REVIEW OF A HARMONIC TECHNOLOGY INTERCONNECT- Harmonic Technology vs. Nirvana
Forch dropped off his 1.5 meter runs of Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway II interconnects ($439 per meter), allowing me to borrow them while he went on vacation. (Generous guy, forch. Very good ears, too. Thanks mucho!) These ICs are bulky and fat but not too terribly stiff, and the plugs are as solid as a dreadnought. I inserted them (along with my reference Nirvana SL interconnects; $750 per meter) between my Sony SCD-777 ES and my Jeff Rowland Consonance preamp. I put both sets of interconnects into solid metal, gold-plated, Y signal-splitters placed on the analogue output jacks of the Sony, thus allowing exactly the same signal to be routed to the inputs of the preamp but through both sets of interconnects. This arrangement in turn allows instant (and level-matched) switching between interconnects directly from the sweetspot by means of the remote control.
Back to the usual suspects, that is the same list of recordings I used for the first parts of the Pear Cable interconnects review. In case you have not read that review, here’s that list: Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book II performed by Daniel Barenboim on Warner Classics; Sara K’s Closer Than They Appear on Chesky; Keith Jarrett The Koln Concert on ECM; and Thys Yool by the Martin Best Ensemble on Nimbus Records. Almost immediately at the outset of listening to the Bach-Barenboim recording, I knew I was in trouble. I could detect no apparent differences between the ICs. I knew I was really going to have get “down to business” and work hard to hear any distinctions. So let me caution you right here and now, the distinctions I am about to describe are quite minimal, incremental, fractional and extremely minute. Even articulating them is, I think, almost an act of exaggeration. But hey, that’s why they pay me the big bucks, right? (Wrong: there ain’t no “they,” and ! there ain’t no “big bucks.”)
So on the Bach-Barenboim CD. Through the Pro-Silway ICs the attacks of the piano notes seemed ever so much softer–fractionally. Also, the Pro-Silways sounded barely less dynamic. The Nirvana SLs seemed minimally more transparent, and perhaps fractionally more “full-bodied” sounding. The Pro-Silways allowed a perfectly lovely quality to Barenboim’s piano. Were they a hair warmer than my reference Nirvanas? (I put a question mark after this in my listening notes.) Also I felt that the Harmonic Tech ICs were just a hair more muted and restrained sounding than the Nirvanas. The HT interconnects also felt a smidge warmer, but not because of a fatter mid-range, simply because of those barely muted attacks of the piano notes. The Pro-Silways offered a rich, lovely sound; the Nirvanas seemed slightly more colorful, and maybe even fractionally richer by way of being a hair more dynamic. Through the Harmonic Tech ICs there was absolutely no leanness or thread-bare quality. !
Again, I must say (exactly as I wrote in my notes) that these two ICs are virtually identical tonally.
I then got a yen to hear some really “rosiny” strings, as on a CD of English consort music by Fretwork on the Virgin-Veritas label, just briefly in order to clear my ears. Or was it my brain? Again the HT Pro-Silways rendered the musical images of the string ensemble as perfectly lovely and flowing, and smoother by a hair. The Nirvanas were ever so slightly more articulate and detailed. Ears and brain cleared now; let’s move on.
Next up was Keith Jarrett in Cologne.
The HT ICs rendered the sound of KJ’s piano in a slightly more concentrated, more “bundled” fashion, as if the piano he was playing was a baby grand piano and the left and right hand notes both come from a smaller sound source. The Nirvanas seemed to offer a wider soundstage, and allowed the notes to be more separated and spatially differentiated. When Jarrett does his footfall percussion effect, either by using the piano pedals or heavily foot-tapping the floor, the Pro-Silways rendered the sound as thicker whereas the Nirvanas put the same sounds deeper in the space behind the speakers. On Jarrett’s occasionally relentless piano notes, the Pro-Silways slightly blunted the attacks of the notes (which may indeed be a good thing); the SLs allowed notes to be a tad more vibrant and lively.
On the Nimbus Martin Best Ensemble CD, it was pretty much a toss-up depending on one’s preferences. Drums through the Harmonic Techs seemed a tad heftier; through the Nirvanas drums were a tad deeper in the soundspace. Ambience through the HTs was slightly plusher and more muted; ambience through the SLs was slightly clearer and “harder” sounding. The Nirvanas afforded a more open and airy sound to the recorded space; whereas the Silways seemed a hair darker with a thicker sense of space. Vocals (mostly Martin Best himself) were fractionally more transparent through the Nirvana cables and fractionally chestier or thicker through the Harmonic Tech cables.
At this point I decided that I needed another change in the music because I was growing weary of “trying to tell the twins apart.” So I put on one of my favorite new CDs from Alia Vox: Grand Water Music from Versailles. This is an excellent recording in a big acoustic space with an impressive dynamic range caused by a wonderful variety of instruments. But alas, it was the same story: which interconnect I thought was better changed from track to track depending on whether I thought that specific track sounded better with a more robust, heftier sound or a clearer, more spacious sound. What’s an audiophile to do? Well needless to say the HT Pro-Silways allowed greater robustness and warmth, whereas the Nirvanas allowed greater clarity and articulation.
Finally, I listened to a fairly new recording on RCA of Janos Starker playing the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Bach. This is truly a very nice recording with a terrific and big presence given to the cello. If Starker does not bowl you over with his virtuosity (he’s in his 80s I believe), then he does mightily impress with his thoughtfulness and erudition. The Pro-Silways portrayed Mr. Starker’s cello as more substantial and more forward, and with a tiny bit more wooden body definition. The Nirvana SLs rendered it as more lively and more vibrant. The Harmonic Technology ICs seemed to emphasize the lower mid-range and upper- and middle-bass range of sounds. The Nirvana ICs seemed to more emphasize the middle- and upper mid-range and the lowest bass sounds.
To put it in the vernacular: you pays your money—you takes you choice. Six o’ one, half dozen o’ the other. Again, let me emphasize that the distinctions suggested herein are not gross or merely obvious. They are in fact miniscule, and required great concentration even to discern. Conclusions, Hah! Read this review and decide which interconnect you prefer—you can’t go wrong, in my opinion, with either. Both make beautiful music.