MMThree Review – Fernando Andrette – Audio Video Magazine
Best Sound at T.H.E. Show 2011 – Jeff Dorgay – Tone Audio
Somewhere between the odds and ends at T.H.E. Show, just down the street from the Venetian, where CES is featuring most of the high performance audio, there is a beacon of light. Well, sound, actually.
Should you be attending T.H.E. Show, do not miss the Blue Light Audio exhibit in Room 4044. Jonathan Tinn is has a stellar exhibit, that is by far the best sound at the show.
On display is his new Wave Kinetics reference direct drive turntable with a Durand tonearm and the Ortofon MC A-90 cartridge, the Playback Designs MPS-3 player darTZeel amplification and the amazing Evolution Acoustics MMMicroOne speakers.
The most amazing thing is that this six figure reference system is driving a $2,000 pair of speakers (not a typo) and the combination is fantastic. With solid bass down to 35hz, these small but stylish speakers threw a huge soundstage, with a tonality so realistic, you’d be hard pressed not to think you were listening to at least a $10-15,000 pair of speakers.
CES 2011 – Clement Perry – Stereo Times
Of all the great sound heard at this year’s CES few could equal the amazement that overcame me once I heard the Evolution Acoustics Micro One mini Loudspeakers ($2k/pr). It is expected of any manufacturer to design a big or expensive loudspeaker to sound good. It’s far more impressive to make a little loudspeaker sound big and expensive. I expect to read and hear lots about this attractive and affordable miniature marvel.
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2010 – This is a Dogma- Free Zone by Miles B. Astor
My first encounter with the Evolution Acoustics speaker line came earlier this year at CES and Jonathan Tinn followed up at RMAF with the debut of the new Evolution MMMiniOne/Two (15K without subwoofer and 27K with subwoofer). Belying its appearance, the MMMiniOne is actually a 2-way bookshelf (a 5-inch ribbon tweeter coupled to 7-inch ceramic midbass driver) integrated into its own high mass stand. Thanks to its modular construction, the MMMiniOne speakers can be upgraded with the addition of the MMMiniSub woofer; to my ears, I much preferred the sound of the MMMiniOne plus subs. The subs added a far more substantial foundation to the music as well as more dimensionality and midrange presence.
Some people might accuse Tinn and company of stacking the deck by bringing along either a modded Studer 810 reel-to-reel machine to playback 15-ips/2-track tapes or a $15,000 Playback Designs MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD player with 24/192 input (the PD was hands down and by light years, the best sounding digital front-end I heard at the show—and unlike the others actually did justice to the music) and a $2500 Music Servers Direct MSD-1 Reference music Server ($2500) to playback high-rez digital files. On the other hand, these sources allowed Tinn to demonstrate the system’s resolution, frequency response and musicality.
And did they ever! The highlight of this year’s RMAF was the simply jaw dropping sound of second generation, 15-ips tape copies of two of my favorite LPs: the first was Solti performing Glinka’s “Russian and Romantic: Overture” from Romantic Russia (original Decca release SXL 6263) and the other, Oscar Peterson’s “You Look Good to Me” from We Get Requests. Neither LPs ever sounded like this! On the Glinka, the low end extension, string delicacy and sense of space, a Kenneth Wilkinson’s trademark, was beyond spooky. On We Get Requests, Ray Brown’s bass was incredibly solid and powerful. It ws almost as if Brown was there in the room. Peterson’s piano never sounded more wooden. The digital was no slouch either though not up the quality of the 15 ips tape playback. Bruce Brown of Puget Sound Studios played some outstanding high-rez digital files from audiophile favorites such as the Muddy Waters “Good Morning Little School Girl” track from Folk Singer. (Muddy Waters as well as Buddy Guy were remastered for Winston Ma’s FIM label and HDtracks.) Of course, all this did is give me a Jones for the original tapes!
Tasked with the job of playing back the front-end sources were the new and the Dartzeel CTH-8550 250 wpc integrated amplifier with phono stage ($20,300), assorted cables from Dartzeel and resonance control footers from Wave Kinetics.
