref2SE phono stage is a tube-based amplifier that I purchased last year when ARC closed out the model and dealers started offering remaining stock at relatively bargain prices. A noticeable step up from my previous phono stage, itself the not-too-shabby Whest .03RDTSE, the ARC covers most bases, with dual inputs, multiple loading and both high/low gain settings. Feeding it with a mix of MC cartridges from Sumiko, Charisma Audio and Ikeda, I have the best analog sound in my home I’ve experienced, and over the last year have shifted listening habits to so many more hours of LP than CDs with pleasure.
Interestingly, I can’t say the Bybee adaptors add much of anything to the sound when installed on the phono cable. The music sounds great with or without them, and try as I might, I could discern no meaningful difference. It was not for lack of trying. I took them in and out several times, both at the start of the review period and later before writing this up, and at no point could I honestly distinguish an effect. If nothing else, this confirms that the Bybees are sonically transparent.
The story with the Spectron Musician III Mk 2 monos, however, could not have been more different. From the moment I installed them on the High Fidelity cables I run to these amps from my SMcAudio VRE-1 preamp, I knew something had changed. Moreover, the changes I heard were invariably positive to my ears.
The Spectrons are ultra powerful switching amps (Spectron don’t refer to their amps as Class D) and they sound like no other amplifiers (of any class) that I’ve owned. They deliver ultra-clean sonics that make most anything else I’ve tried sound just a little muddied in the lower frequencies. Further, the Musician III Mk2s provide enough timbral accuracy to ensure the midrange sounds pleasing to my ears. Some complain the Spectrons are too clean, as if that is a criticism, but to my ears, their clarity adds to my enjoyment of the music. They get out of the way, not in the way of the musical signal.
If there is a weakness that I do acknowledge in these amps it is that the upper frequencies can be a little soft, rendering cymbals a tad light in presence. Well, even if that was true before the Bybee adaptors – and I emphasize the ‘if’ part of that argument – it certainly wasn’t after installation. It took all of one minute of Tord Gustavsen’s The Ground CD for me to sit up and notice something had shifted in my rig, and only two minutes for me to be convinced that the shift was positive.
So what is it you ask? Well, this is not the simplest set of differences to explain but if words like ‘ease’ and ‘natural’ speak to the sort of sound quality you want in your rig, then the Bybees seem to provide it. I think the background sounds quieter, and as a result perhaps, instrumental presence is a little more real, with note decay clearer to hear, and nuances of the players style becoming slightly better revealed to the listener. In one way, it’s subtle but in another it’s as if a component has been changed. The Spectrons, on the end of all my sources, simply sounded better on all CDs and LPs I listened to with the Bybee adaptors in the rig. I can’t pinpoint one sound and say ‘that’s it’ but the whole presentation of the music just seemed a tad more real, more organic, and more cohesive. From the slow instrumental tunes of Gustavsen’s Trio on CD to full frontal rock from Black Sabbath on LP, I just enjoyed the quality of reproduction more with the Bybees on the amps.
If pushed to say exactly what is different, I might allude to the saxophone on Kenny Burrell’s Bluesin’ Around release, capturing vintage early 1960s Kenny on sessions for Columbia that never saw the light of day until decades later. The sax of Leo Wright on a couple of tracks never really stood out to my ears until I played the album with the Bybees in the rig, whereupon the instrument’s true glory came through with dazzling realism. Ditto, the acoustic guitar on Tommy Bolin’s Private Eyes album is not what Tommy was most known for, but spinning it with the Bybee’s on my amps seemed to lift the strings into relief from the main beat on “Hello Again”, giving the track a sense of space that I now think of missing when the Bybees are removed.
It’s these small incremental improvements in tone, timbre and decay that the Bybees repeatedly provided that has me quite impressed with their value. Taking them out is as noticeable as putting them back in. While they were not beneficial with my tube phono stage, the differences I heard when they were positioned in front of my power amps were undeniable. Could it be that they are additive to the existing Bybees in these amps? Mark at Bybee said this is likely the case, but without more time to try these on some incoming amps, I can only tell you what I heard with my Musician IIIs. At the price, and with 30-day return rights if you don’t find a benefit, I recommend trying them for yourself in your own rig, it’s the only way you’ll know if they work for you.
- Phono: Garrard 401, ARC Ref 2 SE phono stage, Ikeda 9TTand Charisma Audio 103 cartridges
- Preamp: SMcAudio VRE-1
- Power amps: Spectron Musician III Mk 2 monos
- Speakers: Von Schweikert VR5 Anni II speakers
- Cables and power cords: High Fidelity interconnect cables, Elrod/Spectron speaker cables, Spectron Thunderbolt cords on amps, Absolute Fidelity, IceAge Audio power cords.
- Product webpage (product under review on lower half of page)
- RRP: USD399 / pair