This review of HMS Gran Finale Top Match interconnects and HMS Energia power cords should be read in conjunction with at least a glance at my virtual system and its description.
After updating my amps and moving to the Marantz SA-1 SACD player and considering modifying it, I realized my current wire had been in place for nearly a decade. When I got the Siltech FTM4 Gold interconnects and LS-120 speaker wire, as well as the TG Audio Goldstein power cords, they were very highly considered, and recommended by Victor Goldstein and Frank Garbie—of Jadis fame. But I began to wonder about just where to begin.
As I live in New York, I had a multi-day ticket for the Stereophile Home Entertainment Show in the spring of 2002. I went to the Nordost room and discovered the “famous” “change the interconnect and hear the difference” demonstration. They were both demonstrating the differences in the bottom of their line all the way to the Valhallas, and they were also demonstrating some competitors’ cables. They also issued an invitation to bring in our own personal cables to compare.
With that invitation, I brought a few favorite CDs and SACDs (they could only access the CD layer of hybrid discs with their Gamut CD player) and my one meter original Siltech FTM4 Gold. Now this was an unfamiliar system, playing a whole range of music, most of which I would never listen to. But a familiar selection was played using my Siltech—and to my considerable surprise, the Nordost people decided to compare it first to a humble Blue Heaven (I was thinking at least Quattro Fil if not Valhalla!). Well, at least in that unfamiliar room with unfamiliar components with too many people and not quite in the sweet spot, I was startled at the improvements in imaging especially. When we were able to compare the Siltech FTM4 Golds (originals, let me hasten to add, circa 1992) to the Valhallas, I was stunned. I realized I needed to move up in the cable world from where I had been for ten years.
I did not take the Nordost “test” completely literally, given that I have long since learned that the only way to compare components adequately is doing it in familiar surroundings with known components and music. But I did realize something must be done. And I needed to begin to explore what was out there.
I imagined I would have to spring for the Valhallas, and began looking around at reviews and comments, both in print and in Audiogon and AA. It was at this point, early last summer, when I discovered HMS cables—in the context of their discussion and controversy here and on AA. But since the HMS had been compared by numerous folks to the Valhallas, my curiosity was piqued (and I also felt that Tekunda, aka Christian Brouwer, was being vilified to such an extent, that, whatever his mistakes, I became more curious than I might have otherwise). And so I arranged to audition a one meter Gran Finale Top Match interconnect and two Energia power cords (two so that I could use them on my monoblock power amps).
I need to issue a disclaimer here, that I cannot and am not comparing the HMS cables to Valhallas or anything other than the early Siltechs and TG Audio Goldsteins in my own system. I make no claims about them in relation to any other cable I have not heard in my system.
I first inserted the Gran Finale between my (then still unmodified) Marantz SA-1 SACD player and the Jadis JP80MC preamp. I had always considered my Siltechs above all musical, conveying the emotion of the music to an uncanny extent. They gave a sense of the warmth and magic of “the Jadis sound,” seductive and wonderful. Well, none of this was given up with HMS. But something startling was gained. The imaging and soundstage were enlarged, brought forward, and made eerily precise. The back wall of the hall/recording venue was evident as I had never heard it before—with the result that the front-to-back dimension was deeper than I had ever experienced it. And there was a simply astonishing increase in the level of bass energy coming through. I could turn down or even off my Sunfire Signature Subwoofer that I sometimes use to get the deepest notes the Magnepan Tympanis cannot reach. With no subwoofer, the seamlessness and magic of the Magnepan sound was remarkable.
In short, in very short order, I realized I had something incredibly special in these interconnects. There was/could be no going back. I could only imagine ordering a three meter set to go from my preamp to my amp.
Then I tried the power cords. I first ran one HMS Energia power cord from the dedicated AC line to the IEC input of my Versalab 6 power block, and then plugged the captive AC cord of my Forsell turntable into the Versa. Everything else was constant. Just changing the power cord for the turntable motor (and air supply of the air bearing arm) produced an astonishing increase in the soundstage, deepening it uncannily, of hearing the rear wall of the recording venue as never before, and all this in a deeper “blackness” or silence than I had ever heard using my turntable. If anything, the change here was more dramatic than with the interconnects on the SA-1.
