05 April, 2011

Letter from NYC 2011 (14): Infinity IRS Beta redux

Letter from NYC 2011 (14): Infinity IRS Beta redux

Close on the heels of my visits to MW came a re-visit to AL's magnificent palace. You will remember him as the man whose system I heard on a previous visit earned my nomination for best sound of 2010.

AL is a meticulous man. A look at the facade of his nice house will tell you something. This time I walked in to find a recently acquired EMT 930 in the middle of set-up. More interestingly, he seemed to have been doing work on some cartridges under the dissecting microscope! Now, that's a pro!

A twixt, unlike last time, this time we listened to only digital playback, unusual for this vinyl man. And was it awesome! List of Gears:

CD transport: CEC 1
DAC: Sonic Frontier SFD II MkII
Preamp - Audio Research Reference II Mk I.
Amp for Tweeter/Midrange column - VTL MB-450 monoblocks (8 x 6550 each)
Amp for Bass column - McIntosh MC-2500 (for bass column)
Loudspeakers - Infinity IRS Beta

Let's cut it to the chase: this is likely the best sound of 2011. What, so early in the year? Why not? How often do you hear things that prompt you to rethink?

If anything, the sound was quite the equal of the analogue playback we heard exclusively last time. The holographic field was populated by flesh and blood images of exquisite texture. This once again confirms my long-held view that the SFD II DAC is STILL unsurpassed in many areas. Also, the experience prompted me to re-evaluate CEC transports, some of which I have heard to be slow and not quite revealing. Not this one. Dynamically the music was marvelous, and, if my memory serves me, trumped the vinyl playback (leaving one to wonder about the gain structure of vinyl playback). I'll just cite one example of excellence: the orchestra in the Messiaen Turangalila Symphony (EMI/LSO/Previn) heaved and sighed, and one could clearly separate the various percussion and keyboard instruments. Again, what a lovely recording that everyone should have. For me, the orchestra in this piece swoons like in Scheherazade, and can be orgiastic as in Scriabin's Divine Poem, and the system captured everything in glory. All this from a cheap EMI forte re-issue; I wonder what the famous LP (pictured right) would sound like here.

Back home, lazy and still jet-lagged me immediately set about to improve my Maggie setup a bit more. In my narrower room, I cannot hope to emulate AL's panorama, but a little improvement is definitely possible. I also pulled out a copy of the Messiaen (Salonen/Sony) to play. Can there be greater tribute to AL's system? I think not.

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