POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 38
CyberLight "Photon" interconnects - New and Improved
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
I did not see or hear this coming. Jim Wang, CEO of HT, took me aside at a recent LA Audio Society event and whispered, "We have new improved Cyberlights and we will call them Photon Cables from now on. They are much better sounding and it has taken us four years to perfect them. You want to review them?" Mrs. Levi didn't raise any dumb son …you bet I said I'd review them!
Here's the scoop direct from Harmonic Technology's Jim Wang:
Photon Interconnect/digital Cables
After tireless research, we have finally perfected the second generation of our original CyberLight Interconnect/Digital Cables. The NEW design of the Photon Interconnect / Digital cables will significantly improve your sound quality and musical enjoyment. Our loyal customers can upgrade their CyberLight Interconnect to our new Photon Interconnect at our cost (details on the website).
Continuing Features from the CyberLight:
New Photon Features:
I have noted two items in the second list and numbered them 1 and 2. This is what I believe I hear quite dramatically in these new Photon fiber optic cables. The sound of no cable at all is now MORE evident. There is an openness and linearity which are stellar in their evenness and harmonic truthfulness. I hear no obvious coloration added or subtracted. There are no bumps or lumps in the spectrum to report. Depth is improved and now equals the best cables I had in house to try or had any recent experience with. The bass is deeper and more robust. Definition is tantalizingly close to the state of the art. Imaging just might be state of the art. The mids are realistic and supremely neutral. The highs are delicate and seductive. I am almost speechless and that's just not usually the case folks. An audiophile once said cables are components, too. The Photon's prove it!
Yes, the Photon's still need a battery pack, but it's a set and forget thing and the cables stay on at all times. They need no break-in, but sound their best after they are on about three days. They morph from sounding like great metal interconnects on power up to nothing at all. These are the Seinfeld of interconnects …they are about nothing!
Also, HT has fixed the slight hiss in the earlier fiber design. It's all gone. Obvious now is an extreme background blackness and quiet between instruments that is quite awesome. It propels images and launches definition. You are there is now really THERE on your best recordings. Fast and speedy cables usually sound a bit bright and lean. Not the Photon's! This is the magic of their technology used here. Yes they sound as fast and pristine as the Silversmith and Acrolink designs. Yes they sound almost as liquid as the Kubala-Sosna and CRL. Plus, they do all of this at the same time. WOW!
Again, very, very extended and delicate …mountains of sophisticated definition and sparkle. I hear air and purity[!] like the select Mullard NOS tubes in my preamp are direct coupled to my amplifier. The Photon's are definitely significantly improved over the slightly rolled off originals.
Powerful and extraordinarily detailed, the mids are expansive and mellifluous. They are very, very neutral in this range and really pop. Though just a wee bit thinner than the very best, you'll be stunned by your involvement with the music …no joke! Plus, vocals are superb and exquisitely focused. There may be a touch less richness than the finest metal cables, but then maybe not. I am not used to experiencing this much verisimilitude without some mitigating problems along for the ride. Overall midband ambience is lively and natural and plainly without compression. Depth perspective is close to the very best around.
The blackness of background is addictive. The sense of openness is extraordinary. The lack of fatiguing sonic problems with these cables set them apart from many expensive metal cables admired by the audio gurus. Macro dynamics are unrestrained, definitely better than before. Micro dynamics are more obvious and more compelling than before. The overall imaging is magnificent. This is 21st Century technology and I'm hooked!
The Photon Amp
Unbounded, very deep, realistic, and a cut above the original design …are taken right from my notes. The Photon's really swing. The woodiness of bass fiddles and the thwack of tympani are all there. Maybe there's a bit of warmth missing, but its not much and may not be there anyway. The bass is not cool or sterile at all. I'm hearing a level of honest, textural beauty that is just natural and stunning! Bass imaging is first rate and precise. I keep thinking about their obvious lack of discernable coloration and compression as I listen to these.
These cables simply change electrons to photons and back again in the analog domain. There is no digital disruption or corruption. They also break any grounding problem and cancel out hum. They are designed to stop all DC completely from reaching your amp. I hear less tonal distortion, subtle or otherwise, than with virtually any cable made of metal. They just mostly sound like they are not there at all. The Photon's scream "breakthrough."
Be mindful that there is a specific Photon model for connection between amp and preamp and between source and preamp. The impedance of the LAM modules are adjusted for optimal component connectivity with these models. No metal cable maximizes impedance, but the Photons do. This is cutting edge technology. There's a high powered version available for the Photon Link model if your source component has a nonstandard ultra high output. True balanced with super long lengths is also available. There's even a special version to use as a digital interconnect! I will try this link in a follow-up review.
The Photon Digital
Though not an adjective normally associated with reviewing, it's an appropriate term of art for the Photons. I have never heard this level of purity before in either of my reference systems. I can always seem to nit-pick …but not this time. Is this what the state of the art sounds like? I wonder.
Though not hard to work with, you need to be mindful of avoiding all tight turns and having at least 8 inches of clearance behind your components. I am not a huge fan of cables needing to be powered, but I am fine with this since it actually accomplishes something. I like the fact there is a trade-in program and you should take advantage of this! I'd buy at least one extra battery pack for a rainy day. The packs don't last forever and plugging the cables directly into the wall using the supplied wall-wart is a sonic no-no.
I am the first reviewer to get the new Photon's and only time will tell. I'll be surprised if my accolades aren't echoed far and wide. These are expensive interconnects at $2000 for 1.5 meters and $500 for the Pack 4 Battery though I recently heard $14,000 per meter cables at a LA Audio Society event. I mention this only to point out that expensive is relative!
Cleanliness and Neutrality, a Theory
Can a voice or instrument be too clean and neutral, but remain entirely natural and harmonious? These assets to musical truthfulness have been stressed to death. The answer is yes and no. Yes, if these virtues are accompanied by etch, glare, dryness, compression of the soundstage, or incorrect musical tambour. But what if these anomalies are present to such an extremely minimal extent, an extent unheard of by these ears to date by any cable made of metal? Then "no" might be the right answer …neutrality and cleanliness are quite welcome in an otherwise uncorrupted musical presentation.
The human voice gives clues to the audiophile here. In the Best Audiophile Voices on JVCXRCD 27901, the various female super artists sound stunning. First attribute you notice is how clean and grain free the overall vocal presentation has become. You hear no overhang or etch whatsoever. The imaging is locked in tight and the vocalists have weight and body. Any artificiality has been reduced to such an itsy bitsy level that you are immersed in the music. Vocal sibilance seems just right. The Photons appear to make a dramatic improvement all around, particularly the link between preamp and amp. This link, I believe, should be your first purchase.
In my humble opinion, every topnotch audiophile should have at least one Photon interconnect link/battery in their cable arsenal. More if you have the wherewithal. This fiber technology must be experienced for its musical rightness. They yield 20-20 vision of your system's performance with your ears! By the way, the Photons appear to make your amp sound about 2-3dB more powerful …must be a function of the near perfect impedance matching.
The Photon Interconnects from Harmonic Technology are completely unique and the only non metal fiber optic interconnects on the market. They are uncolored, non-fatiguing, uncompressed, neutral, and musical like their ultra high-end super expensive metal cousins. Soundstaging, frequency response, and background blackness are outstanding and even better now than the four year old original versions. A remarkable purity of musical definition and outstanding overall dynamics suggest the state of the art. The Photons join the exulted ranks of the finest interconnects in the world. They are a breakthrough design if there ever was one and are ready for primetime! Kudos to Harmonic Technology for not being satisfied with the status quo. They have a real winner here! Robert H. Levi
Revised Interconnect rankings to include the highly recommended Photon Interconnects with cables ranked within price categories as follows:
Optimal Connections Photon AMP Pre-amp-to-amp (Input is 1.25 Vrms) Photon Link Source-to-preamp (Normal input is 2.5 Vrms) Photon Link (4 Vrms) Source-to-preamp (For input not more than 4 Vrms) Photon Link (6 Vrms) Source-to-preamp (For input not more than 6 Vrms) Photon Digital Transport-to-DAC
Photon AMP retail pricing guide:
1.5 meters $2000 (HPA-RCA-0015) or $2400 (HPA-XLR-0015), 3 meters $2400 (HPA-RCA-0030) or $2800 (HPA-XLR-0030), 5 meters $2800 (HPA-RCA-0050) or $3200 (HPA-XLR-0050), 10 meters $3400 (HPA-RCA-0100) or $3800 (HPA-XLR-0100)