Bluebird Music had a huge suite and lots of goodies. Richard Colburn and Jay Rein were showing off some new gear from SME, Chord, and Vienna Acoustics. Starting with the live gear on demo was a pair of Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand loudspeakers ($5,998 – all prices in USD) being driven by a huge Chord CPM 3350 Integrated Amp ($12,300). For digital source, Jay was not messing around by offering up the new Chord Blu Mk. II transport ($10,588) with “Scaler Technology” with the Chord DAVE ($11,288) on the special DAVE stand ($1,895).
I write about the number of taps that improve the recreation of the analog wave form in my separate Chord CanJam show report but suffice to say this is the magic pairing that offers an unprecedented total of 1,015,808 taps (!) ensuring what Robert Watts feels 16/44 is capable of sounding like. Outputting data at a whopping 705.6 kHz quality, the digital recreation was detailed and musical. It actually sounded analog in its presentation. A classical recording we listened to sounded magnificent. Lots of layering of instruments – but the best part was huge dynamics. It was funny because Jay and I talked a few minutes about what music to play and he cued up a humble CD on the Blu and off we went. For about two minutes, the music was very low in volume and several times I almost asked Jay to turn the music up. But I held back and soon enough the music exploded in dynamics and a clean loud sound. Jay knew what he was doing and I am glad I kept my mouth shut. It was glorious. The DAVE technology is really special and clearly captured all the dynamics of the orchestra. For more real world budgets, the Hugo 2 should come close in some ways.
Next up, we heard a wonderful cello piece, and as I have heard previously with the Hugo, the string section was quite realistic with that “rosiny” cello tone captured perfectly. Across several tracks during my visit, I heard a very low noise floor and an open, detailed sound.
Jay and Richard brought in a nice affordable SME Model 10 table ($8,544) with an Ortofon Quintet Black MC cartridge ($999) and LPs sounded equally fine. Phono stage duties were handled by a Chord Symphonic moving coil phono pre at $3,995. Even better, Jay had arranged for several SME tables on static display and showcased a Model 15 in a red color and mentioned that new color combinations were in the offing. The turntables on static display were a treat. The precision engineering of the revered SME manufacture is pretty obvious. The fit and finish are as good as it gets and the quality turntable mat built-in and the speed controller round out the look of what a successful professional mastering engineer might have at home. It reminds me of some Swiss engineering I have seen on fine watches and boutique audio components. The new Model 15 is at a nice sweet spot for higher-end tables and seems to offer up a lot of the Model 20 sound. It’s odd at first seeing an SME table in red but it was quite beautiful, more so than my photograph shows.
Finishing out the transparent sound was a reliable Kubala Sosna cable package at $5,000. Overall, quite excellent sound for more reasonable prices than a lot of systems at the show.