Perfection with Wilson, Moon, Clearaudio, Hana, Kubala-Sosna, and Franc

Are we truly moving closer to the alpha and omega of high-end audio, or are we still at the beginning of an ever widening—some would say deviating—path that now includes virtual reality 360° listening, Dolby Atmos, Apple Immersion, and so much more. All I know for certain is that showgoers who visited Quintessence Audio's Perfection Audio when Wilson Audio's Sasha DAW speakers ($39,000/pair) had their grilles on came away with only a partial sense of all this system could accomplish.

Thanks to Simaudio Moon's 780Dve streaming DAC ($18,000), 820S outboard power supply ($8500), 850P preamp ($36,000), 860A V2 power amp ($20,000), and 810LP phono preamp ($13,500), the system sounded lovely and warm on a fine recording I've reviewed, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax's Beethoven Sonatas for Cello and Piano. My only disappointment was that the soundstage seemed surprisingly constricted and lacking in the openness I associate with this recording and equipment.

"It's the black draping," I said to myself as I recalled how heavy draping tends to truncate depth. But while I was listening to Bet.e & Stef's cover of "Fever" and admiring how well the system surrounded Bet.e's voice with air, I realized that, for appearance's sake, the grilles had been left on the Wilson Sasha DAWs.

At my request, it took all of a minute to remove the grilles. What I heard next blew me away. The soundstage completely opened up as the system began to deliver wall-to-wall (or, rather, drape-to-drape) sound. Sara Bareille's take on "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" sounded wonderful, and a return to Ma and Ax's Beethoven finally delivered the expansive sound I'd hoped to hear. The experience left me wondering what the Wilson Alexx V/dCS Vivaldi Apex system would have sounded like if the speaker grilles had been removed in that room as well. If it was that good with the grilles on . . .

For such revelations, we must wait for another show. Many more are coming. COVID-19 may have carved a big black hole in our collective consciousness, but the desire for communal listening experiences remains undimmed.

I regret that I didn't hear the Clearaudio Ovation turntable with Tracer tonearm ($9500) and new Hana Umami Red cartridge ($3950). But I certainly reaped the benefits of Kubala-Sosna's new Sensation cables and a Franc Wood Block equipment stand ($12,000). As for the benefits other showgoers reaped, please read the AXPONA show wrap when it is posted.