Hearken Audio/Atelier Audio/Jean Nantais/Lenco/Bird of Prey/Miyajima Labs/Ilumnia/Ocellia/Tzar/Aqua

A room I can always count on to deliver soul-stirring, heart-warming, duct-tearing, yearning-to-possess sound is the one hosted by Hearken Audio/Atelier Audio, an oasis of some of the least mechanical, most musical sound I've heard this side of real-life music.

You want to hear about something else that was completely different? The Ilumnia magister speakers ($34,000). They're a one-of-a-kind design featuring an inverted spiderless, surroundless floating midbass driver suspended by an electromagnet, over which projects like a shooting star on a metal beam a directional silk-dome tweeter. Powering the system was a mighty 8Wpc Myyajima Labs OTL 2020 amplifier ($23,500) connected to a 12AT7/12AU7-tubed Miyajima Labs EC-5 preamp with phono stage ($8650). Ocellia Cables hooked everything together.

The above components were connected to two sources, both of which I listened to lustily, starting with analog, which comprised a stately-looking Jean Nantais Reference Ultimate turntable ($33,125, below), featuring a 16-speed adjustable Lenco motor and a bigger-than-normal platter made of an alloy of melted ingots. The turntable, fitted with a 12" Bird of Prey tonearm ($14,500) and Tzar DST v2 MC cartridge ($15,800), was not only making its world debut at the Toronto show, but is the only one in existence at the time of this writing.

On the digital side was the Aqua LinQ endpoint streamer/network interface (starting at $7500) feeding an Aqua La Scala MkII R2R DAC ($10,000).

With both sources, the system produced sound that was vivid, full-bodied, and soaked the air in smooth, enveloping liquid-paint colors. That's not to say this system didn't sound realistic, but that its priorities were on delivering subtlety, touch, emotional gravitas, art, and the essence of music. It spoke directly to the mind and heart.

Another product making its world debut, but that I didn't listen to, was the 6922-tubed Myajima Labs moving-coil step-up transformer. ($9600).

(All prices in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.)

Anton's picture

If those are the speakers off to the right, they are very reminiscent of the Linkwitz Mini!