Finishing Up With Evolution and darTZeel

As John Atkinson and I entered the room at THE Show in which darTZeel electronics partnered Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers, I was immediately struck by the fullness of the midrange. It was as though the system was opening its heart and welcoming us in. That's how warm and nurturing the sound was.

What was especially wonderful was that this system was about far more than midrange. From a very open, clear and realistic top all way down, the darTZeel/Evolution Acoustics system sang true. And beautifully. Very, very beautifully.

First we listened to a favorite audiophile demo, tenor José Carreras singing an excerpt from Ariel Ramirez's Misa Criolla. The air around voices and instruments was as wondrous as the clarity of playback.

Then came something very, very special. But first, a description of the system.

This not exactly bargain-priced system consisted of darTZeel’s new NHB-458 monoblocks, whose 1000Wpc will set you back a mere $135,000/pair, and the darTZeel NHB-18 NS reference preamplifier with MC phono section ($29,000). Speakers were the brand-new, just introduced Evolution Acoustics MMtwo loudspeakers ($35,000/pair). Weighing 375 lbs each, these gorgeous babies claim a frequency response of 10Hz–40kHz ±3dB, and a sensitivity of 93dB. They also sound marvelous.

The rest of the system comprised Evolution Acoustics' DRSC speaker cables ($5000/pair), the LINK-Reference 50 ohm BNC–BNC interconnect ($6000), and PC2One power conditioning power cord ($2000). Playback was from either a Playback Systems MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD player with 24/192 input ($15,000), or the world-premiered Music Servers Direct MSD-1 Reference Music Server ($1995) controlled by an Apple iPod Touch. Other goodies included the Audience Adept Response aR6-T power conditioner ($4600).

Yes, it was an expensive room, filled with equipment I cannot possibly afford. But it's not about me, John, or Stereophile; it's about the music that gives us joy, and the equipment that brings it to us in all its glory.

After the Carreras track, Jonathan Tinn of Evolution Acoustics began telling John how much he loved listening to a track from one of John's recordings, Cantus' While You Are Alive. (Stereophile's newest reviewer, long-time audiophile Erick Lichte, was Music Director of Cantus at the time of the recording and produced the CD). As the conversation grew more animated, I quietly mentioned that I just happened to have the CD with me.

I cannot begin to tell you how it felt to enjoy John's energy as he immersed himself in two tracks from one his finest recordings. What I can tell you was that the sound was little short of heavenly.

On that high, I bid adieu to THE Show and CES 2010. If John, in his talk earlier in the afternoon, both acknowledged the bad year that has past and the good year that he expects to unfold, the Evolution Acoustics/darTZeel demo confirmed that 2011 has the potential to launch a very full, rewarding, and musical decade. With sound like theirs, the admittedly struggling high end gives indications that it is indeed alive and well.

The Show is now so large that it is impossible for any one writer to visit every exhibit. While it was our goal, with six people covering CES and THE Show, for someone to at least make an appearance in each room, (Our apologies if that was not the case.) I regret that I left unable to visit a host of rooms at the top of my list: PrimaLuna, Bel Canto, Peachtree Audio, Kimber, XLO, Pass Labs, PS Audio, Parasound, Simaudio, The Lars, Harbeth, Furutech, Scot Markwell of TheMusic.com, Immedia. . . Then there were all the companies I'd never heard of whose products I wanted to hear. CES had at least 274 high-end audio exhibitors in 206 suites and air-walled conference rooms and THE Show offered another 110 exhibitors; the list of missed opportunities is huge. I never even had the opportunity to hug Marjorie Baumert, who continues to maintain and build the increasingly successful Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in honor of her late husband, Al Stiefel. But we can only do what we can do.

Thanks to all the designers, engineers, manufacturers, reps, and retailers who make CES and THE Show possible. Above all, thanks for giving us the opportunity to enjoy the best that recorded music has to offer.

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COMMENTS
Kris's picture

Are the 458 monoblocks made of solid gold at 135K/pair?

Bruce B's picture

Gold at $1100/oz. would make the amps over 1 million $$$.

Willis's picture

Wow, the snake oil still flies at these events.

Getabetterjob's picture

What u talkin' about Willis?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

From all I am told, snake oil is incapable of making music. This equipment does. Beautifully.BTW, has anyone checked the excellent Wikipedia discussion of snake oil? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil. As it turns out, snake oil is a bonafide traditional medicine in China. Some of the put down came out of competition from makers of patent medicines. Others came from the lack of understanding that not all snakes, and hence not all snake oils, are equally potent. My God, the analogy to the sound of different cables is apt after all!!!

