When I first visited to hear this setup, it still consisted mostly of Spectral electronics and MIT cabling. I brought my Jeff Rowland Synergy 1 preamp along, just to see how it would compare to his Spectral, not knowing whether it would beat it or be beaten itself. We were all stunned at the improvement that the Synergy brought over the Spectral DMC20. It was simply ovbious that it was better in all departments. When we inserted the Transparent Ultra XLR interlink that I also brought we all agreed that it was a much better balance than the MIT Oracle V3.1.
In the meantime a year has passed and the owner had aquired the following new equipment: a Jeff Rowland Synergy 2i preamp, a Jeff Rowland model 2 poweramp with BPS 2 Battery Power Supply (that he didn't even connect at first as he also had a PS audio PPP regenerator) and Transparent Ultra XLR interlinks as well as Transparent Reference XL speaker cables. Shortly thereafter he visited me again and brought his PPP because I was curious. The PPP let us down immensely, see the review here and consequently it was swapped for a CP audio Ultimate Clarity extensionblock which was a much better match.
Setup 6 in the current incarnation
Wadia 861B cd player
Jeff Rowland Synergy 2i preamp
Jeff Rowland Model 2 poweramp
Jeff Rowland BPS-2
Voce Divina Tenore MK II speakers
Revel B 15 Subwoofer
Transparent Reference XL XLR
Echole Obsession XLR
Audioquest Sub-1 subwoofer interlink
Transparent Reference XL LS cables
Belden cable mains group
CP-Audio Ultimate Clarity extensionblock
ASI Liveline powercable
Deskadel QS-4 silver jumpers
Finite Elemente Spider
Finite Elemente Ceraballs
Q’ fusor Acoustic Panels
ASI Resonators in various types
This setup has also been reviewed in an earlier incarnation:
Was a very good one. It was like there was a different system playing. If I were blindfolded, I think that I may have thought that he had other speakers as well, so different was the sound. While the previous sound was precise, crystal clear, fast and dynamic, it was now smooth, inviting, colourful and very refined. Even the highs were fluid and rarely attracted attention to themselves which is a compliment given that I'm used to listening to ribbon tweeters.
This sound is much closer to what I'm hearing at home and I really like it which isn't that surprising given that most components as well as cables are the same as what I use;-)
So far so good. But the story continues as there is also the BPS2 to investigate, as well as the voodoo-stuff called ASI Resonators.
First thing I wanted to investigate is the matter of Jeff Rowland model 2 with BPS2 versus the model 2 alone because they are so rare.
Jeff Rowland model 2 with BPS2 versus the model 2 alone
Because I know that a BPS also imposes some of its character onto the sound when it is connected but 'switched off', the very first thing I tried after the first listening impression was to disconnect the BPS entirely. This meant unscrewing the large connector that connects the umbilical cord between BPS and model 2 and putting in the jumper instead. Wow, this was no small difference. The sound now became more gray, smaller in stage and more confined to the speakers. It was more staccato, less fluid and the highs were less natural. It really was a big difference and we quickly reconnected the BPS.
Then there was the case of switching the BPS on or off. Again there was a difference in the same areas as before but this time to a smaller extent. Or should I say to a more unconscious level. It became obvious that music grabbed our attention more when the BPS was switched on, almost in a manner comparable to listening to cd versus listening to lp. It is difficult to describe but easy to hear and feel. There's simply less electronic-ness and more naturalness with the BPS in place.
BPS on/BPS off
What is on and what is off? In practice, as soon as you connect the BPS to the amplifier, its character can be heard. Strictly speaking it is not feeding the amplifier until it is also switched on so how can this be? I think that it is because it may not be feeding the amplifier but the power is feeding the BPS circuitry nevertheless. At some level, the batteries are in line with the mains power supply. And since the mains is looped through all electronics, its character still "bleeds" through. This is a good thing, as we heard, but it also means that as a reviewer you have to be careful not to jump to conclusions. When you think you're hearing the model 2 by itself but the BPS is connected, think again.
These must be the most Voodo-like devices, next to the Harmonix RFA87i 'coins'. Of course I was sceptic, but the thing is, they really work! We did a couple of tests, during which we removed 3 of the 4 resonators, took them to the back end of the room and covered them between pillows. You should know that I am used to hearing the effect of Voodo devices but the effect that these little resonators had was big. When removed they made the soundstage collapse, making it more confined to the speakers. Also the center focus was more vague and overall I felt less involved in the music. It was indeed an effect very comparable to switching the BPS out of circuit. Putting the resonators back into position restored the sound to its initial level. Bizarre. We used a combination of silver, gold and copper and just removed all of them except the copper ones. We did not experiment with the difference between copper, gold and silver although I'm sure that there are also differences to be heard.
Overall conclusion for this setup
A very well-balanced, neutral yet very involving and sweet-sounding setup with great musicality as well as fine levels of detailing. A special recommendation goes out to the Voce Divina speakers which are in the best sense of the word, neutral. They never sound boxy or otherwise coloured yet they do not stand in the way of emotion and are capable of highly involving musicality. The tweeter can be a tiny bit hard but it has good resolution and extension and the hardness can easily be corrected by using the proper electronics and cables. I could actually live with this setup!
Update june 2011
In the meantime the owner has changed the interlinks between the Wadia and the preamp. Transparent Ultra XL XLR's came and went and didn't even make it into this review. The Ultra's sounded very good to me but the owner had been hit with an obsession for the Echole Obsession. After I had heard them I have to agree that they inject a majestic exuberance that is difficult to put into words. Everything floats freely and images emerge from a supersilent black background and small sounds fade out eternally so it seems. Also, the Echole's treble is superduper-smooth, even smoother that that from the Ultras and that really works wonders in his setup. His speakers can be a tad aggressive in the treble and are (of course) less open than the ribbons I am used to. But with the Echole in the system, his treble takes on more of the ribbon sound. The only downside of the Echoles is that rhythms are less well defined, there is less articulation in the bass, but luckily the speakers sound very fast and overall the sound doesn't become too slow. All in all a very seductive setup that is capable of having sharp focus and room-filling, richly layered soundstaging at the same time.