Synergistic Research PHT- all of 'em! And then some!
The ECTs I tried a few weeks ago worked out so well I decided to try the similar but smaller PHTs. These come in 4 versions and all the reviews I found seemed to me to favor the Green Dream/Black Widow so I decided to start there.
My first surprise with these things, which really shouldn't have been, but nobody prepared me for just how tiny they are. I mean they are small! I guess if you can handle installing a cartridge then you can handle these, they are about the same size as one of the little nuts that holds the cartridge. I wound up using tweezers. And vacuum cleaner. To eliminate visual competition for when I drop one. And LED headlamp. Because they are hard to see even on a clean floor. Ask me how I know.
Being small its hard to see how they'll affect VTF much and sure enough, they mass in at a measly 0.06 grams. Including the microscopic bit of white tack that holds them in place. Still, full disclosure for the "its a VTF gimmick" crowd, that's 0.06 grams more than zero. We want zero! So rest assured I painstakingly reset VTF to be precisely the same both with and without the PHT. But then there's also the "you can't remember what anything sounds like for more than like a second or whatever" crowd. So for them I came up with this one: just the right amount of blue tack stuck on the counterweight to equalize the PHT stuck on the other end. And yeah, I did it both ways. I am that guy.
One more thing. I tried these all kinds of places. You are gonna be surprised at some of the places I tried them! First of course the cartridge. The head shell of my Origin Live Conqueror arm has cutouts, two of them directly over the cartridge. This allowed me to stick them directly to the cartridge. Both locations, near as I could tell, sounded the same. New Koetsu Black Goldline, in case anyone cares. I used the supplied white tack. Tiny little bit. Rolled into a ball. Not much bigger than the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Yeah. Not much. Flattened out so it very uniformly and neatly fills out to the edge of the PHT. Because: Koetsu. Must. Look. Good.
First up, the Black Widow. Big improvement in focus, detail, dynamics, just an altogether much more palpably real presentation. With bass extension, pitch definition and slam balanced clear across to the top end. Less grain and glare, although not (as we will see in a minute) in proportion to improvements elsewhere. For anyone familiar with Black Diamond Racing Cones, the Black Widow is the neutral or less warm Mk IV. Only I would say the Black Widow has an even better effect, which is saying something.
Next I swapped out the Black Widow for the Green Dream. Dreamy, indeed! Like, took me a while to get my head around it! Soundstage? Swimming in it! If you like airy extension you'll prefer the Black Widow. But if you want to absolutely expunge all traces of grain and glare, leaving only the music (which, let's face it, there is no grain or glare in the real world, these are hi-fi artifacts) then you will love the Green Dream. I fell hard.
But its not like you have to choose one or the other. Used together, in lots of different places, they always added together, never conflicted with each other. I tried them on the cartridge itself. At two different places along the arm. And on the arm rest mounting board. Same results everywhere, just not quite as great as directly on the cartridge.
So the Black Widow was a hit, I definitely wanted more of the Green Dream, and they work fabulous together. But now I also was real curious to try Blue Velvet and Purple Haze. I called Betty at HighEnd-Electronics and had her send me those plus one more Green Dream.
Purple Haze was a bust. Couldn't stand it. In terms of imaging it had the same effect as the others, but where the others reduced grain and glare by varying amounts Purple Haze seemed to add, and seemed to add some awful tonal coloration, and distortion, even. Really wanted to get a better handle on it but honestly, with the others sounding so good I really was not into subjecting myself to this at all. Out it went. Fast.
Blue Velvet, different story. Ted mystical-metaphorically calls PHT pot and compares the two varieties to the two marijuana strains indica and sativa. Whatever. Blue Velvet and Green Dream are indeed kind of similar, Blue Velvet to my ears having a lot more bloom. A term which while it has been around a while I never really felt like using it before. But Blue Velvet has bloom. It is bloomy. It does everything great, but with this bloomy coloration. Things just seem to bloom and blossom more fully than I think most would term normal or neutral. Easy to imagine being complimentary to a system that's a bit lean or analytical. Which ain't mine.
Saving (I thought) the best for last, I threw on the second Green Dream. Did you ever take a swig of something you thought was apple juice, only it turns out to be iced tea? That was me. All set to soak in that Green Dream whirlpool when, WTF? I mean what the.....? Where was my Green Dream? Not here. Palpability? Gone. Dynamics? MIA. Could not believe it. Did not want to believe it. Moved it around. Same result everywhere. Left it on the arm rest a while. Thought I might get used to it and like it after a while. Instead, when I finally did remove it, actually sounded better without it.
Oh well. Fortunately they have a great return policy. Blue Velvet, Purple Haze and the defective Green Dream are going back. To be exchanged for another set of Green Dream and Black Widow.
Riddle me this: Will the next ones sound like the first ones? What about the iPod? The MacBook Pro? And the HDMI cable?
Tune in next week to find out. Same bat time. Same bat channel.