Explorations in Audio

Karsten Hein

Are you ready to Explore?

In 'Explorations in Audio' I aim to share some practical insights on setting up and optimising an affordable HiFi system. Although one would think that, really, all has been said about HiFi, some surprisingly simple questions still remain, e.g.: 'Is digital superior to analogue?' 'Do cables matter?' 'Can digital cables pick up interference?' 'Should speakers be placed on spikes?' 'Has evolution in HiFi made older gear obsolete?' 'Where should I place my sub?' 'Which room correction works best?' - On the other hand: 'Are these really the right questions?' - We shall see.

What's new in eiaudio?

While the entries in this blog are divided into the three distinct categories above, you will find a mixed listing of the most recent postings below. The most recent article is shown first. If this is not your first time visiting, the listing below is a good place to quickly check if anything is new.

Your input is more than welcome, as long as you follow the basic audiophile rule of ‘ear over mind’. This means that you do not comment based on what you think you know, but only on the basis of your own listening experience. Please feel free to suggest gear for testing as well as leave comments on the descriptions provided here.

  • Mark Levinson HF-10c

    Mark Levinson HF-10c

    Published: 15/07/2024

    Manufacturing date: 2024

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Gear & Review

    Tag(s): Speaker Cables

    Don’t know how you’d find me, I don’t look much like the photos. Whatever man you’d come to look for, I’m not him.” sings Sean Keel, smack centre and wonderfully surrounded by the sound of acoustic and slide guitar lingering miraculously suspended in our studio. I can tell that my old Denon DCD-1420 is at times having difficulty keeping its worn-out laser optics focused on the track, thus giving Sean’s already cracking voice an even more endangered and fading impression. The amplifier of the evening is my thirty-year-old Uher UMA-1000, which—in combination with Luigi’s Mark Levinson HF-10c speaker cables—lends sonority and substance to Gabriel Rhodes’ sparse piano notes.

    Keels voice sounds musty with age and wisdom: “You sang blessed assurance. And then it was my favourite song.” The firmness and tonal richness with which our Tannoy XT8f speakers present each key stroke confirms the reality of assurance, despite the risk of losing it all right in the next second. It is a good evening for listening to slow music, with each note as distinct as it can be. Perhaps it is the start of the holiday season that supports this vast amount of clean energy from the grid, perhaps it is my cheerful mood, following the return of summer after a seemingly endless winter season that dragged on well into July this year.

    Having been out of service for a a long time, the large and heavy Mark Levinson copper cables proved difficult to resuscitate. Luigi had handed them to me without proper terminations and, in passing, told me to get some plugs that would fit the 6mm cable diameter. It was typical of Luigi’s suggestions to require at least some form of effort from my side. And I was usually only too eager to simply tag along. I liked the lockable gun-shaped WBT-0610 CU banana plugs that I had first seen on the HMS Gran Finale cables, but I was reluctant to spend that much money on a pair of cables that weren’t my own. I therefore ended up with an affordable replica of the WBTs, hoping that I would (from an audiophile’s perspective) get away with it.

    It was obvious that the cable ends had seen some oxidation in their time, despite the fact that their bundle of individual strands—each no thicker than a human hair—was soldered to a single chunk at the point where the original terminations had been. I firmly sunk the hexagon screws in the solder, fully aware that these cables would take still considerable time to break in. On a side note, I have sometimes found that break-in times do not require for the equipment to be running all the time, for as long as the components remain connected. The very fact that copper, led, brass, and gold are brought in direct contact with each other already leads to a slow homogenisation of electrical properties at the transition points, minimising the resistance between them. This is not a scientific statement, just something I have acoustically observed when confectioning and listening to new cables over the first couple of weeks.

    I call the Tannoy XT8f setup my “new” system, not so much because of the age of its components, but because of the Tannoy’s relatively “modern” sound. Loudspeakers of our time tend to be tuned to measure well in the labs, whereas the engineers of the past did not have lots of fancy measuring equipment at their disposal. They almost exclusively had their own their ears to rely on. And—believe it or not—human ears are not a bad yardstick when it comes to making decisions on the merits of sound. This also explains why some classical instruments still sound superior to modern gear, despite the fact that technology has involved. The Mark Levinson HF-10c in combination with my old Uher amp make my Tannoys sound “musical” above all else, and this despite their tendency to sound modernly analytical.

