EQ Audio/Rotel/Monitor Audio/Focal/Musical Fidelity/Kimber Kable/Norstone/Audience

Like at the last Toronto Audiofest, I listened to two of EQ Audio's main systems that were setup at both ends mirror-image-like along the length of the back wall of their huge, subdivided exhibit space. One system included another North American premiere!—the Monitor Audio 3-way PL200 3G speakers ($17,500/pair), which have a specified frequency range of 25Hz–60kHz, and were connected to a 500Wpc, dual-monoblock Rotel Michi S5 power amp ($10,000), and a Michi 3-2bit streaming DAC-equipped P5 preamp ($5900). Associated equipment included Kimber Kables throughout, an Audience Adept Response AR6 power conditioner ($4753.20), and a Norstone Squre audio rack ($1300).

The second system consisted of a pair of Focal Sopra No.3 speakers ($33,798/pair) and electronics by Musical Fidelity, about which: EQ Audio owner Ed O'Herlihy prefaced my auditioning of this system by declaring: "I dub myself the Canadian ambassador of Musical Fidelity. I'm going to rebuild the brand come hell or high water. They just punch so high above their weight." On display were the Musical Fidelity streaming MX-DAC ($969), M8SPRE preamp ($6500), and a pair of M8S-700M mono amps ($5590/each). Cabling and power conditioning were by Audience.

On a variety of music streamed via Tidal, both systems displayed power, excellent dynamics, and tentacle-like in-room extension. They also produced images that were clearly demarcated at various depths and heights across a deep and wide soundstage.

More specifically, on the Monitor Audio-centered system, I noted—literally noted, on my writing pad—how it delivered an airy, uncluttered sense of wide-open space and deep-diving transparency, along with vivid tones, stygian bass impact, and a chunky—dare I say ballsy—musical momentum.

On the Focal-centered system, I noted the size of it images—huge in this high-ceilinged space—its startling bass impact, the lusciousness of its acoustic sounds, the in-my-face—in a good way—intimacy of its vocal renditions, and its uncanny ability to make sounds appear behind me.

In the end, they both charmed my pants off, figuratively speaking.

(All prices in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.)