Highend Novum PMR MK ll Passive Multivocal Resonator
[Fade in] I still recall our first encounter vividly… I had been in rooms with you prior but no memory remains as sharply etched in my psyche as when you moved to position in front of me. Oh, the joy and sheer bliss of hearing your voice for the first time! [and scene]
Sexy, eh? It was! During a chance visit to Dan Secula’s home, my audio life changed forever. A few of us dropped in for a listening session through Dan’s impressive rig. As I listened from the sweet spot, with CP to my left, Dan casually strolled between the Raidho’s and moved his Highend Novum PMR from 2 feet to my left to the spot directly in front of me. Oh My God! I turned to CP and nearly accosted him “What did you do!?” (he was holding the remote). “I didn’t do a thing,” he replied. What in the world had just happened!? What madness was this?
The female vocal we were listening to was very well-recorded, delineated with both taught imaging and great body, sounding quite real prior to whatever had changed – it was a great representation of a the singer’s performance but, with the Novum PMR in position, the vocal wasn’t just a recording anymore, the vocal was replaced by the singer herself, singing right to my face, tangible and real enough to touch!
Few events have burned themselves. so deeply into my aural memory – this experience with the Highend Novum PMR, the Kemp P-16 and PerfectPath Total Contact remain the top tier of goose-bump inducing experiences – for their undeniable system-wide immediate improvements, all leaps and bounds greater than any other tweaks I’ve tried or experienced over the past 3 decades.
I had seen PMR’s in numerous rigs of the past few years but not had a before-and-after experience with them. Most people get them placed just right and will refuse to move them hence. After this illuminating event, Dan suggested I tap the resonator. As I tapped it, albeit timidly, it resonated with such a song I was again entranced.
I returned home excited. As I recounting the event to my wife, she quickly told me I could get one if I r-e-a-l-l-y wanted it. I think this was said more to get me to quell my animated state than her being swayed by my enthusiasm. While the effect was indeed revelatory, this amazing tweak was a bit beyond my comfort zone.
The Gong Show
I was excited to find the Highend Novum PMR MK ll Passive Multivocal Resonator coming my way for review. I’d waited a good while for a personal session with the 14” model – this would be the updated PMR ll, a nice plus. (editors note: Myself and Dan Secular and Ron Cook reviewed the PMR Novum in the past (review here), but it’s nice to witness Greg share his personal experience!)
We’ve all heard a live event and wondered why a recording from that same event feels lacking in some way. Even when recorded by a great engineer and mastered by a house of note, we can often sense something missing. The maker of the Novum PMR ll Passive Multifocal Resonator says the PMR replaces harmonics lost in the recording process, by augmenting a wide range of harmonics subtly, naturally and without a heavy hand. While this resonator is made of bell bronze, the PMR ll does not impart notes with a machine-like hardness – nothing feels forced or artificial. Natural is the operative word.
It’s said that we humans notice what’s been taken away more than what’s been added – the effect of this resonator might not stun you as you listen with one already in place… that is, until it’s removed (or quickly added as in my case). Its presence makes every tune seem more there, more three-dimensional and more open with more air. Voices and instruments are presented with more body and resonance. Transients both large and small have more impact. I even noted listening improvements when listening some what off axis while organizing my notes.
According to Highend: “The PMR produces only harmonics that are perceived by the human ear as pleasant and harmonious. The sounds of music are heard as natural. These “right” overtones are the result of decades of sound research. And by the way… bell bronze is the only material that can reproduce all overtones of the musical scale. This know-how is now being implemented. By overlaying the music with a full scale of multi-vocal overtones, more detailed sound is produced. The music gets more momentum and energy, the presentation of the instruments is more realistic, more solid and three-dimensional. The spatial imaging is increased in all directions. The result is again a natural and authentic sound experience with beautiful sounds.”
The production processes of the PMR and a bell are quite similar. As with other Novum products, each Novum PMR ll passive resonator is made by hand and sandcast in bell bronze, one at a time. The resonator is then polished and tuned. The PMR ll is said to further improve the listening experience – after heating the bronze alloy to about 1200 C and casting liquid metal in the form, the controlled cooling of the casting is said to offer improvement over the original PMR. Manual post-processing and tuning of the cast makes each PMR ll individual and unique.
I listened to my rig for most of that first day, forgoing other pursuits and glued to the sweet spot. Listening to virtually any music with the Novum PMR ll in position is as thrilling as it is informing. With the PMR ll, music appears more natural – instruments and singers appear to have greater body and presence, and transients have more snap and impact. Music is rendered more illuminated and three dimensional. The air around your speakers bristles with more life and energy. You might notice more activity outside speaker bounds… I did.
