There is something unmistakable about hearing a GamuT system. Everything was just so natural and "right" sounding. The system was full of detail with undeniable body. It had remarkable resolution, yet plenty of texture and a surprisingly honest level of instrumental bloom. And, there was enough bass to convince most that there might even be a subwoofer lurking about somewhere in the room! The RS3i's sense of organic Involvement, its unfettered, relaxed, and flowing voice, is truly like unlike any other monitor I know.
Tube electronics Guru, Nick Doshi, and speaker wizard, John DeVore, teamed up to create some serious magic in 534. Sourced by either a brand-new table, the J Sikora Standard ($18,995) sporting a Kuzma Stogi S 12" arm with Crystal Cable wiring ($3,295), fitted with a seductive Koetsu Jade Platinum cartridge ($9,995), feeding the Doshi Phono stage ($17,995), or a vintage Open Reel deck driving the Doshi Tape Playback Amplifier ($17,995). Both sources were directed to the Doshi Hybrid Stereo Amplifier ($19,995), which fed the remarkable DeVore Fidelity Super Nine loudspeakers ($9,990/pr.).
These are two very successful company's, who show admirably with any other manufacturer that they pair with. The lush, vibrant mids, and meaty, full-bodied, sound in this room was just to-die for. With surprising extension at the bottom (yes, someone asked where the sub was!), it was full bodied without being bloated, with remarkable detail, and stellar shimmer and sparkle. This system presented an engaging version of the Analog Production's pressing of the Mighty Sam McClain's Give It Up To Love.
Doug White, owner of Philadelphia's "The Voice That Is" pulled off his usual exceptionally good job in the Wilson room. Analog source was all from TW-Acoustic, including the Raven AC-1 table ($15,500), with the Raven 10.5 arm ($5,500), with a Transfiguration Proteus cartridge (S6,000). Digital was served up using an Antipodes DX Gen 3 Music Server ($7,800 as configured with 1 TB of storage). The Tidal Audio Preos preamp ($32,900), and the Tidal Audio Impulse Dual Mono Amplifier ($33,000) rounded out the electronics, and the gorgeous new Tidal Vimberg Mino Loudspeaker ($29,000) converted electricity to acoustic energy. Knut Skogrand's gorgeous Beethoven series cables and Harmonic Resolution Systems stands completed the system.
This system was amazingly lifelike throughout the midrange in general, and especially with male and female vocals. It rendered delicate degrees of microdynamic shading... yielding a level of immediacy that was almost scary, while depicting remarkable detail and resolve. This system was remarkably transparent, and the way it delicately rendered upper registers, with a such a relaxed sense of air and space, was noteworthy.
Tenacious Sound showed a knock out system in the Lincoln Room, and Jonathan Derda, of MoFi Distribution, played host. Analog was sourced by the Feickert Firebird table using what appeared to be the new Soundsmith Hyperion Mk II from Peter Ledermann (also seen and heard in the VPI Suite), though the handout said it was a Koetsu. Ones and Zeros were reconstructed using the Wolf Audio Alpha 3 Media Server ($5,995) and the Balanced Audio Technology REX DAC ($19,995).
From there out, it was all TAD, starting with the C600 Preamplifier ($40,000), and the M600 mono amplifiers ($75,000/pr.), driving the E1TX loudspeakers ($28,995). Of special interest to me was that this system was all wired using the new "Front Row" flagship cables from Audience, a brand that has been represented in my reference system continuously since 2003.
I got to hear several different LPs on this rig, which was relaxed, natural, and full of life. The system delivered outstanding resolution and detail, with engaging and honest timbre. The degree of articulation, of individuality of instruments, of being able to follow complex arrangements, of the space of, and between, players and instruments, was arresting. This was room was on the short list as providing one of the best musical experiences at this event.
Philip O'Hanlon of "On a Higher Note," had his exceptional brand of magic working in 523, with an all-Gryphon system, save for the tape source. On hand was the Gryphon Scorpio S CD Player ($9,400). During my time visiting the room, Philip played several Master Collection tapes from the Tape Project on a vintage Revox / SonoruS Audio Tape deck. The deck fed the Diablo 300 Reference integrated amplifier ($16,000) driving the Mojo S loudspeakers ($33,000), all connected with Kimber KS Select Kable.
