Home  |  Audio Reviews  Show Reports   Partner Mags  News 

 

November 2017
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
HiFi-Tuning Supreme Harmonizer
Harmonizing the different aspects of an audio system.
Review By Jeremy R. Kipnis of Kipnis Studios (KSS)

 

HiFi-Tuning Supreme Harmonizer Review

 

  I've been an audiophile for almost five decades, now; really since 1969. And it never ceases to amaze me when I come across something that appears to work wonders in an area where previously one had thought it to be perfectly addressed. I speak about pure power from the wall outlet, and any filtration (or regeneration) to clean it up as applied to one's audio and video system. On the surface, a piece of gear should work well so long as it is plugged into a working outlet. But as a 'phile, I know that this is just the beginning of my fascination. Within a truly high-resolution playback system, everything introduced into or near an AV system makes a difference in the performance quality; to some extent or another.

In the past, I have gone to such great lengths to achieve the "perfect" power supply as using batteries to run the entire system; various types from dry cell to liquid batteries, such as the ones found in automotive and camping supply stores. I've also extensively used uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), which feature rechargeable batteries to regenerate 50 or 60 Hz @ 60, 120, and 240 Volts pure sine wave alternating current power. The idea is that any line noise that might occur as a result of component to component interactions or from household appliances in use or even at one's neighbors home can be eliminated if one generates one's own AC power, locally! Anybody ever listen to their system after the electricity goes out but while your home is still powered from its own propane generator?

Aside from these large and often noisy UPS (due to the cooling fans used to thermally chill the battery recharging system) or propane generator with a motor, batteries have been the best solution for me when using existing components designed to run off AC wall power. When the power is pure (and measurably so using an Audio Precision 3 system), I have observed improvements across the audio and video performance board... even with the very best built and regulated gear in the world; a system driven by a pure power signal will provide superior sonic imaging, with far greater dynamics, tonal shading, spatiality, tactility, vibrancy, immediacy, freedom from audible distortions, and just plain outright believability. These terms and others are often bandied about (presumably meaning anything one likes in a given context). But in the end it is the sonic illusion which must be truly believable in a way that often produces freez้ – the little goosebumps produced on one's arm, neck, back, and sometimes legs – then we are truly in an elevated state of emotional awareness; something only really possible with stereophilia.

As a recording engineer, I have also discovered that I can capture these different sonic variables to power supply quality and compare them by recording the results! A/B testing of different types of power supplies with the ability of hearing repeatedly how any change affects different gear's capability of conveying emotion and holographic soundstaging through music and sound is both demanding and revealing. And I meticulously use remastering skills I learned while working at Chesky Records in the early 1990's, with procedures developed to transfer master tapes to digital for DSD as transparently as possible. This has allowed me to record, measure, and repeatedly compare whatever differences there are (if any) between two otherwise identical states of gear under test, with me repeating the exercise until I have verified or denied any impact from whatever the variation under test is or was supposed to be.

Often, even the subtlest of variations can be located and identified using a variety of practices and instrumentation (many now thankfully available as APPs on our smart phones) including spectral analysis, frequency response, total harmonic distortion, signal to noise ratio, phase accuracy, cyclic variations over time, inter-channel crosstalk, dynamic range, and (most importantly) listening – a skill that is sadly lacking in both engineers and audiophiles, alike, these days!

 

HiFi-Tuning Supreme Harmonizer Review

 

These points are all the more interesting as we make our way to my latest device under examination (test): HiFi-Tuning's Supreme Harmonizer by Bernd Ahne, which is a component that seemingly shouldn't do anything at all, yet it does! How it achieves this magic may remain a mystery, because the interior of the product is shielded (see photos) from prying eyes and reverse engineering. But it is a fact that is repeatable and recordable, and perhaps a bit measurable to a very small yet significant degree.

 

HiFi Tuning Supreme Harmonizer's Sound
When the HiFi Tuning Harmonizer Supreme first arrived, I was not prepared for how heavy it's 10" x 5" x 5" metal case felt; like solid iron! It turns out this is because of the Italian marble that lines the interior, presumably conferring some solidity upon the sound, although I mean this both as a pun and a genuine observation. As you can see from the photos, there is not much going on here; a box with an IEC outlet on the backside and a red diode on the from in the middle of the HiFi Tuning logo – neat! Quite simply, this is unlike any other audio system enhancement I have run into in the last 46 years of experimentation in this area. Check this out: by plugging The Harmonizer into the same AC outlet as other gear you are listening to (amp, pre-amp, CD, SACD, MAC or PC based digital music server, Pure Music BD, LP, R2R, 8-Track (J) etc.), somehow it successfully seems to eliminate various distortions and artificialities imposed on the reproduction chain that one may have taken for granted. These include things such as glare, hash, hiss, grain, opaqueness, emptiness of tone, flatness, limited soundstaging... e.g. sound only from the speaker's locations, and even listener fatigue! Oh no, another long list... But let me explain in a little more detail.