One of my all-time favorite albums, even though it might be a bit light weight to some, is the Crusaders “Scratch” (Blue Thumb Records 1975), a live LP from the 1970’s… love it now as much as I loved it back in 1975. This is the Crusaders at its tightest and, damn, this band could play! Whenever I put it on the time just flies by, filled with so much fun, that I feel like I’m part of the crowd at the Roxy in LA that night and, with the PMR ll in place, it feels even more live and immediate. Max Bennet on bass, Larry Carlton on guitar, Joe Sample on piano, Stix Hooper on drums and Wilton Felder on sax and Wayne Henderson on trombone… what a band! The Crusaders just cook! The PMR ll accentuated percussive edges, brought a snap to transients and helping the already fun live vibe to sound even more dimensional.
Sting’s And Yet from “The Last Ship” (A&M Records 2013) jumped to life, bigger and bolder than before, with both Sting and the percussion feeling as though in my room. Astounding! Percussion popped, guitars shimmered and the vocals grabbed at the air around my Tekton Double Impacts as if finding new purchase – more body, more resonance and more life.
I’ve played Practical Arrangement as sung by Kurt Elling partnered with Branford Marsalis on “Upward Spiral” (Okeh 2016) many times – it’s solemn negotiation and resignation just slays me.
Once CP played Sting’s version, I found myself appreciating his original version even more. With the PMR ll, Sting’s voice bounded into the room from a stage of good depth, with an added emotional impact and nuance to the performance that brought the longing and solitude closer, with an immediacy and desperation that fits the lyric and vibe. Outstanding.
Steve Tibbetts’ 1984 ECM release “Safe Journey,” an album abundant with percussion, conga and kalimba and quick delicate transients, proved even more mesmerizing with the Novum PMR ll. The music drew deeper breath, projected on a soundstage of greater size and with percussive and instrumental details far more evident and involving.
“Letters from Iraq: Oud and String Quintet” (Smithsonian Folkways 2017), by Rahim AlHaj, is simply wonderful, the blend of oud with strings is truly life-affirming and the last track, “Letter 8. Voices to Remember – Zainab”, simply took my breath away. What started off as a rather compressed instrumental image on a small centered stage, expanded and exploded into the room. Notes blossomed and decayed with added presence and verve. The PMR ll so audibly improved my listening experience that I sat transfixed, as the enhanced resonances and harmonics washed over me, again, I was unable to move for the sheer joy and wonder in the air. Let there be harmonics!
First play of Gretchen Parlato’s Butterfly, from “Live in NYC” (Obliqsound 2013), tells you something’s afoot with this effort, as the well-recorded and dynamic percussion in this track prickles with great life and drive. By the second song, the PMR ll’s magic had me in its grip; the instrumentation was quite dimensional and impactful and band felt like it was in the house! I find Parlato’s rather nasal delivery delightful and, captured in this live venue, even more so. This bare bones band effort, propelled by this powerful percussion, was accented nicely with the PMR ll’s additional harmonic riches, augmenting the music’s already liveliness. Our dog, Millie, barked at the drums and percussive treats and searched for a visiting dog around the house. That doesn’t happen often.
Shirley Horn’s Estate, from her “Ultimate Shirley Horn” (Verve 1997), as selected by Diana Krall, just glowed, as only Shirley could! With the PMR ll in it’s sweet spot, the sound enveloped as though part of the atmosphere itself. This lush arrangement, wonderful piano body, powerful, focused bass foundation and its delicate percussion as augmented by the PMR ll’s harmonic interplay, was imbued with added life and dimension.
John Surman’s Saltash Bells (ECM 2012) shocked me on its first spin! The added resonance to these already powerful, resonant and throbbing horns so surprised me that I nearly dropped the iPad. The ambient interplay pulsated with added impact and interest, thanks to the addition of the PMR‘s new vocabulary. This music played as so real that my neighbors may fear I’ve taken up sax!
We audiophiles tend to over-dramatize the effect of the slightest improvement by tweak… this is NOT one of those times. However esoteric the Novum PMR ll might appear, it’s the real deal, folks. After my experience at Dan’s, hearing the Novum PMR both in and out of his system, I went home and tried making my own version, investing some pocket change in a gong . Things didn’t go as planned… if it worked at all, the effect was too subtle. However, it did give my rig a nice “audio alter” focal point. Not so with the new Novum PMR ll Multifocal Resonator – whether by science, voodoo or nose to the grind stone audio technical knowhow, I can tell you that both the original and this new model of the PMR ll work wonderfully as reported. I’ll have this PMR ll in my system from this point on!
High End Novum PMR MK ll Multivocal Resonator: Price: $2690.00 USA (model reviewed)
US/Canada Distributor: Highend-electronics, Inc.
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