This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Sound Approach 1: Cyrus CD 8 SE + Heed Obelisk Si + Spendor SP1 + Chord 2 + Epic Twin + Gigawatt PF-1 + LC-1
The basic system was first. Its sound could be described as incredibly pleasing, noble, well aligned and condensed. I think I was able to find a good balance between the emotional and intellectual parts of the experience. The treble was slightly warm as was the upper midrange which prevented recordings from opening up fully (this could be heard best with Anderszewski’s piano at Carnegie Hall) but in my opinion was fully acceptable given the cost of the system; and utterly negligible compared to another aspect of that sound, namely the ability to play absolutely each and every disc without gnashing one’s teeth during lesser recordings.

Differences of recording quality were clear and the system wouldn't veil anything yet resolution did not dominate the sound. I can say from experience that such a compromise -- and like marriage, audio is about the art of compromise -- is well chosen. Breathtaking results are achievable even if we know the flaws of such a combination and how it could be improved. Again, the basic system sounded just like that. Old recordings from the Bethlehem label came across exceptionally well, especially Pat Mortan’s vocals on While At Birdland, with Frank Sinatra on Nice’N’Easy similarly immersive, big and palpable. It was incredibly pleasing to listen to my recordings in such a comfortable way. Although from a hifi perspective the sound had little in common with my reference system at ten times its cost, it was better than similarly priced systems I've heard at shows and presentations.

The flaws of this system are easy to detect not because they’re big but because we know from experience what can be improved. It’s mostly about the rolled-off treble which is not as finely elaborated as with for example equivalent Dynaudios; and the not fully expanded bass. The latter should have been expected taking into account the size of the speakers and that we deal with sealed boxes. But we shouldn’t fret since in small rooms, nothing will boom or drone. And in fact bass extension was not half bad as the Depeche Mode Sounds of The Universe showed where the saturated sounds of 70’s synthesizers came off in a really nice way. Simultaneously, the system won’t brighten the upper midrange so the recordings sound as they should without glassy vocals. Interestingly, this system is not low in resolution. It shows quite a lot from the discs. It simply refuses to interfere. Recordings with bright timbres, hardened outlines and such will profit most as those irritating elements are for the most part removed. One such discs containing really good music was 24 Hours by Tom Jones. Its main flaw is the massacred sound. The system did not worsen the poor timbre but accentuated the squashed dynamics. This would hurt after coming off good jazz recordings but could be tolerated here.

Approach 2, Cyrus PSR-X: For the second round, I attached the external power supply. It might be expected that one should begin upgrading the amplifier but for me the distortion from a source, especially a digital one, is the most annoying. The first recording in this configuration was J.S. Bach’s Partita No.2 in C minor from the Anderszewski disc. What a change! Even if you plan not to buy the Cyrus, you should listen to it with and without the external PSU just for the sake of it. It’s a fine player solo but after the upgrade, everything becomes clearer and resolution and sound scale improve. This last matter was most surprising because the interior of  Carnegie Hall became larger, the piano gained momentum and was shown closer up in a far more precise way. This did not help Jones in any way but the sound on other discs opened up, instruments gained in three-dimensionality and the soundstage grew bigger.

Approach 3, Heed Obelisk X-2: Adding the external PSU to the amplifier was a further important step towards the ideal sound but in a different way than the PSX-R addition to the player had accomplished. The sound became a lot more resolving and the soundstage widened. Equally important was that the amplifier began to handle the loudspeaker better, with transient attacks much better defined and precise. Definition is the best word to describe these changes. Even 24 Hours sounded better. Even though nothing could be squeezed from its pathetic dynamics and timbre, still the depth of the stage improved, making more sense of Jones’ music. So breath and resolution advanced whilst keeping the absolutely smooth midrange and treble intact.

Approach 4, Furutech: These cables added something to the sound as though all previous corrections were heightened by a turbo boost. These are splendid cables that cannot be ignored. They are incredibly resolving but also pearly in the best Japanese style where we have lots of details that serve the whole not as bits and pieces. I was most impressed by how the recordings grew with the Furutechs. Those cables showed big, almost natural sizes of instruments. And the voices! Sinatra became incredibly saturated yet resolution improved and nothing warmed over. The same happened with Depeche Mode where the voices of Gahan and Gore were shown beautifully with all their reverb. The Furutechs extracted the best from the components they were connected to. All changes thus far were important, desirable and worth their money but only cables like the Evolution gave a taste of the high end. But then I disconnected the external power supplies, leaving the cables connected and the magic disappeared. While these are splendid cables -- we will hear everything I described even with inexpensive components -- it will but be a faint reflection of what they can really do in an appropriate environment. But this wasn’t the end yet. Adding the power cords to the interconnect and loudspeaker cables became a sucker punch to the stomach, a knock out. I could not believe how well those small loudspeakers responded. The Spendors once again confirmed their exceptional status as did the electronics. The sound was big and the soundstage wide and deep without a trace of nervousness or brightness. Only the slight damping in the upper treble remained. It's something inherent to those loudspeakers but easily tolerated.

Final approach – Audience: Until now each change had brought immediate improvements and when I listened to the complete system equipped with the Furutech cords to the Julie London Round Midnight disc, I almost cried. The same happened with Sinatra. This sound surpassed my wildest expectations. It was complete and finished, slightly warm in a positive way, incredibly dynamic and thorough, with  strong bass (yes!). Changing the Gigawatt power strip (I recommend it wholeheartedly as an inexpensive but marvelous piece) to the Audience Adept aR12 was a leap forward but also a blind leap. The sound cleaned up immediately and the resolution of the system eclipsed others twice as costly. But at the same time the incredible harmony of the sound disappeared not because the aR12 stole anything but because it cleaned up all manner of distortion including – to some extent – the warmth which was a function of the Heed and Cyrus sound. This was a leap into the unknown but within the high end. Although we had a complete system absolutely worked out already, the Audience addition opened up completely new grounds. But that is a completely new story.

Conclusion: This is a phenomenal system I could easily live with. Small loudspeakers will never present the scale of sound, bass or dynamics as bigger ones but the Spendors worked miracles. Every dime spent on this system counts five times. The overall user interface was nice but a few things must be considered. The inputs cannot be switched and mute cannot be engaged from the remote. We’ll find the necessary buttons there but they are inactive. Handling discs with the Cyrus slot loader needs practice. From time to time as I pushed the disc in at the wrong moment, the player ejected it displaying an error. In time I learned the quirks but it took some time. And that’s it. The system also looks beautiful and only a certain roughness of the Heed stands out from the remainder. If I’d add anything, the next step would be a nice REL subwoofer (or two) and a turntable like the Thorens TD 309 or Clearaudio Concept which will fit stylistically and sonically. That would be a system for a lifetime, envied by mature and experienced audiophiles who are changing systems like socks, buying something new over and over again to never be satisfied while we shall enjoy forthcoming musical pearls of new recordings. That’s what I sincerely wish for us all.

opinia @