Into the system she goes
I did most of my listening to the Exemplar player in my Connecticut reference system. I loaned it to a friend for a few days and listened to it for several days at In Living Stereo where I was able to compare it to the Reimyo player in a system that shares features of my reference (Shindo electronics and the DeVore Fidelity Silverback speakers). My own system was reasonably stable during this period. It consisted of the Shindo Catherine dual-mono preamplifier, the Shindo WE 300B Limited. monoblock amplifiers and the Hørning Agathon Ultimate Loudspeakers. The latter were replaced midway through the process by both the Silverback Reference and the Hørning Alkibiades. The Exemplar overlapped a bit with the recently reviewed Redpoint Testa Rossa XS and the Brinkmann Balance. Low-level cabling was via Stealth Indra and Extreme phono cable along with Audience Au24 phono cables. For high-level cables, I used both Stealth Hybrid MLT and the new German 'Tone' cables. Power cords were a mixture of Stealth, Shindo and van den Hul.

I used the Exemplar power cord for a very short time as John encouraged me to employ after-market alternatives. I used both the Stealth M-7 and the van den Hul Mainstream. I ultimately settled on the van den Hul. I began by connecting the Exemplar to the preamp via the Stealth Indra. I am not a fool. I knew from the start that the average potential purchaser of the Exemplar was not going to take her $4K player and hook it up using a nearly $6K interconnect. I just wanted to hear how the player would sound in my reference system while holding everything else constant. Once I had a handle on that, I replaced the Indra for further listening with a Shindo interconnect, then with basic Belden and finally with Radio Shack gold ends. In other words, I got the full measure of the Exemplar with everything from $5 Belden to $12 Rat Shack to $1,000 audiophile-approved to $5,750 extreme. I did my due diligence.

What did I listen to and what did I hear?
I did most of my listening to Redbook CD divided evenly among jazz, blues and classical. I did some listening to rock and some to pop music. I listened carefully to a half dozen SACDs and four DVD-A discs. I spent most of my compact disc time with The Brad Meldau Trio's Progression: Art of the Trio, Vol 5 [Warner Bros 48005-2]; David Johansen and the Harry Smiths self-titled Chesky recording [Chesky JD1 96]; George Lloyd's Lament, Air and Dance Sonata [Troy 029-2]; and various discs put together by Srajan and fellow moonie Les Turoczi's own recording engineer work. I logged more than a few minutes with the Who's Who's Next [MCAD 11269] and more than that with the outstanding compilation of Michael Bloomfield's guitar work, Essential Blues: 1964-1969 [Columbia, CK5763].

If I told you that I play along with Bloomfield on both my '72 Tele Thinline and my '60 Les Paul, you wouldn't believe it. Neither would I. The key phrase here is "play along". If Bloomfield heard me, he'd turn over in his grave. I know it's heresy to say this nowadays, but my view is that before he lost it completely (and most certainly he did lose it), I would take Michael Bloomfield's playing over Stevie Ray Vaughan's any day of the week. I mean no disrespect but Vaughan's slow blues is pure Albert King. After you have a listen to Stevie cop Albert, listen to Bloomfield's "Albert's Shuffle", then make up your own mind. I digress.

When it came to SACD, I focused primarily on George Lloyd's Cello Concerto [Troy 458] and Kevin Mahogany's Pride and Joy [Telarc SACD 63542]. My interest here was in cello string tone and the male voice. The real personal surprise came from various DVD-A discs including Warner Bros releases of Donald Fagen's The Nightfly [Warner Bros R9 78138], the Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead [R9 78356] and Beck's captivating Sea Change [DGC B0001840-19].

I want to focus on the features that matter most to me musically: Resolution, tone, timbre, coherence, naturalness and dynamics. There are a variety of audiophile attributes that mean a bit less to me but matter to others more and call for some attention: Soundstaging and perspective. At the end of the day, none of these things matter individually if I fail to connect emotionally to the music. If the music fails to connect, efforts to dissect aspects of the performance seem completely artificial.

Music played through the Exemplar connects emotionally. You don't experience music as something you are watching taking place in front of you. If you let it into your life, the Exemplar will tug at you and you will have a hard time letting go. But why would you want to? In my experience, resolution of detail on the Exemplar is second only to the Reimyo. However, I want to be careful here. I thought the resolution of detail on the VRS system eclipsed even what I heard on the Reimyo but I have not yet had the VRS in for long-term listening. Whatever the
ultimate rankings on the resolution scale, there's no denying that the Exemplar does a spectacularly good job of resolving detail and of presenting music in a completely appropriate way: Attack, leading edge, harmonic structure, decay - it's all there, with nothing truncated.