Avatar Acoustics Points the Way
You can usually count on former airline pilot Darren Censullo of Fayetteville, GA to put together an exhibit that sounds as good as it looks. Impeccably displayed, although in light that barely revealed their true Tuscan leather exteriors and aluminum front baffles, the beautiful Rosso Fiorentino Sienna loudspeakers from Italy ($24,995/pair) shared the ambience with the Dr. Feickert Analogue Firebird turntable ($12,995) and Analogue DFA 12.0 tonearm ($1495 with table); AMR (Abbingdon Music Research) CD-77.1 CD player ($10,995), PH-77 phono preamp ($11,995) AM-77.1 integrated amp in mono vertical biamp mode ($9995), and DP-777 DAC ($4995); AMI-HIFI HDR Mini Server Version music player ($2995), Monk Audio phono preamp ($3495), a host of Acoustic System International Resonators ($250$2850 each) and LiveLine cabling ($995$2100), as well as the company's 3-shelf equipment rack ($3500) and Top Line feet ($750/set); and Avatar Acoustics' own Mach 4 Power Distributor w/captive ASI power cord ($1995) and Afterburner 8 wall outlet ($80).
You can also always count on Darren to bring with him a complete equipment list, complete with prices and as impeccably presented as his display.
I was initially blown away by the system's truly beautiful, mellow sound. (The Rosso Fiorentino's tweeter, new supertweeter, binding posts, and crossover caps are the real thing). Bass was in laudably sharp focus, and timbres were natural. I marveled at the lovely space and three dimensionality of this system's presentation on Markus Schwartz and Lakou Brooklyn's CD, Equinox. The horns especially sounded right, the drums so full and naturally resonant. Nor did the system conceal the bright edginess of the strings on a London LP of Albeniz' Suite Epañola and another of Falla's Three Cornered Hat.
I was all set to capitulate body and soul to this system, at least its CD side, until I put my favored track of oft-exquisite soprano Elly Ameling singing a song by Schubert, "Die Sterne" (The Star) to the piano accompaniment of Dalton Baldwin. It was then I noticed extra emphasis to the piano's lower register and undertones, as well as to the undertones of Ameling's voice. Not only did the piano compete with the voice, but the voice itself, in its lower register, sounded different. A further listen to a bit of the first movement of Mahler Symphony No.2 (Ivan Fischer, Budapest, Channel Classics hybrid SACD, and one of my records-to-die-for) also revealed that the fabulous bass I was hearing was emphasized compared to the sounds of higher-spectrum instruments. Detail, on the other hand, was superb, with some of the most naturally sharp focus I've ever heard.
I have no explanation for the tonal imbalances I heard. There are so many possible reasons, including perhaps the room tuning achieved by the Acoustic Resonators. I was so puzzled that I immediately brought Ameling and Mahler to the remaining rooms I visited, which included return visits to Scaena and MBL, in order to double check my experience. No, the tonal balance was definitely different in this room, with bass and lower midrange overemphasized.
Nonetheless, so much was so right about this systemgreat, in factthat I include it along with the YG Acoustics' display in a virtual tie for Fourth Best Sound at Show. Which is not to suggest that the two exhibits sounded even remotely alike. On the contrary, they offered two very different views of the real thing.