The reviewing of tweaks and accessories, requires a sort of belief. Each audio system is, by nature, different and each situation a unique one. Something that may improve one system may do little or nothing for another.
I do not like the idea of having to “add” anything to make a system sound better (of course, save for the necessary components). Less is often more, and with audiophile systems, once you start adding things on, its a very slippery slope. The term “snake oil” has passed through audiophile lips since the first cable riser or four-figure interconnect. There are far too many a thing to be suspicious about in this audio domain. I do not enjoy having to describe, or “review,” accessories and tweaks. You have been warned…
We have been experimenting with field emitters and noise eliminators for some time now (Quantum Qx4 and the Stein Harmonizers are a couple of recent examples). The goal is to clean out unwanted, unmusical, noises from the room. The more effective the device, the more it helps remove an extra veil (layer of noise) that “exists” between you and the music (or so it seems). The Audio Magic Oracle 24 is such a device. It is designed to neutralize the ambient noise in the room; thus, bringing you a little bit closer to the music itself.
The first time I flipped the switch on the back of the Oracle 24, I was surprised. The entire sonic “field” shifted forward (and back), creating a three-dimensional effect usually only present on the finest of LP’s. But is this is a “good” thing or not? And the answer is that it depends on the situation entirely.
The Oracle 24 emits a field to combat ambient EMI and RF. According to Jerry Ramsey, the man behind Audio Magic: “The idea was to combine 24 high current anti-RFI pulse generating modules in one chassis.” This is accomplished with use of a specifically designed pulse-wave master board, “which emits a very powerful field and the signal is amplified by our passive disrupter material, which is housed in two separate modules that contain ground, neutral, and hot conductive planes. And these are washed with the fields created by the master board and the disrupter material.”
Above all, I noticed that the Oracle 24 will help articulate a recordings sense of imaging and instrument placement. On John Colrane’s “Blue Train” [45rpm APO re issue LP], the exact location of the musicians standing in the room was practically visible. Each instrument became more palpable; with each distinct sound given its own space to exist. On the classic LP, The Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall, the sound of Carnegie Hall itself easily took over the listening room; a three-dimensional sense of the recording space was heightened, stage and all, highlighting a grand image of the audience from the top balcony down to the floor. On “Goodnight Irene,” the placement of each musician and/or singer was perfectly stable. Left-to-right imaging was spectacular, allowing us to describe this half-ancient, three-mic recording as “life-like” and awesomely natural. Did this occur without the Oracle 24? At times, yes, but less realized and not as exact.
With the Oracle 24, Classical music benefitted the most. The background became noticeably quieter, allowing the music to reveal itself more clearly. The orchestra and the recording space itself was more fully realized during playback (this continued to occur upon repeated listens). Listening to recordings of Reiner and the CSO (on RCA), you can hear the sound of Orchestra Hall (the wide, yet relatively shallow stage). And hearing the ambience of the Hall makes it easier to slip into the event itself.
I noticed the Oracle 24 helped voices sound more sculpted, with increased definition and detail. Listening to “Helplessly Hoping,” from Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s self-titled album, the three (main) harmonizing voices were a bit mushy. With the Oracle 24 switched on, each voice was given a more detailed sense of its own individual space, an almost “carving-out” effect. Basically, a bit of clarity and subtle re-organization of the sonic image was achieved with the Oracle 24 in use.
The Oracle 24 has its limits. Listening on the smaller system, the drastic separation of the guitars on CCR’s “Suzy Q” [Classic Records 45rpm LP] was a bit too much for me, extending the guitars to beyond the side-walls in the room. This also occurred listening to Radiohead’s Ok Computer, among other modern recordings. In the larger room, the enhancement was a more natural sounding one; instead of taking me away from the performance, as in the example above, it thrust me into the recording space itself – as it should. (Audio Magic also sells an Oracle 12, which is specifically designed for smaller listening rooms, and perhaps this may have been more suitable for use in Room #2 over the Oracle 24.)
The Oracle 24 is incredibly easy to use. Just place the box on the floor and flip the switch. That is all. We have found the best placement centered between the speakers and amplifiers. And this is where the unit has been kept throughout its trials in Sea Cliff. We tested the Oracle 24 with other room enhancing devices, such as the Quantum Qx4. Sound improved when the Qx4 units were used in conjunction with the Oracle 24. When placed in a less resolute system, the improvement is less apparent and not as effective as it should be. There was still an apparent ease, but the dimensionality and 3-D like effect was minimal, barely there at all.
The conclusion being, it’s all a matter of taste and desire, more specifically, a question of how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go. I think the Oracle 24, and other devices of this kind, should be only employed to enhance a completed system already producing great sound. The Oracle 24 is like a turbo-booster. If your system is sounding great, flip the switch and it just may be what you need to take the experience up a level. But like 3-D movies, some will crave the effect and some won’t. This is not a “quick fix” or “cure-all” by any means. A component like the Oracle 24 exists as a tool to help remove the veils between you and the music, however slightly, but only if a system has the ability to perceive these changes.
I would highly recommend trying out the Oracle 24 with your system if you mostly listen to live recordings. On these types of records, using the Oracle 24 enhanced the overall listening experience; providing a more detailed soundstage and a natural and relaxed presentation of the music itself.