Sunday, July 16, 2017

Another audio meet up in Austin area

Thanks to hosts LoneStar Audio, based in Lakeway, TX, a gathering of audiophiles from Austin, Houston and San Antonio met up at host Jim's home to enjoy two rooms yesterday. Both relied on Magico speakers, the S1 in a smaller, mainly vinyl room; and the S3Mk2s in a slightly larger, digital room. Lots of excellent and expensive gear in the rigs, not least Constellation amplification, Aurender DAC, Oracle turntable with linear tracking arm and gorgeous Ortofon A95 cartridge, Rogers phono stage, power conditioning by Torus, and treatments by ASC and Synergistic Research.

Naturally my eyes were drawn to the wonder vinyl set up, where the Oracle was drop-dead beautiful to behold. Delivering through Rogers phono, to Boulder amplification and the small (relatively) S1 Magicos, the sound was sweet, pleasing and scaled nicely to the space.  Of course, in a completely new rig it's hard to know where the magic is occurring but host Jim was quick to point out that the room was heavily treated with Synergistic Research products (small objects stuck to the wall, graphene panels, and some signal generating device whose electromagnetic magic was beyond my comprehension).

The larger room drew the greater audience, where the Magico S3s were augmented, sometimes, by JL subwoofers. Is it a surprise that audiophiles have opinions?  Well, every time I entered there was an ongoing discussion about whether or not the subs should be engaged, or if they were crossed over too high, too low etc.  Lots of digital tracks gave me the impression that high resolution digital can sound quite harsh in the upper frequencies. Yeah, lots more 'detail' than vinyl is deliverd but in a way that makes me often hear (or think about) the studio more than the music.

The S3s were impressive in some areas -- the ease of lower instrumental lines and the continuity across the range are qualities I associate with Magico and were on display plentifully here at times -- but for reasons that I could not attribute to any one factor (was it the room? the DAC, the subs?)  I found myself enjoying the music less here than in the small room. On Chris Jones' 'No Shelter' (an audio show staple, sadly), the bass boomed so much at the back of the room that I thought there's no way I wanted subs in the mix, but in other on-off comparisons, I experienced the opening of soundstage that good sub matching can provide.   Sonically, more questions than answers for me, and I found myself wondering just how good I could get the S3s sounding in my larger listening room, or if the S1s might actually work in that larger space.

Main host Jim was charm personified, cheerfully answering repeat questions across the day, admitting that he was still tweaking the sub combo, and happy to let people wander around his rooms with some very expensive gear left unattended. This is where he hosts customers who want to audition gear, and it's a fine, relaxing environment.

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