    Music becomes impressive with dynamics, but it only comes alive with tonality. The HF-10c support darker and more full-bodied tones. Pair them with a weak amplifier, and you will witness the life being sucked from the amp. The 150 watts per channel Uher, however, has no difficulties driving them. I can hear the amp, too, slowly coming out of its many years of hibernation. “World’s got a brand new baby, I lie awake listen to her bawl. Must feel a lot like flying.” Tonight, I understand what Sean means by it. I enjoy evenings like this, when the air smells clean after the rain, and the setting sun forms square orange patches on the otherwise anthracite carpet and the wooden beams in our studio.

    I am reminded of the Madrigal Flat Copper cables that Luigi handed me for audition back in January 2022. Mark Levinson related products always seem to have an interesting twist to them. Something that makes them a keeper, even if the times have moved on. The musicality of the HF-10c is quite striking, even though speed, detail, and bass control are perhaps not their greatest forte. After all, these are not exactly shortcomings, when it comes to mitigating the deafening effects of high-power amplifiers. And Mark Levinson certainly has some of those in the house. High damping factors, lots of clean burst power right up into the treble, beryllium or titanium dome tweeters on loudspeakers, all these lab approved technical overkills will find a soothing counterbalance with these cables. 

    Going through my usual repertoire of Folk, Jazz and Vocal Jazz, and Rock, the HF-10c maintain a soft and silky treble that is assuringly non-aggressive even when listening at higher volumes, a charming midrange that I can quickly warm up to, voluptuous true to life vocals that are displayed on a wide centre image, warm tonality and (especially in Jazz performances) a realistic amount musical detail. The sound is tube-like, rich and wholesome with stern piano notes. The cables offer a medium length of sonic decay, not as shortly cut as MIT’s Terminator 5 cables and not as long-lasting as Symphonic Line’s Harmonie HD.

    In terms of potency, the Mark Levinson remind me of the Symphonic Line cables, although they are quite different: The Symphonic Line play louder and are more agile. When piano notes become piercing, this is apparent on the Symphonic Line cables first, because the HF-10c are far more forgiving. Bass control is firm and punchy on the Harmonie HD and perhaps overly punchy in some frequencies on the MIT cables. To achieve the same result of bass contour and punch with the HF-10c, one would need an amplifier with massive power and a high damping factor. And I do believe it was this powerhouse of an amplifier that the Mark Levinson engineers had in mind when they commissioned the HF-10c with a cable specialist in Switzerland following their legendary “never-mind-the-cost” approach.


    • Type: ultra-fine multistrand speaker cable
    • Diameter: 10 AWG (5,26mm) copper strands
    • Gap between strands: 5mm
    • Conductor material: ultra-pure copper 
    • Length tested: 2x 2.24m (stereo)
    • Terminations: adjustable bananas, 24K gold-plated
    • Country of manufacture: Switzerland 
    • Year: approx. 1992

    Jörg Hegemann
  • Sean Keel, A Dry Scary Blue

    Sean Keel, A Dry Scary Blue

    Published: 09/07/2024

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Audiophile Music

    Tag(s): Singer/Songwriter

    In spring 2024, I invited my friend and fellow audiophile, Arndt Scheuren, over to our studio to audition a new HiFi setup. For his own orientation, Arndt brought along a CD from a little known artist and asked me to play it on the Marantz CD17. What happened next was truly amazing: Arndt, who knew the CD recording, was perplexed by the extent of musical detail revealed by the Martin Logan electrostatic speakers, and I, who was familiar with the usual sound of my system, was flummoxed by the haunting proximity of singer-songwriter Sean Keel’s broken voice. This did address my nervous system in a most stirring fashion: Never before had vocals sounded so wise and plaintive, so intimate and breath-taking, so powerful and frail to me — all at the same time.

    Taken aback by this unfamiliar transformation and looking for confirmation that what we were experiencing was real, Arndt and I took turns, directing each other to sit in the sweet spot of the stereo triangle where the perfectly aligned running times of the dipole speakers beamed the singer and instruments into the room in life-like fashion. Considering that Arndt and I were by no means new to this field, had listened to a wide range of HiFi setups and bought audiophile albums from various artists, our sudden exhilaration came as a surprise to us. What was it that made this album stand out from all the others we had heard, especially when presented on such a revealing HiFi setup? I just had to find out first hand and decided to contact Sean Keel directly.

