Who doesn’t like magic shows?
As a child I was always impressed with anybody who could pull-off something even remotely magical: Pulling a quarter out of my ear? Check. Naming the card I chose out of a shuffled deck? Check. I guess technically these weren’t magic, but illusions (to quote Gob from Arrested Development), but they still had the intended effect: To make me believe something very special was happening, that I was in on a secret, or part of a cool club. But in reality it was merely a honed skill that was being shared with me. To me this is what happened in Wynn Wong’s main room at the Westin O’Hare in Chicago during AXPONA: a honed skill at work, some could say magic of a sort – or sleight of hand, if you will – as it tricked a number of people I witnessed into believing something was there when it really wasn’t. The trick? Just about everyone I saw thought there was a subwoofer hidden somewhere in the room because they couldn’t believe the diminutive little Penaudio Serenade Signature was plumbing such stygian bass depths.
Grown men would come in, and sit down, listen attentively for several minutes, and then proceed to look around the room with curiosity. They would then get up, walk around the speakers, looking carefully, then turn their attention to the area behind the Critical Mass Systems Olympus equipment rack (North American premier, price TBA), and look up at Wong asking “where’s the subwoofer?”
Magic? Skill? A bit of both on Wong’s part I think: Magic in the sound of this system, skill in executing its set-up. Any system that can fool the brain into thinking something is going on that really isn’t, is actually doing its job in my book. Don’t many of us as audiophiles want to be fooled into believing a recorded event is being recreated in our presence? The fact that not only did the Karan Acoustics/Goldmund-fronted system feeding the Serenades sound spectacularly realistic, dynamic, and musical, but that it was so effortlessly, and consistently punching above its weight with its ability to pressurize the room, and that the Penaudios sounded far larger than speakers their size had any right to, only added to the jump factor the gear possessed.
Wong has previously caught many eyes, and ears at numerous shows with his massive, curated systems with stratospheric price tags that wowed crowds, and reviewers alike. But here in Chicago he dialled it back a bit, and gave us a glimpse at what other alchemy he’s capable of with a budget in a lower orbit.
A parlour trick indeed.
- Goldmund Eidos 36U+ Universal Player $32,000 USD ($43,850 CAN).
- Karan Acoustics L Ref Preamplifier $17,000 USD ($23,300 CAN).
- Karan Acoustics S 600 Stereo Power Amplifier, Pure Class-A Sliding Bias, 600W/8ohms, $30,000 USD ($41,180 CAN).
- Penaudio Serenade Signature $12,000 ($16,450 CAN).
- ZenSati Seraphim cabling (Prices on request), and Critical Mass Systems Olympus rack (Price TBA).