I recently saw an amazing offer by the 49 year old American Magnepan Loudspeaker company: if a customer purchased but did not like their latest 1.7i speakers (starting at around $2000), they could return them for a complete refund, plus be reimbursed $100 for your troubles! This struck me as a bold statement of confidence concerning the sound quality most users could expect straight out of the box. So, I called Wendell Diller, longtime marketing manager for the company, and asked him how many people had accepted his offer, and then returned the speakers, to which he replied: None!

Naturally, I requested a review loan. Well, these amazing 3-way quasi-ribbon loudspeakers, which I will be reviewing here in a future issue of Enjoy the Music.com's Review Magazine, are able to reveal extremely fine, nuanced, yet dynamic sound in a manner that makes it easy to describe even small changes, such as the ones I heard with the Harmonizer. And although I have many other loudspeakers available for doing such comparisons, ranging in price and complexity from affordable to obscene, it is because of the immediacy, speed, tactility, and openness of the Magnepan speakers that I am able to write with a certainty of opinion – which is this: plugging in the HiFi Harmonizer into the same outlet as your system makes that system sound significantly more realistic and musical in a way which goes beyond what it already was a pretty damn fantastic feat in a well-designed and set-up system!

 

HiFi-Tuning Supreme Harmonizer Review

 

Let me describe what happened. I received the Harmonizer in a pretty small but heavy box that also came with HiFi-Tuning's latest Supreme Silver power cord – an accessory I will test in different configurations (in a future review). There was no literature included; no indication of the how's or why's. A call to the Bernd confirmed I should simply plug in the unit into the same outlet as my system and listen. So, initially when I plugged it in, which happened to be an outlet servicing only the digital music server: both PC & MAC based recording and playback of up to 960kHz / 64-bit, any differences heard were next to none existent. I couldn't hear or measure any change to the sound quality of my digital music system. But then, it turns out these digital sources also include their own wallwart transformer, isolating them from the incoming AC power, anyway. So in the second test configuration, I plugged the Harmonizer directly into the same outlet as the Digital Amplification Company's Golden Cherry Amplifiers (on review loan) powering the Magnepan 1.7i speakers. And here the change in sound quality was a quite noticeable improvement; not subtle but immediate. All those crazy words I used above to describe various areas possible areas of improvement were clear and obvious when playing a wide variety of my favorite music (including a lot of film soundtracks) from digital sources.

A perennial favorite of mine is the early Chesky Records jazz album, Clark Terry Pennies From Heaven [JD-2 1989]; for which I was lucky enough to be editor of the simultaneously recorded 15 IPS quarter inch analog master tape (Dolby SR). I therefore have a great deal of experience listening to this original master both in it's digital as well as it's analog version. For those who would like to listen along at home, you may purchase a copy at HDtracks.com in various formats including high resolution PCM and DSD (the original 128-times oversampled CD is still available, too). Hearing the first track with the same name as the album, Clark is supposed image (sonically appear) just to the right of the right side loudspeaker - but clearly in front of the plane defined by the two speakers. While this is an easy to produce stereo illusion with most well set-up systems that feature careful control of floor, sidewall, and ceiling reflections, plugging the Harmonizer into the same outlet as the amps removed some of the last doubts I may have had as to the ultimate transparency of this recording, engineered by Bob Katz.

Apparent sonic distances proximate to myself and the recorded ensemble of musicians were immediately stabilized and became precise in a way that was clearly holographic and tactile when I closed my eyes! Instrumental outlines now changed as the performance went on, turning as the musician's move, and I became aware of subtle distinctions in Clark's embouchure (lip shape) as well as the neat rhythmic fingering introduced by the bass player – Victor Gaskin, during their respective solos. The sonic textures were now immediately obvious and fleshed-out in comparison to not using the Harmonizer. I had been just as surprised when I first began playing around with powering my whole audio system from battery power in 1992. Properly configured and noise free AC mains power can definitely improve the sound heard from any system; even one's that have been specially purpose built to power a recording / production facility.

