The Grand, Very Grande Utopia
I had enthused over the sound being produced by French company Focal's top-line Grande Utopia EMs ($180,000/pair) in our report from the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, so the first room I went to at the 2009 SSI was the room featuring the exact same pair of Grande Utopias. In Denver they had been driven by Boulder source and amplification components; in Montreal, amplification was all YBAPassion 1000 monoblocks and Passion preampcabling was AudioQuest, and the source was the excellent sounding Esoteric P-01VU transport ($32,000) and D-01VU dual-mono D/A converter ($32,000), clocked by the G-0Rb high-precision master clock ($16,000).
The "VU" appellation of the Esoteric components stands for "Version Upgrade"; while the regular P-01 and D-01 are still available at $25k each, the VU versions feature 8Ns copper conductors, higher-grade resistors and capacitors, and improved power supplies.
Whatever the reason, whereas Focal's Denver presentation had focused on the speaker's extraordinary dynamic range capability and bass extensionaided, no doubt, by the field-coilenergized woofers in the Montreal I was struck by the delicacy these humongous speakers were capable of producing. Whether it was my latest recording of Cantus, While You Are Alive, or "The Mooche" from Editor's Choice, the smallest detail of each recording was laid clear without being exaggerated or spotlit, to the benefit of the music.