CES / THE Show 2010 – Finishing with Evolution and darTZeel by Jason Victor Serinus – Stereophile Magazine
As John Atkinson and I entered the room at THE Show in which darTZeel electronics partnered Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers, I was immediately struck by the fullness of the midrange. It was as though the system was opening its heart and welcoming us in. That’s how warm and nurturing the sound was.
What was especially wonderful was that this system was about far more than midrange. From a very open, clear and realistic top all way down, the darTZeel/Evolution Acoustics system sang true. And beautifully. Very, very beautifully.
First we listened to a favorite audiophile demo, tenor José Carreras singing an excerpt from Ariel Ramirez’s Misa Criolla. The air around voices and instruments was as wondrous as the clarity of playback.
Then came something very, very special. But first, a description of the system.
This not exactly bargain-priced system consisted of darTZeel’s new NHB-458 monoblocks, whose 1000Wpc will set you back a mere $135,000/pair, and the darTZeel NHB-18 NS reference preamplifier with MC phono section ($29,000). Speakers were the brand-new, just introduced Evolution Acoustics MMtwo loudspeakers ($35,000/pair). Weighing 375 lbs each, these gorgeous babies claim a frequency response of 10Hz–40kHz ±3dB, and a sensitivity of 93dB. They also sound marvelous.
The rest of the system comprised Evolution Acoustics’ DRSC speaker cables ($5000/pair), the LINK-Reference 50 ohm BNC–BNC interconnect ($6000), and PC2One power conditioning power cord ($2000). Playback was from either a Playback Systems MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD player with 24/192 input ($15,000), or the world-premiered Music Servers Direct MSD-1 Reference Music Server ($1995) controlled by an Apple iPod Touch. Other goodies included the Audience
Adept Response aR6-T power conditioner ($4600).
Yes, it was an expensive room, filled with equipment I cannot possibly afford. But it’s not about me, John, or Stereophile; it’s about the music that gives us joy, and the equipment that brings it to us in all its glory.
After the Carreras track, Jonathan Tinn of Evolution Acoustics began telling John how much he loved listening to a track from one of John’s recordings, Cantus’ While You Are Alive. (Stereophile’s newest reviewer, long-time audiophile Erick Lichte, was Music Director of Cantus at the time of the recording and produced the CD). As the conversation grew more animated, I quietly mentioned that I just happened to have the CD with me.
I cannot begin to tell you how it felt to enjoy John’s energy as he immersed himself in two tracks from one his finest recordings. What I can tell you was that the sound was little short of heavenly.
On that high, I bid adieu to THE Show and CES 2010. If John, in his talk earlier in the afternoon, both acknowledged the bad year that has past and the good year that he expects to unfold, the Evolution Acoustics/darTZeel demo confirmed that 2011 has the potential to launch a very full, rewarding, and musical decade. With sound like theirs, the admittedly struggling high end gives indications that it is indeed alive and well.
CES / THE Show 2010 – Best Sound at Show by James Darby – Stereomojo
“There’s no denying that this is an expensive system. We almost passed it by altogether. It was the last room we ventured into just a few minutes before the show officially closed.
We had heard darTzeel components before. We knew they were megabuck icons, not something we’d ever review. And we’d certainly never heard of Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers. Probably just another overpriced speaker system. A couple of ceramic drivers and nice enough lacquered cabinets, but nothing special compared to all the monstrosities we’d seen that weekend and at countless shows before. Not surprisingly, this system was heard at The Home Entertainment Show, not CES. Things just seem to be better at THE Show. Only real hardcore music and audio lovers venture there, not the teaming hoards that populate the massive Consumer show.
The moment we entered the room though, we knew there was something special going on. The room was crowded with several people standing outside the door, peering in as if something cool was happening. When they saw our Stereomojo badges, they eventually ushered Darby to the center chair.
Usually when you go into a megabuck room such as this ( Kondo in particular), you’d think you were at the last green at the Master’s Tournament waiting for the final putt. There’s a hushed reverence. Eerie. Not here. Everyone was so relaxed and jovial, like they had all just smoked some very happy weed. The room’s hosts were playing a selection from Reference Recording’s “Tutti” disk, one we know very well. Though we had heard that track thousands of times before, we had never heard it like THIS!
