Our room. Day photos. Night photos. Sunday night photos.
Marten Coltrane Supreme loudspeakers.
Lamm ML3 Signature amplifiers and L2 Reference
linestage and LP2 phono
Emm Labs TSD1 and DAC2 transport and DAC.
Nordost ODIN and Valhalla, Jorma Design
Prime and No. 1 cables. ODIN, ELROD and
Harmonic Resolutions MXR and SXR equipment
racks and M3 Isolation Bases.
Brinkmann Balance turntable with Lyra Titan
Best of breed speakers, amplification, digital, cables,
equipment rack.... For people interested in the very high-end.
Filled 10 foot truck. Inches from roof. 3-dimensional game of
Tetris with heavy ultra-expensive gear.
Left spare tubes at home. Only hour away. Actually, 3-hour
round trip. Pickup large shipment of equipment at airport. Another
3 hours. System not up until 2:30am night before show.
Friday morning. 10am. Show starts in two hours. Really crank
system for first time. Sibilance. Evil, evil sibilance. Restore
system to exact mirror of home system. At home there is no
sibilance or hardness. No threat of hardness.
Sill sibilance. At 100dB sibilance. Neli expresses frustration
with hearing same track 100 times at 100dB. I stand firm.
Shaves a few more years off the marriage. But need easily
reproducible failure to work from. Test case in last 5 seconds of
3-minute track [1st track of Radiohead]. Brain kicks in for one
second. We start using TSD1 fast-forward and reverse.
Mike Latvis of HRS has ideas. Neli has ideas. Mike has ideas.
Kevin has ideas. Move speakers slightly forward of last years
position. Maybe a lot more forward. Disagreement. But 99% of
hardness gone. It is two hours after the show has started. We
finally open the door. Perfection might take several more hours.
Hope settling of system will remove final touch of hardness.
Last day. Residual hardness mostly gone. But not entirely. Some
diminution of mid-bass energy as well. Think to move main towers
1/2 inch back. Change attack angle of main tower by a degree or
so. Fix all this. But show is over.
Never caught breath. Personal hygiene was at most risk since
college. No show report dailies uploaded - first muckup in last 4
or 5 years.
The Lamm ML3 amps preformed spectacularly. Much more macro
dynamics than at home. Likely due to HRS under Marten crossover
and solidity of floor.
The ML3 is the pinnacle of the audiophile amplifier. It does
all those audiophile things. Unlikely to be challenged for a
decade or more. Solid-state approaches the ideal but controlling
the note waveform well-enough to imitate music is not/may not ever
be on the agenda. Audio Note is taking a different approach
altogether [energy transfer] focusing on musicality, happy to
sacrifice uber resolution and imaging when necessary. WAVAC is
going for something, unknown, but unfortunately not harmonics and
correct decay. Kondo, in my opinion, was going for spiritual
essence. Who else is there?
About average equipment, one describes what they do well.
About excellent equipment one describes what they do not do
But the Lamm ML3 doesn't really do anything unexcellent. I can
contrast and compare to the Audio Note Kegon Balanced and Ongaku...
but, really, for the audiophile who is searching for that sound -
that instantiation of everything audiophiles have been striving
for in the last few decades - this is it. The exact, expected
amount of harmonics [between Joule and WAVAC. OK, everybody is
between Joule and WAVAC, But...], superb linearity [linearity in
the harmonic content, micro- midi- and macro-dynamics up and down
the frequency spectrum], resolution that has not been seen in an
amplifier before, control of the microforms of each note never
before seen in an amplifier, ... More later. And we were just
starting to learn about this amp. Great amps take years to
What will probably shock :-) the Lamms, who play Jazz and
mostly Classical music, is that these amps... or at least this
system with the ML3s, love Hendrix-style guitar. We talked about
how these sounded great on Stevie Ray Vaughan's Tin Pan Alley. How
it captured the slow guitar picks with such exquisite care that we
just felt honored to be able to finally experience Stevie's talent
in our living room. For all these years, I never knew how good he
was. Sure, we heard the LP many times. But to hear how he was
laying the pick across the strings, and how he was moving the
strings around to get the exact sound - and to HEAR the exact
sound he was going for....
