March 9, 2009

Romancing with Stones

While walking the halls of an audio show late last year, I was reminded of the sheer volume of audio products available, many of which are worthy of coverage in SoundStage! However, even the Soundstage! Network, with its numerous websites, can’t cover everything. We have never reviewed the Shakti Electrometric Stabilizer, for instance, a well-known audio tweak that is usually just referred to as the Shakti Stone.

The Stones, which each measure 6 1/2" long, 5 1/4" wide and 1 1/2" high, use proprietary noise-reduction techniques to attract electromagnetic interference (EMI) and convert it into harmless heat energy. In fact, the word "shakti" means "energy" in Sanskrit. The Stones are used not only by audiophile hobbyists but also by music professionals, such as the recording personnel at Abbey Road and Pink Floyd recording studios.

The Stones have a wide variety of applications and are often placed under or on top of components, particularly near critical parts such as power supplies, DACs and capacitors. Shakti also makes small, concentrated versions of the Stones called On-Lines. These measure 3" long, 5/8" wide x 3/8" high and fit into places that the larger Stones can’t, such as near the connectors for interconnects and speaker cables. They also fit on top of AC connections, both going into components and AC receptacles.

I have used the Shakti Stones and On-Lines with great results, putting them on each of my electronics, among other places, as well on top of the cabinets of my electrostatic speakers. They have brought enhanced image focus, a quieter background, improved detail retrieval and a more open soundstage. The stones retail for $199 each, and the On-Lines for $99 a pair.

Recently, I was talking with Ben Piazza, the founder of Shakti Innovations, the company that makes the Stones and On-Lines. He advised me of a very effective new application for them: placing a single stone directly over the circuitry the inside your breaker box, particularly the breakers that control the circuits that are used for your audio system. It works. I experienced more of the same types of improvements that I had initially heard with the Stones and On-Lines on or near my electronics and speakers. While I used Velcro to secure the Stone to my breaker box, others (as pictured above) have used a bent coat hanger to suspend the Stone over the front panel. If you go this route, be careful how and where you affix the coat hanger. High voltages are present, of course.

Using a Stone on my breaker box not only brought further improvements to my audio system but demonstrated that the quest for sound that's free of electromagnetic interference is an ongoing one. Even if you already have some Shakti Stones in your system -- or if you don’t -- you may want to give this new twist on an established product a try.

...Howard Kneller