Vienna Acoustics–Ayre Acoustics

This relatively modest-looking system in yet another Son-or-Filtronique room at SSI produced some superb sound. The Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand Symphony Edition speakers ($3500/pair) were being driven by an Ayre AX-7e integrated amplifier ($3500), with the source an Ayre DX-5 universal player ($11,000) being used as a DAC for USB data fed from Amarra running on a MacBook Pro. The USB data connection was AudioQuest's inexpensive Carbon and one AC cable and the speaker cable was by Shunyata. There was also a single Nordost Odin AC cable. If you consider that the Ayre player was being used to provide the same functionality as a $2500 Ayre QB-9, it could be argued that this single AC cable cost as much as the rest of the system together. "It gives an improvement in sound quality and that's justification enough," answered Vienna's Kevin Wolff when I queried him about the system's price balance with the Nordost.

The new version of the Mozart replaces the lower woofer with a driver using a cone featuring the Viennese company's proprietary "Spider-Cone" technology found in its more-expensive models. This endows the Mozart Grand SE with greater low-frequency extension than its precessor, which was heard to good effect with both a 24/96 recording of the Ray Brown Trio and a Black-Eyed Peas track that sampled James Brown. Vienna's entry-level Haydn speaker will also be released in a Grand SE version costing $1850/pair in cherry and piano black and $2000/pair in rosewood and piano white.