Mistral/Napa Acoustic Debut

Mistral, a registered trademark in the UK and China, is a Chinese company, based near Canton, that began marketing its audio products overseas in 2002. According to their PR, they are recognized "all over the world for creativity, reliability and credibility." Judging from the rest of their written copy, they must believe that their credibility is so strong that they can dispense with the services of a bilingual writer with a firm command of English grammar.

Napa Acoustic, based in Newark, CA, began representing Mistral in the US last August. The company is an offshoot of Napa Product Solutions, which manufactures acoustic panels for room treatment. Axpona was Napa Acoustic's first show. Judging from their display, which had more speakers than many dealerships, and the crowds that marveled at their products, it will be the first of many.

Joseph Kwong immediately ushered me to a cushion, and invited me to listen to the tiny, all-in-one $995 system you see in the center of the photo. Consisting of the DT-307CD player ($399), NA-208A 25Wpc tube amplifier ($399) that uses two 6N1 tubes, and NA-208S loudspeakers ($199/pair) that extend from 75Hz to 20kHz, the system exaggerated Ron Carter's bass but seduced with Rosa Passos' voice. Not only that, but the drums actually had snap. At my request, Kwong spread the little speakers farther apart, which made for a credible sonic presentation rather than mushing everything together.

Then he switched to a $2100 system, replacing the amp with the adorable MM-4 40Wpc amp ($699) seen to its right in the photo, and the speakers with the handsome, golden BOW3 ($999/pair) pictured on the other side of the $995 system. Although highs were sometimes a little squeaky, and the noise floor was high, the system overall did a beautiful job on the start of a new recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Not only that, but when I learned that the cabling was 100% pure Radio Shack, I realized how much better this system would sound if even $100 more had been spent on cabling, or there had been some type of power treatment added to the mix. In short, mighty impressive.

Once you read the Emotiva blog below, you may wonder how Napa Acoustic's products would hold their own against Emotiva's. The CD player, for example, is priced the same, and Napa Acoustic's Bow-A5 loudspeaker ($1699/pair), a 6 ohm floorstander with 88dB sensitivity and a frequency response of 35Hz–20kHz ±3dB, costs $100 more than a pair of Emotiva's ERT-8.3. Hopefully someone will perform that comparison soon.

BTW, when you get into Napa Acoustic's higher priced loudspeakers, the SAG-350 ($3699/pair) and SAG-500 ($7999/pair), you may note some physical similarities with B&W speakers from a few years back. I have no idea if they sound alike as well. But I'm sure tempted to find out.