A disappointment in three parts
Scaena had some pretty amazing-looking speakers set up. The line array and subs, together (I think), worked out to be something like $66k. Impressive. Huge. Domineering. Gi-freakin’-gantic.
I really wanted to like this room a lot more than I actually did, but I just couldn’t get past that mid-bass muddle the room had with just about everything I heard while I was sitting and waiting to be transported, and then later while I was wandering around taking pictures. Maybe setting those giant sub-woofer arrays 10′ behind the speakers might have had something to do with it (doesn’t that mean that they’re way out of phase?), but I have no idea. Anyway, if looks were a cue to quality, this speaker setup would have won hands-down. Absolutely gorgeous to look at, and I wondered if a different setup wouldn’t reveal more than the hints of greatness I heard, and might well see those seeds bloom into full-blown awesomeness. Just one man’s opinion, of course, but I suppose you could say that it just wasn’t working for me. Not today.
Interestingly, BAT had a new stereo amp added to their “Rex” portfolio, run here in bridged-mono. Honkin’ big amp. I thought it was a CAT when I first saw it.
A full dCS Scarlatti rig was also on offer, here in black. I think the whole system costs about $AstonMartin or something. Looked great here. They also had a Spiral Groove turntable set up, with some fancy new cartridge, but it wasn’t playing while I was there.
The other mega-room I’m lumping in here was the YG room. Walking in, I had the feeling distinctly ominous feeling looking at the looming YG Anat Reference loudspeakers. If Skynet were to have personal display demo units, this would be them, and they’d be playing the “Ride of the Valkyries” as the terminator units rode out to extinguish life as we know it.
Flights of fancy aside, while listening to this room back-to-back with the Scaena room, I began to wonder if the Resistance hadn’t snuck in and made off with a whole mess o’ audio mojo. Later show reports seemed to indicate that this room was “magical”, but for me, it was … well … cold. The music had a clean, clear, crystalline quality, sure — and if you revel in that sort of thing, you’d have loved it here. The detail was startling. But for me it also felt … mechanical. Clinical. This seems a bit harsh, but I mean it more as a deviation from “true neutral” (whatever that might be) instead of something absolute in itself. Instead of warm and organic, like the Horning, Rosso Fiorentino, Acoustic Zen, or even the Legacy Audio and Wilson rooms, the YG room fell on the opposite side of the neutral line, opposite of organic, with few traces of warmth or love. They were pitiless and cold — like the machine overlords that spawned them! Okay, no, not so much, but I think you get the picture.
Yes, this was on Day 1 of the show, so perhaps later in the weekend the speakers had a breath of life blown into them, but for me and my time spent in there, I was left with a profound sense of confusion as to what all the fuss was about. Had it been up to me, I’d have taken either of the cars parked in the lobby over this stereo rig. Well, probably the Aston over the Lambo, as that car is too hot for words.
Another full dCS Scarlatti rack with the big YG speakers, this time fronted by a Veloce.
Last but not least was Chinese ESL-maker King Sound. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about these big panels, so I was quite excited to hear them live and “in personal”. In fact, these were one of the three speakers that ensured my attendance at Axpona. Full range? Fast as sin? Gorgeous textures? Well, that’s what I was told, and I do love big panels ….
The King speakers were cabled with the new Clear from Cardas and fronted by VAC and a Classic 3 turntable from VPI and a rather superlative SACD player — a beautiful (and rare these days!) Accuphase DP-85! Wonderful player! (Full disclosure: I have one! LOL).
I settled in to hear some cuts off the brand-new LP rerelease of Rumors from Fleetwood Mac. But I jumped up less than 5 minutes later. Something … was just off. There was this weird upper-mid/low-treble harshness that was not just irritating, it was almost grating. And where was the bass, exactly?
Again, yes, this was only Day 1 and later show reports indicate that perhaps I must have been experiencing some kind of extended aneurism because everyone else seemed to love this room and it’s sound.
You win some, you lose some
I guess that I’m going to have to chalk these three rooms up to bad timing on my part and attempt to get to hear those components again at a later show or something. While three rooms didn’t “do it” for me, others had significantly better luck. I fully expect YMMV.