Graham Nash Visits the YG Acoustics and Constellation Suites in the Venetian

[Note: click here for background on this project and here for how we set up the equipment.]

I'm grouping these two rooms together since we didn't listen to Graham Nash's album in either one, but rather had each host pick something out. We were getting behind schedule, so the idea was to expose Nash to some completely different speaker technologies back to back and see what he thought.

In the Constellation room, host Irv Gross made a bee-line for Graham and exclaimed that he still had his 45 single of The Hollies' "Look Through Any Window". Nash then proceeded to tell the story about how he met the then 15 year old author of the song, Graham Gouldman (who would surface later in 10CC). Nash recounted that Gouldman's mother kept an eye on the older lads while the tunes were demoed in the living room. "We thought, that's a hit, do you have any others? He then proceeded to play 'Bus Stop' and the rest is history."

L-R Constellation's Peter Madnick, Graham Nash, Irv Gross.

Graham asked Gross to pick some music and he cued up Diane Krall's cover version of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You". A savvy choice on Gross's part since the album Mitchell originally recorded it for, Blue, is often cited as being partly inspired by her romantic history with Graham. In fact Nash covered the song himself at one point. And then Gross played a classic track from Mose Allison.

Nash: "I thought this system was the most natural that I've heard so far today. But I didn't get a chance to play music that I was familiar with so I could compare. But the two pieces of music he played were great examples of what that system could do."

Over in the YG Acoustics room, Graham received a more traditional audiophile experience, when a simple recording of a jazz trio was played (unfortunately I neglected to note what track they were using). I thought the music in the room pulsed with life, and the player was clearly imaged life-sized in front of us. I couldn't wait to hear how Nash perceived this one.

Nash: "Very natural sounding system. You could hear the breath entering his mouth just before he played a note. I would have liked to have heard the same track on a good set of headphones to compare. You could hear his mouth working the instrument, you know, the shape of his mouth working the notes he was playing. The pressure of his lungs. I could hear all that on the system. It was quite amazing."

Graham with YG's Dick Diamond.

Constellation Equipment List (used for demo):
Constellation Altair II preamp $78,000
Constellation Hercules II monoblock amps $180,000/pr
Martin-Logan Neolith loudspeaker $80,000/pr

YG Equipment List (used for demo):
dCS Scarlatti CD transport $32,999
Boulder 2120 DAC $65,000
Boulder 2110 preamp $55,000
Boulder 2150 monoblock amplifiers $99,000/pr
YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3 loudspeakers $106,800/pr
Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables
Kubala-Sosna XPander power distribution $4,800

Allen Fant's picture

How is GN hearing health?

DH's picture

Disappointed you didn't bring him to a room with something that only cost 5 or 10 or 20K, instead of 100-200K.
Not exactly surprising that the thought the megabuck systems sounded great.

Gumbo2000's picture

I find the articles interesting to read but I would go even lower on the price. The Mojo/Audeze setup was as close to affordable as we are probably going to see from this series. Earth to Stereophile! Earth to Stereophile! You've missed your reality check appointment again! No wonder the industry is in the state its in when there seems to be no attempt to connect with regular everyday people. I have been interested in audio since I was in high school and it is my main hobby still. I work an average job, if I was to start from scratch today I would budget about $3-5k for a system, and for the average consumer that would be a high figure I am afraid!

Glotz's picture

There are tons of equipment out there that sound fantastic for less than a grand.

Performance audio is much like performance cars... you and I can only afford a Subaru, but there are those that can afford a Ferrari, and knowing that trickle-down exist only in the high-end, all of us should be grateful, instead of disdainful.

Graham wants to get a real picture of what is possible for someone that works in the studio all of his life, this is a great and easy way to do it.

Kudos to all the mfgs involved to get a musician like Graham Nash (!!!!) to be involved with the industry.

It can only be a good thing.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Stereophile is not a publication of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. We cover products at all price points. Herb Reichert, for example, focuses exclusively on budget components. Our sister publication, InnerFidelity, focuses totally on headphones and the like at all price points.

May I also point out that only four blogs of Jon Iverson's day with Graham Nash have been posted so far. I don't know what's coming, but I'm certainly eager to learn. In addition, as another commentator has already pointed out, it's clear that Jon was eager to let Graham hear state-of-the-art. I would expect some headphone experiences - we've had one so far - because this whole idea began with headphone listening, and Graham expressed his desire to listen on headphones while he was in this very room.

Gumbo2000's picture

Curious as to the arrangement of the GN auditions. Was he given free reign as to the rooms or was he lead around to chosen rooms.

But in the end actions speak louder than words. State of the art is not defined by the number of zeros after the dollar sign, it exists at all levels. Stereophile seems to take the easy path: blind them with diamond drivers, silver wiring, and many zeros in the price and the gullible public will believe any rewritten marketing blurb passed off as journalism.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Read my blogs of some of the expensive equipment I covered.

Gumbo2000's picture

As I am only commenting on the current series with GN I think you are not getting my point: Does GN make music for the 1% or the 99%? Only auditioning his music on uber equipment is really giving a false reality, yes it was probably fun for GN to hear high level equipment and for us to read about his impressions, but in the end it is fairly meaningless to what I would guess to be his fans and consumers of his music. As I said in my first comment, the Mojo/Audeze setup was as close to the unwashed masses as it seems GN got (as reported so far), and he seemed to like it! To me that is more insightful than his comments about the 5 and 6 figure systems.

ChrisS's picture

...of your posts is that you wish that Graham Nash should listen to and comment on equipment that you can afford?
What if, say, three people that I know and myself would like Graham Nash to listen to and comment on equipment in the $8,000 to $12,000 range. Should he? After all, that's what we can afford.

Then again, I listen mostly to jazz, so if Wynton Marsalis were ever available, I wonder if he wouldn't mind listening to a Play Station 1 which I use in my office system to see if I am on track for this piece of equipment for jazz cd playback...

Tesla one's picture

Lately some debate has focused on, and been "picked up" by Stereophile concerning audiophiles and whether they're off-track, so to speak, in their sonic endeavors and search for the ultimate in sound reproduction; does the sound they're after truly represent an acceptable facsimile of live acoustic music and its particular signatures, or has it developed into a secluded "hifi entity" more or less defined by itself and subjective criteria without the proper reference to live instrumental sound and acoustics as a sought objective criteria?

This is a rather hot topic indeed and one I'm glad is getting some attention, for it is utter relevant and a reaction that has finally bled through as the hifi "industry" (as it is rightly called) sees ever escalating prices amidst claims of "revolutionary" new principles and re-invented wheels; gotta keep them components selling, right, and find out new reasons (i.e.: new wrapping to what is essentially the same products) to lure in the costumers.

From my chair this slew of show reports aided by Mr. Nash (a musician, of course) comes highly suspicious and convenient in the wake of above mentioned debate, so that the positive findings of Mr. Nash can help sanction the high-end industry as a whole in confirming how it apparently hasn't derailed in its effort to replicate true, live sonics. Mind you, Mr. Nash is not drawing this conclusion himself, only that the sound of most setups to his ears bears with them the impression of "progressively closing the gap to the music." And yet, the conclusive remark stands implicit in simply quoting the words of named musician in this carefully tailored experiment that comes too close (and one-sided) to the initial question raised to become interesting and non-partial.

Btw, there seems not to be the advertisement of products only, but now also, and not least, their prices which are neatly flaunted in the bottom section of each report. Crickey, most of these setups cost a fortune (cables alone cost more than medium sized cars..), all pointing to a big sales add that goes hand-in-hand with the hifi industry at large.