Ricardo's picture

While this kind of products sells (and they do), they will continue to exists. In this times of recession, more than ever, this target are the most profitable and does not show decreases in sales (in contrary). Therefor ...

GEORGE's picture

Why only $135,000 why not $157,000 since they just make up numbers. Even people who have this kind of dough, to buy anything like this, they would still be better to think and buy stuff that ain't being sold at the absurdity levels. No audio amplifier can possibly justify this. $5,000 wires, yeah, really push the stick in harder and twist! Would love to be at the meetings of these companies as they laugh it up, when they sell one of these setups, and they drive home in a car that costs less, with much more technology in it, and does more. It's like teh price of a diamond, all made up contrived. Isn't this th ecompany that handed out teh miswired CD only player, that had a sticker of $27K? Guess the factory where it's made didn't get teh message of teh sale price, they figured they where making a $500 Cd player? What was even more disturbing, that MF and his hearing, didn't know it was out of phase! JA MEASURED and showed the $27K CD player was defective! Wonder what defects are in $135,000 speakers

GEORGE's picture

Why only $135,000 why not $157,000 since they just make up numbers. Even people who have this kind of dough, to buy anything like this, they would still be better to think and buy stuff that ain't being sold at the absurdity levels. No audio amplifier can possibly justify this. $5,000 wires, yeah, really push the stick in harder and twist! Would love to be at the meetings of these companies as they laugh it up, when they sell one of these setups, and they drive home in a car that costs less, with much more technology in it, and does more. It's like the price of a diamond, all made up contrived. Isn't this the company that handed out the miswired CD only player, that had a sticker of $27K? Guess the factory where it's made didn't get the message of the sale price, they figured they where making a $500 Cd player? What was even more disturbing, that MF and his hearing, didn't know it was out of phase! JA MEASURED and showed the $27K CD player was defective! Wonder what defects are in $135,000 amps

The Groove's picture

The verbal diarrhea coming out of some folks is astounding...But has anyone heard the NHB-458 in this room and has an honest opinion about its sound? Could this room compete with the best sound of the show? Hats off to Herve and his team in pushing the envelope towards the ultimate and for that they may be awarded a handsome return. That's the way our world works...but that's too difficult for some people to comprehend.

Get-back-to-reality's picture

Verbal diarrhea perhaps, but please observe the following:Krell Evo One: 60.000 $/pairMark Levinson 53: 50.000 $/pairVTL Siegfried: 40.000 $/pairMaybe I just don't have enough $, however, I would chose any of the above any time and save the rest for new speakers. An absolutely absurd price on those 458 monos!

John Atkinson's picture

George asked "Isn't this the company that handed out the miswired CD only player, that had a sticker of $27K?" No, that was a Zanden. This Playback, darTZeel, and Evolution components feature some serious (and yes, expensive) audio engineering. And as expensive as the darTZeel amplifiers admittedly are, this room was perhaps the best-sounding I heard in Las Vegas, though the much less expensive EAR/Marten Getz system got close for much less money.

jmsent's picture

Jason writes: "It's about the music that gives us joy, and the equipment that brings it to us in all its glory."Actually, it's pretty much all about the equipment. Even this fancy getup will not bring us the music in ALL its glory. That still remains the sole domain of live music, and the quarter mil or so that this system costs is more than enough to pay for live concerts everyday for the rest of your life. Such systems-and I'm not singling this one out as CES was full of them-are so far out of the realm of "value for dollar" that the whole thing has turned into a tiny niche of a tiny niche. Yet for all its expense, you're still looking at a 7" 2 way WTW design + sub with a passive Xover. Hardly SOTA in technical terms, and certainly not the ultimate in dynamic range. It's a self fulfilling prophecy. Make something expensive enough and few people will buy it. And when so few customers are available, the only option for making money is to charge a fortune for it. Such is the "High End" of today.

tomcollins's picture

why do some of you guys indulge in this self-torture and then torture the rest of us with your "verbal diarrhea". please go read someone else's blogs and torture them with your whining. yes, its expensive, its a hobby, get over it. i have heard this exact setup with the exception that it is the stereo amp, not the monos, but with the addition of the top subs (same as the bottoms)and using a very fine turntable, in a custom room many times. it never fails to thrill and excite. counting the room and the treatments, it is probably the cost of a very decent house. my friend can afford it, it makes him happy, its how he chooses to spend his money, so what. i do the best i can with my system and enjoy it too. some would say i have spent crazy money too. again, so what. its my money, its what i like. don't whine to the rest of us who enjoy reading about such things. if i never own any of the items in that room, so what. guys, take a pill or better yet, get a life.

