Every music lover/audiophile with vision longs for the same thing: those magical moments when the system disappears, the time-space continuum parts, and we find ourselves mystically transported to a place where only the transcendent wonder and beauty of musical creation exists. For me, one of those unexpected listening experiences that make life worth living occurred on the Marriott’s mezzanine, when Kevin Hayes of VAC (Valve Amplification Company) played my JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
As the great Ms. Vaughan sang into her microphone with an intimacy and immediacy I have never before heard on any system, all chatter ceased. Gazing in wide-eyed wonderment through the remarkably clear window the system opened on the divine diva’s genius, I became aware that everyone in the room had been hushed into silence, and virtually no one except Hayes was moving. At the song’s conclusion, after the surprise climax where horns and percussion blare, Vaughan sings full out, and, after a prolonged note that reveals the true condition of her voice, drops two octaves to her deepest chest tones, one woman in the room burst into applause. Thereafter followed a collective sigh of release that signaled that virtually everyone in the room had journeyed to the place of mystery from which true inspiration springs.
Flowery language, to be sure. But I know no other way to describe the collective journey we took. After a day that began with Steven Norber’s yoga class in the Atrium, I had finally experienced the miraculous mergingthe unionthat is at the heart of the yogic experience.
Doing the honors: VAC Statement line preamplifier ($46,000) and VAC Statement 450 iQ monoblocks ($58,000 each); Esoteric P-02 transport ($23,990), Esoteric D-02 DAC ($22,900), and Esoteric G-01 ($22,900); Tannoy Kingdom Royal loudspeakers ($69,995/pair); Shunyata Research Hydra Triton & Typhon power conditioners ($9,990/set), and Shunyata Research Anaconda cables (from $2,250). Not auditioned due to time constraints: a VAC Statement phono preamplifier ($50,000), and an AMG Viella 12 turntable ($16,500) outfitted with a Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement Phono Cartridge ($15,000).
My personal best of Show? You betcha. Ultimate wish: to hear this system again, when there is more time to bathe in the bliss in a room filled with people I love. Not that I didn’t immediately fall in love with the woman who applauded, and everyone else who responded in kind.