Good Sound from Brooks Berdan, LTD

Time and time again, I’ve had the good fortune of running into VTL’s Luke Manley just as I arrive at a show. It’s always a pleasure to chat with Luke and just as fun to listen to music with him. While his room often represents my very first chance to listen at any show, the sound he and his partners create is one that stays with me for the duration. That was the case again here at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach.

This time, we heard VTL’s Siegfried Series II Reference monoblock amplifiers ($65,000/pair) driving Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers ($27,900/pair). The linestage was VTL’s TL-6.5 Series III Reference ($20,000), and, for vinyl, VTL’s TP-6.5 phono stage. For digital, we heard the dCS Paganini SACD system, including Transport, DAC, UpSampler, and Clock ($53,496 total). The turntable was Grand Prix’s Monaco 1.5 ($23,000) with a Tri-Planar tonearm ($5800) and a Benz LPS cartridge ($5000). All of the racks and platforms were from Grand Prix Audio. Cables were Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond.

Tempo High Fidelity’s John Quick played an interesting track called “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Pretty Boy,” from Menomena’s Mines, and, before anything else, I heard the singer inhale. It was a brief moment, filled with potential. I knew right away that I was in for a treat. This music was alive. It was more than just the weight of the music, more than just the quick, agile, definite starts and stops, though those things were impressive, too. It was the sense of anticipation before each plucked string, each melodic twist and turn—a traction, force, and utter control that not only made listening exciting and enjoyable, but made me feel like an essential part of the music-making. This is a musician’s system. A music-lover’s system.

When I mentioned this to Luke Manley and John Quick, they were both eager to give much of the credit to Brian Berdan of Brooks Berdan LTD, one of the best known and most respected hi-fi retailers in the country. Brian does a wonderful job of setting up a system, they told me. I’ve never been to the shop, but I imagine that if I lived in the area, I’d be there all the time.

This was the first system I’d heard at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, but it could just as well have been the last. It’s a sound that’ll stay with me throughout the entire weekend and beyond. Excellent.

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