“Wow…how much do those weigh?” the show attendee asked, and I thought that was a rather odd first question.
This was the McGary Audio and Salk Sound room at AXPONA 2019, and the relatively simple system on exhibit was exceptional in one respect–the appearance of the components. I’m talking mainly about the Salk 9.5 loudspeakers and the McGary Audio SA2 power amp, gorgeous pieces of high-end audio gear that seemed to imply “significant expense.” The sound quality of the room, of course, reinforced the idea that we were listening to such lofty gear. The Salk 9.1 loudspeakers were indeed big and substantial and probably heavy, prompting that gentleman’s comment. (I wonder what he said when he entered the Von Schweikert Audio/VAC room.) The McGary Audio SA2 was a beautifully finished amp and offered a somewhat ornate visual design, even by tube amplifier standards.
I sat and I listened for quite some time, nursing a bias based upon a perceived price tag in my mind…one that was very high. I knew that PTA had reviewed McGary Audio’s debut product, the SA1 power amplifier, and that retailed for a very reasonable $3985. The SA1 is an excellent $4000 tube amplifier, made in the USA and sporting a lifetime transferable warranty, but it’s also very basic in appearance with its grey chassis and conventional exposed layout. The SA2 is different. This is audio jewelry, rich with colors and gleaming metal surfaces, with a sound quality that is coherent from top to bottom while presenting a stunning, unfettered view into the musical event. The SA2 features higher output than the 30wpc push-pull SA1, higher parts quality, point-to-point wiring, bridging options, a choice between triode and ultralinear operation and much more…for less than $8000.
The Salk 9.5s, again, were impressive in size and sound, with beautifully finished cabinets and exceptional drivers–including a Beryllium tweeter. The 9.5s have plenty of intriguing features such as an open-back adjustable midrange and two big passive bass radiators per side. The answer to our audiophile friend’s question is 112 pounds, by the way, not extraordinary by high-end standards but still hefty and daunting to the uninitiated. The 9.5s retail for just $9995/pair, which again just seems like a typo once you hear this system.
I was treated to lots of digital streaming via the new Salk StreamPlayer Generation III SE and an Exogal Comet DAC, most notably “Private Investigations” from Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold. This is one of my old demo chestnuts, but it was delivered with such clarity and force that briefly I thought it might be the best I’ve heard. I like to evaluate the track by John Illsey’s lone bass note that begins the so-called “foot chase” that starts the second half of the song. I’ve heard that note sound weak, bloated, fuzzy, lean or thick, but for once it sounded perfectly natural and adequately imposing. We also listened to a lot of music that wasn’t necessarily my kind of music, thanks to thirty minutes of requests from Mr. How-Much-Do-They-Weigh, but even the Diana Krall sounded good and for once I did not feel the urge to leave the room. That says volumes about the musical gifts delivered by McGary Audio and Salk Sound.
PS: Cabling, by the way, was from Anticables. More on them later, but suffice it to say they were everywhere. In fact, most of my favorite rooms featured Anticables. Hmmm.