Jump to content
  • The Computer Audiophile

    Making Memories In Santa Monica

    Last week I ventured out of Minneapolis for the first time in 2020. It felt strange to pack my bags, to jump on a plane, and to exit LAX into sunshine and palm trees, while snow was falling at home. Even more strange was seeing my good friends for the first time in nearly a year, but it felt wonderful. I spent three days at The Audio Salon in Santa Monica helping with a photo shoot, setting up a NAS, configuring a network, and listening to my favorite music on an amazing audio system. Given the nice weather, I also enjoyed some fabulous food sitting outside at my favorite restaurants. Overall it was a great trip, but nothing is cemented more in my mind than the memories we made listening to music into the late evening hours. 


    As Real As It Gets

     

    Listening to music is often a solo activity, whether on a HiFi system or through headphones. When the opportunity for listening with friends presents itself, I highly recommend embracing it. Sharing the experience of listening to great music through a great HiFi system is one of life's luxuries that I wish more people could enjoy. It nourishes the soul, sets the mind at ease, and transports one away from the rigors of the real world, while offering a human connection with friends or loved ones. Such was the case on my first night in Santa Monica, CA. 

     

    The Audio Salon's Maier Shadi and I sat down for a listening session through an absolutely amazing audio system. In the Audio Salon's second listening room, Maier has put together and masterfully setup what I consider a memory making machine. This audio system is so realistic and unforgettable that the only thing missing is a smoke machine to simulate the real concert experience. 

     

    wilson xvx.jpegI sat in the center listening position with the remote and an iPad in hand, and played a couple warm up tracks. I like to warm up my ears, as strange as that sounds. Perhaps it's just me getting into the right headspace. I immediately noticed the sound of these very familiar tracks was quite different than what I've heard in my own Wilson system. I mentioned to Maier that the system sounded like a pair of tube amps was driving the XVX loudspeakers. As wonderful as that sound may be for many listeners, it wasn't in my wheelhouse and wasn't the sound I've come to know and love from my own HiFi system.

     

    Maier told me right away that the XVX's micrometer system had been used to adjust the modules in the speaker array and a resistor had been changed, tailoring the sound to a previous listener's taste. Maier had recently demonstrated the system and adjusted it to the customer's taste so well that the customer purchased the XVX. Maier offered to undo the adjustments, bringing the speakers back to the Wilson default, one item at a time, so I could hear the differences and understand the impact of each change. I eagerly took him up on the offer, as it was a unique experience unavailable to me anywhere else. 

     

    Above all, the main sonic attribute I thought needed adjusting was transient reproduction. In the initial configuration, the XVX system ever so slightly rounded the edges of transients compared to my much smaller Alexia based system at home. Given that the micrometer system adjusts the speaker modules in the time domain, I had a high degree of confidence that resetting these modules would be the key for me. I've heard similar adjustment in my own system and even seen the adjustments impact my in-room measurements. 

     

    Once the changes were made, it took roughly one minute per speaker, the sound of the system was 95% there. The final change was replacing a resistor on the rear panel of each speaker that brought the tweeter output back to its default setting from -1dB. This change also took roughly one minute per speaker, putting the ease with which these speakers can be adjusted on full display. The XVX system went from one listener's gold standard to my gold standard in less than five minutes. 

     

    With the adjustments made and the resistor changed, the sound I heard made me giggle to myself. I was in a state of disbelief and at the same time thrilled that I was fortunate enough to be at the helm of such an incredible system. Many albums and tracks were played this first night, but none were as memorable as the May 24, 1976 album from Larry Karush, streamed at 24/96 from Qobuz. 

     

    The opening track on this album is "Untitled" and features a wonderful piano performance with great tone and terrific transients with stunning attack, release, sustain, and decay. Listening through this masterfully setup system, I was in awe from the first to the last note. Hearing the delicate piano notes with such incredible detail while also being jarred by hammer strikes, is the stuff of which memories are made. I could hear and virtually see the piano sitting between the towering XVX loudspeakers as Larry Karush worked from left to right or high to low notes. 
     

    Soon after track two started, Maier said to me, "This may be THE track. It's better than the first one!" Glen Moore's double bass reproduced through the Wilson Audio Subsonic subwoofers  and the XVX, was palpable. The rich texture of his double bass was absolutely fantastic juxtaposed to Karush's marvelous piano. I still can't decide if I agree with Maier's assessment of the second track being THE track, but the cool thing is that I don't have to. I can play both of them, and enjoy every minute. In addition, using the Wilson Active XO dual subwoofer active crossover, both Maier and I had our own preferred settings. One of us likes a little more bass while the other prefers the subwoofers to disappear. This is the beauty of a configurable system.  

