Newport 2016: Tidal, LampizatOr, bring on a sonic beatdown
I did my best to make the Newport Beach show a hi-fi destination where I sought out systems and manufacturers that I hadn’t spent time with previously, and whose set-ups were comprised of digital sources instead of analog. I still couldn’t help myself from stopping by some favourite rooms featuring familiar analog set-ups, or with new gear in the mix, but I feel I made real inroads on some digital kit that continued to open my eyes to the possibilities of high-end digital sources. An amazing example of getting lucky in my non-analog forays was Tidal Audio, and LampizatOr.
I’m going to fast forward slightly here, because after I got the attendant hosts to put up with my apparently annoying music requests, the Tidal speakers were moving a lot of air in The Voice That Is room at The Hotel Irvine. The Contriva G2 loudspeaker ($59,990 USD) paired with their own Preos-D pre-amplifier ($31,190 USD) and Impulse Dual Mono amplifier, ($32,290 USD) and the highly-regarded LampizatOr Golden Gate DAC with DSD Komputer Music Server ($5,550 USD) feeding it was pouring forth surging, untamed mids, wall-flexing bass mixed with rarefied, butterfly-delicate micro-dynamics. This was absolutely not the type of effortless, non-fatiguing, organic and raw sound that just a few months ago I would ever have associated with a digital source. Same goes for the nuanced, deeply-hued tonal colors, and timbre I was experiencing from these rigidly-enclosed, pistonic-driver transducers with diamond tweeters. AC, and the emotion-infused audio signals were being routed by Dynamic Design cabling.
You see, some sugar-sweet jazz tunes were playing when I came into the room, and started photographing, but when I was finished, I stood at the back of the then-empty space, and asked if they could play Radiohead to switch things up a bit, from the almost dead to the newly wed. After a few minutes consternation of searching through the Komputer, Kid A was found, and I requested Morning Bell.
As mentioned at the top, I was wholly unprepared for the music to suddenly, and with such visceral muscle, grab the base of my spine, and mercilessly squeeze. My head did one of those slo-motion rocks like when you slide a car seat back. Uhuuuuungh. My eyes got a little droopy because this was the dope shit. Thom Yorke’s voice was wailing at me with passion, and fury in-between the speakers. Ditto for the rest of the band. I felt like I could take a bite right out of the air, and rip off a piece of the performance. Crunch, slam, pound, caress, whisper, convulse. The big Contrivas never missed a beat. Indefatigable composure was what I had written in my messy notes from that day.
Sound stage was very wide – well beyond the speakers boundaries – and tall, with deep, and almost disconcerting 3D-imaging capabilities. This was a well thought-out combination of incredibly, emotionally engaging capability: a powerful system that I want to hear more of. Much more of.