Religious perspective?

When Moses went up the mountain, God spoke to him. When he came down off the mountain? Well, we all know what mess he got himself in then.

Now sprout just half the length of old man Moses' endless facial hair. Any seasoned, well-pickled audio maven knows. Experiences of such magnitude -- shrubs that burn yet don't -- become exceedingly rare. If your system is already mostly up the mountain; if you're enjoying the panoramic view with the peak seemingly in sight or just around the next bend; what more could possibly happen to warrant writing your thoughts on clay tablets?


But even if a bush did burst into flames - what would happen upon return to every-day reality? Surely your expanded state would shrink back to normal. The peak experience fades, the bush turns to charcoal. Doubt resurfaces. The initial difference wears off. You're increasingly uncertain whether your original excitement was out of proportion. And that's when the audio writer is supposed to jot down his impressions for posterity. The assumption being that he's regained proper perspective.

But did he? Or did something else really happen? His innocently unexpectant openess, of sensory availability -- in the face of this first profound difference -- receded. Then it closed down. After all, romantic infatuation wears off quickly. We don't usually sustain that level of emotional vulnerabilty, of heightened receptivity for very long. Our nervous system recalibrates. But does that render the experience itself -- and the conclusions based thereon -- unreal?

A delivery from Christian Brouwer
All this by way of confessing. I've seen a burning bush of sorts. And so has my wife. And it's still burning brightly. Many days later. To pay hommage to both understandings -- "perspective regained" versus "momentary impact" -- expect a follow-up report after CES. In fact, the innate complexity of tuning options of today's review subject is so comprehensive that the sheer time required to sort out all its ramifications -- in a wide context of component interfaces -- mandates a second part anyhow.

But while I'm still close enough to the before-and-after differences, I wanted to share my excitement. About the German HMS Gran Finale MkII / Energia cabling. I received enough to completely rewire my entire reference system. I'm talking 2 pairs of interconnects ($1,590/XLR, $1,190/RCA), discrete runs of biwires peaker cable ($4,720), mid-horn to treble-horn jumpers ($380) and 7 powercords $2,800) for an importer-direct US retail price of ca. $11,000.

That's a substantial sum of money for "just cables". No doubt about it. But not really out-of-balance in a +$50,000 system with $18,000 speakers and $10,000 amps. Still, this number's justification game alone would have been sorely insufficient to tempt me into accepting this assignment. Without having another expensive reference cable in-house, I'd be without standard to gauge value and ultimate performance.

It so happened that Walter Fields of NBS Cables had sent me > $105,000 worth of his top-line Black Label - also to completely rewire the whole system. And this without any request on my part. I would never have requested cabling that bore this kind of price tag: $1,000/lb, necessitating in excess of 100 lbs to get sound from my rig.

Let's just say that I have philosphical and very practical problems with the whole notion. However. Mention Purist, Transparent, Siltech, Kharma or NordOst -- those acclimated to such rarefied atmospheric conditions may well know of others I've never paid any attention to
-- and you've got to at least acknowledge: NBS ain't the only player in these Platinum-plated leagues.
$105,000 worth of NBS Black Label
Secular perspective?

The indisputable fact? There's clearly a market for such luxury items. Making faces or pointing fingers overlooks the old adage: We who complain can't afford it. For let's get this straight. Folks who do part with their stacked wads for hyper-expensive audio cables do so gladly. They derive great satisfaction from their acquisitions. They weren't coerced to purchase at gunpoint. They purchased because they wanted to. Yes, that does make the pleasure providers into purveyors to the rich and famous. But that's fundamentally no different from Monster Cable filling orders on the opposite end of the spectrum. Supply follows demand.

Think of stuff that people don't want or need. It simply doesn't sell. Those who insist on making it? They either go out of business or pawn off their over-priced gizmos to deep-discount bargain hunters on the late-night shopping channels. The apparent health of High-End cable providers on the upper slopes of Mount Excess indicates something else entirely. There's plenty of demand indeed. No more stabs at NBS' pricing scheme then.

Anyway, today's article is really about HMS. NBS will make a brief cameo appearance only for context and comparison. What arrived on my doorstep from the HMS US importer was the above stack of plastic cases, to be followed in due course by another seven containing the matching power cords. Let's pop the lids and see what Christian Brouwer sent.

Jumpers for the Avantgarde DUOs The HMS cables are wrought like Rodeo Drive jewelry or tight-tolerance machinery from some enthusiast's catalogue. There's the flawless finish which includes fine lacquer on the cherrywood cheeks of the network boxes. Top-line WBT high-level terminations that can be converted from banana to spade with an included Torx key. Black-lacquered ferrites on the speaker cable that are precisely spaced like onyx beads on a necklace; tight-fitting ClearAudio RCA or gold-plated Neutrik XLR connectors on the interconnects; 6-position paddle switches in the high-level networks; 10-position click-action rotary pots on the low-level network. Attaché cases. Speaker cable
Balanced XLR interconnect Unbalanced RCA interconnect

Did I mention flexibility? At this point of turning green in my career -- jaded -- I consider grave stiffness in cables an outright design flaw. It's a mindless insult to the consumer. Walter Fields is sorely guilty of this with his exclusive Black Label. Massive spiral-wound wires below his tightly stretched mesh covers could serve double-duty as longitudinal bed springs. When I connected his speaker cables and power cords to my AUDIOPAX monos, the wires -- as a function of raw weight and resilience to bending -- displaced 40 lb amplifiers on the top shelf of my Monaco stand! With such outright defiance of common sense, I could scarely care how good these Venice Beach weightlifters might sound.

Quite green, ahem jaded for a sound-über-alles reviewer? Only goes to show how fatally I've succumbed to the soft life of wanting comfort, convenience and superior sound. Wrestling with stubborn anacondas is not part of it.

Imagine my relief when the HMS offering turned out to be the perfect exemplar of opposing design notions. No longer in need of excessive space behind my stand -- to account for room to bend Walter's unwieldy snakes -- I now managed to park its rear-facing tripod within 6 inches of the wall. This gained me a few welcome feet of opened-up room. It perhaps also reduced component exposure to intense LF resonance assault, by being situated further behind the Avantgarde subwoofers (I have yet to experiment whether the short-cable mantra of said rack-between-speakers setup outperforms the other option: Long speaker cables and the equipment stand at the bass null on the wall halfway between speakers and listening chair.)

On workmanship, ease of installation and user-friendliness, HMS' Hans Manfred Strassner already scored top grades from this expatriate landsman of his even before the listening commenced in earnest.

Incidentally, I did question importer Christian Brouwer of AudioSonix on his opening gambit - of advertising Strassner's goods for the U.S. on Audio Asylum. His candid reply suggested remorseful naivete. He had started out as a cable-roving inmate in search of NordOst Valhalla performance at lower cost. In the HMS Gran Finale offering, he finally found his personal Holy Grail and subsequently obtained its distributorship. But he didn't immediately abandon his posting habit. He continued to spread the word on HMS on-line while simultaneously benefitting from any interest generated domestically.

This raised the usual conflict-of-interest flames but is said to be long water under the bridge. Brouwer's transcended his former greenhorn status in these business matters. From the little research I managed to perform, he seems well liked by his customers and garnered nothing but strong recommendations for business ethics, professional conduct and audiophile enthusiasm.

This country believes in second chances. Don't hold it against Christian if he started off on the wrong foot. He's German after all. What did you expect?