Reviewer: Jules Coleman
Sources: Well Tempered Reference/Reference Arm/Shiraz; Redpoint Testa Rossa XS/Triplanar/Ortofon SPU Royal N ([for review]; Brinkmann Balance/Brinkmann Arm/Brinkmann modified EMT ([for review]; Reimyo CDP-777 player [for review]; Denon/Exemplar DVD -2900 universal player [for review]
Preamplifiers: Shindo Monbrison (all tube, full function); Shindo Catherine (all tube, full function, dual mono with output transformer); Counterpoint 5.0
Amplifiers: Shindo Sinhonia F2a monoblock; Shindo WE 300B Ltd monoblock; Cr Developments Artemis Gold monoblock; Mark Pearson built EL-34 monoblock
Speakers: Wilson Sophia; Horning Agathon Ultimate [for review]; Horning Alkibiades; DeVore Fidelity Silverback Reference [for review]
Cables and Interconnects: Stealth Indra, PGS, M-21, Hybrid MLT speaker cable; Audience Au24 phono [for review], analog and speaker cable, Extreme Phono phono cable, 'Tone' speaker cable; Audio Note Kondo copper speaker cable
Equipment Rack: Harmonic Resolution Systems M1R [for review]; M3 Isolation Bases for amplifiers
Power Conditioning: BPT 3.5 Signature
Assorted Tuning and Resonance Control Devices: Black Diamond Cones, HRS Nimbus Feet; Vibrapods; Harmonix feet
Review Component Retail: ca. $9,000
Exceptional Engineering, Sonic Performance & Aesthetics
A lot of equipment -- much of it good and a good deal of it better than that -- has graced my listening room since Mike Latvis, president, chief engineer and designer of Harmonic Resolution Systems came to my home several months ago to set up his M1R equipment rack. The vast majority of those components have brought me hours of listening pleasure. Still, at the end of the review cycle, almost all of them have gone back from whence they came. Not so the HRS equipment rack; it's not going anywhere. In fact, as soon as I can scrape together the money, I intend to purchase another. As long as I own audio components, I want them (speakers aside) resting comfortably, securely, and most importantly quietly, on an HRS isolation base within an HRS equipment rack.
The HRS rack is unrivalled in my experience as a means of securing an audio playback system against the deleterious consequences of the 'noisy' environment in which any system invariably resides. The sonic rewards of the 'homeland security' that the HRS rack provide are far-reaching, obvious and repeatable. The bonus is that the HRS provides state of the art resonance control in a package that my wife -- who is an artist, art historian and coordinator of the arts programs in our town of Hamden, Connecticut -- praised as the most attractive audio component to reside in our listening room bar none.
|On the day Mike set up the rack at my home with a handful of other folks from the audio business on hand -- reviewers, distributors and dealers -- my wife came home from a workout at the gym, walked into the room as we were listening and proclaimed the sound "pure" in a way she had not previously experienced. She eyed the rack, sized it up and asked whether it was the only component we had changed while she was out. When we assured her that it was, she called me into the kitchen and offered to purchase it as an upcoming anniversary or birthday gift. She asked how much it cost and I put up nine fingers. She went looking for a checkbook, but I knew then that she thought I meant $900.00. In fact, I meant to indicate that the rack cost more than $9,000. The price may have altered her intentions but not her assessment of the rack's merits - aesthetic or sonic. And as usual, she's right on both counts. In the end, I happily took care of the purchase myself. I wouldn't want her to live without the rack she so admired, now would I?
In my thirty years as an audiophile, I have had the great good fortune to hear and sometimes to own a number of wonderful products. I've owned my share of dogs as well, though on reflection I am inclined to think that some of the dogs were really the victims of poor system matching. Rare in my experience, however, has been a product that has redefined my understanding of what is possible in music playback or altered my approach to putting together an audio system.
Two months ago, I came upon an amplifier that has completely changed my views about single-ended triodes in general and about 300B tube amplifiers in particular. This is the Shindo Laboratory WE300B Ltd. Music played through this amplifier not only sounds right; I experience it as complete. As a result, I no longer listen to music trying to determine if anything is missing. This is not a component you evaluate so much as you simply experience. The net effect has been to completely redirect my approach to putting a system together. Instead of searching for an amplifier to drive speakers of choice, I am in the throes of trying to identify a speaker that is not just a match for it, but worthy of it.