    The eiaudio blog has a section called “Music & Talk” which is to bridge the existing gap between the artist and the audiophile community by creating awareness for each other. This gap is real, because most musicians derive their joy from performing their songs and playing their instruments well. In their performances, they worry about singing in tune, knowing their instruments, and controlling their voices. Hence, this is also where their focus lies when they listen to a recording of their music. This, however, is quite different from the criteria audiophiles listen for when they evaluate the merits of a recording. I was quite sure that this would be no different in Sean Keel’s case, and that my contacting him would come as a surprise to him.

    In preparation for our interview, I conducted some research online and found that Sean Keel was based in Austin, where he worked as Maths professor with Texas university, conducting research and teaching classes. Although “A Dry Scary Blue” was not Keel’s first album, it was the first he produced in collaboration with Gabriel Rhodes, the son of Kimmie Rhodes and the DJ Joe Gracey. Having worked with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and others, Gabriel recognised Sean Keel’s special gift as singer-songwriter and added piano, keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar, and bass to the lyrics to help create an album that sounds truly unique and should not be missing in an audiophile CD collection.

    The album’s melodies are soothing, whispering, and ever so often slightly disconcerting. What surprised me most was Sean Keel’s ability to sketch stories in the tradition of the great American poets that made me want to google places and meanings straight away. This was also something that I had not done for a while. “A Dry Scary Blue” had me interested from the very first minute, and I am happy to be sharing the opportunity of having this experience with you. Look for the album on the common streaming channels, or, better yet, support the artist and the record company by purchasing the album on CD.

    < Sean Keel on BandCamp | My Interview with Sean >

    Song Titles

    1. corn palace — 4:07 min
    2. near that far — 4:29 min
    3. the flower — 3:34 min
    4. hill of three oaks — 04:04 min
    5. backwards — 3:17 min
    6. blessed assurance — 2:53 min
    7. cool old men — 6:42 min
    8. his mouth so red — 4:50 min
    9. two coins — 3:12 min
    10. i hate the west — 4:29 min

    Album Details

    • Sean Keel: vocals
    • Gabriel Rhodes: piano, keyboard, guitar, bass 
    • Ben Montano: acoustic guitar, keyboard
    • Nora Predey: vocals, bass, drums
    • Lyrics: Sean Keel, Ben Montano (song no. 8)
    • Produced by: Gabriel Rhodes
    • Total playing time:  41:39
    • Record label: Icons Creating Evil Art (ICEA)
    • Album release date: 2022

    crossXculture Business Language Training
  • Uher UMA-1000

    Uher UMA-1000

    Published: 03/07/2024

    Manufacturing date: 1992

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Gear & Review

    Tag(s): Power Amplifiers

    In 1993, I was 20 years old and still recovering from my family’s relocation from the city of White Plains, in the United States, to Germany’s Rhine-Main district. Despite the many re-adjustments following our move, I had managed to kindle my passion for HiFi and already purchased a DIY set of ‘transmission line’ speakers from a now closed German manufacturer by the name of Mainhattan Acoustic in Hainburg, near Frankfurt. The owner and chief developer, Holger Müller, later went on to found ‘German Physiks’, the meanwhile world-renowned omni-directional loudspeaker company.

    The ‘Fidelity 425’ was Mainhattan Acoustic’s 2nd-largest model and consisted of a 3-way bookshelf speaker that was integrated in a folded transmission line of around 2.40m length, driven by an additional 25cm paper cone woofer. Although the loudspeaker was able to produce low base in abundance, the 4-way design’s kick bass was limited to the abilities of its 12cm midrange-to-bass driver. The foam surrounds of the two woofers delivered a relatively loose interpretation of bass, rather than ultra-high accuracy, unless the speakers were driven by a very powerful amplifier.

    To help me meet the speaker’s power requirements, a friend of mine sold me a used Dynacord PAA 460 power amplifier with 200 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms, but the music only really picked up, when I traded this for a Dynacord PAA 880, boasting 360 Watts RMS of power output. With this beefy front end, the Fidelity 425 could make music like proper instruments. My acoustic impression of the speakers is too long ago to determine how they would compare with the audiophile standard that I am used to today, however, I do remember being asked by a neighbour, if had invited my buddies over for a jam session the night before. An indication of how perfectly real the music had sounded to someone listening to it from the street. (Roman Groß, non-oversampling guru of the Philips CD 104, actually used to promote determining system credibility in this way.)