JackF's picture

tomcollins is right. If you want to spend the money, go for it!If you dont have the cash buy a NAD. It is so simple.

Kevin C's picture

You may count me in with the whining guys, but I had really hoped for a more "fair" price on the 458. I have listened to the NHB 108 on several occasions and I really like the sound. I do, however, need more power, which is why I was looking forward to the introduction of the 458. Now I will probably look elsewhere i.e. Gryphon or Pass Labs. I wonder if the r&d on the 458 can justify the price of this golden piece of esoteric hi-fi jewelry. I guess some people just don’t ask themselves these questions.

Bubba in SF's picture

An amplifiers that cost more than a Porche Carrera or a ZR-1 Corvette. It's not about the music. It's creating an exclusive product that will make a lot of money for the company selling the prestige. It isn't going to sound any different than a Krell or Audio Research or a Levinson. The difference is the price tag and the look on the faces at the party the rich guy tells them the price. The targeted customers are the corporate execs from AIG or B of A or Morgan Stanley. If the editors of Stereophile think this is worthy then hey, we should think they haven't been paying attention to the last 3 years. Over consumption and greed has made our country a 3 world nation and catering to it just prolongs the myth. The people who say don't whine need to smell the coffee. The folks who call it snake oil have it about right.

Jonathan Tinn's picture

Thank you Jason and John for visiting our room and for all your kind words. I too was incredibly moved when Cantus was played.I do understand why many feel, at first glance, that the darTZeel NHB-458 is too expensive. I was disappointed when Hervé Deletraz told me what the price would be. I think he was as well. We realize that it will appeal to a very small market and for him it is a statement product that is incredibly expensive to produce.When I first saw the amplifiers I was surprised at how much better they looked in person. Upon inspection I saw what went into building them. Every part that goes into these amplifiers down to the screws is manufactured specifically for darTZeel at an economy of scale that makes it incredibly expensive to produce. I started understanding the cost. Sonically, I could not be happier with them, I just wish they were more affordable.I also want to thank Steve Dobbins for providing his wonderful turntables as well as Wave Kinetics for their vibration control systems!

Lobespierre's picture

No "whining" here. I'd love to own a very, very costly system, say, priced dearer than a black market kidney, but the plain truth is I haven't robbed enough American taxpayers, bought enough politicians, humiliated enough employees, crashed enough currencies or created sufficient hordes of hopeless debtors to do so yet. Trust me, I'm working on it. On all fronts. You DarTZeel guys: as Walt Whitman once spake to his prostitute, "I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come."

GEORGE's picture

When STEREOPHILE decides to become about AUDIO again, all this glitz and shelf ornaments won't be looked at. Right...every SCREW was made just for this amplifier. Are you guys ASSuming everyone is an idiot? If that is the reason it's such an inefficient mfg' operation, they need to hire better people that know how to produce and purchase supplies. Because these companies are so bad at mfg' they want to profit from it? A new business plan for the next decade, brilliant. the speakers have miniature drivers, useless to produce lifelike reproduction. Smarter people, know how to get better sound for much less. Professional systems, cost far less, and work better. Stereophile magazine needs to stop pushing this stuff as high end audio. This is not about audio, it's about insanity, glitzy case work, and savy marketing to people with money, but no knowledge of AUDIO. JA and crew are the Martha Stewart of audio products lately, no substance, all glitz. Dried flower baskets for $10,000.

Fred Falcone's picture

Wow, the whining continues. For all the whiners out there, can you please describe "your" systems so that the rest of us can have a taste of "your" sonic nirvana? I think this high end audio gear is fantastic. Not everyone's cup of tea but a hobby none the less. And don't diss the Stereophile crew. They only report on gear just like the writers over at Road & Track covering Ferrari's to Chevy's.

zead's picture

MR TINN of AA - why don't you take the challenge of having your next showing with some more lower-priced american gear showing that your speakers can get it done with less..given the reasonably pricing approach that your company appears to follow

HudSonic's picture

Disgusting and vulgar!There is obviously no relationship whatsoever between price and quality. I am disgusted by these cock enlarger toys.

