The Ear took a room at Indulgence this year in order to demonstrate a system that’s very close to the one used for our reviews, and for the opportunity to meet our lovely readers. It was also a good excuse to listen to some great music for three days. The system consisted of a Rega RP10 turntable and arm with Apheta 2 cartridge, Tom Evans Microgroove+X MkII phono stage, Melco N1A server, CAD 1543 MkII DAC, Townshend Allegri+ preamplifier, ATC P1 power amplifier and PMC twenty5.22 standmount loudspeakers on Townshend Seismic Podium bases. Cables were Townshend Fractal for speakers and interconnects and Vertere HB USB for the connection between server and DAC. The only real difference between this and our reference system is that PMC Fact.8 floorstanders are our staple speakers. We were ably assisted by Joe and Martin from Blue Frog Audio who provided acoustic panels to tame the room, these were undoubtedly a major reason why the system sounded so good in a challenging space.
As well as the listening there were daily seminars from industry luminaries. Scott Berry of CAD talked about and demonstrated his Ground Control units, proving that by connecting a GC1 to the Melco server using a USB plug with only the ground connected improved the sound markedly. Essentially it drops the noise floor which reveals more of the space in the recording and more of the fine detail. Doing the same with the latest model, the GC3, but plugging it into the extension block with only the earth pin connected, had an even greater effect on reducing noise in the system.
Max Townshend gave a talk about how the background vibration in the earth is of a higher magnitude than the movement of a loudspeaker driver, which is why his Seismic Podiums make such a positive impact on sound quality. Down to earth as ever illustrated how a spring can be used to isolate with the aid of a pink elephant (on a spring). Max also introduced his Fractal F1 loudspeaker cable which we used for the first time at the event. This has smaller flat conductors than in his standard Isolda speaker cable, but they are treated with the Fractal process and encapsulated in a damping material that isolates the copper and prevents it from ringing. The result is the most transparent cable we have heard by quite a long shot, it’s so much better than everything else that it’s going to take a while to recalibrate expectations of my reference review system.
The final guest speaker was Keith Tonge of PMC who explained how aerodynamics effects loudspeaker distortion in the company’s twenty5 series. These have a segmented vent at the end of the transmission line that eliminates turbulence, making for smoother airflow and ultimately lower distortion. It’s not a simple concept but the sonic benefits were easy to appreciate on the twenty5.22s in the room, these punched way above their weight and went even further on the occasion that a PMC cor integrated amp (below) was brought up for an all too brief spin. We wanted to hear it before, now we need to hear it again.