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

For this review I also received two pairs of interconnects – the Signature at 1.599 Polish for 1 m and the Velocity for 999. Their design is based on ready-made cable selected after careful listening with a proprietary soldering method and terminated with excellent Neutrik RCA with a retracting ground connection. Mr. Wyroba strongly prefers solid-core or alternately Litz wire for shielded line-level use. He also brought a power cord of his own design which I used to power the review loaner.

Sound. A selection of recordings used during auditions: A Day at Jazz Spot 'Basie'. Selected by Shoji "Swifty" Sugawara, Stereo Sound Reference Record, SSRR6-7, SACD/CD (2011); Audiofeels, Uncovered, Penguin Records, 5865033, CD (2009); Depeche Mode, A broken Frame, Mute Records Limited, DMCD2, Collectors Edition, SACD/CD+DVD (1982/2006); Depeche Mode, Ultra, Mute Records Limited, DMCDX9, CD+DVD (1997/2007); Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Ella and Louis, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM UHD 045, UltraHD CD (1956/2011); Enya, Shepherd Moons, Warner Music UK/Warner Music [Japan], WPCR-13299, SHM-CD (2009); J.S Bach, Three Sonatas for Violoncello and Harpsichord, Janos Starker & Zuzanna Růzičkova, Denon, COCO-70745, "Crest 1000", CD (2004); Jean Michel Jarré, Magnetic Fields, Dreyfus Disques/Epic/Sony Music, 488138 2, CD (1981/1997); Johann Sebastian Bach, Bach. Toccata and Fugue, Leopold Stokowski & His Symphony Orchestra, EMI Classic, TOCE-91077, "Best 100 Premium", HQCD (1960/2010); Johann Sebastian Bach, Cello Suites, Richard Tunnicliffe, Linn Records, CKD 396, SACD/CD (2012); Johann Sebastian Bach, Partitas, Preludes & Fugues, Glen Gould, Sony Classical, SM2K 52 597, "The Glen Gould Edition", 2 x SBM CD, (1993); Józef Skrzek, "Pamiętnik Karoliny", Polskie Nagrania/Metal Mind Productions, MMP CD 0535 DG, CD (1978/2009); King Crimson, In The Court of the Crimson King, Atlantic/Universal Music [Japan], UICE-9051, HDCD (1969/2004); Komeda Quintet, Astigmatic, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 905, "Polish Jazz Vol. 5", CD (1966/2004); Kraftwerk, Minimum-Maximum, Kling-Klang Produkt/EMI, 3349962, 2 x SACD/CD (2005); Ludwig van Beethoven, Overtures, Sir Colin Davis, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Sony Music Direct (Japan) TDGD-90013, "Esoteric 20th Anniversary", SACD/CD (1986/2007); Me Myself And I, Takadum! Met Remixes, Creative Music, 001, 2 x CD (2012); Portishead, Dummy, Go! Discs Limited/Universal Music [Japan], UICY-20164, SHM-CD (1994/2011); The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Parlophone/Apple/Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-51116, CD (1965/1998); The Eagles, Hotel California, Asylum Records/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-11936, CD (1976/2004).

The Sennheiser HD800 are my primary headphones. Together with the modified Leben CS-300 XS they make a pairing that has yet to be beaten. Other headphones I have or heard have their own advantages and I cannot reject the clarity and bass of HiFiMan’s HE-6 and HE-500, the creamy midrange of the AKG K701 or the extraordinary selectiveness of the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro and DT-770 Pro Limited Edition 32Ω. In my opinion however nothing brings it all together as well as the Sennheiser HD800. The headphones of course are only one side of the equation. The headphone amplifier is equally important. And to be honest here I have not yet heard anything better than the Leben. Horribly expensive after all the modifications plus platforms and spacers (ca. 20.000 Polish), with an expensive power cord it is simply the best headphone amplifier I have heard. Whilst with headphones a few others have shown possible areas for improvement in the Sennheisers, no amplifier has offered anything above the Leben except for mains hum which can be irritating when the Japanese is paired with high-impedance headphones and which should not be there.

The Sonic Pearl was the first amplifier to clarify two areas where the Leben can be improved – purity of treble and transients. These two elements alone set the Polish amplifier apart and elevated it to a position where it stands heads and shoulders above the rest. For even though it is not perfect and has its own sonic character; even though in the end I still preferred my Leben… for about one third its cost here we get something that will guarantee very comfortable listening indeed.

Sonic Pearl + Sennheiser HD800. From the first moment I heard what was later only reinforced and confirmed by subsequent recordings – pureness of treble, unprecedented attacks and an excellent smooth upper midrange. Never before, perhaps only in the most expensive speaker systems, have I heard such good piano. It is a notoriously difficult instrument and challenging to interpret by the sound engineers. Each piano recording actually is an interpretation of what is heard live. Choosing a more direct sound with fewer reflections, how we set the balance between left and right hand, overall perspective etc. are just a few of the choices the recording engineer has to make. The Sonic Pearl interprets recordings in its own way. It shows the instrument in fairly close-up perspective as though we were sitting about 3-4 meters in front of its opened lid. I heard limited sonic reflections regardless of which recording I chose. String attacks, the essence of the piano’s sonic color and its expression all were fantastic.

They say that listening to a good new piece of audio gear has us discover something not heard before. It’s true although in my case more and more rarely so. Not that I have heard it all—I hope to discover new things for the rest of my life—but I no longer find these discoveries particularly moving. Perhaps I’m getting jaded. Even so the Sonic Pearl for a moment gave me that thrill of excitement so I let it take me on a journey.