King Audio Dances with Aesthetix and VAC

Back in the Audio Image room, one day later, Bob Kehn was showing the King Audio The King electrostats ($8500/pair). Before I arrived, these lovely panels were paired with VAC amplification. Unfortunately, those babies didn't have enough juice for the Kings. Upon the urging of Bob Walters, coordinator of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, the VACs that sounded so good on the Magico V-2 were traded for Aesthetix's Atlas Hybrid amp ($8000) and Janus Signature preamp/phono ($10,000).

Playing the very same Cantus track that I had played the day before with the Magico/VAC combo, I was surprised to find the sound softer and darker on top, without the brilliance that the leading edge of male voices can convey. The colors were also a bit washed out, like some of my photos before I started using flash later on the second day.

Since I have previously heard the Kings sound super—my fellow Stereophile show bloggers would agree—and I've loved the sound of Aesthetix electronics on numerous occasions and have secretly lusted after all of it, I can only conclude that either the cables hadn't settled in, the speaker/electronics match wasn't optimal, the room was a bitch, or some combination thereof. Perhaps the electronics hadn't warmed up sufficiently. All I can say for certain is that every product in the Audio Image Ltd. room is worth an extended listen.