INTERCONNECT RCA + LOUDSPEAKER CABLE
HS-101GP + HS-101-SLC
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski
Harmonix is a brand almost unknown in Poland. Similar to for example Reimyo. What ties those together? For example the fact, that those two are the brands owned by the Japanese company Combak Corporation www.combak.net. Or that they are closely related to one of the highest achievements of studio technique of that country, incredibly valuable input in the world of audio, the mastering and re-mastering in the K2 technology. Reimyo is now the only (I think) company, which uses that technology in its CD players. Developed in the JVC studios and first seen in the products of that company, acquired its today’s refined form only thanks to Reimyo. And Harmonix? This is even simpler – the JVC recording studios, where the K2 re-masters (and K2HD – report from the listening session of those discs HERE) are cabled with Harmonix cables – starting with mains and ending with digital cables.
This is not throw-away information. This is really SOMETHING. Anybody, who heard the K2 or XRCD discs (those are related information) at least once will confirm that I’m right. At least I think so. Detailed, saturated, full sound points to this technology as to the leader of digital audio. And when somewhere there, inside this magic SOMETHING, Harmonix cables are employed, then this puts them in the center of my interest. We will find only a few cables in the portfolio. We have three interconnects, and actually those are only two models – CI230MK2 Improved and the HS-101, but the latter is in two flavors – HS101-Improved and the HS-101GP (that we are testing). This is not much, but seemingly this is enough. Among the loudspeaker cables the situation is similar – the top model HS-101-SLC Speaker Cable (in test) and lower the HS-101GP. Mains cables and cable supports (isolators) are also offered.
It works. This is the shortest way of describing the effect of plugging in the Harmonix cables into my system. This is maybe not much, but for me, this is key. It means that they are better than those I had earlier. This in not the first case this happened. The cables that made this earlier were: the interconnect Tara Labs ISM The 0.8 and Acrolink 7N series interconnects. Loudspeaker cables – in many aspects the XLO UnLimited. And that’s it. Some other cables were in some aspects better than the Velum I use, and in some aspects they were worse, and that did not push me in the direction of thinking about a change. I heard two cables that were better than the loudspeaker Velum, even in direct comparison – those were: the phenomenal Tara Labs Omega and the Acrolink 7N 9000 Mexcel. But this is a lot of money. And this means that even knowing - it can be done better – I was not forced to change. And I do not like to be forced to do anything.
The interconnect HS-101GP gave my system a part of what was offered by the tested last month CD player Lektor Grand SE Ancient Audio (test HERE), meaning vividness, deepened timbres and above all space. In my system I use two main interconnects – one between my CD player (Ancient Audio Lektor Prime) and the preamplifier (Leben RS-28CX) and a second one between the preamplifier and the power amplifier (Luxman M-800A). Until now in 100% cases the exchange of cables between the CD and the pre was much more audible than between the pre and the power amp. I’ll just add, that in the first case I use the interconnect Silver Eclipse 5 (first series) from Wireworld, interchangeably with the XLO Limited, in the second case the Velum interconnect. Plugging in the Harmonix instead of the Wireworld was devastating for the latter. Usually exchanging the cable ends in a series of remarks and the return to the Wireworld or XLO (depending on the mood). Only the 0.8 from Tara Labs made me keep it longer. The Harmonix changed the sound of my system to the extent I never heard before, except for the mentioned Tara, that surpasses everything I plugged into my system to date. The change was multidimensional, and not only ‘phenomenal’ but also structural. In comparison to the HS-101GP the transmission from the Wireworld is lifeless. The Harmonix sounds with a deep, full sound. At the same time it is more detailed and darker than the other cables. Or putting it differently 0 Velum, Wireworld and XLO Limited (yes, even the last one, but given the proportions) are brighter and less detailed. The Harmonix cable is incredibly dynamic – in terms of micro dynamics and makrodynamics. The bettering of the first is obvious – it is related to the improved resolution. This could be easily heard on the opening sequence of the Art Pepper disc „...the way it was!” (Contemporary Records/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2034, SACD/CD; review HERE), where in the left channel we have two saxophones playing – the alto one played by Art Pepper and a tenor one played by Wayne March. Together with the main sound the sound of the instrument tabs is audible. In reality, when we stand close to the instrument, and this is usually the place where the microphones are placed, this sound is quite accented. With the Wireworld it could have been heard, but in a somewhat crippled way, I knew it was there, but it was not an obvious movement of the tab. The Harmonix changed this completely. Suddenly this movement was independent from the sound of the saxophone itself, not placed in the same point, but moved a bit higher and to the right (the instruments are often ‘heard’ by microphones of other instruments, what allows to show the recording room and the spaciousness of the recording).
