Harmonix RF-808Z “Million” Maestro Tuning Feet by Terry London
Almost twelve years ago, I wrote a review on Harmonix Studio Master X-DC350 M2R power cords. They were reasonably priced; the Studio Master power cord cost a couple of thousand dollars less than my Stealth Audio power cords, yet, they outperformed my reference in every sonic parameter. Historically, my Editor-in-Chief of Stereo Times, Clement Perry, raved about the Harmonix/Reimyo CDP-777 CD player (2005) and later made the Harmonix/Reimyo CDT-777 and DAP-999EX combo a Most Wanted Component for 2010. The man behind all these highly regarded Harmonix / Combak /Reimyo pieces is CEO/Designer Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi. His worldwide reputation as a Japanese “ Zen Master” of sound tuning is based on his beautiful sounding electronics and a vast array of tuning spikes, wooden feet, tuning platforms, room tuning devices, and power conditioners. Many stories of Mr. Kiuchi being asked to tune bright/forward sounding systems, struggling with one-note plummy bass, rolled off high frequencies, and other assorted sound ills. Yes, he often moved the speakers to different positions. However, the upstream equipment was never replaced but placed on his different tuning devices and some of his room tuning devices. To the amazement of the system’s owner, a fabulous sonic transformation would occur.
I had such wonderful memories of the beautiful musical presentation of the Harmonix/Reimyo CD player and DACs that I wanted to hear how they would compare to today’s state-of-the-art digital gear. My search brought me to the present-day Harmonix/Combak US importer Colin King, owner of Gestalt Audio in Nashville, TN. The sidebar story is that after inquiring about the possibility of acquiring a Reimyo DAC, Harmonix/Combak stopped manufacturing them about seven years ago; he could get me a NOS stock one from Japan, or I could purchase his demo DAP-999EX Limited “Toku” DAC. The “Toku” now resides in my stable of DACs, and yes, it competes, regardless of price, with some of the highest-regarded current production Digital to Analog converters manufactured today. The experience with the Reimyo DAC aroused my interest in reviewing one of the tuning feet that have always been highly regarded by reviewers and audiophiles worldwide. Colin was extremely knowledgeable in discussing what specific device would be the subject of this review. The decision was made that the RF-808Z “Million” Maestro Tuning Feet-Special Edition, which retails for $2400/set of 4, would be the device to review for the following reasons: 1) No weight limit for the RF-808Z Maestro tuning feet, so my heaviest amplifiers and large speakers could be used in the reviewing process. 2) While not inexpensive, the set of Maestro tuning feet offers excellent value in the massive catalog of Harmonix/Combak tuning devices.
The Maestro tuning feet are exquisitely built from different layers of proprietary wood and metal. The width of each tuning foot is 2 inches, and its height is 1.3 inches. You can adjust the height to almost another 0.118 inches by unscrewing the bottom piece. Each foot weighs a robust 1 pound 4 ounces. They come shipped in a hand-crafted wooden box. I will not attempt to explain the theory regarding how the Maestro tuning feet affect the sonic performance of a system’s presentation. If you go to the Harmonix/Combak website, many reviews and papers explain Mr. Kiuchi’s theories and rationales for his tuning devices. Colin was clear about two points; he was spot-on regarding both. First, you will hear an immediate improvement, which is not subtle, or there will be no change. Secondly, set the tuning feet with about 50% of the foot on the outside of the chassis sides or fronts for optimum effect. I have had some of the highest-regarded isolation devices and footers in my system that did not lead to improvements. Many dried out the timbres/colors in my system’s presentation in pursuit of greater clarity or micro-details. Others flattened out the spatiality of my system’s sound-staging abilities. The Harmonix/Combak Maestro tuning feet followed the Hippocratic Oath “First, do no harm.” As predicted by Colin, either the device produced very positive changes under certain pieces of equipment or nothing happened positively or negatively at all with other pieces of gear.
I did lengthy experimenting using the Maestro tuning feet under solid state and tube gear consisting of CD transports, preamplifiers, power amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, and digital to analog converters. The devices were auditioned in three different systems. What stood out in my test results were significant positive changes under every DAC and preamplifier mounted on the Maestro tuning feet. These specific changes were a higher level of liquidity and effortlessness; on large orchestral music, there was a sense of cohesiveness that made the placement of individual players easier to locate, an overall increase of tonal purity, and a tightening of lower bass frequencies. However, under CD transports and amplifiers, I experienced no changes at all. Mr. King was also correct in that spacing the tuning feet halfway out on the sides of the chassis brought the highest percentage of the beautiful changes I stated above.
The Harmonix/Combak Corporation RF-808Z “Million” Maestro tuning feet are not what you purchase to “fix” a deficit or shortcoming in your system. After you have got your system to perform to your taste and satisfaction, it would behoove you to audition these excellent tuning devices to see if they provide another level of refinement/finesse to your system. Colin King of Gestalt Audio is a fine gentleman knowledgeable about all the Harmonix/Combak products and has an excellent audition policy. You set up with him, with flexibility, the amount of time you want to audition/experiment with the tuning devices. If you are unsatisfied, you send them back; the only fee is the shipping cost back to Gestalt Audio.
Price:P $2400 set of four
US Distributor: Gestalt Audio
Terry’s Associated Equipment
Pass Labs DAC-1
Audio Note (UK) DAC 4.1x Balanced Signature
Reimyo DAP-999EX Limited “Toku”
Por-Ject reference CD transport & Linear Tube Audio Power Supply
CEC-3 belt-driven CD transport
Mark Levinson 31.5 reference transport
Coda FET 07x preamplifier
Coda 16.0 amplifier
SPL Elector preamplifier
SPL 1200 amplifier
AricAudio Super SET 300B amplifier
AricAudio Motherlode MKIII preamplifier
Tekton Design Ulfberth & Perfect Set
NSMT Model 100
NSMT band pass subwoofer x two
Musician Audio – Knight One speaker
Black Cat Cables- digit 110AES/EBU-3202 XLR IC’s
Krimuss Audio Adrenaline speaker wire
Krolo Design reference rack & footers
Puritan Audio power conditioner & circuit grounding system
Audio Archon power cords
Stereo Times Masthead
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter
Site Management Clement Perry
Ad Designer: Martin Perry