Review: Hagerman Technologies FryBaby Tweak

Category: Accessories

What follows is a recent response of mine to a forum question on the FryBaby that I’ve basically ‘gussied up’ the grammar and syntax with, somewhat, and hereby present as a review:

Have had the FryBaby for a few years now. Works as advertised really. Don’t want to take away anything from anyone else’s experiences, but wanted to share my own findings with it. When using it on wiring that’s said to be compatible with cooking, anyway, I haven’t yet encountered any kind of audible adverse effects on anything I’ve tried it on so far (various IC’s and different speaker cables, no pc’s yet). I was glad I got one, it did, the first time I tried it on some old Monster Cable IC’s that had literally thousands of hours on them, wake them right up…much more open, noticeably more cleaned up highs, a bit better defined transients in the upper mids and treble. I could compare them directly to several other sets of the exact, same IC’s that were the same age (a big bag of orphaned wires). But, you could say in the case of the MC’s it worked a little too well. It also revealed the sonic signature of the IC’s that the FryBaby couldn’t change – the lower mid coloration and overall slowness of the cables still remained along with some noticeable grit. But, it was actually because of the FryBaby results that I began to suspect that the cable was probably not an inherently good design (though, not that MC is often thought of as being at the top of the audiophile cable food chain, I suppose). But, at the time I was first getting my feet wet with the basics of DIY cable design and I got curious enough to cut another pair open and see for myself what was underneath. Lo and behold, after the removing the thick, thick, black insulation and the copper-braid shield, the internal conductor (hot) was (for a low-current application like an IC) in fact a surprisingly (and wholly unnecessarily) thick gauge of multi-strand wire…! A definite sonic No, No. Good grief. No Wonder it had so much grit and lower mid coloration…all that copper – and multi-strand yet – nothing but grit. No minimalist design here, to say the least. Evidently these IC’s were designed with effectively only one purpose in mind: sheer durability! All that was kinda crazy to me at the time.

Then I got curious again. If the FryBaby was NOT overcoming the adverse effects of the conductor here, then what WAS it working on? I began to suspect it was the insulation, so I came up with a simple experiment to help shed some light. I took yet another identical pair of the MC’s (400 mk II’s) and cut them down, removing everything but the connectors and hot (and a white nylon tubing around the hot that I couldn’t remove) and return wiring and gave them a listen. Presto! That was even a bit More open (not less) than the FryBabied wires that still had their insulation on them untouched. That told me something and I began to get some ideas about insulation in general and began to suspect that insulation can be a far more deleterious thing on sound quality than most of us audiophiles ever stop to imagine, but still needed more confirmation.

Later on I tested some OFC speaker wires, again more than 20 years of use on them (a thick, single layer of polyethylene insulation). Again they were much more open than before the FryBaby, even the soundstage was a little better…not night and day or anything, but I could at least tell that there was a difference and that the difference was actually an improvement and not just a sideways change.

Tried it still later on a new pair of MAC Silver Soundpipe IC’s, this time without much success…a little improvement on first listen compared to the unbroken-in sound, but not much. I tried to repeat the treatment and the sound deteriorated. According to Hagerman it is possible to overcook something (it’s that burning smell…just kidding ;>). Actually if you should ever do that by accident or on purpose you then just play 40 or 50 hours of music through the wire and the problem is cured…which is what I had to do the MAC’s. After that I was content to continue break-in according to the maker. Some makers do not recommend cooking with their wires (or particular ones of theirs, anyway). Wasn’t sure about the MAC’s until I tried it. Didn’t know if I was entirely sure it was the silver conductors or the insulation (different kind than that black, rubbery/spongy type that MC and others use which was so prevalent for so long, until more recently. Then I tried it on some Monarchy PCOCC speaker wires (good stuff!). Out of the box the wires were better in all respects that what I’d been used to, but things weren’t at all very open yet, although I still had great faith in break-in for that. But, they were covered in the very same soft, black insulation as the MC’s were…so… This time instead of using the FryBaby on them I simply (and with painstaking care not to physically stress the OCC conductors) removed the outer insulation with an Exacto knife (removing the outer jacketing can mess a trifle bit with the capacitance with a star-quad design, but found it to be sonically negligible in my setup). Not only did everything spring to life in the openness department, but from that point on there was zero more break-in period – nada, gone, zilcho.

What that, as well as everything up to this point, has told me is that, sonically, insulation break-in deals primarily with openness of the sound and that in general insulation can be a big factor (maybe the single biggest factor) to consider in (wire) break-in and that cable cooking is, in fact, a further benefit to wires that were broken in with music only (no matter what their prior cumulative hours of exposure). And, furthermore that this particular kind of black, spongy insulation may well be the FryBaby’s favorite food and, by way of its algorithm, that may even be what it was designed to do: a cheap, simple (single, non-varying-algorithm) cooker that’s squarely aimed at the insulation that’s on (very) roughly about 60% of the wiring out there – which actually happens to be mostly on lower-cost wiring (or, on about 60% of the wiring at the time of the FryBaby’s inception, anyway).

But, owning the FryBaby has been eye-opening and I’ve even begun to look at my wiring purchases differently as a result. Purchased a pair of Mapleshade Excalibur ribbon IC’s (and have been delighted with them) on the strength of the attention given to (among other things) their comparatively minimal amount of (rather unconventional) insulation and despite the fact that Mr. Sprey insists that they be burned in with music only. Big lesson for me: that black, spongy insulation = always BAD, period. Better to not even have it at all than to cook it (with the FryBaby at least). After all, why would you want to use a bandaid when you can avoid getting a scrape in the first place? Sure the difference between the sonics of the FryBabied wires and those with the outer insulation removed was only about a 5-10% improvement, but removing the problem stuff was free. Destroying resale value may not be for everyone, but I imagine I must be enough of a DIY’er that, for my own purposes, I don’t really care about that so much. Maybe the biggest and most valuable understanding I can draw from it all is that with insulation in general: less is definitely more and that, fundamentally speaking, none is best…(the real-world and practical problems that that notion presents notwithstanding, of course). But, personally I believe we ignore that simple truth to our own disadvantage.

There may be other insulation out there the FryBaby is either just as good with or maybe not nearly so good with, but I will leave that for others with their own experiences with the FryBaby to comment on. But, unless I should run across an experience to the contrary, this is pretty much my whole 2 cents on it so far. BTW, I understand Hagerman now has released the FryCorder which, just by plugging it into an outlet, can treat all the in-wall wiring in your entire house in a single stroke…! For me, that’s major gotta-have-it factor right there. Cheers.

P.S. My system, which I haven’t quite gotten around to posting just yet (coming soon…), consists of the following:

Transport: Onkyo DX-C390 carousel changer.

Mapleshade Double Helix (non-Plus) digital IC.

Monarchy DIP Combo.

Another Mapleshade Double Helix (non-Plus) digital IC.

DAC: Ric Schultz-modified Behringer DEQ2496.

Mapleshade (balanced) Excalibur (non-Plus) IC’s.

Pre/Amp: Goldpoint (balanced) SMD series attenuators mounted inside a pair of Monarchy SM-70 Pro’s used as balanced monoblocks.

Monarchy PCOCC 12-ga. speaker wire with outer jacketing removed.

Modified pair of Magnat MSP-120’s (3-way, 4-ohm, 150w/rms, sealed towers. Sens.-88db. 30-34k +or- 3db).

About $1,200’s worth of Alan Maher designs power conditioning products.