Until You Fall in Love with the Diamond Rain
“Are these things on?”
I walked gingerly, so as not to trip over any speaker cables or kitty tales [sorry Huckleberry!], to the amp and preamp. They weren’t the Viola Audio pieces that I expected, but instead, the Krell KAV-280p and KAV-2250. On the former, I noticed a small blue-lit power light. “I guess it’s on. Do these things just stay on all the time?” I shrugged my shoulders. I also noticed a small red light marked “B-1” I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if I need to know what it means.and a red-lit number “25” beside a knob which I was too afraid to touch. I kind of assumed that the “25” was the volume level, which seemed high enough. The KAV-280p looks a lot like the KAV-400xi integrated that Wes reviewed in February.
The KAV-2250 power amp is similar-looking, but with less stuff on it, and it’s bigger than the KAV-280p, and has a pretty blue ring that glows in its center. Both are very tough-looking, like they mean serious business, and have chassis that seem to be made of some sort of thick aluminum. They kept reminding me of an automobile. But that doesn’t make any sense because automobiles don’t look like these things. Maybe my mind was referring to the way they’re built. Tough. I really don’t know, but there you go.
Then there was the Ayre C-5 universal player, which is just kind of gray and boring-looking to me. Wes has all of this stuff sitting on an OSAR equipment rack. The Ayre on top, the preamp in the middle, and the amp on the bottom.
Time to listen to a CD. “What’s the first song I want to hear?” I thought about listening to one of the songs off of our band’s first album, but decided to save that for another time. I was sleepy and knew I’d only listen to one song before going to bed, so I wanted to make it a really special one. “The Diamond Sea” by Sonic Youth would do. It’s a twenty minute song, but it’s a fast twenty minutes.
“The Diamond Sea” is the last song on Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, which was released in 1995, during my freshman year in college. Michelle and I would make love while listening to this album and keep track of how long we were at it by how many times the Diamond Sea had come and gone.
The Ayre has a ring of control buttons on the right-hand side of its faceplate, which is soft, firm, and sensitive. I pressed the eject button on the Ayre and was startled by how quickly the player responded. The tray came forth immediately and powerfullyif that makes sensewith a sound that told me something very important was about to happen. It reminded me of the sound of the moon roof in my uncle’s BMW. ZZZZHHHH. “Whoa.”
As I scrolled through the tracks in order to get to “The Diamond Sea,” I paused just long enough at track 3, “Saucer-Like,” for the player to recognize the data and begin the song. I was not prepared for it. Again, I was surprised by the immediacy and forcefulness with which these things operated. But I wanted to maintain some control over the situation, and I continued to skip straight to “The Diamond Sea.” “Like a bad lover rushing to climax,” I thought.
I should have been using the remote, it occurred to me, as I rushed to the center listening chair and sat down, the song starting without me.
When I’m listening to the Magnavox, I know exactly where the sounds are coming from. They’re coming from those two small speakers, and I guess the images (I wouldn’t even refer to them as images) are appropriately sized and placed. Listening to Wes’ system, however, I lost track of the speakers themselves. While I could still pinpoint sounds which seemed to be coming directly from the speakers, there were also sounds that seemed to be coming from the tops and bottoms of each speaker, andmore impressivelyfrom across all the space in between each speaker.
Steve Shelley is there at the back of the stage, directly in front of me. Almost like that time I ran into him on the PATH train platform. He’s right there, but I can’t talk to him. I can feel his motions as he switched from hi-hat to ride cymbal. It’s pretty freaky. I can sense how Lee Ranaldo is strumming his guitar, I can imagine how the pick feels as it batters the strings.
All of the sounds have an almost frighteningagain, I guess the right word is “startling” impact and presence. It’s weird. I’m liking it.
Towards the end of “The Diamond Sea,” there’s a moment when the listener might be persuaded to believe that noise will defeat beauty. Just at that point, Bagheera jumped up onto the preamp, andI thinklicked it a few times.
“You like it, too?”
She didn't respond. I shrugged my shoulders.