    In our household environment, the Dynacord PA amplifier rarely needed to produce more than 5 watts of output per channel, and the aging amp soon began to develop heat-related contact issues, by which it sporadically lost output on one of the channels. The issue proved to be difficult to locate, and we ultimately decided to replace the Dynacord with a more modern HiFi amplifier. I asked around for affordable options, and a friend suggested that the American producer of audio equipment, Harman Kardon, had just started to produce a new range of affordable high-output amps bearing the brand name of Uher. The name was reminiscent of the renowned German HiFi maker of the 1950s to 1970s who by then no longer resided in Munich but had become a lingering trademark that was owned by Wolfgang Assmann GmbH in Bad Homburg.

    As my friend was also interested in the new Uher design, we managed to get a 20% discount on our purchases from a local HiFi retailer. This made the already affordable amplifier even more attractive to us students. I picked up my UMA-1000 amp in Friedberg and remember being surprised by its weight. It came in at around 20kg, when boxed, which was actually not much different from weight of the professional Dynacord amplifier. I remember that it at first sounded thinner and more frail than the Dynacord had done. Little did we students know about break-in times of HiFi equipment that would have helped us make sense of the phenomenon. Therefore, I simply assumed that this was the natural consequence of moving back from professional audio to HiFi.

    As the months went by, I got used to the sound of my Uher amplifier and missed the old Dynacord much less. The UMA-1000 was sounding fuller and managed to drive the Fidelity 425 quite well. In fact, the Uher became almost invisible to me. As there was nothing wrong or spectacular about it, I simply took it for granted, turning it on after school and off before going to bed. I blissfully listened to music with it, until I moved out of my parents’ house into my first student apartment in Bayreuth. On that first move, I still brought all my HiFi gear with me and asked my good friend Alexander Graham to help me carry the 35kg speakers and 18kg amp up the narrow stair case to my small 3rd floor student dorm.

    When I had to move again, however, I decided that it would be easier for me to sell all my gear. And so I asked Alec, if he would be interested in buying it from me for a small price. After all, he had helped me with it so often, it was only fair to ask him first. With the Fidelity speakers and Uher amp, Alec also bought a Yamaha C4 preamp and a CD player by the same company from me. And I took the money that I received from him to Bayreuth’s ‘HiFi Point’ and reinvested it in a Denon F07 MiDi-System that came with bookshelf loudspeakers. I remember that the shop attendant looked quite sad when, during our auditioning of the system, I confessed to him that I had heard much better sound than this not long ago, when I still had my own stereo at home. This was in 1996.

    After his university studies, Alec accepted a job in Hamburg and took his Yamaha, Uher, and Mainhattan Acoustic HiFi system with him. And it was not until we took our family to Marne in summer 2023 that we were living within reach of each other once again. Our first meetings were—you may have guessed it—about HiFi. While auditioning amplifiers from Symphonic Line, B&K, and Dynavox, Alec mentioned that he still had the old Uher UMA-1000 in the basement. “Good God! Bring it to me!” was my immediate reaction. A few weeks later, Alec and I were sitting on my porch cleaning the 30 year old Uher amp from layers of dust. Alec reported that he had replaced all of the speaker protection relays after they stopped responding. This was the only fault he had found with the amp over the years.

    We first connected the Uher to my Tannoy system, and found that the left channel relay of ‘Speakers A’ had corroded once again and did not engage. We therefore changed the connection to ‘Speakers B’, and both channels instantly played music. The sound was tonally rich and natural, as is common for large American amps. In fact, the UMA-1000 sounded even better than I remembered it. This amplifier obviously benefitted from the meticulous setup of my system and the careful placement of the speakers. These were key factors in electro-acoustics that I had understood almost nothing about during my university years. The Uher exhibited lots of bass drive and punch, however, bass control was not on par with some of the better amps I have heard. Uher does not specify the UMA’s damping factor, but I assume it is well below 300. Surely, a low capacitance cable, such as the Belden 9497 will help to minimise this effect.

