Archive for February 22nd, 2008

RR 24/176 Hi-rez & Magico V3′s – A Listening Impression

ref-rec.jpgmagico.jpgA couple of weeks ago, Ori and I had the opportunity to listen to Magico V3 floorstanders with about $100K of electronics feeding them. If that wasn’t cool enough, we were in a purpose-built ($50K?) listening room. And for dessert, we got an early listen to Reference Recording’s soon-to-be-released 24/176 recordings.Here is my impression of the sights and sounds:

  • The electronics. All-solid-state and clean and powerful. Very transparent. Harmonically balanced and tuneful. No glare. With about 600w/chan on hand, the Magico’s were modulated by a very firm grip.
  • The speakers. The V3′s are so transparent and balanced that they practically vanish. At one point, I commented that an apt description is “low-distortion loudspeaker.” In fact, the overall sound reminded me of that of my AKG-701 headphones (with Stefan Audioarts cables) – albeit with the V3′s having more bass impact and (of course) soundstage.
  • The room. The room was clearly less bright that a normal modern living room. Lots of sound absorption and diffraction material hanging on the walls saw to that. But it was not at all dead either. All-in-all a good match for the searingly-accurate system that it housed. A particularly interesting aspect of the room was the way in which the music changed when the door was opened – the loss of pressurization weakened the low-to-mid-bass. On some bass-heavy material this was goodness as the V3′s prodigious bass was overwhelming the room. But on most recordings, the relative lack of bass foundation weakened the focus of the midrange frequencies above it. We kept the door closed.
  • The media. Over the course of 4-5 hours, we progressed from Redbook to SACD to RR 24/176 to Linn 24/88 downloadable files. This will sound trite, but everything that we played (hand-picked quality recordings) sounded very good. But as we progressed from 16-bit to 24-bit, the smoothness of the tones and the “of-a-whole” feeling of the music skyrocketed. BTW, I honestly don’t understand the unfocused thrashing that the SACD format receives. To my ear, SACD sounds much better than Redbook (when equivalent care is taken in mastering).
  • The hi-rez experience. I am not a “golden ear” – certainly much less so than someone like Ori. But literally from the first note, the RR 24/176 material sounded different. It was almost ethereal in presentation. In some senses, it sounded more “analog.” But I have seldom heard the utter blackness of noise floor and complete lack of “glow” around the instruments that I was experiencing. Some may find the sound a bit analytical, but I thought it was simply the music pared to its essence and was therefore utterly engaging. And then came the Linn recordings….
  • Linn “hybrid” recordings. The Linn 24/88 recordings clearly showed their analog roots. Linn still uses analog masters, and is proud of it. So how did they compare? Coming off the silvery crystalline sound of 24/176 DDD, I (initially) found the Linn material bloated to the point of distortion. Interestingly, both Ori and our host declared it “more real.” Hmmmm. But then our host changed the configuration of the digital hardware, externally clocking everything from sound card to DAC with a mega-buck Cesium clock. Wow – huge change in resolution, clearly heard. Now the analog-derived Linn recordings sounded great. Very natural and familiar. Kinda like “the best SACD’s you’ve ever heard.”

I am sworn to secrecy about where I heard this stuff – sorry. Will we have a BAAS event there one day? Not likely, but maybe.But I predict that you will be very impressed when you hear the RR 24/176 Recordings at our upcoming BAAS event. I very much suggest that you not miss it!

Friday, February 22nd, 2008 Bob, Equipment Comments Off