1/8 Million Dollar Stereo Sound System
If you’ve been reading my reviews you might have heard of Jack-fi / AudioConcept. I’ve been talking a lot about them because I love the store and the guys working there.
After I found them, my weekends have never been the same again. It’s actually a funny story.
It all started when a guy from headfi gave me a private message saying that he has been following my steps in in his audio journey and that he is also Romanian. Since that point on, we discussed a lot about audio gear.
Because of me, in a few months he went through a lot of gear. Well, I am not going to say that I am sorry for his wallet. Why ? Because, shortly after, he surpassed my system and the situation turned against me and my poor wallet. I’ve come to the conclusion that we have very similar preferences and that he has a very capable ear, so I trusted him when he described new components in his audio chain. Razvan became a good friend of mine, so he is another great guy that I met through this hobby.
So, in January 2013 I was looking for a usb cable to replace my former wireworld starlight, which in the system I had then, was kind of bright for my tastes. Razvan recommended Chord USB Silver Plus, so I started looking for it in Romania. I’ve quickly found this link and called the number from the website.
When I got to the store, I was overwhelmed by their kindness. I’ve never been treated like that in a store before. And I was just a new client, they did not know me and I did not know them.
When I said that I was the guy who wanted the Chord Silver Plus, they asked me if I want to see their demo rooms. Well, of course I did, and I was really impressed. I think they have the best showrooms in all Bucharest. They have 5 audition rooms with different systems. They even have a room that tries to mimic a normal apartment room with no acoustic treatment so you can get a close grip of what sound you will have at home with that system.
The biggest room is reserved for really high end systems, some of which really blew me away. So, they took me through every room, presented the systems, let me listen to music, offered me tea, explained the synergy between the components and why they chose the combinations.
All the guys know what they are talking about, especially Cristi, the owner who is one of the most passionate men I’ve ever met in this domain. He spends days and nights to get the most out of every system, to find the right components, the sinergy.
I think I spent 2-3 hours in the store and I loved it. So , yes, all of this because I wanted to buy a cable from them. That day I’ve found out that they organized a lot of music listening events on saturdays, where audiophiles just meet, listen to music, talk about the gear and their passion. It became like a club to me, an audiophile club, where I spent most of the first part of my saturdays.
I was really lucky Razvan pointed me in Chord’s direction, as I made some wonderful friends and I also learned a lot from them.
Last weekend they celebrated 10 years since they opened the store, so I first want to wish them Happy Birthday and congratulate them on the good job they’ve done throughout the years.
With this occasion they organised a very exciting event, the main subject of this post, with a jaw dropping speaker system, a system that costs more than 120 000$ .
If you are wondering which are the speakers, they are the huge black, transparent and very thin panels.
Components of the system:
- Sources : MSB Diamond DAC IV with the Diamond Platinum Power Base, Kuzma turntable + Dynavector + Pass
- Pre-Amplification: Octave Jubilee
- Amplification: 2 x VTL MB-450 Series III monoblocks
- Speakers: Martin Logan CLX Anniversary
- SubWoofers: 2 x Martin Logan Descent I
Let’s go through some of the components a little.
As you may know, I have great admiration and respect for MSB products. I had the pleasure of testing the MSB Analog Dac for myself and it absolutely blew me away, changing my perspective on high end DACS altogether. The Diamond DAC IV was until recent events the top of their line. I didn’t want to take it for a review as I was afraid that If something happened to it, I would have to sell my house to pay for it.
However, I had the pleasure of listening to it on a some very impressing systems at Jack-Fi, the last one being one of them . I’ve never heard a dac with better transparency, better timing and details. If we are usually talking about stereo sound, this notion disappears with the MSB products, as the sound becomes incredibly holographic. Also it takes a veil between you and the music, leaving just the music. The timing is incredibly precise and every sound has incredible attack and decay. I am not going to talk about layering, instrument separation, soundstage as they are so good with the Diamond IV that they become real life like.
I am really curious to hear their latest product, the new MSB Select, their new flagship.
Martin Logan CLX Anniversary
If you remember, I’ve been extremely impressed by my first encounter with Martin Logan Speakers. They presented a sound very different from normal speakers. The visual impact was the first that struck me, as they are very thin and transparent. When I found out that all that huge membrane produces sound, I thought that this could mean a great deal compared to some small ribbons that some speakers have for both mids and treble, and I was right, as the scene presented by them was incredibly large and airy. Their sound opened up the room, as mirrors give the visual impression of more space.
