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.......