We’re not even going to try to describe the sound. All we can say is that this was not just the best sound at this show, it was the best sound at ANY show we’ve EVER heard. In fact, we can state that it’s the best stereo reproduction we have ever heard…period. And that friends, is saying a lot.
Yes, the darTzeel amps (NHB-458 monoblocks, whose 1000Wpc cost $135,000, but that’s a pair – not each…ahem), and preamp (NHB-18 NS – $29,000 – but it includes a phono stage…gasp) together cost around $300,000. Cables by Evolution as well and all the other ancillary gear probably added quite a bit more. The Playback Systems MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD costs another $15,000.
However, the Evolution Acoustics model MMtwo speakers were not anywhere close to those numbers, or close to any of the megalithic (we made that one up, too) speakers we saw. The Evolutions weigh 375 pounds (!) and sell for only $35,000 per pair. The “only” is in contrast to all the other six-figure speakers at the show.
They are 53″ tall, 18′” wide and 30″ deep. The tweeter is a 5 inch aluminum ribbon between two 7″ ceramic midranges and one 15″ treated paper cone for the woofer. Frequency response, according to the literature, is 10Hz-40kHz and that’s +/- 3 dB.
At -6 dB. they go all the way down to an unheard of 7 Hz. They claim that impedance is 7 ohms and only deviates by +/- 2 ohms, so no wide swings. Sensitivity is a very high 93 dB. They are phase and time aligned. Woofers and tweeters are user adjustable. An internal amplifier for the low end is rated at 600 watts RMS. Max power handling is 400 watts. Minimum watts, they say, is 5 watts. Hard to believe. But if those watts are only driving the 93 dB sensitive mids and tweeters, maybe so.
As big as those speakers were and crammed into a small room, when the music started they utterly disappeared. Linda said they sounded just as good to her and she was seated next to the left wall, way off axis. For the first and only time at this year’s show, we listened to the entire Stereomojo Ultimate Evaluation Disk. As every track played, we were mesmerized. We have heard each of those tracks thousands of times, but in this room it was if we’d heard them for the first time. No, there wasn’t any new sounds or noises we’ve never heard before, but what we did hear was simply….Wow! And it was not the amount of sound we heard, they weren’t blaring, it was utter realism of the voices and music. Herve Delatraz of darTzeel commented on what a great demo disk it was. The music wafting from that system was better than most live concerts. Publisher James Darby was heard to say to Evolution Acoustics’ Jonathan Tinn, “This is the only system I would PAY to hear”.
Usually we go home and cogitate on our Best of Show Awards, but this experience was so compelling that we told Jonathan Tinn that he and darTzeel had just won our overall Best Sound at Show Award for 2010.
CES / T.H.E. SHOW 2010 – Select CES Show Stoppers – The Best of the Best by Myles Astor
Blue Light Audio – No K-Mart Blue Light Specials in aisle 8 were found in this room! What was present in the room was arguably the best sound at The Show and the CES show, especially considering the size of the hotel room. Jonathan Tinn and company unveiled several new products at The Show including the supersized, (who says big, much less solid-state amplifiers can’t sound good; I certainly won’t anymore!), 1 kW/channel Dartzeel NHB-458 monoblock amplifiers Reference priced at a hefty 135K ($135/watt). Music was played through the exquisite looking, not to mention sounding, $35,000 Evolution MM Two Loudspeakers (maximum musicality). The MM2s are nearly identical to their bigger brothers, the Evolution 3, save for the top woofer. Finished in a stacked Baltic birch wood, the inside of the MM2s cabinet varies from three to six inches thick and is internally damped to reduce standing waves. The woofers are powered by amplifiers rated at 600 watt/channel compared to 1200 for its bigger brother.
Another component in the Blue Light Audio product whose sound took me totally by surprise was the Steve Dobbins modified Technics SP10 direct drive turntable outfitted with the Reed tonearm from Eastern Europe and the fancy new $4200 Ortofon A9 cartridge. Don’t, expect, however, to pick a used Technics for a song on eBay; the last Technics SP10 went for the tidy sum of $9000. Despite the speakers being situated in a relatively small room (actually the amount of equipment jammed into the room may have made the room seem smaller than it actually was) that preventing the system from breathing, the piano was rich, drums were tight, controlled and very dynamic and percussion instruments didn’t break up. Another table displayed but not playing in the Blue Light room that deserves further investigation is the Kodo Audio “The Beat” Reference table (a modified Garrard 301 turntable) equipped with the Reed tonearm.
