October 1, 2009

Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Audio Stand, S1 Isolation Base, Damping Plate, Nimbus System

Category: Cables & Accessories


Just about every American male who’s survived high school knows that the behemoth and anchor of a football team’s defense is the nose tackle. The nose tackle’s job, mostly in the stylish 3-4 defensive scheme, is to occupy two offensive blockers, maintain his two-gap assignment (spaces on the field in relation to the distribution of offensive players), and stay on his feet. The coach needs him to stabilize the entire defensive approach of his other ten players, so that the rest of them -- primarily the linebackers and safeties -- can then read the play and "fly to the ball." The nose tackle is not supposed to bring down the ball carrier, pursue the quarterback, or defend the pass, necessarily, but to hold position and occupy the two opposing players who are trying to push him around. Usually the heaviest man on the team, the nose tackle’s attributes are strength and stoutness. He uses his weight -- nowadays well over 300 pounds -- to maintain the center of the field and to fix the offense to it so it cannot spread. In other words, the nose tackle is a brick shithouse that cannot be moved.

But this analogy, ready though it may be, is entirely inadequate to describe the complex assignment executed by the SXR audio rack system recently released by Harmonics Resolution Systems (HRS). It acknowledges only the brutish "heavy lifting" -- something all racks do -- and not the geometric ballet of mathematics applied to mass and resonance that it’s claimed to achieve. No, the SXR is no burly nose tackle, but a powerful dance cavalier like Rudolf Nureyev, whose attributes are strength, balance, and isometric grace without strain. Such a dancer is the ballerino who lifts and poses the delicate ballerina by the base of her pelvis, her arms blossoming in a winglike stretch, and holds her aloft in a gorgeously slow pirouette of mechanical precision, as though a muscular black swan were lifting an angel above its head. This choreography of mass and resonance is exactly what I heard from the SXR: a delicate maneuvering of mass, a precise control of resonance, and the near-erasure of airborne, structural, and inner mechanical noise from my audio system.

Distortion and the choreography of isolation

Mike Latvis, primo ballerino of audio resonance and Chief Engineer of Harmonic Resolution Systems, came to our hobby as a trained mechanical engineer, having worked on a variety of military and commercial aircraft projects, including the rotor systems for the Black Hawk helicopter. His résumé is deep in the science of vibration control. But he’s also a music lover who’s long dabbled in things audio, applying the experience and insights gained in his years in industry. After custom-designing audio isolation devices for himself and friends, he eventually, some ten years ago, founded HRS.

Though Latvis’s approach is scientific, it reflects a natural instinct for artistry. It’s a choreography of isolation in each of three critical domains where resonance can corrupt the clarity, purity, and aesthetic impact of an audio system: the structural, via the external environment; the internal, arising from mechanical noise in the audio components themselves; and via airborne vibrations. The HRS SXR racking system addresses all three of them in an interlocking narrative suite of technologically deliberated mechanical "dances" of resonance control.

In this script, the foulest villains are loudspeakers, which cause structural vibrations. They literally shake the floor, which trembles the rack, which stirs your components, which causes distortion in playback. That distortion is then sent around, through speakers and room and floor, and back again through your system, stealing watts, muffling bass, robbing the sound of dynamic articulation and clarity, and, in extreme cases, doing even worse. Speakers also cause airborne vibrations -- after all, that’s what their audible output is -- that directly strike your rack and components, exciting their hard surfaces, causing mechanical noise that’s then picked up by the audio signal, and causing more distortion that masks detail, smears transients and decays, tizzes the highs, and raises the noise floor, obscuring much of the musical performance in a haze of nonmusical information. Finally, there’s the energy emanating from within some components themselves: the common culprits here are noisy power supplies. Like airborne vibrations, this energy is transferred to the outer chassis, then back into the audio chain.

When Latvis looks at a traditional equipment rack, he sees what he calls "a pass-through mechanism for distortion." The materials from which these racks are made inevitably amplify their own native frequencies; e.g., maple emphasizes the midrange, slate plinths and shelves the highs. They suck energy from the floor, pulling it in through air transfer and multiplying the inner mechanical resonances of the audio components themselves. In a recent interview, Latvis told me that the HRS approach is to disconnect the components from such vibrational influences, decoupling and isolating noise structurally via the SXR’s rigid frame and S1 bases, using specific materials in mathematically designed shapes scientifically proven to be effective at isolating noise through all frequencies, and resulting in what he calls "complete broadband noise reduction."

