THE Show Newport Beach 2014 • Best of Show

A constant at any audio show is the presence of substantial, expensive systems whose physical bulk is enough reason for attendees to investigate. Much rarer are more modest systems whose allure is simply the music they make. Such was the case with the system that Southern California dealer Venice Audio assembled from products with mostly UK pedigrees, producing a musically right sound from the hallway, let alone one of the chairs in the room. Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers ($6390/pair) were utterly coherent and natural through the mids, and they required no excuses for what they achieved above or below.

All of those dark chassis could only be from Naim, and they include a Supernait 2 integrated amp ($5150), SuperLine phono stage ($3800), HiCap DR power supply ($2300), UnitiServe server/hard-disk player ($4000), NDS network player ($11,600) and 555PS DR power supply ($10,200). For analog there was a Well Tempered Amadeus GTA Mk 2 with Symmetrex tonearm and DPS power supply ($4250), and an EMT TSD15 cartridge ($1950). Crimson Cables ($584 per ten-foot pair of speaker cables, $360 per meter pair of interconnects) connected everything, and a Quadraspire Q4 Evo rack ($175 per level) supported it all. An Audience power conditioner was not mentioned on the system list but was obviously in use too.

This was a highly articulate, highly communicative system that had even frequency response, notable transparency and fast dynamic launch, but it was the easy, unforced way it made music that was so apparent from within or outside the room. This system was assembled by someone who knew what he was doing: trying impress ears, not eyes.

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