CES 2010 – Las Vegas All Over Again (Why ?) by Jim Merod – Positive Feedback Online
“Jonathan Tinn found a way to bring Evolution Acoustics’ $35,000 “MM Seven” speakers into play with the gloriously expensive darTZeel $125,000 monoblock amplifiers. The result was utterly compelling—in fact, spooky real sound that essentially “recreated” the soundstage dimensions and ambient vibe of New York’s famous Birdland, where I recorded Chico O’Farrill’s 18-piece Afro-Cuban Orchestra.
This system was so utterly real in its offering of what actually occurred on John Valenti’s magnificent jazz club’s stage that I found myself literally unable to avoid return trips to Jonathan Tinn’s musical universe. Three days in a row I wandered in, hopeful that the exotically appointed front row middle seat was unoccupied. Over and over I recommended, to all I knew within the span of those three days that a visit to that uniquely engaging sonic set up was imperative.”
CES / T.H.E. Show 2010 – Best of Sound by Dave Thomas – Stereo Times
“The best sound at T.H.E. Show came from the darTZeel electronics and Evolution Acoustics room. Just like seemingly everything else at the shows this year, the components in this room were drop-dead gorgeous but monstrously expensive. But darTZeel was also one of the few companies to demonstrate that their gear was actually worth every penny. The system featured the new 1,000 Wpc NHB-458 monoblocks ($135,000/pr), and NHB-18 NS reference preamplifier ($29,000). But the speakers in this system are what struck me the most. They were the new Evolution Acoustics MMtwo. These breathtakingly beautiful 375 lb monsters, had every right to claim a six figure price tag compared to most of the speakers I saw that cost that much. But priced at only(?!) $35,000/pr, they would have to qualify as a definite bargain. They feature two 7” ceramic midrange drivers, one 5” ribbon tweeter, and a 15” treated paper woofer. They have a frequency response of 10Hz–40kHz and are 93dB efficient. They also have one of the most beautiful finishes I’ve seen on a pair of big speakers in quite a while. Oh, I forgot to mention the most important part, they sound fantastic.
The system was fronted by the Playback Systems MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD player ($15,000) and the Music Servers Direct MSD-1 Reference Music Server ($1995). Evolution Acoustics cabling was used throughout and an Audience Adept Response aR6-T ($4,600) provided the power conditioning.”
CES / THE Show 2010 – T.H.E. Show of Shows by Robert H. Levy – Positive Feedback
“I then raced to the Blue Light Audio suite where Jonathan Tinn, Mr. Playback Designs, was presenting a knock your socks off system sonic show. Powered by the darTZeel Swiss made NHB-458 monoblocks, $135k and 1000 watts per channel, the Evolution Acoustics MM Two loudspeakers were amazing. With gorgeous fit and finish, they sported top notch Acuton drivers and more. They sell for only $35k per pair, but look and sound like they should cost double that! Also used was the NHB-18NS preamp with phono section selling for $29k. If the Playback CD was not good enough for you, they had the new Ortofon A-90 MC at $4.2k playing as well. All was hooked up with Audience AR6-T Power Conditioning at $4.6k. WOW! What a sound! This was sonically best of show by a very wide margin. Was it the amps? Was it the speakers? Who knows or cares? The end result was an ‘alive with in the room’ performance quality sound. “
CES / THE Show 2010 – by Dean Seislove – Positive Feedback
On the other hand… there were the empress’ dowery (or credit line, anyway) products. As I’ve said before, superb materials, engineering, and innovation don’t come cheap. How cheap and how superb is a matter of perspective, but there’s no way of escaping the bitter truth that the rooms that absolutely stun you with an unbelievable level of detail, range, and musicality will set you back 50 large, minimum. I rarely have fifty little, maximum, but that shouldn’t stop me from barging in the queue to listen at the feet of the gods, and it didn’t. I loved the darTZeel NHB-458 monoblocks/Evolution Acoustics MM2 speaker pairing—this is how I’d spend my two hundred thousand (including Kubala-Sosna cables, a Playback Design Music Playback System 5, a really comfy armchair, and an even comfier investment portfolio).
