The Lotus GroupThe Voice That IsAudio Power Labs
When I entered the room sponsored by the three above entities, I heard first a CD quality file of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, and then a 192kHz sample-rate file of period instrument violinist Rachel Podger playing Bach. I thought the system wonderful at handling complex information, keeping everything clean, and controlling the basssuperb in fact. The only question arose when, on an SACD of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel, the voice was somewhat damped.
Doing the honors, in order of appearance on the handout, were SMc Audio’s VRE-1C solid-state preamplifier ($19,950); Audio Power Labs’ 50TNT class-A 50W monoblock amplifiers ($47,500, presumably per pair); Tidal’s Piano Diacera loudspeakers ($37,690/pair); Aurender’s W20 Reference music server ($16,800); a hell of a lot of different models of Joe Cohen’s PranaWire cabling plus two Linebacker SE in-line passive power filters ($2995 and $6750, depending upon the nature of the ground plane); and dCS’s three-stack Scarlatti System ($69,247 all together). That’s $279,782 total without including the expensive Stillpoints 42” ESS Grid Ultra rack. Knowing the excellence of the Scarlatti equipment, the Tidal speakers, cabling, and rack, I expect one of the other products was responsible for damping the leading edge of Hunt Lieberson’s voice.
Before I left, Ron Hedrick of Marigo Audio Labs brought in his newly released Ultima High Definition Signature Mat ($239). I had been told not to use any mat in my dCS Puccini CD/SACD player, but Joe was so certain that the mat, a mere 0.01” thick, would work well in the player that he gave it a whirl. The change was so apparent, and so positive, that Joe used the mat for the remaining day and a half of the show. What did I hear? Hunt Lieberson’s voice became fuller, the bottom of her tone extremely solid, and the entire presentation more of a piece. In addition, the sound was definitely more transparent, with images in clearer focus. I can’t wait to try one in my Puccini once we move and my system is again in running order.