Akiko Audio E-Tuning Gold Mk II
Like many of you reading this you have probably been at this audio hobby (addiction?...."I can't quit you babe") for a long time and along the way you've been able to cobble together a collection of components that you call "my system".
It's been a stop and go kind of process. You get a collection of things together that you feel good about..... for a while ....and then you don't!
So the search for audio nirvana continually continues!
You have made a bunch of good audio friends along the way and you beg, borrow (and steal?...not yet, at least!) different components/accessories/tweaks to see how they may nudge your system closer to that mythical nirvana.
Well, recently one of my friends, who just so happens to be the ultimate tweaker and also a reviewer by the name of Clement Perry, lent me something from a company that I wasn't yet aware of. Akiko Audio was the name and noise reduction was their game. As usual, I was excited (but not too excited as I've been down this road before and sometimes the ride is bumpy) to see where this may take "my system".
When I got the piece, I purposely avoided searching for reviews as I didn't want to have anything influence my thinking. I got really just the most basic of info ..."place it on or near a component or wire or cable and see what effect it may have". And that's what I did!
The product is the Akiko Audio E-Tuning Gold MK II which Clement gave high praise to in his review back in the fall of 2014 (here). His review was of various Akiko Audio products working in unison, while this review focuses on the E-Tuning Gold Mk II only. If your not aware of their web site you should check it out for they have a lot of products.... many of which that do something similar to what this product does (and I hope - to get the opportunity to try more and see if the positive effect leads to an additive impact).
Here is how their web site describes what the E-Tuning Gold MK II does.............
"The 'ET' MK II is filled with a mixture of minerals and piezoelectric and paramagnetic materials and enriched with gold.The E-Tuning Gold MK II contents are stabilized with black resin, a material which sufficiently suppresses microphony effects. This is an important condition for a calm and pleasant rendering of the music.This all works because we applied new discoveries in the field of high frequency noise suppression. That it works has also been demonstrated through measurements: suppressing high frequency noise leads to a more pleasant music rendering in the audio spectrum."
So, what did this one piece do for "my system"?? And how might that info be helpful to your journey with "your system".
But before I jump right into that let me just give you a little background on my biases - for we all have them. And I think my (and probably your) biases start with the type of music you prefer, how loud you prefer it and the size of your listening space. Like many of you I am, musically, all over the map but the stuff I am most drawn to is Classic Rock, Progressive Rock, Fusion, Blues, Acoustic Jazz and thank God for the German ECM label! Ok, that's the Music side but as for Audiophile details: My room is smallish and I sit rather near-field and I tend to focus my major concerns on clarity of detail, micro and macro dynamic capability and a dimensional sound stage with focused, palpable images. But aren't these everybody's concerns? What about tonal accuracy? I'm all for it (and here is where I might part company with some) but if something has to give (and something always has to give!) this is one that I've always seemed to have to sacrifice to get my fill of the others. I'd like it all but if push comes to shove I choose flawed excitment over bland correctness. Yes,it's heresy to some!
As the years rolled on, and I kept trying to improve my system, I'd audition different components /accessories/tweaks and always seemed to choose what favored my major concerns, typically at the expense of tonal accuracy and relaxed musicality. My philosophy on this is that putting together a system is akin to making a good soup.... you start with a bunch of basic ingredients but then you've got to season it to taste and this is where art prevails over science; in that you have to combine the different ingredients and spices in a manner that ultimately pleases you. You just can't take all the variables that come into play in assembling a "system" and find a scientific blueprint that can just lead you to the hallowed goal called "accuracy." Everybody's soup has different ingredients and therefore - IMHO - the spices needed will vary from soup to soup!
This is where a tweak like the Akiko comes in and why I like what it's doing for my system. Because, I too,was looking for "a more pleasant music rendering in the audio spectrum." I listened to at least a dozen different recordings and it became clear that the pros - and some small cons (there always are!) - were showing themselves consistently in these recordings and - just as importantly – in four different friends systems. Let me really stress this point... in all four systems.... we all agreed that the Akiko was doing the same things in each. All that really varied was the intensity of the effect and not the essence of the effect. Let me give just a few examples, with more specific descriptions, of how the MK II helped...
On a Tony Williams Lifetime LP called "EGO" there is a cut called "Two Worlds" where Jack Bruce sings and plays electric bass. Before introducing the MK II the sound was decent but afterward the slight sibilance on his voice was all but gone and it was richer and more relaxed. Same with Tony's cymbals. Now very often,with other products, that sense of relaxation came with the cost of a reduction in palatability, dynamics and clarity.Not so here! Also,the slightly blurred/homogenized quality of his bass was now a little better focused in it's space. In fact, you could say that about all the images on stage. Another changed aspect was what I like to call "bigification"....meaning all the images - and the stage they were on - seemed to slightly enlarge.
I can't really pass judgement on the science claims of how this product works but what I can surmise is that the reduction of noise allows our ears to relax and hear more of the natural music. Reduce hardnesss, grit, glare and all of the attributes we cherish, seem to be more hearable... and therefore we get a "more pleasent muscial rendering".
If these sound like things that would benefit "your system" then you know what to do.
I've played with more expensive toys and have gotten less bang for the buck! I can't speak to their whole product line but if the rest of their accessories do these same sort of things (and if adding more items gives added benifit) then it seems to me that these would be worth some of your/our time to explore.
Let me add one more point that I think important....Another interesting aspect of the MKII was how it produced slightly different results depending on where and what you placed it on. Let me explain "slightly different" as meaning the same basic character but as more or less "impactful". Although I tried a number of different spots the two that I settled on - that we're doing the most positive things - were on top of my Equi=Tech 2Q balanced power conditioner;which everything in my system is plugged into. And then the other spot – which proved to be my favorite – was on top of my Wire World strip (connected to the Equi=Tech via a Virtual Dynamics Master 3.0 power cord ) which had several components plugged into it, most notably my phono section and my pre-amp.
So, some playing around is in order to find the most suitable spot for "your system." Sounds like good clean fun to me and at a resonable price to boot!!
What are you waiting for "get to work" because this tweak could be one that helps your soup be a little more tasty!
BON APPETIT !!
ed van winkle
Akiko Audio E-Tuning Gold mkII
Price: € 195,-