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Positive Feedback ISSUE 62
Audio Ramblings - The Stein Music Harmonizers,
Stones, and Diamonds
There are many things in life that have a quality or explanation that is so clearly 'right' that everyone tends to be in agreement. It leaves little doubt, or room for discourse, as to what else it could be… or not be. It works… it exists… it is accepted. Like in Math and Science where something either is… or isn't. There are rules, laws, and explanations that make sense, that define something in terms that we can all agree upon. We are happy and can sleep at night. Everyone's shorts are just right.
Then there are things that tend to lie outside of this realm, this area of comfort or simply put, "Gee, I don't get it… I don't see how that can work. What the… my shorts are all in a bunch!" But then if you are at all realistic about the world, you should be thinking that… "Gee, well I don't know everything so let's give it a try…"
Now many audio related items fall into one or the other, with the rest sitting somewhere in-between. There are things that clearly are explainable under the guise of Science as to why it does what it does… or at the very least how and why it should do what it was intended to do, though it might actually be doing something slightly, if not all together completely differently than it was intended to do. After all, not everything turns out to be as one expected or desired—sometimes one gets a wonderfully bewildering surprise that is truly earth shattering in its effect. And of course there are items that clearly fall outside of any acceptable explanation offered within the provinces of Science; which for many makes it questionable or dismissible as to what this something is doing, or is claimed to be doing. After all, if it does not possess a clearly understood scientific explanation… then it can't do what is does, let alone do what it is claimed to be doing… even if it does! It is simply snake-oil—an often ill-used term that, by its definition, implies deceit. I hate that term (and that of 'voodoo') as it used all too often to dismiss anything that flies the face of someone's beliefs or 'knowledge' of the world. As if anyone is the possessor of all truths and knowledge. Give it a rest and open your ears… you might actually hear something.
Which leads to… has Science explained everything? And is everything explainable by Science? I would say no, perhaps not… or at very least not yet. Science is an evolving discipline of knowledge… new discoveries… new ways of looking at or defining what we know and experience around us.
For me, either something works—that is, it makes a difference that is definable or tangible—or it doesn't. If Science can explain why it does what it does, then great, if not, then, oh well… maybe someday it will, but for now, I am on my own. On the other hand even if it uses some explanation as to its workings from the other side of reality… claims that clearly reach into a world that is more of fantasy than reality… something that is outside of one's comfort zone in terms of how the World works… well if it makes a difference, should I care? Yeah to a degree… as long as it is not something way out there… like channeling the energy from unicorn sperm to allow my perception of Zoltan waves allowing for a better appreciation of the transfer of the 'musical' electrons… well you get the idea. So well, sort of, but no, not really. Even though I have a Science background, there is a lot I don't understand… or get. On the other hand, I do get it when something I have here works—and by 'works' I mean that it works by making an audible and positive difference in my time spent listening to music; one that I can perceive, one that I value, and one that I can repeat for others. One that simply makes for a more enjoyable and engaging musical experience. Hear, here!
All of this leads up to the Stein Harmonizers and how they 'work' and how this may or may not fit into your comfort zone in terms how and why they do what they do. Let me start off by saying that, one, I do not consider the Harmonizers a 'tweak' per se, but clearly a 'component' that is indispensible to anyone who has spent some serious money on their system and room acoustics, and two, Holger Stein is legit. I have met him more than once and he clearly knows his stuff—that is, he talks the talk. He is also very passionate about music and audio, and while he has an intensity that is at first rather disconcerting, once you sit and spend some time with him it all sorts itself out rather well. Holger is way cool and is zero BS as I found him to be quite open and truthful, though he obviously is not going to share his designs for others to copy. He is also a very well-educated German physicist who offers the music lover many ground breaking products to further their listening pleasure. Plus he likes electronic music along with Kentucky Bourbon and Whiskey… my kind of guy.
Holger is interested in resonances—resonances on many levels… in wire, in components, and in the air. Holger designs and manufactures various items to 'manipulate' or 'control' or 'mitigate' these resonances so that our music is more engaging… or simply put, more fun. He also makes a line of electronics and sources… way cool.
With the Harmonizers, Holger wanted to treat the air so that the music being produced by the speakers is, well, better. That is, that it can travel or move easier through the air making what we hear 'better'. How do the Harmonizers do this? The following explanation originally appeared in the StereoTimes review of the Steinmusic Harmonizer system by Mike Silverton and works quite well enough thank-you:
"The air molecules in the listening room are propelled through the loudspeaker and thus transmit the sound. In order to elongate the air molecules from their rest position it is necessary to spend energy. It is easier to move them once they're in motion. This phenomenon is similar to static and dynamic friction.
"To move a large rock is not an easy task. But once in motion it's more easily pushed forward. The Stein Music Harmonizer works on a similar principle at an ethereal level. The air, which is not actually moved, is charged with information, producing the same effect. It is elongated from its rest position without much effort and is thus able to transport sound of a different quality. This is a working hypothesis. While it does not claim to be complete or even understandable, it's the sound that counts.
