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NYAV12: mbl

You have to say this for mbl — they’re consistent. Here again is the $260,000 Combination D System I saw at AXPONA, again in that scrumptious white finish. Yum.

I didn’t actually get to hear that system, though — what I heard was the smaller, $21k/pair, mbl 120 Radialstrahlers. The Corona Series provided the rest of the signal chain here, including the $9,200 C21 stereo power amplifier, the $8,800 C11 preamplifier and the $9,200 C31 CD player. The Corona line is quite new and represents mbl’s most affordable offerings. The units here at the show (the pre and the digital front end are the ones in black, below; the amp is tucked between the Reference Series amps, above) are actually the first production units out the door.

This is the prettiest gear in high-end audio right now! If you have a minimalistic thing going on at home and have successfully upgraded all your interior decor from those modest IKEA beginnings, I think this all-white finish will really appeal to your sensibilities. Not really being a fan of desert landscapes, myself, I revel in the luxuriousness of this look-and-feel. It’s about as bespoke as you can get.

Aside from putting together a thrilling demo, another thing mbl does well is manage the crowds. Their room wasn’t large, certainly not as large as I’ve seen them command at other shows, so some crowd-control was pretty much a requirement.

What I wasn’t expecting was the line.

Each day, there was a line. At some points, the eager would-be auditioners completely choked off access to other parts of the show. United Home Audio’s Greg Beron, my local mbl dealer, is a tall man with a serious demeanor and forbidding look (until you catch him smiling). I found him in the hall playing bouncer on Sunday morning when I finally gave up waiting for the demand to ebb and just asked if I couldn’t just slip in for pictures. He did get me in and damned if I didn’t feel a little bit the rockstar. Yes, that’s me, not waiting. Seeya, suckas!

Inside, the room was very cozy, so my luck did not, however, secure me the sweet seat. In fact, all the seats were claimed. No matter! I made myself annoying by taking pics until the lucky seat got vacated.

With the setup on the long wall, there really wasn’t much room for seating. There was a couch in the center and some seats along the sides of that, but that was it. Pretty obvious why they were managing the entry.

Beautiful gear and some beautiful sound. Ideally, a larger room would have been more helpful, one with more separation between the listener, the speakers and the walls, but given the challenges, I think the mbl team did as good as they were going to be able to. I was a happy camper — the sound was enveloping and dramatic. Painting the musical pictures we were treated to, with words, is an exercise in pale frustration, so I’ll leave off by saying this — no one else does this, to this level, with this level of fit and finish. Startlingly good on all fronts.

The Reference line of gear is rather beefy. Check out the DAC above and player, below. My back hurts just looking at it.

Unfortunately, I missed the big Combination D System so I can’t compare, but for whatever it’s worth, the “baby” mbl omni’s really do a remarkable job of recreating a “live space”. Hopefully, this gear (or some iteration/selection of it) will also be on display at CAF this year, where I’ll be attempting to get a lot more time on it.

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