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Manufacturer: IPC++ (Innoworks Product Creation Ltd.) Audiovisual AER(Audio Engineering Research)
Western markets distributor: Improve Audio
Product: Protonic Audio-Visual AER Acoustic Energizer
Size: 300mm high x 120mm x 120mm, 1.3kg
Price: $1250.00 each
Price: €999.00 each
Country of Origin: China (Hong Kong Territory)
Reviewer: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: January - December 2014
This is the most difficult review I have ever written. I have procrastinated for months. I have exchanged emails with the distributor. I am confident of the functioning of the listening room and the system. I am confident of the quality of the electricity supply. I am confident about the room acoustics; indeed this is the best listening room I have ever enjoyed.
"We all know what's coming next," heckle plebs, stage left, "The Old Scribe's gonna tell us he's found a magic cable that transforms audio and makes your ears grow!
No, your Old Scribe still believes cable reviews are utterly useless. Your old scribe has met many audio designers and product developers over the years and every one of them has sincerely believed in their ideas and the products that follow from those ideas. Sometimes these designers have ploughed a lonely furrow, treated with contempt by the believers in the dominant narrative of the audio cognoscenti, and sometimes hailed as gurus by a few who believe themselves to be enlightened. Some have managed to tread a line that encompasses both. Witness the controversy that greeted a gentleman from Glasgow whose views and products began by polarising the audio fraternity but whose main product became the de facto standard reference by which all others were judged and it remains in production today. Others came along with heretical views about wire, audible capacitors, and even a still lonely voice espousing environmental factors said to be corrected by knotted bits of wire, crocodile clips and little bits of coloured foil with the corner clipped off. Then there's magic stones...
"Oh no! The Old Scribe's gathered Bluestone fragments from Carn Goedog, Wales" quoth plebs, stage left, continuing, "Then he's taken them Wiltshire where he placed them overnight on the alter stone at Stonehenge before putting them on his audio equipment to transform its pagan goodliness"
No. While it has been established that the Bluestones from Pwelli, used in the construction of the Stonehenge monument in the second phase (from 2150BC), had special acoustic properties, we are not going there. The stones used in the construction of the columns of the Jain Temples of Hampi also ring in a harmonic series, but we are not going there either.
"So why the waffly pre-amble then?" whine plebs, stage left, "The Old Scribe's just rambling as a displacement activity".
When I agreed to review the various AER VIP (Very Impressive Products) featuring Euphoria Technology™ and PVA Field (Proton Vibration Alignment Field) I was expecting something like the once popular room ionisers that briefly occupied audiophools' homes in the late 80s. What arrived were well made and finished devices, about the size of a shoe box. Constructed from your Old Scribe's least favourite material for audio, MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard), a composite of sawdust and glue. However, it is merely present in this application to house the PVA Field gadgetry without shielding it electrically from the outside world. A little circle of these resembles a megalith. Each Acoustic Energizer costs €999.00 and 5 of them arrived after I had paid a ridiculous charge from UK Customs & Excise, who for decades have seemed determined to punish individual British subjects for having the temerity to import anything from the USA. Audio Engineering Research (AER), a division of IPC, had made the correct statements on the customs declaration so it was not their fault. Their representative in Florida, Norbert Heuser repaid this for me via Paypal.
They are designed by Mr Vian Li, of IPC Industrial Technology, who are based on Mong Kok, where TNT-audio went hi-end shopping in 2004. They are marketed in the West (the Americas, Africa and Europe) by Norbert Heuser, VP Sales, of IPC globally and President of their operation in Clearwater, Fla. They are among a range of audio tuning devices including CD and LP energisers (test soon), a piezoelectric-electric flat panel room tuning device, a mains power conditioner, and these room tuning devices.
What does it do?
They say, "The Acoustic Energizer can effectively reduce energy loss during the transmission process, enabling sound transmission with high clarity over distance. With Acoustic Energizer, you won't miss a thing! Low, mid, and high frequencies are all retained in perfect harmony. Now, orchestra, choir, vocalist, actor, performer, all can be benefit from this revolutionary device. Every nuance, every breath are directed to our auditory nerves. Feel the shock of the high-definition acoustic effect with Acoustic Energizer. Acoustic Energizer works by the Theory of Quantum Physics whereby a PVA (Proton Vibration Alignment) field is created to enable the smooth and effective transmission of sound, providing excellent acoustic conditions to render stronger resonance, richer harmonics and fuller nuances. This effect is especially apparent in a big venue like a concert hall or a in a private listening room where top quality in reproduction is desired"
"Hmmm. That's clear then," heckle plebs, stage left, "How do they do it?
They also say, "These products are made possible only with Euphoria Technology™. Scientists have been researching for a long time to find solutions to align Protons and Electrons in Atoms. IPC Hong Kong has found the answer and applied it successfully to many different products... and many more to come. IPC's proprietary Euphoria Technology™ is implemented in all IPC products to generate a prescribed and stable PVA Field (Proton Vibration Alignment Field). An atom has three major particles, namely Protons, Electrons and Neutrons. The PVA Field created by Euphoria Technology™ aligns the vibration and movement of protons and electrons in all matter so that their physical properties are fundamentally enhanced."
