Walker Audio Sound Enhancers
All Tweaks Are Not Created Equal
Mid-spring came and with it the arrival of a care package from Lloyd Walker of Walker Audio. In an industry where bad news travels at warp speed, I’ve only heard good things about Mr. Walker, particularly about his ability to tune systems using his specialty products. In this shipment was his famous Super Tuning Kit for vibration and resonance control, along with a small sample of his Super Silver Treatment (SST) and High Definition Link, virtually Walker’s whole tuning kit and caboodle.
Lloyd Walker is also quite well known for the creation of the monster Proscenium Gold Signature turntable, considered a masterpiece in many analogue circles. Now, if someone knows a thing or two about turntables, and how difficult they are to setup properly, I’m all ears. Eliminating external resonance-induced vibrations (like walking across a carpeted wood floor while your turntable is spinning, without causing that arm to jump) is a masterful task that usually takes forever to achieve! So if Walker can get the proverbial nod from his audio colleagues, as shown through rave reviews and awards over the years, then I presume he knows more than most about vibration and resonance control.
With the receipt of this package from Walker Audio, the opportunity for me to find out had finally arrived.
Lloyd Walker’s past accomplishments show him to be not just a fan of isolation techniques, but an superb practitioner of the often-misunderstood art-form called turntable design. I think it would be safe to assume that, with Walker’s 30 years as a start-up controls engineer for electronic and pneumatic processes, with stints at NASA and eight nuclear power plants, he knows a thing or two about how things function. (In his spare time he built and raced cars and motorcycles!)
His Valid Cones and Tuning Discs use the concepts of mass loading and high frequency isolation to control resonances. A standard kit consist of three specially shaped brass alloy cones, weighing two pounds each, and five resonance control discs, weighing one pound each. The Super Tuning kit adds four 1” x 2½” inch diameter discs, each weighing two pounds. The cones are large and attractive while the discs are brass rings filled with lead.
The Super Silver Treatment consists of ultra-pure silver processed into an very-thin, long silver flakes suspended in an organic solution. It is a true contact enhancer, not a cleaner or lubricant, as most such products are. The suspended silver flakes fill the minute gaps in the surface contact between male/female connectors, eliminating micro-arcing and lowering the resistance. With SST, Walker claims, the volume will be louder and the sound will be much soother and clearer.
The High Definition Link, designed with positive and negative leads to fit onto speaker posts, is a passive filter that is said to remove RFI/EMI contaminants that make their way into your rig. The parts are nude and set inside a wood block for protection. A special RFI/EMI copper foil shields the HDLs. The wiring and spades are ultra-pure silver.
The proliferation of resonance control devices onto the audio market has made it quite difficult, if not impossible, to audition them all. But I’ll wager, whether it’s simply a block of plain maple-wood, cold-rolled steel shelving, or some type of cone, there exists some sort of vibration and/or resonant control device in your audio rig. If not, you have no idea what you could be missing!
Now there have been claims and counter-claims as to the effect and/or efficiency of using lead-weight to control resonances Walker advocates. Some argue it can destroy dynamics or lessen harmonic overtones. Others claim the opposite. Of two things I’m certain: too much of anything is no good AND always use your own ears to judge a product.
It is very hard these days to accept products at face value. Reviewers are only part of the puzzling sequence by which a product makes its way into your audio rig to become a successful addition. Being ‘highly recommended’ is no guarantee a particular product is going to work well in your system. This is the reason why, when a product does come under my scrutiny, I try to get that product in as many different setups as possible. Needless to say, with all the review items I have arriving, I had to invest some time, patience and energy applying the Walker Audio Products to my setup. First things first: I powered down, then pulled out all the wires and interconnects in preparation for Super Silver Treatment.
The main thing to remember is this: apply lightly. Once accomplished the overall sound of my system improved in a way I can only describe as impressive! The dots are more connected with the addition of the SST. Soundstage continuity lends a more three-dimensional landscape, giving individual instruments more life andvibrancy—minus the usual forwardness. I always attempt to convince myself that my system displayed this level of soundstage before, but I also knew after a couple of sessions that I only was fooling myself.
I had my usual collection of reference CD’s. One of the more recently acquired is the beautiful instrumental Chants from Wolfgang Puschnig’s CD bearing the same name [Quinton Q-0102-2]. I was introduced to this label by Stefan Fekete (the designer of the Lumen White loudspeaker) while attending the Munich show, and let me tell you, he appreciates good music, particularly jazz, as much as I do. Stefan knows what to listen for in these wonderfully mastered recordings. Well, after several months enjoying this disc, there were definite improvements in the lower bass after applying SST. Floor tom-toms hit with improved pitch and definition; percussion possessed greater tautness. Ditto the woodwinds coming from the right of the soundstage, behind the loudspeaker. Clarity improved at the rear of the soundstage. All these perceived improvements and there was still more to uncover with the High Definition Links and Valid Points.
The next thing I did was install the High Def Links to the planar ribbon tweeter section of the Ascendo System M loudspeakers. This was easy to do, but in my setup I could not hear any change. I couldn’t tell any difference between putting them in and taking them out. Oh well, I can’t say this was the first time I tried some device that left me guessing as to what, if any, sonic changes occurred. Undeterred, I left High Def Links in (having heard nothing deleterious) and went on to install the Valid Points under the Gryphon Mikado CD player.
I installed the Valid Points to the Gryphon Mikado as instructed, with two Pucks on top and with three of the larger Pucks resting on my very attractive Acoustic Dreams maple shelf supporting the Mikado. I must note also that the Gryphon Mikado comes standard with a single spiked footing. Fortunately the larger Valid Points were successful in taking the place of the smaller stock footers. I immediately went back to my listening seat and pressed the “play” button on my remote control.