Latvis feels that, sitting on his SXR rack system, an audio component is subjected to a lower level of energy interference, thus preserving the audio signal’s proper phase, and accurate timing and pace in the music. "We drop the noise floor and try to lose as little sonic information from the audio system as possible," he said. The result, he claims, is a substantial drop in broadband noise. "You can place an accelerometer on an unconditioned audio shelf and on one of ours and compare them," he said. "It’s measurable."

The components of the SXR rack system address the three domains of unwanted resonance: 1) the SXR stand is a large, structurally rigid frame that decouples the entire mechanism from the floor; 2) the S1 Isolation Base is designed with an inner core of proprietary nonresonant material and is itself decoupled from the rack by four cupped, radial, elastomer-suspended footers; and 3) the Nimbus System and Damping Plates control the airborne vibrations striking component chassis and the internal noise generated by the chassis themselves.


The foundation of the HRS SXR system is the stand itself ($4995 USD for four shelves, $5995 for five shelves), which Latvis derived from the same design philosophy that created his reference-level MXR stand, already established as a leader in the field. Latvis took over two years to develop the SXR; and, even more than meeting a lower price than his MXR stand, he wanted the SXR to be versatile in configurability, minimalist and open in design, and expandable. "You can build it three-high and two-wide," he said, "or you can make it a five-shelf with most of the same parts!" He also pointed out that the SXR can be built "one shelf at a time," starting out as an amp stand, then a two-shelf, a three-, etc.

The modular SXR has six removable (and interchangeable, level-to-level, so long as maintained as a set), tubular side-struts per level. The struts are of anodized aircraft aluminum, silver or black, in three stock lengths to achieve different vertical component spacing: 6", 8", and 10". Custom lengths are also available but my review sample had: from the bottom shelf up, half-dozens of the standard struts to achieve 10", 8", 6", and 6" of actual component space in my stand, to create room for my all-tube electronics. Also part of each level is a beefy, 1"-thick aluminum support brace that looks like a Rorschach of a crossbow, on which rests each S1 Iso shelf. Six large aluminum cones, looking like four-bore shells for an elephant gun, provide the footing on which the entire stand rests. Built within the SXR frame itself is a series of mechanical chokes and other anti-resonance devices that resist structural vibration, providing another line of defense. Latvis and his staff have calculated which precise geometries and densities of material they think work best together to ensure that vibrations dance away from the audio signal in your components.

The MXR has the look of elegant furniture, especially in the premium wood finishes, and can easily be placed in a living room. The SXR has a more functional, industrial appearance that’s perhaps better suited to smaller spaces -- such as my study, its crannied walls lined with books and LPs. My review sample, an SXR-5V blacker than a starless night, looked stunning with my all-black components.

S1 Isolation Base

The center of the SXR system is the S1-1921 Isolation Base ($1695), a 1.5"-thick, 19"x21" (hence the model name), 40-pound, multilayered piece of industrial ingenuity that looks as if it could shield you from uranium. It also comes in a slightly smaller model, the S1-1719 ($1650). At its core are HRS’s proprietary isolation materials crafted to specific geometries; Mike Latvis wouldn’t divulge its makeup. These are jacketed in trim and inlay, both machined from billets of aircraft aluminum. Lifting an S1 and loading it on the stand takes muscle. Lifting five of them, as I did, was a workout.

Attached to the S1 Iso Base is what Latvis calls the "primary isolation stage" of the SXR system: four proprietary, inverted saucer-shaped, elastomer-supported feet that support the S1 shelf and the component sitting on it. More important, these feet decouple the S1 from the SXR frame, dissipating residual vibrational energy and controlling structural resonances. Prominent in the HRS literature and in Latvis’s conversation is the fact that these feet provide "six degrees of freedom isolation," which results in a near-zero geometric surface area that interfaces with the outside world, for broadband isolation on all axes. Each foot has a clever, piston-like elastomer shaft that compresses to a specific degree, depending on the weight it’s designed to bear. Each set of four feet is calibrated to bear specific loads in three ranges that roughly conform to the standard weights of various component types: 0-45, 45-75, and 75-135 pounds. The feet also add another 1.5" of height to the S1 base, making each S1 3" tall.


