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09 May

Open Days at New Music in Brussels with Nagra, Wilson Audio, JBL and MacIntosh MA 252

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New Music à Bruxelles !

It was again with a great pleasure that I went to Brussels at New Music to listen to the legends of High Fidelity and, to tell the truth, we rarely take advantage to listen to so many renowned electronics gathered in a single piece. So I had to make another nice trip to Brussels at the beginning of the year. Arrived early enough at Brussels Midi station, I quickly took the subway as I already begin to be a little more familiar with the city.

As an aside, I will then present my next article on the open days of Présence Audio Conseil in Paris. I had the pleasure of discovering in exclusive preview the new speakers of Magico, the A3. However, I probably would not have enough time to write a good article on this excellent weekend spent in Reims, with Christian Catauro and his electronic Helixir Audio. By cons, I will return later on the electronics of Christian because it really honors the French High Fidelity. But for now, let’s go back to the Belgian capital and to New Music more specifically, where I was again received by José with a lot of sympathy. The auditorium is still situated at the bottom of the store, through the garden.

A rewarding listening day at New Music on January 27, 2018

JBL-Loudspeakers-New-Music-BruxellesLet’s say that if we had to start the year on a good start, it is on the discovery of a good audiophile system that I would do it. Here we were treated as princes because we had two music systems to listen and I wasn’t hiding my satisfaction at all. I also had the pleasure of discussing again with the organizer of the High End Innovation show organized by New Music as every year in Brussels. The discussion proved to be particularly rewarding and generally, when two audiophiles meet, they enrich each other’s knowledge.

Kommer Kleijn also made us the pleasure of joining us (with his  very much appreciated sense of humor) on this fresh Saturday of January on Brussels. A particularly nice and competent character in the audio as well as the video field, Mr. Kleijn is the creator (among others) of a pair of innovative acoustic speakers, the John Watkinson Legend. Its speakers, associated with a converter and other high-level electronics, were demonstrated at the Brussels show of New Music last year. Here too, I can only recommend you to go and listen to them!

Mac-Intosh-MA-252That said, let’s go back to New Music where I had the pleasure of discovering the two presented systems. The first of them (considered as the “small hi-fi system”) was based mainly on the beautiful MacIntosh MA252 with the nice JBL speakers (and its 38 cm woofer!), the source was a DCS player and DAC. The second system was based on a very high-end TechDas Airforce 3 turntable with its Graham arm and TechDas TDC01TI cell in terms of source.

A Nagra CD player was also chosen as a second choice for digital playback to this exceptional analog source. The loudspeakers were the Wilson Audio Alexia 2 powered by the Nagra HD Amp mono power amps and Nagra HD Preamp or Nagra phono preamplifier with (like the cherry on the cake ;-), a Nagra T smooth tape recorder.

The first listen has been made on JBL and Mc Intosh MA252 High Fidelity System

New-Music-Bruxelles-JBL-MonitorsThis first listening of the McIntosh system, ending on JBL speakers, was held with many pieces of classical music in most cases. The listening was particularly neutral with a medium lightly behind, the JBL and their 38 cm probably lacked room to express themselves fully. The bass frequencies were taking too much space for my taste while the medium was too quiet but no one could really criticize a lack of clarity. Seeing the system, the speakers were probably too close to the back wall. José confirmed that thought to me but the situation (with two systems in the same room) forced him to find a compromise compared to the second system with Nagra he wanted to privilege. Explained as such, it was understandable but the listening was therefore a little worse than I expected.

A bit intrigued by this medium frequencies probably flat too but nevertheless sounding familiar to me, José also told me that he had to use Shunyata Research cables instead of Charlin cables originally intended for listening. It was a choice that had been suggested to him by the importer. Here too, it was a small regret confirmed by the listening. I knew this sound well since I owned the Shunyata Gemini loudspeakers cables. On JBL loudspeakers, the association was probably not optimal.

