And, on Friday morning, it sounded like frozen garbage. It was shrill, bright, undynamic, tonally weird, and generally a waste of space. Anyone who walked in to the room might have questioned why audiophiles even bother.
The problem, of course, is that gear takes a while to warm up. Big stats are just godawful that way. They need some serious charging time to really start coming into their own. Listening to a system like this after it’s been plugged in for less than a full day is little more than an exercise in futility. You won’t get more than a glimmer of what’s possible.
On Saturday, of course, things were very different indeed.
We walked in during a visitor’s audition of some ridiculously lifelike Cannonball Adderly, and asked the nice folks to queue up “Two Fifty to Vigo” from Shooglenifty’s lovingly recorded 1996 release Live at Selwyn Hall. Right out of the gate, the big monsters showed their ability to throw an expansive sound field. The bigger-than-big soundstage doesn’t just offer a hint of the enveloping quality of the live show, but pretty well loads it on a truck and drops it in your lap. Extended treble offered plenty of that audiophile air, while the perfectly integrated bass managed the hardest stunt of all, turning a crap room with an air wall into a functioning stand-in for a live venue.
If there was a real problem here, it’s that the system was almost too good at what it did. Show conditions aren’t the best companion for a revealing system. At the same time you’d be enjoying the texture of the drums, you’d also be stuck noting that there was an unfortunately mechanical signature creeping in on the treble. It could have been an unsympathetic equipment match, it could have been a result of funky hotel power, or it could just have been that the system just needed more time to warm itself up.
Even with that little niggle, I was more than happy to have a few minutes to get reacquainted with the sound of Sound Lab. I’ve rarely heard them sound better than they did here. I only regret that I didn’t bring a whole lot more music with me.