Not just any black hole but a SUPER black hole.
The following are my observations about the Super Black Hole and lots of pointless digressions. Not essential reading by any means. Please don’t complain that it’s too long or that it doesn’t make a point. I’m rambling; feel free to pass by.
My system, cheap by Audiogon standards, expensive in the rest of life world, is KEF LS50 speakers, Arcam A19 integrated amp, and a CD player. Except for a little Spotify, my listening is almost all CD. I’m a dying breed.
I used to have an NAD C 358. The Black Hole was a welcome addition to that component. Boosted the bass, made the sound more saturated. Denser. Better.
Then the NAD broke. Suddenly all my discs had errors in them. Not the usual stuttering. Unlike anything I’d heard before.
The replacement was a Denon DCD 600NE. (I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this but Safe & Sound of Chicopee, MA are champs.) A new world. The sound bloomed. The virtues that the Black Hole brought to the NAD are part of the Denon’s DNA. Bass that the NAD can only dream of. Everything—voices, saxophones, guitars—is full and rich. Oil paint, not watercolors.
(And I was always a fan of NAD. Had a 316BEE for many years. Now I’m wondering.)
So now I’m reveling in sound. The question of the day: Where does the Super Black Hole fit into my new audio life?
Critical listening was called for. Hifi reviewers are always complaining about critical listening. How much work it is, how different it is from regular listening. It’s hard to feel sorry for them but they do have a point. Critical listening is hard, it’s work.
Several albums were tested but the most significant were OK Computer by Radiohead and RoundAgain by Joahua Redman et. al.
OK Computer was played loud. 90 db range. The Black Hole was too much. Too much bass. I don’t like “audiophile” bass, I don’t want an artificial crisp or taut sound. That’s not the way a bass—stand up or guitar—sounds. Same with a kick drum. They have a certain softness to them.
But the Black Hole made the sound too uncrisp and untaut. The notes weren’t distinct. The colors in the music were flush but a detail was lost. Standing 20 feet from the speakers, I could feel the floor in my Brooklyn brownstone vibrate. The neighbors downstairs never complain but why push it?
Another digression in this taut, crisply written discourse. And another repetition of a question thinking music lovers everywhere have been asking for 20 years: Radiohead, where art thou? Where is the album that I can love? Why tease us with your brilliance and then disappear into yourselves? You don’t like OK Computer? You don’t like The Bends? Too simple for you? Some of the post-Kid A stuff is good but nothing I can wrap your arms around. No one loves art and experimentation more than me but Picasso wasn’t difficult for the sake of being difficult. If you have a voice like Thom Yorke’s, let it sing!
RoundAgain, played at a normal listening level, was pretty much the same with and without the Black Hole. Joshua Redman brings a lovely touch to the tenor saxophone, an instrument I believe has become too forward, too brash in the hands of Coltrane wannabes. (Actually, in Coltrane’s hands too, if I may be blasphemous.) Redman sticks more to the Sonny Rollins side of the street. His sound was great with and without the SBH
So I’m going to stick the SBH into the case for a Husker Du album. Strangely, the only “H” in the rock side of my collection. “H” for Herbie, a mnemonic that I probably have a 50/50 chance of remembering. “New Day Rising” is a great album, by the way, but I rarely play it. I’m too old
Frankly, I’ll be relieved not to be using the Black Hole. When someone was around, I was usually too embarrassed to use it. It was just nerdy. Too many questions, not enough answers. “I don’t know how it works. It’s just better. Can’t you hear it?”
Of course they couldn’t. And who could blame them? The Black Hole goes pretty deep into Audiophilia. As someone who likes a good scientific explanation, I was always a bit uncomfortable with whatever was offered. Reducing vibration or absorbing stray light never held much water for me.
But who cares? It works! If you’re considering one, it might be the cheapest improvement you’ll ever find. It’s no longer working for me, in my system, but I relied on it for years. I don’t know how Herbie does it but he has my sincere thanks.