Epiphany Acoustics Evolution Audio  Audio Emotion 
Results 1 to 16 of 16
  1. #1
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    I've waited patiently for my new H-CAT preamplifier to arrive from the States, and it is finally here!

    I was horror struck at first, because of a dreadful hissing noise that emerged when I first hooked it up. You could not possibly listen to music with that in the background, and for a while I was panic stricken. The pre-amp was $5,000 plus postage and import duty + VAT, so it was the thick end of £5k going down the drain that I was contemplating.

    To cut a long story short, I swapped one of the cables and the problem vanished. Phew.

    There is a long thread running in Audiogon about this particular piece of kit - entries date back a couple of years. A lot of people enter the thread determined to expose the claims of the manufacturer as pseudo-science, and I must confess I can make neither head nor tail of the claims made on the manufacturer's web site here: http://www.h-cat.com/

    What interested me was that several vitriolic critics posted threads damning everything possible about the claims, but then made much more complimentary noises when they heard the actual kit in a demo or in their system. They still rubbished the science, but admitted the pre-amp was extremely capable.

    What caught my eye about what is, after all, just another thread about differences of opinion regarding a box, was the fact that the thing that this manufacturer attempts to define as its unique capability revolves around IMAGING.

    Imaging is something that I prize (despite its absence in real life, in my experience - at least for the most part) so I got interested in this piece of kit. Here is where the disputed science comes in: the H-CAT claims to produce "holographic" imaging by means of something they call Wavefront Timing Control (WTC). The idea is that, by changing the WTC setting you get to focus in, like a camera moving into focus or an FM radio signal until there is one point where the image is just about palpable in its manifestation.

    The preamp comes set at 00 and you move it to plus or minus 60-odd to get the right setting for your kit. The setting is, apparently, kit and room dependent so there is no one "correct" setting for most users, it is a matter of trial and error. Unfortunately you have to spend 5 or 10 seconds at least at each number before moving to the next one to see if there is a change, so the process is not exactly quick.

    One other slight surprise in all this: when the box shipped it did so without any rubber feet. Apparently the expectation is that you'll want to use maple wood rather than something as mundane as rubber feet. I defy anyone who has waited for weeks for the damn thing to arrive to then patiently put it back in its wrapping and wait for the maple wood to arrive, having failed to order it in advance. Apparently this is quitea well known USA tweak for high end kit, but it was news to me.

    So, now it is down to the task of listening to the music and seeing what the best setting for the WTC is, assuming it does indeed make a difference. More soon.......












    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  2. #2
    Moderator dom_'s Avatar
    Join Date
     Sep 2007
    Posts
     4,614
    Location
     Lindfield
    Turn Table
     Garrad 401
    Integrated Amp
     Modwright KWI200
    Speakers
     Snell Type A
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    Fancy cracking it open for pics of the inside?

  3. #3
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    Sadly, I'm so technically incompetent that I'd never get it back together without gaps all over the place. Obviously the manufacturer's warranty would be void, too. I'm not that interested in the technical arguments, to be honest: whether or not it sounds better is all I'm interested in.
    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  4. #4
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    OK, I've now had a chance to listen a fair bit to what this pre-amp has done to the system, so some further thoughts (in batches, I suspect, depending on how much I get through in this description).

    It is quite difficult to buy a piece of kit and then honestly claim that any views you may subsequently post represent some sort of "review" - I titled this thread "an account of events", rather than "a review" because, realistically, it is hard to attain the level of objectivity implied by the word review. However, I am genuinely trying to be as objective, critical yet open minded as possible. This is perhaps helped by the fact that the H-CAT is so rare over here that, if I was not really impressed or any positive feelings were short lived, I'd be unlikely to get a reasonable price for it by selling it on the second hand market (I went in to the situation "blind" and was fully prepared to just write off the whole thing to experience if I was unimpressed). So, that said:

    I started off with the XRCD "Cantate Domino" with tracks 8,9, 10 and 11 (Frojda dig, du Kristi brud; Lullaby (Korean folksong) Il est ne le divn enfant (French Carol) and Julsang (Christmas song)). The first of these tracks is simply a solo soprano, and nothing else, so I was interested in realism of tone and spatial location. I played all the tracks through the Audio Aero Capitole (using what I had hitherto used as a preamp - namely the AA's output) and then played the same tracks with the H-CAT in the system. Leaving the H-CAT in the system, I then played the same tracks through the Robson Music Server/Stahl-tek Vekian combination.

