The choice of partnering electronics reads like a winning hand from a game of Audio Top Trumps, but this was no exercise in simple excess. The tuneable interface options available on the digital components and amplifiers, the ability to select output level, input impedance and adjust gain structure quickly demonstrated their musical significance – before we even got to the DWC controls on the Server… This system is tuneable not just to the room and system situation, but via DWC, to individual tracks. And what a system it is. With a DSD rip of the Benedetti Michelangeli/Giulini, Beethoven 1st Piano Concerto loaded into the Server’s hard drive, the scale and presence of this live performance recording were utterly captivating. But despite the sheer size of the soundstage and the speakers generating it, what really impressed was the combination of absolute stability, musical authority, subtlety, micro dynamic discrimination and musical nuance within the sound. Benedetti Michelangeli’s piano was a solid three-dimensional presence, his playing energising the instrument’s strings and body, recreating its layered harmonics and textures, its complex construction and materials. Note weight was wonderfully clear, the playing characteristically fluid, dynamics suitably sudden: you were never left in any doubt that this was a percussion instrument, or that the person playing it was a genius at the height of their powers. If the mark of a great pianist is their ability to make their instrument dance, if the mark of truly great, large loudspeaker is the ability to ‘do’ small, then this is one of the most naturally balanced and capable systems I’ve ever experienced. I have NEVER heard an audio system reproduce a piano with such natural grace, ease and devastating realism. What goes for the solo instrument goes for the orchestra too, while Giulini’s contribution is equally explicit and powerful.
This is a huge and hugely expensive system. But it is also a compelling demonstration of what is possible – and the yawning gulf between the best systems working at their best and the rest. Nothing available to the public at the MOC came close to this. In fact, very few systems anywhere come close…
Wadax Reference Transport
Wadax have filled out their Reference line with the long-awaited Reference Transport. These days, when it comes to high-end optical disc replay, it seems de rigeur to offer some funky variation on the disc handling/loading front – and Wadax don’t disappoint. The proprietary Thor Pro top-loading transport mechanism is constructed as part of a massive internal frame, but it’s the disc access that will catch the eye. The tri-part Reference form factor is retained, except that the top surface is a single piece with a massive circular well embedded in its top. Access to the transport spindle is through a circular port. Once the disc is clamped, the mechanism is closed by a five-leaf ‘shutter’, each part curving out just like stopping down the aperture on a giant lens. A circular hole left in the centre locates around the clamp, with different clamps being available to ‘tune’ the sound to personal preferences.