Willy, a jovial guy who always has a smile on his face, I met him in this year KLIAV show via a mutual friend. He visited me and listened to my system a few weeks later, and last night was my turn to reciprocate.
It was a good night listening to music for myself and maggielurva. Let’s start with Willy’s system from the top – his frontend was a Marantz CD7, the ‘statement’ CDP from Marantz and Ken Ishiwata, a CDP that I lusted after. Seeing a Marantz brought back fond memories as I grew up with the CD63SE and then the CD17MkIIKI. Marantz never failed to sound musical to me, and Willy’s system with the CD7 in it proved to be even more so in this regard.
The CD7 fed a Pass Labs X2.5 preamp, which in turn was connected to a pair of Pass Labs Aleph 0 monoblocks - 75watts of pure single-ended class A power into 8 ohms, double that into 4. I am a Pass Labs user myself, and once owned the 0’s littlest brother, the Aleph 3. I regretted letting go of the 3, I hope Willy would not make the same mistake with his 0s, they are absolutely a classic from Pass Labs (to me, all Alephs are, and I have to admit I have a bias towards the Aleph sound).
At the end of the chain was a pair of Audio Physics Spark. Slim and elegant these 2.5-way floorstanders were. Audio Physics are renowned for their soundstaging capability, and Willy’s
Willy has also addressed the electricity quality issue by installing an IsoTek power line conditioner. His cdp, turntable (a Rega with diy Pass Labs Ono, I gathered, which we did not listen to) and pre-amp were plugged into the IsoTek, and the Alephs were plugged directly into the wall.
The listening room was of a cozy size, I estimated it to be 10’x12’ (just a guess). Willy has done some acoustic treatment, such as diffusers on the front wall. He also ingenuously incorporated diffusion / absorption into his CD rack at the first reflection point at the side of the speakers.
Once Willy cued up the music, I was attracted. The sound had a natural body, was coherent, and came with an inviting tonality, it has airiness, richness and excellent harmonic structure. I believe it was the Pass Labs doing their talking here to an extent, it certainly was a presentation that I was well acquainted to. The sound was well-lit but not bright, I personally would prefer a slightly mellower top but that is a matter of taste. Vocals and violin were articulate and attractive. Violin, especially, had sheen and brilliance that came close to real life.
Despite their relatively slim stature, the Audio Physics had a big sound. These fellows were not afraid of big swings in dynamics and indeed they handled any such challenge with aplomb. Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (ASMF, Marriner) presented just such an opportunity, the guitar was intimate but the sound would simply swell whenever the full orchestra came on.
Best of all, Willy’s listening room came with a cute little Miss. That is Willy’s little daughter, ever the daddy's girl, she would accompany her father during his listening session for hours.
With that, what more can a man ask for?