    In direct comparison with my Symphonic Line RG9 amplifier, the Uher did not sound quite as fast and agile, and some of the nuance in the treble was missing despite using my most capable of Cinch/RCA cables in the setup. Piano notes sounded slightly less piercing, and Nick Cave’s boyish charm could easily go by unnoticed. However, this effect was much less pronounced than it was found on many other amplifiers, including the far more famous, elaborate, and expensive Harman Kardon ‘Citation 21’. I could not help but grin at how well I had chosen my amp so many years ago. The Uher’s dual transformers, large supply caps, and fully-symmetrical design gave it great energy reserves and made it sound large, precise, and effortless. The truth is, without comparing it directly to amplifiers costing many times its price, I could see myself once again being quite happy with this machine.

    From what I can see today, Harman/Uher kept their promise of delivering a high quality product at an entry level price. The UMA-1000 was the smallest amp of the UMA series and is living proof of this philosophy. After some hours of operation at living room volumes, I checked the cabinet temperature and found that the amp had hardly run warm above its internal heat sinks. Our 8 Ohms Tannoys were an easy load to drive for the Uher's six output transistors per channel. Uher sets the minimum load requirement at 4 Ohms, which could mean that the amp will run into protection when faced with difficult loads at high volumes. From the temperature reading above the heatsinks, however, I would have no problem connecting the UMA-1000 to our Martin Logan speakers and to drive them at moderate volumes.


    • Type: solid state stereo power amplifier
    • Principle: Dual transformer, symmetrical
    • Power consumption: 1,000 watts (max.)
    • Power output (8 Ohms): 2x 150 Watts, RMS
    • Power output (4 Ohms): 2x 220 Watts, RMS
    • Dynamic output (4 Ohms): 2x 400 watts
    • Frequency range: 3 - 120,000 Hz -3 dB
    • Total harmonic distortion: <0.01%
    • Signal to noise ratio: 110 dB
    • Damping factor: N.N.
    • Line input(s): 1x stereo, cinch/RCA,
    • Line input sensitivity: 1 V / 50 kOhms
    • Speaker terminals: 2x stereo (=A/+B)
    • Dimensions: (W)435 x (H)180 x (D)410 mm
    • Unit weight: 18.5 kg
    • Country of manufacture: South Korea
    • Year(s) 1992 - 1994

    80s night
  • Sean Keel

    Sean Keel

    Published: 01/07/2024

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Interviews

    Tag(s): Musicians

    In spring 2024, my friend and fellow audiophile, Arndt Scheuren, came by our house to audition some new loudspeakers and systems. For his own orientation, he brought along an audio CD by a relatively unknown artist. The album did not run for more than a minute, when we all (Arndt, myself, and our female companions) fell awkwardly silent, unable to comprehend the transformation that was taking place on our Martin Logan system. I had heard many excellent recordings on our electrostatic speakers, but this album was making all other vocal recordings seem pale in comparison.

    I was immediately captivated by the high recording standard but also by the music itself. The lyrics, especially, were indeed very clever. I was so taken in that I just had to find out more about the artist Sean Keel and about the story behind his album "A Dry Scary Blue". When I saw that Sean had no more than 25 "followers" on Facebook (not that this ever meant anything), I mustered the courage to ask him for an interview. A few days later, Sean wrote back to me that he had been on the eiaudio website and was very much interested in talking to me.

    At the time of the interview, Sean (who actually lives in Texas) was travelling in Colorado. He set up his MacBook in a log cabin at the bank of the Conejos river. I set up my MacBook with Open Broadcasting Studio (OBS) for the background frame and used Cisco WebEx to set up our meeting. In preparation of the interview, I tested all settings with a friend, and we ran into repeated issues with sound and video quality. It was not until the very last minute that we were able to solve most of the issues.

