Magic Box

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In yesterday's post Snake Oil, I wrote about a product that appeared to work but unfortunately had an explanation that was so riddled with BS that it was a turn off. That story reminded me of the opposite: a product that worked like magic and had a great explanation. The Owen Bennet Magic Box. In the 1970's Stan and I were approached by two guys: Owen Bennet and Tony DiChiro. They claimed to have a magic box that would enable a lowly Grado moving magnet phono cartridge to have the same performance as an expensive Koetsu moving coil cartridge. This reeked of pure snake oil but we invited them to demonstrate this miracle anyway. Our jaws dropped. Indeed, the $50 Grado sounded every bit as good as the $1000 Koetsu when processed through their magic box. They proposed we make this box under the PS brand and change the world of high-end audio. That, of course, was always something we were interested in. How did it work? Was it legitimate or some pseudo magic no one could explain - yet it just worked? We signed all the agreements and were anxious to learn the secret of this miracle: which turned out to be excellent engineering in the end. They had realized the big difference in the sound between the two technologies had more to do with the complex impedance characteristics of the moving magnet cartridge than what most of us thought - that of the lower mass of the moving coil. To fix this complex impedance issue they very cleverly placed another Grado cartridge (an identical copy of the one playing) in the feedback loop of an op amp. When you do this, the opposite happens and the effects nullified. It was brilliant. Instead of trying to model the complex nature of the cartridge to reverse its undesired nature, they simply took another cartridge and used it as a perfect model to nullify the problems. In the end we decided not to produce the product because it required we buy cartridges, hand match them and sell the package as a matched kit - and we weren't in the business of selling phono cartridges. But the brilliance of their idea blossomed into their own product line called Kinergetics and many a fine product was sold. I just love this industry.
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Paul McGowan

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