First thing I noticed were the tubes glowing on the McAlister monoblocks. That surprised me since I was expecting Tommy’s Cherry Ultra amps. Then I was told about the DAC amp’s synergy issue with the VSA VR-44 active (woofer) speakers. Well, this is why you have backups. I like tubes and I was thinking this could be good since the woofers were biamped. I was in a good mood after another free beer and was enjoying the music from Wolf Tracks: RAVE selections 2006-2009. What I noticed and remember on this occasion is the impactful bass and good tonality on the midrange. I was feeling too good to register much on the treble. I periodically checked this room throughout the show and I was there for a long time at the closing on Sunday. On couple of the occasions I manned the room for Bill and Joe since they were being pulled every which way to meet important industry people. As a disclosure, I will say that I know how to operate the remote since I have one just like it at home. For those of you who don’t know, I bought last year’s show special preamp (Silver Statement) from Bill and Joe. So I am predisposed to like the preamp which is a newer and more expensive version of mine. I won’t say better, yet, because I am not sure.
For some reason, the sound didn’t have the same magical cohesion I heard last year with Rethm/RAAL supertweet combo. Then on Sunday near the closing time, I had the room to myself and I played around with the volume. From low volume to a certain level below 80dB or so, it was gorgeous. Everything was in balance and treble was sweet. Sound stage locked into a holographic depth. At louder volume the treble started getting rough and imaging fell apart. At 90dB or higher, the bass boomed and overpowered everything else. There was one gentleman who was a prospective dealer who insisted on listening at 90dB + and it was not pleasant to me. He was bobbing his head up and down and obviously enjoyed the boomy and shouty sound – different strokes for different folk, I guess. Ted B. brought over a room measuring kit and I helped a little in setting up the mike. What I noticed was clearly a distortion coming out of at least one speaker if not both. Albert later attributed that to a faulty amp and/or the tubes. From what I heard at low volume, I am guessing the tube amps behaved nicer when they weren’t pushed. Albert also mentioned that much of Saturday the crossover profile for the active woofer was at a wrong setting creating a suckout at midbass. It was corrected late Saturday before the Kronzillas arrived.
I was preoccupied Saturday night and missed the Kronzillas but I really would have liked to have heard them driving these speakers. So, it appears that I haven’t heard the best of this Purity preamp/VSA VR44 combination yet. I am hoping I get to hear them together in an optimum setting soon. The promise is there; I just need to hear it happen. It would also be nice to AB the Silver Statement vs the Ultra GT. I don't doubt the Ultra GT is better but I want to know if the higher cost is justifiable to my ears.
As for my digital source research, I found out that Windows based whatever Joe was running is problematic. It would recognize my flash drive but showed it as empty unable to see any of the flac. Files. Joe was on his tummy on the floor rebooting the labtop but it still wouldn’t recognize flac. files after restarting. I have had some issues with Windows that sometimes wouldn’t see a flashdrive. I think I am going Mac or at least non-Windows (Linus?) when it comes to running my digital tunes in the future. BTW, Joe was on his tummy because they found that shorter USB cable made better sound. So they ditched the little table with a stool and place the labtop on the floor right in front of the equipment rack. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.
This to me is a microcosm of what must go on at these audio shows. From the room size/shape, hotel supplied electrical power to individual components every vendor is trying to make the best out of less than ideal conditions. It absolutely does not help that different manufacturers teaming up cannot test their gears together until the show time. The advantage definitely goes to rooms that have had experiences of having the ensemble together beforehand. Some succeed and others fail. This is why I don’t want to say much about a room that doesn’t sound good at the short time that I was there to listen. By the same token, I am very impressed when I hear good sound.
Back to Friday night, Hugh then took me down to his Angel City Audio room…. Oh, and Joe kept Chris’ CD because he wanted to use it.