At first I titled this show report as “Audio Note UK Everywhere!” because my listening room has been hosting a complete Audio Note UK System for the last couple of months, and then I drive from Portland to Seattle to see…another complete Audio Note system! I’m surrounded by shiny black boxes with gold lettering!
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
I’m certainly not complaining. As I’ve focused on different parts of the Audio Note UK system I have in for review, from the AN-J/D Hemp speakers to the Cobra integrated amplifier/DAC to the CDT One/II transport, I’ve grown more and more fond of this brand and I’m starting to feel sad that it’s going to go away soon. But this affinity for Peter Qvortrup’s designs has spread far beyond the review samples and now I can look at any Audio Note UK system and have a much better idea of what’s going on inside those metal boxes.
The Audio Note UK system at Pacific Audio Fest was certainly at a higher level than my review system. Audio Note has actual “levels” to organize various components into systems that aim to achieve certain goals in reproduction. Adrian Ford-Crush of AN started his system with a pair of AN-E speakers, the top model in the line, but it’s hard to look at an Audio Note UK speaker and know which one it is. You might be looking at this speaker, the close-to-entry level AN-E/LX Hemp at just $9,930/pr, or you might be looking at a AN-E Sogon that runs more than $200K/pr–while still looking quite similar on the outside to the LX.
The rest of the Audio Note UK system included the TT-Three turntable with PSU3 power supply ($16,530 USD), the Arm Three/II ($2,465), AN-S4L SUT ($7,542), IO1 cartridge ($5,028), a CDT Two/II transport ($9,050), DAC2.1X Signature ($6,660), and a very intriguing Meishu Phono Tonmeister Silver integrated amplifier ($19,300). All cabling, of course, was from Audio Note UK.
I gotta tell you, I kept staring at that Meishu Tonmeister. It’s a big black box, somewhat imposing on a normal equipment rack, with a very deep chassis, but I kept looking and scheming and figuring things out. The Meishu runs 8wpc with 300Bs, has a superb phono stage built in, and once you split up the cost of the power amp, preamp and phono, $20K seems pretty reasonable.
None of that would matter if this system didn’t sound great–or at least as great as the Level 1 system at my house. (I feel like I’ve tuned my Audio Note UK system to perfection over the last few months. Bring me the Sogon!) This system, at PAF 2023, might have stretched out the performance in most parameters, but that signature sound was present–a very good thing. I’m in agreement with Audio Note UK–this sounds more like real musical instruments to me, too.
Scot Hull says I’ve joined the cult, and he may be right–I can’t stop thinking about that Meishu Tonmeister. I’d love it and feed it and feed it only the best 300Bs.