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Watford Bake-Off Report

jonjin

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Jul 22, 2005
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Wow... what fun it was!

And when they said mini, they meant 7 people fitting into the sitting room with one guy standing in the doorway listening to the toons... And they had 2 speakers, 3 CDPs and 4 amp combos! Many things to listen to in 5 hours and of course, time was the limiting factor.

Big thumbs up and thanks to Jasper for hosting!
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Just a quikie report for me as I'm sure the others will come along with a more coherent write-up.

For me the nicest surprise was the Densen! Solid state seemed to work better in today's set-up. More bass control and yet, it had a lovely and smooth midrange which I would be happy to keep listening to hours on end... Nice overall grip on the music.

Of course we all knew the Esoteric was going to kick-ass...
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Of course we knew the Naim CD3 was going to rawk! Of course we knew the Audio Synthesis was chocked full of black-gates (we need a nudie picture!!!) and would live up to it's reputation... But it was all about the musak and the inevitable Dire Straits SACD...

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JJ

 

bommer

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Jul 25, 2005
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STEVENAGE
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JOHN
great day fella's,really enjoyed meeting you all again,

big thankyou to paul for hosting:^the kit i think speaks

for itself really,everything we heard sounded wonderful.

highlight of the day for me......the cake made by jasper's wife

absolutely sublime:love:can you forward the recipe please paul:lwink:

look forward to the next one:)

 

Hawk

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Jul 25, 2005
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Firstly a big thanks to Jasper for hosting, and a big thanks to Mrs Jasper for not only tolerating a bunch of audiofools, but baking them a pretty damn fine cake!

I think JJ has summed it up quite nicely already, but the stars of the show for me were the Densen amps, followed by the Neats and then the Esoteric. The favourite combination of the day for me was the CDS3/Densen/Arcs. There was some really nice synergy going on and the densens seemed more than happy with both partners
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It was a day when not a single component disgraced itself with each one shining in its own particular way. VFM wise the Neats kick arse big stylee, and I fear for Jasper as Mrs Jasper appeared very fond of them compared to those and I quote 'horrible black things that look like speed cameras'
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:D:D:D

As JJ said the densens did manage a nice mix of smooth midrange and bass control, and again considering the price and the looks
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:love:
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were a real revelation.

So on to the Esoteric. This was my second meeting with this fine CDP, and yesterdays performance confirmed my first impressions. First thing that strikes you is the outstanding build quality and finish, with typical Japanese attention to detail. Its a heavy imposing piece of kit with a touch the MF blue leds
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but thankfully none of the three feet glow :lwink:

Soundwise its very impressive period. It has a very detailed and smooth sound, and it has and will no doubt win plenty of hearts and minds. There is not much not to like, but it does strike me as a player that will need some care in matching with other components. Its character to my ears was on the warm smooth side of the fence and I think that could explain why on the day the solid state amplification won rather than the valves that added even more warmth into the equation. Of course its a taste thing, and one mans warm is anothers cold, but comparing it to the CDS3 there wasnt a clear winner. The Esoteric is more seductive with subtle material and the CDS3 is more punchy and defined with the energetic stuff. If it was a TT I'd fit two arms, one with a CDS3 arm and cart, and one with an Esoteric. If only HiFi was that easy eh
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:lmao:

So in conclusion, once again a bakeoff that shows that finding the right synergy between components is where its at
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More importantly than the boxes though, and there were a few! it was good to meet up again and hear some good tunes, so thanks to all and I look forward to reading the playlist when someone manages to remember all the tunes we heard!!

Cheers and thanks again

Hawk

 

Papa Lazarou

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Aug 18, 2005
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Phil
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Once again this was a great Bake-off. I would like to say a big thank you to Paul and his wife for inviting us into their lovely home. The refreshments were excellent, the cake in particular was fantastic!
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So onto the kit....

We started off with my Esoteric/Meridian 502/Audio Synthesis into Jasper's Arcs. Nothing to say here really since i use WB Arcs at home, only that my power amp seems to need at least an hour to get into it's stride. This i suspect is a trait of those Blackgate capacitors? Made some nice sounds IMO.I committed a cardinal sin in bringing along Dire Strait's "Brothers in Arms" SACD to demo the Esoteric's SACD performance (its a good production) and i believe the chaps were impressed with the extra resolution on offer.

