Review: AetherAudio Black Box Tweak

Category: Accessories

I just experienced one of those amazing moments in the land of high end audio when you hear something superlative and yet you find it very hard to believe what your ear's are telling you is true.

One of my best audiophile and music lover friends, on my recommendation, had ordered four sets of the AetherAudio Black Box speaker wire tweak for his very high end and terrific sounding system. His rig has some very highly regarded gear: Magico M6's, Nat Audio Symmetrical Balanced preamp, PS Audio Perfact Wave digital combo, Synergistic Research Power Cell 10SE. I have been listening to his system over the last two years as he tried out different gear, until he got it to the point were it just did not seem it could get more musical and enjoyable. Why he needed four sets of the Black Box tweak, for a total of eight boxes, was his Magico M6's have four drivers, each with its own set of monoblock amps! Why I had recommended this device to my friend was because I had auditioned a prototype in my own system for only a couple of hours and was shocked what they did in my system. For certain reasons, my friends order, which was my request, were built first and I'll be recieving my two pairs in the very near future.

The Black Box speaker wire tweak is the most recent design of Bob Smith, who I like to refer to as the "Mad scientist/Sonic wizard of Hobart, Indiana. His new company is AetherAudio, he put SP Technology to rest, he still is building his wonderful sounding wave form speakers and now is in production of this new revolutionary device.

Each Black Box is attached to the end of your speaker wire with a high end binding post of your choice and then there is another set of binding posts that you attach another set of speaker wire jumpers to that go into your speaker posts. Each Black Box is a small/dense relatively attractive black metal box about 2" high, 4" wide, and about 6" long. Please don't ask me what the heck is inside these damn boxes, to quote from AetherAudio website, " the "heart" of the Black Box is a component called the "Smithcell" which is a proprierary design. Just like I won't pretend to really understand how what a very similar device, Bybee Tech Speaker Bullets, really works, I just know it works very well indeed. Bob does have a white paper and a theory section on his website and if you would have any questions regarding his theory, I'm sure he would be glad to try to answer them.

As soon as I sat down to listen to my friend's system, always with music I use to audition any new gear with either in my system or his, I heard the following and understood why my friend was still being amazed after listening the last five days to his own rig:

1) The soundstage front to back, side to side had totally increased and opned up. Not only the size of the soundstage, but the location and layering dramatically improved.

2) It seemed that the total noise floor was decreased at least by 20 to 30 precent so microdetails just floated out of more black background. It reminded me of what happened when I put my MG-20's on Myesound stands.

3) Much richer/organic/natural timbres then this system has ever had, and it was not to shoddy to begin with.

4) Bass became faster with improved pitch and speed.

5) Greater clarity/transparency, yet the whole system seemed to relax and breath in an easer way then before.

6) The leading edge of the harmonics was more defined, without any etch or Hi-Fi sound, and the body and decays sounded more natural and realistic.

This was heard and experienced by my friend and myself in a system that was top notch/reference level to begin with. I don't know if Bob's Black Boxes offer better performance then Jack Bybee's Speaker bullets, which I have heard and admired, but at least on the same level in very similar sonic ways. But here's the punch line, the Bybee Speaker Bullets retail for $4200.00 a pair, Bob's Black Boxes for a pair start at $400.00 to around $700.00 for special upgrades regarding binding posts/wires.

Even if you take out the cost vs. performance ratio, this new tweak is an amazing device for its effect on the total sonic performance being taken to a much higher musical level in your system. Heck, I have spent much, much more on power cords, IC's, without this much of a total improvement towards musicality and ease. I can't wait to get my own pair of these in my system, and I highly recommend you GON members to contact Bob and set up an audition and decide for yourself.

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Great review, as always. I am proud to have turned you on to these Black Boxes, and to have helped Bob find such a wonderful person and audiophile. Further more, I know Bob is quite taken aback by your generosity in introducing him and his genius (aka "mad scientist") ways to your wonderful network of audio buddies.

As you know I have the basic black box prototypes on my SP Tech (former name for Aether Audio) Revelations, sans the Smith cell technology. In my very basic twisted wire, prototype setup they sharply lowered my noise floor, wiped away what-had-been-up-till-then un-noticed distortion, and created a sonic palette that, in your words, create realistic organic timbre and tonality. I can't wait for my two pair of finished boxes!!

Way to go Bob (and Teajay)!
Just realized I made two minor errors in my review, so to set the record sraight:

1) Bob is the "Mad scientist/Sonic wizard" of La Porte, not Portage, In.

