Review: Halcro Amplifiers DM-58 Amplifier
I wrote the following in response to another thread and was recommended to post my observations and responses here. Therefore here it is!
I spent 3 and ½ hours with the Halcro dm 58s in my system. The following is a report based on this brief listening experience.
System description: Crosby modified Quad ESL 63s (late production). NYAL Futterman OTL monoblock amps heavily modified by George Kaye (dual chasse w/tube regulated power supply) Siltech Echo Bay (G5) speaker cables. Bear Labs interconnect cables. Levinson 32 Reference preamp. REL Stadium subwoofer system driven by the Levinson using the high level input, crossed at 25Hz. Music sources: Basis 2800/Graham 2.2 tonearm/Lyria Helikon for vinyl playback. Electrocompaniet EMC-1 MK II 192 (w/ all latest mods) for CD. Power cords: Custom Power Cord Company Top Gun from wall to conditioners, Asylum cables, Bob Crump design, from conditioners to components. Power conditioning: PS audio 600 for source. Audio Magic Stealth for preamp and amplifiers including REL. Dedicated AC lines for amplifiers and source equipment. (note: Halcros went directly into the AC line – no power conditioning used.) Room treatments: Echo Busters. Equipment rack: Silence by Tidal Audio.
Preliminary note: I am an audio hobbyist. Not a professional. I think that this is important. It is quite different to have this as a hobby than as a source of income. The perspective is very different. Also my exposure to equipment, while considerable as a hobbyist (I’ve been at this for over 30 years) is not as extensive as a professionals’. I am also not an engineer. While I am handy with a soldering iron and have a rudimentary idea about electrical circuits, I am in no way an expert in the area of amplifier design. I also am not a musician. I listen to all types of music from popular music and blues/jazz to early music on original instruments and opera. I attend live music venues about 1-2 times a month but mostly rely on my audio equipment to satiate my love of music.
Also I want to commend Halcro as a company. I sent an email letter expressing my interest in a home demo. 1 day later I got a detailed response from the company. The following day I got an email from the US distributor Phillip O’Hanlon. He put me in touch with Steve Rabitz, a local dealer, who brought a pair of amps to my home within a week of my expressing serious interest. That’s customer service!
The Halcros are superb amplifiers. I was impressed enough to take out my checkbook. Now, my Futterman OTLs are also marvelous amplifiers. The Halcros simply outperformed them – at least in this short listening session. In listening to the Halcros I could not tell if it was a tube or solid state amplifier. As noted in many reviews it is dead quiet. There was no easily discernible signature. Both amplifiers have a very sweet midrange. I would be hard pressed to say which was better in the midrange. Frequency extremes belonged to the Halcros, particularly the highs which surprised me. I was less surprised by the low frequency extension and control provided by the Halcros. I found I needed to make some readjustments with the REL sub-bass system as the Quads were providing better low frequency response with the Halcros. Both the OTLs and the Halcros were excellent at low level detail. I’m not certain which was better here. However on complex orchestral music there was no question – the tubes got muddled and the Halcros were as clear and resolving with complex musical passages as when playing a solo violin. For example: Hummel’s Mass in B opus 80 (nice music and recording by the way- EMI 1971). This work calls for a full orchestra, 4 soloists and a large men and boys choir. At times during the piece the 4 soloist, choir and orchestra are all working at a crescendo. With the Halcros resolution is maintained such that you can clearly hear each soloist, all the instrumentation and the various tonal components of the boys’ choir from young boys to older men. With the OTLs at these musical peaks there is a loss of resolution. I had thought this was a shortcoming of the recording or my vinyl setup – until the Halcros.
On the other hand what I heard was not revolutionary, at least not to my ears. I would characterize it more as evolutionary. When hearing what the Halcros did for my system I had a response in many respects similar to the response I had after putting in the Siltechs – that is my system was distinctly better than what it was before. It was not however, an earth shattering experience, or any sort of musical revelation. The Halcros are audio amplifiers, very good amplifiers indeed, but not a magic machine that makes musicians appear in the listening room.
I think the Halcros bode well for all audio hobbyists because any excellent audio component allows for the development of better components up and down the audio chain. I don’t think the Halcros are for everybody however. They are expensive, though not absurdly so. Without commensurate equipment they would be a waste of money. Another way to look at this is that any improvement in the audio reproduction chain is important, whether amplifier, power cables or source equipment. Even granting that these are ‘the best amplifier ever’, (which I don’t claim – they are just the best I have heard in my system) many audiophiles will be able to make improvements in their system equal or greater to that of adding a Halcro amplifier by improving one or several other aspects of their audio chain. Equipment lust is a hazard in our hobby, sometimes irrationally so! Professional reviewers who are evaluating equipment as isolated pieces of gear would do well to keep in mind that the hobbyist – the source of the business – is only concerned (or should only be concerned) with the sound of their system as a whole, not the sound (or lack thereof) of any particular piece of equipment. In fact I would be willing to bet that there are systems in which the introduction of Halcro amplification would result in a less satisfactory system performance than that gained by using some other amplifier. So can it really be said that one amplifier is ‘the best’?
In sum: As indicated, I intend to purchase the Halcros (thanks Mom, for encouraging my interest in going to medical school!) However I will not be parting with my OTLs, at least not for a while. Why? Well, I have only spent a few hours with the Halcros. The time I spent was long enough for me to know I want more time, but not long enough to know everything. Years of experience in this hobby have taught me that it sometimes takes a large number of hours, over several listening sessions, to hear the problems of a component, particularly when that component provides some immediate audible benefit. I have had my Futterman OTLs for 20 years now in various configurations (I was fortunate to have the opportunity to get a pair of original Futterman’s from Julius Futterman many years ago and George Kaye has kept the amplifiers performing at a state of the art level.). It is a tried and proven solution giving many, many hours of listening pleasure. The best compliment I can pay the Halcros is that they are the first amplifier I have heard (again, my experience is quite limited) that have made me think about moving the Futtermans’ out of my system. In addition to the (thus far) superior audio performance of the Halcros, the prospect of not having to deal with tubes heating up my room, running up the electric bill, and slowly degrading over time is a plus. I should take delivery on these outstanding amplifiers in about 2 weeks. I’ll post another report on this forum after living with the Halcros for an extended period of time.