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.”