January 12, 2021 § Leave a comment
December 26, 2020 § Leave a comment
I had a hard time wrapping my head around the XVX’s tonal balance. On one hand, it is extremely flat, smooth, and neutral in character, all the way down to the bottom octave. When playing music without much energy in the mid-to-upper bass, the XVX’s bottom-end is world class in pitch definition and clarity, but doesn’t sound qualitatively different from other reference-class loudspeakers. But when asked to reproduce instruments with a lot of energy in the lower registers, the XVX takes on an entirely different character. Suddenly, it’s as though there’s another level of weight, richness of tone color, solidity, and visceral power. The XVX, unlike any other speaker I’ve heard, fully reproduces the solidity, density, and weight of low-frequency-rich instruments such as an orchestra’s doublebass section, or brass instruments when playing in their lower registers. This is the classic “power range” of the orchestra, and heard through the XVX it is thrilling. Listen, for example, to the Dallas Winds brass section on the spectacular Keith Johnson recording John Williams at the Movies on Reference Recordings (176/24 downloaded from Reference). The big brass-section tuttis will lift you out of your seat with their force. Not only that, but the timbre of the instruments is fully fleshed out, without the common affliction of low-frequency-rich instruments sounding thinned in tone color and robbed of their weight.
November 30, 2020 § Leave a comment
Stereo image focus was fairly good, the phantom center image wider than usual but not unduly so. In general, I obtained good image depth and transparency from the Duo. Image stability was very good, and notably unaffected by sound level. I heard less room-excited ambience; the sound was clearly more directed (as horn theory teaches us) toward the listener, with less room contribution than usual in the mid and treble. This kind of room drive took a little getting used to; I consider it a significant component of the “difference” felt to exist between the horn and direct-radiator technologies. Of course, in some rooms with awkward, asymmetrical dimensions and acoustics, the horn speaker will provide a more consistent and more accurate sound at the listening position because of its controlled directional behavior.
October 7, 2020 § Leave a comment
“The dCS Bartok is probably the best sounding integrated DAC and headphone amplifier I have reviewed to date in the 10 years we have been operating this website. That is some statement but I will not future proof it because, well, the Bartok is modular, it is firmware upgradeable, and has plenty of legs in it to go on for a few years more and still stay relevant.
The Ring DAC may well be the star of the show but the Class A amp is no slouch either. Right now, the Bartok delivers a rich and powerful sounding component with a smooth delivery and tons of dynamic range with just about every headphone I tested it with.
Where other systems refine and distill to give you that perfect sound, the Bartok opts to give the rawest most realistic sound possible. Throw in all the mod cons of networked streaming, save for BT and built-in WiFi, and a very useable free app, and it is perfectly poised to cope with the digital streaming era.
Yes, the Bartok is huge, weighty, and oh so very expensive. However, it is likely all you could ever need for a high-end headphone setup and honestly, it could well be all downhill from here unless there is a Bartok 2 in the pipeline. Please do not do that dCS, stick to the firmware upgrades and people will appreciate this beautiful example of engineering a lot more in the long run. ”
April 1, 2020 § Leave a comment
“Another test favourite, Lake Street Dive’s stripped-back take on ‘I Want You Back’, from Fun Machine [Signature Sounds SIG2032], is also well within the speakers’ comfort zone, and they treat it to deep, tight bass and crisp percussion, combining with the lone trumpet to underpin Rachael Price’s vocals perfectly.
So when these speakers are good, they’re very good, as a listen to the opening ‘Funeral For A Friend’/’Love Lies Bleeding’ sequence from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [Mercury/Rocket 981 320-5] makes clear with its combination of atmosphere and serious low-end grunt. However, to hear them at their best, you have to choose your recordings very carefully indeed.”
January 27, 2020 § Leave a comment
“Auditioning the 101 X’s was a virtual replay of their original sojourn in my room. Then as now I can’t stop listening to the things. Then as now visitors—friends, colleagues, and manufacturers—think they are the best transducers they’ve ever heard (as do I), and eachof them has had the same slack-jawed initial reaction to hearing them, expressed in almost exactly the same words: “Where are the speakers?”
Despite any shortcomings (and I will come to these), the MBL 101 X’s (properly situated and adjusted) sound less like loudspeakers than any other system I’ve heard. As I wrote the first time around, “all of the various ways in which conventional transducers betray that their sound is being projected in narrower or broader dispersion patterns by individual drivers in resonant enclosures simply aren’t present.” What you hear, instead, as I’ve already repeatedly noted, is a soundfield that seems to have been magically imported in toto from some other place—from a concert hall or a studio—and plopped down in your listening room with all three of its dimensions intact. To quote again from my first review, “where other transducers sound the way a film looks—like a two-dimensional medium imitating a three-dimensional reality—the 101 X-tremes sound the way a theatrical play looks—no ersatz third dimension, but actual people on an actual stage right there in front of you.