High fidelity system with a great sense of neutrality, I could not however criticize the listened system without saying that the timbres seemed to be particularly just. Quality that struck me too, the fluidity of the musical message and its expressiveness seemed to me particularly accurate, to the point of revealing the intention of the musicians in a very just way. I still remained on a “half-disappointment” because of the lack of Charlin cables that could certainly have given a better balance to the listening, with a beautiful medium and a musical articulation just as exact in terms of rhythm and intention of the musicians.

Nagra preamp monitor, Nagra mono blocks amplifiers, TechDas Airforce 3 turntable, TechDas TDC01TI and Wilson Audio Alexia 2

Nagra-New-Music-Bruxelles Listening to such a high fidelity system, we are still entering another world. The association of Nagra and Wilson Audio Alexia 2 is exceptional in terms of coherence, at least with the turntable player we listened. I found that the “matter” of the sound was evenly distributed over the entire sound spectrum but with a certain clarity, allowing nothing to hide the musical message we were listening to.

With this system, we enjoy a bit of both worlds with a musicality which was appearing clear but neutral, without invasive low frequencies problem. Here, we were in total opposition to the McIntosh and JBL system, but the inappropriate use of Shunyata Research cables, in my opinion, was mostly against the system. With Nagra amplification and Wilson Audio loudspeakers, the low frequencies actually only showed up when they were on the disc, without emphasis. They did not have this character of being a little too systematic or too forward, sometimes heard on speakers whose boomer is particularly wide.

A TechDas vinyl source and Nagra tape recorder of exceptional musical quality

Nagra-New-Music-Bruxelles-charlin-furnituresI would just add that the exceptional quality of listening was based first on the vinyl source, here a TechDas Airforce 3 with a cell of the same house. Total absence of background noise, exceptional musicality, everything was there to satisfy as much the music lover as the audiophile in search of musical emotion. The naturalness of listening was such that it becomes difficult to ask anything other than listening to this quality for a vinyl source.

At the risk of repeating myself, this characteristic association of the Nagra electronics to spare as much the materiality of the sound as the clarity of the listening managed to make the listening even more pleasant, without excess or lacks but with a lot of freshness to the listening. Whether on a symphony or a more confidential classical music, the Nagra system showed distinction and precision. With timbres perfectly reproduced, very close to reality.

During a short moment, we took advantage of a listening on the Nagra tape recorder to obtain again a very clear gain in terms of realism and accuracy of the timbres. Source very close to the Master, we took advantage of the top of the analog, with a musicality hardly imaginable in digital, at least for the vast majority of CD players or streaming marketed to date.

A live of Eric Clapton that changes a bit of classical music and symphonies

Wilson-Audio-New-Music-BruxellesWe will change a moment of registry with Eric Clapton in concert and again, the stereophonic space rendered by this  High Fidelity Nagra electronics plunged us easily into the atmosphere of the live music. Let’s say that the vinyl source easily contributed to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of each song listened, whatever the style could be. The musical balance was particularly good, simply natural, without adding anything.

Again, the bass frequencies were marking their presence when it was clearly written on the disc but without the impression of being systematic as we heard sometimes with the JBL system. Let’s say that the Wilson Audio loudspeakers, associated with Nagra, wasn’t presenting the same listening, with the coolness and liveliness of Nagra electronics, qualities already appreciated during the show presented by the French High Fidelity Magazine at the end of 2017. These qualities of speed and spontaneous energy was also noticed again, just as last year. It was perhaps in part due to the excellent Charlin furniture on which the electronics were laid.

I would add that I had another excellent musical listening time at New Music in Brussels, with the usual kindness of José who is clearly involved either in this typical Belgian conviviality and that we rarely find elsewhere. In Brussels, I felt a bit like home. Let’s add for the story that my grandparents on my father’s side were Belgian and from Brussels. My grandmother had to leave Belgium for Lille when she was still young; she had never really accepted it.

Eric Mallet


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