Exorcizing System Demons

by Marc Mickelson | September 7, 2012

ryphon Audio is known for its big and beautiful electronics and speakers, so it's ironic that the first Gryphon product I've had in my system is the size and shape of a remote control and even more simple to use. The Exorcist (€250, available here) is one of Gryphon's longest-running products, and its name is a clever indication of its function. It's a system demagnetizer that addresses the deleterious effect of magnetization on the audio signal. Gryphon argues that many of the conductive parts in the audio chain, both electronics and cables, become magnetized over time through DC leakage, and when this happens the music suffers. The Exorcist addresses this by producing a tone that reverses the effect, but unlike the various CDs that also claim to perform this same function, the Exorcist is an active device. Inside it is a low-distortion tone generator that runs on a 9V battery, producing a 1kHz signal that fades over the course of 35 seconds, a duration "which we found ideal," said Flemming Rasmussen, the head of Gryphon Audio. With your system on, you connect the Exorcist to an unused set of inputs, adjust the volume to normal listening level, and then press the Engage toggle. The tone bursts from your speakers, then gradually fades. If you feel it's necessary, do it again. There is no penalty for using the Exorcist more than once. In fact, you may derive benefits from a second treatment.

The effect is a less mechanical, more musical presentation whose chief element is a reduction of grunge (glare, grain and the like), resulting in more natural timbres and deeply saturated tonality. It is as though something has been removed, which Gryphon would argue is the case. The music sounds both more relaxed and more detailed, and this is gold to audiophiles who have become blase about their systems.

In a very real sense, the Exorcist provides a sonic shot in the arm for the entire system -- well, almost. As you've probably already surmised, the component that won't benefit from the Exorcist is your CD player or analog rig -- the Exorcist acts as a source because of the way it's connected to the system, so other sources aren't affected. What would be interesting, but something I didn't try, is recording the tone, burning it onto a CD-R and then playing that. On the one hand, the sonic effect may be intensified, because another component and pair of interconnects have been treated. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that the Exorcist is an active device and not a recording accounts for its potency. I have various CDs with demagnetization tones, and their effect isn't the same as with the Exorcist.

One thing about the Exorcist's use is very important: its sustained 1kHz tone can temporarily affect your hearing if you are in proximity of the speakers and not wearing ear protection. It creates a notch filter at 1kHz, which has a profound effect on what you hear immediately after the tone has faded away, as your ability to hear sounds at that frequency is reduced. This is in fact similar to a therapy for tinnitus, the hearing disorder that produces a persistent hissing, buzzing or ringing in the ear, one cause of which is prolonged exposure to very loud noise. If you wonder what your system would sound like with less energy at 1kHz, the Exorcist gives you a quick (and thankfully temporary) way to find out. The instructions for the Exorcist counsel to "leave the room or protect your ears by other means during the process." I recommend wearing earplugs (or your isolating headphones) while the Exorcist is doing its thing.

Gryphon suggests Exorcizing every fifth listening session, or once a week if you leave your system on continuously. I've gotten in the habit of using it before every listening session, and when I forget to do so, I can hear the difference. The system is less liquid and flowing, more uptight. While it may seem like a bother, using the Exorcist is now as much a part of my pre-listening ritual as cleaning a record. I keep it connected to an unused input.

I don't need to point out that the cost of the Exorcist is a pittance compared to what an extra foot of some speaker cable can cost, but it's the sonic return that's most important. By all means, try one of the various CDs -- from Ayre, Esoteric, Nordost, among others -- with a demagnetization tone. Cardas offers an LP with it. But when you are ready to reach a higher plane, make a date with the Exorcist [cue creepy laughter].

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