What does improved silence sound like? was the first thought to come to mind. I had thought my front end didn’t need further enhancements in the areas of clarity, pitch-definition and low-noise levels. Yet, that’s the sonic impression the Valid Points and Pucks produced. One bi-product of this improvement is better localization and outline of instruments. I’m not referring to cardboard cutouts here, but to non-fuzzy sound that embodies the right amount of instrumental color. This did nice things for soundstage, instrument size and width. I got the impression I could hear more from the back of the stage as well.
Many weeks passed before I eventually placed my attention back to the mysterious High Def Links, removing them altogether from the setup since I didn’t think they did anything in the first place. That’s when I heard it. The treble energy sounded harder, more contrived and less organic. The sweetness of my system somehow lost its magic. I sat there slack jawed! I did not hear this when I first installed them. Could they have needed break-in? Perhaps. But I didn’t have the chance to ponder long before re-installing the High Def Links almost immediately. As I thought, the Ascendo’s planar-ribbon’s sweetness was restored. One thing was clear as the night-sky: the High Definition Links are real and do something that may not be obvious at first blush. Leave them in and just go back to what you’re doing before removing them.
Some months passed and I was happily enjoying the improvements, when my phone rang and it was none other than Rick Shultz of Virtual Dynamics. He informed me he was planning to visit from his hometown of Edmonton, Canada, and he wanted to make sure I would not be traveling. I assured him I was free and looking forward to his arrival. His subsequent arrival was a blessing because he asked about contact enhancement devices, and I was able to inform him of the Walker Audio Super Silver Treatment being used on all the cabling. He nodded, but wanted to do the entire innards of my electronics with the SST. Of course I was nervous, but thought the worst that can happen is the loss of my warranty. “Go for it,” I shouted.
Why did I say that to a certifiable tweakaholic like Rick Shultz?
He commenced to open up and apply SST to every single component in my signal chain: Gryphon, Tact 2.2X pre, Big Ben universal word clock, and both Tact M2150 amplifiers. I admit I was a bit surprised by all the circuit plugs used in the digital realm but that made it also easier for Rick to apply the SST. And apply it he did!
In retrospect, I believe applying Walker Audio SST to the internal parts is actually more critical than applying it to the wires. Don’t get me wrong, they both make a difference, but the improvements wrought from going internal was such that I might have thought someone literally changed a piece of gear! Angel Song [ECM 78118-21607-2] featuring Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Dave Holland and Bill Frisell is an outstanding CD, which the roster of musicians should tell you. Listening to this masterpiece through a fully SST-treated system was like having my eyes adjusted and my ears cleaned. Kenny Wheeler’s trumpet on the opening track, Nicolette, sounded like I was hearing this disc for the first time! Improved openness, rhythm and better pace made the disc that much more appreciated. Both Rick and I sat there enthralled, he looking as if he already knew what to expect, but was just glad to see the expression on my face. It was apparent he was used to this sort of look on the faces of audiophiles. Not that I am not a tweaker in my own right, but I have never delved so deep as to treat circuit boards. I’m eternally grateful that I allowed him to. I’m still relishing the results.
Easily voted Publisher’s Choice Most Wanted Component 2004! proves tweaks do work. But finding the right tweaks for your system is the hard part. If I could call Walker Audio Products anything, I’d call them “One Stop Shopping.” Between his three different methodologies, there’s really no way one can fail to hear their combined effects on a system. I know that I’ve adapted to his product and have not looked back. Not only have his products allowed me to hear the music like never before, I also appreciate the mysterious art of component resonance control and one of its chief wizards, Lloyd Walker.
Postscript: Lloyd Walker informed me there was one more product he sent that I somehow did not try in his Vivid CD/DVD Enhancer. I admit that I never took it out of the box. I just never heard nor visually witnessed improvements with these type liquid applications. And I've plenty experiments to back my claim. I admit, they return old scratchy, not well handled, looking discs into clean and shiny objects.
Walker advocates cleaning across the disc and not in the usual circular motion. I did this while taking special measure not to overdue the process by either over-buffing or using too much application. I think the process is quite an easy one.
Long story short: I did hear a slight improvement in clarity using the Vivid CD/DVD Enhancer but will admit the differences as subtle. In this business even small changes are somewhat significant particularly if those changes occur in areas where the signal becomes cleaner and/or clearer. I say, anytime a product adds a closer look into the recording the better. I also sensed a slight improvement on DVDs as well as color saturation improved. The picture simply looked brighter with greater contrast. I just wish I had two of the same DVDs to compare instead of totally relying on memory. Taking all of the Walker Audio products and used as one things get quite improved. But attempting to tell you what this last installment did singularly is tough. I will say this: I'm enjoying my system now more than ever before!
SST: Introductory Price $70.00
Valid Points: Standard Kit: 3 Valid Point cones, 5 resonance control discs Price: $325.00
Super Tuning Kit: Standard Kit plus 4 one-inch discs
High-Definition Links: Bi-wired systems require two pair. Tri-wired requires three. Per Pair
Ultra-pure bare silver jumpers with pure silver spades Per Set
Vivid CD/DVD Enhancer: Deluxe Kit comes with one 4.5 oz. bottle, one 1 oz. bottle, 6 wipers, 3 application pads and instructions.
Basic Kit comes with one 3.5 oz. bottle, 3 wipers, 1 application pad and instructions.
Contact: Walker Audio
1139 Thrush Lane
Audubon, PA 19403
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