|Synergizing with Greg Weaver
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Upping the Ante at Harmonic Technology: Pro-Silway Mk II Interconnects Among Other Things
From Speaker Guru to Cable VP
Well Synergizers, if you havent browsed the photo coverage of HI-FI 99 held two weeks ago in Chicago or noticed our News Online story from May 15th, then you wouldnt know that Albert Von Schweikert, formerly chief wizard at Von Schweikert Research, is now the vice president of marketing at Harmonic Technology. No, Im not kidding. When the news first broke about the flood that was the final straw to break the struggling camels back in Watertown, NY (home of the VSR factory), the rumor mill cranked up to full output and the gossip started to fly. One early story I heard actually hinted at this very move from loudspeaker manufacturer to cable company VP, but who was to take it seriously? It is now a reality. And while Im on the subject of Von Schweikert loudspeakers, be aware that the rumor mill is going full-tilt once again, this time about the Phoenix rising from the flood. Dont be surprised if you see a resurrected VSR showing product at next years CES!
Early last month, with HI-FI 99 looming in the near future, the thought of meeting both Jim Wang, president of Harmonic Technology, and loudspeaker designer extraodinare, Albert Von Schweikert, was not the least effective of the many drawing cards pulling me to the Show. I love this job!
Tales of two cables
As vociferous as I was about my appreciation for Alberts highly musical creations, his polite approbation of my work left me red-faced with embarrassment and begging him to stop in very short order. After the mutual complements between us had been exchanged, the conversation inevitably turned to the Harmonic Technology cables. The focus of most of the conversation was centered on the new version of the Pro-Silway interconnect. In fact, a one-meter iteration had arrived at my home some three weeks before HI-FI 99, in the middle of April.
Knowing the cables to need extended break in time (the original Pro-Silway, that is), I substituted them for the Truth-Link that connected my Threshold FET nine/e to the remarkable little Pass Labs Aleph 3 and let them run in for an extended period before doing any critical listening. In fact, the cables ran continuously while the SoundStage! team scurried to and fro for six days at the Palmer in Chicago covering just about everything deemed worthy. In fact, by this writing, this new set of interconnects has racked up well over 300 hours, so I can feel confident that they have taken on their final character. The last thing I wanted to do was to go on record with any assessment as to their aural character before they had a proper chance to season fully. In my experience, the sonics of a cable can continue to shift and settle for some time, usually for a minimum of over 100 hours, and on some occasions over 200 hours.
So it happens that only five short months after I had the chance to share my original findings on the exemplary new system of cables from Harmonic Technology, Im hear (sorry, it was too easy) to tell you that the boys from San Diego have hit a grand-slam home run with the Pro-Silway Mk II. Though Ive not been informed of its official new designation, Ill simply use the Mk II label to differentiate it from the original. My reasoning is that this version of the cable varies so significantly from its predecessor as to render it an entirely new cable. More on that subject in due time.
My reference interconnect these last five months has been the overachieving Truth-Link. This is a high-purity, long-crystal, solid-copper, deliciously balanced interconnect that has caused me, and most all who have had the pleasure of hearing it, to rethink the expense necessary to own truly reference-quality cables. Even though I relished the extra air and slightly higher resolve of the original Pro-Silway, their slight leanness in the lower bass region and slight upper presence exaggeration had taken them out of the race in comparison, given the Truth-Links better overall timbral balance in my system. Well, that has changed.
As I have the set of Pro-Silways sent to me for the original evaluation, direct head-to-head comparisons of all three cables were not a problem. The original Truth-Link was quite quiet, though not possessing the darkest background Ive ever experienced. In that singular regard, the Goertz Alpha Core MI-2 and AG-1 and the JPS Labs Superconductors are still the best. But the Truth-Links wildly dynamic shadings and utter resolve of low-level detail has bested all other comers. One of their finest attributes, a tendency that I first mistook for a bit of leanness through the upper presence region (about 2.5kHz to 3.5kHz) in fact turned out to be, with longer listening and careful analysis, a more correct tonal balance. This equality of balance lent itself to a startlingly more truthful presentation of upper strings, piano and brass.