My older son, Alex (24), and I (58) had a lot of fun assembling the five-shelf SXR-1921-5V stand. I enlisted him because I’m not mechanical, and he’s inherited the skills and zest for that sort of thing from his grandfathers, weekend tinkerers both. Alex is a bicycle enthusiast who’s assembled several touring bikes from scavenged parts, fixed them for his friends, and is now on a cross-country cycling tour with 41 others. Late this winter, though, when the SXR system arrived -- as a wooden pyramid on a pallet, offloaded into our carport -- from Buffalo, New York, Alex was in Eugene, Oregon, where we live, and I called him over to get the party started.

We tore off the shrink-wrap and snapped off the blue ties holding together the seven-piece wooden ziggurat, and, like hod carriers, toted everything inside the house. We stacked crates in the entry parlor according to their labels or lack of same: Iso Bases here, two unlabeled boxes there. Each box containing an Iso Base was clearly marked -- Amp, Preamp, CD, Phono, Nottingham TT -- according to the list of components I’d sent Latvis a few weeks before. Two unlabeled boxes contained the framing and the tools for assembly.

Alex got a big kick out of the ten-page manual and its military-style title: SXR-IV Audio Stand Field Assembly Instruction. I wanted to quit right there, but Alex studied it, then unpacked each box, sorting them by shelf order and categories of assembly, just as instructed. He laid out all the little bubble-wrapped packets of parts (bolts, O-rings, nuts, etc.), the paper-wrapped struts, the five big cross-braces, and the six elephant-bullet rack feet. For each stage of assembly, the manual had clear advice, a photo, or explicit and sequential instructions, dos and don’ts: a wise and patient Virgil guiding his Dante through a purgatorial labyrinth of metal bits. So much was illustrated, so much made sense, that Alex exclaimed laughingly as he successfully completed each stage of assembly, delighting that the tools did exactly the jobs they’d been designed to do, and ecstatic over the process of putting the whole thing together, which he described as a "logical, mechanical meditation." I watched and documented it all with notes and photographs, my major role (besides writing about it) being that of Designated Unwrapper. Ninety no-sweat minutes later, the five stages of the SXR stand stood in my parlor like a rocket’s black gantry. Per instructions, Alex had assembled it upside down, from the top cross-brace first.

Using furniture sliders, Alex and I carefully pushed the SXR frame, still upside down and minus the S1 shelves, across the pile carpet and into my study. We righted the SXR and walked it back to its spot, where it just fit. The frame was a snap to level, its large footers spinning easily. Then, with some puffing, I inserted each shelf, taking care to place each footer, centered in its cup, on the cross braces (this careful maneuvering is a one-man job). I then placed each of my components in the SXR: amps first, on the bottom shelf; then, moving up, my preamp, CD player, and phono stage; and finally, on the top shelf, my 45-pound turntable.


My system consists of a Cary CD 303/300 CD player; a Nottingham Spacedeck turntable (with Heavy Kit), Nottingham 9" Spacearm tonearm (with Pete Riggle VTAF), and Shelter 501 Mk.II (0.4mV) and Zyx Airy 3 (0.24mV) moving-coil cartridges; a Herron VTPH-2 phono stage; Thor TA-1000 Mk.II and deHavilland Mercury 3 preamplifiers; deHavilland KE 50A monoblocks (40W, class-A); and Von Schweikert Audio VR5 HSE loudspeakers (91dB/6 ohms) on plinths of 5/8"-thick MDF. I use Cardas Golden Reference and Herron interconnects (RCA), and Verbatim speaker cables with jumpers. During the review period, I also used two other turntables: the Artemis SA-1 with Schröder DPS tonearm, and a TW-Acustic Raven Two with Jelco SA-250 arm.

I use Balanced Power Technology’s Clean Power Center passive line conditioner for the phono stage and preamps. The Cary CD player goes straight into the wall with a Fusion Audio Predator power cord. The power amps were plugged into an Isoclean 104 II power strip with Cardas Golden Reference AC cables, the strip itself plugged into the wall with another Golden Reference. Other power cords were Thor Red, Fusion Audio Impulse, and Harmonix XDC Studio Master. I have two 15A dedicated lines, both with Oyaide R1 duplex outlets. I used PS Audio Critical Link fuses in the Cary player and the deHavilland preamp and mono amps.

