CAT goes Clique at PAF

When I entered the room shared by Ken Stevens' CAT (Convergent Audio Technology) and Michael D. Griffin's ESP (Essential Sound Products), recording engineers/life partners Jim Anderson (above) and Ulrike Schwarz (below, with Jim) were finishing up a talk/demonstration about recording Patricia Barber's album Clique. They are not the only world-class engineers I've encountered who, standing well to the side and above speakers' tweeters, played tracks so loud that voice and instruments spread and distorted. But in soft passages, and once they'd turned the volume down, the beautiful liquidity of the CAT sound, the superb engineering, and the excellent dynamics of system and recording alike came through for all to relish.

A special treat was a sneak listen to DXD files of Ulrike's recording of soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom's Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1. The contrasts with Allison Miller's drum and percussion, Mark Helias' double bass, and Miya Masaoka's koto are an audiophile's dream. The recording, whose releases include stereo, 5.1, and 3D, was recorded during the pandemic in two different locales on the Upper West Side (of New York, of course) and Brooklyn, with the musicians communing and improvising over the net. Everything was recorded in one take using Griffin's Essential Sound Products (ESP) power cables and a Merging Technology clock that's specified as being accurate to 10 parts per billion.

This system had a field day with Miller's high-pitched gongs. Those sounds were glorious, and far better controlled than the bottom end in what was, bass-wise, an impossible room. Heard: Magico S5 Mk II M-Cast loudspeakers ($45,400/pair), iFi Audio Pro iDSD ($3249), VPI Classic Signature turntable ($6399) with van den Hul Crimson cartridge ($5495), Audio Aero CD player (discontinued), various interconnects and speaker cables, and ESP power cables. CAT's essential contributions included the JL5 LE (Limited Edition) stereo power amplifier ($27,995), JL7 SE (Special Edition) mono amplifiers ($59,990/pair—played after I entered the room), and SL1 Legend Extreme preamplifier ($59,990).