John Atkinson's picture

There are 2 things puzzling me about all those who are complaining about the high prices of some of the products we have reported on in this year's CES coverage. First, there are many stories on affordable products in this report, but no-one is thanking us for mentioning them or even posting comments. Second, I just don't get the atmosphere of entitlement that those complaining project. It has always been the case that very best-performing audio components are expensive. If you can't afford those components, so what? There are many, many components available for less that get close to the ultimate in sound quality. Or is it that your own sense of self-worth demands that you have the best but as you can't afford the best, you spend your days in a cloud of anger and resentment?

Rui Duarte's picture

Hevé, go-back to Swiss to finish the my Dartzeel 458 # 000. Some people, only know about all but don't have nothing.

Matt's picture

JA wrote: "there are many stories on affordable products in this report, but no-one is thanking us for mentioning them or even posting comments."Not quite true. While I neglected to explicitly thank JVS and Stereophile for the report on the Dynaudio room, I think you will see some "positive" comments regarding the "real world" Dynaudio system that a middle class person can aspire to own:http://blog.stereophile.com/ces2010/dynaudios_little_dynamo/The "problem" (if there is one) is that the manufacturers are only showing mega $$ systems, perhaps to garner attention for having the "best sound". Even Vandersteen was showing their $45K speaker in the context of top shelf Aesthetix or Ayre electronics rather than their better known and more affordable models (I was hoping they'd show the new, middle-class accessible Trio). Stereophile might modify this trend by including more accolades for real world systems - as was done by JVS in his Dynaudio report.

bwright's picture

I visited this room in person, and can verify that this was one of the best of the show. I requested that they demo my DCC Gold disc of "Venus and Mars," and the sound was nothing short of astounding. The staff and designer couldn't have been more gracious. Frankly, I don't mind the reporting on the high end, as it shows where the state of the art is headed. Eventually it trickles down to more affordable designs over time. And heck, if I could afford it, I'd take that system home in a heartbeat.As for mid-price systems, the Mystere pre and power amp were superb, and the Usher Mini-One Diamonds were incredible for clarity and detail. The Soundsmith components were warm and well-sorted - their system had a certain magic, and made us all stay and enjoy the music. All were great values for the money.

Jonathan Tinn's picture

Zead: What would you like to hear the Evolution Acoustics with? Frankly speaking, most gear is less expensive than the new darTZeel NHB-458s :) Last year we showed with a reference darTZeel integated amplifier and had wonderful sound as well. That amplifier with built in preamplifier and phonostage was a fraction of the price of the monoblocks. Wes Phillips called it "jaw-droppingly real". Please realize that I chose darTZeel because I proudly import their products and they are the best I have heard. As a manufacturer, you try to put your products with the best you know. If an American amplifier manufacturer would like to use a pair of Evolution Acoustics for CES, all they have to do is ask. I have heard ARC, BAT, Rowland, LAMM, Manley, VAC, VTL and many others with our loudspeakers and they all sounded wonderful. But, there really is a lot of politics that go into putting a group of manufacturers together for an exhibition. I happen to really enjoy the people I exhibit with. That means a lot to me.

Tom Collins's picture

Mr. Tinn: I enjoyed your response. I have the pleasure of listening to the system of a friend of mine with a similar setup to the show as he kindly ivites me over every few weeks to share some music. I can say that it is magnificent. I second the earlier poster who said that he would take it home if he could. I do not see any disconnect between my enjoyment of such a system and my inability to afford same. Look at cars. In the mid 80s, the only cars with airbags and ABS were expensive Europeans. Today, this is old news. Remember the engines of the 80s, didn't think so, who would want to. Again, the Europeans were the only ones with any performance (Corvette excluded). Now we have 300 HP 6 cylinder family sedans. Like it or not, we must have makers such as DZ and EA pushing the envelope and showing us what is possible. In 20 years, this system will be old news too (but still sound great I am sure). These products even used will never be cheap, but some of use will be able to have them.

Kevin C's picture

bwright: I hope you are right that the design of the 458 trickles down to a more affordable one. As stated above, I have listened to the NHB-108 several times and absolutely love the sound. However, the power of the 108 is slightly insufficient for my needs. What we need is an 108 redesigned as a monoblock or perhaps a downscaled 458, as when Levinson came out with the no. 33H as a downscaled version of the no. 33.

zead's picture

Thanks Jonathann Tinn for your reply

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