If the WE300B Ltd has altered my approach to putting an audio system together, then the HRS equipment rack has redefined my understanding of resonance control and its importance to music playback. The HRS rack realizes in practice the simple but insightful notion of 'addition by subtraction'. It reveals surprising truths, the most important and least obvious of which may well be that at the end of the day, the most cost-effective upgrade to any system is resonance control. A great power cord can improve the component to which it is connected. A great interconnect can enhance the performance of the two components it unites. A great digital front end can give you as good a source signal as you are likely to find - and so on. But a great component rack can improve not only the performance of every component you put in it but the performance of the system acting as an integrated whole.
The HRS, moreover, redirects one's attention from the importance of the components one purchases to the need to control or minimize the impact of the environment in which those components reside. For these reasons alone, the HRS represents for me a product of truly exceptional merit almost as much for its capacity to educate as for its aesthetic beauty and sonic splendor. It is one of the most important audio components I have come across in thirty years in the high end.
It is not my primary purpose, however, to sing the praises of the HRS equipment rack.
The share of the audio market that goes to equipment racks is ludicrously small. The major print magazines in the US have been reluctant to devote much space to equipment racks and resonance control in general. This simply encourages the unfortunate view that the differences among racks are relatively unimportant as compared to the differences among sources, electronics and speakers. The problem with reviewing racks is not that they don't make a substantial sonic difference to your system and are therefore unworthy of serious reviews. Surely they do make a difference and they are certainly worthy of review. Rather, it is that they are not 'sexy' and reviewing them is, if you are serious about it, hard work.
To his credit, Mike Latvis encouraged me to learn as much about resonance control as possible and to use this review as much to educate the audiophile community about the importance of resonance control in general as to focus on his product in particular. His sincere view is that everyone who makes a good product benefits when people understand the value of this segment of the audio playback chain. He's much more interested in making the 'pie larger' and opening the eyes of the public to an important aspect of playback, than he is at this point in grabbing a piece of the pie. His view is that nothing is to be gained by declaring one product 'the best'.
Mike Latvis is simply one of the finest people I have met in this industry; fortunately, he is also one hell of an engineer with one hell of a good product to show for his efforts.
There's an engineer at the helm
Like many of the rest of us who end up in some or other part of the audio industry, Mike enjoyed a misspent youth playing with equipment, modifying electronics and speakers. Fortunately for him, he was able to mate his interests with his technical education and experience. After securing degrees in Mechanical Engineering and prior to forming HRS in the fall of 2000, Latvis enjoyed a varied and very successful career in mechanical engineering. Much of his prior work experience focused on vibration control.
Between 1986 and 1993, he was Senior Product Engineer for the Lord Corporation, a world leader in vibration isolation products where he was the primary engineer of the products being developed and manufactured for Sikorsky Aircraft and Hindustan Aeronautics Accounts. During that time, he completed design engineering of the elastomeric pitch rod ends for the Black Hawk helicopter's main rotor system, the elastomeric stabilator bearings for the Sikorsky-Boeing Comanche helicopter and roughly a hundred other projects in and around aircraft design. Between 1993 and 1997, he worked in the Engineering Department for Moog Incorporated (and Moog Controls) and in the Simulation and Specialty Products Group where he was lead designer on several products including the three-stage electrohydraulic high-pressure natural gas injector for natural gas locomotive research program (which was the first full size locomotive to run on natural gas).
Between 1997 and 2001, he was the Engineering Manager of a Vibration Isolation Products Group in a company where he served as technical lead engineer and manager for a group of engineers working on hundreds of vibration isolation design projects for companies such as Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin. Those programs included missile system isolation, commercial aircraft interior noise reduction, isolation of Naval Electronics Systems from ballistic shock and isolation of sensitive electronics in military vehicles and aircraft. He continues to be very much in demand as a consultant in his areas of expertise.
When Mike Latvis entered the field of vibration isolation in audio, he came prepared for the job with a love of music, an audiophile's neurotic attachment to gear and a successful career in the science of vibration control and noise reduction in a broad range of areas. All HRS products exhibit his love of music and his expertise at vibration and noise control.