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Herbie's Audio Lab Black Hole Accessory Review by Quint

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Model: Black Hole
Category: Accessory
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
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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:
Amplifier: Dussun V-8i
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Oppo DV-970
Speakers: Von Schweikert VR-4 HSE
Cables/Interconnects: Jena Labs
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock/pop
Room Size (LxWxH): 24 x 20 x 7
Room Comments/Treatments: Minimal
Time Period/Length of Audition: A few days
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Jena Labs
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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