Each show venue has its own quirks and issues, and the Westin O’Hare Chicago/Rosemont was no different. The bugaboo was a rather noisy ventilation system, which in some rooms manifested itself nearly as a low howl. Some of the main and lower floor larger rooms were affected. Still, I would rather work with that background noise than rooms too hot from equipment and body heat, as it’s extremely difficult to concentrate on a system when the atmosphere is stuffy and the room overly crowded.
This segment will cover some of the more impressive and interesting systems. While varying widely in cost and technology, all of these rooms touched my psyche in profound ways. I felt any of them would be worthy of a well-heeled audiophile with distinct preferences.
The Voice That Is
Each day brought a mixed bag of experiences, most pleasing, but some odd. One room which left an indelible impression was The Voice That Is, a dealership owned by Doug White, which carries superb lines of equipment. One of my favorite systems that was the antithesis of the Magico system, came with printed flier outlining the componentry, a nice touch which showed forethought and consideration of the attendees. The system was comprised of the Aurender W20 Reference Music Server ($17,600), Bricasti Design M1 DAC ($8,995), TIDAL Presencio Preamplifier ($77,990), TIDAL Impulse Monoblock Amplifiers ($64,990), TIDAL Contriva G2 Speakers ($69,690), Purist Audio Design 25th Anniversary Cables, Stillpoints isolation devices and ESS Racks.
The sound quality was in the top five rooms I visited, bursting with power and grace. “Jazz Variants” performed by the O-zone Percussion Group, had everything tympanic in its proper place and all mallets striking with proper force. The new TIDAL Contriva G2 Speaker struck a beautiful balance between precision and comfort, or ease. The system produced exceptional bass both in weight and quality from the pair of 9” BCC woofers.
Another winner was Legacy Audio, showing their V flagship speaker system ($51,500). I have reviewed quite a number of Legacy speakers and currently own the Legacy Whisper DSW, a custom design capable of great flexibility in crossover and amplification (see my review). I am always curious how Legacy speakers sound at shows. Knowing that a new predominant speaker was revealed, I had to see whether it would meet my expectations. The other components used with the V were the Ayon CD-07 Player, laptop presenting file playback, and CODA 15.5 Amplifiers ($10K ). Cabling was provided by Morrow Audio, and ranged from the MA3 Reference Interconnects at $199/1M pair to the
SP7 Grand Reference Speaker Cables at $1,499/2M pair.
The V replaces the Helix as Legacy’s top-of-the-line product, and incorporates a new active management processor named the Wavelet, combining DAC, Preamp, Crossover and Room Correction functions. A pair of V speakers utilize 2,800 total Watts of ICEpower inside the speakers to actively control the bass. The Midrange and Treble use outboard amplification, in this case provided by CODA Technologies.
True to form, Bill Dudleston educated show goers, presenting before and after images of sound waves treated by the Wavelet. Though in one of the largest rooms at the show, the V was capable of sounding intimate, and appropriately scaled the performances to actual size. One of the demo pieces playing was of an orchestra; the scale and structure of the sound was impressively grand and made it easy to visualize the entire performance. The powerful Wavelet will be trickled down to the Whisper (available later this year), and Aeris (available now).
I love ESL sound and one of the newest expressions of electrostatic design, the Muraudio Domain Omni, is second to none in terms of capturing the beauty of that technology. Not only does the Domain Omni benefit from the speed and cleanness of the ESL, it leverages these in an omnidirectional design, taking that technology to new heights! A base incorporating triple opposed woofers supports the column array of narrow electrostatic drivers. According to Muraudio, pinpoint center imaging is maintained regardless of where one stands or sits in relation to the speakers.
I spent quite a bit of time in the Muraudio room as this was a new experience, and from a range of music including Adrea Bocelli, Jen Chapin, Rajaton and other esoteric demo pieces the Domain Omni PX1 (the passive version at $63K; an active version named the DA1 is also offered), was eminently engaging. I found the “mushroom cloud” soundstage, as I have termed it, as clean and solid as I have ever heard, beyond that of other omnidirectional speakers. As a first product by Muraudio, the Domain Omni is a sensation, and should be on the sort list of cost-no-object speakers for those seeking an avant-garde system.
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