Saturday at High End 2019 in Munich was probably one of my toughest days as a reviewer. I had technical glitches with both my phone and the flash unit on my camera, and every room was swampy and humid and filled with an incredible amount of people. Colleagues and friends were looking for me. I missed meetings. I had the worst hamburger I’ve ever eaten in my life for lunch. I must have walked 15,000 steps by noon. I was tired and more than a little grumpy when I walked into the Zesto Audio/Purist Audio Design room. I sat down, frazzled, and took a deep breath and started listening to Count Basie’s Kansas City Suite on LP. I slowly began to relax. I started to smile. Yes.
I’ve known George and Carolyn Counnas of Zesto Audio for many years. Well, sort of. Colleen and I used to see them all the time at hi-fi shows. Sometimes we’d strike up conversations. After a while, we felt like we knew them. Once I returned to reviewing, I found myself in a Zesto Audio room for the first time. I sat, I listened and I really liked what I heard. George and Carolyn didn’t notice me, but they noticed my positive coverage and thanked me by email. When I returned to their room here at High End 2019, I started taking notes and setting up my camera. Carolyn noticed and came over to me and asked me if I was a reviewer. Slightly surprised, I replied that I was Marc Phillips with Part-Time Audiophile and her face lit up. That’s who I was! I don’t think George and Carolyn ever put together the Marc of Colleen Cardas Imports with the Marc Phillips of Part-Time Audiophile.
After that, I had such an enjoyable time in that room. My frustrations about my frantic Saturday at High End 2019 vanished as I listened to this amazing and beautiful system that included a Merrill-Williams REAL turntable, a Tri-planar tonearm, Verity Audio Amadis S loudspeakers and Jim Aud’s Purist Audio Design cabling. Zesto was showing their new Andros Deluxe Phonostage as well as their Leto 1.5 preamplifier, EROS monoblocks and Allasso step-up transformer.
Jim Aud was there in the room, and I was quickly introduced. These three were such warm, wonderful people and made me feel welcome. Carolyn asked George to put on their LP of The Soulful Moods of Gene Ammons, one of my favorites, and I felt all of the emotions of these performances–the playfulness of Patti Brown’s piano in “Skylark,” and especially the depth and subtlety of Ed Shaughnessy’s brush work on the snare.
This was a system that had a stunning balance between imaging and tonality, with dynamic impact and a serene sense of fun. The last time I reviewed Zesto, I commented on the gorgeous design of the components and how it created such a mesmerizing presence–this time I walked out of this High End 2019 room remembering the music and the great people in it. This was more than just one of the best sounds of the show–it was one of the best experiences I’ve had at a high-end audio show in a long time.