Black Ice Audio with Pure Fidelity, Bel Canto, Magnepan, MoFi

There's something about Black Ice Audio (formerly Jolida) that puts me in the frame of mind to enjoy some great tunes. It could be CEO Jerred Dunkerson's welcoming demeanor, or it could be the way the company's tube-centric gear renders smooth, eminently listenable sound without costing a fortune.

The demo system in this room featured two sources: On the analog side, a Pure Fidelity Harmony v.2 ($7995) with a Pure Fidelity Stratos cartridge ($1995) fed a Black Ice Audio F159 phono stage ($1875); on the digital side was the Bel Canto Stream 2 network bridge/DAC ($1999). Both were connected to a Black Ice Audio F360 V2 preamplifier ($2699), which was used for volume control and for its sound field-expanding Dimension Pro circuit.

The F360 V2 fed two different back ends. In the first, a pair of amplifiers fed the "brand new" EL84-based Glass FX 10H integrated amplifier ($799/each), rated at 10Wpc (Ultra-linear), with headphone outputs (the FX10H is marketed as a headphone amp as well as an amp for speakers) as well as a line-level subwoofer output. The FX 10H powered a pair of MoFi Electronics SourcePoint 10 speakers ($3699/pair).

The F360 V2 preamp also fed the new Fusion 85A integrated amplifier (which, at $7999, costs ten times what the FX 10H costs), a show debut. Jerred described the 85A as a "supercharged" F35, built with hand-picked upgraded components. Power output is dependent on tube choice. The unit sported Psvane KT150 tubes, which should put the 85A in range of 90Wpc. This Fusion 85At powered a pair of Magnepan LRS+ speakers ($995/pair).

I requested tracks I listen to regularly at home and essentially know by heart: "Blaze Mountain" by Sounds from the Ground kicked things off, followed by Coil's "Love's Secret Domain," wrapping up with "The End of the End" by The Orb.

The results withstood scrutiny. The 85A was able to get solid and tight bass out of the Magnepan speakers (which are notoriously sensitive to the quality of amplification), leveraging their agility and transparency to make the chosen music an engaging listen.

The tracks I chose are mixed with expansive, enveloping soundfields. Coil even coined the term "sidereal sound" to describe their sonic trickery, which had sounds flying around the room during as the titular track played. You can always count on The Orb—who helped popularize the ambient dub genre—to put out a two-channel mix that aurally envelopes you as thoroughly as a multichannel system might, accompanied by unapologetic bass, floating sounds, and sweeping synth pads that combine to complete the psychedelic effect. A good system will let you get lost in the swirl of these musical wonderlands yet reveal the nuance, layering and artistry contained within.

"Blaze Mountain" is not as eccentric as the other two tracks, but for me it is a staple. I now listen to it every chance I get, surely adding up to hundreds of plays. The meticulously precise mix is revealing of how focused the imaging is on a given system. It always puts me in a relaxed mood when I hear it reproduced with high fidelity, as it was here.

Shows like this can be difficult to parse subjectively when you go from a half million dollar system to something that's four figures total. It's easy to get spoiled by the charms of a no-holds-barred supersystem. But this system had abundant qualities that make listening fun. If we get past all the caveats about owning a pair of Magnepan speakers—like placement, the need for a large space, bass extension, and low sensitivity—what's left is highly affordable speakers strutting their stuff thanks to the F85A integrated amp.

In the following video Jerred and business partner Jaime DeMarco take you through the system; then you can hear snippets of the demo tracks. Through good headphones, you should be able to get a glimpse of what the system is about.

Glotz's picture

Black Ice. Love it. It's almost toooo cool. Very nice models and smart price points.

Great to see both entry-level AND mid-level pricing in a room, using mixed pricing throughout their systems. The LRS+ really isn't the news anymore... Bring on the 2.7i! And the X SERIES!!!! Cannot wait to hear comparisons between the i and x in that model.

My man mark! I'm a juuunkie for The Orb! What a great suggestion at the shows and a wonderful litmus to deep bass, complete envelopment in the soundstage, depth of field perspective and just about every parameter for high end sound (less a live recording in a real space... lol. Still some elements are very organic and very live.) Never smoke weed while listening to The Orb... you'll never come back! Lol...

And the best of news for The Orb lovers? Sedibus' Seti was released TODAY! I literally was just going to open the LP up and clean it for a spin. The last Sedibus release was just fantastic, imo. Chocolate Hills' 'Yarn From the Chocolate Triangle' is even better! Kompakt Records 'Pop Ambient 2024' arrives in the mail tomorrow. Another chill, 'transportional' ambient record.

Looking forward to mixing things up at AXPONA's rooms this year.