One step down in the chain takes us to the new Merrill Audio Jens phono preamplifier. This $12k pre features the same insanely quiet backgrounds found in the rest of the Merrill Audio lineup, with up to 70dB of gain and load varying from 25Ω to 5kΩ.
A $8,590 passive, transformer-based, Music First Audio Baby Reference Preamplifier sat between the phono and the $12k Reimyo CD Transport CDT 777 and the $4,995 Resonessence Labs Mirus DAC. I haven’t the opportunity to play with either the MFA pre or the Reimyo, but the Mirus is a bit more familiar — it’s the ultra-version of the Invicta, which won all those awards. In the Mirus, however, “the headphone module is removed and a second ESS Sabre DAC ES9018 is added to the back-panel XLR and RCA outputs. This allows a total of eight ES9018 channels for each stereo output. The THD and noise are thereby improved even further than on the INVICTA.” Price for this version is $4,995.
The amplifier in question was from Wells Audio, their Innamorata amplifier ($6,500), a 150wpc stereo amp that extensively leverages Jack Bybee’s “Purifier technology” to lower noise and improve the quality of the sound. To most reports, they’ve been successful in making an amplifier that’s not only musical, it’s magical. I’m hoping to get my hands on one, or one of the new Innamorata Signatures at some point in the future.
Last but not least were the big Zu Audio Definition Mk IV loudspeakers. These are the same loudspeakers shown in the Zu Audio room a couple of floors below, and it was interesting to see them here, too, for comparison. These Zu speakers, like all the speakers in the Zu lineup, feature wide-band drivers doing the bulk of the audio work, paired here with an excellent Radian “super” tweeter carrying the high-treble up to ultra frequencies, and a subwoofer, carry the sub-sonics. The result? A studio monitor’s neutrality with incredible linearity and coherence — and, when needed, bass with enough power to stun small animals where they stand. That last bit is hard to overstate — with a plate amp strapped on the back of this speaker, you can drive it quite successfully with a handful of watts — that plate amp will pick up the slack and slam the living tar out of the down-firing woofer (and yes, the usual tweaks and modifications are available). Zu Audio notes that the group-delay, that is, the timing between the frequencies reaching the average listener, is ~5ms — close enough to be called “time aligned”.
An Audience AR6-TS Power Conditioner ($5,000) and
Here with the Innamorata, the MFA pre, the Merrill phono and the TW-Acustic system, the sound was richer and fuller than what I heard in Zu Audio’s own room. Imaging was wicked and the sense of coherence out of those wide-banders was unhindered and uninterrupted. A very easy recommendation, this system. Nice work, Koby!
On the way out, I noticed an odd display — a pair of Essence loudspeakers from Zu Audio. These were discontinued some time back — they feature the wide-handers paired with ribbons — but here was one last pair. Somebody could have grabbed a deal and half. Wonder who got those?