     

    This album influenced us for the rest of my visit to Santa Monica. Whenever we made a change to the system or when we put the new Wilson SabrinaX speakers in for a demo, we used the first two tracks to see if the magic was present. 

     

    Note 1: The SabrinaX loudspeakers are excellent. In the limited time I spent with them, I was surprised at the punch they delivered in a very large listening room. Of course the delicacy and detail was there, but the punch of such a small speaker was excellent. The SabrinaX could no doubt fill my own listening room with ease. 

     

    Note 2: Maier pulled out his ATR102 tape machine for a listening session on one of the nights. We played Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus from The Tape Project. I don't want to go too off into the weeds, other than to say the listening was smooth and sublime. I could've listened all night.  

     

     

    wilson xvx tape machine.jpeg

     

     

     

     

    The second night spent listening at The Audio Salon was the stuff of legend. We listened for so long that we missed dinner. By the time we were ready to stop listening, the only thing open was a Del Taco on the way to my hotel. 

     

    After the first night full of finesse, it was time to break out several Van Halen albums and push this entire system to its limits. We started with some Sammy Hagar era Van Halen, playing 5160 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Both album are full of fantastic music that's as good today as it was upon release. 

     

    The last three tracks on Carnal Knowledge are a rollercoaster of sonic bliss. From the anthemic Right Now, to the relaxed guitar solo of 316, and finishing with Top of the World. It was a blast to queue these tracks up and sit back for a mini concert. 

     

    We listened to almost every track on 5150, with several repeats of Why Can't This Be love. My favorite track of the night off the album was Summer Nights. The guitar on this track sounded so dang real through this system and Alex Van Halen's drums were clear and present. This track took me back to 1986 when I first heard 5150 on a dubbed cassette in my brother's room. It blew my mind then and through the XVX system, it blew my mind again. 

     

    decibel meter.jpegBy far the most memorable time of the night and perhaps 2020, came while listening to Van Halen's 1984. I opened the decibel meter app on my iPhone and measured peaks over 100 dB and an average of over 95 dB. It was like a concert in listening room two at The Audio Salon. 

     

    Sure the standards from this album were fun. Jump and Panama were golden. The opening drums on Hot For Teacher were unforgettable. But, the track and experience that I'll never forget was track 7, I'll wait. This track has it all, but the keyboard and drums were legendary through this HiFi system. The opening keyboard sequence is mouth watering because one knows what's coming. At nearly 100 dB, when the drums kick in through the XVX and Subsonic, it's absolutely amazing. The audio is as clear as can be while simultaneously pounding one in the chest and borderline assaulting one's ears. I saw Van Halen live once, and must say the experiences weren't that dissimilar. I may have had more fun at The Audio Salon with the remote in hand, a perfect view, a perfect seat, and great friend experiencing the same performance, than at a crowded Van Halen venue. 

     

    I can't imagine that I'll top this audio experience in 2020 or anytime soon. The stars aligned, I was able to visit friends, and the music sounded legendary. This is what life is all about. Enjoying oneself with friends and family. The crazy thing is that with an incredible home audio system and one's favorite music, it can be done at anytime. Sign me up for another experience like this. What a great time I'll never forget.

     

     

     


    How the Memories Were Made

     

    Location:

    The Audio Salon

     

    Music:
    Lary Karush, May 24, 1976 - Untitled 24/96 Qobuz
    Van Halen, 1984 - I'll Wait 24/96 Qobuz

     

    Speakers:
    Wilson Audio Chronosonic XVX (Pur Sang Rouge color)

     

    Subwoofers:
    Wilson Audio Subsonic (Pur Sang Rouge color)

     

    Amplification:
    Four Dan D'Agostino Momentum M400 monoblocks

     

    Preamplification:
    Dan D'Agostino Momentum HD preamplifier

     

    Crossover:
    Wilson Audio Activ XO, dual active crossover

     

    Digital:
    dCS Vivaldi Upsampler
    dCS Vivaldi DAC
    dCS Vivaldi Master Clock
    dCS Vivaldi transport

     

    Cabling:
    Transparent Opus speaker cable (XVX)
    Transparent Reference XL speaker cable (Subsonic)
    Transparent Opus balanced interconnects (analog)
    Transparent Opus AES/EBU (digital)

     

    Source:
    Roon Nucleus
    Synology NAS

     

    Power:

    512 Engineering Transformer

     

     

     

    hero.jpg



    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    I used to think I had a high-end system... Now the target has moved well beyond.  Funny to see the newer version of my original Kharma Ceramique 3.2 in your pictures.  Back in 2005 I went with those instead of the Wilsons....