My reference equipment rack is a five-shelf Finite Elemente Signature Pagode E15/110; when it’s in use, I place Finite Elemente Cerapucs under the Cary player. The SXR-1921-5V takes up more real estate and airspace (27"W x 51.5"H x 19.5"D) than does the Pagode (21.625"W x 43.33"H x 19.625"D) -- the HRS is nearly a foot taller, 5" wider, and, loaded with all five S1 Iso Bases, weighs a whopping 360 pounds! Nose tackle territory, indeed.

My listening room is treated with sound panels from Acoustic Sciences Corporation; bookshelves line the right wall, shelves of LPs the left. Also my study, the room is fairly small (12’W x 15’L x 8.5’H); I listen both in the nearfield, and on a couch about 8’ away from the plane described by the front baffles of the speakers. The Von Schweikert VR5s are toed in about 3"; the tweeter axes fire slightly to the outside of my ears when I sit in my standard listening position.

First impressions

I tried digital recordings first -- orchestral music with lush violins -- and at first blush, the sound was disappointing. I heard a gray glare when the first violins dialed up the volume on the "Red Book" layer of Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie-Bremen’s recording of Beethoven’s symphonies 4 and 7 (SACD, RCA 88697-21418-2). I then tried analog. It sounded better -- warmer, a bit sweeter, more tolerable, I told myself -- but I still heard that graying of the sound in the upper midrange, the violins glossing over on Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic’s recording of Beethoven’s Symphony 6 (LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2531 106). I went back to digital and listened to choral music, opera, and Baroque ensembles, and all sounded the same: a gray gloss or sheen masked the upper midrange and roiled the clarity, setting me on edge. What was wrong? This could not be the HRS sound, I thought.

Many audiophiles -- even reviewers -- might be inclined to buy only the SXR rack and S1 shelves, thinking these the major components of the HRS approach, and the Nimbus System and Damping Plates mere "tweaks" and, therefore, optional. Nor did I use them at first, wanting to hear what the frame and shelves alone would do for my system’s sound. However, in my four months with this system, I came to understand that employing the entirety of the HRS approach had merits beyond any I could have anticipated. Still, it took me a while to understand what Mike Latvis had been talking about.

I was perhaps the perfect test subject for the HRS approach: not only keenly interested, but in dire need of help. My listening room has some serious deficiencies. Not only is it small, it has a suspended wooden floor so springy that, two years ago, when I first installed the Von Schweikert VR5 HSE speakers, they suffered severe woofer excursion from acoustic feedback building up in the analog chain. Without this being addressed, the stylus can jump the groove in an LP -- I’ve seen it. I’ve since shored up the floor under the speakers and audio rack, and placed those MDF plinths under the speakers, but even so, acoustic feedback remains a problem, always waiting to reappear. On top of that, the room’s smallness means that the right speaker must sit just next to the component rack, in a kind of well or nook beside a row of bookcases. Severe structural noise comes from the speaker cabinets through the floor and up the audio rack, and extreme airborne noise arrives from my right speaker’s four front-firing drivers (two 7" SEAS woofers, a 5" Audax midrange, and a 1" SEAS dome tweeter). The metallic skins of the phono stage, CD player, line stage, and monoblocks -- each almost cheek-by-jowl with my right speaker and its attendant reflections -- all pick up airborne vibrations. Finally, the SXR rack’s surfaces themselves are all metal, which also contributes to airborne reflective vibrations.

Enter the Nimbus System and Damping Plates

HRS’s Nimbus System, a set of four freestanding feet, works together with the SXR stand and S1 Iso Base to eliminate component chassis noise -- airborne from without, mechanical from within. Each Nimbus System footer comprises a central, 3.4"-diameter Nimbus Spacer of the ubiquitous billet aluminum, available in three heights (0.3", 0.8", 1.3"), and sandwiched by two coffee-coaster-sized Nimbus Couplers of proprietary HRS polymer. These address resonances radiating from below the component. My review set comprised four 0.8" HNS-080 Nimbus Spacers ($43 each) and eight Nimbus Couplers ($32 each).

The Nimbus footers replaced the stock, metallic feet under my Cary 303/300 CD player: two along the player’s rear edge, just inside the empty housings of the Cary’s stock feet, and, at first, one almost directly under the CD tray. Later, I introduced the fourth Nimbus, and then placed one to either side of the tray. I found this produced the cleanest, most balanced sound -- much better than no Nimbuses at all.

