Don’t know what the protocol is for picking up on an old thread like this and giving it a stir-up. Maybe I should have started a new thread, but at the end of the day I’m still on the same journey here so for those unwilling to trawl through old news, please start at post No. 148
Grimmie In Wonderland.
Part 1.- W(ait) A(while)
Every once in a blue moon, if your lucky, you find yourself in the right place at the right time, and all the things that you’ve hoped for come together in circumstances that far exceed your expectations. So much so in fact that you start feeling the need to double check when crossing the road, just in case reverse Karma decides that your usual dumb luck has to come back around sooner than you’d like.
That right place was Melbourne, an absolute Aladdin’s cave of Hi-Fi components, and I had arranged two full days of Super System searching. The focus of that search eventually centred on the one place I almost dismissed at first as way beyond consideration. During one of my many pre-trip e-mails, one of the sages that I consulted ‘over there’ made a wise comment, “if you buy only what you can afford, you never have good stuff”. Simply put, but a truism nevertheless. Sometimes, if it’s important enough TO YOU and doesn’t harm others, what the hell - go for it. For some it’s a jet ski or fishing boat, for others a sports car or golf membership to Royal Perth, for me, cometh the hour, cometh the Hi- Fi.
My post on here for Super Systems was received with huge apathy in the replies column, “how embarrassment”,(thanks heaps guys) but what the hell. I did find that clarifying my thoughts in print (so to speak,) was a huge help in planning my trip and in assessing the components, and got some great PM’s and offers to help me out.
Not that it all went to plan though. I did previously get into Vince Ross, Audio in Perth to hear No.1 on my list the sensational Martin Logan, Vantage. Hybrid electrostatics. Some may not like the panel look, but I think they are slim elegant and just fantastic. Instead of the Bel Canto source and amplification that I wanted to borrow from Pat at WAR Audio (not available) it was instead teamed-up with the Pathos Logos Hybrid amp and Audio Analogue CDP. (System total cost approx $20,000 and rather too high) The sound was awe inspiring to my ears, especially the soundstage which filled the far end of the room with a clarity and precision that I’d never heard before. Over two listening sessions, (extended lunch hours) I played my usual test tracks First, Cinematic Orchestra with Roots Manuva, ‘All things to all men’. Now as much as I hate 99% of rap, there is always cream at the top of any genre of music and this track has to be very close to Number One in this. The emotion to be heard in his voice as he speaks of the futility of his life – “Who’s the hardest, who’s the hardest,”- is almost tear-jerking, and never more so than on this wonderful system. NOT perfect though. The difficulty of integration between electrostatic panel and cone bass driver is quite obvious, though not necessarily terminal and Andrew the demonstrator seemed to make the mistake of trying to cover one flaw of the speaker, slightly inadequate bass, by exaggerating another as the dip between deep and mid bass was made worse than it need be. The rising base notes of this tune which on a perfectly controlled bass speaker would be even and equal were not. They started deep and very loud produced by separately amplified drivers at full volume, but faltered and faded as they rose, into the ribbon section. That aside, from there the sound was just ace! Clear and smooth (I wonder if it would be more powerful with the Bel Canto Ref 1000 that I had wanted) and so enveloping. Almost like headphones but free, liberated from source. Even more impressive was Chemical Brothers ‘The Sunshine Underground’. What a test for any system, it has all the bells and whistles, plus a couple of kitchen sinks, a huge panorama of sound, electric and electronic with muttered vocals and miniscule tinkelling shot through it. Nothing projected the massive framework of this sound like the MLV’s before or since. I even had to play it again on my second visit just to check that I hadn’t blown up the impression of it in my mind, I hadn’t. The feeling of incredulity and exhilaration at the end of the track was quite amazing. One other nagging doubt remains in my mind, not always can we play music up to the volume we would like, sometimes we must, or we want to play softer, for any number of reasons. When the volume of this system was lowered by Andrew to talk about something the soundstage collapsed, although still adequately audible, everything had contracted like a hibernating bear. A little disconcerting and I didn’t get the chance to check it out more. Still an enormously satisfying audition.
Next out of the gate came the Focal Electra be 1027. A beautifully finished speaker and with huge raps (hype?) for the tweeter. Again not quite what I had planned. I had to be content with the Cambridge Audio Azur 840C and 840A (system cost14 to 15k) Integrated instead of 840E & W power / pre which are still not in the shops yet. Honestly, I couldn’t get excited about this lot at all. Although less expensive than the MLV etc it was terribly average, I couldn’t even hear much, if any improvement on my existing system at home. I got the amps swapped to Musical Fids A5 CDP and Integrated (at 17k) but though beefier, not a huge improvement, rather underwhelming. I couldn’t comment on the tweeter as the presentation was not of quality to judge individual elements. Ho-hum. I since wonder whether it was a simple case of the speakers not being run in properly as I had expected so much more. You have to judge on what you hear though.
One system auditioned but not on the list was B&W 803D with NAD Master Series M55 and M3 Dig Disc Player / Dual Mono Amp.(18.5k) This was one of the first hi-end systems that I got to audition at Surround Sound, in Nedlands, and remains among the best. If you want a feeling of huge power and drive like being pushed along in a wheelbarrow by a 10 foot giant, this your Goliath. Fantastic sound-staging and bass! - forget prunes, this is the way to loosen blocked bowels. At the time I hadn’t tried too much else to compare, but still look back on that test as a very good one, only doubts, perhaps the tweeter doesn’t have the smoothest flow and a little condensed in the mid but only if you really search for these things, and compare to the M.L.V’s. The music as a whole sounded terrific, both my test tunes and a Cirque Du Soleil drum track were just great.
I had been in every Hi-Fi shop in Perth and seen many disparate component elements and occasionally a good system or two but I knew there was more to it than this. Stereonet had alerted me to the possibilities over in Melbourne and I had to experience all that I kept reading about. Especially the high end speakers manufactured as almost cottage industry type endeavours. So I made contacts and arranged auditions, added to and culled from the list, (how was I to know that Mildura wasn’t a suburb of Melbourne it’s still in the tiny state of Victoria innit – sorry EKA Sound)
Edited by Grimmie, 08 May 2011 - 12:33 PM.