Listening to the original Pro-Silway revealed just the slightest exaggeration in that same upper presence region and a slightly lightish balance below about 50Hz. This tendency gave them a bit of a clockwise skew overall, distorting the balance of timbre somewhat and offering a slightly sibilant quality in general. I have to admit that I found the very airy and spacious attribute of the old Pro-Silway a bit more revealing than the Truth-Link, but its slightly inferior tonal balance offset that enough as to make the Truth-Link the better choice in my system, and all the subsequent systems I matched them to.
One plus one equals five?
The Pro-Silway Mk II offers even more liquidity than either of the two earlier incarnations. They offer a more lifelike rendering of that very critical upper presence region, yet without any hint of the excess energy so readily apparent in the original. Brass and bronze voices present just a taste more of the bite those instruments offer in real life, with no hint of the slight stridency the original Pro-Silway could offer. Even given this vitality, there is no undue emphasis on analog material, either with vinyl or AAD digital transfers. The Mk II offers a slightly smoother overall tonal balance from top to bottom than even the original Truth-Link, imparting it with a slightly higher degree of neutrality. This is very good news.
Another welcomed surprise is that they seem to be somewhat more coherent in the midbass realm. Bass guitar and double-bass runs are more easily defined both in terms of pitch and space. Hard to believe, as I had found this to be a very alluring quality with the Truth-Link. They also seem to be a tad quieter than either of their predecessors as well.
The new cables presentation is superb, a combination of the solidity of the Truth-Link and the air and space of the original Pro-Silway. Fine detail, the resolve of dynamic contrasts and individual voices, have been taken to new heights, the achievement here easily surpassing either earlier cable. Vocals, while being carved out more distinctly, are recreated with greater body, providing an incomparable sense of wholeness to the re-created event. The audible illumination of the rear and extreme left and right of the soundstage, no small achievement, is simply breathtaking.
While I have to acknowledge that the individual increments in performance might be small if taken individually, the synergy of all these characteristics is not subtle. As I implied earlier, the Pro-Silway Mk II so aptly outperforms the original that it might just as well be considered a new cable rather than an improvement on an existing one.
What the Mk II seems to have done, in essence, is to intermix the strengths of the two older cables, while bringing none of either's weaknesses to the table. Combine the deep, deft bass control, stunning (macro and micro) dynamic capability, truth of timbre and powerful resolve of the Truth-Link and wed it to the airy, delicate and spacious high-frequency performance and startling illumination and articulation of the soundstage of the original Pro-Silway, and voilą, may I present the Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway Mk II. In a nutshell, the Pro-Silway Mk II is the most truthful and involving cable Ive encountered in my three decades of searching for cable Nirvana, regardless of cost. It is hard to believe that I said very much the same thing of the Truth-Link just five months ago, but it is nonetheless true.
The crux of the biscuit
Now I expect that the question lurking in everyones mind must surely be, "How did they do it?" I admit that after having closely examined the new cable, and based on a leap of bad assumption on my part, I determined that I knew what had been done. The Truth-Link is a single twisted pair of ultra-pure (99.9999997%) copper conductors terminated with locking RCAs or, for balanced applications, XLR connectors. The Pro-Silway was a single twisted pair of ultra-pure silver conductors, terminated in the same fashion. Well, the Mk II version is two conductors twisted into a pair, with both sets wound together in one final twisted-pair geometry.
While attending the Stereophile party at the Palmer Hilton on Thursday evening of Show week, I espoused my theories as to what it was that made the new Mk II sound so good. Albert and Jim kindly informed me that I had only gleaned half of the truth. As the evening progressed and I continued to probe and question the duo, they threw me a handful of very good clues, leading to my surmising the final half of the puzzle. Though sworn to secrecy, knowing what I do, I can say that there is ample justification for a large price increase of the Mk II. I daresay that a company less scrupulously grounded would have done just that. The good news is that the Pro-Silway Mk II only went up $40 from its original price -- from $359 a meter to $399. Those of you who want to upgrade to the Mk II version, a very fair trade-in policy is in the works. Write to Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org for all the details, which are being worked out as I write this.
Bravo to a young company that knows what audiophiles want -- world-class sonic performance bearing a realistic price. And a second hurrah to Robert Lee, the cable designer at Harmonic Technology, for not sitting on his laurels, but striking out to make a great product even better. And man, did they ever pull it off! Oh, did I mention that I have a full set of the new Pro-Silway ordered up? Keep up the great work, Jim, Albert and Robert.
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