Pressure to cover more of the show forced me to miss the big Wilson room in the Hyatt (canned demos are always a tough sell for me), but fortunately I was still able to hear some of what Wilson and VTL have to offer in a more intimate setting.
Bea Lam and Luke Manley of VTL were eager to show off the new S-400 Series II balanced amp ($33,500), which, along with the VTL TL-7.5 Series III preamplifier ($20,000) lent power and grace to a pair of Wilson Alexias ($48,500/pair). Cables were provided by Transparent and Nordost at the usual pearl-clutching prices. I was first treated to digital on this system, which was provided by dCs’s Paganini Digital Playback System ($55,500). Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” had loads of authority and punch; clearly the the S-400 can stomp whenever necessary.
At my request, once we’d spent some time with Stevie Ray, Luke switched over to analog. The analog source was the Spiral Groove SG 1.1 Turntable and Centroid arm ($31,000), the preamp was VTL’s TP-6.5 Signature phono pre with step up MC transformer ($10,500), with Lyra’s Etna cartridge ($6,995) making its North American debut. I’m sorry if my predilection for analog is showing, but this just was just where it was AT. Mario Biondi’s “A Handful of Soul” was superb — the cymbals shimmered, and both the richness and the slight burrs in Biondi’s voice were in evidence. If the room hadn’t been so crowded I might have had a little one-person dance party right there. Lyra cartridges sometimes have a reputation for sterility, but that was definitely not in evidence here: clarity, yes, but nothing I would consider dry or sterile.
I am super impressed with the voicing on the new VTL amps, both this and the S-200 integrated; the top end is just a bit sweeter and more relaxed, which in this case worked to temper what I think of as the trademark Wilson treble, which, let’s face it, can rip your face off with the wrong equipment in the chain — they’re not really *forgiving* as such. Fortunately there was not much here that required forgiveness.