Audio Note SOOTTO power cords

Audio Note SOOTTO power cords, power cables, mains cable, PC… whatever you want to call them.

You know when you start playing with $11K-ish power cords, things are going to start getting weird. A person is likely to have some expectations and demands going in to the process, with a few eye-rolls and ‘what has this world come to’ heart-felt commiserations by the spectators [by those that are not the 1%, and since 1%-ers sometimes feel left out and like to fit in with the 99%-ers, EVERYBODY complains about these kinds of prices].

Although we have very much enjoyed the Nordost Odin One power cords, at this same exact-ish price point, little else has impressed us. Audio Note itself has made several forays into the power cord universe, but we have withheld our unflinching approval of these efforts [unlike our absolute repeated vociferous exclamations that everyone should own their own (brown) PALLAS interconnects and SOGON interconnects – price performance is just way too high to not take advantage of, shall we say the quite unusual, *extremely* reasonable prices compared to the competition here].

But lately things have changed vis-a-vis AN power cords. We have recently had the Audio Note ISIS power cords in. For $600-700-ish [the dollar is being driven down against the world’s other currencies, and prices are changing… aka rising]. These make us giggle. They do so much, so well. Really excellent all-round performers. Yep, that is six or seven HUNDRED, not thousand. Crazy, huh? 😉

And now we have the $11K-ish SOOTTO power cords.

In this case we have two to play with. And three components. The Audio Note CDT-Five transport. The Audio Note DAC Five Signature. And the Acapella LaMusika integrated amplifier. Not quite $300K in gear, but enough so its not like couple of $11K power cords are completely unwarranted. Right? Say “right, Mike”.

So… eeny-meeny… we put the first SOOTTO on the DAC. All of these components are superstars but the DAC has called attention to itself many times for being so wonderfully un-DAC-like [sorry, digital-philes, but ‘digital sound’ is still a pejorative if our ears get to choose what THEY want to hear. Just sayin’ … :-/].

OK. Install power cord. And………. play.

Huh.

Unlike the Odin, there was no, almost 3db(!), jump in volume.

So for the first 1/2 second or so it was like, “Compared to the ISIS, that is not that much diff…er…ent…….”

Oh.

The INCREDIBLE subtleties of music and emotion and musicianship and… the INCREDIBLE depths this hobby has to offer keep surprising me.

Why does a person start crying at times like these? I don’t know.

I like to think it is because of the beauty of the music thus revealed. Or the thoughts about all the wasted hours listening to music withOUT this level of playback. Something that can at least be tied to some kind of logical reason to be reacting so emotionally to something, let’s face it, is just a rather banal case of just exchanging one power cord for another.

Silly me. One of the first thoughts I had [trying to hide my tears from Neli, long story] is that it did not matter that these speakers were quite modest in the general scheme of things these days [the Acapella Cellini High at about $60K now (dollar is sinking people)], and that this kind of performance was indeed achievable on this system with the right combination of upstream gear [we periodically worry, like several times per day (maybe it is just me, but… knowing Neli…), that our choice to get smaller speakers for a smaller room than we are used to is comprising the playback too much. It’s kind of like we got spoiled with such a large room as our main listening room in Boulder in our mountain ‘chalet’ haha :-)].

My next thoughts, something a little less ‘silly’, I think, was that “oh. THIS is music”. This is SO hard to describe and such a fleeting concept, it is hard to grasp on to it long enough to identify it in enough detail, to understand and categorize it sufficiently, in order to describe it to other people. Or just to be able to describe it to myself and kind of stick a flag in it in a “to name something is to have power over something – to start understanding something” way.

I believe we all have these kind of “Oh, THIS is music” experiences spread out during our lives. This is a special kind of “Ultimate Music Experience” we talk about here on the blog periodically.

This is about the intrinsic musicality of music. So hard to describe and this recursive definition isn’t helping much, I bet.

In my life… I was in the glee club in Junior High School [not really my choice, in my case]. Although I sing wonderfully awful, every so often there was this resonance between Music, with a capital M, and what we were doing.

Same with when I spent several years learning to play the guitar badly, every so often this focus would be rewarded in experiencing a little bit of the Music.

Same with when I experimented [too much :-)] with alcohol and other recreational pursuits.

These is a deep, very, very simple rhythm that we all dance to and respond to, and it is so easy to obscure it with the massive clutter of everyday life [and the clutter of what  ‘we know’ about sound and music]. To be able to uncover the inner truth of our core existence, to experience it: “this is me, a human hearing other humans making rhythmic sounds”. Such a rare and precious experience.

