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AXPONA 2015: Quintessence Audio and Musical Surroundings

KEF R Series

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By John Stancavage

Longtime Chicago dealer Quintessence Audio knows how to make a statement. The first thing visitors to AXPONA 2015 saw, smack in front of the Westin Hotel O’Hare’s luggage dropoff zone, was the retailer’s 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. The company also combined with Musical Surroundings to rent a large chunk of the 12th floor where the two parked an assortment of equally luxurious audio equipment.

One of the three rooms outfitted by the companies was packed with just-released gear that would make even a Rolls owner salivate. Heading the list was a pair of Magico’s newest speakers, the Q7 MKIIs ($229,000 a pair). They were connected to recently introduced equipment from Aesthetix, including the Rhea Eclipse phono preamplifier ($13,000) and Romulus Eclipse DAC/CD player ($13,000). Amplifiers were the Aesthetics Atlas monoblocks, ($16,000 a pair), and preamp was the Pass Labs ES ($38,000).

Also on hand was the Magico Q Sub 18 powered subwoofer ($35,000) and Clearaudio Statement V2 turntable with TT1 tonearm and Goldfinger Statement cartridge ($200,000 combined). The rack was from Harmonic Resolution Systems and cable was Kubala-Sosna Elation.
The Magico Q7s delivered an impressive sound, with their strongest points being an eerily accurate presentation of image height, considerable bass slam and good reproduction of male voices.

Nearby in another room, the two companies were showing a more affordable, but hardly cheap, system featuring Dynaudio Evidence C1 Platinum loudspeakers ($8,750). Another Harmonic Resolution Systems rack held an assortment of Simaudio gear, including the 610LP phono stage ($7,500), 650D DAC and CD player ($8,000), 740P preamplifier ($9,500) and 820S external power supply ($8,000). The turntable was AMG’s Giro with 9W2 tonearm ($10,000) and Teatro MC phono cartridge ($2,750). Cable was Kubala-Sosna Emotion.

Through the Simaudio gear, the Dynaudios offered their familiar blend of detail, liveliness and solid bottom end, making them a good fit for the smaller space. When I was there, the speakers were playing “In the Gallery,” from the first Dire Straits album. With the C1s, Mark Knopfler’s solo was awe-inspiring, while Pick Withers’ touch and sense of rhythm made him sound more like the jazz drummer he was at heart.

(For a review of the third Musical Surroundings/Quintessance room, see my Audio Traveler report titled “Searching for Sonus Faber.”)

Overall, these two companies offered three no-lose choices for musical nirvana. Oh, and the Rolls-Royce parked outside? It’s for sale, too. So, no matter what you want to drive, some of the world’s finest loudspeakers or most coveted cars, you’re covered.

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About Scot Hull (991 Articles)
Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.