CES / THE Show 2010 – by Greg Weaver – The Audio Analyst
This year, Portland area Blue Light Audio owner, fellow New Yorker and good-friend Jonathan “Vin” Tinn (sorry, Jonathan, I had to!), was showing a number of world premier products. Hervé Delétraz and Serge Roche of Switzerland’s darTZeel were rightfully proudly showing off the completed-just-in-time-to-ship NHB-458 mono amplifiers ($135,000), while Music Server Direct’s new MSD-1 Reference Music Server ($1995), controllable with your iPhone or iPod touch, made its initial showing as well.
Optical playback came from the Playback Designs MPS-5 Reference SACD/CD Player ($15,000) or the brand new MSD-1 Reference Music Server ($1995). Vinyl was decoded by the Kono Audio “The Beat” turntable with Reed Tonearm ($24,000), fitted with, once again, the Ortofon A90 cartridge ($4200). The darTZeel NHB-18 NS preamp (with MC phono stage) handled source selection, and power conditioning was handled by the superb Audience adeptResponse 6-T ($4600)
Evolution Acoustics Kevin Malmgren’s choice for the room was his wonderful MMTwo ($35,000/pr). All his loudspeakers are designed, engineered, and handcrafted in the US. Inside, you will find only the finest parts, including reference grade film and foil capacitors, Goertz high purity copper foil inductors, Mills ultra high current 1% tolerance wire wound resistors, and Teflon insulated solid core copper wiring. Further, all parts are hand matched and soldered point to point in constant voltage crossover circuits.
The MMTwo centers a 5″ Aluminum ribbon high frequency driver between two 7″ Ceramic midranges, one above and one below. This array then sits atop a single 15″ treated paper woofer. All drivers mount on a 2′ thick baffle, are time, and phase aligned in a beautifully finished 53″ tall by 18″ wide by 30″ deep cabinet. With a 7 Ω nominal impedance, a 93dB efficiency, and weighing in at about 375 pounds, they are a very impressive sight.
Just one look at the new darTZeel NHB-458 monos and you know you are in for something special. These 450-watt monos are truly magical. I’m sorry that I don’t have more details on them at this time, but as new as they are, there is nothing available on their web site yet, and I didn’t harvest any details on them while I was listening—it was just too much fun to bother.
This room had it all; top to bottom extension and coherence, macro- and microdynamic prowess, midrange purity, eerie resolve, effortless and enormous space, and an inescapable sense of involvement. The alarming system transparency and resolve were well complimented with just the slightest dollop of sweetness. It seems clear to me that these new darTZeel monos have truly achieved the bloom and involvement of the best of the “toob” camp, while maintaining the utter authority, dynamic prowess, control, and slam of the best that the solid-state entrants have to offer. This room easily belongs near the top of my list of the best six systems at this year’s event.
CES / T.H.E. Show 2010 – by Fred Crowder – Dagogo
“Of the many systems which I heard at the show, this is one of the very few that I would consider owning exactly as it was set up. Jonathan Tinn is closely associated with each of these products and assembled a system that was clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Every component represented something very special from a musical perspective.
The Evolution Acoustics MMTwo speakers, while not their most expensive, were ideally suited to the room size and truly full-range. The powered bass driver integrated seamlessly with the ceramic midrange and the ribbon tweeter. The ability to separately adjust the level of each driver also helped minimize detrimental room interactions. I am not usually fond of ribbon tweeters or ceramic drivers; however, any resonances that might mar the sonics of these drivers were carefully controlled and inaudible. Imaging was excellent, as were dynamics and tonal balance. The preamp was the Dartzeel NHB- 18NS; the amp their new flagship NHB-458 monoblocks. Both were beautifully designed and constructed. Digital was provided by the Playback Designs MPS-5. Analog was handled by a 30-year-old Technics SP10 which had been totally and lovingly rebuilt by Steve Dobbins, who replaced all caps and diodes, and rebuilt the motor bearing. It might be more accurate to say that Steve scavenged selected parts from the SP10 but built much of the table himself. The SP10 was mounted in a custom plinth also provided by Dobbins. The arm was a Reed equipped with an Ortofon MC A90 moving coil cartridge. The Reed has a number of unusual design features such as the use of an ebony arm wand and a laser to set VTA.
