High End 2013

We enjoyed the demonstration of Wilson Audio's Alexias ($48,500 per pair) during CES and did again at High End. This time the amplification was Pass Labs' Xs 150 monoblocks ($65,000 per pair), which were given the job of controlling the speakers in one of the shows’ more challenging rooms. Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio was spinning the hard drive, playing first Keith Richards' "Words of Wonder," essentially heavy dub with "Keef" warbling over the top. The sheer quantity of bass on this recording revealed that sometimes 150 class-A watts may not be enough.

However, as usual, Peter had something special up his sleeve to keep the audience interested. This took the form of a recording made by Brett Allen of Wayne Horvitz’s band playing live at SnowGhost Studios in Montana. Peter had this on both 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM and DSD, and he lost no time in demonstrating the difference between the two. As you might imagine, the result was pretty clear. The standard file sounded good tonally and in timing terms, but the DSD put you in the room where the recording was made by opening up a full-scale soundstage and placing the players and their instruments precisely within it. This combination of live-recording vitality and clean, open sound from the system was extremely convincing.

We could have sat there a lot longer than we had time for. Peter continues to know -- and share -- a good thing when he hears it.

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