I ended Saturday's incredibly packed tour of the 15 rooms on the Marriott Tower's 10th floor with a stop in Musical Fidelity's room. It was a good choice. This was the first room at the show where I pulled out Channel Classics' superbly recorded hybrid SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing a unique arrangement of Revueltas' elemental, gutsy, phantasmagorical Sensemaya. The sense of air was immense, with amazing soundstaging that belied the small size of the room. I also loved the height of the soundstage, and the deep reaches of the bass. But as much as I savored the presentations' air and depth, this hardly laid-back system sounded a bit tipped-up in the highs, a common factor in many of the smaller rooms at the Marriott.
Given the number of loudspeakers in the relatively small room, I was amazed that two corner traps, combined with intelligent speaker placement that began at 8am, could result in such well-controlled bass. But on the Channel Classics native DSD/hybrid SACD of the Budapest Festival Orchestra performing Mahler's Symphony 2, the opening movement exhibited ideal control on the low end as well as natural warmth. I kept waiting for the booming, but it never came. What a great end to my first long day at AXPONA Chicago, 2013.
Beautiful sound was the order of the day at Tone of Music Audio (1303 Castro Street, Suite D, San Francisco, CA 94114), as the small retailer, headquartered in the heart of San Francisco's Noe Valley, held the first of two spring open houses. Judging from what the 30 or so visitors heard at the first open house, on March 18, those who show up for the second listening session on Saturday, April 1, between noon and 5 pm (RSVP to email@example.com), are in for a treat.
Musical Surroundings' Jesse Luna (left) and Garth Leerer (right) flank Nuts About HiFi's Jim Lee.
If that title hasn't gotten your attention, nothing will . . . except, perhaps, the Northwest preview of: 1) the forthcoming Aesthetix Metis linestage preamplifier (est. price $20,000$25,000), which is expected by the second quarter of 2015; 2) Clearaudio Concept Wood turntable with tonearm ($2200); and 3) DS Audio DS-W1 "Nightrider" Optical phono cartridge with dedicated phono equalizer ($8500). This tempting trio of coming outs, arranged by Garth Leerer and Jesse Luna of Oakland, CA-based distributor Musical Surroundings, took place at Nuts About HiFi, a Seattle-area high-end emporium that celebrated its Silver Anniversary in Silverdale, WA on November 30, 2014.
Nothing convinces more than a fabulous recording wonderfully reproduced. Wilson Audio scored big time when it engaged recording engineer Peter McGrath as its marketing VP. McGrath's recordings are legendary. When sourced from master hi-res computer files, played back using the superior Amarra Music Server software, they're pretty riveting.
Directly across the hall from the PrimaLuna exhibit, I discovered its somewhat more expensive big brother line, Mystère. While PrimaLuna amps operate in triode mode, Mystère gives you the sound of tetrode. These aren't high power babiesthe ia11 integrated amp ($1995) puts out 40Wpc watts and the ia21 integrated amp ($2995) gives you 50Wpc. The electronics are manufactured with a different partner in China, and are the dream project of their designer.
Exciting news greeted the posse of press who headed to the Marriott Denver Tech Center's Atrium Saturday October 3 for a press conference entitled "MQA and Mytek Present: From Studio to Home." Both Bob Stuart of MQA, Ltd. (above right) and Michal Jurewicz of Mytek Digital (above center) were present, as well as Pål Bråtelund, Strategic Partnership Manager for Tidal (above left), and, for MQA partner AudioQuest, AQ VP Steve Silberman.
NAD has refreshed its top-of-the-line Master Series. Due out the end of the second quarter is the NAD Master Series M12 ($3499), a 2-channel audio hub that contains both preamp and DAC. Below it in the photo sits the M22 ($2499), a 2-channel class-D, dual-mono hybrid digital amplifier with an analog input stage and Encore Hypex digital module output stage. In a system that included Dynaudio's excellent C4 Signature and AudioQuest Rock series cabling, Esperanza Spalding's voice on her recording of "Little Fly" was flattered by the system's warm sweet sound. I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen Mejias, who speaks often of NAD's reliability and good sound, has his eyes on these babies.
Okay, I'm running out of clever titles, but NAD had no problem producing beautifully controlled, welcomingly sweet sound from its all-new Masters Digital Suite. The M50 Digital Music Player ($2500) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($2000), a combo that can stream, store and manage your digital music collection, was performing wonderfully with the M2 Direct Digital 250W digital-input amplifier ($6000 and a John Atkinson favorite), Tannoy Glenaire 10 loudspeakers ($7500/pair), and Synergistic Acoustic ART resonance control system.