The sound of the combination was stunning. The best way to describe the sound of this system would be to think of the sound of Quad 57′s partnered with tube electronics but with real bass, extension at the top, dynamics and clarity. The sound was sweet and extended but with excellent slam. The re-issue of Bring in the Clowns by Classic Records was stunning! Male voice was rich, sonorous and harmonically right. Transients and low-level detail were also excellent. I liked this system so well that I requested review samples of the Playback Designs, the Dartzeel mono amps and a new and better ground up turntable effort by Steve Dobbins (the Beat).”
CES / T.H.E. Show 2010: by Danny Kaey – HiFi Statement
“Dartzeel’s newest mono blocks, custom built to order – at $135k, I don’t foresee any dealer stocking these like you would an iPod. Alas, amazing sound, probably among the handful of best sounding rooms at the show, running Jonathan Tinn’s amazing Evolution Acoustics MMTwo loudspeakers. Absolutely life-like imaging and 3D sound with those speakers!”
CES / THE Show 2009 – Blue Light Special by Wes Phillips – Stereophile Magazine
“It was jaw-droppingly real. “
CES / THE Show 2009 by Dennis Parham – Stereo Times
The Evolution acoustics room, whose products are engineered and hand crafted in the USA, demonstrated synergy between their Mini Two loudspeaker ($40k), darTZeel 250 watt integrated amplifier ($22k) and Playback Designs SACD / CD player ($15k). For me, the sound was natural sounding and inviting with plenty of harmonic rightness. A definite candidate for best sound.
CES / THE Show 2009 by The Groove
I’m visiting the Las Vegas high-end show for the first time and sitting in the sweet spot in this room was as heavenly as 2-channel music reproduction gets. No other room at the show (the Venetian included) had such a level of top-to-bottom balance, scary dynamics, pure realism and sheer palpability of voices, instruments, live recordings were REAL … and they weren’t even playing vinyl! I would say the absolute best matching of components and perfectly setup. Now, those prototype DartZeel monoblocks … my brain is still trying to comprehend how it is possible to sound SOOOO good, sound from another planet, sound for the Gods! Everyone in the room was shaking their head in disbelief! Most amazing indeed. Nothing compares.
CES / THE Show 2009 – Fred Crowder – Dagogo Magazine
Jonathan Tinn was again showing at the Alexis Park and definitely hit a homerun with the Playback Designs Player, the new Dartzeel integrated amp and the new, smaller version of his speakers with powered subwoofers. The integration between the drivers was absolutely seamless and the speakers were ideally sized for the room. Tinn had also used a fair amount of acoustic treatment on the walls. The sound was absolutely stunning. Space and depth were superb. Jonathan was showing prototypes of the new Dartzeel monoblocks, which are rumored to be something very special.
CES 2008 – Another One from the Road (or, 41 @ 52), Page 2 by Greg Weaver
“Two industry members I’ve known for years now, Jonathan Tinn, of Blue Light Audio, and Kevin Malmgren, former Vice President of Engineering at Von Schweikert Audio, have teamed up to create Evolution Acoustics.
Evolution Acoustics teamed with Switzerland’s darTZeel electronics to pull off one of, if not the very best, sounding room I heard this year.
Showing in a smallish room at the Alexis Park, they managed to put together one of, if not the, best sounding rooms at the 2008 event. Kevin said that he had worked some ten months to develop the Evolution Acoustics flagship MM three. With a projected retail of $70,000 (show specials of $38,000), the MM three is a visually arresting design, with sweeping sides and a satin finish that photos just can’t do justice.
