As I stood mutely at the front of the crowded room I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d stumbled into some kind of church, or worship service by accident.
There was powerful keyboard music with thunderous bass being played through a huge sound system that was raising the hair on my arms, a dozen or more people were seated in front of me with heads bowed, eyes closed, and seemed to be silently mouthing words like “My God,” and “Good Lord.”
Then the music stopped, and a neatly dressed man with glasses, and a solemn look on his face walked to the front of the room, raised his hands, and thanked those seated for being there just as everyone’s eyes looked up in unison. I held my breath, waiting for the sermon to begin. “You’re listening to the Tidal Akira loudspeakers…”
The illusion broke, and everything snapped back into focus. This wasn’t a religious meeting after all, these people weren’t praying at a gloss black, and polished chrome altar of sound, it was merely Doug White from The Voice That Is introducing AXPONA attendees to a full Tidal Audio system in his room at the Westin O’Hare.
Truth be told, I think I can be excused for the confusion, as the components White brought with him to Chicago were capable of spiritual enlightenment. This was one of those carefully curated, and holistic sound systems that benefits greatly from being designed to work together, from the pre-amplification, to the power amps, speakers, and even the cabling, this gear was all voiced from the Tidal factory to compliment one another. As a result this was one of those transcendental listening experiences where everything comes together.
I had first heard White’s room efforts back in 2016 at Newport Beach, and was deeply impressed with the Tidal system fronted by a LampizatOr Golden Gate DAC that he had curated for that show. As a result I’ve continued to seek his rooms out at every show where he has had a room, and he has never failed to leave an indelible mark on those who have heard his efforts. AXPONA this year was made even more noteworthy because of the North American premier of Tidal’s second-from-the-top loudspeaker effort – the Akira – and the debut of Transfiguration’s Proteus D low-output moving-coil cartridge with its diamond stylus/cantilever assembly.
Set-up on a TW-Acustic Raven AC-3 turntable fitted with a 10.5-inch TW tonearm this was a deadly combination that translated what seemed like endless bottom end in conjunction with effortless upper frequencies, and midrange.
Both the analog, and Aurender N10/Bricasti M1SE digital combinations astounded me with their startling, holographic treble/upper midrange clarity, and immense projection of visceral power to lower-register bass, and piano notes. Voices, and stringed instruments contained sinewy organic textures that recreated those subtle human cues which are capable of fooling one’s brain into believing there is not only a body present in the room creating the music, but a spirit too.
- TIDAL Audio Akira Speaker – Midnight Black $215,000
- TIDAL Audio Presencio Reference Preamplifier – $77,900
- TIDAL Audio Impulse Monobloc Amplifier – $66,200
- Aurender N10 Music Server – $7999
- Bricasti M1se DAC – $10,000
- TW-Acustic Raven AC-3 Turntable – $20,000
- TW-Acustic 10.5 Tonearm – $5,490
- Transfiguration Proteus D Cartridge – $10,500
- TIDAL Audio Reference Powercords 1.25M – $6,750
- TIDAL Audio Reference XLR cables 1.25M – $7,500
- TIDAL Audio Reference Speaker Cables 2M – $11,750
- Dynamic Design Neutron SW16 Digital ~ 1.5M Powercord – $7,500
- Dynamic Design Challenger AE15 Digital ~ 1.5M Powercord – $4,000
- StillPoints ESS GRID Rack $8,600 – $12,100 varies w/configuration
- StillPoints Ultra SS Isolators – $249 each
- StillPoints Ultra 6 Isolators – $899 each
- StillPoints Aperture Panels – $699 – $749
- Signal Projects Poseidon S40 Power Conditioner – $11,000