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Harmonic Recovery System by: Source Components Electronic

No Man is an Island, Completely unto Himself

Clement Perry

1 July 1998

Specifications
Web: www.sceaudio.com/

How often do you come across Ďso calledí audiophiles who claim that their system is where they want it and that there is nothing out there, amp, speaker or tweak thatís gonna make it sound any better? Sort of like the Ďbeen there done thatí type! I know quite a few folks like this, who refuse to try anything that might improve their system because of many preconceived ideas. The most common symptoms of these delusional afflictions are remarks such as, "How can it work if it only costs $600?" or " I heard that unit at such and such and I didnít think it sounded good at all!" How about, "Yeah Perry, I heard of the product, but Iím not interested in putting it in my system right now.....but if youíre not too busy later, you should come by because the system is really sounding great!" The one that I really love is, "Perry, I donít care what you say or what the white paper reads. If I put that thing between my amp and preamp, itís going to mess up my sound." One thing I learned in this industry is that closed minded views prevent you from putting together the system of your dreams Ďcause youíre doing just that, dreaming! It is surely no coincidence that the very best systems I have heard were put together by very open minded folks.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Okay, hereís the skinny. I am now using a speaker cable that's better IN MY SYSTEM than the Goertz silver, which is put out by a company called Custom House. Their cable is inexpensive and something that I simply canít believe is this damn good. Iíll get you their number in a minute. The reason I know why itís better sounding is this: I had a number of high end listeners over for a session and all thought that my system has never sounded better. Yet, not one of them noticed that I had changed the cable. End of story! Now, once you meet a guy who can put out a product such as this, you wind up calling more than just once in a while. So, now Iíve got this connection and he tells me about a product thatís gonna blow my socks off. I got very excited until he told me how it works. "You put this thing after your preamp right before the amp." And I said, "Bob, I donít use a preamp because I have the Meitner BIDAT, which has its own volume control. Besides, how can that thing be better if it goes directly into the signal path?" His reply was simple. "Put it after your dac....trust me on this one, please." I finally get the unit and was admittingly reluctant to put this thing after the Meitner BIDAT processor. I managed to find a run of single ended interconnects although Iíve always believed that balanced runs are superior. I ran a pair of excellent Custom House Benchmark 2ís out of the BIDAT and straight into the HRS. I then ran 3 meter Benchmarks out from the HRS directly into the BAT VK 1000 monoís. The rest of the system is composed of Von Schweikert VR4.5 loudspeakers, Z-Systems RDP-1 EQ, Ed Meitnerís BIDAT DAC (w/ built in preamp) and Transport combination, and Tekna Sonic Vibrations Devices (C10 & C12ís) on VR4.5ís. Digital cable from the Meitner transport to the RDP-1 is Illuminati D-60 and out of the Z into the BIDAT is NBS, power cords are Custom House Benchmark on the amps and Electra Glide on digital. All digital components rest on Seismic Sinks, which in turn, rest on Symposium Roller Balls. The shelf is particular and all amplification including the HRS rests upon Tranquillity Bases. This room is treated with ASC and Echo Busters room treatments. All my evaluations were done in single ended mode. Here are my impressions...

Where Were You When I Needed You?

Once the system was ready for this evaluation, I pulled out a Keith Jarrett "Live at the Blue Note" (ECM 78118-21575-2). This is one of the best box sets available for the jazz lover. Disc three is an absolute killer that appears to be on its way to becoming legendary, particularly in the New York audio societies. First, I played track five entitled "When I fall in Love", which features Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Well, Iíve played it a number of times and I know how it should have sounded on my system. In a minute I said to myself, "give me a break." My first thoughts jotted down on a piece of paper read; cleaner highs, better focus, incredible widening of stage, blacker background, more vivid presentation. Out of the box, this device sounded as if someone had placed a magnifying glass to my system, bringing everything clearly into focus from a seemingly subterranean level. But I knew that it still needed a major break-in because the bass was now ill defined and bloated, as if the HRS brought out more information but at a cost. Gary Peacocksí bass plucking sounded less articulate. I didnít sense the intimate finger motion that was so apparent on the recording prior to placing the HRS in line. Transparency also took a step back, although I expected that to happen. But what did you expect right out of the box? Still, I was very impressed by its quality of tonality in the treble and midrange which was enough to warrant a very positive impression and proper break-in. As the Purist Burn-In CD spun for the next few days, I placed some important phone calls to many of my serious, Ďopen mindedí audio associates. My very close and dear friends from the New York Audiophile Society should definitely give this product a listen. I explained to them that this unit seems to be all that its advertisers claim it to be and that they should audition it for themselves exactly how I tested it; see if the HRS does the same exact thing in your systems too! But first I had to be sure that the break-in does what its manufacturers claim it should do, which is to take it to another level. We shall see.

