The second floor Cedar room was filled with a system fronted by show-sponsor Phasure. Phasure’s NOS1 dac handled the both number crunching and playback duties. Everything was controlled from a Windows PC running Phasure’s playback software, XXHighEnd. The rest of the system saw the fairly astounding Fifth Row speakers from Surreal Sound. Mids and highs were driven by Wells Audio Innamorata, and the distinctive bass bin was driven by some hefty amplification from Crown. Also seeing heavy use in this room were the Dreaded Show Conditions.
You know the show conditions speech, right? You might just want to pretend that you’re reading it right now. In all capital letters. In boldface. With exclamation points. In a 30 point headline font. Being towed behind a plane.
Something was desperately wrong here. Whether it was a very strong box coloration in the midrange, the Heil tweeter behaving badly, or the Tweakasaurus Rex software losing lock with the DAC and feeding 44.1 data into 192 to play what sounded like a dance track by Alvin and the Chipmunks, I don’t think I heard anything in this room sound its best. I got the distinct impression that I sat down to listen just as Murphy decided to apply his Law with a sledgehammer.
How bad was it? I listened to Mark Knopfler’s rewardingly cheesy “Sailing to Philadephia.” James Taylor’s voice sounded appropriately sweet. Knopfler’s voice sound somewhat inappropriately as though it was on the underwater end of a snorkel. Is that terrifyingly specific enough?
Right. Show Conditions. Something downright wacky always seems to hit someone. This room drew the short straw.
The Surreal Sound speakers remain promising, with some of the best executed, most tactile bass I’ve heard in a show room. The Phasure DAC is clearly a special product. The folks staffing the room were easygoing professionals despite their somewhat hunted look. I honestly enjoyed what I heard in this room enough that I am — surprisingly! — pretty enthusiastic about hearing it again.