Saturday, however, was another matter entirely. The show was sounding great, and the Music First Audio room was performing beautifully on both systems. The “little” system consisted of a TriangleArt Concerto turntable ($3,995) with TriangleART’s Osiris 9″ tonearm ($4,995) and Zeus moving coil cartridge ($3,995), plus a Music First Audio Step-Up ($3,100), hooked up to an Audio Note UK M2 RIAA phono pre ($4,087). The “big” system consisted of the massive TriangleART Signature ($15,995), Osiris 12″ tonearm ($5,800), Zeus MC, and Music First Audio’s V2 Step-Up ($4,490). The phono preamp on this system was Audio Note UK’s M6 RIAA ($19,195). The two systems shared silver voice-coiled Audio Note UK AN-E Lexus HE speakers ($8,772), Audio Note UK’s Empress parallel single-ended 2A3 monoblocks ($7,200/pair), the Music First Baby Reference preamp ($7,790), and TriangleART’s RA-8 power conditioner ($3,500). TriangleART and Audio Note provided the cabling.
I listened first to the little system, and I was duly impressed: the Concerto offered excellent speed stability and a sense of nimble liveliness. I asked Warren if he was happier with the big system today, and received an enthusiastic affirmative. He asked me if I’d like to hear a cut from Muddy Waters’ Folk Singer, and I offered my own enthusiastic affirmative in return. Folk Singer easily makes my list of Best Albums Ever, and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” has rarely sounded so assured and nuanced. The guitar rang out with startling clarity, and I could feel Waters’ voice in my belly. The track is sexy, playful, and just a little bit menacing, and all of that come through completely. I was transfixed.
Sitting in the big comfy chair in that hotel room, more than a little blown away by blues guitar, it occurred to me how absolutely appropriate the name Music First is. No matter the setting or the style of music, Warren Jarrett’s focus is always on producing music that sounds not just accurate, but right, and listening enjoyment comes before all else. Listening to that track was among the best three minutes I had all weekend, so engaging that I set my notepad aside and just put the music first.