For the chassis top, HRS makes available the tidy Damping Plate, which comes in three sizes: 5.5" x 4.5" (1 pound), 9.5" x 4.5" (2 pounds), and 14.5" x 4.5" (3.1 pounds). All are 0.7" thick and made of aircraft aluminum, but with only a single layer of the HRS polymer affixed to the bottom. The Damping Plate, too, addresses internally generated mechanical noise, but in my experience was dramatically effective in reducing airborne vibrations from loudspeakers and room reflections. HRS provided me with two 14.5" x 4.5" Damping Plates ($195 each), which I found so useful in clarifying the audio signal that I shuttled them between my turntable and CD player, depending on which I was using.

The airborne noise, produced mainly by my right speaker, that had been exciting the metallic skins of the components, particularly those of the Herron phono and Cary CD player, was stopped dead in its tracks by the HRS Damping Plates. The gains were audible across the audioband, improving the extension and expressiveness of the bass, clarifying and opening up the midrange to its natural sweetness, and purifying the treble.

What’s an isolated system sound like?

The first LP that grabbed my attention was of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed by Arthur Grumiaux and the New Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Alceo Galliera (LP, Philips Festivo 6570 051). Via the Nottingham Spacedeck turntable and Spacearm, the first movement, Allegro ma non troppo, sounded much more anchored and solid than it had on my Finite Elemente Pagode Signature rack. The solidity and focus of the performance now compared favorably with that of the Artemis SA-1 ’table; on the SXR, starts and stops with the Nottingham were sharper, images more focused, sonic timing more precise. The difference in some ways was subtle, yet ultimately profound -- I heard the bass viols and their throbbing mournfulness, their rumbling, timpani-like tones that I’d thought were pizzicati but now realized were sautillé -- bows bounced jovially against strings. The gain in detail was such that each instrument seemed much more brightly lit and timbrally delineated from the rest: solo violin from string sections, timpani from bass viols, cellos from woodwinds. The bass foundation was wider and bloomier. Inner phrasings of all string instruments were clearer, more nuanced, more expressive. Grumiaux’s violin was sharper, sprightlier, without losing any sweetness. His trills, vibrato, and cadenzas were more sparkling, flavorful, and tactile, contrasting wonderfully with the orchestra’s fuller timbres and equally enlivened harmonics. There was, overall, more to listen to -- details not spotlit, but the whole gaining a wider, more articulate palette of orchestral sound. Comparing the Nottingham’s sound when sitting on the Finite Elemente rack, all the organic thrill of flow and most of the timbral richness of the orchestra were there, but there were also serious gains in focus and verisimilitude with the SXR. The SXR brought the Nottingham closer to the performance level of the Artemis SA-1 in terms of weight, solidity, and clarity, while extending the soundstage a bit farther into the room, all of the instruments sounding more up-front than with the FE rack.

Turning to CDs, I wanted to explore complex harmonies and a rich tonal palette, so I chose Miles Ahead, the first of Miles Davis’s famous collaborations with Gil Evans, who wrote and conducted the arrangements for jazz orchestra (Columbia CL 1041, from Davis and Evans’ The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings). Here, I noted that the Damping Plates dramatically improved clarity, impact, cleanness, tone, and bass extension, and that the impact and bloom of the horns was much more dynamic and precise. On "My Ship," the orchestra’s coherence, tonal colors, and explosiveness were reminiscent of the tonal saturation and dynamics of mono on a good system. The room was gorgeous with music cool as a sweet lime gimlet as I listened to aching sonic lamés and chiffon decays of Davis’s flugelhorn, rumbling sweetness from the bass clarinet, and was startled by coordinated, harmonically complicated blasts from the horn section.

Wishing to further test the system’s purity of resolution of complex harmonies, I went to a recording of late medieval choral music -- Ockeghem’s Missa Mi-mi, sung by The Clerk’s Group, directed by Edward Wickham (CD, Gaudeamus CD GAU 139). This choral ensemble from Oxford, England, comprises 11 singers: two sopranos, three altos, two tenors, and two basses. On Sanctus, what I heard was especially sweet, clear, and harmonically satisfying. While such polyphony is challenging for any audio system, the tenor line on Sanctus stood out as especially sweet and clear. As with so much of my music, once I had the full SXR system in place, I was able to notice little nuances, vocal shadings, and expressions of verve in the tenor performances that I hadn’t before. It wasn’t so much that these stood out crisply, outlined by attack and decay transients that lived beyond their organic temporality; instead, they felt less lost in the mix, perhaps more fully revealed by a consistently lower noise floor -- so much so that I could discern inflections in vocal lines that might have simply blended in before, however naturally. With the SXR rack providing a foundation for my system, listening to choral music was more like slowly viewing an embroidered tapestry -- my eye taking in the lavish gestalt of the whole even as it leisurely picked out recurring motifs, dawdled on the purity of a single image, or followed a line of development all the way to its culmination.

