Saturday, February 26, 2011

My visit to Reference Media

The Elliott Studio Arts 66-100 in a showroom!

I recently ran into my old associate Hans at a 7-Eleven. After a brief visit I found out that he works at the only high-end audio shop in Everett, WA; Reference Media (they also have a store in Bellingham, WA) I told him about my amp and preamp and we agreed on an audition of the 66-100 the store. I was surprised when I drove up and saw the store front, very nice. The inside is very well appointed with tasteful local art on the walls, a nice color scheme, wood floor and high ceilings. I was greeted by a McIntosh / Martin Logan system sounding sweet. The also stock Marantz, Peachtree Audio, Shunyata Research, Sonus Faber, Vienna Acoustics, Focal, ProJect turntables and more. In the picture below, up the stairs you can see the Golf Simulator system they sell set up for demo. Hans took a couple of swings to demonstrate, it's pretty impressive! You use real golf clubs and balls, driving them straight into a specially made screen. You can choose your course, the weather and wind conditions, etc. Neat. I got the grand tour, they have plans to install a dedicated theater room, build out some unused space for offices and divide up the main floor sales area into listening rooms. The store has a friendly atmosphere and the staff makes an effort to be helpful, informative and never snobby or pushy.
So, on to the main event. The first system we used to evaluate my amp was based on the Peachtree Audio iDecco as a preamp, driving the Focal Chorus 706V speakers. Cabling by XLO. Promising. Good sounding speakers, Hans said my amp tamed the tweeters somewhat, though you could still hear all the detail, and made them more enjoyable.

Next up on the same system were the Sonus Fabers, picture on the right. Not sure exactly which ones, probably from the Toy Collection. They were little towers w/ two 5" woofers and a tweeter. The sound was wonderful; rich, detailed with more bass than the last set of speakers, great imaging. But the best was yet to come with this setup. On the left is the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grands being driven by the ESA 66-100. This was by far the best sounding speaker in this setup. Sublime.

OK, now on to the BIG system! McIntosh MCD500 CD player, McIntosh C2300 preamp and ESA 66-100 into the Martin Logan CLX's, with the Shunyata Hydra power conditioner. WOW! And especially wow when the volume was raised up. The amp drove them perfectly, taking control of the huge bass panels like nobodys business. The midrange had that tube realism and the highs were perfectly rendered. A very good match! It certainly helps having a good source and preamp to show the full potential of this amplifier.

All in all an enjoyable visit and a great opportunity to see one of my designs mated with some high-end speakers and equipment, and to confirm that it is indeed in good company - a true high-end product. And a great store to experience the high-end in comfort!
When I retuned home after exposure to all that high-end gear I was not dissapointed with the sound of my own system, consisting of ESA 66-001p Preamp, ESA 66-100 power amp (prototype), Rega Apollo CD player (modified), Thorens TD125 w/ MMF 5 tonearm and Klipsch RF83 speakers (modified). Listening to Pink Floyds incredibly detailed and layered recording, Momentary Lapse of Reason, on vinyl was re-affirmation that I have, indeed, achieved high-end sound in my own home.
Now that's what this is all about!


Paul Mann said...

Once again I am impressed by your writing style and audio achievements!

-KE said...

Thanks Paul!