VTL Rocks the Alexias with Daft Punk

"What is this music?" asked Jason Serinus (above).

We were sitting in the VTL room, where a pair of Wilson Alexia speakers ($48,500/pair) were being driven by VTL's S-400 stereo amplifier ($33,500), TL-7.5 Series III preamp ($20,000), and TP-6.5 phono preamplifier ($10,500 with transformer).

"It's 'Lose Yourself to Dance,' my favorite track from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories LP," I whispered, played on a Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable and Centroid arm ($31,000) fitted with Lyra's new Etna MC cartridge ($6995). The rest of the system included dCS's Paganini 4-box SACD player, master clock, upsampler, and D/A processor ($55,000), Transparent Opus MM2 audio cables, and Nordost Odin and Valhalla digital and power cables and conditioner.

This best-selling album, mixing EDM with retro disco grooves and superbly mastered by Bob Ludwig, is an audiophile special with wide dynamic range and a superbly clean sound. The bass lines, however, sounded tightest, ie, most musically compelling, with the S-400's feedback set to its maximum, though this diminished some of the midrange magic that the Alexia is capable of. (I am reviewing the Alexia in the December issue of Stereophile.

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COMMENTS
otaku's picture

Funny.  That's what I had playing on my system when I saw this post.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

On the first day of the show, after John left the room, I heard a disconnect between the leading edge and body of the voices of both mezzo-soprano Janet Baker (LP) and soprano Beverly Sills (CD) that suggested something wasn't quite right with the system. After Wilson Audio's Peter Mc Grath, whose decades as a recording engineer have rendered him one of the most sensitive listeners I know, returned to the room on Saturday morning, he moved the Alexia's tweeter back one notch. Voilà, everything about these two women's very different voices fell beautifully into place, as the system rendered them with all the unified complexity and beauty that I would expect from equipment of VTL and Wilson's calibre.

With Stereophile's Brian Damkroger sitting behind me, we revisited the Daft Punk album that JA discusses above. Switching between the new VTL S-400 Series II stereo reference balanced amplifier's user adjustable Damping Factor feedback control, which adjust's the amp's output impedance by varying the amount of negative feedback, I preferred the "HI" setting, with the most negative feedback and damping factor and least output impedance, for what to my ears was both its greater bass control and increase in midrange body - even if the added information resulted in less three-dimensionality. I even preferred the HI setting on the Beverly Sills recording, which hardly has a rocking deep bass foundation. Brian, however, was in JA's camp, preferring the "MED" setting for what he perceived as finer sound. How JA would feel about the Alexia's midrange magic on these two settings after he heard the tweeter moved back a notch is an unknown. Hopefully other show attendees who ask conduct the experiment can chime in below on this different strokes for different folks question. 

Audio Legend's picture

You would think they would be able to get it right without having to get outside help. Pretty sad.

lmanley's picture

Yes, Audio Legend, of course we can get it right without outside help.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to you that high resolution systems can change audibly as they settle, and by the end of the first day we noticed the change and made the adjustment described.

Without outside help.

Jason then heard it again the following day and commented on what he heard.

Your insinuation that there was some kind of reviewer involvement during the adjustment is frankly insulting, and your negative attitude is pretty sad.

Audio Legend's picture

Don't get your panties in a bunch Mr. Luke.

Actually, I never insinuated you need reviewer help. I was referring to Mr. McGrath of Wilson, who, if you read the post, was mentioned as having adjusted the tweeter.

lmanley's picture

So what's your point?

Beans's picture

LOL. I find myself wondering what score Henry Rollins would give this system on his "boneheadedness" scale.

eugovector's picture

Alexias are practically "Boxed Wine" grade compared to his Wilson Alexandria XLF.  Don't know about you, but I'll take Henry's castoffs anyday.

Beans's picture

Ha! Me too. Despite the audiophlie silliness I'm thankfull that the article introduced me to the great Nile Rodgers groove in "Lose Yourself to Dance". I'm old enough to have loved Chic when I was a little kid.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

The adjustment needed to the Alexia's adjustable tweeter after a day of settling in is nothing unusual; it's par for the course. If I had $100 for every show exhibitor whom I've visited on the first day, then sought me out in the hallways to beg me to come back to their room for another listen on the last day, after everything had settled in and finally sounded right (or so they told me), I'd be able to retire. 

