Newport 2014: Perla and the record I love to hate


hiresnewportlogoforwebI’m just going to be up front about this. Friday Night in San Francisco is one of the ubiquitous evils of the superannuated audiophile. It may be well recorded, and it may be fun, but Al Di Meola had his moment of cool in 1981. I’ve never once understood why the folks who show their gear at these audiophile confabs feel the need to overplay this album so incessantly. They’re not fifteen years old, Al Dimeola isn’t Lorde, and “Frevo Rasgado” isn’t half the ear worm that “Royals” is. I just don’t get it.

The Guitar Trio needs to be thrown into the back of the station wagon and dropped off at the storage unit for a few years. Put it in a box next to your knit ties. Just give it a break. Please. You’re killing me here.

But I’ll give new-to-me Perla Audio a permanent pass because they actually made me enjoy the hell out side 1.


Part of the credit had to go to the hacked up Lenco and brutish Dynavector 505 tonearm that switched up the etherial delicacy usually favored in show rooms in favor of a propulsive and rich source. That’s right.

It probably helped that they built the rest of the chain themselves.

The Motif phono preamp ($3500), a solid state design with passive, split RIAA equalization topped the system. This fed Perla’s own Signature 50 integrated amp ($9000), a great looking, dc coupled, solid state that puts 50 watts into 8 ohms. From an ergonomic standpoint, the slanted front panel milled out of aluminum made the controls easy to twiddle even on a low rack shelf. From a lust standpoint, the stepped attenuator felt good enough to make you want to twiddle it.

The speakers, which I think were Perla’s PRS-2B ($8,800 plus $2,250 for stands), aperiodic loaded standmounts sported baffle milled from even more aluminum, a beryllium tweeter, and a paper cone midrange. The specs say that they’re good down to 70hz, and that jibes well with what we heard in the room.


What we heard? Precision, detail, and no obvious overhang. This system was fast, and it was the good kind of fast. It was the kind of speed and precision that the exuberance of “Mediterranean Sundance” absolutely requires, and it was the kind of detail that made the hall (and its sometimes ill-mannered denizens) as much of a part of the music as the guitars. With all that speed, though, it never so much as twitched into “light,” with the resonance and body of the guitars given as much of the spotlight as the snap of their strings.

Perla seems to be pretty serious about this whole audio thing.

In fact, writing up this room has made me queue up Friday Night in San Francisco at home. I’ll try to drive it to the storage unit real soon. I promise.



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