Sunny Components Pairs Wilson Audio with Audio Research

Wishing to slow down and luxuriate with trusted friends, I headed to Covina, CA-based Sunny Components’ room on the second floor of the Hilton to reunite with the Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers ($48,500/pair). Making their West Coast show debut, these handsome babies, which I initially blogged about at RMAF 2012, sang superbly through Audio Research’s ARC Reference 250 monoblocks ($13,000 pair) and, in its US premiere, the ARC Reference 10 line stage preamplifier ($30,000). Also in the digital chain were the ARC Reference DAC, which extends up to 24/192; the new Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Signature edition rack; and a combination of Shunyata Research, Transparent, and Isotek cabling and products. (The center box in the photo is an Isotek AC regenerator used to supply clean 60Hz to the power amplifiers. Another Isotek fed AC to the front-end components.) Not auditioned were the ARC Reference Phono 2 SE vacuum tube phono preamplifier ($13,000) and AMG Viella 12 turntable.)

Wilson specialist and sound engineer Peter McGrath (left) enlightened me and Sunil Merchant of Sunny Components (right) by playing a bit of his hi-resolution master of young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor performing the second movement Beethoven’s Op.7, No. 2 sonata. The sound was gorgeous, the maturity of the interpretation, recoded live, breathtaking.

Then we heard two different versions of the adagio from Schubert’s great Cello Quintet. The first, from a recent Harmonia Mundi CD by the Arcanto Quartet, sounded notably less poetic than Peter’s private recording of a quintet headed by violinist James Ehnes. Curiously, first violins of both quartets sounded a bit wiry. Since this is not something I have heard during two other extended listening sessions with the Alexia, nor from previous experience with the Audio Research monoblocks, I highly suspect it originated elsewhere in the system.

Most startling was the opportunity to hear my high-resolution file of Cecilia Bartoli singing “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s Norma. Just the week before, I listened to the file three times on my reference system before reviewing the recording for (not yet published—the 24/96 download will be available from HDTracks upon the recording’s release on June 11). As fine as my reference system may be, I was taken aback to discover that the Alexia/Audio Research system provided a far clearer window on the heartfelt emotion at the core of Bartoli’s voice. It’s not that I simply heard more detail and nuance in the voice; in addition, I heard far more of the intention behind Bartoli’s subtle shading. The period instrument woodwinds behind her also sounded exceptionally rich and inviting. The sound was musical to the core.

Peter tells me that the Alexia basically steals the Alexander XLF’s advances in crossover design and driver integration, offering them for one quarter the price. The price may still be considerable, but for those who can afford it, the Alexia really does seem to enable listeners to get closer to the source of musical creation. That counts for gold in my book.

As for the Isotek products, I had no way to evaluate them on their own, but Sunil claims that putting them in the system lowered the noise floor, raised image height, and sweetened the bass response. What I can say is that lower octave pitches and details on the recordings I listened to were exceptionally fleshed out.

Isotek products included the Genesis power regenerator ($23,995), SuperTitan ($13,995), Aquarius ($1995), Syncro ($1750), EVO3 Elite power cables ($495/2m), and premiere power cables ($149/1.5m). Some of these were in the second room with the new Wadia Intuition 01 that I blogged here.