Newport 2012: YG, Luxman, Brinkmann, Accuphase

$275,000 will buy a lot of things. A house in Florida. An Ivy-League college education — for two. A new Bentley to tool around in during the week — and a new Aston Martin for the weekends. In short, you might say that that $275,000 is a lot of money.

Okay, fine, maybe you don’t, but I do say that $275,000 is a lot of money.

Leaving aside questions of economics, and relationships between build costs and MSRP, there is still the question of value. I mean, seriously, why does a Bentley cost that much? Or four years at Harvard? Or a home? Isn’t there a way to get the qualities that those things stand for, but in a way that’s attainable for the other 99% of the world?

Sure, there is. Well …. Maybe.

Everyone talks about the value curve. We all intuitively understand that on the first part of that curve, big gains can be had for very little, but there is also this point of inflection where those additional investments all begin to do less and less. A point at which actual, tangible gains in performance begin to cost a lot more.

The YG room at Newport was most definitely somewhere on the latter part of the curve. Said another way, this room sounded excellent, hopefully at least in part because of the high cost of the excellent individual elements. And claiming that such sound can be had for far less … well, this is not only disingenuous but a bit dishonest. You can have good sound for less. But this sound? Well, however much I might wish it otherwise, this sound is beyond my feeble financial grasp. Which is why audio shows are particularly satisfying.

So what if I can’t afford this gear? Big deal. Yes, the Lotto Fairy does owe me a house call, but in the meantime, I live large — vicariously. And one of my favorite fantasies is to head to an audio show and indulge in what I call “aspirational systems”. This YG/Luxman room fit that bill quite to a “T”.

I really enjoyed myself in this room. The music was expansive, wide ranging, and unlike many rooms, steadfastly avoided many of the audiophile favorites. Kept us on our toes. And kept me in the room, tapping my toes (out of time, of course), while I was creeping around taking pictures.

Something in the last year or so has changed at YG Acoustics. Perhaps it’s their latest “Signature” upgrades, I don’t know, but I’ve really warmed to the sound. It’s every bit as detailed and tonally rich as I could wish for, with a rather stunning top-to-bottom sound that does dynamics like a bat out of that fiery place. The YG Anat III Studio Signature, demoed here in a lustrous brushed black, retails for $82,000. It’s a visually striking speaker.

Sadly, there was absolutely no way it was going to fit in my suitcase. Foiled again. If I’m clever, I could probably make off with the $65,000 worth of Kubala-Sosna Elation! cabling, though. There is a chance they’d notice that, though. Hmm.

The Luxman B-1000F mono amplifiers run $55,000 a pair. They operate largely in Class A, so the heat coming off of these end table-size amps is considerable. They put out 250wpc into 8ohms, doubling down into 4ohms. I think they weigh 7,000lbs each. Maybe more.

Fronting the rig is Luxman’s top of the line C-1000F preamplifier, offered at $33,000. A compact, technological tour-de-force. I can’t remember if I’ve actually never seen one before, but it has this understated elegance that Luxman pulls off rather naturally. A reference/statement piece, without doubt. And I have the perfect place for it in my rack.

The least expensive thing in the room by a country mile is the $4,000 Luxman E-1 phono stage. This unit is a dual-input moving-coil preamp with a built-in demagnetizer. That latter is a rather clever little widget that you only need irregularly (once every six months or so?), but very few manufacturers actually include in their phono gear.

A $21,000 Accuphase DP-600 did absolutely nothing in this room, as far as I could tell. Except look fabulous. Which it did. Look fabulous, that is. I actually felt sorry for it, being all unused and neglected. But I already have an Accuphase that I’m not really doing much with, so I didn’t offer to take it home.

The $17,800 (as configured with Brinkmann tonearm and Pi cartridge) Brinkmann Oasis direct-drive turntable, here with beautiful wood plinth with a glossy finish. This exercise in minimalism is dead-sexy. From distributor, “On A Higher Note”:

The most prominent feature of the »Oasis« turntable is most probably its direct drive mechanism. In our never-ending search to improve sound quality, we did not stop short of evaluating different drive mechanisms or other alternatives such as belts of various consistencies. We quickly discovered, however, that belts, for example, impart a fundamental sonic characteristic on the sound. We therefore decided to forgo them altogether for this new model. As it turns out, the platter of the »Oasis« is magnetically driven instead of with a belt.

The drive mechanism consists of a ring shaped permanent magnet contained in the platter’s bearing and four air-cored inductors on the »Oasis’s« chassis plate. These inductors are adjusted and driven with utmost precision to different phase angles. Thus, the ensuing magnetic field rotates the platter. Well aware of the reason for the bad reputation and uneasy sound of the direct drive turntables of the 1970s and 1980s, we resisted tight regulation of the direct drive mechanism. Instead, we take advantage of the many years of experience and insight we gained from manufacturing our own “big” turntables. We use a precision bearing that is capable of smoothing out the drive’s miniscule speed variations. The result is a direct drive process that allows an enormously quiet and stable operation, and in conjunction with the low rpm drive, eventual irregularities are far beyond the allowable frequency of human hearing (the frequency of the drive 3Hz @ 33 rpm).

Yes, I think I’d like to own most of the gear in this room. I’m a fan of Luxman — I love the build quality, the history, and most importantly, the sound. That’s why I bought one. Admittedly, it’s their entry-level integrated, but still. I’m on the ladder! And yes, I think it’d be worth paying movers to haul those monoblocks into my house.

I’m also fan of Accuphase — I love the build quality, the history, and yes, their sound — and that’s why I have one of those, too. Admittedly, it’s nearly 10 years old and I inherited it, but hey, it not only works, it works perfectly. Quality will do that.

And lastly, yes, I’m also a (new) fan of YG — the look, the attention to detail and most importantly, the sound — but sadly, I do not have a pair of YG speakers. [Sigh].

I should note that that any lack on my part is certainly not an indication of anything other than the fact that I’m broke, but should, say, a new all-black YG Kipod II suddenly materialize out of the ether into my listening room, I’d not only do a happy dance, I’d video it. In HD. And post it on YouTube. Ball is your court, Yoav. Just sayin’.

Yes, the gear in this room is expensive. Dreaming isn’t, however. And Newport had a nice, warm, brilliantly textured day dream (or 10) for me. So, thanks for all the memories, guys. This was an outstanding room. If only, if only.

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