The Icing on the Munich Cake: McGrath, Fon, Nagra, Wilson, Impex

It had been far too long since I'd experienced a Peter McGrath demo, let alone one in which the master recording engineer and Wilson Audio Brand Ambassador had a full hour to share his recordings. At last, on Sunday at 2pm at Munich High End 2023, Peter followed Abby Fon (below) of Impex Records' packed presentation on Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia: Saturday Night in San Francisco 12 • 6 • 80 to spend an hour in the Nagra room playing a generous helping of some of the favorite tracks that he's recorded over the years.

Each of Peter's two presentations—the first was on Saturday—was different. At mine, the volume was initially too low to overcome the room's heavy black draping and fill the space. But when it was turned up on the last two selections, music filled the room with the most glorious, timbrally true sound I heard at Munich High End.

Peter stuck to MQA-encoded digital files played through his computer. Without its analog front end, the system, which included the same Nagra recorder that Peter sometimes uses, consisted of Nagra's new Classic DAC II with discrete class-A output stage ($18,500) fed by the company's Classic PSU power supply ($16,900), Nagra's HD preamp ($72,975), HD Amp monoblocks ($99,500/presumably for the pair), Wilson Audio Alexx V speakers (reviewed by Jim Austin in December 2021) with Lōke subwoofers (to be reviewed by moi), Shunyata Research cabling with Altaira Noise Reduction Ground Hubs, and Modulum racks and amp stands. The Alexx V speakers, I should add, were owned by Nagra.

Peter began with one his most recent recordings, of pianist Simon Trpčeski performing a bit of Prokofiev. Then came Copland, Mahler, Benjamin Grosvenor's Bach-Buson Chaconne, Verdi's "Caro nome" from Rigoletto, a fabulous jazz version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor from Ars Longa of Havana, and more. With sound as uncolored, filled with life, and involving as anything else I heard at Munich High End, the hour served as the perfect high point finale to Munich High End. I can't wait to hear some of Peter's music again when he journeys to Port Townsend in July to install the Lōkes for review.

NY State of Mind's picture

... but the system used included the Nagra Classic DAC II, which does not decode MQA?

Doesn't that speak volumes about the supposed efficacy (or lack thereof) of the "2nd unfold" and all of that other BS thats been spewed previously about "full MQA decoders"?

Moreover, why would it be important to even mention the use of MQA encoded files so prominently, given the Nagra digital component in use (wisely) doesn't support Master Quality Adulterated?

Indydan's picture

It's because some here at Stereophile and that Peter McGrath will shill for MQA as if their lives depended on it!
MQA is bankrupt and is going down the shitter. History will harshly judge those that promoted it...

ChrisS's picture


Will history harshly judge Ford?

Some already have.

Archimago's picture

I met McGrath back in 2019 when he was showing off some of his music for the Wilson DAW. He said nothing about MQA at the demo so even though he used it, I respect that he wasn't doing any overt sales job on obviously a compromised codec nobody actually asked for.

Going forward, hopefully he'll get back to the original hi-res 24/88.1 or whatever master files. It's not like there's any space limitations on his computer to need MQA's lossy compression! Kinda silly to even do that to begin with when demoing high-end gear.

Maybe it's just Stereophile/JVS's need to mention (shill) this obviously failed "format"!

BTW. As a "news" source. After something like 2 months already, why not even a simple article to let Stereophile readers know that MQA has failed? It's useful to know for those in the market for say a new DAC so as not to obsess over basically a useless feature if they're trying to decide between devices with/without MQA.

At least magazines like Britain's own What-HiFi? wrote about it in April. Strange not a mention in Stereophile or TAS!

John Atkinson's picture
Archimago wrote:
As a "news" source. After something like 2 months already, why not even a simple article to let Stereophile readers know that MQA has failed?

This was discussed at length in the June print edition, p.13.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

rt66indierock's picture

But I’m already reviewing The Administrators Proposals and providing them with financial and marketing information.

PS We did a great trip on as much of Old Hwy 80 as we could to San Diego California. Discovered a time capsule that will be opened July 4, 2026. We plan to be there.

ChrisS's picture

Why have plain, old yellow mustard when you can have Dijon?

Some people!

And nobody talks about it...

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I like the sound of MQA. I praise what I like. So does Peter. Not that anything we like or do will stop you from trying to control the narrative by calling names and spreading misinformation.


NY State of Mind's picture

You like and praise the sound of MQA even when it's not being decoded? That means you like the sound of the recording itself including the mastering, but MQA really gets no credit there, right?

ChrisS's picture

..."cheese" slices!

You can't tell the "cheese" from the wrapper anymore!!

Which is "cheese" and which is wrapper??

And what are you going to do about it??!!

Indydan's picture

I call it like it is. If that includes name calling, then so be it.
As far as spreading misinformation, what misinformation have I spread?

ChrisS's picture

Ford Motor Company!

NeilS's picture