    First, the bad news: I played with various settings for the WTC function and, so far, have not found one setting where there was a transformation in imaging compared to the other settings. To be fair though, I have been neither patient nor systematic in this task, so I am not saying there is no such setting that brings about a dramatic improvement.

    The other bad news is that the remote controls that I use for both the Capitole and the Server seem to share frequecies with the H-CAT, because using the remote control for one box occasionally switches something on the other.

    Now the good news: irrespective of the WTC setting (and whether or not it will eventually bring about further improvement) it is quite clear that thereIS a dramatic improvement in imaging and noise floor with the introduction of the H-CAT, on any WTC setting. To be absolutely honest, I was not really expecting this (at least to this extent) because I think my system was already pretty good on the imaging front. Thisis to be expected, I suppose, since gradually I have been swapping less and less boxes as I have moved closer and closer to the "sound" that I want. I never dreamed the last step was going to be as big, though.

    In short, female vocals are snapped into focus at the centre of the sound stage, in a very three dimensional way, and the other instruments and voices are very precisely located in a way that allows for individual tracking but still making a coherent whole. My system has always been good at left, centre left, centre, centre right and right but now it is distinguishing very much more clearly between back-right, middle-centre-right and front-right, etc, etc. So backing singers and instruments have their place in the soundstage and the whole thing is kind of lifted as a result. Uncluttered is perhaps the word, along with the phrase three dimensional.

    I know that the thrill I get from improving the sound stage to this extent is a complete bore to many others, who are more interested in the exact opposite, really: the togetherness and timing of the performance (particularly the case amongst musicians, I've noticed on this forum). Nevertheless, thrilled I remain.

    I moved on to one of my "test" tracks for soundstage: "Diamonds on the soles of her shoes" by Paul Simon, from the album "Graceland". It was simply sumptuous. The opening minute or so, where Ladysmith Black Mambazo are singing, is so full of individual lines to be picked out - whilst still floating in the overall harmony - that I could easily (and in fact did) listen to that segment half a dozen times in a row, discovering something new and delightful with each listen. When the song gets fully underway the percussion is clearly delineated yet encompassing and Paul Simon's vocals are very clear but somehow less sibilant than normal (and boy, this is recorded as a pretty sibilant track). When the brass comes in half way through it is very clear that there are two instruments being played, one at the front left and the other at the middle/back right and the notes are shared between them in such a way as to make one coherent melody (daa de-da da da da; daa de-da da da da) but with each instrument tracing its own pattern in the song. Looks a bit stupid written down, I know, but those of you who know the song well will, I hope, understand what I am trying to get at.

    I then moved on to "The earth dies screaming" by UB40. This is a song that was ahead of its time, in my view. There is a percussion instrument (I don't know exactly what) that sounds like a set of seventies clackers, albeit in a more controlled and rhythmic fashion. I can honestly say that they sounded like they were being played somewhere just left of the wall of the room, the soundstage was so wide.

    The width and separation in the soundstgae now is simply beyond anything else I have heard. I was massively impressed the first time I heard a Verona clock added to the dCS stack that comprised most of my system a year or two ago - this comfortably eclipses that sound.

    I'm afraid all of this sounds terribly self satisfied as I read back over what I have written. I don't actually feel smug about finally getting to my journey's end - for that is what it feels like - in fact I feel slightly stupid that I bought so many boxes in a random search for something I didn't know I was after, until I gradually stumbled across each element that I wanted to retain (sometimes not knowing I wished to retain a characteristic until I had swapped the box for something else, and regretted the resultant change in sound). I think if I had simply gone to one dealer - possibly a second hand one like Tony from Central Audio- and described accurately and honestly what I was after, and within what budget, then I could have taken a lot fewer years to get where I am today (and possibly spent a lot less money). I also realise that although the sound that I have arrived at is the one that I have been searching for, other people are after different things,and I am in no way suggesting that what I have got to is in some way "superior" to what others have obtained. So I don't feel as if I have done something clever to get to where I want to be - I have simply stumbled around and eventually arrived at my destination, arguably wasting time and money in the process, although some would say that the journey itself was worthwhile.

    I suppose I should now just sit and experiment with different WTC settings until I find the one I am happiest with. There has, however, been such a lift in my system that the motivation to "seek" in this way is simply not as great as it was before, so it may be some time before the best WTC setting is found.

