State Of Play – Part Three

Looking beyond the horizon with the

Wadax Atlantis Reference DAC and Transport

CH Precision L10 Line-stage and M10 Amplifiers

Göbel Divin Noblesse Loudspeakers

By Roy Gregory

The concept of high-end audio may have become synonymous with high prices, but even so, the prices attached to these components will make even hardened audiophiles gulp. Yet, far from a simple exercise in excess there’s both a purpose and a logic behind combining them in a single system. Expensive they may be – although there are many alternatives that cost as much or more – but their real interest lies in what they tell us about the state-of-the-art and the state of the market. Each in its own way and within its product category, has redefined an approach or what is possible. Each incorporates unique technology or thinking.  Each has caused a reassessment of where the performance bar sits, raising it not by a notch or a tick but high enough to see clear daylight between it and the competition. Combined – and with ancillaries of commensurate quality – they deliver something as special as it is important. They deliver a gut-check on the current state of play, a reality check that’s as impressive an experience as it is daunting for the competing pretenders.

Yet as recently as five-years ago, sitting down to create this system would have generated a very different line-up. In all likelihood the speakers might have come from Magico, electronics from Constellation or Audio Research and a digital front-end from dCS, often supplied from a single source. Now it’s all change, with the performance of those established players (manufacturers and distributors alike) eclipsed by a new generation of thinkers and doers. But this is far from a revolution or coup d’etat. Instead it’s the inevitable result of an inexorable shift within the global audio market, one that’s been visibly coming for anybody who cared to look. The apparent suddenness with which the guard has changed has been aided, abetted and accelerated by international events, events that have conspired to upset the status quo and undermine the resistance of previously dominant brands. The pandemic has forced people to re-examine their priorities, while giving them time to discover new sources of information and influence, outside traditional and tightly controlled lines. Economic pressures have impacted global markets and sales structures alike. It’s a situation tailor made for emerging ideas and new brands. On the one hand, it might lead to the storming of the Capitol: on the other it has allowed audiophiles to discover new products offering previously unattainable levels of performance. For too long we’ve been living with a glass ceiling on performance, imposed by narrow commercial interests – established manufacturers and distributors with significant advertising muscle and the relationships with economically vulnerable print magazines to make that muscle count. The products here don’t just break through that artificial ceiling, they shatter and expose it for exactly what it is.