While the backdrop was pleasantly quiet, it wasn’t what I would call a jet-black or overdamped acoustic. It was more of a charged live venue where I could almost sense musicians leaning into their instruments or hear the slight inhale of a vocalist before singing. Put another way, I felt a heightened sense of anticipation much as one experiences in a concert setting. Though leaning ever so slightly to the warm side of neutral, I never doubted that the Grand Illusions were telling the truth. There was no smearing or truncation of detail. All was revealed without bludgeoning me into submission with an assault of goosed-up artificial detail or jamming ice picks into my ears. The Grand Illusions were supremely non-fatiguing.


There was ample deep bass, plenty of air and sparkle, a deep wide and well layered soundstage and excellent organic image focus rather than the phony etched-in-stone kind that passes for exceptional in some circles. Violinist Linus Roth’s tone was gorgeous as was his playing on a terrific Challenge Classics recording of violin concertos by Benjamin Britten and a composer up to now unknown to me, Mieczyslaw Weinberg. I hear shades of Shostakovich but also a distinct voice with beauty, tenderness and humour - no small thing considering how Weinberg lost most of his family to the Nazis and Stalin. This native DSD set is a model of transparency and resolution where the Verastarr cables made for a terrifically compelling performance correct in timing and timbre. Roth’s string sound had real substance and texture. Every note was clear, unambiguous and human. There was nothing edgy or overly sharp about the sound.


The rest of the orchestra was set naturally within a spacious acoustic. With the Grand Illusions in the mix, I thought this exceptionally well recorded and performed album perfectly showcased Verastarr’s excellence in portraying dynamics, nuance and touch. I am hopeful that the good folks at NativeDSD will soon offer the DSD version of Roth’s superlative Wartime Consolations, featuring music of K.A. Hartmann, Weinberg and Shostakovich. The 16/44.1 sounds pretty darn good over Tidal but like the Britten/Weinberg recording, I have no doubt that the DSD version will be miles ahead in sound quality.


All in all, dynamics were what stood out most to me by far. The Grand Illusions were not in the least what I would call a laid-back cable line. Quite often I found myself leaning forward on the edge of my seat instead. These snakes are for those who want to feel the music rather than just hear it. As I have stated previously, I generally loathe comparisons. I just don’t see the point. When I read reviews, I only want to know how music sounds through what’s being reviewed. Side-by-side comparisons don’t tell me much of anything useful and generally force me to think in terms of a sonic laundry list rather than degrees of musical enjoyment. Having said that, I recognize how most folks disagree so here goes.