As I used the two power cords in various combinations in my system, I found similar if perhaps a bit less dramatic changes. It became abundantly clear to me that I needed to equip my whole system with Energia cords. And so I ordered three more.
I believe there is a synergism between the interconnects and power cords, just as so many have suggested there is with the HMS speaker cable (which I have not tried because my speakers are hard wired and the run to the crossover is far less than the internal wiring after the crossover—see my virtual system comments). The net effect of HMS interconnects and power cords was and is simply startling in the extreme. I listen to a great deal of chamber music. There is simply an uncanny sense of the placement and also the relationship to each other of each individual player in a small ensemble. A performance comes alive as never before. Sam Tellig’s phrase, “palpable presence,” was made for what I heard in my system with these cables.
Redbook CDs seemed to have much less digital glare and harshness—something that was helped by the very fine CD playback of the Marantz SA-1, but made vastly moreso after Richard Kern’s modification of the SA-1. But the HMS cables played a major role here as well. I have been enjoying CDs more than I have in years. However much vinyl and SACD are vast improvements over CD, I have more than 2000 CDs I also want to be able to enjoy. With HMS, I can do that as never before.
Good SACDs are a joy beyond measure. Peter Wispelwey’s Channel Classics recording of the three Benjamin Britten Suites for Cello is a marvel. A single cello is a small, somewhat resonant room positively radiates a glow that is astonishing. The attacks of the bow to the strings have an uncanny immediacy. The resonance of the body of the cello sings gloriously. It is as present in my living room as if Peter Wispelwey were there with his cello. I can think of no better demonstration recording to show off the virtues of my system. I am convinced that the HMS cables have a great deal to do with this. (Another reason I love recorded chamber music is that in an “absolute sound” sense, one can get so much closer to the real thing. The New York Philharmonic, which I heard live last night, presents a vastly greater problem, where the distance is still pretty substantial.)
The new Channel Classics SACD of Couperin’s Pieces De Viole is again astonishing. The harpsichord and the gamba are both so precisely located, so delicate, so precise. The recording and every aspect of the playback system help make this sound so magical, but I think a good deal of the credit can go to these remarkable cables.
One more example. The Lindsays SACD of the Beethoven Quartet, opus 130, is similarly uncanny in is placing of each member of the quartet relative to each other and to the recording venue. I am again reminded that superb two channel sound can have a breathtaking immediacy. There is no way in heaven I am going to trade the quality and character of the equipment I have put together for anything less but with more channels. Given good stereo (I am not a mono freak!) I have yet to understand how less in quality in exchange for more in the number of channels could possibly be an attractive tradeoff. And again, these cables have everything to do with the sounds that have so moved me.
The Top Match boxes on the interconnects have impedance settings from 0 to 9. I have tried repeatedly to hear a difference (other than a natural decrease in loudness as you move toward 9). I have settled on 0 at least for the time being. It is difficult to assess, in my opinion, when you are trying to hear differences in the settings and adjust for perceived loudness at the same time. The three settings on the power cord boxes are similarly subtle. I ended up using the lowest filtration settings on the Jadis (which are famous for their power supplies), the middle setting on the Marantz SA-1, and the highest setting for the turntable. The boxes on the cords supplying the Class A amps can get quite hot, but this is, I am told, entirely normal.
When the three meter cables arrived, I did have a momentary problem with the right channel cable, in that the knob for changing impedance had some play in it, or something was not lining up right inside the box. Christian Brouwer could not have been more helpful in ordering a new cable from Germany, conveying Dr. Strassner’s concern, and letting me keep the defective cable (using it on 0 where there was no problem) until the replacement arrived. I could not have imagined better service. This quality and character of service has been true for all of my dealings with Christian.
In conclusion, I reiterate that I cannot speak of all that might be compared to HMS. I do not have the means, time, or patience to engage in elaborate "shootouts." What I can say is that with these HMS cables, a system which in many ways approaches state of the art has never sung more gloriously, has never conveyed the depth and emotion of music so uncannily. And that, finally, is what this enterprise of high end audio is about. I can forget the hardware and the comparisons and even the money, and find rest and refreshment and inspiration and life in the music. And I can say this with much more feeling after I put the HMS cables into my system. There is nothing more that I could ask.Associated gear View my Virtual SystemSimilar products
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