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Music Matters 11: Dan D’Agostino, Wilson, Merging Technologies, Transparent, AMG

MusicMatters-26 by Mohammed Samji Definitive Audio in Seattle, WA. It’s 4:30pm on a Thursday in Seattle and there is a line wrapped around the block to get into Definitive Audio. Is something going on sale at midnight?? No, just passionate music lovers getting their groove on, ready to rub shoulders with some of the finest people & products in the business. It’s Music Matters 11 and Definitive Audio’s 40th birthday, and they are ready to send their guests home happy. It’s not every night in Seattle that you can get to see Dan D’Agostino, Peter McGrath (Wilson Audio) & Garth Powell (Audioquest) and many others. It’s a no-pressure event. Nothing is for sale. Come in, discover new music, enjoy the food and drinks, and leave inspired.

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Music Matters events are becoming more common across the country, but this year Music Matters 11 was special — it was the worldwide public debut of:

  1. Wilson Audio Alexx Speakers
  2. Dan D’Agostino Progression Mono Amplifier
  3. B&W 800 D3 Speakers

Definitive pulled out all the stops. All 6 demo rooms were top-notch, each providing a 30-minute presentation.

Dan D’Agostino, Wilson Audio, Merging Technologies, Transparent Audio, AMG

This room was hot off the presses. Both the Wilson Audio Alexx speakers & Dan D ’Agostino Progression Mono’s had been finished at the factory just days’ prior for this stellar event.

Talk about a risky endeavor — both had only been tested in mono — never in stereo, nor never together as an amp / speaker combination. WOW!

The Wilson Audio Alexx is the replacement for the recently discontinued Wilson Audio Maxx. It is 4-way loudspeaker, with 2 bass drivers that work in parallel, an upper and lower range (shared with the Sabrina) and the convergence synergy tweeter. The measurements are still in progress, but McGrath estimated the speaker efficiency at ~90%. The Alexx has never been heard outside the factory so we were in for a real treat.

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The room was intoxicating. I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek earlier, and was glued to the listening chair for 30 minutes, enjoying every second of Peter McGrath’s personal & selected recordings. I was happy, content, and if I called it a night at that point, it would have been a memorable evening.

Why? Let me draw a couple of parallels to explain the magnitude of the what I heard. Wilson has a reputation for dynamics. Some of the best Wilson demonstrations (at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, amongst other shows) are typically a Wilson Audio speaker paired with a subwoofer. Sasha 2 / Alexia speakers + Watchdog Subwoofer or Alexandria XLF speaker + Thor’s Hammer subwoofer. These combinations are potent, dynamic, fast, and exciting.

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But at Music Matters 11, it was just … Alexx.

Alexx needed no assistance to bring forward the best in the orchestral recordings of Peter McGrath. This particular listening room at Definitive Audio is very dampened, but it was no match for the dynamics of Alexx. The back wall disappeared, and in its place appeared a beautiful pipe organ in a large cathedral. True deep bass from each organ peddle note. Next the sounds of a gigantic bass drum filled the room. For those who attended Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013, and attended the Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF room, it was a similar experience to what I heard at Music Matters 11 with Alexx with a much smaller system.

Dynamics by itself is not enough. It is also about recreating the room where the recording was made, the size of the room, making the instruments sound real with tonal balance, feeling their exact placement on the stage with air around the instruments. That’s hard. One of the best speakers I heard that could do that was the Wilson Audio Sabrina with VTL electronics at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2015. I was introduced to Cécile McLorin Salvant and fell in love with the album. For me, that room was best of show.

I bring this up, since Alexx was able to do this better. The Alexx is a HUGE speaker, but it doesn’t feel like it. In one of the McGrath’s recordings there was a quiet passage with a shaker, and you could feel every grain of sand in the shaker move around.

Wilson Audio has yet again built another classic. If this is the second speaker led by Daryl Wilson following on from Wilson Audio Sabrina, the future is bright for Wilson Audio.

Let’s not give all of the credit to Alexx, as he was backed up by some top-notch electronics. Also on debut was the Dan D’Agostino Progression series mono amplifier

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From D’Agostino’s website:

The Progression mono amplifier is the largest and most powerful Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems has made to date, delivering 800 watts into 8 ohms, doubling to 1,600 watts into 4 ohms and doubling again to 3,200 watts into 2 ohms. It employs a fully complementary driver stage, beefed up with 84 output transistors, a 4000 VA power supply transformer and 400,000 microfarads of power supply storage capacitance.

Like all equipment from D’Agostino, this amp is a true work of art. From the power gauge on the front, (inspired by a timepiece) to the fit and finish, this is an amp that needs to get displayed.

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In speaking with D’Agostino, he told me that the amp was built to address another part of the market. Specially for music lovers who need more power or have large rooms. If you need more power, look no further. The amp is below the Momentum series, but definitely feels and sounds like it is from the same family.D’Agostino explained that compared to the Momentum, the Progression will have more power, and the Momentum will be more refined. From my 30 minutes of listening, the Progression sounded very refined to me. I’d love to compare it against my reference Momentum stereo amplifier.

Other actors in the room were the Dan D’Agostino Momentum pre-amp and phono pre-amp. I was able to hear a few records on a AMG Viella 12 table + Clearaudio Goldfinger statement cartridge and the sound was lush, tube like from the Momentum phono stage. Although I enjoy every recording from Peter McGrath, I would have liked to hear more vinyl. I look forward to getting to know more about the Momentum phono stage, and will try to get some long-term listening time with it with my AMG V12 reference turntable.

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Digital to Analog conversion was provided by Merging Technologies. Their company is well-known in the pro audio business, used by our own Seattle Symphony, as well as Bruce Brown @ Puget Sound Studios. Philip O’Hanlon explained that their products are also used by Bob Ludwig who mastered 2 recent Beck Albums. On display was the consumer version of their product known as the NADAC. It is available in either 2 channel or multi-channel versions. It is also compatible with Roon Labs music management software as well as a series of digital inputs.

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Cables in the room were all Transparent Audio OPUS Gen 5 cables. The room also debuted the new OPUS Gen 5 Power cable. Josh Clark, lead designer at Transparent, explained that the new power cords are built from what was learned during the development of their Gen 5 interconnects. McGrath pointed out that the Transparent OPUS Gen 5 cable is also used to internally wire the Wilson Audio Alexx.

Coming Next

  • Room 2: B&W 800 D3, Classe Audio, Audioquest
  • Room 3: Audio Research Ref 6, Ref Phono 2, Magnepan, HRS
  • Room 4: McIntosh, Focal, Transparent
  • Room 5: Linn
  • Room 6: Rega
Get your Occasional now

5 Comments on Music Matters 11: Dan D’Agostino, Wilson, Merging Technologies, Transparent, AMG

  1. HRS?

    • Mohammed Samji // March 13, 2016 at 10:47 PM //

      Yes, the HRS MXR racks were in full effect! The HRS stuff really works in my experience. Sorry it wasn’t listed above Brad.

  2. Randy in Mpls // March 7, 2016 at 6:21 PM //

    Interesting that the speakers are so close to the wall(which I prefer, from my hairshirt Linn/Naim days). I know the Alex has a choice of front or back ports. Were both ports closed?

    • Mohammed Samji // March 7, 2016 at 9:26 PM //

      It was setup as a rear firing configuration. Like the XLF, you can choose front or rear firing depending on your room.

  3. Awesome job. Great write up. Made me feel that I was in the chair listening !

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