For a pure voice in our time, though, I can think of no better than American soprano Renée Fleming. "Casta Diva," the famous bel canto aria from Bellini’s Norma, on Fleming’s eponymous CD (Decca 289 467 049 2), begins with a long introduction from the flute, which carries the theme that builds slowly and somewhat languidly until Fleming takes it up, commanding it like a Siren from Shangri-La. The London Philharmonic’s strings sounded warm, open, and completely deft in support, but this selection is all about the voice. The vocal part begins at the lower end of the soprano range, creeping quickly to a high note that Fleming spins with the lightest vibrato. She then increases the volume even as she multiplies her interpretive shadings -- more volume and vibrato with each measure, until she nails a gorgeously dramatic series of roulades before the London Voices join her with airy sotto voce singing. Through my system, Fleming’s top notes were completely pure -- no distortion even when orchestral strings rose in crescendo, and Fleming’s volume along with them. The system presented a complex musical tapestry full of layered shifts in dynamics and exchanges of focus from orchestra to Fleming to chorus and back again to Fleming. Throughout, what I appreciated was the authority, clarity, and cleanness the SXR system brought to my system. It delivered all the transparency I believe my system is capable of. The HRS motto is "Discover your system’s capability." I think I have.

To check out the boogie factor, I played some good ol’ boy blues-rock: the original edition of the Allman Brothers Band’s At Fillmore East (LP, Capricorn SD2-802), and its reissue, the greatly expanded and retitled The Fillmore Concerts (CD, Polydor 314 517 294-2). What I discovered was that the SXR rack brought out a huge difference, not only between the quality of these recordings in different formats, but between analog and digital overall.

On Willie Cobbs’ "You Don’t Love Me," guest Thom Doucette’s harmonica honked on the LP with chromatic richness, bluesy screeches and tweets. Duane Allman, on his slide Gibson Les Paul, snarled, screeched, and moaned like a Pavarotti of the blues, sometimes letting the notes linger, at others biting them off, damping them with the heel of his palm, then wailing swiftly into another rapid run of blues roulades. At one point I thought I heard guitarist Dicky Betts’s entry solo just lag the beat for two or three measures before catching up. But when both guitars played in unison, yawking and twanging together, it made me want to get up and move my Macon.

And pace, rhythm, and timing! During the drummers’ breakdown, Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks play in tight unison on the beat, with light variations, the rimwork of one simultaneous with the snare rolls of the other, producing a delicious complexity of well-timed, complementary strokes. The SXR created a foundation not only for a lower noise floor and "blacker" silences, but also for thrills of timing -- the simultaneous work of the two drummers produced a tapestry of rhythm not unlike the harmonic complexity of a polyphonic choir, one drummer’s jazzy polyrhythms against the other’s steady, bluesy thunk and chunk. From my notes: Resolution, speed, and perfect timing.

My system was now so resolving of percussion that I cast about in my collection for more. Listening to Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra’s recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (CD, Philips 289 468 035 2), what most grabbed me -- aside from the depth of soundstage and the clarity of the woodwinds (never have I heard such nuanced shrieks!) -- was how articulate the percussion instruments were now that my components were supported by the SXR rack. I’m no fan of marveling at sound effects or describing artifacts, but I’ll make an exception in the case of the SXR. I began to notice, during the Introduction, that the triangle I’d always heard providing sweet, chiming notes in the background was no longer just a brilliant tinkle, but seemed to have morphed into sounds much more organic, much more developed across time. The sound now had three stages: the dull impact of the musician’s stroke, then a mellowing inner note, and finally a sweet, metallic shimmer that dispersed into the fabric of the music.