Now before the objectivists start getting all huffy about this, if you cannot establish whether a cat in a box is dead or alive, and you cannot decide whether light is a wave or a particle and you are still only at the speculation stage about gravitons (and how can a massless particle express mass as force?), frankly you haven't a quark to stand on. All sub-atomic physics is speculation, in a post-modern sense. Experiments are constructed using 'detectors' that the designer says detect a particular (groan) state, stuff is activated that the experimenter says will excite that state. The detector then detects the thing it is said to detect. QED.
Oh yes, and the presence of the observer changes the thing being observed. So in a truly postmodern sense, I am not reviewing a little bottle of lubricant extracted from rare Serpentes Elapidae. So open your minds and open your ears. On the other hand, IPC's advertising prose occasionally mixes up the orders of magnitude of molecule, atom and particle. The main component cost of this device seems to be the replacement battery, from which we might infer that this is where they believe the effects emanate.
Therefore I will not bore you with the technological explanations because the published ones are meaningless. This is to be expected, because to release proprietary secrets is to destroy the company's unique selling point. I will bore you with the test regime because this product could not be tested in any of the usual ways for one simple reason. Once activated, the effects will, according to the manufacturer, linger longer than a typical listening session. Hence, a change from the 'on' condition to the 'off' condition will not return to room to its untreated state. Another reviewer quotes a very precise 120 minutes but I am given to understand from conversations with the distributor, that the treated state deteriorates gradually. With any qualitative test, there needs to be either a degree of 'blindness' in the test or an agreement to a conclusion jointly constructed between reviewer-author and reviewer-participant. That would have no value to readers because it would effectively be a group reinforcing each other's prejudices.
Your Old Scribe remembers Keith Howard (then editor of HiFi Answers magazine) handing me a selection of PWB Electret Foils (red ones and black ones) to play with. I carefully followed the instructions and tried them at first in the locations likely to have the least effect, planning to add to the cumulative effect. The theory was that if I tried the biggest effect positions first, further additions would be barely noticeable. In fact I could hear no effect at all as each foil was added. I could not reverse engineer the effect as they were now glued in place. There would be a one-shot chance to remove them all and hear the change as they would be destroyed by removing them. I removed them all and there was still no effect.
So this test of the IPC AER Acoustic Energisers aimed for the maximum noticeable effect, I went from no devices to all 5 IPC Acoustic Energizers, to maximise the impact of Euphoria Technology™. The brochure features set-ups from 1 to 6, so presumably the manufacturers believe just one will be audible. Placement is not supposed to be critical; the instructions show a set up with 1 behind the listening position, 2 either side of the listening position, 2 behind the loudspeakers, and so forth. Contradicting the idea that placement has little impact on the effectiveness of the devices, other reviewers have found that changing placement of just one IPC Acoustic Energizer near the loudspeakers, would change the size and shape of the soundstage.
Your old scribe went for the full onslaught of all 5 IPC AER Acoustic Energisers being switched on simultaneously, after listening each time for at least an hour to the 'off' condition, with a fully warmed system.
The test regime could not be A-B-A or B-A-B or A-B-X because, if the effect does linger, either the test is really A-B-BA or B-BA-B or even A-B-BA-AB (where 'A' is off and 'B' is on and the letter order implies a deteriorating state). Other reviewers have tried removing the devices from the room to overcome this. This is invalid because the presence of these slotted monoliths could have an acoustic effect whether they are on or off, so two changes are being made. Furthermore, any effects will still linger. So the test conditions actually offered to the listener were A-A-A or A-A-B or B-B-B but they also could imagine the possibilities of A-B-A, B-A-B, B-A-A or B-B-A. The second round of A-B tests was done with some listeners without deception, which produced similar results.
All five were therefore tried from the outset to maximise the impact. Subsequent tests then involved various combinations of them in the brochure suggested locations for one, two, three or four IPC AER Acoustic Energisers. Types of music included the stalwarts of the Old Scribe test regime, from killer tracks to audiophile classics, and the whole Christopher Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music Beethoven cycle and Mozarts requiem, reggae, scratchy Northern Soul singles and all-valve recordings. Playback was via the resident Michell Orbe SE, Hadcock GH242SE (silver wired), MusicMaker II or Dynavector XX-2 MkII, feeding the Canor TP306VR+ phono-stage, the Canor TP106VR+ integrated amplifier, the modified shanling CDT100C, the Avondale Audio CD player, and the modified Hammer Dynamics loudspeakers in 18mm birch ply transmission lines, with custom outboard crossovers with hyperlitz inductors and couture caps.
Hence the test introduced a placebo X because the listeners did not know that the condition could not change from 'ON' to 'OFF'. Several listeners were recruited, one at a time on several occasions, whose opinion therefore would not be swayed by that of another listener. Each listener was exposed to 3 conditions. Once the devices were switched on they remained on but the participant did not know what the test positions were. The participants would watch me get up, walk round the room, pick up each device appear to do something and put it down again. None of the listeners knew what the devices were supposed to achieve, nor that their effects are supposed to linger, nor whether the AER Acoustic Enhancers were switched on or off.