Next we swopped the Naim CDS3 two-box cd player into the system. It sounded very good from cold, with a different presentation to the X-03se. With my amplification (ifeel the AS power amp is very revealing of sources) i preferred the Esoteric if i'm honest. The Naim has a more upfront sound that is very enjoyable but if i'm splitting hairs i feel the Esoteric has more texture,detail and refinement. Vocals are certainly more convincing on the Japanese player. This is being hyper-critical though as they're both superb players, you'd be happy with either.

We changed to the Densen pre-power and i felt the synergy improved considerably. The Naim cd player seemed to gel nicely with these excellent amps. I feel Jasper has made an excellent choice, i doubt you could get better-looking or soundingsoild-state amplification at the asking price.

Next George's Audio Note pre-amp and WAD valve amp were connected to JonR's superb Neat Motive 2 speakers. Source was the Esoteric. This produced some excellent results with acoustic and electronica. Very smooth and open sound that i found immensely enjoyable. The Neats are amazingly open and detailed. I was shocked to hear of their retail price, which is almost a third of my WB Arcs. They were so impressive i wager my previous floorstanders (B&W CDM9NT @ £1800) would have been very embarassed in their company. A new reference at the below £1k price point IMO.

Finally we swopped to JonJin's valve pre-amp and this again performed admirably. Some very interesting tunes were played, Amazon has already been paid yet another visit.
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Highlights of the day for me were the Neat Motive 2s and Densen pre-power. Everything we heard was of a very high standard and i feel we found a consistently high quality of sound throughout the afternoon. Very memorable
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Hawk

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Jul 25, 2005
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Can you remember any of the tunes Phil?

I'd love to hear the Esoteric with the BP's one day, despite getting rid of most of my Naim stuff I still have more boxes than you can shake a stick at
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id love to find a one boxer that would do the job..

Hawk

 

jonjin

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Jul 22, 2005
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Hawk wrote:

Can you remember any of the tunes Phil? I'd love to hear the Esoteric with the BP's one day, despite getting rid of most of my Naim stuff I still have more boxes than you can shake a stick at
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id love to find a one boxer that would do the job..

Hawk
The one's that I played were:

Radiohead Punch-Up Drunk

Beth Orton She Cries Your Name

Karl Jenkins Agnus Dei

But I'm sure you were after the more esoteric ones...

Ahem... so when's the bake-off?
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JJ

 

Hawk

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Jul 25, 2005
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jonjin wrote:

Hawk wrote:
Can you remember any of the tunes Phil? I'd love to hear the Esoteric with the BP's one day, despite getting rid of most of my Naim stuff I still have more boxes than you can shake a stick at
shock.gif.7732780fe7e208b945ce79ca96402fca.gif
id love to find a one boxer that would do the job..

Hawk
Ahem... so when's the bake-off?
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JJ
In about ten mins when Ive finished setting up my new tt and cartridge
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Hawk

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Jul 25, 2005
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jonjin wrote:

What? You serious?JJ
Not really JJ, Ive got about half an hour before I have to leave to go to the hospice so im just giving it a quick spin now...

I will organise another bakeoff in the not to distant future, but in the meantime your more than welcome to pop round one evening for a listen if you want..

Regards

Hawk

 

jonjin

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Jul 22, 2005
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That's not fair! Had my hopes up there!
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The invitation of course goes both ways...

Hope you have a good Sunday... I'm also expecting my new cart in a week or so...
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JJ

 

JonR

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Sep 3, 2005
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As others have reported above a great bake-off and I'm really glad I went. I was particularly pleased with the reaction to the Neats - I wasn't sure before the day started to be honest but afterwards I left feeling very satisfied that I've actually got a pretty good pair of speakers!

Many thanks to Jasper for hosting a great day and it was good to meet jonjin and George47 for the first time, as well as meeting all the other guys again.