The MM three is a three way design using a 5″ aluminum ribbon tweeter centered on the front sweeping face, two 7″ ceramic mids immediately above and below on wider swept back portions, and two 15″ treated paper woofers, one above and below each midrange on yet larger portions. The response is given as 10Hz to 40kHz, ± 3dB and as 7Hz to 70kHz, ± 6dB.
A product of Blue Light Audio’s Jonathan Tinn’s imagination and Kevin Malmgrin’s engineering, the $70,000 MM three Jonathan has paired with Switzerland’s darTZeel electronics, which he imports into the United States, for a number of years now, always with simply stirring results. Driven by the $22,000 darTZeel NHB-108 amplifier which was fed from the $26,000 NHB-18NS preamplifier, the MM three created absolute magic. Evolution Acoustics also premiered their new interconnects, a rather largish cable, to say the least. Sorry, once again I find I did not note the digital source…
One of the most starling things about this system was how deep it was able to go in this SMALL room. Standing anywhere in the room was great, but taking the “hot seat’ was breath-taking. Focusing for a fairly small listening sweet spot in that smallish room made sense, and if you didn’t take time to take a turn there, you missed 30 to 40 percent of the magic this room had to offer.
In that sweet spot, I was treated to a presentation so three-dimensional, so dynamic, and so life-like, as to be spoiled to virtually anything else I heard at this year’s show. I was most taken with the extension, integration, horn-like dynamic attack, low frequency slam, and tonal balance I was treated to when I sat front and center in the “chair.” Kudos to the hard work and dedication of the Evolution Acoustics’ project.”
CES 2008 – Make Way For The Big Boys by Jason Victor Serinus – Stereophile Magazine
Attendance was light at the Alexis Park on Wednesday, with the rooms closest to the front getting the most attention. That was certainly the case for Evolution Acoustics, whose imposing MM3 modular speaker commands respect. After seven years of development, this huge baby, designed by Kevin Malmgren (left, formerly of Von Schweikert) made its initial debut at RMAF 2006. Then, the company went low-key while Malmgren and his wife were busy raising their first child (who, after almost one year of development, has just made a most auspicious debut in his stroller at T.H.E. Show 2008). Well, not really. The speaker was back-ordered even before it was launched, and has kept Malmgren and its distributor so busy that they haven’t had the time or need to yet establish a dealer network.
The MM3 ($70,000/pair, intro price $38,000/pair) weighs 650 lbs per side and consists of three parts: the MM1 center portion ($30,000/pair, intro price $18,000/pair) and MM2 bottom and top ($50,000/pair, intro price $28,000/pair). The tweeter is adjustable for both level and crossover point to create a smooth and even response. The woofer is also adjustable on every level—how deep, how full, etc.—and is powered by a 1000W amp in MM3 configuration and a 600W amp in MM2 configuration. Because the woofer extends flat down to 10Hz, and actually reached down to 3Hz in the Alexis Park, it includes a subsonic filter to make it analog-friendly for platter spinners. Everything in the speaker except the midrange and tweeter is made in the USA.
Paired with DarTZeel electronics from Switzerland, Evolution Acoustics power cables with built-in power conditioners, and huge gauge EA interconnects and speaker cable, the system conveyed the weight of massed strings like no other speaker I encountered at T.H.E. Show save the Rockport Ankaa discussed earlier in this blog. When I played Martha Argerich performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto 2, the strings were so close that I felt as though my head was under the piano’s raised lid. Playing a track from the new John Marks-engineered Pipes organ CD, issued by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, all I could write was, “Holy Shit! This really sounds and feels like an organ.”
I’m not sure how you-know-who uses the terms yin and yang, but from my understanding of Chinese medicine, the system was far more yang than yin, meaning that it was better with the big, extroverted stuff than conveying a voice expressing vulnerability and tenderness. While there was a bit of buzzing on voices, probably caused by the smallness of the room, what this speaker did right was so right that it commanded attention. Contact Jonathan Tinn (right) at Blue Light Audio in Portland if you hear the call.
Tinn also distributes DarTZeel. The system boasted the NHB108 amp ($21,181 and Stereophile’s 2005 Product of the Year), which outputs 160Wpc into 8 ohms; the battery-powered NHB18NS preamp ($26,250) complete with phono stage and remote control). The two units are connected by impedance-matched 50 ohm DarTZeel wires. They certainly did the Evolution speakers proud.
