Kyomi Audio's MBL Rooms

Warm, coherent, magical—all those descriptors came to mind as I listened to a system that, for me, defined the essence of the high-end experience. In the first of Kyomi Audio of Chicago's two stellar-sounding rooms, MBL's Jeremy Bryan ensured that MBL's imposing 101 E MKII full-range Radiastrahler omnidirectional loudspeaker system ($84,500/pair) would perform their fabled disappearing act. Though the presentation lacked the ultra-wide, jaw-dropping soundstage that MBL can produce with ease in larger environments, it beautifully conveyed Ray Montagne's soft touch on his guitar. Sopranos sounded lovely, without an iota of stridency, on the chorus, "Let us Break Their Bonds Asunder," from The English Concert's recording of Handel's Messiah.

Lulled into closing my eyes, I experienced the pure pleasure of sinking deeply into Scala & Kolacny Brothers' "Nothing Else Matters." It was impossible to miss the hammy, strait-laced humor in a ridiculous track from the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, nor the beautiful vocals on Jose James and Lalah Hathaway's "Lovely Day," Making it all possible: MBL's 1621 A CD transport ($31,500), Roon-ready 1611 F D/A processor ($32,250), 6010 D stereo preamplifier ($30,000), and 9011 mono amplifier ($120,000/pair). (The amplifier outputs 840Wpc into 4 ohms with a specified 50A current capability.) Cabling was WireWorld Eclipse, Series 8.

In a considerably smaller side room, MBL's 126 loudspeakers ($12,900/pair) fronted by an N31 CD-DAC ($17,400) and N51 integrated amplifier ($19,900) took center stage. The balance was warm and the midrange lovely, with impressive image size and total top-to-bottom coherence. It takes an accurate system to confirm why, given the strident sound of the first violin on Mozart's Flute Quartet No.4, the Chester String Quartet is not held in the same high regard as the Guarneri, Budapest, Takacs, and Emerson String Quartets. Similarly, a recording of mezzo Denyce Graves singing John Denver confirmed why she was best known for her Carmen. The final track, The Impressions' classic "People Get Ready," affirmed this system's ability to convey spirit and joy without bounds.