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|Suggested Retail Price:||$4.49|
|Description:||CD stabilizer mat|
|Manufacturer URL:||Herbie's Audio Lab|
|Review by Quint (A) on March 30, 2007 at 11:26:29|
IP Address: 22.214.171.124
|Add Your Review|
for the Black Hole
I've always liked Steve Herbelin's products. Generally very effective and reasonably priced, and the customer service is first-rate.
I own his tube dampers, Tenderfeet, Iso-Cups and balls, and every iteration of his CD mats. I've particularly liked the CD mats. The Grungebuster 2007, in particular, was very impressive, easily besting my Marigo Reference at a fraction of the price.
To my surprise, Steve has apparently replaced the GB 2007 with something called the Black Hole--at a quarter of the price. Ever curious, I ordered up a BH, which I received a few days ago.
Appropriately enough, the BH is a circular black mat about the same size as the Grungebuster. Like all of Herbie's mats, it attaches around the spindle hole of the disc. I don't know all the technical details, but I think it might be loaded with carbon particles. Don't quote me on that, though.
Anyway, it's SUPER sticky--much stickier than any of the Grungebusters, which, while it might make it harder to remove, also addresses one of the few gripes I had about the GBs: namely, their tendency to lose adhesion rather quickly and not stick at all to some discs. No such problem here. I've applied the BH to about 20-25 discs thus far, and while it's lost some of its adhesion, it's still far stickier than any of the GBs.
On to the sound. Feeling that the GB 2007 was audibly superior to all the previous iterations of the Grungebuster, I used that as my reference. I used several discs, but the ones I kept coming back to were Dire Straits' eponymous debut and Neil Young's supremely well-recorded "Live at Massey Hall."
Though I certainly know better by now, there's still a nagging part of me that equates cost with level of performance. The Black Hole shattered that notion. From the first few notes, it was apparent that Steve has bettered the GB 2007, and at a fraction of the price. The things I noticed right away were improved resolution, transient speed, and high-frequency smoothness--areas I never thought the 2007 was particularly deficient in. The Black Hole is aptly named, as there is now a silence between notes that is downright eerie, allowing the sustain and decay of acoustic guitar to shine through as never before. On the Neil Young disc, Neil's guitar is very well recorded, and with the Black Hole in place, the guitar had a shimmer and bite, and the notes held in space longer, than with the 2007.
Bass weight and speed were also improved. On Dire Strait's "Water of Love," the bass is relatively deep and powerful, and with the Black Hole on the disc, that bass seemed even more powerful, not to mention quicker and better defined.
Overall, I'm incredibly impressed. It's VERY rare in this industry that a manufacturer replaces a product with a less-expensive version that's actually superior. Steve Herbelin should be commended for that. For $4.49 a pop (less if you order more than one), the Black Hole is about as close to a no-brainer as I can think of. I simply won't listen to a disc without it. Of course, YMMV, and Steve does offer a money-back guarantee, but I'm not sure many people who hear this thing will take advantage of that guarantee.
|Product Weakness:||Can be tenaciously sticky at first, but it eventually loosens up a bit|
|Product Strengths:||Faster transients, deeper silence between notes, improved resolution and overall dynamics, ridiculously affordable|
|Associated Equipment for this Review:|
|Preamplifier (or None if Integrated):||None|
|Sources (CDP/Turntable):||Oppo DV-970|
|Speakers:||Von Schweikert VR-4 HSE|
|Music Used (Genre/Selections):||Rock/pop|
|Room Size (LxWxH):||24 x 20 x 7|
|Time Period/Length of Audition:||A few days|
|Other (Power Conditioner etc.):||Jena Labs|
|Type of Audition/Review:||Product Owner|
I'll be brief: based on this thread I tried it - I have used a previous grungebuster with pleasing results but...
... the Black Hole is a knock out. This thing works quite well, improved bass articulation is what strikes me most in my system as well as sense of increased 'music being made here' presence. I got a impression of over-damping in some of my intial a/b tests but after a while I got use to the better 'foucus and definition' and less, well, grunge!