As regards the kit, like Hawk I was very impressed with Phil's Esoteric CD spinner, the build and the finish is superb, exemplified for me by the silent movement of the cast-metal CD drawer. A lovely bit of kit to look at as well as to use, but not to lift! Sound-wise, for me it was difficult to put a fag-paper between the Esoteric and my CDS3. Both players did the business in the music-making stakes, they just did things slightly differently presentation-wise. In contrast to Hawk I perceived the Esoteric to be slightly more 'glacial' in sound and less, subjectively warm but that could, I accept, be a judgement coloured as much down to personal expectation as anything else.

For me, marginally the best sound of the day was Phil's Esoteric feeding George47's excellent valve pre-power combo into the Neat's. Special mention however must also be made of Jasper's Densen pre/power combo which I think flew the solid-state flag admirably - certainly the synergy with my CDS3 was very noticeable for me.

A fine day was finished off with the remaining attendees adjourning for a curry and some gossip at the local tandoori - once Jasper had found out where it was of course! :)

My only regret was not getting the chance to scoff enough of Mrs Jasper's most excellent cake!

Frrom memory, I played tracks from the following albums:-

Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams

The Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (are made of this) - remastered

Carole King - Tapestry

Stevie Wonder - Music of my Mind

Curtis Mayfield - Superfly

Many thanks again, here's to the next one (at Hawk's presumably.. ;-> )

 

Papa Lazarou

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Aug 18, 2005
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Phil
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Hawk wrote:

Can you remember any of the tunes Phil? I'd love to hear the Esoteric with the BP's one day, despite getting rid of most of my Naim stuff I still have more boxes than you can shake a stick at
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id love to find a one boxer that would do the job..

Hawk
Neil - just say when mate and i'll bring it over. Can't wait to hear your fantastic new amps
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George 47

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Jan 1, 2006
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HiFi Trade?
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Just got back from shopping; my penance for yesterday
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Firstly thanks to Jasper for hosting the event and putting up with us all playing 'musical hot seat'. And as everyone has said the cake was certainly excellent, and confession time, I did have more than slice
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As far as the kit was concerned the high points were the Esoteric CD player, the tiddly Neats and the Densens. Although to be honest I did not really hear any low points.

The Esoteric player looked the part, has a great engineering feel and played some wonderful tunes. It certainly kept up with the CDS3 and it would be difficult to chose between them, although I would just favour the Esoteric. The fact it plays SACDs, of which I have one or two, tempts; if it wasn't for the Mac coming in a few weeks. If I had known I would have brought a few good SACDs along.

I loved what the Neats did and certainly when JJ put on some choral music it was easy to close your eyes, imagine a huge acoustic with a large choir and select out the singers. It was at this point that I opened my eyes and saw these tiddly speakers doing this job.

I suspect Jasper is still 'discussing' why the loverly Neats do not sound as good as the Arcs with his other half......The Neats certainly looked prettier even if they could not match the ACRs.

The Densens were playing some really nice tunes in Jasper's original set up and I think they may be REALLY stuck to that shelf and it will therefore be totally impossible to return them
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I played Lucinda Williams--Essence

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris --I dug up a diamond (well someone had to!)

For info SACDs to avoid:

Norah Jones --Come away with Me (It is 16 bit !!!!)

Michael Jackson ---It sounds like 16 bit

Bangles---Greatest Hits

A Good one:

BluesQuest...Audioquest Music ..Valve powered mics, 1/2" tape, all live and the music is nicely raw.

Peter Gabriel ---Live. It has been fiddled with in the studio and bits added but is well done and has a great atmosphere.

 

AdamK

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Sep 29, 2005
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Papa Lazarou wrote:

Hawk wrote:
Can you remember any of the tunes Phil? I'd love to hear the Esoteric with the BP's one day, despite getting rid of most of my Naim stuff I still have more boxes than you can shake a stick at
shock.gif.7732780fe7e208b945ce79ca96402fca.gif
id love to find a one boxer that would do the job..

Hawk
Neil - just say when mate and i'll bring it over. Can't wait to hear your fantastic new amps
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Papa

Get that Esoteric over to Tring pronto - it will be a match made in heaven with the BP gear. The CDS3 will need to be replaced immediately.
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;)..............please

 

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