George and Carolyn Counnas of Zesto Audio usually present a close variation on the same recipe. You’ll have some great TAD speakers, a Merril-Williams turntable, a Tri-Planar arm, a Dynavector XX2 cartridge, a full loom of WyWires cabling, and, if all goes right, a system filled with their unmistakable electronics. That recipe eventually came together when they released their Nimitz Class BIA 120 amplifier at last year’s RMAF, finally giving people the chance to hear what that Zesto sound was actually supposed to be.
I’m going to be blunt: George and Carolyn Counnas are the reason I bothered to bring vinyl to this show. They did not disappoint me.
The beat up, red travel copy of Warm Breeze went on the deck, George lowered the arm and apprehensively cranked up the volume. I didn’t get the impression that he was at all happy with where this was going.
I, on the other hand, was ecstatic about it. Zesto’s phono preamp and linestage have received some criticism for an overabundance of “tube warmth.” I’m happy to report that their BIA 120 amplifier shows no such traits at all. These components were made to work well together.
I didn’t expect just how [expletive deleted] well they’d pull off that stunt.
From Basie’s first playful dance of the keys, the Zesto stack managed to catch both the lightness of his touch as well as his disguised percussionist’s force that drove the band. Cleveland Eaton’s double bass rolled in like a mountain that decided to go for a stroll, and, by the time the horns started blaring out their first line, a guy walked in and exclaimed “Is this Basie? I LOVE BASIE!”
Basic manners meant that I had to turn my chair in the sweet spot over to anyone that enthusiastic. I took a seat in the second row right after Eric Dixon’s sax made itself known. That turned out to be a good move. The extra four feet took the last edge off the TAD Evolutions’ tweeters, leaving nothing to complain about. This was probably the best I’ve heard Zesto sound at a show, and I wouldn’t have gotten to hear it if I hadn’t given up my chair to the smiling man who loved Basie.
I’d cover the gear pricing again, but a web search for our previous show reports will probably do it for you faster than I can type it. George and Carolyn Counnas are nothing if not consistent. Why shouldn’t they be? The Zesto recipe is excellent.