Making my way around my library, I selected some neat production music by Keith Mansfield from the KPM Library – you may remember it from Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse Double Feature as the some of the interstitial materials between features. Here, I choose his signature 1979 album, Night Bird, on Vocalion Records.

 

HiFi-Tuning Supreme Harmonizer Review

 

This is some of the funkiest, hot disco studio album music every committed to vinyl in an era before CD and even most digital recording. So the engineers and also the musicians are at their height in England performing with a truly soulful American beat. As a composer and arranger, Mansfield's works are legendary and it is almost inconceivable that anyone watching movies and TV for the last 50 years has not heard and loved at least one of his many melodies.

This was an era from the late 1960's & 1970's that I simply adore because the commitment to quality (even when it was stick, like Batman (1966 – '68) was evident in every frame of film and bar of music performed. Names like Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw, and Johnny Pearson defined countless jazz, rock, pop, and disco variations on popular tunes of the time that have in many ways surpassed the originals in notoriety without anyone actually realizing it! Consult the catalogs of Amphonic Music, Bruton Music, Conroy, KPM Library, and Vocalion Records to learn more. And the recorded sound of these tunes is just outstanding, again revealing subtle improvements that in context are a tremendously overdue area of noise and distortion suppression without detrimental effect to the music.

This often C.HI.P.S-sounding music is sufficiently complex and driving that it can demonstrate things like dynamics and impact better than many other forms of music; especially when it's this well recorded and produced. Have a listen! And don't be surprised to find yourself looking for and listening to these wonderful compositions and arrangements which are at once so familiar and also different.

 

A/B Comparisons
When listening to the same music with and without the Harmonizer plugged into the system outlet is a lot like changing from regular glasses to sun glasses with a polarizer while at the beach or on a boat. The view is fine but once seen through the polarizer is hard to return to. You miss the improvement in differentiation that the added spatiality and dimensional information offer up about the instruments and musicians. It's a critical but subtle level of improvement that requires both immediate A/B comparison and also long term listening and substitution to appreciate fully. Here's an example:

1) A Classy Pair with Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie (1979) – Pablo Records / LP & CD
It's a wonderful performance that has just enough simplicity of instrumentation (at times) but also big band backing it up. And here we can observe that without the Harmonizer the sound is clear but flattish in soundstaging and dynamics. But with the Harmonizer a dimensionality that was only hinted at is fleshed out along with more palpable tactile delivery from both Basie's piano and Fitzgerald's sultry vocals. You can suddenly hear the quality of the hammers in the piano hitting the strings as well as individual qualities found in the embouchure used to create the vocals. This is evident in both A/B quick and prolonged substitution periods of listening.

 

2) Jacob Cats (1577-1660): Klagende Maeghdenenandereliederen – Camerata Trajectina – Globe Records (2008) / CD
What delightful music making by this early baroque ensemble recorded in a lively but very empty church featuring plenty of well-tuned acoustic echoing of the instruments; particularly the recorder (track  four). Without the Harmonizer, the sound is clear and open with individual recorded soloists sounding individually but carefully mic'ed. But the space sounds separate, as though I am observing separate sound movies projected of each mike's capture with one next to the other and having clear dividing lines. Vocals also have a slight rasp to them that is also covered slightly without distinct depth. With the Harmonizer, the sensation that all Mike views are blended together and working to produce an unbroken soundstage where all the elements simply sound more like real people playing in a real space rather than viewing a recording made up of separate views. I find myself lost in the musical interplay much more easily as the artifice of the recording process disappears.

3) Dave Valentine: Kalahari – GRP Crescendo (1982) / LP & CD
I've owned this LP (and later the CD) after receiving it from some friends of the family; there daughter giving away her LP collection. Naturally, I'm always interested in new music and can never get enough. So it was such amazing luck to come across this album by an artist who I had the pleasure of working with at Chesky Records on Mombo Mongo JR-100. Dave is at the height of his Studio album career and the amazing ensemble heard here. But here is where things got interesting.

I liked the sound better without the Harmonizer. And this began a furious back and forth set of comparisons to figure out what was going on, here; particularly on track two Monkey Button. Now this song has several percussion instruments including tapping on the rim of the drum kit. Close-mic'ed and with little ambience mixed in on that on sound, I came away hearing what it was more clearly with the Harmonizer. But I liked the sound better without it. And I noticed something else: The bass was being noticeably affected by the Harmonizer in a way that (with this album) seemed detrimental to the music. So I decided to try a few more tunes.

 

4) Karen Briggs: Karen – Manley Labs - VTL Records (1993)  / LP & CD
This one mike recording ( a VTL Records specialty) was recorded in David Manley's unique studio. And the inherent qualities of both space, frequency extension, and soundstage holographic presentation are all on show in this live studio album. Without the Harmonizer everything sounded open, wide, dynamic and big. With the Harmonizer, everything took a jump back about a yard in the mix while becoming deeper and less wide. And Karen's violin suddenly took up residence separate from the space she and everyone were playing in. It was eerie to suddenly hear what sounded like I was in the room rather than just listening to the recording projecting out through the speakers. And the tonality of the bass and the room ambience changed in a way that seems more harmonically meaningful and tuneful. Again, without, produced a fine sound. But the qualities of space and the feeling of real instruments performing around and in front of me was diminished. The piano to the rear left and behind Karen's violin just sounded more flat with less physical separation between them. And with it was clearly much more distinctly presented out in front of me and around me – like when attending a live musical event that is sublimely produced.

 

Conclusion
So what have learned, here? Well, first, that small variations in power supply purity can make a big difference in a high-end playback system, Second, that components interact with each other through the sharing of ground noise and interaction between loads on the same circuit to produce variations in sound quality that can be tweaked. Third, short of using a generator to make your own power, something accomplished by a high-end power filter (Stromtank, APC, etc) or getting a fresh feed installed directly from your street power expressly for your system (which I have done twice over – once for the analog components and once again for the digital, separately), I highly advise on using some kind of power filter for best performance. Fourth, and until you try it in your system with your particular combination of gear and playback system conditions, etc., it is difficult to say anything other than you will hear a change if your system has good resolution and dynamics.

My firm professional opinion is that, under normal conditions with a well set-up highly resolving system in a tuned room, you will hear an improvement in how recordings are reproduced. But this improvement is different from system to system and sometimes from one recording to another. But in the end, the HiFi Harmonizer produces more improvement then it sacrifices. Greater detail is evident, subtleties of texture stand out more from the background, and imaging becomes more palpable and holographic. And I'm willing to say that most people are going to hear this to some degree. But the most important aspect, musicality, will be heard first and for most, as the Harmonizer does what it says: it Harmonizes the different aspects on a system to produce a greater whole than without it. And this is something that is worth going to a demo to hear and appreciate for oneself. I look forward to reporting back on my further experiences.

 

HiFi-Tuning Supreme Harmonizer Review
Tim De Paravicini And Jeremy Kipnis

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: High-end audio tweaks
Price of the Harmonizer €2499
Price of the Powercord €1599
Package price for both €3499

 

Company Information
HiFi-Tuning
Wiclefstr. 11
Berlin 10551
Germany

Voice: + 49 -(0)-30-396 67 41
Fax: + 49 -(0)-30-66 4004 76
E-mail order@hifi-tuning.com 
Website: www.Hifi-Tuning.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc

Superior Audio Archives
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

Videos
Musician Series
Enjoy the Music.TV

Music Reviews
Classical Music
Jazz, Bluegrass, Blues, Etc.
Rock, Pop, Techno, Metal, Etc.

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Editorials By Steven R. Rochlin
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Audiolics Anonymous
Nearfield By Steven Stone
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Partner Magazines
The Absolute Sound
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
NOVO (CANADA HiFi)
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

Show Reports
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2017 CanMania
TAVES 2017 Toronto Show Report
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017
CanJam 2017 Denver RMAF
LAAS 2017 Show Report
High End Munich 2017 Show Report
AXPONA 2017 Show Report
CanJam SoCal 2017 Show Report
Montreal Audio Fest 2017 Show Report
CanJam NYC 2017 Report
CES 2017 Show Report & Videos
T.H.E. Show Newport 2016
Audio Engineering Society 141 LA
CanJam London 2016 Show Report
Hong Kong AV Show Report 2016
Click here for previous shows.

Resources And Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions
High-End Audio Manufacture Links

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

Internet Browser
Audiophile Internet Browser V12

Mobile Phone Apps
Android Audiophile App

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty
300B Tube Comparison

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

Contests & Join Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

Our Social Media & Video Channel
     

 

 

     

Home  |  Sitemap  |  Industry News  |  Equipment / Music Reviews  |  Press Releases  |  About Us  |  Contact Us

 

All contents copyrightฉ  1995 - 2017  Enjoy the Music.com
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.