And at the show, someone brought in a copy of the Woodstock LP,
they gave it to Neli and I was out of the room at the beginning -
but during the song, and into the Star Spangled Banner - it was
just so colorful and rich and each layer of sound was rendered so
accurately and firmly. Jimi's rendition never sounded so damned
excruciatingly BEAUTIFUL before. Yeah, it is was and still is an
in-your-face we-are-here noisy shout of rebellion from the youth
to the old stodgy class who always seem to be trying to stop
everyone from having fun, no matter which decade it is. But there
seemed to be a lot more there, that the ML3 was able to extract
how much effort Jimi put in, how much love and anguish and anger
and caring about America he put into each of his notes. Perhaps I
was reading too much into his technique - but this was really
Neli tells me that she has had similar experiences with solo
violin and operettas. That the ML3's capture the riveting nature
of a soloist - just like a live performance. [Neli: It's not like
the complexity of the orchestral background is lost -- in fact,
there is a real sense, say, of individual violins in the string
section -- but the listener's attention is drawn to the beauty and
power of the soloists performance -- just like what happens IMO at
a live show. At each level everything is rendered in perfect
Thinking about it now - it is apparent that the system itself,
even this system, in support of the Lamms, was a limiting factor.
For example, we used a 10 meter run of Valhalla, which, although
sounding better at longer lengths, still should be ODIN. Well, not
should be, but it would sure be nice. Another example: Nordost was
kind enough to lend us a ODIN power cord, but how we wished for a
PAIR; we would have put them on the ML3s. Another example: The
ML3s were all on HRS M3 bases, which are the best vibration
isolation available today. But the M3s were on the carpet, and
putting the M3 on SXR amp stands would add another little extra
boost in performance, The point is that with these amps, the
system can evolve and continue to be upgraded for a very long time
and you will just hear more and more of what the amps can REALLY
Hard to say much about how the Emm Labs TSD1 and DAC2 sounding,
in absolute terms. There was a software update at the start of the
show, so we'll have to do another shootout with the CDSD SE and
DCC2 SE at home after the show.
I will say that I had no preference at the show of LP over CD -
they are becoming different but equal. Digital will never sound
like analog - but I think it is now just about as satisfying for
most of us who are not Complete Vinyl ADDICTS. Neli is becoming a
We also ran a laptop through the Emm Lab's DAC2's USB inputs.
Hardly ever used it during the day - but after hours we used it a
lot. My opinion is that for a song or two it isn't too bad, but
over time the slight compression of dynamics, what sounded like
slightly overly exuberant note decay on some transients, and
blanching of the harmonics becomes tiring. Why didn't the PC sound
as good as the transport? Couldn't tell you. Same DAC, USB cable
carried digital packets that should be immune from cabling
effects, we used uncompressed WAV and FLAC files... Hmmmm... maybe
the USB input needs to be broken in separately from the optical
inputs? It WAS kind of like the sound of something not broken in.
We got to try the ODIN power cord at the show - and took home a
sample to try it on other pieces of equipment. We put it, in
series to that it stretched about 9 feet, with an ELROD power
cord, on the front end of the system [everything on the racks].
What it did that was most obvious was to reduce compression.
Someone called it 'letting things breathe better'. We noticed the
same things with the ODIN interconnects. That everything is
somehow being compressed by all our stupid cables, that the
components are not the only ones keeping the dynamics from
We'd like to thank everyone for stopping by, and especially to
Steve and Kevin for helping out with the room, and setup, and
takedown, and so much more. Also to Shahin and Mike for their
support. And finally, to the Lamms, Meitners, and Vin, Joe and
Michael of Nordost for lending us equipment for the show. Thanks
This was probably the last year, for awhile, that we go whole
hog like this and setup what are essentially the Best Systems
Ever. Sure, the
can also make Best Systems Ever, but most of us don't get to hear
THEIR transient systems. And we really enjoy every single person
who visits the room, whether they want to dissect the sound or
enjoy it. But it is a lot of work. If only people at the show and
visitors to this website know about our room - then perhaps they
should just visit us up here in Boulder to hear the same system,
at their leisure, picking the songs THEY want to hear, relaxing,
having a nice chat, a glass of wine or whatever.
It was the lack of 'official' press interest in most
exhibitor's rooms that sparked these [almost] exhaustive show
reports in the first place. So that exhibitor efforts would not
just disappear - as if they, like in Back to The Future,
"...never existed". Well, because of this and other frustrations
everyone is having with the current State Of Things, we plan on
expanding our efforts to bring to the attention of audiophiles
everywhere the efforts and achievements of manufacturers and
dealers, large and small, new and old, expensive and not so
expensive. Stay tuned.
As far as our room next year goes - the current plan is to put
an all Audio Note U.K. system in the large room, and a small
hybrid system [for example: Marten Coltrane or Kharma Mini
Exquisite speaker on Audio Note Ongaku integrated amp with a
Emmlabs CDSA CD player. Or maybe the ML2.1s. Such wonderful
systems - and small - and light :-)] in at least one smaller
room. Don't think that anyone has exhibited an Audio Note system
in a large room in the U.S., and playing music from Heavy Metal to
Jazz and Norah Jones.
Well that's it for now.
Back to the Audio Noir...