I've had Herbie's web page bookmarked forever now. I was going to purchase an original GB mat but just never got around to it.
I have one of the original Marigo labs mats and I rarely use it. IMHO it always ended up making things sound worse. It would go in flat and give some minor improvements but after playing for a while the upper frequencies would go downhill. Upon opening the CD tray I'd always find the Marigo mat would have distorted itself and wasn't laying flat anymore.
I can't wait to try the BH now and be free of the bending and flattening woes!
I've been meaning to try some of Herbie's products for some time. With the new price on the cd mat, I couldn't resist.
I had some 'holy sh*t' moments. Very impressive.
So impressive in fact I sent an email to Steve about footer recommendations and now I have two sets of Tenderfeet on the way for me CD and pre
Were you using any kind of cd mat before? I'll be comparing the BH to a Audio Prism cd Black light. I have a feeling the BH will do much more to improve the sound over the thin Audio Prism mat, which doesn't even adhere to the disk.
I rarely used it because it would never remain flat on the disc. I did pull it out and listen to it on a few discs before my BH arrived and it either made no difference or actually hurt some if it wasn't flat enough.
I loved the G2 until I realized that I was losing some HF information. Thought maybe it was a balance thing or that I was mistaken. So I took it to a friend's place with a truly revealing setup capable of nuances I only dream of.
He loved it at first too. Then we did the test on those HF sounds and it had the same disappointing end result. So I stopped using them.
We're not talking big time loss here, just a very subtle thing on some recordings. Overall they're an improvement over "raw" discs. And I'm not dissing the folks at Herbies, who are really excellent to work with, BTW.
So I'm going to ask you enthusiasts of the BH version to test it out on the more refined and nuanced recordings and listen very very closely to the HF. Tell me if this one rolls off anything or is a clear winner all the way around.
Not being a wet blanket, here, just asking for your experience in the real world of your own homes, which is faster than sending off for these things in the mail.
Without measurements its hard to say for sure, but, in my opinion, there is no roll off on the Black Hole; however, I do think the the highs are recessed a bit. Its easy to confuse the smoothing of high frequencies with a roll-off of the frequencies. On the other hand, it well could be that when I hear the smoothing and slight recession of the highs that there is a roll-off. Without taking measurements, neither of us can be certain. All I can say is that I hear all the shimmer of cymbals and the highest of high notes on vocals with and without the BH mat, but those notes are smoother and not as dominant when I use the BH. I'm sure this doesn't answer your question, but its the best I can do.
I had the same HF criticism with the original GB, but I don't hear it with the Black Hole. The highs are definitely smoother with the BH, but I don't see it as a problem. Whether it's rolling off or not, only measurements can tell, but to my ears, it's removing some kind of distortion product that tends to accentuate the high frequencies on many CDs. Different people will see it differently, though. Most of the CDs I tested it on are very well recorded, BTW.
Until this thread I thought the black hole (BH) was a cheaper and therefore sonically inferior one-off use alternative meant to be stuck permanently onto each disc. If so, I'd thought it to be quite costly to use at USD $4.00 a pop.
After reading the comments here, I did a comparo: (1) neat or raw, (2) with Grungebuster 2007 and (3) with BH, on 2 chestnuts I'm utterly familiar with: Holy Cole's Temptation and Duke's This One's for Blanton. In a nutshell after 1 hour of listening:
1. Raw: Sounds unfocussed. Piano stabs on Duke's, ring with artifacts or noise givng the high frequencies an edgy sheen. Holy's vocals merge with the sounds of the backing instruments. Sounds muddled.
2. With BH: Dramatic increment in resolution akin to turning up both the contrast and sharpness settings on a TV monitor. A greater solidity easily discernible on the bass attacks which are the hallmarks of both discs. A more relaxed presentation, yet, to use a cliche, more 3D.
3. GB: Similar to BH. Improvement over raw but less so than BH. Didn't expect the BH to better it, but it did.
I'm by nature a very reluctant endorser of products that I buy (due to sheer laziness more than anything else) but Steve is a thoroughly decent and upfront merchant who truly deserves to succeed.
