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Audio Affair - A Very Modern Affair (Part 2) - System 2 – Hot and heavy

12/11/2013 8:52:10 PM
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System 2 – Hot and heavy

The second system takes us all the way out to the other end of the Audio Affair portfolio. Gone is the compact solid-state amplification and instead we have three boxes of valve-based goodness partnered with two boxes of digital, which is CD rather than streaming-based. Speaker responsibilities are kept with Prozac, but with the increase in budget, there is a further move up the product range meaning that some new technology is available.

Description: Icon audio MB90 MKII M, with $4,631.8 KTI50 8

Icon audio MB90 MKII M, with $4,631.8 KTI50 8

With the Prozac D30, this means that although the slim cabinet is still visually similar to the D18, the driver compliment is all new. The mid bass driver is constructed from carbon fiber and polymer for reduced weight and increased strength. In the ‘R’ suffix version seen here, this is joined by a specially designed ribbon tweeter intended to improve performance.

Description: $1,756.92 Icon audio LA4 MKIII preamp

$1,756.92 Icon audio LA4 MKIII preamp  

Powering the speakers is a triumvirate of units from Icon Audio. The MB90 mono blocks are both visually striking and technically interesting as they make use of the KT150 valve. These burly tubes help the MB90 produce a considerable 115W per side and this power is in turn marshalled by a LA4 preamp, which adds to the valve compliment with a trio of 6SN7 signal valves and a 274B rectifier.

Description: $956.72 Audiolab M-DAC

$956.72 Audiolab M-DAC

The digital front end is a combination of the gorgeous and impressively substantial Sudden Fusion CD21SE, which is given a helping hand by Audio lab’s superb 8200DAC. Partnering a nigh-on $3K CD player with a $900 DAC might seem odd, but Richard feels that in this system, the results are superior to running it on its own.

Description: $2,986.76 Sugden CD21SE

$2,986.76 Sugden CD21SE

Tori party

Cueing up Tori Amos’ peerless Under the Pink, it is immediately obvious that second guessing the role of a particular component in the system is somewhat irrelevant when the end result is as capable as it is. Pretty Good Years a wonderful demonstration of all of the good points of a valve-based system with none of the downsides. There is a weight and realism to vocals that is arrestingly real and the sense of space the performance has is deeply compelling. There is a lushness to the midrange and upper frequencies not commonly encountered in solid-state systems.

Description: $7,586.70 Proac D30R

$7,586.70 Proac D30R

Beguiling it may be, but lacking in control and definition it is not. Switching to Admiral Fallow’s Squealing Pigs, there isn’t the slightest sense of bloat or sluggishness. The bass is tight, packed full of detail and clips along with the speed and assurance to make the song work as it should. The system manages to find the detail and texture of the voices and instruments, but at the same time keep the rough edges under control. There is something almost self-effacing about the way that great recordings are presented almost without there being any sense of electronics being present but when the quality isn’t so great, this system carefully chips off the worst rough edges, leaving the musical message intact.

Modern art

For a valve system it presents no great domestic issues either. The real-world power output of the MB90s allows for the slender and relatively compact Prozac’s to be used without any limits on volume and the build quality and design of the components is first rate. The presence of the Audio lab also allows the owner to start dabbling in computer audio if they feel the need. Like Audio Affair itself, this is a traditional approach that is thoroughly modern in implementation.

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