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Newport 2014: The Minimalist and Audio Note UK

DSC_0540 hiresnewportlogoforwebOver the past year, I've occasionally been tempted to award David Cope the dubious title of Unluckiest Man in HiFi. Seems like whenever I run into him at a show, he's had one disaster or another -- a turntable damaged in shipping, an important bit gone missing .... This time might take the cake, though; Dave informed us almost sheepishly that the shipping company had "misplaced" an entire pallet full of system, for a full month. My understanding is that it was, thankfully, recovered (discovered in the shipping company's own warehouse, no less), but not in time for THE Show. Instead, Mr. Cope was showing with a pleasantly minimalist system. The speakers were Audio Note K/SPe standmounts ($3,700), which are 90dB sensitive and use an 8" woofer and .75" silk dome tweeter. The "SPe" bit indicates that these speakers are wired with silver. They also have some really exceptionally attractive veneer. Amplification was provided by the OTO SE Phono Signature ($6,325), which features foil caps, tantalum resistors, and IHiB double c-core output transformers. The source was the CD4.1x top-loading CD transport ($11,765).

It was an enormous pleasure to take a few mintues to sit down and play a test track. In this case, I opted for First Aid Kit’s “Ghost Town.” At this point I should admit that I may have had entirely too much fun all weekend saying, “It’s a sister act of Swedish country singers” and watching the trepidation cross the exhibitors’ faces. Really, though, the band’s got more in common with Emmylou Harris than anyone else, as everyone quickly learned.

This Audio Note system really did it justice: the sisters’ voices were airy and expansive and realistically textured, and the dynamics and especially the tone of Klara Soderberg’s acoustic guitar were just awesome. On some systems, the opening keyboard strains, which evoke an accordion, could seem overly harsh or discordant. Here, however, the system captured the appropriate amount of dissonance without sounding like it had been pushed past its limit. The center of the soundstage suffered a bit due to Audio Note’s traditional indifference to hotel room set up, but the rest of the soundstage was incredibly solid, and I heard none of the power issues that plagued other rooms. In the past, I’ve been at times dubious about the cost/benefit ratio of Audio Note’s pricier options, but in this case the combination of the amazingly real musical experience and the relatively sane costs involved made me understand what folks have been on about.

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1 Comment on Newport 2014: The Minimalist and Audio Note UK

  1. Thanks, Kirsten. I’ve purposely decided to show more moderately priced gear at this year’s shows. The shipping companies have ‘helped’ me decide specifically what NOT to show, particularly turntables, for which they seem to harbor a particular loathing. (3 demolished/lost in 10 months.)

    It IS more consistently feasible to demonstrate the innate musicality of an Audio Note system with one of our smaller speakers, given what is all too often ‘balsa wood ‘n bubblegum’ construction in hotels than to demonstrate the greater refinement of the higher level gear in an acoustic environment reminiscent of a war zone. (One attendee, upon entering our room, remarked, “Thank goodness, I’ve just come from the gunshots and fighter jets room”, followed by a dramatic eye roll.)

    That veneer really is quite striking. It’s Rosewood, one of 20 veneer choices on our K, J and E speaker models.

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