Blue Light Special

I never fail to check out Jonathan Tinn's Blue Light Audio systems. He's a past master of system set-up, so his rooms always sound special. This year's was no exception.

In the middle of the room was the definitely non-UL-approved test-bench prototype of darTZeel's soon-to-come 1000W NHB-458 monoblock amps (price tbd) that have so alarmed some readers. The actual working components centered around DarTZeel's new 350Wpc CTH-8550 integrated amplifier ($20,300)—but you also get an MC phono stage for that price.

The source was Playback Designs' MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD player ($15,000), which has 24-bit/192kHz input, and MPD-5 Reference DAC ($11,000), ditto. The speakers were Evolution Acoustics MMMini Two ($40,000/pair), a modular design that mates a two-way head to an integrated subwoofer. Evolution also supplied DRSC speaker cables ($5000/pair)and PC2One power conditioning power cords ($2000). darTZeel supplied the interconnects, the cutely named darT to Zeel 50 ohm impedance-matched BNC interconnects (price tbd).

In other words, it was a carefully thought-out system and I have no way of knowing what made it sound so good—everyting about it, probably—but it really did sound special. There was sufficient bass, but not so much that I thought great bass, it was simply there when it was called for. The soundstage was far wider than I would have thought a small room could have supported and everything sounded completely fleshed out and three-dimensional. It was jaw-droppingly real.

Of course, some of that could have been because Tinn was playing high-rez music files from The Mastering Labs, Mo-Fi, Reference Recordings, and The Super Audio Center. If there's one trend that really comes of age in 2009, it's ready access to greater-than-Red Book digital, That stuff is tasty!

Jonathan Tinn's picture

Thanks Wes for stopping in to see our room!!!There is a typo regarding the prototype monoblocks. They actually put out 1000 wpc (4 ohms) and 500 wpc (8 ohms).All the Best,Jonathan TinnBlue Light Audio

JIMI's picture

I'm happy to see some mention of the Evolution / Dartzeel system that was shown at the Alexis Park. I attended CES (Alexis Park and Venetion). I didn't get to every room, but I did see most of the worthy exhibits. While there was some good sound, there were precious few state of the art sounding systems(ie: TAD, Perfect Technology The Force, Hanson the King, Magico M5, etc.). Most of these systems were of a larger more dynamic bigger than life scale, but I found the Evolution/dartzeel/playback system the overall best most real and natural of show.

The Groove's picture

I resonate JIMI's conclusion. I thought this setup was indeed the best sounding room of the show, despite it being a small setup. I also liked Ray Kimbers demo with the four reference TAD's, and the TAD monitor next door. I didn't find the Magico room very impressive, insufficient tonal balance, too much base, but they looked good. But the DartZeel/Evolution/Playback combo was easily the MOST MUSICAL system of THE Show. Well done to masters Jonathan, Kevin, Herve, and Andreas.

DUP(really)'s picture

Now hold on there one moment, JA SAID the Ongakuuuu, with it's 25W of some pricey low low power into some other extremely overpriced stuff was the BEST sounding stuff, now someone else says this is? How can that be? It's starting to, now it's always been all someone's ideas, at the moment, 2 hours later, it changes. So much extremely over priced, over hyped stuff. I bet a pro audio show would bring all these ears down to a reality based conclusion.

Wes Phillips's picture

Thanks, Jonathan, I made the correction DUP, JA didn't say the AN room was his best sound of show, I did. And it was -- for me. If JIMI and The Groove preferred the Playback/darTZeel/Evolution, it doesn't suggest that any of us is wrong (Blue Light's room certainly would make my top three rooms). This isn't American Idol.Nor would you be wrong if you had actually listened to either system and rejected them as unsuitable -- which I suspect you would, since neither of them are designed to do the things you value most in sound reproduction. You are correct to suspect that no 25Wpc tube amp would do what you love. Meaning no disrespect, but what all three of us responded to are sonic attributes that fly beneath your radar.Some of us actually listen to music that isn't reinforced by JBL stage monitors--not that there's anything wrong with that--so we build our systems to reflect that sonic reality.

Michael Doukas's picture

This was definitely one of the best sounding rooms I heard at T.H.E show. The music coming from both the Playback Player AND the server based system was great. I must have gone back four times to listen to it. That integrated was great. But I missed the mono's :(.