Bluebird Music Limited Brings SME, Fezz, AVM, Weiss, Canton to Chicago

Jay Rein (right) and Chad Stelly (left) of Bluebird Music Limited presented multiple debuts and US firsts at AXPONA, including a chance to meet SME CEO Stuart McNeilis (center), on hand for the first American spin of his newish SME Model 60 turntable ($71,900, below; Stereophile review by Michael Trei forthcoming).

It's always fun to meet gentlemen you've only known through emails, and with McNeilis, frankly, a true thrill and honor, turntable fiend that I am. McNeilis is walking analog history.

Along with the SME Model 60 turntable, the Bluebird show included the US debut of the new AVM PH 8.3 phono stage ($13,995), AVM PA 8.3 preamplifier ($18,385), AVM MA 8.3 monoblocks ($44,995/pair, above), and the AVM MP 6.3 media player ($12,995). Bluebird also presented the North American debut of the Swiss-made Weiss Engineering DAC501—I loved its industrial look ($9645); Canton Reference 3K loudspeakers ($13,995/pair, below) were present, cabling by Kubula-Sosna.

A second system included the SME Model 6 turntable ($7995), Fezz Audio Gratia MM/MC EVO phono stage ($1195), the US debut of the Fezz Audio Lybra 300B EVO amplifier ($5995; Alex Halberstadt is currently reviewing a Fezz Audio component), the new Canton Townus 90 loudspeakers ($3695/pair), and cables by Kubula-Sosna.

But, hold on, there's also a kitchen system when brewing coffee or mixing Old Fashioneds—I'm so there! The AVM CD 30.3 CD player ($2995), the world premiere of the Weiss Engineering DAC204 ($2895, above), Kubula-Sosna cables, rounded out the morning rig.

Jay played Art Pepper's Smack Up on the big SME Model 60, but the joint clearly was not rocking. Lows were congested, Art's trip was not singing, nor soaring. We agreed that it was the LP, not the rig. Just as John Coltrane's Giant Steps suffers for a boomy bass mix, low- end was not hip on Smack Up. But when we played a Beethoven piano concerto performed by Clifford Curzon with the Vienna Philharmonic, the music jumped to attention, large scale and surprisingly sensitive. I was particularly taken with the microdynamic range this big system so easily produced. This was a treat.