All of his existing products have been designed to specific price points but NOS intends to change all that. I figured that having Ted around would be a good way of tempering everyone's enthusiasm if things got a little out of hand. After all, not only were there no components (save Stealth cables) that Ted might have a rooting interest in, he is in fact involved in what will be a competitive venture. With the crew in place and the time and location determined, there was little else to do but get the system warmed up, run to the local specialty grocer and pick up some food for the boys (my mother taught me to always have something guests can 'nosh' on - but her suggestions were usually limited to coffee and cake). Oh yeah, I did owe it to my wife to warn her that this would be yet another Sunday with a group of (as my kids like to refer to them) 'Dad's Audio Geek friends'.

The first group of geeks -- Jeff, Jonathan and John -- arrived with John towing a large suitcase of the sort that invariably gets misidentified, lost or stolen at the airport. No soiled clothing or pairs of shoes in this one, however. We set up shop in the listening room. John opened the suitcase, removed the usual amount of protective Styrofoam and unearthed the VRS system deep within the suitcases' recesses. The rest of us looked on as John proceeded to remove a modestly sized chassis, a couple of 'accessories' including power cords and computer screen, a small keyboard and a device that would allow the monitor to be used as a remote. We removed the Reimyo CD player from the HRS rack and replaced it with the VRS. John proceeded to set up the system which took about fifteen minutes.

We connected the VRS to the Shindo Monbrison preamp via Stealth Indra interconnects and began the day using the same Harmonix Studio Master power cord that I had been using with the Reimyo. We were to learn that the VRS is like every true high-resolution component. If you put it in your system, you are going to have to make adjustments elsewhere to bring everything into proper balance. Every component requires work and the VRS was no different in this regard. On balance, though, it required very little work relative to other high-resolution components I have had in house. Inevitably, we would have to tweak the system to get the most out of the VRS - and in due course we did.

The VRS takes between thirty minutes to an hour to warm up so we spun some records on the Redpoint. In for review, the massive Redpoint is fitted with a Triplanar arm that belongs in a museum devoted to the industrial arts tracking the Ortofon SPU Royal N low-output moving coil cartridge. Everyone expected that the Redpoint would be a tough act for the VRS to follow. Worse, we are all basically analogue guys.

Jeff and Jonathan in particular are two of New York City's better known vinyl junkies and turntable experts. In addition to importing Horning Loudspeakers, Jeff sells Simon Yorke turntables. His loft space is furnished with a high-end espresso machine, some comfortable furniture, one hell of a lot of HighEnd audio gear and about 17K records – as in LPs. Jonathan has a collection of about 30 low-output moving coil cartridges, a dozen or so arms, imports the Shindo version of the legendary Garrard 301 and is considered among New York's master turntable setup guys and tweakers. He has a collection of early electric Blues on LP to die for. In fact, several people have died (of natural causes I assume) so that Jonathan could collect those records. Fact is, once the two of them turned their attention to locking in the proper setup of the Redpoint, I feared that we might never get back to the VRS. While the boys from the city were fixated on seeing what analogue magic they could wring from the Redpoint, John took the opportunity to rip a half dozen of my CDs onto the hard drive of the VRS.

Ten minutes later John pronounced the VRS ready for prime time. As luck would have it, Ted Lindblad entered just as the glorious voice of Luciano Pavarotti graced the listening room. You've got to hand it to folks whose sense of timing is that good. And let's not forget my wife who, upon learning how this day was going to progress, made a quick exit for the gym. She did come back briefly to announce the sound "simply amazing" which put a smile on everyone's face. Then she left again. Before we married, she had done modeling and acting so she has a good sense of timing. Truth is, she should be a politician. A saint she is already. We began listening in earnest with Luciano Pavarotti's "Il Gladiatore" from Ti Adoro, from off one of Srajan's compilation discs that are among the real perks of this job.

The sound was beautiful; full, rich and warm. It was enough for all to take notice. Ted whispered to me to ask whether we were listening to the Reimyo so similar in presentation did the two pieces appear to be at least on the Pavarotti cut. We then played a half-dozen cuts from various sources that were familiar especially to me and a few others familiar to everyone. Then we decided to take stock of the sound and get everyone's initial impressions.

My initial impression was favorable but I was more surprised than impressed. The sound at my place was nothing like what I'd heard at John's. It was much warmer and full-bodied but not quite as immediate or vivid. I asked John for his impression. John is an amazingly honest and modest guy, especially for someone representing a HighEnd audio niche product. He told me that he liked the sound better at my place but that he was not happy with the midbass which he declared to be a bit congested - neither to his liking nor what he was used to hearing from the VRS in general. The sound was a bit heavy and clogged up in the midbass; not typical for my system but I had no idea what to attribute it to.

All agreed and we made the first official audiophile tweak of the day. We substituted the Silent Source power cord that John had brought along and which is his reference, for the Harmonix Studio Master. Voilà. The entire system opened up. This was the first of many minor adjustments we made along the way and the one that had the biggest impact on the sound.

At the beginning of the day, only the VRS was connected to the Reimyo power line conditioner. By midday we removed it but kept the Reimyo connected into the same power line to take advantage of its passive QRT effect. We took some Harmonic Resolution damping plates off the Monbrison and eventually substituted a Stealth power cord for the Studio Master that had connected the Monbrison to the wall.

Basically, we substituted different power cords for my reference Harmonix Studio Masters and eliminated tuning devices elsewhere in the system. We took Harmonix tuning feet from under the Monbrison and placed them under the VRS. Removing the Studio Master and replacing it with the Silent Source increased inner detail, coherence and tonal balance. Placing Harmonix tuning feet under the VRS brought back some midbass warmth.
The point of all these changes was to find a proper balance with the VRS in place of the reference Reimyo. The net effect was startling, not all at once but over time as all the pieces came together in a musically convincing balance.

With the system fully set up, the sound from the VRS was a revelation. In a word, it was awesome. Having said that, I urge you to take this report in the spirit in which I am offering it. We spent one day, not three months with the VRS. We put some effort into finding the right equilibrium between it and the rest of the system. Frankly, that took very little effort compared to what is usually involved in rebalancing a super high-rez system once a new component is added. To its credit, the VRS was as resolving as every other component in the system. It revealed the effect of every change we made immediately. It was a joy to work with from that perspective alone.

That said and with the natural qualification that I am reporting on one day's listening, all agreed that the sound at my house that Sunday was the best anyone had heard in my digs. These folks are very familiar with the sound of my system. Much of it is constructed from their products. I completely agreed with the general view. Just a word on group listening. I used to do a lot of listening with a former friend whose tastes were different than mine but who had a lot of experience. Now most of the time I listen by myself. Still, I prefer to listen with others whose judgments I trust and whose experience equals or exceeds my own.

I also like having other hands in the mix. High resolution systems are incredibly revealing and can be extremely frustrating. Change one component and the whole thing can go out of balance. I like it when there are lots of folks with system setup experience who have good ideas about how we might put everything back in order. In this case, Jeff and I have experience in music. Jeff has about eight million tweaks at his place; Jonathan is a master of system setup and Ted and John are savvy and sophisticated listeners. Being a reviewer does not elevate one to an exalted status of incorrigible taste and judgment. I like to listen to what other people hear. The common review practice in Japan (and apparently in Finland as well) is for reviewers to listen as a group in the same listening environment. It's not an option here in the States but I try to replicate it as best I can whenever I can.