Fidelity Imports, Q Acoustics, Audia Flight, Unison Research, Perlisten, and Soulnote

Remarkably, much of the Embassy Suites' 10th floor was taken up by relative newcomer Fidelity Imports, an import and distribution company started four years ago by industry veteran Steve Jain, who'd held management positions at Klipsch and Pioneer. Jain, 46, likes to move fast. After first signing three British companies in short order—Cyrus Audio (amplification), Q Acoustics (speakers), and QED Cable (duh)—he looked to other parts of the globe for further expansion. These days, his stable includes 17 brands, including Slovakia's Neo (high-end audio racks), Italy's Audia Flight (amps, preamps, CD players), and Japan's Soulnote (amplifiers and other stereo components).

The cool thing about Jain is that, like many businesspeople in the high end, he's clearly not just in it for the money. His fervor for superior sound and the concepts behind it came into focus repeatedly during the 75 minutes I spent with him in half a dozen Fidelity rooms, including two with very fine-sounding Perlisten speakers (S7ts at $17,990/pair and R5ms at $5990/pair, above).

It was almost endearing to watch Jain wiggle the loose-seeming top panel of a Soulnote amp (above), explaining that the Japanese engineers build it like that on purpose because "they don't like the sound to get trapped in the box." Pure voodoo and myth-making? Perhaps, but the enthusiasm was genuine, and it's hard to argue with the results: each Soulnote, such as the $7999 A2 integrated, is gorgeous both cosmetically and sonically.

I listened to two sets of Q Acoustics speakers, both cabled with AudioQuest products. The Concept 300s ($4999 with spindly-legged stands inspired by the design of suspension bridges) were driven by an Italian class-A Unison Research Unico Due hybrid amp that sported a pair of 12AX7 tubes. The 300s' sound was balanced, accurate, and not unduly polite. I dug it, just like JA did in his full review.

Moving to the Concept 50 floorstanders ($2995/pair) powered by Audia Flight electronics (above), I heard roughly the same sound signature, with the positive caveat that I slightly preferred these less expensive speakers. (Go figure.) The 50s somehow showed an elevated ease, a kind of "flowiness" that made "Green Song" by Anne Sofie von Otter and Elvis Costello go down as smoothly as a single-malt Scotch. I'll have another anytime.