Well, the CLX are in a completely different league. First, they are fully electrostatic speakers, meaning that they also have an electrostatic membrane for just the bass. Think of the implications. The membrane has no other chamber on which the sound can be reflected/absorbed like in normal speakers. This leads to very clean and fast bass.
These speakers are truly something else and took me through a very memorable audiophile experience.
If you think they are small, let me show you a picture to illustrate their size better. Catalin, the guy behind the speakers is taller than 1.83 m (6 feet):
If you look at the speakers you will see that they are made from 2 membranes. The wider one is just for bass and the other one is for mids/treble.
And yes, the bass membrane can be seen moving and it is quite a nice spectacle:
I’ve heard this turntable on a few occasions now and it managed to impress me every time with it’s very natural tonality and sounds. Another thing I observed was a very deep and impactful bass. All of this is kept into neutral ground, as the sound is not warm or bright at all. Everything from voices to instruments sound very extended and natural on this turntable.
VTL MB-450 Series III monoblocks
These are some very powerful tube amplifiers : 425W (24.25dBW), tetrode; 225W (21.5dBW) triode . I haven’t heard them in lots of systems to make a general description of their sound. However, I’ve heard the Martin Logan CLX Anniversary with other amplifiers, and I must say that the MB-450 were a really good match for them. The CLX speakers are extremely transparent speakers, something like HD800. The VTLS managed to get a very natural sound out of them with great bass, control, impact, details, rich mids, extended but not bright treble.
Martin Logan Descent I Subwoofers
I usually don’t like subwoofers in the system as it adds too much bass for my taste, but these subwoofers have a special input designed especially for the Martin Logan CLX speakers, giving just a small push on low frequencies to make the sound a little more full bodied and they’ve done a great job at that.
The guys worked for a few weeks to get all the perfect matches in the system, but they’ve done a great job at that. Everything sounded spectacular from my point of view. The sound was neutral, but in the same time with a good, natural tonality.
I felt this was not just an audition, but a show also, as I felt like I was at a live concert with all the artists you wanted. Actually, it was better than going to a concert as the sound is usually not good, or at least it doesn’t compare to a high end system. This case was a combination of the lively feeling and sound from the concert with an extremely high fidelity quality added on top as a cherry to the sound.
These speakers and all the components behind are truly something else. The greatness of the sound is mesmerizing. You are there on the scene with the singer, classical orchestra, etc.
Stereo sound, imaging, layering, instrument separation, soundstage? Forget about it, as the sound becomes so life like, these notions tend to get lost into the deep trance you get in while listening to your favorite songs.
While listening to classical music, you can see the orchestra in front of you, hear the conductor move it’s stick through the air, the artists changing their pages, some chair of one artist in the orchestra slightly cracking from changing position, inhaling before blowing into the flute etc.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard speakers that have such layering, instrument separation or soundstage.
The bass is extremely clean and fast, as the membrane is outside and has no chamber to fit in as other speakers. It also packs a very good punch. The bass doesn’t go so deep with the CLX, but this is where the sub woofers kicks in and give a full and meaty bass.
The mids are incredibly rich and enjoyable. Every instrument and voice is very detailed. The vocals are very clean and transparent and makes you feel in the room with the singers.
This is another very strong point of the speakers, and the system was very well chosen, as the treble was very well extended, with sparkly and clean tonality but lacking the harshness that everybody hates.
The veil between you and the music just disappears and lets you dive deep into your favorite music, dancing and singing along your favorite artists.
Soundstage, instrument separation & layering
The scene was so huge that it gave me the impression I was listening in a much bigger room. It’s like adding mirrors to a room to give the feeling of more space. The layering and instrument separation are the best i’ve ever heard, bringing them close to real life.
The transients are very fast, one of the fastest I’ve ever heard. The attack is exploding and with great impact while the decay is laser fast but in a natural way. No residue is left between the sounds.
The sound is so good, so transparent, so detailed that is very close to a lifelike experience.
The details presented by the speakers and system are just incredible. I don’t think there is a sound that escapes your ear.
I’m really happy i’ve got the opportunity of listening to such a great system as I am aware that I may never afford something like it in my lifetime. The matching between audio components is very important and I must congratulate the team from jack-fi for doing such a great job on getting the most out of it and giving us the opportunity of this audition.
Systems like these are very hard to describe into words. It was one of those moments, moments that you know they are great, moments that you want to share somehow with everyone you know but realize that you cannot record it, cannot describe it as well as the reality was and just come to terms with the fact that you can’t do anything but enjoy and get the most out of it.
This was an unforgettable experience and I wish that everybody could get a chance like this.