    Here is the interview that we came up with on that day. Both of us definitely not professionals in this field, but eager to get Sean's story told and to present the album: "A Dry Scary Blue". Thank you to Arndt Scheuren of "Salon Voss — Audiophile Hair Studio, Marne" for bringing the CD. — Here goes nothing:

    Sean Keel Interview

    Interview Details:

    • Recording: 2021, MacBook Air (M1)
    • A/V Streaming: Cisco WebEx
    • Composition: Open Broadcasting Studio (OBS)
    • A/V Editing: CapCut

    Digitising Records
  • Symphonic Line Harmonie HD

    Symphonic Line Harmonie HD

    Published: 09/06/2024

    Manufacturing date: 2023

    Author: Karsten Hein

    Category: Gear & Review

    Tag(s): Speaker Cables

    “I would not focus on cables so much, as long as you like the sound and they fit your equipment.” Heinz-Peter said to me over the telephone the other day. — This was not the response I had been hoping for, considering that I had just completed my review of MIT’s “Terminator 5” speaker cables and was diligently working on my articles on Symphonic Line’s “Harmonie HD” and Marc Levinson’s “HF10C”. On the other hand, I knew that HP was right in suggesting that we always listen to a system and rarely to an individual component. This makes cable discussions rather futile and has led to many misunderstandings between audiophiles. Despite all this, even the most sceptical listeners will agree that cables can make or break a great system, and I therefore do believe that they deserve to be discussed in terms of the contributions they make, even if these observations are not finite. After all, how are we to discuss even loudspeakers, if the rooms they are placed in and the HiFi systems that are driving them are not identical?

    It is probably fair to say that Symphonic Line speaker cables are primarily designed to work with Symphonic Line equipment. This is especially so, because Rolf Gemein produces HiFi components reaching from power cables via tuners and CD players all the way to the speakers themselves. However, this is not to say that his speaker cables will not work with HiFi gear from other manufacturers as well. In fact, most of my audiophile friends compile their systems with components from many manufacturers and tend to own multiple devices of each product category for system matching and fine tuning. Therefore, this absolute trust in a single HiFi manufacturer to deliver all the components of a system—and this is what it would require if we were to place components matching in the hands of a producer—must be rare. It is also true that some manufacturers only have a single HiFi component of true High End quality in their product portfolio. In this case, the matching of devices across brands becomes a necessity rather than a matter of choice.

    It is probably fair to say that we learn most about the characteristics of one HiFi component by successively pairing it up with components from a wide range of manufacturers. The sound signature that is derived from the various combinations serves to reveal the special contribution this component makes to sound: It is the one constant that remains when everything else around changes. Components become familiar individuals, similar to a friendship that becomes deeper and more multi-dimensional as it matures over time. Perhaps it was this perspective that allowed me not to be deterred by HP’s cautious advice and to let myself be guided by the continued urge of exploration that comes so naturally to me and has long since been the basis of this blog.

    I set out to test the Harmonie HD speaker cables on my most modern-sounding HiFi setup. This consisted of Tannoy XT8f Dual-Concentric loudspeakers, a brand new Symphonic Line RG 11 MK5 S power amplifier, with upgraded S-transformer, and my recently refurbished Restek V1 preamplifier with fresh caps and improved ops, as well as a custom-built external power supply by Hermann Kassel. My music sources were a Sansui SR 525 turntable, with AT VM540 ML cartridge, and a Denon DCD 1420 CD drive connected to a Cambridge DAC Magic. While this front end did not consist of the highest flying components in the business, both the Sansui turntable and the Cambridge DAC are solid and musical performers that leave very little to complain about. And—important for our gear comparisons—this was the exact same setup that I had previously used on my review of MIT’s “Terminator 5” speaker cables.

    Whereas the MITs use a mono-cable design to unite the positive and the negative wires under a single (and quite thick) cable sheath, the Harmonie HD take the opposite approach. Each wire not only uses a separate Teflon dielectric but is also individually wrapped. Although these cables are flexible enough to be rolled up on a large spool, they do not like being bent into small loops and, due to their weight, naturally assume a flat position on the floor. Each cable has an indicator to show the signal direction, and HP informed me that the cable marked red should be connected with the arrow pointing towards the speakers whereas the arrow on the cable marked black should point in the opposite direction. This way of connecting speakers was new to me, and without these instructions, I probably would have connected the black wire’s arrow pointing in the same direction as that of the red wire. My specimens were terminated using Stäubli’s famous Multi-Contact plugs.

    When it comes to the terminations, I would have preferred the reduced mass and superior contact of hollow bananas myself and could also feel the slight wobbliness of the plugs in the sockets. However, I decided to forget about this phenomenon, until I had a chance to properly listen to the cables. The music material I chose was varied: Helge Lien’s album “Hello Troll” on vinyl; the German Stereo magazine’s sampler “Die Hörtest CD Vol: IX”, Nick Cave’s live solo concert “Idiot Prayer”, and Laura Kipp’s 2023 album “Sunset Balcony” on compact disc.

