“But Kirsten,” you ask, “What do you have to add?” That’s a fair question. If you follow the show reports, you’ve already heard about how the Endeavor E3s ($6,995) handle The Talking Heads, The Clash, and (sigh) Chris Jones with aplomb. These guys have been tossing around all kinds of accolades about the bass, the power, etc. But I have something different.
I have Count Basie.
“C.B. Express,” off of the 1980 Pablo Recording *Warm Breeze*, to be precise. I love this track. At low volume, it pretty much sounds like elevator music, the kind of thing you tap your foot to, nothing too interruptive. Cranked up to something approaching live volume, however, it’s a whole ‘nother thing. The song starts out very tame: a little bass, a light touch on the piano. You can almost see the Count smiling as he twinkles his fingers over the keys. The whole thing grows in slow swells and huge leaps until it’s barrelling down the track with the full band going completely all-out. I have made my father (a former Big Band trombonist) CRY by playing this track on my home system. The dynamic swings are awesome and downright overwhelming. Since I didn’t get fancy this year with my test tracks, it was one of two CDs I brought with me to the show (the other one was First Aid Kit’s The Big Black and the Blue, which was far too tame for the mood), which means I heard it a lot over the weekend.
This was, no lie, my favorite take on it. In the wrong hands, cranking this sucker up means the instruments start to blur on the big swings, the horns start to lose their edge (or, conversely, become all edge), and the piano loses its sweet tone. What I heard here was big and ballsy and juuuuust right — the horns sounded *real*, the piano just as alternately percussive and sweet as it should be. Lest I be remiss, I’ll note that the rest of the system was the usual fine collection of gear, which surely contributed to the awesome: Your Final System‘s HD Ref-3 server ($15,500), the EMMLabs DAC2x ($15,500), and Constellation’s Audio Virgo II Preamp ($28,000) and Centaur Power Amp ($24,000).
I wasn’t the only one who thought this was nuts good, by the way. Leif Swanson (the Endeavor mastermind himself) was joined for a few hours by his lovely wife and toddler daughter. I was a little bit worried about how the kiddo might handle Basie at such a volume, but I shouldn’t have been. There was dancing, and hand-waving, and running and laughing from one side of the room to the other. It was like a little baby rave. It was all I could do not to join her. It’s good to find a little just plain joy on a Saturday afternoon with the stereo.