AXPONA: Herb's Friday Postlude

I became angry when I first heard Elac America's new UB5 loudspeaker. Why? Because, at the time, I was working on my review of another Andrew Jones's design—the Elac B6 ($279.99/pair)—and the $499.99/pair UB5 sounded so *%##@ good, I was thinking…well, damn! For $200 more I could be experiencing the Jones-designed coincident mid-tweet driver with its pinpoint imaging and slamming bass. Yes: I said slamming bass.

I always laugh at Andrew Jones's demonstrations, because every time he plays some bass-slamming blockbuster, the curtains behind the speakers start flapping in the breeze from the force and velocity of the speaker's rear port. Then, when the curtains stop flapping, the audience (always) starts clapping. Mr. Jones is not only a master speaker designer, he is a classic "Dude" and spectacular audio-show presenter. More important, his designs—like the UB5, and the B4 ($179), which he was also demonstrating at Axpona 2016—play astoundingly well, and when you finally (if ever) notice their price-related shortcomings, you realize the truth in what Andrew always says: "They fail gracefully."

Some people get weird even thinking about the concept of a $89,950 DAC like the MSB Select. Not me. Once upon a time I sold $250,000 50Wpc amps (that's $5K/watt). With a little help, I sold five in six months. What I learned from that experience was that, in order to be worth that kind of cash to anybody, an audio component must not be subtle about its goodness. A listener should be able to walk into the room, smile in awe, and know right away—this is it! That is exactly how I felt when I entered the MSB room. And it wasn't just the sweet, big, luscious sound of Harry Connick Jr.'s voice singing the most wonderful version of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" (1991, with Branford Marsalis): it was the way the gear directed my attention to the timing, phrasing, and subtle mastery of Connick's art. There are only three perfect reasons to spend big bucks on a hi-fi like this: timing, timing, and timing!

The MSB Select DAC was accompanied by a MSB Universal Media Transport Streamer, and some MSB 200-watt M203 monoblocks ($27,500/pair) driving the YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2s ($72,800/pair). The way this system played music, I felt it would be a bargain at twice the price—just sayin'.