    Compared with the MIT “Terminator 5” cables, the difference in sound was enormous. The Symphonic Line cables sounded quite a bit louder. Whereas the MIT had given preference to bass punch and a dark setting to the music, the Harmonie HD cables appeared dynamically capable and fast across the frequency band. I noticed a perplexing increase in fine dynamics and detail, which the MITs had previously hidden. Sound was at once highly energetic, engaging, and entertaining. The midrange compression of the Terminator cables was gone, and vocals sounded sweeter and highly believable. The stage impression was natural, although the spaces between the instruments appeared a little fuller than would have been perfect. The amount of detail and attack seemed quite overwhelming. Especially the “Hörtest CD Vol: IX” produced a consecutive chain of musical highlights, up to the point where I started to wonder, if I would actually be able to listen to music of this intensity over a longer period of time. Permanent crescendo and vast amounts of detail might be impressive at first, but they are not very realistic.

    “A highlight is the special moment in which the music rises above itself” my HiFi chum Luigi used to say. And, for a moment, I could appreciate what he meant by it. I therefore decided to exchange the Restek V1 preamp with the Symphonic Line RG9, still feeding into the RG 11 MK5 S power amplifier. As I sat down to listen, I was happy to observe that the overly eager presentation of the Restek had been replaced by calm sophistication. Although the music was still detailed and dynamic, the vocals were even sweeter. New spaces had formed between the individual instruments, both dimensionally and—as Symphonic Line does so well—tonally. Tonal separation and accuracy might just be the most perplexing and alluring aspect of listening to music. Superb transients and realistically long decay made for a highly musical listening experience.

    My personal listening preference is for Jazz combos, singer-songwriter, and Folk music. This is possibly so, because I enjoy the recognisable instrumentation, the natural order, and the hand-made simplicity of it. All the more, I was surprised by how well the Harmonie HD managed to maintain these dimensions in Eduard Strauss’ fully orchestrated title “Bahn frei Polka”, and they did so without sacrificing detail and speed. Scotty Wright’s rendition of “Sound of Silence” includes a slight touch of harshness in the vocal recording, which became less pronounced with the RG9 as preamp but was still audible. In “New June”, Tokunbo’s voice was sweet and alluring, while freely levitating over a seamless carpet of puckering bass. Nick Cave’s impressive pandemic-year solo performance of “Idiot Prayer” at London’s Alexandra Palace revealed a youthful, boyish charm in his voice that took me by surprise. I was quite familiar with the album, and remembered his voice to be older.

    Listening to this setup made me want to browse through my music selection once again to see what else I had missed in the recordings. Symphonic Line cables are relatively insensitive to distortion when touching and crossing themselves and other cables. However, I have found that they, too, benefit from a faultless installation, if they are to provide undisturbed transductance, which translates into tonal and spacial correctness, and fully intact micro-dynamics. The Harmonie HD is a fast and revealing loudspeaker cable that is capable of pairing a balanced tonality with dynamics and detail. Its agility and clarity make it unforgiving of faults in the system, particularly near the music source. Depending on your taste in music and your knowledge of how to properly set up your HiFi system, you might find this either be a true blessing or a curse. Either way, it is going to make its mark on your system.


    • Type: single-wiring loudspeaker cable
    • Features: fully shielded, directional
    • Length(s) tested: (2x) 4.00 meters
    • Termination: Stäubli Multi-Contact
    • Weight: 2,058 g (per stereo pair)
    • Country of manufacture: Germany
    • Year(s): 1994 - today

  • Let's explore together

    Let's explore together

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    If you happen to live within reach of 25709 Marne in northern Germany and own vintage Hi-Fi Stereo classics waiting to be explored and written about, I would be honoured to hear from you!

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    All reviews are free of charge, and your personal data will strictly be used to organise the reviewing process with you. Your gear will be returned to you within two weeks, and you are most welcome to take part in the listening process. Gear owners can choose to remain anonymous or be mentioned in the review as they wish.

    Thank you for supporting the eiaudio project.

    Audiophile greetings,