Retailer Digital Ear from Tustin, CA was all over this show. I had to keep checking my notes since I began to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day"I'm in the Digital Ear room, again? But I just left." Room 1 was the Revel/Levinson roomRevel Ultima Salon2 speakers ($21,998/pair), Mark Levinson No.53 monoblock amplifiers ($25,000, the first-ever switching amp from Levinson), Mark Levinson No.326S preamplifier ($10,000), the No.512 CD/SACD Player ($15,000), with cabling from Transparent Audio. I felt this tiny room did not allow you to fully appreciate what you might hear if you were in a more appropriately sized room with this kind of gear. As is, I would not recommend the Revel Salon 2sa JA favoritefor near-field listening.
Next up was Digital Ear's MartinLogan and McIntosh room. While I was there, the new MartinLogan ElectroMotion EM-ESL loudspeaker ($1995/pair), which "features both electrostatic and compact Folded Motion thin-film transducer technologies," was playing very nicely with a McIntosh MC452 amplifier ($6000), McIntosh C50 preamplifier ($5000), which includes a USB DAC and phono stage, a Cambridge Audio id100 iPod/iPad dock ($1299), all tied together with Transparent Audio Reference Series cables.
While this room sounded very inviting and was doing all those things MartinLogans are known to do, I almost wished they'd used a less expensive amp/pre combo to show off a sleek, relatively affordable system. One of the McIntosh integrated amps comes to mindless muss, less fuss.
Room 3 was owned by Burmester, no one else need applyB30 loudspeakers ($15,995/pair), 911 amplifier ($29,995), 088 preamplifier ($28,995), 089 CD Player ($28,995), V1 rack (no price given) with, you guessed it, Transparent Cables. If Dieter from Sprockets was an audiophile, this would be his hi-fi. And Dieter loves music: "Touch my monkey."
The big room. Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers ($100,000/pair) standing at over 6' tall, dominated the room, looking like Transformers ready to devour us with music. The Burmester 911 Mk3 amplifier ($29,995) managed the Grand Utopias, the Burmester 089 CD ($28,995) and a Burmester preamplifer (I did not note the model but I bet it costs $xx,995) took care of rest, with Transparent Opus and Reference cables.
It's very difficult to ignore the pair of 573.2 lb speakers in the room but my note, just one, read "Jack be nimble." Of course, anyone interested in auditioning hi-fi for potential purchase, especially when spending this kind of money, will take their time listening and not base their judgment on a few minutes. Jack don’t be quick.
Speaker designer Roger Sanders has been at this for a long time and he has a very specific idea/vision that is illustrated in his system and direct-sales approach. It is also illustrated in the room setup which you can't really see in this photo but in addition to that single chair sitting fairly close to the Model 10 electrostatic speakers, there was a single row of chairs, not side to side, but one behind the other.
The configuration we’re looking at and to which I listened was the Model 10c which includes a digital electronic crossover and the Magtech monoblock amplifiers (1600W into an 8 ohm load) for a system price of $13,000. Cables are from Sanders Sound as well, which I believe are included in the system price since there was no pricing information on the sort-of informative brochure I picked up in the room. I say "sort-of" because it doesn't include any information on the source we listened to and I neglected to make a note of it. . .
Yorba Linda, CA-based retailer Scott Walker Audio was responsible for "audio equipment, room set-up & tuning." Solos Audio is the sole distributor for SonicCraft solid-state amplifiers. The setup: Magico V2 loudspeakers ($19,500/pair), SonicCraft Signature stereo amplifier ($3450), which puts out 25Wpc in pure class-A, SonicCraft Opus preamplifier ($3450), Esoteric K-03 CD/SACD player ($13,000), Esoteric G-03X Master Clock ($5000), Synergistic Research cables and power cords, and the Synergistic Acoustic ART Room Treatment System ($3150).
I noted "rock-solid" imaging and a crazy level of micro-detail. "If Dianna Krall had even the merest hint of a cold, you’d know it," read my notes.
The Ayon Audio room used a pair of gracefully curved LumenWhite Artisan speakers ($35,000/pair) with the Ayon Orthos II monoblock amplifiers ($24,000/pair) and the Ayon CD-5 CD Player with integrated preamplifier ($11,380). The CD-5 features USB, AES/EBU, S/PDIF, i2S and Toslink inputs and S/PDIF (RCA), i2S, and AES/EBU digital outputs. Cable was from Synergistic Research and the equipment rack was the Bassocontinuo ($10,000) from Italy, shown here with German Plexiglas shelves. Around the room you’ll also notice the Synergistic Research Art devices inviting comment.
I noted a very strong center image, lots of body/weight, and a physical yet nimble presentation.
San Pedro, CA-based retailer Audio Summa brought along a bunch of gear from Silverline Audio, Conrad-Johnson, Parasound, Brown Electronic Labs (BEL), Blue Circle Audio, and Analysis Plus. While I was in-room, we listened to the Silverline Audio Bolero Supreme loudspeakers ($12,000/pair standing on the inside in the picture), BEL 1001 MkIV class-A solid-state amplifier (not for sale), a tube-based preamp designed and built by Alan Yun of Silverline Audio ($20,000) and the Ecstasy Model 20 tube CD player also from the mind and hands of Alan Yun ($12,000). Cables were from Analysis Plus and BEL "The Wire."
The sound in the Audio Summa room was fast and a bit furious, leaving little time for decay. "Pace-y" read my notes.
So you want cutting edge? Innovation? I’d say the team in the HiFi One room have you covered. I hope I can do this elevator-speech version justicethe Wadax PRE1-Phono solution provides you with a custom RIAA curve optimized for your turntable to nanovolt level signal precision. They refer to this process as "mapping." How do they do it? Wadax created a laquer "master" that is played on your turntable and the Wadax musIC chip in the PRE-1 captures the associated data and sends it, wirelessly via the Internet, back to Wadax where they analyze and optimize the RIAA curve in your PRE1-Phono based on the data they captured directly from your turntable. Or maybe I should say!
And really, that's not even half the story since that PRE1 can be configured as a line-level preamplifier, preamp with integrated DAC, with the above mentioned phono stage, with "WADA optimized PureDAC mode," and as a phono stage with step-up amplifier. You should visit the Wadax website for the whole story.
"Tons of body, weight, speed, great, big and open. How big can a flamenco guitar be?" read my notes from the sonically impressive YG Acoustics room. Speakers were the YG Kipod 2 ($49,000/pair). Associated electronics: Tenor 350M monoblocks (Cdn$100,000/pair), Tenor Line 1/Power 1 preamplifier (Cdn$75,000), Bryston BDP-1, dCS Scarlatti DAC, with cable by Kubala-Sosna.