This system just made music, rich and lifelike music, with vibrant mids, and lively upper registers. Playing selections from Jimmy Smith's, The Sermon, the horn was dynamic, with that raucous blat you hear live, and you could almost feel the brushes as they struck or swirled on the tom heads. The presentation was smooth, nicely extended, and conveyed a delightful measure of punch.
Moving to a recording of Malcolm Arnold Overtures, strings had proper density, texture, and space, and horns and percussion were delicately detailed, yet full bodied and fleshed out. This system was immediate and intimate, full of shimmer, air, and sparkle.
Moving to the Montrose room brought me to one of the most accomplished, yet affordable, systems at this year's event. Klaus Bunge, the mastermind behind Indianapolis's Odyssey Audio, was pairing with Dr. Craig Buckles, the owner and designer of Magnan Cables.
Klaus enjoys a unique position as the importer of several highly regarded lines, including the German Symphonic Line products. He has their permission to use the same circuits used in their stellar line of electronics, literally their boards, populated with his own sourced parts using his own bespoke chassis', employing his tweaks and modifications, all sold at factory-direct pricing.
While Dave Magnan retired from cable building in 2010, the company resurfaced in 2012 with Craig at the helm, and I'm here to tell you that he has not just been sitting on Dave's laurels; he has introduced some exceptional products in his Signature series.
Sourced by either the Symphonic Line CD player, or a VPI Avenger turntable with a Van den Hul cartridge, the electronics were all Odyssey. Starting with the Odyssey Suspiro Reference phono preamplifier ($1,950), the Candela vacuum tube preamplifier ($1,600) and a pair of Odyssey Khartago solid state mono amplifier's ($2,000/pr.). Cabling was all Magnan, including the Vi RCA interconnects ($880/4 ft. pr.), Signature speaker cables ($1,200/7ft. pr.), and Signature power cables ($1,210/ 6ft.). To top this all off Klaus was showing his brand-new loudspeakers, the Odyssey Liquid ($5,900/pr.), which he literally just finished in time for this event.
I played several cuts from my show CD, and with the Mari Kodama reading of the Beethoven "Appassionata," the weight of the piano was almost as good as I've heard. The cut just brimmed with shimmer, vibrant string tone, air, space, and a dynamic envelope that made it clear you were listening to a percussion instrument. Not ALL systems can do that successfully.
With the Joël Grare track, "Nihavent," from Paris-Istanbul-Shanghai, tone color, instrumental space and the air "of" and around the instruments, were beyond merely believable, the palpability bordered on corporal. The overall transparency, clarity, depth, and focus this system wrought was unnervingly natural, with superb dynamic impact.
Moving to the Mobile Fidelity UD1S pressing of Abraxas, side one, with "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts," and "Black Magic Woman," was epic! The chimes throughout the opening of "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" were presented with remarkably clear individuality. And, the assertive intelligibility of individual bass fingering and the decay and trailing cymbals on "Black Magic Woman," as well as all the percussion instruments, maracas, timbales, congas, bongos, etc., were all stably placed, precisely sized and located, with no wander or bloat, and each separate strike or hand fall was established with unique individuality. Timbre was rich, full, and exquisitely textured. The only distraction to this entire enchanting experience was what I assumed to be a room gain issue, in the 40Hz to 50 Hz territory, making things just a bit thick and lumpy in that region.
As I finished my notes on this listening session, I was struck by just how well this system performed. I have to say that this system offered the lion share of the performance I would expect from a system costing 10, maybe 15, times as much as this one did. Klaus and Craig, you really brought it this year. Bravo!
Well, that is going to wrap it up for part one of this report. Stay tuned for the lowdown on what just may be the finest sounding system I've ever heard... and, one of the biggest surprises I've had in some 35 plus years in and around this industry and hobby covering shows.
Till then, Enjoy the Music!