Merlin Music Systems’ Bobby Palkovic is having a better time than ever, and you could tell by the sound in his room, which was remarkably tuneful, engagingneither too forward nor too laidbackand, most of all, fun.
“I like to take things to an end, and now I’ve gotten to a point where I’m beyond happy,” Palkovic said of his Master VSM loudspeaker ($13,600/pair), which are now wired with Cardas Clear cable.
Adding to Palkovic’s pleasure is his new relationship with digital music:
A younger listener walked into the room and requested “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes, a song I know well.
The system, built by Tempo High Fidelity: Verity Audio Amadis loudspeakers ($30,000/pair); Musical Fidelity M8700m 700W monoblock power amplifier ($12,500/pair) and M8PRE preamp ($5000); dCS Paganini stack with a Puccini clock; Vibex power conditioning; and a mix of Transparent and Basis cables.
“For a speaker manufacturer to not recognize the importance of room interaction is either disingenuous or willfully naïve,” said Wisdom Audio’s Jon Herron, during his demonstration of the tall, slim L75 loudspeaker ($18,700/pair) and its outboard SC-1 crossover ($6500).
At the time, I was marveling over the system’s full-range, large-scale, dramatic sound. I found myself looking up in the air, feeling as though I was seated in a concert hall or movie theater, surrounded by sound.
In a second Audio Alternative room, I was again treated to that old, familiar Boz Scaggs classic, “Thanks to You.” I had just come from the Fidelis AV room, where I had heard the song presented with impressive speed, precision, and clarity, the sound still fresh in my mind. So, I was surprised to hear something different.
It’s no surprise that Sam Tellig likes Harbeth’s Monitor 30.1 loudspeaker ($6490/pair in rosewood; seen here on Resonant Woods stands) as much as he does. (You can read about that in our November issue.) The speaker is handsome, understated, and it just looks right. Driven by Bret D’Agostino’s Bully Sound Company BSC-60s, a 60Wpc power amp built around a 1300VA toroidal transformer, the Harbeths sounded right, too. Bricasti’s M1 DAC ($8495; a favorite of both John Atkinson and John Marks) accepted signals from a Music Vault Music Streamer ($2495). Tellurium Q cables tied everything together.
What else was in the system?
Oh, yes: The Stein Music Harmonizers. And, I almost hate to tell you this, but:
Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Paragon Sight & Sound put together another high-performance, cost-no-object system: Wilson Audio MAXX Series 3 loudspeakers ($69,500/pair); Doshi Audio (“Audio Products for Music Lovers”) Alaap v3.0 NAB tape preamp ($10,995), Alaap v3.0 line stage ($14,995), Alaap v2.1 phono stage ($10,995), and Jhor 160 monoblock power amplifier ($28,995/pair); SME 20/3 turntable ($15,500 with SME’s Series V tonearm) and Koetsu Urushi Vermillion cartridge ($5850); and Transparent Audio cables. The gear was supported by Harmonic Resolutions Systems racks. I didn’t listen to any digital while I was in the room, but digital was being handled by a Wadia S7i CD player and a Playback Designs MPD-5 Reference DAC.
I walked into the Audio Alternative room with a nagging headache and walked out cured. I credit the system: Vandersteen Model 7 loudspeakers with M7 crossovers ($50,000/pair) driven by Audio Research’s Reference 250 monoblock and new two-chassis Reference 10 preamp ($30,000); AMG Viella 12 turntable fitted with a Lyra Atlas phono cartridge; and AudioQuest cables.
The song, believe it or not, was “Here Comes the Sun.”