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    That sounds like an awesome experience.  I love those times when you are so into moment that nothing else matters, not even food.  Those Van Halen and Van Hagar days were epic!  The Eddie and Alex Van Halen lead guitar and drum sound was so energetic and bold as well as those falsetto background vocals like in Jamie's Crying.  I am inspired to blast some VH this weekend while my wife is out of house but on a system that pales in comparison.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    3 minutes ago, photonman said:

    That sounds like an awesome experience.  I love those times when you are so into moment that nothing else matters, not even food.  Those Van Halen and Van Hagar days were epic!  The Eddie and Alex Van Halen lead guitar and drum sound was so energetic and bold as well as those falsetto background vocals like in Jamie's Crying.  I am inspired to blast some VH this weekend while my wife is out of house but on a system that pales in comparison.

    Michael Anthony’s backing vocals are fantastic!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    33 minutes ago, PorkChop said:

    @The Computer Audiophile [knowing snicker] "I'll Wait" was a recent audio re-awakening for me too. I never thought much of that track until it came on in my newly installed, somewhat high-end car audio system. The sound of AVH's Ludwigs are just incredible against that super fat droning keyboard.

    Completely!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip with us. I felt like I was there by way of your great wordsmithing. Good job!

    Always wondered what those monsters sound like - Now I don't have to go out and buy them.

     

    PS: Whats that center rectangle - clear plasticky-looking thing?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The lighting reflections make me think it's a hard (therefore sound reflective) surface. Don't see how that can diffuse sound, but rather reflect it. Whatever, apparently the music was great regardless.

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    1 minute ago, coot said:

    The lighting reflections make me think it's a hard (therefore sound reflective) surface. Don't see how that can diffuse sound, but rather reflect it. Whatever, apparently the music was great regardless.

     

    Diffusion is more about shape and science (as you know). Absorption is much more about materials than diffusion. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 10/21/2020 at 6:15 PM, fas42 said:

     

    These days, the A/D converters in phones are actually very good - it's almost impossible for a manufacturer to buy a chip that doesn't have excellent specs, compared to say the 1980's, no matter how cheap. The microphone is something else, but should do an acceptable job except for the extreme frequencies. For YouTube, one can retrieve the Opus encoding if one wants to, which gives the full 20k BW, and entirely satisfactory encoding.

     

    It is not the A/D converter it is the microphone that is the problem.

     

    Youtube sound sucks - sorry.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    30 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    When considering the best audio systems in the world, I don’t think “a decent job” will do. 

     

    Again, we're not using the recording to determine how excellent the playback is, as in that somehow the quality of the experience can be be conveyed via the smartphone, video clip route. Rather, it has sufficient quality to pick up the faults of the playback; it's trivially easy to find YouTube videos recorded on someone's phone of very expensive rigs making a complete mess of some recording - when the playback of a 'difficult' track comes across with its integrity intact, in a casual recording, then it's a good sign that the system is working well.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    4 minutes ago, fas42 said:

     

    Again, we're not using the recording to determine how excellent the playback is, as in that somehow the quality of the experience can be be conveyed via the smartphone, video clip route. Rather, it has sufficient quality to pick up the faults of the playback; it's trivially easy to find YouTube videos recorded on someone's phone of very expensive rigs making a complete mess of some recording - when the playback of a 'difficult' track comes across with its integrity intact, in a casual recording, then it's a good sign that the system is working well.

    This is faulty logic. 
     

    You also can’t tell the impact of the largest part of the system, the room. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    49 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    This is faulty logic. 
     

    You also can’t tell the impact of the largest part of the system, the room. 

     

    Why is it faulty? Let's say you have group of musical friends over, and they decide to jam in your lounge, listening room - and you decide to record the event, on your smartphone - for posterity, 😉. And you decide to put it up on YouTube, to share - would anyone viewing it have the slightest doubt that the audio was the "real thing"; if you said, actually the sound was just coming from a hifi system, and the people in the video were just miming to the sound they heard - would you have any chance of convincing anyone of that?

     

    I see the goal of replay to duplicate the quality that live acoustic sound in a space presents, and which can easily be sensed even in a relatively poor quality, amateur recording.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    4 minutes ago, fas42 said:

     

    Why is it faulty? Let's say you have group of musical friends over, and they decide to jam in your lounge, listening room - and you decide to record the event, on your smartphone - for posterity, 😉. And you decide to put it up on YouTube, to share - would anyone viewing it have the slightest doubt that the audio was the "real thing"; if you said, actually the sound was just coming from a hifi system, and the people in the video were just miming to the sound they heard - would you have any chance of convincing anyone of that?

