The following listing was one of the “top gun” systems at either show including the following elements (not a complete listing): NeoDio NR22T Transport ($13,300) and NR22D DAC ($12,000), da Vinci AAS Gabriel Turntable limited edition ($59,900) with Grand Reference Grandezza Tonearm Luxury Edition ($10,989), Grand Reference Grandezza Stereo Cartridge ($8,525), Lamm LL1 Signature Line-Level Preamplifier (pair/$42,690), Lamm LP2 Phono Preamplifier ($7,590), Lamm ML3 Signature Amplifiers (pair/$139,290), Kubala Sosna Elation Series cabling totaling $84,700 all sitting on Critical Mass Systems Maxxum support systems totaling ($92,800) and the Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 Speakers ($158,000/pr). Total system MSRP was $667,164.
For all the firepower, the system was a relative disappointment, as I was much more moved overall by the experience of hearing the Maxx 3 a year ago with similar front end and amplification. At that time I named the Lamm/Wilson system as one of my top three of the show. Perhaps the identical configuration was used here except the speakers in a different room. Maybe I anticipated too much improvement over the Maxx 3, but this system in terms of digital playback was flat, and though large scale, not as warm and inviting as I expected. It is possible that others who heard the da Vinci analogue front end were impressed. My past experience with da Vinci has been very positive such that I would guess the analogue front end would supply some of the body which was lacking.
Wavac has predictably glamorous gear and appealing sound, here displayed in a system comprised of: Einstein “The Last Record Player” Tube CD Player ($7,790), Artemis Lab SA-1 Turntable with TA-1 Arm ($11,300), Lyra Olympus Cartridge ($10,890), Wavac AC-2 Power Conditioner ($21,900), Wavac LCR-X2 Phonostage (3 chassis, $25,000), PR-SH1 Reference Control Amplifier (six chassis, $ to be announced), HE-833mkII Mono-blocks with gold trace option ($180,000), Purist Audio Design Corvus and Proteus series suite (approx. $33,000), Sistrum rack (approx. $2,800), and the Venture Audio Grand Excellence speakers with diamond tweeter ($74,500).
There are now several compelling offerings on the market for larger, full range speakers employing ceramic based drivers. The Venture continues to hold its own in my experience; I would like to hear this system in a more intimate setting or with additional treatments as I feel the room was working against it. Systems such as the STAHL-TEK room used curtains effectively, and I believe they would aid presentation of such fine systems as this.
Tidal & BA Labo
The Tidal Sunray ($151,000, including the active x-over “Tidal LPX” and internal passive pure silver foil crossover) and BA Labo electronics were another top performing system. Used in this rig were the BA Labo DAC BD-1 ($37,500), Control Amp BC-1 ($59,500), and Power Amp BP-1 MkII ($77,500). The Sunray is an amazingly controlled speaker for its vast size and in a smaller environment. I enjoyed both the Constellation and BA Labo electronics with the Sunray, but both systems were extremely pleasing. The Sunray was one of my top three large floor standing speakers at both shows.
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