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Review of new product, "Black Discus"

Let me start by saying that any time a free sample is offered in audio, I usually am tempted to try it.

Sometimes they really pay off nicely, while other times the effort would have been best spent elsewhere.

This is one of those nice times.

“Mad Scientist Audio” is a small New Zealand company started by a gentleman named Bob Prangnell. Mr Prangnell has devised a new product, the “Black Discus”, that immediately reminded me of the tweaks from Shakti and Alan Maher Designs.

Having been a big believer in Shakti Stones and On-Lines and Alan Maher’s CBFs and other related products, MSA’s new line of small black discs called “Black Discus” immediately caught my eye as something I wanted to try for myself. They simply look very, very cool. And with a free sample being offered, I was definitely interested. So I ordered the free sample and it arrived a week or so later.

(You can order such a sample at the MSA website, here: http://www.madscientist-audio.com/ )

The product I received was about 2” or so in diameter, a thin, black, heavy/dense little disc that looks deliciously like a short-of-stature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

First, my system is comprised of a modified/highly tweaked ModWright Sony XA-5400ES, a single set of DIY ICs, all DIY power cables, a pair of EVS “Ultimate Attenuators”, a Spectron Musician III Mk2 (with full Bybee/V-Cap mods) amplifier, DIY speaker wires, and a very modified/tweaked pair of Cabasse Baltic II speakers with matching Thor II subwoofers. The sound is big and authoritative, with superb detail and speed, natural tone and shadings, but can occasionally slide into glare and aggressive upper mids when the source material isn't what it should be. Anything that accentuates this is to be avoided.

The manufacturer sent me an e-mail saying I should put the BD on AC plugs and connections, over toroidal and E/I transformers, and even over the amplifier’s binding posts. I can say that the MSA instructions were right on the money.

Here’s what I found upon introducing the Black Discus into my system:

Each of the applications MSA suggested resulted in a definite and easily reproducible audio improvement. The over-all effect was, to my ears at least, a palpable increase of weight and solidity of the instruments/sounds being reproduced, a lower general perceived noise floor, an across-the-board reduction in distortion, all resulting in a concomitantly clearer window upon the performance in each and every application.

Bass became tighter, faster and with better low-level resolution of stuff like bow resin and creaking noises from the instrument as it is being plucked or fiddled with enthusiasm (e.g., Starker’s cello in the MLP CD edition of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, 3rd movement.) This made for an immediate impact of better perceived solidity and three dimensionality and added heft and weight, just what most systems need in the area of bass and lower midrange. And this BD product delivered all that in spades. Starker’s cello was clearer and simply had more body and weight to it when the BD was in the mix. I was impressed.

This was much better than Shakti, with a whole different level of performance on offer. Same for Maher CBFs and other crystal-based filters. I was very impressed, indeed.

Midrange was also nicely affected by the installation of BD on AC plugs, large transformers (directly over the center of the top), and the amplifier’s binding posts. Again, a simply cleaner and clearer, more detailed midrange with no harshness or glare added, I am very glad to report. In fact, I would say the BD reduced glare. The midrange also had that little bit of extra weight and heft that adds to naturalness and ease of presentation that draws you into the performance, similar to the bass frequencies just mentioned.

But I would say that the clarification process is what I noticed most across the mid-band. Just clearer, cleaner and with more low-level information getting through, resulting in a more natural and relaxed sound was what I heard. Smooth and sweet, but with better details.

On the treble, I would say a little clearer and cleaner, but not nearly as jaw-dropping an effect as what I found on the lows and also the mids. Still, nice and pleasing.

In fact, the best way to describe the over-all effect of the Black Discus in my system, is to say it imbued the presentation with a much more organic, weightier, solid and clearer image, and made the sonic result more believable, yet more relaxed, and more listenable. The music seemed less ‘nervous’ or ‘anxious’ when the BD was in place. Massed strings seemed more real, delineated, and less congealed.

Of course, YMMV.

Lastly, an attribute that I particularly admired is that the BD effect is constant and predictable. With quartz crystal-based technologies (such as Shakti Stones and Alan Maher Designs CBFs and the like), the sonic effect can be a real roller-coaster for a few weeks, as all the quartz crystals ‘dial in’.

Not so with these Black Discus devices. You put the BD on the AC plug barrel (affixed by a tiny dab of Blu-Tak) and the effect takes place immediately. Same for use on transformers or amplifier’s binding posts. Remove the device and the effect goes right away.

Mr Prangnell informs me that as MSA is in its infancy and is trying to get the audio world to notice a new tweak on the block, he figured audiophiles would probably enjoy the chance to try out these devices free of charge, and offer feedback if they wanted to.

I remember when Ben Piazza of Shakti was just starting out and I was lucky enough to get a number of free samples of his prototype On-Lines to try out and report back on, which was another great product in its infancy at the time. I still have those prototypes. And they still work great. But the MSA “Black Discus” is in a whole different league of performance.

I was also informed by Mr Prangnell that MSA is currently trying to gauge how receptive the audio world will be to these Black Discus products, and so right now MSA is seeking open-minded, communicative audiophiles to give its new product a try for free. All MSA wants is your feedback on how you felt the BD performed in your system. That seemed fair to me. And of course, if you like what the BD does, tell others. Which is what I am doing.

Well, all I can say is that I was very happy with my free BD sample. I think anyone who ever tried and liked either Shakti or Alan Maher stuff, will be very pleased with the results of what a BD can do for your system.

I am in no way associated with MSA or Mr Prangnell, and have no interest in this product other than as an audiophile who loves tweaking and is open-minded to trying new tweaks, especially free ones.

To my mind, it is always good when average ordinary audio tweakers like us can get nascent products like the BD and try them out free and report our experiences.

I did. I liked it.

Happy Tweaking, Happy Listening!


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Topic - Review of new product, "Black Discus" - Winston Smith 16:55:23 09/25/13 (29)


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