Audio Power Labs Treats Eye and Ear

Although Misty Ellis' atmospherically lit room was a challenge to photograph, the sound this company from Columbus, OH put together from a big-bucks system headed by the Audio Power Labs 833TNT 200W transformer-coupled monoblocks ($175,000/pair), Tidal Audio Contriva Diacera SE floorstanding speakers ($58,190/pair in piano black, $64,190/pair in African Pyramid Mahogany as shown), and Laufer Teknik The Memory Player 64 ($24,600) was as tantalizing and satisfying as its visuals. Initially marred by an exaggerated midrange and treble resonances, everything improved immensely when Tidal dealer Doug White, the extremely conscious proprietor of The Voice That Is in Newtown Square (Philadelphia), PA, removed the preamp responsible for the imbalance.

On my second visit, I was won over. An unfamiliar track, Richard Bona's "Reverence" from the album Cameroon, sounded superb. Then we turned to one of my trusty reference standbys. Given that the Music Fidelity M6 CD ($2499) initially in the system was rendered inoperable once the preamp was removed, we needed to burn my hybrid SACD of Mahler No.2 to the music server's HD before I could take a listen. With the room as dark as it was, yours truly inadvertently pulled out the second disc of the two-disc Mahler set, which begins with the third movement of the five-movement symphony.

Once over my surprise at hearing the wrong movement, I settled in to listen to the entire thing. It was that enjoyable. Bass bite couldn't equal that of Scaena's much larger system next door, but this system did so much so well that it earns a deserved place on my AXPONA Top 4 list.

Essential associated components: Silver Circle Audio Pure Power One transformer power conditioners (5.0 se, $7500; two 5.0s, $5000 each), Klee Acoustics Grand Illusion speaker cable and TruBalance XLR interconnect ($8995 and $3995 respectively), Kaplan Cables GS Mk II HC & GS Mk II SRC power cords ($1695 each), and nine Stillpoints Ultra 5 isolation devices ($718) each.

Seen parked outside: Audio Power Labs' huge truck with the sign, "My Tubes Are Bigger Than Yours." I sure hope so.