THE Show Newport 2013 • Best of Show

It's a rare occurrence when a source component draws most of the attention at an audio show, but that was the case with the Basis Audio Work of Art, which had previously never been played at a show in the US. This gleaming, massive turntable ($179,000) comes as a package with vacuum hold-down, Basis Audio's Synchro-Wave power supply and Superarm 9 tonearm, and a dedicated matching stand -- just add cartridge, a Lyra Atlas ($9800) in this case. Each Work of Art requires 300 hours of labor, "not including machining," A.J. Conti of Basis Audio is quick to point out.

Harmonic Resolution Systems Signature SX-R racks held a showroom worth of Audio Research's best electronics: Reference 10 preamp (top right, $29,995) and Reference 10 Phono phono stage (middle right, $29,995), each with separate power supply (bottom shelves), and Reference DAC (middle left, $15,995) with MacBook as source, although thumb-drive playback was also possible.

We've heard Audio Research monoblocks -- even the same models, the Reference 250s ($25,990/pair) -- driving Vandersteen Model 7 speakers, but the combination has never sounded so alive and dynamically complete, including early in the show. Dave Gordon of Audio Research explained that the Reference 250s had to be retubed, so on day one the tubes were brand new. By day three, they had more time on them, transforming the system. The Model 7s also had upgraded crossovers, bringing their price to $50,000/pair and perhaps aiding in the sense of vastness and pinpoint imaging this system displayed. Cables were all AudioQuest WEL Signature.

Los Angeles-area dealer Optimal Enchantment was responsible for the system and the fine music played, a steady diet of Blue Note jazz on original and 45rpm LP.

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