There’s a brunch restaurant near me that’s insanely busy on the weekends. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, there’s a lineup of about 20 people waiting to be seated. This amazes and repulses me. The concept of lining up and waiting—probably for quite a while—is completely foreign to me.
It’s a similar thing with fame—it doesn’t excite me. In fact, it makes me want to look away. If everyone is talking about a person or a product, I want nothing to do with it.
I’m not immune to bias. For many years, I wasn’t willing to give Wilson Audio’s speakers the time of day. Too many people loved them, too many people raved about them, and I wanted to go my own way and find my own alternatives to this sort of fame. I formed this mindset in the early ’90s when I’d see Stereophile’s classified ads saying, “Wanted: Wilson Watt/Puppy.” The idea that people were lining up for these speakers rubbed me the wrong way.
I kept this little pea under my mattress for years. That evil spell was finally broken at this year’s Montreal Audiofest, where I sat and listened, long and hard, to the Wilson Audio Alexia V.
As if to make up for lost time, I hustled off to visit the Audiofast room—distributor for Gryphon Audio Designs and Wilson Audio—on the second-top floor of the PGE Narodowy stadium. There I met Rune Skov, Gryphon’s global sales director, who was running a master class on playing cool music that wasn’t the usual show dreck.
I came in halfway through a sensuous piece in which an open, clear singer was accompanied by a huge-sounding piano and some subtle electronic effects. It was full of lyrical emotion. Although not physically huge, the Wilson Audio SabrinaX loudspeakers created an uncommonly large soundscape, precisely presenting the voice with a realistic size alongside a massive piano. There was also some extremely deep bass on this piece—so deep that at first, I thought it was intruding from another room. But that wasn’t the case. Rather, the Wilsons reproduced huge acoustics with an enormous sense of the original room. As the track ended, I asked whom we’d been listening to, as it was just marvelous.
“That was Prince,” Skov replied. “The album is One Night Alone.” Color me astonished, as I knew nothing about this recording. I got settled in my seat, scooting over to the center when that position became available. Skov had my attention now.
The SabrinaX speakers (about $20,000 per pair in the US) were being driven by Gryphon’s brand-new Diablo 333 integrated amplifier (€21,800), which will start shipping this week. The Diablo 333 was fitted with the optional PS-3 phono stage (€4800). That phono stage received its low-level analog signal from a juicy-looking Grand Prix Audio Parabolica turntable. Cables were from Gryphon’s Rosso line—appropriately named, as they were a deep, Italian red, and very attractive.
Skov switched over to digital by way of the Gryphon Ethos CD player (€31,000), which was running as a DAC and being fed by an Aurender streamer. Next, he played a piece by some crazy young double bassist, a solo track with a ton of popping, virtuosic soloing. I was in the middle seat, and the system slammed out each note with exceptional dynamic snap.
By the time I exited the room, I’d firmed up my opinion that I’d been a bit of a doofus all these years. Perhaps I should line up and find out what that local brunch restaurant is all about.
Senior Editor, SoundStage!