Ultimate Sessions Extreme

Whether fed from the Technics record player or the Wadax streamer, the sheer musicality of the sound produced by this system meant that the room was constantly packed. Those big trumpets might have pulled people in to start with, but it was the quality of the music, the way in which the performance stepped away from and was revealed, independent of the system, that kept listeners planted in their seats, often for several hours at a time. The bigger the system, the bigger the challenges it presents – especially in a hotel environment. But this was one set-up that shrugged off the apparent difficulties to deliver a wonderfully communicative musical experience – exactly what high-end audio should be all about.

There’s no substitute for balance.

Both the Brinkmann turntable feeding the Accuphase electronics and Audiovector speakers and the Diptyque-based system playing CD easily eclipsed the performance of the more expensive Burmester and Taiko/MSB/Gryphon set-ups. Musical coherence, communication and natural expression were all first rate, underpinned by the even performance, top to bottom. Listening to Mitsuko Uchida playing the Beethoven 4th Piano Concerto on the Diptyques, Gabi from Crystal/Siltech – no mean pianist herself – marvelled at the effortless discrimination of the note weight and spacing, the easy musical communication of what makes this performance quite so special. The understated sound of these systems was ultimately far more successful and enjoyable than the more overtly and immediately impressive results of the Burmester and Taiko/MSB/Gryphon rooms. Narrower bandwidth and lower energy levels undoubtedly help, but both of these systems offered an object lesson in how to maximise musical performance under show conditions.

The best source material played on a good system can still surprise and delight.

Every show needs a party piece and this time around it was delivered by Mattias Lück of Brinkmann. The company are producing a series of LP issues to celebrate their 33rd Anniversary. The records all feature Blicher Hemmer Gadd, a sax/Hammond, drums trio. But what Matthias brought to the show was a DMM copper master – direct cut equivalent of a conventional acetate. That makes this 14”, shiny copper disc not so much a One-step as a ‘No-step’ pressing – and boy was it obvious in the sound! The presence, body, dynamics, immediacy, stable focus and rhythmic drive really brought the energy and chemistry of this tight band to life. In fact, the performance was so impressive that I’ve already requested a sample of the disc to play during my vinyl presentations in Munich!

A sign of things to come?

The Ultmate Sessions Extreme experience is about more than just great sound. While there was genuinely impressive sound to be heard and great music to enjoy, this was also an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most exotic and exclusive audio products on the market. It was a chance to spend time with those products and some of the people who built them – with time being the operative factor. With five, carefully selected rooms, you could investigate, discuss, relax and enjoy, all without the fear of missing something if you didn’t hurry. Couldn’t get a decent seat in one of the rooms? Simply return later and the chances are you’ll be able to take your pick. While for me, the disc replay trumped most of the streamers, the fact that streaming was available in every system meant that visitors could always request familiar music or recordings. Sound quality and musical results clearly varied from room to room, but that is almost inevitable, while overall, the success rate was enviable. What audio show that you’ve ever attended achieved genuinely impressive sound in at least 60% of its rooms?