JA's Best Sound at AXPONA: The Kyomi Audio/MBL Room featuring MBL N31 DAC, N15 Monoblocks, 101E Mk.2 Speakers, WireWorld Cables

The last room I visited at the 2019 AXPONA was the best-sounding: the big room shared by Kyomi Audio and MBL on the Renaissance Hotel's 15th floor. The system comprised MBL's Noble Line N31 CD player/DAC ($15,400) that I reviewed in February 2018, the N11 preamplifier ($14,600), four N15 monoblock amplifiers ($35,600/pair) and the omnidirectional 101E Mk.2 loudspeakers ($70,500/pair), all hooked up with WireWorld Eclipse Series 8 cables. The N31 is being updated to act as a Roon endpoint, so I hope to be writing a followup.

As luck would have it, Jürgen Reis's laptop crashed as I walked into the room, but once he had rebooted it and got the music playing—"Fit Song" from Japanese DJ Cornelius, which has superbly live sounding drum samples—I was blown away not only by the dynamics and the full-range sound but also by the enormous yet stable soundstage. I was sitting a couple of chairs away from the center seat but was reminded of the old adage: that when a system is optimized, you get a wide stereo stage even when sitting to one side.

And then it was time to hit the hotel bar with Keith Pray, Ed DiBenedetto, and Rosemarie Torcivia from the Stereophile publishing team. AXPONA was a great show, a fitting successor to the high-end section of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Jim Austin's picture
I heard different rooms than you--and fewer--but I did hear the mbl room, too briefly, and it was the best I heard. Jim
Anton's picture

Those are my "aspiration" speakers. Maybe in my next life.

davip's picture

Have you ever looked at the ripped WAV of this song in Audacity, JA?

Brickwalled-flat and an almost continuous mess of clipped samples..

I'd take a modestly-priced (few-$K) system playing properly-recorded music over a $175,000 (plus cables) system playing squashed crap like 'Fit Song' any day. How could you have been "...blown away by the dynamics" with a song that has just a few-db of dynamic range?

Having given up on digital after 30-yrs (and returned to vinyl) I've seen an awful lot of Audacity profiles of WAV files in my endless attempts to find the least-compressed version of music that I wanted. Seeing the dreadfully-mastered CD fare that is often used to offer sound-quality assessment of audiophile equipment, I wonder why reviewers don't make an effort to first check the quality of the audio that is being used in that assessment (e.g., the 150k system here).

I guess there's dynamic and 'dynamic'...

N.B. You could try ripping the 1536 kbps 24/96 PCM audio from the DVD, but I imagine that's squashed too.

John Atkinson's picture
davip wrote:
Have you ever looked at the ripped WAV of this song in Audacity, JA? Brickwalled-flat and an almost continuous mess of clipped samples.

Finally got around to doing so. Yes, the peak levels on this track are at 0dBFS but I didn't find any clipped samples. The track isn't brickwalled but does use the full dynamic range of the CD format.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile