It was nice to see some Audio Note UK gear that I had not previously seen at other shows. This room featured the E/SEC Signature loudspeakers ($73,000/pair), M9 phono preamp ($146,000), and fully balanced Ongaku Kensei amplifier ($127,000), with music provided by the CDT Three top-loading CD transport ($12,000), 24/96 DAC5 Signature ($98,000), and what I believe was an Audio Note TT-2 (this was not included in the cut sheet, so I’ve drawn conclusions based on my photos).
I usually try to stay away from the, “Yeah, it’s good, but is it X Amount of Dollars good?” question, but ignoring cost in this context is a bit like ignoring the elephant in the room. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how to answer that question. This room was good. Very, VERY good. The whole sound was inviting and delicate, the room a bit of an oasis. The system as a whole seemed to excel at extracting a great deal of detail from the music, without sounding overly analytical or soulless. To me, the speakers seemed the tiniest bit lacking in bass clarity and authority, which could easily be chalked up to the room.
So, is it worth it? Let’s face it, the number of people who can even afford to entertain the notion of purchasing a system like this is vanishingly small. But manufacturers know that! In cases like this, where everything is hotrodded with the best components available, wired in silver, and practically breathed on by unicorns, I tend to think it’s usually the manufacturer saying, “Ok, how far can we take this?” In this case, they’ve taken it somewhere quite lovely, and I’m sure in the process learned new things that will trickle down to their less pricey components. Is it “worth it”? I have no idea. Am I pleased it exists and I got to hear it? You betcha.