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RMAF 2014: Levinson and JBL, peerless

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Logo - Blue VectorBrighton dealer, Home Audio Sound, got the Golden Shoehorn award this year. Cramming a pair of the big-boned JBL 67000 Everests ($75k) into a standard room in the Atrium is no easy job. Cramming them in so they look like the best fit in the world? That’s what they did, and that’s nothing less than pure art. From the gorgeous, maple veneer, to the open spaces, to the wide open curtains that let the room fill with light, this was easily one of the most inviting show rooms that I’ve ever seen. Laugh all you want, but that kind of thing matters after three days of slogging around a hotel. It was a soothing oasis that promised soulful silence and inner peace.

The gorgeous Everests were joined by a full suite of J-Boat class (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it) Mark Levinson components. A No. 512 SACD player spun discs, A No. 52 Reference Preamplifier managed the volume control, and a pair of the polarizing No. 53 Reference monoblocks drove the speakers. The last gizmo was a White ParaMedic 26 parametric equalizer to help with inevitable room conditions.

Unfortunately, the actual system was not silent when I walked in. It was, in fact, playing Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, and there was much gnashing of teeth. Dynamics were severely truncated, with everything sounding like it had gone through a primitive volume normalizer. High frequencies were outright painful, and tone was… well… There was, technically, tone. Of a sort. I guess. I’m not entirely sure it belonged to a Michael Jackson album. If I weren’t polite, I’d mention that something was aggravating the compression drivers into the sort of hellish breakup that made a good attempt at taking the enamel off my teeth.

If there is to be a pull-quote from this writeup, I would suggest: “The system shown here offered an experience without peer at the 2014 Festival.” I would not, necessarily, suggest linking back to the original text.

Ah… show conditions, the only thing that can take a top-of-the-line system like this and make it sound worse than a defective toy jukebox. Based on previous experiences with the source, the preamp, the speakers, and this dealer’s setup prowess, the sound here was not only a wild aberration, but almost certainly a dangerous portent of the end times.

As Governor William J. Le Petomane said, “this friggin’ thing is warped.”

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