And the spaciousness is something that this cable re-creates best. Because with it, the sound gains inspiration and nobility (partly due to the deep lower bass), we get a very well defined, natural and some kind of “soft” sound stage. This ‘softness’ is something we experience in the real world, but do not notice it. This is not blurring or smearing of the sound edges, but smooth transitions from one sound to another, without grain and asperity. Harmonix provides this, the Tara Labs did also. The cable sounded a bit different between the preamplifier and power amplifier, where it replaced the Velum. For the first time the change for the better was audible, although not as spectacular as with the CD. I had the idea that the stage became a tad narrower, but this could also be good coherence. Unfortunately I fluked the case, because I did not ask the distributor to provide two sets of cables at once, then I would have a clear answer. And so I had to put the Wireworld in its place and exchange the Velum. The improvement was still evident. The treble was not as resonant as with the previous exchange, but I have probably heard the true image of the Wireworld. This is a good cable, and it always seemed a bit warm to me. The Harmonix showed that one can depart even more from the cold edge and still not loose anything, not darken anything, not squeeze anything. This is true artistry.
The loudspeaker cable is also better than my Velum. But differently to the interconnect, where I am sure that I need to have something like that, in this case the differences were not as profound. In general the character of the sound is similar to the one brought by the interconnect – it is full, deep, not bright, etc. The whole is also a bit ‘heavier’ due to the strong mid and upper bass. The space did not change much, and I even had the impression, that the stage got a little narrower. The depth was better with the Harmonix, no question about that, this was shown nicely by the discs of Keith Jarrett „The Carnegie Hall Concert” (ECM, 1989/90, 2 x CD) and „The Köln Concert” (ECM, UCCE-9011, gold-CD), both with recorded concerts. Especially big impression was made by the first one, a reference recording of the piano, because the sound was very deep, palpable, and at the same time it was not nearing the listener. This is important, because concerts like this one, require the combination of two values – intimacy and distance. Otherwise there is no impression of being part of the live event. The set of the Harmonix cables provided me with this impression, adding a subtle ‘patina’, something perceived as ‘energetic and under control’, in a way of speech. This was perfectly audible with jazz, but for me a revelation was the hearing of the delicate, damped, regular taps opening the piece „Clear The Area” from „Speak for Yourself” by iMogen Heap (Sony Music Japan, SICP 1387, CD). This is electronic music with a beautiful voice. To have everything fit in its place there, every element of the multilayer building must have sense against the whole. For the first time I did catch the meaning of those taps – now iMogen sings: „Knock knock are you alone?/No-one’s out here and I was not followed...” Now it had sense, it was gentle knocking and now, finally, it was perceived like that.
I would not like to go very much in detail, because those, although looking nice in the text, are only – or should only be – a supportive element, subordinate to the test. Nobody listens to details, but to music, or not? But in the right proportions they do testify about some processes, direction of changes that take place with the exchange of a given element of the system. The Harmonix would allow me to write the test without any details, without any disc titles, I could rely only on a list of associations and I would probably say exactly what I would want to say. Because they do not impose anything, they just change the perspective. The loudspeaker cable and the interconnect are just plain superb. In my system both changed the sound for better. If I’d buy anything now it would be the interconnect. Not because it is much better than the loudspeaker cable, but because the exchange of the Wireworld gave much more, and also apparently, the Velum interconnect is not as good as the loudspeaker cable of that company.
Interconnect HS-101GP (Golden Performance) of the Japanese company Harmonix has a directional structure. It is made from directionally extended PCOCC copper (like higher models of Furutech, Oyaide and the whole offering of Acrolink) and is equipped in an independent shielding system, terminated with gold plated spades, to be connected to the chassis of the receiver. It turns out, that all Japanese specialist products have a grounding terminal – I have it in my preamplifier RS-28CX, and in the power amplifier M-800A from Luxman. The Japanese are crazy about that and would level the potentials of everything that can be leveled. The Harmonix interconnects are a part of this movement. The cables do not look especially imposing, but the workmanship is very nice. They have quite a big diameter and are not easy to unscrew, but aren’t also ultra-stiff. They are covered with black plaid. Impressive are the used plugs. They are made from a dozen elements and are very expensive. The caps are from rhodium plated PCOCC copper and green carbon plaid. Similar plugs are made by Acrolink, and maybe it is the supplier (on specification, I have never seen a similar product) for Harmonix. The contacts are also made from PCOCC copper, gold plated and then rhodium plated. This looks awesome. As it can be read – in the otherwise unfortunately sparse – company materials, the main concern while developing the cables was to achieve lowest capacitance possible.
The loudspeaker cable HS-101-SLC (Sophisticated Listener’s Choice) is a single, thick line in a black plaid, underneath which green cover is visible. On both ends quite thick positive and negative cables are sticking out, covered with grey plaid. There is not much information about the material used for the cable, except that it is “newly-designed OFC”. It can be seen through the plaid, that around the cables a smaller cable is wound, the same as in the interconnect. This is an element of the triple shielding. The cables are terminated with splendid spade plugs – thick, solid, easy to mount elements, made from gold and rhodium plated PCOCC copper. Like the interconnects, the loudspeaker cables cannot be proud of an especially refined external design, but the workmanship is better than of my Velum. Similar to the interconnect those cables are directional.
HS-101GP + HS-101-SLC
Price: 5250 zl + 10 500 zl
Distribution: Moje Audio
Powstańców Śląskich 118
Tel.: +48 606 276 001
Tel.: +48 698 960 775
WWW: COMBAK CORPORATION