I'm glad you wrote this review. I was going to write one myself, but got bogged down in some mixed results with the BH mat. On the positive, it does everything you describe. It also brings out a spatial quality in the music that is down right errie. I also find it seems to deepen the tone of voices and instruments making everything sound more right and relaxed. Its effects are much more revealing than any of the prior Grungebuster mats I've tried.
The one problem I had at first was I was hearing a slightly over damped sound in my system. I thought I was hearing a very slight recess of dynamics. After a few weeks of playing around and comparing notes with some others who have used the BH mat, I've concluded that the mat brings out such a great amount of detail that I was hearing the effects of other tweaks in my system. I had to readjust one Iso Cup Ball that I was using. I had been using the Super Sonic Hardballs, which give a solid tight sound. I switched one ball in the front for a Gabon Ebony and that made all the difference. As of yesterday I switched the Gabon for a new Gabon Gyro and between the use of the Gyro and the Black Hole, I am now hearing the best sound I've ever heard in my system (more on the Gyro later).
My one complaint is that the BH mat brings out so much detail, you start hearing more of the flaws in the lessor quality or engineered recordings.
Of course, all tweaks are system dependent so results may vary for others. I will say, however, that when I would find a disc where I "thought" the Black Hole did not improve the sound, I would remove it to A/B that disc without the mat, and in each and every case, I always preferred the disc with the BH, without hesitation or second guessing.
Lastly, as I've said on many other occassions, Steve, at Herbies, is great to deal with. A no hassle 90 day return policy makes it impossible not to try his products. And, if you need advice on whether his tweaks are right for you and your system, he will not try to pressure you to buy anything. Its more like to talking to a fellow audiophile about tweaks than it is someone trying to sell you something.
I like their products and they are great to deal with as well. I havew tried all of the mats except this new one. I will give one a try. The original is my fav at this point. A 2.2 came off inside my CDP. The original came loose once. I use the masking tape solution Steve recommmends with success.
I bought the GB2007 right before the Black Hole was released, and also feel the GB2007 to be much superior to previous incarnations. Your report means of course a swing over to Herbie's to get at least one BH. But a swing over to Herbie's never results in buying only ONE of his great products...
Oh well, maybe this time I can exercise a bit of discipline....
Thanks for sharing your experience!
I can really relate to your problem. I think I own almost every Herbie tweak he sells. With the exception of an item or two, I've been a very satisfied customer. And, in a couple of cases, the Herbies products exceeded my expectations.
Even if you wind up buying more than you should, or have a buyer's wallet remorse after you order, you know you can always return the product(s) w/in 90 days. Herbies return policy and customer service is Class A all the way. No hassle returns and terrific advice. In fact, Steve, at Herbies, is such a great guy that I often feel he shoots himself in the foot in some of the advice he gives. On more than one occassion, he's talked me out of buying something. My email correspondance with him is more like talking to a fellow audiophile than a company trying to make a buck.
Anyway, our sentiments of #$@#%#!!! aside, you should at least try the Black Hole. Its an interesting tweak and I concurr with the reviewer's opinion for the most part. I'll elaborate further on that if I get the chance to post more when there's time.
Am I supposed to order one, and transfer it from Cd to Cd as I listen to various stuff?
Or, buy one for each of my favorite CDs?
Its really up to you. They were designed to be permanently placed on a CD, but you can transfer them from CD to CD which is what I am doing. I bought 3 and have to date only used one. I can't think of anything that's costs less than $5 that can bring about such a dramatic change to how your system sounds. Buy one and try them out and I almost sure you won't be able to live without them. They just make everything sound so real or very very close to how they should sound.
Along with the Black Hole, get the 50 cent carrying case....steve may even include one. then, when not in use or overnight it stays clean & tacky in its little case. the case will hold 2 of these, very handy.
hard to believe Steve is replacing a $20 gadget with a $5 one.
i've been impressed with every herbie's product I own as well. the WE mat and record puck sound great.
Though it may require a *little* effort at first, you can easily transfer it from disc to disc. And it gets easier with time. No major hassles.
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