Music First Audio is part of Stevens & Billington. S&B does magnetics. MFA is the brand of the boxed product. MFA California is Warren Jarrett, who is a complete madman.
No, I don’t really know him well enough to judge, but only a madman puts together a system like this, in a hotel room like this, and gets it to sound this incredibly good. Only a complete madman brings his own, well-loved, well-beaten comfy chair to the show to let sweet-spot listeners relax.
Lets cover the bits that MFA was actually here to show: the copper step-up transformers ($3490) and their Baby Reference Preamplifier ($6990). The Baby Reference took pride of place in the middle of the room. Why even bother with a remote when you can just put the preamp in your lap? Anyway, everything in the system ran through that one piece. And everything sounded excellent.
Sources included an AMR CD-77.1 silver disc spinner. Everyone just ignored that. Black discs got a ride on a Triangle Arts Symphony table. The tonearm was an Audio Origami modded Rega 300. The cartridge was an old Denon 103d. A Conrad Johnson Motif worked as the phono preamp. Tape was the preferred format, with an Otari 5050 (as rebuilt by Warren) rolling around. Amps were 6a3 monoblocks from Electra Fidelity featuring silver wire and Jack Eliano’s silver transformers. Speakers were Audionote’s silver-wired AN-E Lexus HE. Zu provided the cable, PS Audio provided the power-manglement, and GIK bass traps with scatter plates provided a less horrible environment.
Let’s start with digital. Nobody listened to digital. Forget digital.
Tape and vinyl were similar enough to get a feeling for the system. In fact, tape brought nothing to the table except pitch stability, transient definition, dynamic slam, tonal richness, realism, and a bucket of “oh my GOD” factor. Nothing significant, really. The AN speakers were well set up, and well matched to the the Electraprint amplifiers. Very well matched. This was a fast, full sound, with nearly horn dynamics. I’ve never heard AN speakers sound anything like this at a show.
If you notice, I keep using the word “dynamic.” This whole room jumped on demand. This seems to be one of the biggest strengths of magnetic volume controls, but this entire system seemed built to take maximum advantage of that fact. Fortunately, the comfy chair was a secure place to sit when startled.
In conclusion: this room sounded fine. I guess. I wasn’t, you know, trying to get my wife to agree to let me by any parts of it. Not too hard. I barely begged at all. I stopped after no more than an hour. Or two.
Warren is a complete madman. He was right to bring the chair.