These kinds of experiences… they are so very rare. If we were to have them more often, they would not be as precious, nope, but perhaps our mental health would be improved. [?] At the least it seems like they would help ground us in reality [realities like less than 1% of events out there are actually negative, but negative events are 99% of what is ‘reported’ (perhaps I exaggerate. A little :-)), and this is used to manipulate us in various ways that accentuate the negatives]. Music is such a very, very clear sign that there is so much beauty inherent in this world.

Anyway THIS is why we are all audiophiles, THIS is why we all like playing with this level of gear, to make THIS kind of experience much more common than it would otherwise be in our stressed out, f’d up world.

THIS is why I like these power cords. 🙂

[Oh we tried them in several combinations. Liked it best with the two SOOTTO on the DAC and transport, and the Acapella power cord on their LaMusika amp. Yes, putting the better PC on the amp would normally be best, and it WAS more or less ‘better’ – more open and dynamic, but there was just more charm and engagement with the cords on the other two pieces of gear in this case. As you can see below, the DAC 5 Signature has moved on – now replaced by a DAC Zero :-). Next: the TT2 Deluxe turntable with the two-box Audio Note M9 RIAA phono stage, before it goes off to an official review by the esteemed Fred Crowder at Dagogo].

 

 

Little AN DAC Zero standing in for the DAC 5 Signature in the middle shelf of the HRS SXR rack.

EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers – Day 20

The EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers, Neli is out, and I have some free time…

Out come the CDs that I know Neli looks askance at… 🙂

Patrick O’Hearn [forget which one, but they’re all good], Jean Michel Jarre, Live in China, Klaus Schultz, Angst, Moody Blues, Threshold of a Dream (SACD)….

I think...
I think I am.
Therefore I am!
I think...

Holy cow. I always think of when I first played these albums, over and over, pre-teens to early twenties, how I LONGED for the music to sound this way. Talk about angst…

The EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers are going to drive the poop out of your speakers

We’ve never had bass like this here, like we have with the MTRX on the Acapella Atlas. It really kicks my butt. [3 x 10 inch woofers (one is isobaric). I think the built-in Bladeilius amps on the 6 x 9 inch woofers of the Marten Coltrane Supreme speakers we had here are of the laid back bass variety, like most solid-state amps that have a decent midrange. Edge amps are another one].

It is a supremely bold effort – to make solid-state amps that are incredibly ballsy but still sound like music.

It is like what Krell should have been. What it wanted to be when it grew up.

I tell you, these amps are the ultimate ‘Boys Toy’ 🙂 🙂

It is so hard to tell how loud it is, everything is so clear sounding, and it is so much fun to keep turning up the volume. I have to do the old trick of talking out loud to the room to see if I can hear my own voice… or not…

The EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers are going to dominate the sound of your system

This not a bad thing. 🙂

We are doing a few cable shootouts these days. Nordost Valhalla and Odin. Acrolink [forget which models]. NVS Sound [lots of models].

Going from $16K Odin to $4K Valhalla interconnects is instructive.

A little duller sound, a little fuzzier imaging, a little nosier background.

But that is it.

Still have most of the slam, the control of the speakers, the notes staying separate in their little envelopes, the melodies not getting all fuzzed together… the amps still were doing their thing. The intrinsic character of  the system stayed really pretty much the same [mostly, I missed the Odin’s black, black, BLACK background].

The EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers are going to ruin other solid-state amps for you

Those others? They are really dull-sounding and really wimpy. A bunch of girly men [I’m reading Arnold’s book. So… 🙂 ]. They, in hindsight, cannot keep separate melodies separate, the cannot reproduce all of the instruments of an orchestra at the same time, they cannot reproduce bass with all the authority of true-to-life bass [which the best tube amps can do, but not at this volume!!! Yeehaw!!!].

The EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers are a really bold effort to make a solid-state amp that is not just a ‘convenience’.

Sure, most solid-state amps are reliable, you turn them on. They work. They get the music from the preamp to the speaker. What’s to complain about?

It is like when (a few) cable companies started making cables that were not designed to fuzz out the sound. Most cable companies still make blurry-sounding cables so that you don’t get your ears chewed off by the horrible edginess of the upstream equipment. When they started making cables clear sounding, letting us hear the music, it was like a dream come true for people who like hearing the music.

I like hearing the music. It is really awesome. And I bet you do too.

The MTRX amps will be at CES 2015 driving Wilson Alexia speakers. Maybe the Venetian will let them crank it up once in a while. But even if they don’t it should be quite interesting. I’m really looking forward to hearing that system – and triangulating it with what we hear here. Yep. Interesting.

