Kef and McIntosh system
Day two started with a great deal of potential, as I dropped in on the KEF Blade Speaker ($30K) exhibit. I noticed that it was paired with McIntosh electronics; the MCD500 CD/SACD Player ($6.5K) C48 Peamplifier ($4.5K), and MC601 Monoblock Amplifiers ($6K). The speaker sounded vast spatially. The strength of the sound was the openness of the soundstage, which was exemplary among the systems at the show. The single point front firing Uni-Q driver system captures much of what is sought by panel speaker users, nearly a mid-way point between a panel and an Omnidirectional speakers. The sound reminded me of excellent smaller monitor/subwoofer combinations.
(Left) Audio Limits system with Venture Ultimate Reference speakers and Fm Acoustics 115 Monoblocks; (Right) 114 FM Acoustics 245 Preamplifier, Weiss Jason Transport, Medea+ D/A Converter, and Man301 Music Archive Network Player
One of my favorite listening experiences this year was the Audio Limits room, featuring the Venture Ultimate Reference Loudspeakers ($135K), Weiss Man301 Music Archive Network Player (with DAC $12,262; without DAC $9,083), Weiss Jason Transport ($22,707) with Medea D/A Converter with Firewire interface ($21,799), FM Acoustic 245 Preamplifier ($25,800) and FM Acoustic 115 Monoblock Amps (108,200/pr). A $15K plus XXR Harmonic Resolution Rack was being used, but not a word was found in the show listing about the cabling! One would think that with over $300k in gear the cabling would not be immaterial.
This was a profoundly good experience; the graphite drivers of the Venture brand are compelling in terms of performance at the extreme edge of the distribution of sound quality among speakers. Most often I am not overly impressed by line arrays of moderately sized bass drivers, but the graphite 4 x 9” bass system of the Ultimate Reference won me over. One could hear no obvious anomalies due to pairing of mismatched materials in the drivers, and for a good reason as they all are graphite based including the tweeter! I was not overly excited by the system last year, but the Venture rig got my blood pumping!
Aaudio Imports system with Lansche No.7 Loudspeakers and Ypsilon electronics
Ypsilon Ultimate Mono Amps and Bergman Airbearing Turntable & Tonearm
Not to be outdone, AAudio Imports sported a changeup from last year. Previous years had seen the pairing of Einstein electronics with Acapella speakers. This year the attendee was greeted by the enormous Lansche No. 7 Loudspeakers ($108K) – like the Acapella, another of those rare speaker brands using a plasma tweeter. A Bergmann Sleipner Airbearing Turntable and Tonearm ($54K) fronted a full suite of Ypsilon products, including the VPS-100 Valve Phono Stage ($26K), CDT-100 CD Transport/Player ($26K), DAC-100 Valve DAC ($29K), PST-100 MkII Valve Preamp ($37K) and SET-100 Ultimate Mono Amps ($125K).
This system sounded like a full $300K rig; there was no slack, no slippage and artifacts intruding upon the purity – it was a definitively outstanding system and was mentioned constantly by show goers as such. Attendees don’t determine my assessment of systems, but they were spot on with the AAudio room. For good reason, as it met my criteria of a Super-system with over-the-top performance.
These two systems showed what is possible in terms of cost-no-object system building, and were a pleasure to hear. There were other rigs at the show which had similar quality but not at the scale of the Audio Limits and AAudio Imports rooms. If you have bottomless pockets and are seeking a singular experience in audio, such systems will deliver it. It should be noted that Audio Limits is a regional dealer while AAudio Imports is an importer near Denver, and as such have a bit of an unfair advantage in setting up their big rigs – they didn’t have to haul them across the country. Audiophiles need to realize that the best locally supported gear/systems come out at shows. To hear top end systems of dealers on the East or West coast at a show, one may have to attend a show in that region.
I am reminded of a discussion with a reviewer from Germany who attended the show. He seemed worn out and off his time schedule as I exited the hotel at about 6:00a.m. to go for a walk. We chatted about the dearth of equipment from the other side of the world. Sadly, audiophiles are not privy to the entire realm of audio gear, as an awful lot of it never crosses over the ocean. Having “the best” usually means having the best available where you are. Even when attending shows, one is not guaranteed a full spectrum experience, but it is a lot better than pining for something better and never tasting a large slice of the component pie! Attending a show will most assuredly whet your appetite for something better in your home system, but when it is realized it results in a more captivating and rewarding listening experience.
- (Page 1 of 2)
- Next page →