In the retail trade, products by Michael Kors and Kate Spade are considered “affordable luxury.” They offer a taste of opulence, but with prices significantly below Chanel or Neiman Marcus.
High-end audio has its more accessible brands as well. One that has been on the rise in recent years is Atascadero, Calif.-based Wyred 4 Sound.
Wyred has been introducing well-built, attractively priced gear at a blistering pace. At last fall’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, for example, it displayed three new components – a pair of sleek mono blocks, a power supply and a streamer (then a prototype).
Fast-forward almost eight months and Wyred was at it again during the Los Angeles Audio Show, rolling out its new MS next-generation music server ($2,000 to $3,000 USD, depending on options) and its 10th anniversary DAC-2v2SE ($4,499 USD).
The MS server looked to offer a high degree of sophistication and features for its price point. It allows drag-and-drop file management, is Roon ready and is AirPlay- and DLNA-enabled.
The MS server has an Intel Core i7 processor, eight to 16 GB of RAM, and an internal SSD hard drive. In addition, there’s a slot drive for ripping CDs.
The DAC-2v2SE is a limited-edition product. It boasts an ESS Sabre 9038PRO chip, a redesigned circuit board and hand-matched Vishay Z-Foil resistors. There are coaxial, Toslink, AES/EBU and I2S inputs, as well as a galvanically isolated, asynchronous USB input.
Wyred was demoing the new components in a system that also included its SX-1000R monoblocks ($1,799 USD each), Recovery USB reclocker ($199 USD), PS-1 modular linear power supply (starting at $399 USD) and a pair of KEF Reference 1 loudspeakers ($7,999 USD, plus $1,499 for stands).
Wire was the company’s own C2 XLR cables ($299 USD for a one-meter pair), P1 power cords (from $169 USD) and USB Premium ($199 USD for 1one meter).
My audition using the title track of Steely Dan’s Gaucho revealed the system to have a very smooth, balanced presentation.
Walter Becker’s bass sounded well-controlled, tuneful and surprisingly deep considering the size of the KEF speakers. The Reference 1, in fact, did a good job merging the cohesiveness of a point-source speaker with the frequency response (45Hz to 35kHz for the KEFs) of a floor-stander. This likely was due to the 5-inch aluminum Uni-Q driver – a midrange with an embedded tweeter – which blended seamlessly with a 6.5-inch aluminum woofer.
Highs on the Wyred/KEF rig also were polished, with no splash or edginess, and Donald Fagen’s vocals were focused and well-separated from the background singers.
All in all, it was an impressive performance for a system in the neighborhood of $20K USD. Whether that can be considered “affordable luxury” will depend on each audiophile’s personal definition. But in a hobby where “high end” often means just that, Wyred’s price tags probably won’t have you fainting.