Tidal Speakers and Ypsilon Amps
Visiting one of Aaudio Imports' rooms gave me another opportunity to hear Tidal loudspeakers from Germany. I initially encountered an extremely imposing pair of these speakers on the first day of the show, paired with BAlabo electronics and Echole cabling. Now before me was a smaller pair of the Tidal speakers, either the Contriva Diacera SE ($73,500/pair) or Piano Cera ($28,400/pair). (The equipment sheet listed both models).
The rest of the system consisted of Bergmann of Denmark's Sindre Airbearing Turntable ($21,000); Ypsilon of Greece CDT100 CD transport/CD player ($26,000), DAC100 tube DAC ($29,000), VPS100 tube phono stage ($26,000), MC10 step-up transformer ($2800), PST100 MKII tube preamp ($37,000), and Aelius push-pull hybrid mono amps ($34,000/pair). Cabling was by Stage III, custom hand-built in LA with carbon-fiber castings. (The speaker cables are the most expensive, at $19,800 for a 3m pair).
Having finally gotten through all that, I can actually talk about the sound. Playing an LP of Johnny Hartmann, clearly the favorite male vocalist for demos at CES 2010, singing "Easy Living," the system sounded rich and delicious. The midrange was simply wonderful. I wondered, however, why the piano was so tinkly, lacking the same warmth I had heard on the piano accompanying Hartmann on the VTL/TAD system. Was it the recording? I was determined to find out. Thanks to Bob Kehn of Oakland's Audio Image, who I was sitting beside me, I was able to borrow the Reference Recordings disc of Nojima Plays Liszt. Listening to this disc, which I know well, there was a brightness in the high treble that suggests that Tidal speakers need more room to breathe than the small rooms in the Venetian allow. Beyond that, the rest of the range was glorious.
Brian Damkroger comments: The sound of the Ypsilon/Tidal system was what one would expectbig, detailed, dimensional, dynamic, and loud enough to compete with the ambient noise. Still, not necessarily something something I would choose to spend $200k on. But thenand here's the really cool new toythey switched to analog sourced from the Bergman Sindre Airbearing turntable/tonearm setup. Wownow this was a system that made me think "I'll take it...box it up." The Bergman-driven system had a timbral correctness and dimensionality that was truly extraordinary. The basic elements of the system were as they were driven by the CD setup, but the presentation using an analog source was much more musical, and much more realistic. I've always thought that well-designed linear-tracking arms had a "rightness" that put their performance on different footing than pivoted arms, so that might be part of my being taken by the Bergman setup, but it's definitely something I need to bug JA about.