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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003


tg audio labs' hsr

Transparency vs. Opacity in speaker cables, Part Four

as reviewed by Bob Neill

hsr.jpg (7505 bytes)





Harbeth Monitor 40’s sitting on Sound Anchors with Blue Tak.

Blue Circle AG3000 tubed preamplifier and Blue Circle AG8000 mono-blocks.

Naim CDS2 retrofitted by Naim of North America with RCA outputs, feeding into a custom Blue Circle RCA/XLR converter.

Interconnects and speaker cables are all Audience Au24. Power cords are Elrod EPS 2's and 3's plugged into Blue Circle Music Rings, which are in turn plugged into dedicated lines.

I use a Bedini Clarifier and Auric Illuminator regularly. Blue Circle isolation cones under preamp and amp.


Bob Crump has been warning me for the past few months, while he broke in my test samples of HSR down in Texas, that his speaker cable would likely sound similar to Audience Au24, and he’s right, to a degree. It is more like Au24 than any of the other speaker cables I’ve auditioned. I’d say it’s a full step toward Cardas Neutral Reference from Au24—it has the Cardas cord’s attractive warmth and fullness but not its amber hue. It is not seductive. I doubt Bob Crump does seduction. As he frequently says, he does PraT. And venue. He’s justifiably proud of both his power cords’ and speaker cables’ ability to transmit venue information.

Compared directly with Au24, I find HSR a bit darker, warmer, bolder, and fuller. As I move back and forth between the cords, which of course exaggerates their differences, they appear a bit like yin and yang. Like everything Bob puts his hands on, HSR has gusto. (Remember, Bob’s premier preamp is called the Blowtorch.) The usual Crump authority in the bass is in evidence, which adds fullness, richness and weight to the proceedings. Oh yes, and venue. It is an easy presentation to adjust to.

On Tatjana Vassilieva’s recent solo Cello Recital (Naxos), Britten’s cello sonata brings out all of the HSR’s virtues. Piano and cello compete on even terms because the Crump cord gets 100% of the weight of the piano. On Au24, the cello’s upper range especially is a bit more lyrical, the piano thunders less, sings more. The whole presentation on the Audience cord is lighter and, perhaps for this reason, feels more spread out spatially.

The greater sense (illusion?) of spatiality also comes out in a comparison of the two cords on Haydn’s Cantatas for Esterhazy (Harmonia Mundi). In this recording, the HSR’s greater richness, warmth, and weight are again evident. Textures are less noticeable than the sense of the ensemble. The lower strings have considerable force, upper strings seem held back a little. The presentation is authoritative enough so that moving back to the Au24, one initially senses a loss of authority, a perception which fades as you readjust to the Audience cord’s greater lyricism and lighter balance. The Au24 balance has become normal for me, so I no longer hear it as light. It is lighter than some other cords, but I’m not sure it’s lighter than reality. Its natural clarity sometimes makes it sound light until a double bass begins to play. Shifting back to the HSR, the Crump cord at first seems warm and slightly constricted space-wise, and then it too comes to seem natural enough. And so it goes.

On Hiliary Hahn’s latest (and last recording for Sony, we hear), Violin Concertos by Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, HSR comes across as very convincing Shostakovich cord. This music thrives on the HSR’s gusto, and the cord’s slightly warmer and darker tone casts (reveals?) a marvelous and appropriate shadow over the music. The HSR takes some of the edge off the strings and woodwinds which the Au24 leaves on, making the overall mood of the piece feel more unified, less sonically complex. Low strings are weighty and warm, a scrap less incisive than on the Audience cable and so subjectively less clear. Low woodwinds are wonderfully weighty and dark but bark less crisply. Everything is attractively but not artificially smooth. Putting the Au24 on, the music is not as dark. A low bronze light slants off the orchestra, the violin is more open—sings more, moans less. The whole presentation is more lyrical, less brooding.

Sigiswald Kuijken’s recording of Bach’s Violin Partitas and Sonatas (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) through HSR loses some of the specific tactile quality of the baroque violin in the interest of greater warmth and body. The presentation is smoother, perhaps more appealing to some listeners accustomed to the modern violin.

Lee Morgan’s recently reissued Lee-Way (Blue Note) turns the warmth, fullness, and body of HSR into a pure virtue for those who like their jazz rich and a <>little laid back. Here, the usual gusto seems subdued, perhaps because the defining edges are off the principal solo instruments. Piano and bass are backgrounded a bit, which feels natural enough. The Au24 has the trumpet and sax sounding more brilliant and individual instruments stand out more. The bass is clearer but no less impactful. The piano is also clearer and less in the background. HSR definitely provides a richer, mellower take on the music.

Once I’d spent some time with these recordings, I felt I had a pretty good feel for what HSR was doing, so I won’t prolong the discussion here. If Au24 sounds too light weight and clear for you, if Cardas Neutral Reference is a tad too warm and colored, and if Stage III Monument’s warmth comes with more detail than you want to hear (Monument and HSR make a fascinating comparison actually), Bob Crump’s HSR may well be what you’re looking for. If your system is slightly on the bright side, it would probably be one of the best choices.

A couple of notes. The difference in spatiality between Au24 and HSR cable really does seem to have to do essentially with their different tonal balance. A warmer cord will tend to make a musical presentation sound more compact, while a lighter cord will make it sound more airy. So don’t take my comments on the relative lack of spatiality of HSR too seriously. Also, I’m beginning to think this ‘transparency vs. opacity’ thing has lost a lot of its point. I have been among a group of cords for the past few months which, while less vivid in their presentation than Valhalla, have all made substantial claims to being as transparent in their various ways. So while I’ll keep the series titled as it started out in the interest of consistency, I’m going to spend much less time dwelling on this somewhat exaggerated dichotomy.

Okay back to HSR and out. Like most of Crump’s wire, HSR is a true bargain. A six-foot pair, broken in (!) will set you back $610. (The $10 is toward the annual fee Bob has to pay for living in a caboose on a Houston Railroad siding—he spreads it among his customers.) How many cable guys do you know who will sell you broken in cable, new? No others that I know of.

Summary Price List
8" jumpers $150
4’ speaker cable: $430
6’ speaker cable: $610
8’ speaker cable: $800

He also sells interconnects, power cords (see review of the SLVR’s on Enjoy the Music), and Linesucker and Bybeesucker AC line filters. Oh, yeah, and the Blowtorch.

TG Audio Lab
4621 Hummingbird Street
Houston, TX 77035
TEL: 713. 721. 4756 phone/fax
email address: