This is third in a series of reviews of HDMI cables. This cable differs from the Cardas and Audioquest in that its conductors are copper, without silver plating. In addition, like the Audioquest, there is an arrow at one end. Jim Wang, president of Harmonic Technology informed me that directionality is important for lengths greater than 7 meters. Lengths less than 7 meters do not impact the sound regardless of orientation..
Since this is the third review of HDMI cable, I wanted to include an explanation as to the reason(s) for auditioning these cables. Essentially, it is in response to PS Audio’s assertion that its power wave transport and dac is optimized, sonically when using I2S via HDMI. According to Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio, PS Audio uses the HDMI connector for their differential I2S, having nothing to do with the HDMI spec. They are just using the connector. A technician at PS Audio has stated that the quality of the shielding and conductors affects noise, and that two HDMI cables may reveal differences in frequency response, but the latter has not been tested by him. I believe that if there were no difference in the performance of HDMI cables when using their digital hardware, eventually such information would be revealed to the user.
I applied the same break-in procedure as used for the Audioquest and Cardas cables, namely, 1 week (about 42 hours) from cable box to tv, followed by 24 hours of a signal between transport and DAC.
Metal is all copper, 22 strands. Gauge is 24AWG. Geometry satisfies the 1.4 specification. Dielectric is polyethylene. Connectors are gold plated copper. Conductors are soldered to connectors using silver solder. Jim Wang suggested that silver plating exaggerates the impact of the skin effect.
My first selection was Holly Cole, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, track 1, Alert ZZ 81020. There was greater presence of the wood body of the acoustic bas, relative to the Cardas and Audioquest cables, also accompanied by a thicker sound of the strings. There was more space surrounding the voice, coupled with the sound of less sibilance. Overall, the voice sounded more natural. The piano had greater weight, as evidenced when the keys were struck.
The next selection was the third track, “Deacon Blues”, from the CD AJA by Steely Dan, MCAD 37214. Cymbals were further back, more solid but there was a tradeoff in some small loss of detail. Donald Fagen’s voice was further back, relative to the other HDMI cables, as well. His voice was more full bodied, sounding a tad softer, but not relinquishing clarity in that each word was audible. As well, the chorus was slightly less focused. This was noted in the way in which the “s” consonant was pronounced in the word “blues”. There was a slight obscuring of the “s”, or a deemphasizing of it. Please note that it is not possible to assess the accuracy of the cable, as the recording is an unknown quantity . In addition the word “saxophone” sounded a tad softer, not as distinct as I heard from either the Cardas or Audioquest cables, but there was no loss of clarity. The saxophone exhibited more body in both the lower and upper register and seemed to be timbrally less inaccurate than when the other HDMI cables were part of the system.
The first of the classical discs selected was SCARLATTI IN IBERIA, a collection of solo harpsichord pieces performed by Sophie Yates, track 1, taken from the CD Chandos 0635. The perspective of the harpsichord seemed the most distant of the three cables, less percussive and slightly softer, and rounder, but more full bodied, when the keys were struck. There seemed to be a tad less treble emphasis and more presence of the wood body of the instrument. There was no loss of clarity, as each note could be distinctly identified, without slurring or congestion. There was a greater sense of space and more of a rear hall perspective than heard from the other HDMI cables.
The next CD was “Concerti Armonici” by Wassanaer, track 5, performed by the Aradia Ensemble led by Kavin Mallon , track 5, from Naxos 8.555384. The sound of the strings was smooth, perhaps a tad smoother than what one would expect from period (baroque) instruments. The harpsichord was audible in the foreground, but slightly less focused. While the musicians were playing in the baroque idiom, the smoothness of the strings provided a romantic touch ( not to be confused with the romantic period). There was more of a sense of legato, of ease–an unforced presentation, than perceived when the other HDMI cables were present in my stereo system. There was a continuous flow (a la Harry Pearson’s use of the word), that was not noted when the other cables were used. One could listen for hours without experiencing any fatigue, immersing oneself in the music without concern for the accuracy of the cable.
The last selection was Offenbach’s “Gaite Parisienne”, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, track 1 from the JVC Disc, JVCXR 0224. Dynamics were not lacking but not overpowering. One could acknowledge the dynamics without it calling attention to itself. Strings and brass were smooth and full-bodied. The strings appeared to exhibit more of an ensemble sound and there was less focus on individual players, perhaps indicative of a distant perspective. The woodblock was timbrally accurate, positioned deep into the orchestra, while the triangle exhibited a realistic balance between the body of the instrument, its decay and sparkle, without an excess of treble harmonics. The tambourine was also full bodied with sufficient resolution to reveal its metallic elements.
Of the three HDMI cables reviewed so far the Harmonic Technology sounded most natural, timbrally, least focused and sharp, perhaps, slightly deemphasizing the lower treble and placing more emphasis upon the mid /upper bass regions, producing more warmth than the other cables. The Cardas cable was most resolving followed by the Audioquest and then the Harmonic Technology. As stated before, it is not possible to gauge relative accuracy of these cables, because recordings and components are unknown variables. One can comment upon what one hears and in that regard the Harmonic Technology cable might be deemed a touch euphonic.
I would consider this cable suitable for most stereo systems, because it presents sufficient resolution , in my opinion, while adding the feeling of the warmth of live music, although I would admit some might consider the cable a touch colored.
It has been alleged by some that all HDMI cables sound the same, yet some representatives of companies who design these cables suggest the opposite. From my listening I would suggest that the presence or absence of silver plating is a salient factor in explaining differences in the sound of my stereo system. If one owns a transport and DAC capable of interface with HDMI, I think it is worth your time to listen to several HDMI cables.
Digital Hardware: PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC
Preamp: Bent TVC passive preamp
Amplifier: VTL Deluxe 120s
Speakers: Quads Unlimited Quad 57s and Magnepan 1.6s
Interconnects: Ear to Ear and Soundstring
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Power Cords: EAR to EAR and MAC Burley
Accessories: PS Audio Juice Bar, Balanced Power Technology power strip, Sound Fusion Sound Boosters, furniture foam, egg crate mattresses, Alan Maher Circuit Breaker Filters, Millenium Weight, Ennacom Filters, Room Tunes, maple bases, and the Z System Z Sleeves
The Harmonic Technology Magic Audio HDMI Rev. 1.4A High Speed Cable
Manufactured by Harmonic Technology
13200 Kirkham Way, Suite 103
Poway, CA 92064
Telephone: +1 858-486-8386
Fax: +1 858-486-6633
Source: Manufacturer loan