Listening to HDTracks’ 24/192 download of the Jimmy Cobb Quartet’s Jazz in the Key of Blue, I finally heard what a well-tuned MSB system can do. “So musical!” I wrote in my notes. Instrumental timbres were excellent, with the warmth and fullness of Roy Hargrove’s trumpet portrayed with near tube-like roundness and warmth. Combined with the air and depth conveyed by the high-res recording, and the sheer presence of the drums, the experience opened a portal to audio nirvana. I could have spent hours exploring music in multiple formats on this system, and still have wanted more. It killed me to have to leave the room so soon. Only the reality of many more rooms to cover before show’s end kept me from staying longer.
Assistance Audio, North American distributor for BMS, was showing off the company’s drivers. As I was soon to learn, Lacoustic, JBL, and Volti are but three of the audio manufacturers that use BMS’s drivers in their products.
The company’s Jack Arnott explained that BMS’s drivers can be found everywhere from soundstages in LA to naval paging systems and home audio installations. “I’m using my own cabinets so you can see what’s inside,” he said. “I am using Home Depot speaker cable because I am selling speaker components, not speaker cable." Well, I must say that both Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang’s duet on “La Vie en Rose” and the opening chorale from Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sounded quite beautiful.
Not only do Metronome electronics and Rethm loudspeakers seem inextricably bound together by a common musical cause, but they also make great sound. As we await notification of model numbers and prices, as well as other components and cabling in the chain, I recall the warmth and beauty with which this system conveyed soprano Elly Ameling’s radiant voice. Rethm’s single-driver loudspeakers didn’t plumb the lower reaches of the piano as do other loudspeakers with dedicated woofers and intelligent crossover and cabinet design, but the sound of the system’s mids and highs was superb.
What a difference the recording makes. When I first entered the room sponsored by Von Schweikert Audio, Jolida Inc. and United Home Audio, I was surprised to hear really bright sound from what I expected was a master tape played on a UHA Phase 11 open-reel deck ($22,000). But when we switched to another recording, Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden performing “Missouri Sky,” I truly enjoyed the beautiful midrange, edge-free highs, and big presentation of the system. “Very, very nice” was my ultimate assessment.
It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Bob Neill, a fellow graduate of Amherst College and proprietor of Amherst Audio in Amherst, MA. In a system headlined by JM Reynaud Abscissa loudspeakers ($5500/pair) bi-amped with Crimson 640E monoblock amplifiers ($6000/pair), and completed by the Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), and Crimson interconnects ($360/1m pair) and bi-wired speaker cable ($1070/8' pair), I enjoyed the kind of cultivated sound that discriminating listeners crave. True, there was some extra resonance in the treble that made piano sound a mite metallic, but the midrange beauty of Antonio Lysy’s cello on Yarlung Records’ recording, Antonio Lysy at the Broad, was very special.
Audio Note now handles its US sales directly from the UK. The sound in their room may have been warmer than neutral, but it had an immediacy that I enjoy. Here, the vividness of a classic recording of music from Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila struggled to triumph over the bass commentary from the adjacent room’s Göbell behemoth. When the booming subsided, Jennifer Warnes emerged triumphant.
People sat up and took notice when Sanders Sound Systems released their Model 10 full-size electrostatic loudspeakers with analog electronic crossover amplifiers a few years back. The latest version, Model 10c ($13,000/pair) was delivering solid, full-range sound from a system that also includes Sanders Magtech Stereo amplifier ($5000), new preamplifier that combines both line and phono stages ($4000), and their own interconnects and speaker cables.
It was great to again encounter Silverline’s flagship Grand Bolero loudspeaker ($35,000/pair), displayed by Scot Markwell of Southern California’s Audio Summa. Together with Kuzma’s Stagi S NSE 12" w/TVA tower and Crystal Cable Silver ($2950) and Stabi SD in brass w/external power supply ($3700); BEL’s 1001 Mk.IV amplifier (NFS); and Furutech’s Lineflux RCA interconnects ($2704/1.2m pair), Speakerflux speaker cables ($3645/2m pair), and Powerflux power cords ($3007/1.8m each), the system produced admirable full-range sound.
Since Sonic Studio dropped the price of its Amarra music software system to $189, lots more people have been enjoying its sound. Less than two months after Amarra’s last release, James Anderson announced the imminent arrival of 2.4.3 (free to current owners). He also played Reference Recordings’ superb recording of Copland’s Symphony 3, one of whose movements has become known as the “Ode to the Common Man.” Turns out that the performance was recorded using Sonic Studio’s professional Soundblade products. Played back with Amarra 2.4.3, it sounded fabulous, with absolutely tight, room-shaking bass. No doubt Amarra’s optional equalization component, which can help control bass booming created by either room nodes or less than flat loudspeaker response, had more than a little to do with the success of the presentation.
After a break of too many years, it was great to again encounter the fine sound of April Music. This time, the company was showcasing three premiers: the April Music Stello Ai700 integrated amplifier ($6500), Eximus S1 stereo amplifier ($2500), and Eximus DP1 192/24 DACPreamplifier ($3200). Together with a MacBook Pro running Amarra 2.4.2, Marten’s Coltrane soprano loudspeaker and Verrastar cabling, the system sounded gorgeous on soprano Renée Fleming’s rendition of Dvorák’s “Song to the Silver Moon.” Bass was impressively solid. The speaker needed more room to shine on the very top, but the midrange and bass produced by this chain were excellent.