    Naturally, you'll have gathered, I recommend this pre-amp to anyone who is interested in sound stage and imaging. There was a second hand H-CAT advertised here not that long ago for about £1,400: I don'tknow if it was sold or not but I recommend grabbing it to anyone who mightbe interested. It doesn't have the ability to operate through a remote though, I believe (which is why the owner was selling - he was upgrading to a new one). If you did want a remote then you'd need to contact Kevin Walker, from Audiocraft Distribution in Uxbridge in order to obtain a new one from the States.





















    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  5. #5
    Contains mild peril browellm's Avatar
    Join Date
     Sep 2008
    Posts
     20,648
    Location
     Nottingham
    Real Name
     Mark
    Turn Table
     Acoustic Solid Wood
    T/Arm & Cart
     AN Arm III/Io Gold
    SUT/Phono
     Allnic H1500
    Digital Source 1
     Modwright TP
    Speakers
     Avantgarde Uno Nano
    Pre Amp
     Kondo M7
    Power Amp
     LV Argento
    Headphones
     
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    Thanks Ron, always enjoy reading your reviews. I would like to get to listen to your system some time.
    Kondo mafia
    http://www.last.fm/user/browellm

    <----------Report this post here

  6. #6
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    Cheers Mark.

    If you are ever over this neck of the woods give me a ring - you are welcome to come and have a listen (assuming I can stand the tension with the possibility of you being disappointed - any reviewer should bear in mind the possibility of a fellow Wammer visiting before waxing too lyrical about the joys of their latest box!).
    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  7. #7
    CELEBRITY WAMMER Martha's dad's Avatar
    Join Date
     Jun 2007
    Posts
     2,194
    Location
     Cambridgeshire
    Real Name
     Papa du chien
    Turn Table
     NAS Hyperspace
    T/Arm & Cart
     Morch/ Kontrapunkt B
    SUT/Phono
     Trichord Diablo NCPS
    Digital Source 1
     Shigaraki (Clone)
    Digital Source 2
     SBT
    DAC
     MSB
    Integrated Amp
     ASR Emitter II Exc.
    Speakers
     Verity/Parsifal Enco
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    That was really interesting - thanks. I am also big on soundtsage. I wonder if anyone remembers the Carver Holographic unit that came out around 1980 - that was very impressive with some speakers though quite unnatural. Big fun though - I used ine to best effect with a pair of ALLISON ONE FLOOR STANDERS still one of the best speakers ever).

    Sounds as though this one may have an element of carver's science but for a more natural result.

    PS Would be intersting to see how it sounds with super tweeters

  8. #8
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    I've never heard a difference with super tweeters - had a borrowed pair in the system for a few months a couple of years ago and didn't miss them when they went. I think you need better hearing than mine to appreciate them.
    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  9. #9
    CELEBRITY WAMMER Martha's dad's Avatar
    Join Date
     Jun 2007
    Posts
     2,194
    Location
     Cambridgeshire
    Real Name
     Papa du chien
    Turn Table
     NAS Hyperspace
    T/Arm & Cart
     Morch/ Kontrapunkt B
    SUT/Phono
     Trichord Diablo NCPS
    Digital Source 1
     Shigaraki (Clone)
    Digital Source 2
     SBT
    DAC
     MSB
    Integrated Amp
     ASR Emitter II Exc.
    Speakers
     Verity/Parsifal Enco
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    See if you can borrow a pair to try with the new preamp - if the new amp enhances soundstage - which is very much what supertweeters do - not just frequencies, then you might have an interesting surprise.

    Also depends on which super tweeters of course.

  10. #10
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    The ones I tried were Townshend. What would you recommend? (Obviously you HAVE heard them make a difference. Others have said the same, so it may be me).
    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  11. #11
    CELEBRITY WAMMER Martha's dad's Avatar
    Join Date
     Jun 2007
    Posts
     2,194
    Location
     Cambridgeshire
    Real Name
     Papa du chien
    Turn Table
     NAS Hyperspace
    T/Arm & Cart
     Morch/ Kontrapunkt B
    SUT/Phono
     Trichord Diablo NCPS
    Digital Source 1
     Shigaraki (Clone)
    Digital Source 2
     SBT
    DAC
     MSB
    Integrated Amp
     ASR Emitter II Exc.
    Speakers
     Verity/Parsifal Enco
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    It's a mine field of choice!

