January 23, 2010

More Mad, Matte World! Harmonix TU-800EX LP Matte.

The neat white box packaging of the Harmonix TU-800EX, so favoured by the Japanese.

Having heard that I just got a Linn LP12 turn table recently, MK of Nova Hifi said "boy, have I got the best accessory for your LP12!", and before I knew it, here it was, spinning on my turn table for a review.

The Harmonix TU-800EX LP matte sample under review is apparently an improved version. I can't tell though, what exactly has been improved upon the earlier version. This Harmonix LP matte has been developed specifically to improve the sound of any turn table with a metal based platter, so not only the Linn LP12 applies specifically here! The Harmonix matte seems to be made of an embossed layer of black card board like material on the top surface, laminated to a layer of asbestos like material on the back.
Dual layer laminated construction. Embossed black card board like material on top surface and asbestos like material for the bottom.

With the Harmonix matte replacing my resident generic cork material matte, I had the VTA of the tone arm re-adjusted to suit the new matte which is a little thinner, to even out any effect of sonic changes due to the VTA factor. The cartridge used remain by default my resident Benz Micro Glider L2 and phono stage is my Pass Labs X-Ono. Phono stage to pre amp cabling is my usual Audioquest Colorado 72V dbs XLR inter connects.

Upon the first note hitting the groove, it was like as if I had up graded to a new higher end cartridge!, only that I didn't. I felt the subjectively soft bass of the Linn was much tightened and firmed, plus further extended lower. The mids whilst remain much the same, had a slight presence boost, as if the vocals are standing a few feet directly in front of me, in the room. I also found the vocal focus of the mouth, much improved, and one can hear in to much more mouth, lips, tongue and teeth movement! It's an organism festival for those whom are fetish about this kind of audio porn. I also heard more air and better extended highs. High hats and cymbals have a realistic shimmering quality to them.

It was when playing Sonny Rollins, Way Out West LP, for once I could truly hear in to that warm burnish tone of his saxophone, his finger work and the detailed opening and closing of the valves on the wind pipe of the instrument. All this never quite heard so easily before. I also felt the drum kit conveyed a little more energy to the sound. It's like as if Shelly Manne, the drummer just had a Sneakers bar prior to playing the tune.
Way Out West is quite probably Sonny Rollins most accessible work. Recorded in dual mono, with saxophone of the left, drum kit and double bass on the right, with nothing in the center, that result is very realistic trio Jazz performers in your hifi room. Also note that each side is recorded on one take! They don't record performances this way anymore. This recording is best heard on a well set up LP playback system!

I also thought that with the Harmonix matte, the sound stage depth and layering were more easily discerned than before. Each vocal and musical instrument had it's own place, in time and space. However, I also found a slight compression to the sound stage width, which have been reduced to only the space within the outer limits of the pair of stereo speakers, compared to a sound stage extended way beyond the room's boundaries previously.

LP's surface noise also seemed to have been reduced slightly. What the Harmonix matte does so well, is to enhance much of the lower level, finer details that doesn't quite surface as easily out of the LP's grooves. Though I did not try on other turn tables set up to get a second system's opinion, MK tells me that non of his customers had ever returned the Harmonix TU-800EX to him upon trial, despite the rather extravagant retail price of RM$1,300.00 each! That means the product so far has achieved 100% successful trial penetration rate?
The Harmonix TU-800EX sitting pretty on my Linn LP12. They are excellent partners too!

Do you have a metal based platter for your turn table? Do you value the low level, finer detail retrieval quality in your LP play back system? If your answer is yes to both questions, then I'll suggest that you head to Nova Hifi and ask for a trial. I will however, leave the subjective question of product value vs sonic rewards, to your own judgement.

Harmonix audio accessories and cables is sold by Nova Hifi, contact MK, tel: 019-2226129

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