Burn Baby Burn

While patiently waiting for the 100/150 hour burn-in, I decided to give the company a call. A friendly voice answered the phone by the name of John. He was way too nice to have anything to do with the company besides marketing or sales. But surprise, surprise. John (with the pleasant voice), is one of their designers. After dispensing with the pleasantries, we got down to business. In his discussion, it was known to me that this device was originally slated for life as a preamp, with plenty of emphasis on simplicity and nothing more. Well, a funny thing happened while making this product. With the addition of any switches, attenuator knobs, or buttons, there was a definite impact on the sound quality. Each piece used seemed to get in the way of what they were determined to create, the purist sounding preamp youíll never hear! I found this very intriguing for someone like myself who comes from this same purist approach. I got a warm feeling inside when I realized that without any switches, knobs or buttons, I finally received the perfect preamp for my system!

The HRS is internally a work of art! The ultra high-quality resistors and capacitors are of the best in the lot. These are employed in only two gain stages, and in addition, all wiring is point to point. Most unusual is the non-utilization of a power switch (the first sample came equipped with one. Let me be the first to say that there is a difference between the two units) Output impedance is 150 ohms with an additional 3db of gain. For anyone who thinks that this is too much and that it would clip their amp, donít fret, they make a version that has zero output impedances too. And for anyone who owns tube amps, they also have units with 1000 ohm output impedances available. Apparently, theyíve designed this unit to fit every nut in the business. Reading the theory behind the unit suggests that it recovers lost information that is somehow lost during the recording. I consider this far fetched, but decided to listen first before I made any more assumptions because one thing is certain, IT DOES WORK! This whole topic whetted my whistle. With the burn-in time required now quickly approaching, I decided to do some listening.

Second Time Around

After turning the unit on for a few minutes, it dawned on me to give it the best chance of really coming to life. Out went that terrible stock power cord and in went the Electra Glide Reference AC Line Cord. This, my friend, is a declaration of war on poor AC. Shall we begin some serious listening? The first CD to make it into the Meitner Transport (sorry guys itís much better than the Sony!) was "Exotic Dances from the Opera" (Ejji Oue/Minnesota Orchestra Reference Recordings HDCD RR-71CD). I am always enchanted by track 1 "Dances Of The Tumblers from The Snow Maiden". Upon listening to the first few notes, I immediately understood more of what was going on in this recording than during previous listening sessions. Something quite strange was happening to me, a feeling as though someone slipped some vinyl into the system. Yeah, thatís right, somehow the HRS seems to convey a feeling of righteousness thatís very reminiscent of vinyl. You sense a very low noise floor and hear spacial qualities that Iíve never before encountered with digital. Moreover, there appeared to be much more cohesion to everything. Everyone was playing more together. Strings, for instance, took on a tonality that was unfamiliar. They seemed to gather momentum. There seemed to be a righteousness that I never before sensed or noticed, a unison of image specificity that had long alluded me. Itís quite a sobering achievement considering what I thought of the sound before the HRS was installed, which by the way was quite good! The greatest gift I received by putting the HRS in the system was the way in which the Von Schweikert VR 4.5ís went to another level. I love these speakers but I am aware of their limitations. They lack focus compared to the best point source monitors. I alluded to this quality in my review for The Audiophile Voice. This aspect was greatly corrected with the HRS. It makes these babies focus like real point source loudspeakers. This discovery now leads me to believe that Albert Von Schweikert was right all the time about how well they focus. I was unable to achieve this result until the HRS came on the scene. The other problem I encountered before proper burn regarding the bass had now disappeared. The bass now took on a very contoured and textured quality that again, sounded very natural. There appeared to be an added presence of the lower extended bass due to much quieter passages. Images appeared to come from a jet black background lending a greater sense of detail. I was particularly impressed by the "Exotic Dances" CD. Because of this very quite and black backdrop, the performance gained a greater sense of three dimensionality. Again, the naturalness of the HRS was immediately noticeable throughout this evaluation, regardless of the CD.

End of Story

Okay, I guess you think that I really like this unit. You got that right! I personally think that this unit may change what most analog lovers always hated about digital, that very antiseptic and sterile sound ( I personally donít agree with, then again I donít listen to analog either).

I guess this device was designed to get us closer to the original recording. I believe that they have accomplished this in many significant ways that are important to the discerning audiophile. Regardless of the cost of your system, this unit must be auditioned. It is simply that good. Highly recommended!