    Yes, I do hear a difference, but i do have acute hearing (or so I was told/tested a year or so ago - to my surprise in some respects). Hearing of an arctic bat I was told. Is that good???

    I think the JAS are better than the Townshends and Tannoys better than both - you have more options with the Tannoys and experimenting reallly brought out a difference I found. I've also played with a range of all sorts - at the moment I have a pair of ST25's and auditioning them against some USA Dipole tweters.

    To me super tweeters add detail to soundstage and depth - they certainly add bass and you can get a nice sound field at lower levels of colume too which can be a + to low level listeners. I just thought given the nature of preamp you may get more out of it trying a pair. :-)

  12. #12
    Registered
    Join Date
     Apr 2009
    Posts
     3
    Location
     College Station, Texas, USA

    Post imported post

    Hi, Super Wammer, I am the Norm who first posted on Audiogon, "Is any preamp better than the final production H-Cat." That was over 5 years and seven versions ago. You have jumped right in with the ultimate version, and I am not surprised, if you are keen on imaging, that you are loving what you hear.

    I should say straight away that I am not associated in any way with North American Products, the maker of H-Cat electronics, although I first knew Roger Paul over thirty years ago. Also I am now a reviewer for Dagogo, an electronic magazine. Three pieces of H-Cat gear are in my system, the P-12R X8, which you have, the H-Cat amp, and a very old but soon to be updated phono stage.

    Although you first posted on the 12th and the sound probably has already improved, you are a month away from full realization of what you have. I will become much easier for you to select the best setting for the WTC and you will realize what it does for you and hereafter regret that other unit lack it.

    I think that most of the vitriolic posts on my thread derived from my opening question as well as from Roger Paul's efforts to explain how Doppler correction works without giving away proprietary information as well as the uniqueness of this circuit. This circuit is largely responsible for the holographic imaging you are hearing. Some people think they are self-appointed protectors of what makes scientific sense, even though they are not scientists. I call them the scam police.

    At any rate, enjoy yourself, and if you have any questions I will be monitoring this new site.

  13. #13
    Registered
    Join Date
     Apr 2009
    Posts
     3
    Location
     College Station, Texas, USA

    Post imported post

    I neglected to add that I use the H-Cat line stage with Murata supertweeters and have heard it with the Townshend supertweeters. I would not be without supertweeters that have no response below 15k Hz. In demonstration after demonstration, everyone prefers even the fullest range speakers (my Acapella LaCompanells extend out to 30k Hz). I have tried supertweeter with responses into the audible range and find they muddy the sound.

  14. #14
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    Welcome to the tent, Norm!!

    (I feel like one of the extras in "Cheers" saying that!)
    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  15. #15
    Super Dooper Wammer
    Join Date
     Jan 2006
    Posts
     1,114
    Location
     Gold Coast Australia
    Real Name
     Ron
    Integrated Amp
     MBL
    Speakers
     MBL
    In the Hi-Fi industry?
     No

    Post imported post

    Well, the H-CAT is now well and truly bedded in. In addition, the rather expensive interconnects that I bent one of the connectors on a while ago (Black Rhodium Opera Cantata) have now been repaired and are back in the system.

    I have the WTC (Wave Front Timing Control) set at -9, which seems to be about right for most music, in my room.

    I have to say that the imaging now really is what Roger Paul, the designer, claims: holographic. The imaging in my system was pretty good before but now it is at another level. I know a lot of people are just left completely cold by imaging, but it is something I really enjoy and now I have got exactly what I want. I haven't really posted on here much recently, but it is simply because I'm not that tempted to find out about other kit, I'm so happy with what I have got. I'm interested in the thread about Amarra (?) software, maybe there is something that can be wrung from the system still, but I'm only mildly curious now where once I would have devoured the details.

    I really, really recommend the H-CAT preamp.
    Projector: Mitsubishi HC 6000; ADA Cinema Rhapsody processor; ADA PTM 8150 amp
    Kef Reference 200 series rear, side & centre speakers

  16. #16
    Registered
    Join Date
     Apr 2009
    Posts
     3
    Location
     College Station, Texas, USA

    Post imported post

    I don't think H-Cat is entirely about imaging. The image is more precise, meaning that all the notes of an instrument come from the same location. This make the character of the instrument sound so true.

    Also, you need to think about the H-Cat amp. I have used the P-12 with many other amps. The addition of the H-Cat amp fully complements everything about the line stage.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •