By Richard H. Mak
Mark Jones has been in the audio business for over 30 years, and a few years ago he went independent, starting his personal brick and mortar shop, Audio by Mark Jones. To those who know him, Mark is one of those dealers whom you’ll need to protect from the customers, because he is often too friendly, too accommodating and subject to customer’s abuse! If you are looking for good old fashioned customer service, be it product recommendation or turntable setup, Mark Jones is the man to call because he will work very hard to earn your trust. Audio by Mark Jones is Ontario’s exclusive dealer for Magico, CH Precision, Tenor Audio, as well as Kronos Audio.
Mark Jone’s room sits right at the entrance of the Sheraton Convention center; together with Wynn Wong’s room located right beside him the two gentelman offered the two most coveted rooms of the show. Unbeknownst to the public, the left side of Mark Jone’s room shared a makeshift wall which organizers had put up as room dividers. These separe’ were filled with thick insulations to prevent noise leakage but sadly, they also acted like giant sound traps. When combined with the heavy drapery put up by show organizers, both rooms were inherently handicapped by the anechoic-chamber-like room acoustics.
Mark’s system consisted of a Kronos Pro Turntable (US$ 38,000), Kronos Black Beauty Tonearm (US$ 8,500), Ortofon A95 cartridge (US$ 6,499), Aurender N10 digital player (US$ 8,500), CH Precision C1 DAC (US$33,000), CH L1 Preamp (US$35,000), CH M1 mono amps ($ 95,000/pr), CH P1 Phono (US$ 31,000), optional CH X1 Power supply (US$ 9,000 ea) and the all new Shunyata Denali line conditioner (US$ 6,000). Speakers were the Magico S5s (US$ 38,000), shown with the optional M-Coat finish which brings it to US $ 42,000. The total price of the system comes to roughly US$ 320,000, when you add on the various Nordost cables, the numbers skyrocket well above the US$ 400,000, not a far cry from Wynn Wong’s six hundred thousand dollar system next door for a combined slick million US$. Buyers at this price bracket probably won’t notice the difference of a few digits here and there.
I listened to a variety of music, from Joan Baez’ Diamond and Rust in the Bullring, to Carmen Fantasie conducted by Alexander Gibson at the Covent Garden on RCA Living Stereo and all the way to The Beatles Anthology album, the CH/Magico system combined with the accurate sounding Kronos Pro turntable delivered a remarkably well balanced sonic performance which was elegant, well controlled and with excellent spatial extension. I could very well appreciate a complete CH system in my own house, if only my piggy bank would quit the slim diet.
The sound coming out of the complete CH system is distinctly different than that of the Tenor Audio setup which Mark showcased last year, with the speakers being both times Magicos. Indeed both setup carried the strong Magico house sound which is lively, snappy, immediate, upfront and with prodigious solid bass notes. The Tenor sound is more open and airy, almost like a 300B SET amp, but the dual CH M1 Power Amps exhibited much more power and control on the low frequencies, leading to less bass boom together with less nasal-ish characteristics. Comparing the sound of this room with CH equipment, versus the sound of Viola, both driving Magicos, I believe the CH system is better balanced, and noticeably less forward sounding than the Viola/Magico setup. However, the Viola amps were faster sounding and carried more dynamic contrast, which makes the CH more polite sounding by comparison.