JMlab Utopia loudspeaker Page 4

I ruminated on the Utopia's effortless musicality while listening to Haydn piano trios by the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips 9500 657, LP). It was fitting music for a late-October afternoon: the leaves were turning rust as the radiators gurgled away—not always quietly—in our loft. The magnificent re-creation of the piano's full power response throughout the entire audio band was thrilling. Notes: "Piano sound at the very top of what I've heard. Once again, with the Nagra, I feel like I'm sitting on the stage in a folding chair, lost in thought as the trio plays before me. How much better does it get than this?"

I'll tell you how much better. By spinning my favorite Miles Davis LP, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Fontana 836 305-1). On the Nagra with the RG-8, I noted: "Man, that's clean! I've never heard speed rendered with such fidelity and harmonic integrity. There's a high-speed wrap surrounding the entire musical construct that keeps everything ultradynamic and right on time." I think that's one of the reasons the Utopia startled me on such a regular basis. I loved the immediacy.

A few more words about the bass...
I've heard slightly tighter bass, but ask me if I care. There's just no getting away from the fact that a sealed box, especially one built to such high standards as the Avalon Radian HC, gets you tighter (but leaner) bass. The upside was the tremendous slam and richness of the Utopia's nether regions. It always sounded powerful and organized, setting a rock-solid, pants-flapping foundation in classic full-range fashion. While it was occasionally a touch ripe—keep in mind issues surrounding room coupling—I've never heard bass that was more well developed. It was always so utterly harmonic and packed with information that to complain would be churlish.

The Utopia loved the utterly pellucid, neutral, and poised YBA Signature 6 Chassis, the unrestrained dynamics nicely balancing the slightly let's-not-get-hysterical character of the French preamplifier. The Nagra PL-P sounded wonderful with them, all ultimate explication and neutrality. The highly musical BAT combo loved the clarity, easy dynamics, and explosive power of this speaker. The Utopia always sounded attractive—very French—yet developed an appealing, contemporary sound by the sheer quality of the microresolution on tap.

Indeed, I heard the differences in EQ between the tracks on Kate Schrock's Shunyata with no particular effort. Yet for all the dynamics and clarity, the harmonic splendor that regularly cascaded over me was a pleasure to enjoy. It occurs to me that the High End has reached some zenith of development in the category of bleeding-edge statement products. Sure, it's an expensive proposition: $30k speakers and amps driven by preamps ranging in price from $9k to $19k, bless my very soul. But developments on the bleeding edge flow quickly down the product lines of most high-end companies, the benefits becoming quickly available to a greater number of audiophiles. In any case, I think we can all acknowledge that there exist today a very few products that perfectly fuse the analytic with the musical. Into this category I dub thee, Utopia. I'm comfortable in saying that, to this point, these are the best speakers I've ever heard. I loved them.

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