Who could forget Bill Murray in Lost in Translation? An all-time classic film moment, and if you mixed that with Groundhog Day, you’d find yourself sitting next to me with Jon Derda in the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab room at RMAF this past weekend. We were sipping Japanese Hakushu (Suntory) single malt whiskey and spinning killer vinyl on an Avid Sequel turntable ($9,995 USD) set-up with a gorgeous AMG 9W2 tonearm ($3,499 USD) through a Koetsu Rosewood cart. Not too different from my time with Derda at T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach earlier this year: enjoyable, laid-back, honest and enlightening.
I love pretty much all things Japanese. Especially their cameras, mid-sixties cars, samurai films and of course their hi-fi gear. Koetsu is fetish-level audiophilia for me, and gets me going like an Akira Kurosawa film starring Toshiro Mifune.
Derda and cohort Norbert Schmied had the Mo-fi room at RMAF beautifully set up with blackout fabric everywhere and a ton of drool worthy BAT (Balanced Audio Technology) tube and solid state amplification driving some no-nonsense looking TAD (Technical Audio Devices out of Japan, $35,000) Evolution One loudspeakers. The pre and power kit consisted of the VK-P6SE (tubed) Phono stage ($3,495 USD), the VK-23SE solid-state line stage ($4,995 USD), VK-255SE solid-state power amplifier ($8,995 USD), and TAD also supplied the digital source with their D1000 SACD/DAC ($16,000 USD).
I mostly listened to the analog front end since I’m considering a Koetsu Rosewood for myself, and as with a previous review turntable I had fitted with a Koetsu, the sound was emotionally engaging, very slightly colored (in a way I love; think rich and creamy mids that wash you in timbral color) with amazing textured soundscapes being produced in a deep, wide, lush 3D soundstage with the Rosewood’s proprietary fine-line stylus profile providing lightning-fast attack on horns and percussion and delicious, lingering decay on strings and high hat/cymbals that made me swoon a bit. Vocals, as always IME, are one of the Koetsu’s strongest and most compelling facets to their sound. The Rosewood managed make every voice on any LP Derda spun to sound fully formed and human, not an approximation, but real, breathing, visceral and organic. The AMG tonearm was obviously no slouch either, I loved the design, and hope to spend more time with an AMG tonearm in the future. The Suntory single malt wasn’t hurting my level of appreciation either.
The TAD speakers did an impressive job of translating everything the front end and the BAT gear was saying to them.
The Evolution One’s just got the hell out of the way of the music and let it play. An oasis of whiskey culture, great music and synergistic component-matching, the Mobile Fidelity room at RMAF was a show highlight once again with all the gear working together and playing off each others strengths.
Well played Jonathan Derda and Norbert Shmied, well played indeed.