"With little understanding of the science behind the phenomenon, often times audiophiles take for granted that the sound waves we call music simply arrive at our ears. Neither sound nor electricity can travel in a vacuum. It is easy to forget that sound waves travel by riding the molecules that comprise our atmosphere, the very air we breathe. This atmosphere is actually a variable mixture that conducts sound waves as well as electricity. It can be dry or humid, fresh or polluted, just to mention several states.
"The air in the listening room differs from the ocean's atmosphere or that of the mountains. It feels different and has different qualities, which brings us to its ability to transfer sonic information. Air as a base for transferring audio can be distorted by influences such as electric charges (electro-smog) from all kinds of electrical products, e.g., heaters, air conditioners and of course audio equipment. Air that does not get exchanged feels stale compared to outdoor air.
"Some years ago my wife decorated our showroom with rose quartz. When we powered up the system we had the impression that the sound had changed. It was not a big difference, more like moving a curtain into a different position. We wondered what this was about. When we moved the quartz we thought that it made a small but detectable change in the music. How could this be? Physically, the atomic cores of these crystals have a very regular structure. Indeed, the electrons around the atomic core are also ordered. This uniformly of order is transferred to the neighboring electrons, thus imparting this structure to the surrounding air.
"We asked ourselves what potential these effects might have, if optimally employed, for an improvement in audio. During the next few years we worked on this question and came up with a complex of techniques. We found that we were able to improve normal quartz behavior by magnitudes. In the end we arrived at a system consisting of two types of components: Harmonizers and the passive devices we call Magic Diamonds and Magic Stones.
"The Harmonizers influence, and dare we say improve, structural aspects of the air that transmit sound waves to our ears. Uniquely prepared crystals with specific measured structures are stimulated by an electronic current to create a harmonic order for themselves and their surrounding molecules. This harmonic order makes the air better suited to deliver sonic information. While a more detailed explanation would be commensurately more complex, the results are easy to hear."
Holger's explanation may or may not work for you; that is, how and what they do to the air might not sit well with your understanding of whatever… but the Harmonizers do work regardless of any explanation. That is they do make a difference and one that is clearly audible, repeatable, and for the better. Make that the way better. Yeah, but gee Dave… really? They are doing what and how? Well, I wonder if perhaps that the reason for questioning or challenging any explanation for something like the Harmonizer is based more on the language or terminology that is chosen when attempting to put into words what the devices are doing and how they are doing what they do… that is there are times when words simply may fail to 'define' one's attempt at an explanation… than anything else; unless of course we are talking about the sperm from unicorns. Or perhaps it is nothing more than a hypothesis... an idea of what is happening as opposed to a theory or something set in stone? Or perhaps explanations are nothing more than the designer flexing their sense of humor by playing with our minds… damn you! Then again, maybe you should just put any explanation behind you, have a listen, and see for yourself. If it works, who gives a crap?
I know I did… a listen that is… not a crap… and why not? So many people are hearing amazing things and Holger has been selling the Harmonizers like hotcakes (it took several months before he had ones that I could review) so they have to be doing something… right? Unless it is all some conspiracy! (I would like add that I have met more than one audiophile where even though they admit to hearing positive differences with certain items that fell outside of 'accepted' Scientific theories, they were not willing to accept what they heard and simply dismissed the item... because the explanation did not fit into what they knew to be possible... to which all I can add is really? But you heard it all the same, no?)
So what do I hear with the Harmonizers? With a setup comprised of two H2A and two H2B Harmonizers (all running on batteries and mounted on stands at the suggested positions within the room) and the appropriate set of Magic Stones and four Blue Diamonds (also placed at the suggested locations within the room—approximately $5k for complete setup as used here)… simply put, not more thereness, but a startling sense of hereness. One is not so much transported to where the music was (a thereness like you are there), but the music is placed here out into the room… it is now here with you. The room, for me at least and the many who have visited and heard this, is simply removed from the equation. The speakers, the room, the walls, the dimensional limitations of the space we live in… becomes less of an issue, less of a limitation to the music being palpable and present here with us in our room. Space and volume are all multiplied as if my room has grown exponentially. The music is propelled out into the room in all directions—well it is anyhow but now with fewer restrictions… fewer barriers (like the air perhaps?) to the music while it envelops and engages us. Crap… the Harmonizer "system" suggests a surround-sound-like environment with an occasional note or instrument appearing to the come out of nowhere. Not gimmicky, but more as if you had the opportunity to sit with the artists as they recorded whatever it was you are listing to… okay, so you are there, but they are also here. Potato… potato, tomato… tomato.
With the Harmonizers in the original 'against the wall' position with my Reimer Tetons... dynamics galore.
With the Harmonizers in the preferred 'out beside the speakers' position. In this case near the in-for-review Chapmen T8 Loudspeakers.