RMAF 2006 by Mark Wagner – Positive Feedback
“Evolution Audio – Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio (Portland OR) along with the extremely nice and obviously talented Kevin Malmgren (formerly of von Schweikert) brought their new Evolution Audio MM-3 speakers ($38,000) powered with a DarTZeel MHB-108 Stereo Amplifier ($18,200), the DarTZeel NHB-18S Preamplifier ($23,250) along with the new EMM Labs single box player ($9900). Sharing the room was the super friendly Alvin Lloyd (of Grand Prix Audio fame) where he was showing his new ultra sexy looking and fine sounding GPA turntable. The speaker and I/C cabling were all Evolution Audio wire, with the exception of some Jena labs AC cords (the new Evolution AC cords were not quite ready for the show). All of the electronics were stacked on one of Alvin’s magnificent GPA racks.
I arrived early on Thursday and found the Evolution room very busy dialing in the system. Even though the system was still a long ways from being “ready”, I was immediately astounded by this speaker, which is HUGE, well over 6′ tall!
What I heard was detail, transparency, space, a colossal soundstage, and imaging galore. Throughout the show, I heard a wide variety of music on CD, SACD and LP. No matter what the style, the music was always engaging. There were times when the room was not so busy, so I got a chance to listen to all of the recordings I brought; from the new SACD of Mahler’s 5th with MTT/SFO, Michael Haydn’s Requiem (a killer Hyperion RBCD) to a CD of Bach’s solo works for violin. No matter what I played (either delicate solo violin or thunderous Mahler) the system was superb. At $38,000 a pair, these speakers have to be the deal of the century! One could easily expect a price of at least double for a pair of speakers this size and of this quality! If I could have done so, I would have awarded this room best overall.”
RMAF 2006 by Sam Roberts – Positive Feedback“Room worth losing a vestigial tail for (my favorite sound of the show)”
“The Evolution Acoustics/darTzeel /EMM Labs room was the only spot in the show other than the Kimber Isomike room that the speakers truly disappeared and you felt like you were listening to music instead of equipment. I was shocked that the speakers retailed for less than $40,000, still way out of my price range but well under many of the other flagship speakers at the show which impressed me far less. I liked this room so much I somehow forgot to take pictures in it. Evolution has smaller versions coming soon as well, be sure to keep on the lookout as these seemed to have great potential.”
RMAF 2006 Writer’s Choice Awards by Albert Porter
“This year I only choose two products for my Writers Choice Awards. The first goes to a recently introduced loudspeaker and the second to an established product that recently benefited from a world class upgrade.
The Evolution Acoustics MMthree speaker system is the new product, a joint design from Jonathan Tinn and Kevin Malmgren. I found much to like about this speaker with the biggest surprise being a suggested retail price of only $38K. Granted that is a lot of money, but considerably less than competing speakers and the Evolution Audio abounds with top quality fit and finish, superb driver choices and an overall appearance that won me over in a single listening session.
This speaker was making loud, dynamic music with moderate power at the recent Denver AudioFest and I wondered how the 100-watt amplifier managed this task so easily. The secret is the speaker’s internal 1000-watt power amplifier, taking charge of the dual 15″ woofers. There are several controls on the rear panel for altering the sound and I was allowed a bit of freedom to experiment. To me, a slight reduction in treble and tightening the bass did wonders in that particular room.
These controls worked so well, that with some experimentation I believe it could be adjusted to match an almost unlimited variety of amplifiers for the midrange and high frequency drivers. In fact, I would have preferred experimenting with tubes on top, but that’s a matter of personal taste.
The twin midrange drivers are the super premium 7″ Accuton ceramics, and appear to be the same as chosen for several others of my favorite speakers, The Martin Design, Kharma Exquisite and Avalon Isis.
The high frequency driver is a 5″ ribbon tweeter with the whole package rated at 93 DB efficiency.
The woodwork was first rate and although I did not see the Evolution MMthree with the grills covers in place, I think this would make a handsome addition sonically and visually to any audiophile wanting first class sound.”