Now Listen Here, Joseph Audio, EMM Labs, VPI Industries, Sutherland Engineering, Innuos, Transparent | CAF 2021

Now Listen Here, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania dealer located at the edge of several bedroom communities that serve the I-95 corridor between Washington, DC and Philadelphia proper, showed large at Capital Audio Fest 2021. Three exhibit rooms in total, each showcasing a system for a different level of customer, commitment, and good ole’ audiophile insanity. The largest of those three exhibit rooms contained a truly unlimited reference system featuring components Joseph AudioEMM LabsVPI Industries, Sutherland Engineering, Innuos, and Transparent.

The Story

EMM Labs distributor, John McGurk of Audioshield Distribution, was on site with the Now Listen Here team throughout the long CAF weekend. John was on hand to aid with the installation of the large system, but also to offer his vast experience and technical knowledge of the EMM Labs brand to both show attendees and industry press members.

Audioshield Distribution is a US based distributor for Credo Audio (of Switzerland), EMM Labs / Meitner Audio (of Calgary, Canada), and co-distributor of van den Hul (of the Netherlands).

EMM Labs is the brainchild of Ed Meitner. If you aren’t familiar with the name Ed Meitner, he’s the man that Sony turned to when they needed to transform SACD from an intriguing concept into a sonic reality. He’s that Ed Meitner. EMM Labs worked hand-in-glove with Sony and Phillips to refine what was possible from the SACD format.

EMM Labs converter systems are the de facto DSD reference of the recording industry. Currently, almost every new SACD in production is being made with EMM Labs DSD converters. So when John McGurk told us he was picking up EMM Labs complete line of audiophile (and pro) electronics for distribution in the US market, he had our curiosity piqued.

We know that EMM Labs knows how to do digital right, but the question remains: should we be surprised they Ed Meitner can do G-dlike amplifiers?

Big-boy EMM Labs MTRX2 monoblocks were driving the exhibit system, and at $85K per pair there was nothing left on the table to wish for in terms of power or refinement, but more about that in the sound section. The MTRX2, unbelievably are the baby brother monoblocks to EMM Labs MTRX Reference monoblocks. How dare they?!

The MTRX2 is a 1kw class-A/B design, that borrows from the upstream MRTX Reference, and like its big brother can drive the most outlandish speaker demands without strain or overcooked effort.

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Also in the system, phono preamplification from Sutherland Engineering handling the signal driven from the direct drive VPI Industries HW-40 turntable. Though, during my two visits I specifically requested digital, so I am solely to blame for missing out on the analog treats during this exhibit.

Doing the most beautiful work, a reference pair of Joseph Audio Pearl 20/20 Graphene floorstanding loudspeakers. Not a huge or domestically imposing pair of loudspeakers, but they are able to play alongside those who fit that description.

The Pearl 20/20 Graphene represent the pinnacle of Joseph Audio design and technology. Tweeter and the Graphene coated midrange driver are isolated in their own time-aligned enclosure, that is perched atop the bass driver cabinet and in contact between substrates by solid brass points, used to eliminate potential resonance interaction between enclosures. The two 8-inch aluminum cone woofers in the bass enclosure are custom and overbuilt in every imaginable way. More interesting details and features about the Pearl 20/20 Graphene can be sourced in prose at the company website, or experienced for yourself at your nearest Joseph Audio dealer.

The Sound

This is it! This might be the one. In the discussions had, and consensus formed, this might be our pick for best large room sound at the show. With everything Jeff Joseph is known to have perfected, with everything Ed Meitner has done in the digital (and now amplification relm), and with the help of Now Listen Here founders Aaron and Jessica Sherrick and a scoop of the ever helpful John McGurk, this has to be it.

This exhibit room is massive, but you couldn’t find any sign of flinching on behalf of the Peal 20/20 Graphene and MTRX2 combination. Power on tap as if the sun itself were supplying it. Extension, cleanliness, dynamics, and soul. This is what impressive systems do. They give you everything. Making them the most effortless listen, and attention grasping experience in hi-fi. A superb exhibition.

The System

Joseph Audio Pearl 20/20 Graphene – $37,999

VPI HW-40 Turntable – $20,000

EMM Labs MTRX2 Monoblocks – $85,000 pr

EMM Labs PRE Preamplifier – $25,000

EMM Labs DA2 DAC – $30,000

EMM Labs NS1 Streamer – $4,500

Innuos Zen Server – $2,999

Transparent Reference PowerIsolator Conditioner – $7,295

Transparent Reference Cables (Gen 6)

  • speaker – $8,500
  • XLR – $6,000
  • RCA – $3,400
  • phono – $3,400
  • power – $1,275
Capital Audio Fest ModWright
Capital Audio Fest 2021 Show Coverage powered by ModWright Instruments Inc.

For more Capital Audio Fest 2021 coverage—CLICK HERE!

Capital Audio Fest ModWright
Capital Audio Fest 2021 Show Coverage powered by ModWright Instruments Inc.

For more Capital Audio Fest 2021 coverage—CLICK HERE!