     

    I see the goal of replay to duplicate the quality that live acoustic sound in a space presents, and which can easily be sensed even in a relatively poor quality, amateur recording.

     

    It is totally faulty since how the room affects the acoustics in not recorded by a youtube video. Only in person does that happen.

     

    You WILL NEVER duplicate that live acoustic sound in space. Sorry, no, one microphone does not do it and one that is mediocre at best.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    12 minutes ago, botrytis said:

     

    It is totally faulty since how the room affects the acoustics in not recorded by a youtube video. Only in person does that happen.

     

    You WILL NEVER duplicate that live acoustic sound in space. Sorry, no, one microphone does not do it and one that is mediocre at best.

     

    What's recorded by a microphone are the soundwaves at a particular point in space. Which is how everything works, whether recording some live event, or the playback of an audio system. The closer the accuracy of the playback to replicating the energy of what's on the recording, the more convincing will be what is captured by the microphone, irrespective of whether the the microphone is literally only inches away from the speaker drivers, or on the other side of a cavernous room - in the latter case, the acoustics of the room add to the sound, but don't detract from the experience - take a real piano ... it always sounds like a piano, whether you are leaning against the side of it, or listening from 20 feet away - it never fails to be convincing.

     

    That's what can be achieved by a competent setup - the playback of say a piano never alerts the listener to it being, "fake". How the microphone picks up the sound is not relevant to how capable the replay is - but it can certainly pick up the giveaways that something is not quite right with the SQ.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Audiophiles are way to critical about sound quality, when it comes to recording live events.  I wish more sound bits were captured at events like this, where Chris was just at.  It's not about getting the best sound. It's about getting the vibe in the room.  I watch a ton of guitar, guitar amps and effects reviews.  No one is saying your hearing the absolute best quality while watching those video's on YouTube.  The nice thing is as guitarist go, they don't have to explain this every time they create a video.  It's just a rough estimation of what something may sound like.  They do have the benefit of recording through a DAW if they want.  A lot do both to give a sense of what in the room sounds like.    

     

    It's like seeing a tv commercial for a new HDTV.  The only view of the that new tv your getting is on whatever quality of the tv you currently have.  So how are you suppose to judge how good the new color is if your watching on a lesser quality tv.  People don't freak about it, they just say maybe we should look for a new tv some time or not.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    In speaking briefly with Maier (and other dealers) a few months ago, it seems COVID has not been detrimental to business.  I'm glad for them.

     

    PS - I'd like to compare the Momentum and the Relentless with those speakers.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Glad you were able to hear these speakers with electronics that do justice to what they can offer.  I'd heard them nearly a year ago, at a launch type event, using a reputable amp/preamp in a large room, with a dCS stack, etc.  Sounded bombastic and brutal to my ears.  Then, within the past few months, I heard them in the same room with the same setup but with with another preamp and amps and the difference was significantly better.  Far more musical and engaging.  This tells me a lot about these speakers, and in fact all well made speakers - upstream components are critical to successful sound reproduction.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    5 hours ago, stevebythebay said:

    Glad you were able to hear these speakers with electronics that do justice to what they can offer.  I'd heard them nearly a year ago, at a launch type event, using a reputable amp/preamp in a large room, with a dCS stack, etc.  Sounded bombastic and brutal to my ears.  Then, within the past few months, I heard them in the same room with the same setup but with with another preamp and amps and the difference was significantly better.  Far more musical and engaging.  This tells me a lot about these speakers, and in fact all well made speakers - upstream components are critical to successful sound reproduction.

     

    Which is the way it always works ... It's The System, Stupid 😉. The weakest link of the setup will always dominate, as far as getting the best SQ. 'Revealing' speakers will merely reveal every tiny deficiency in the chain prior to that point, and may be a very bad move if the work hasn't been done to sort things earlier in the path.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    A bit OT - a cool story though for sure and I love Sammy + him in the VH years, but when I was reading this I immediately thought of my two VH albums that sound drastically different. 

     

    Literally the same song sounds night and day.  Not a surprise in that different master/mixing et al make a difference.  I just wanted to point out this specific example for a point of reference if you're interested.  Per my pics, the WEA version absolutely smokes the WB version.

     

    VH_DM_WEA.JPG

     

    VH_DM_Warner_Bros.JPG

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I always wanted to stop in their shop but everything is so far out of my price range I've felt guilty asking for an appointment.  

     

    How was that Del Taco?  

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...