So I say here as opposed to there as that is what one of my friends said, "Without the Steins the music is there (as he waved his hands defining the space around and between the speakers), but with the Steins the music is here (waving his hands to define the whole room)." But sure, you are also transported there as the music had an even greater sense of clarity, transparency, impact, and presence than prior. Combine that with a startling sense of the propulsion of the music (out and into) as it fills the room—a pressurization of musical energy. A transfer of there to here.
Now my system never wanted for dimensional space or presence; yeah, the speakers do a decent enough disappearing act as does the room. The system rocks and does so quite well—it is musically engaging on every level and the room treatments are doing their thing too, but the Harmonizers simply took what I had fine-tuned and allowed for it to be maximized, or better yet, fully realized. That is, I am now hearing what the system can accomplish with my music with the barrier between the system and myself being mitigated—that being the 'space' within the room—at a level that is simply silly shit-grinning good.
Stunned is the usual reaction I get from visitors when I turn on the Harmonizers. "Wow", is a common response. "What did you do?" usually follows. I try to explain what they are doing and of course that gets me some odd expressions, so I let the music make my argument… which takes no time at all. Sold.
Dynamics, clarity, palpable presence, excitement, definition, air, decay, extension, articulation, less distortion, louder, quieter, 3D soundstage, natural, rich, texture, warm, fast, transmission, timbre, immersion, space, tactile, engagement, propulsion, ease, etc… everything is there in abundance… everything is here. And in a very good way. So far anyone who has visited while the Harmonizers have been here were all impressed. Some to the point that on a few occasions it turned into a wild listening session where, with the right music, we are pretty much transported to another place.
"Okay, but gee Dave, you tend to say this about all the tweaks you write about… I mean, how far can you go in getting things to be better?" "They all make things more this and whatnot!" Yeah, guilty as charged, but the Harmonizers do work as advertised... they have pushed the sound to levels that for us are new and engagingly musically good. What you need to understand about the Stein Harmonizer system is that it does nothing to your system. If it is good, it is still good. If it has shortcomings, well… it still has short comings. How the music is recorded is how the music is presented—it is not going to make a 'bad' recording sound better… but really good recordings do sound really really good. The Harmonizers do this by addressing the room and its space—the air in the room. So in the end you hear what your system is capable of… what it is doing to the music, or not doing to the music depending on your point of view. So, yeah my system is as fully tweaked out as I can think of and yeah, damn yeah, with the Stein Harmonizer system in place I am hearing my music as I had only dreamed of—it is now fully realized. The music is here.
Affordable? Worth the price? Only you can make that call… I would buy the setup I have here in a heartbeat if I could afford them… yeah, it can add up rather quickly making them expensive (the H2A is $1100 each, the H2B is $1195 each, the Magic Stones are $50 each, the Blue Diamonds are $350 each, and the Black Diamonds are $185 each). Start with a set of two (and H2A and an H2B) then add some Stones—no need to go hog wild unless you got really deep pockets and are sold on what they do. At the recent THE SHOW in Newport this past June, the PF Hospitality Suite was across and down the hall from the Fidelis room where the Stein Harmonizers and other products were being demonstrated. Over the course of the show a good 20 plus people came into our room after hearing the demonstration by Holger… yeah; they were shaking their heads trying to make sense of what they had heard. Everyone I spoke to was impressed or stunned at the improvements they had heard.
The Harmonizers behind the couch.
Okay, so I find that four Stein Harmonizers (two H2A's and two H2B's with the Stones and Diamonds) work quite fine, though I have tried a set of six Harmonizers. I do keep them set at around 9-10 o'clock and the batteries should last a good 3-4 years. Placement does make a difference—placed out next to the speakers has the biggest impact on the overall presence of the music being 'in' the room—that hereness quality. Whereas placing the Harmonizers closer to the wall behind the speakers does its thing by positively affecting the dynamics. For me it is a compromise… not too far from the wall, but closer to the speakers. Ditto the level of 'intensity' as realized by the control knob on the rear—too much and you get too much of what they do; a bit of overload. Not enough and well, you don't get enough. Perhaps it is more an issue of the size of the room? Bigger the room, go to 11! Smaller the room, keep it around 9! Stein offers a clearly laid-out guide on where to try everything, so visit the Stein site.
Set the Intensity level for maximum or appropriate pleasure.
Place the Stones and Diamonds in/at the appropriate locations too... is all in the guide. I will admit that I have yet to try just the Harmonizers sans the Stones and Diamonds. I decided to go with the complete system as that is how Holger intended the 'components' to be used... but stay tuned for more as I take things i and out to see what is what!
The Harmonizers and Stones all rather unobtrusive, can be placed out of the way when not in use… they are quite attractive and well made. There is a lot out there as to what they are doing for other reviewers, how to set them up, and so on… if this is of interest (and I am not sure why it would not be as they simply work quite well at what they do) search them out and give them a try. Don't consider them a tweak, but a necessary component for your system. One that will allow you to fully realize what your music can sound like. Holger is really onto to something here… something really wonderful.
available at Tweek Geek