Listen Up did something unexpected at the Rocky Mountain Audiofest. Unexpected, you say? Well, yes — unexpected, for me.
I think many readers are familiar with brands like Bowers & Wilkins, Simaudio and AudioQuest. These are established brands. The “big boys”. Sure, there are other companies of such pedigree and position, but seeing three such in one audio dealer demo just is not going to raise eyebrows with thoughts of “how daring”, “how unexpected”, “how risqué”. It’s not really their fault; these three brands have been providing elements to excellent audio systems for over three decades. Simaudio and AudioQuest have been at it since John Lenon was assassinated. B&W have been at it since that American U2 spy plane went down in Russia. These brands are established. They are known. A dealer, looking to “phone it in”, can probably just randomly assemble a better-than-average system with parts shuffled from a deck stacked with these brands. That’s expected. That’s de rigeur — and that’s why rooms like this don’t tend to draw my eye. Not at an audio show. At an audio show there are lasers, smoke machines, disassembled disco balls and alien face-huggers. That shit is wildly distracting and there’s enough of it at any show that “potentially staid” doesn’t really rate a lot of time.
I’ll offer that, in addition to being pointlessly opinionated, and burdened with a dangerously short-attention span, that I’m also a sucker of gestalt aesthetics. Both the Simaudio MOON Evolution series 700i Integrated Amplifier (175wpc at $14,000) and the B&W 802 D3 loudspeakers ($23,000) carried the same silver-on-black chic (one also matched by the rack) that knit the entire system into a single visual whole, a whole that struck me as purposeful, expensive, and thoughtful. It was easily one of the best looking displays at the show, and the fact that it sat in one of the newly remodeled Marriott suites — one of the very few actually large enough to support the audio system that sat in it — the affair felt almost exclusive. Their couch carried my ass for hours.
And I’m really glad it did. This system was thrilling.
Have you ever heard the phrase “throttle you with your own intestines”? Yes, I know, “Scot, you’re such a a charmer”, but that’s what I had in my head, listening. The system just reached into me, seized my guts from the inside and shook the whole of me like a bloody rag. If that sounds unnerving, good, because it was not what I was expecting when I sat down. I was riveted.
The system was fronted by the new MOON Evolution series 780D Reference Streaming DAC ($15,000), a modular “system” (upgradeable!) which allows and optimizes DSD streaming over Ethernet and is ready and able to stream uncompressed files directly from Tidal. Like all Simaudio gear, it has that ginormous LED display that is both retro and highly functional.
The new 802 D3? I can’t remember a time I heard this much “space” in the soundstage of a B&W fronted system. Detail, tone, expansiveness — I loved it all.