Because of the notion that the effects could linger long after the devices are switched off, the time between tests was never less than 28 days. During the fallow period, the system would be used regularly, powered down while not in use, the room would be cleaned, assorted laptops and tablets would be used and the air would be changed by opening and closing of doors and windows. The men and women listening to the devices ranged from teenage to over 60.
Within the parameters of the test changes always being in condition from 'off' to 'on', without listeners knowing this, the results were a range of reported effects. Results were reported using the judging system and verbal descriptions. The net changes from 'off' to 'on' ranged from a total across 24 parameters of minus 3 to plus 4. The total changes between identical 'off' states and identical 'on states' were in the same range. In respect of the judging system, experience shows that any report of less than 7 is tiny and unless it is consistently repeated time after time, is not a reliable report of difference but within the typical range of changing experience of the same thing over time. As in any subjective judgement, the phenomenology of each encounter demands repeated encounters to ensure consistency.
The five IPC EAR Acoustic Energizers were tried in numerous different positions. High, low, in various configurations and even one on top of each speaker. Others have claimed that changing the position of them near the loudspeaker end of the room or between or behind the loudspeakers can affect the shape of the soundstage. Listeners heard no more effect than any slotted shoe box sized object might achieve by disrupting local reflections and this was much less effect than my old trick of placing or removing a portable CRT TV between the loudspeakers to demonstrate room tuning.
The distributors claim that there is a no quibble money back guarantee on the IPC EAR Acoustic Energizers, unless it is contradicted by the terms and conditions point that any returns must be agreed in writing. After I had undertaken the review, Your Old Scribe searched and found these pictures. Make of them what you will.
I was determined to give these devices a fair hearing. As the results emerged I received regular communications from the Florida based distributor. These included interviews with the inventor, Mr Vian Li, notices of awards received from other journals and gushing reviews. Audiophiles hate to be in the position of 'NOT HEARING A DIFFERENCE' because they infer from it that their golden ears might turn out to be iron pyrites. Reviewers, who have reputations for identifying tiny nuances, have even more to lose and dread the day that they could not hear any difference made by €5k of exciting new technology.
Using my rating scale the reported differences ranged from minus 3 to plus 4. Each minus report was followed by a remark like "Whatever it is you just switched it off" when in fact every test went from the "off condition" to the "on condition". On my measuring scale differences of this magnitude are typically reported when no change is made. Generally a difference of more than 7 is needed by each listener to create a significant data set. This contradicts the gushing online reviews, from our more commercially glossy rivals and reprints from enthusiastic reporters in the paper audio comics.
The biggest question is why IPC AER chose audio to launch these products? Surely such an idea has more useful applications than audio and the same question arose for PWB products. IPC AER does apply their ideas to many other areas of endeavour. There are Protonic Boat Engine Boosters, 'isole' fitness booster (a shoe insole), car engine boosters, Coachbooster, Truckbooster, a skin product 'ispring', the 'ivoice', their a voice enhancer, surely about to get an airing on those TV celebrity coaching shows.
"What about the €354 or €910 'iwand', resembling a battery operated vibration device for joyful insertion?" inquire plebs, stage left, betraying their classical origins by puerile questions,"It is listed just above 'irelief' on the parent website; chortle chortle!"
The IPC EAR Acoustic Energizers with EUPHORIA TECHNOLOGY™ are recommended elsewhere on IPC websites to provide energy in daily tasks and promote better sleep. It makes more sense that this is a product developed for another purpose and one of the team happens to be a bit of a stereo nut and tried it out in his (or less likely her) listening room and heard exactly what they expected to hear. It transpires Norbert used to be a pro-audio distributor, so that is why this technology got tried in an audio context. The 'iwand' is described as working like acupuncture using non-invasive techniques and traditional acupuncture does have an evidence base for pain relief and some psychological conditions including smoking cessation. It is essential to examine new technologies with an open mind and this test employed many open minds who had no idea what was being tested.
Your old scribe has an optimised listening room. It is made from and furnished with all natural high quality materials. It may be that there would be more effect in lesser rooms. My position as a qualitative researcher (fundamentally the role of the audio reviewer), inclined towards a phenomenological account of experience means that I do take other reviewers' experiences seriously but I just do not hear the effects that other reviewers have described. Listeners of different ages, genders, races and religious beliefs (some valve, some transistor and some class-D) consistently failed to report difference, despite thorough test procedures.
Your Old Scribe really wanted to be the first with a scoop. Your Old Scribe really wanted to bring a breakthrough product review. Sadly Your Old Scribe and his chums could not summon up the aural wherewithal this time. There have been several moments in the decade that Your Old Scribe's been scribbling for TNT-audio.com when I have said to an enthusiastic designer-proprietor, "I'm not going to write this review, because this product needs a more development". However, this product has already come to market with some extraordinary claims that are not met in my listening room.
On Vinyl: The whole Hogwood/AAM Beethoven symphony cycle and their Mozart Requiem, on L'Oiseau Lyre.
© Copyright 2014 Mark Wheeler - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com
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