Furthermore, the combination of timpani and bass-drum strokes at the first climax of Augurs of Spring: Dance for the Adolescents came alive in a way I’d not quite heard before. There is, near the outset of this section, a discordant series of slashing pulses from the strings and horns, accents landing irregularly and propulsively in a repeated series of rhythmic phrases. But at the end of the first series of repeats, the timpani and bass drum are struck in a percussive sequence as though a giant had swiftly tapped his foot three times on the earth, then given it a good, resounding stomp that shatters the stone underfoot. In the weave of the music, this thwack was magnificent, fully three-dimensional and organic, with both velocity and articulation, beginning with a sweet, soft top that exploded into a hard, nearly floor-busting bottom.


Once all of the HRS SXR system was in place, I began to enjoy a clarity, depth, nuance, and grandeur of sound. It was as though a painting by a Dutch master -- Van Eyck, say -- had been taken down from its museum wall and carefully cleaned by an academy-trained conservator, its layers of ague-colored varnish removed so that its natural pigments, still inherently vibrant across the centuries, could shine anew. I thoroughly enjoyed what I heard, be it analog or digital, and found that the SXR rack system elicited from my system a far higher level of resolution and musical drama. It also brought out the best performances I’d ever heard from my Nottingham Spacedeck and Spacearm, and more sweetness, nuance, and delicacy from the Artemis SA-1 turntable and Schröder arm, which had already sounded solid and nimble. Both analog sources benefited from the rock-solid stability of the SXR frame and damping of the S1 base, closing a large gap I’d heard between them when they were placed on my Finite Elemente Pagode Signature rack -- a gap large enough that I’d felt the differences were more of character than of quality. What’s more, the HRS system seemed to increase the gap between analog and digital play in my system, giving analog a quantum-leap advantage in impact, richness, and bass -- not to mention naturalness of tone -- over digital.

If you feel your system has come together in a kind of audio maturity -- a maturity in which each component seems the best and most sophisticated you could have while still maintaining synergy with the others -- then you might consider trying an HRS SXR rack system. For those interested in getting the most out of their audio components, the high price of the SXR -- the system reviewed costs $15,292 -- shouldn’t be much of an impediment, as the point would be to get as close to a system’s optimal performance as possible. I think the SXR will do that. As the company motto states, "Discover your system’s capability." Audition a Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR rack, Nimbus System, and Damping Plates, and see what a coherent, complementary, and thoroughly choreographed resonance-control system can do for your components. A Nureyev of a nose tackle will suspend them aloft so that no foul noise from earth or air will corrupt the purity of their song.

. . . Garrett Hongo

SXR Audio Stand
Price: $5995 USD (five shelves)

S1 Isolation Base
Price: $1695 USD each

Damping Plate
Price: $195 USD each

Nimbus Coupler
Price: $32.50 USD each

Nimbus Spacer
Price: $43 USD each

Warranty (all): Five years parts and labor.

System price: $15,292 USD

Harmonic Resolution Systems
2495 Main St., Suite 355
Buffalo, NY 14214
Phone: (716) 873-1437
Fax: (716) 873-14

E-mail: info@avisolation.com
Website: www.avisolation.com

Harmonic Resolution Systems responds:

I would like to thank Garrett Hongo for his review of the Harmonic Resolution Systems Inc. SXR audio stand, S1 Isolation Bases, and our Nimbus and Damping Plate chassis noise-reduction products. I enjoyed Garrett's unique visual description of his positive experience with the Harmonic Resolution Systems products. The phrase "Once all of the HRS SXR system was in place, I began to enjoy a clarity, depth, nuance, and grandeur of sound. It was as though a painting by a Dutch master -- Van Eyck, say -- had been taken down from its museum wall and carefully cleaned by an academy-trained conservator, its layers of ague-colored varnish removed so that its natural pigments, still inherently vibrant across the centuries, could shine anew" is just a great visual way to describe the substantial impact HRS products have on a system’s performance.

Harmonic Resolution Systems Inc. recognizes that our customers have a wide range of components and system configurations. That is exactly why we design a wide range of products that perform specific tasks allowing each of our customers to select what products are required to obtain exceptional performance regardless of the particular system conditions and personal preferences. Garrett put this philosophy to an extreme test in his review system as the source components are less than a few feet from one of the speakers. Under his particular system conditions he found that a combination of our products provided the best overall performance. His final product selection is very close to what we would expect to provide optimal performance given his particular system conditions. I would also like to thank Jeff Fritz and Doug Schneider of Ultra Audio for having Garrett review our complete system and use his exceptional command of the English language to communicate his very positive experience with our products.

Best regards,

Michael Latvis
Harmonic Resolution Systems Inc.


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