2) His great speakers are not based on a wave form, but a wave guide approach.

I know neither is a big deal, but what the heck why not give the correct information if you can.
My audiophile buddy just informed me that his Magico's are not M6's but the Ref3's, so now any mistakes I might have made in my review have been corrected.
In my system which includes Wp7, Pass XA160's, Acoustic Arts tube Dac, N32 Levinson Preamp and TNT 6 turntable- the Black boxes worked! Base increased significantly, the center imaging of the midrange vocals broadened and projected slightly ahead of the speaker plane. A smoothing of edges but without any loss of detail. Hard to believe I agree but see for yourself. Thanks TeaJay for recommending it.
Well guys, I finally got my two pairs of Dr. Smith's, also known as the "Mad Scientist/Sonic Wizard" Black Boxes and it proves that this device works its sonic wonders equally as well on planer speakers as it does on reference box enclosure speakers.

What I stated in my original review is still in effect, however, what I find amazing and wonderful revolves around the following changes:

1) The increase in transparency/clarity which allows microdetails to be heard much more easily.

2) Image density greatly improved with much more air around each individual with a more expansive soundstage and more precise layering.

3) Timbres sound more realistic/natural then before.

4) Finally, my whole system's sonic signature became even more "musical" with even a higher degree of liquidity then I had before, without losing PRAT or dynanmics.

I find this still amazing that these little fricking Boxes can dramatically improve the performance of reference level systems as much as they do. So, no down side as far as I can tell in my system, only surplatives and a great bang for the buck.
So, I received my dual set of Bob's Aether Audio Black Boxes last week, the day or two before Teajay got his (we were kidding Bob about who would be next; I guess cuz I'm such a huge SP Tech customer and fan I got mine first? Just kidding...I ordered first I think). Anyway, I have them placed between my SP tech Revelation Mundorf crossover boxes and my Revelation speaker terminals.

Note: keep in mind that my impressions are really as much about the Smith Cell technology as the rest of the BB, cuz I had Bob's prototype r/c network hanging off my speaker terminals for the past few months and reported that they really smoothed out the overall FR, and provided even more dynamics than before (like I needed more).

So, I let the BB's settle in for a couple days...but I must first say that dead cold, from the USP truck, the differences, the improvements, were noticeable on literally the first note (Cowboy Junkies Whites Off Earth Now). The overall noise floor has dropped, the gain seems to have increased, and the whole soundstage got about 30% wider and deeper. Huge dynamics (more, give me more) made it feel like my speakers had grown in model size (which is tough cuz Bob hasn't made a model bigger than the Revs yet). In fact, I told Bob and Teajay that my very first impressions were scary...that maybe my speakers are now too big for my room (which is not true, see below, but it's my first impression)!

Well, after the BB's settled in, warmed up, and I got some sleep (listened that night for quite awhile) I realize that the effects I'm hearing are simply more "there" there. As Teajay so eloquently puts it, the image density has increased...images once floating in space are now fleshed out and securely occupying their rightful area, three dimensionally. Ambient cues, microdetail, are no longer just little "foley effects" in the music, but a clear effect of some musical cause.....this is goofy to say, but more music now sounds more correct..I now "get it" with some recordings that were earlier less cohesive.. in that the echoes, the ambient spaces, the air..all interact with more sense...they come together better and portrays a real recording venue...especially on those wonderful minimally mic'd recordings.

Bob has hit a home run here, and anyone who feels that their amp/speaker relationship is good now..just wait until the BB's create a sense as if there is no cable present at all...just amp fused to the back of the speaker.

Pretty impressive for $500/pair? WOW!!
Oops, sorry....was thinking the Nuforce Magic brick pricing. Still, $500 each is a bargain and then some.
A review by Frank Alles of the website The Stereo Times on the less expensive version of AetherAudio's Black Box manufactoried by NuForce called the Magic Cube has just been posted.

Mr. Alles comes to the same conclusion, that this device has a wonderful effect towards a higher sonic performance without any down side ar all. It's a rave review and he gave the greatest compliment of all, he purchased the review pair.

I'm glad that Bob's device got its first professional review and it's all postive.
Teajay and Ted, I assumme that if you are bi wiring your speakers, then you would need two pair?
Hi Husk01, I believe your assumption is correct, if your bi wiring you would need two pairs. Just to be sure whay don't you contact Bob and see what he says about it. I biamp my system so I have to use two pairs.