It would be ideal if exhibitors could set up two days before a show begins. But think how much more that would cost, and how logistically challenging it would be for show organizers and venue. It's virtually impossible. The ultimate place to audition is at home. Which is why working with dealers or online vendors who will let you audition equipment for more than 24 hours is the way to go 

Audio Legend's picture

I understand what you are saying. However I have been to countless audio shows where very modestly priced rooms sounded fantastic from minute one.

It seems the comically priced rooms get a pass and are allowed to "settle in".

If a room with $5000 worth of gear sounded "unsettled" on day one there would be zero chance you would return.

Your essay. "...Show Business" was spot on btw and well written.

SergioLangstrom's picture

Correct

The high priced or should I say ridiculous priced rooms and equipment always need to "settle in". This is because of the high amount of craftmanship and engineering applied to the product. The more it costs, the more finiky it is. Isn't half the fun of paying a lot of money for an audio component not knowing what's going to happen next?

Seriously though, you are correct that the lowly priced components seem to be able to play efforlessly with out all that tweaking. It's a shame you can't get a speaker that plays right since it does cost $48,000 a pair. You would think they would have checked the room/speaker interface with at least some sort of measurement setup.

tmsorosk's picture

I must disagree with lower end systems not needing settle in time and changes and ajustments .

 I recently setup a second smaller system . It took changing out four pairs of two way speakers , an amp change a preamp change , better cords and cables before the little system sounded right . Also took about a month to settle in , and am now adding a sub .  

I had picked out some great sounding components but when I brought them all together at home the sound was pretty awful . 

SergioLangstrom's picture

Next time try improving the room acoustics. You shouldn't need to change all of that to get good sound and if changing amps and preamps and cables and cords made an improvement, then all of those components were faulty.

usernamophile's picture

I find the following odd:

The need to include dollar values in the context of this blurb. Why does the cost of the equipment matter.

I assume Daft Punk recorded this track digitally so why listen to an analog conversion? (I am aware that the vinyl pressing may sound better than a CD to many).

Why all the bickering and disparaging in the comments fields? (I am aware that this is the internet) :-)

John Atkinson's picture

usernamophile wrote:
I find the following odd:

The need to include dollar values in the context of this blurb. Why does the cost of the equipment matter.

We include prices as a matter of course in reports from shows.

usernamophile wrote:
I assume Daft Punk recorded this track digitally so why listen to an analog conversion? (I am aware that the vinyl pressing may sound better than a CD to many).

There was an excellent article in Mix on how this album was recorded. Daft Punk used both hi-rez digital and analog recorders for every sound on the album. HDTracks has the 24/88.2k files available for download.

usernamophile wrote:
Why all the bickering and disparaging in the comments fields? (I am aware that this is the internet)

I think it a shame that so many posters take advantage of our hospitality and prefer chest-beating to communication. But as you say, this is the Internet. :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Audio Legend's picture

CORRECTION:

HDTracks is selling 88.2/24 files of the Daft Punk album.

Also, correct me if I am wrong, Art Dudley claimed in his Meridian DAC review there were no after market USB cables with mini connectors. Audioquest has several. I wonder why this was not fact checked.

John Atkinson's picture

Audio Legend wrote:
HDTracks is selling 88.2/24 files of the Daft Punk album.

Thank you for the correction. I didn't have access to the Mac mini where the files of the Daft Punk album I purchased reside when I posted earlier.

Audio Legend wrote:
Art Dudley claimed in his Meridian DAC review there were no after market USB cables with mini connectors. Audioquest has several. I wonder why this was not fact checked.

Sometimes stuff slips through the net. I am not sure if these AQ cables were even available when this review was written last May. But it's not a big deal.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Audio Legend's picture

No worries. There have been times when HDTracks has mislabled downloads with the wrong sample rates!

However, Mr. Dudley really should make an effort to check these things. These AQ cables have been on the market for well over a year, maybe two. I bought one last year. Two minutes on the Audio Advisor site would have answered his own question, when "wondered" if these cables even exsisted. I think it is a big deal when misinformation is published. Not the end of the world however.

Audio Legend's picture

AQ Cinnamon.

http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=AQMUSBCIN

SergioLangstrom's picture

The chest beating you refer to is simply people communicating to yourself and the Stereophile staff how much we don't appreciate covering snake oil as a valid product. [Flame deleted by John Atkinson]

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