 

 

 

EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers – Day 15

EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers day 15 report.

I want to talk a little about our history with amplifiers.

Our first real amplifier were Levinson 20.6 100 watt/channel pure class A amplifiers. We got them about four years old, used [from Alvino at the old Sound Hounds. We still see Alvino at RMAF once in awhile. If you want to blame someone, blame him :-)], and they were so much better than the $4K Denon and the Adcom 555 (I think) before that. So much more authority and openness. The Levinsons warmed our living-room during the Winters and heated it to near intolerable levels during the summers for about 5 years.

Then we got the Edge NL10 amps. So much clearer, much more resolution, more life.

It was just a few years later when we got the Lamm ML2.1 single-ended tube amps here. Music. Sweet Music. This was not just great sound, but music.

Then there were the Audio Note UK Kegon 300B SET amps. This is when ‘drug-like’ sound started to infect me. When I started getting random flashbacks to when I was young and ‘hearing’ music for the first time. This was when my life opened up, and I chose to live a life that was accepting of any and all, but still all too rare, not-your-ordinary-everyday mind-altering ‘music experiences’.

And this lifestyle required tube amps.

Because solid-state amps sound D.E.A.D. Or at least, they used to.

All the vocals on solid-state sound as if the singer was a tired over-worked professional belting out the 34th take in a sterile, smoke-filled studio in some drab building in the big city. They ‘fake’ any emotional involvement in the song.

All my life, until tubes, this is how I thought music sounded. Listening to music like this, it was still enjoyable. It is not like there is a choice provided to most people. It is either solid-state sound, or no music at all.

Like music on TV, Lawrence Welk – all the fake smiles and fake emotions. No emotion in any music. When learning guitar or in the [required Junior High School] glee club – when they said ‘Emote!’ I had no idea what the heck they were talking about. None of the music I had heard had any emotion in it. It was all reproduced with solid-state. And later bad digital. I thought professional musicians were not supposed to emote, it wasn’t professional.

A month or so ago, we had an 100% solid-state system here for a few weeks. No tubes. At all. And the above paragraph describes the truth that I re-realized about my, and probably many others, relationship to music and the lack of real human everyday emotion in most of it… if you listen to it on solid-state equipment.

Fred posted a comment a few weeks ago about how he did not care how the MTRX compared to other solid-state – how did it compare to the best tube amps?

Well, I’ve finally moved past a lot of the need, that I personally felt, to compare it to other solid-state amps. I’ve gone down the list of other amps and determined how and why they had not met my needs. They did not support my ‘musical mind-altering lifestyle’.

Essentially, solid-state amps have been unable to convey real, honest-to-goodness we hear it everyday, human emotion.

A few weeks ago our solid-state system was the EMM XDS1 CD player and EMM Labs PRE2 into the Edge M12 amps. All are on the musical side of neutral. But no emotion. D.E.A.D.

But yesterday we put in the EMM Labs PRE2 in to replace the [tube-based] Audio Note M9 Phono preamplifier. We are 100% solid-state, again.

But there is still emotion! It is different. A little bit different. There is not that tube-driven dynamic swell of exuberance for each note like tubes provide [what is more ‘real’?]. But there is sufficient resolution and control of the dynamic swings in a voice that there is actually some emotion communicated from the musician to the listener here.

We have been enjoying a very rich Heart and Mind sound here, with the AN M9Phono in the system. It is hard to weigh and tell you the ratio of Heart to Mind that that system has, as my mind is still very, very fascinated by what the MTRX are doing. So much clarity and so much more dynamics and accuracy and so like real music.

All I can say is that there IS some heart to the EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers, unlike any solid-state amp I have heard.

IMG_0739-acapella-atlas-speakers-and-emm-labs-mtrx-amp-and-emm-labs-pre2

Or, I think, they are able to let through the subtle details of the music, the details that convey emotion from one human to another. Subtleties of breath inhalation and exhalation, subtleties of harmonic structure changes in a voice, the slight off-the-beat notes that indicate suspense or excitement, depending on if they occur right before or right after the beat used by the rest of the music. Solid-state amps haven’t been able to do any of this stuff [yeah, I know, some very famous reviewers do not care. To them music must be fine without the ‘subtleties of emotion’. But that doesn’t mean that we have to think it is fine, too.].

These subtle details are required for my personal music-holic lifestyle. Not sure I can ‘travel to strange new worlds’ in my listening chair without them.

“Engage warp drive, Sulu”… I mean ‘MTRX drive’.