|Still in the process of setting up and settling in here at Coral Bay, I don't expect my land line to ring. At all. Yet. But ring it did the other day, with who but our own Edward Barker on the other end to applaud my return to the old country. In fact -- and quite natural as part of the web-based association that links all of 6moons' writers -- Edward and I had never yet spoken to one another. It was great fun to finally put a voice to the man's mug that's in our bio gallery of Wanted posters.
After all manner of cultural and audiophile give'n'take, the discussion descended on Edward's latest obsession. It's called Kondofication. Apparently, the Living Voice chaps in the UK where Edward's Avatar OBX speakers are made have outfitted their current reference system with all Kondo gear. So demolished has this rig our poor writer that he's since set heaven and hell in motion to go deeply into hock and duplicate it to the best of his abilities.
We commiserated on our shared sentiments that much of the super-expensive systems demo'd at shows or stores fail to get it and do it. Alas and for all its precarious positioning at the very precipice of bleeding-edge pricing, Edward feels that this Kondo rig not only justifies itself but plainly operates in a different league from anything else he's ever heard before.
Here's where it gets interesting. With three tables and a wily assortment of arms and carts, Edward is as dyed-in-the-wool a vinylista as we've got on staff. When asked what this mythical melange of components uses for a source, he retorted without blinking, "a Resolution Audio Opus 21. I'd sell off my entire vinyl collection and all turntable-related kit to get that system into my den."
I've reviewed the Opus 21. It's a brilliant $3,500 CD player, probably one of the finest below $10,000. I doubt, however, that most vinylphiles would give it a fighting chance against a $3,500 turntable, never mind the kind of tables Edward hogs. But clearly, not only did the sanely priced Opus machine not compromise how completely that system swiped our man off his feet, it conspired -- in conjunction with those esoteric Kondo electronics -- to venture where none had ventured before. And mind you, this was two 'philes talking off the record, heart to heart about what really matters. To us. Personally. Uncensored, unedited and unabashed
That's the point of this anecdote. Digital has finally arrived. When done right -- i.e. perfectly integrated with what's downstream of it -- it no longer telegraphs the kind of limitations which diehard vinyl lovers simply cannot overlook to truly enjoy. More and more credible reviewers with real vinyl experience go on record to this effect. And as today's example suggests, it needn't even be Zanden-level cost-no-object stuff if what follows the source component complements it just so to deliver the magic at the ear. Frankly, I'd never expected this revelation from our own Edward. And had I not moved into his time zone and vicinity -- London and Cyprus are a 4.5 hour direct flight apart -- I'd probably never heard of it. The way it came about wasn't anything that e-mail lends itself to.
And it's not like I'm outing Edward now. He didn't diss vinyl. He simply stated that to get the sound he experienced at Living Voice Central, he'd gladly relinquish the vinyl library he's lovingly built up over the decades. That's a mighty powerful statement to make, not just about the general suitability of the Opus 21 but the uncommon attributes the new Kondo gear seems endowed with. And let's not forget those two-way Avatars which are about as far a cry from US or Scandinavian-style reference monstrosities as imaginable. In fact, they're downright homely compared even to Edward's own former flames, the Mårten Design Coltrane Altos with their ceramic drivers and Carbon fiber chassis. Needless to say, a visit to Living Voice's reference rig is now on the books for yours truly, with Edward the volunteer resident tour guide once I make tracks to the UK for a bit of audiophile fun & games. It's all about keeping an open mind and practicing curiosity and a passionate pursuit of that which moves us. Life's too short for anything else. In the end, it's not about being right but having fun. That ain't mutually interchangeable from both directions though having fun is right (yet being right needn't be fun by any stretch)...