GTT presents: Audionet Heisenberg monoblocks and Stern preamplifier
"It's not a job, it's an adventure" is a famous quote used in Army commercials. However, with all recent good things happenings down at GTT Audio and Video of late, visiting that audio emporium feels likewise... it is an adventure!
Both Greg Voth and Bill Wells had done recent articles on Audionet and YG Acoustics gear heard at GTT Audio & Video some months back (reviewed here and here), so this time around I took the honors of sharing my experience on this latest adventure. Parish's main listening room is HUGE (perhaps 22' x 40' x 12'?). You can tell from the photos in previous visits that we're quite happy in such a fine and spacious listening environment. Very few homes, much less dedicated listening spaces offer this much real estate. When invited once again, it was an easy YES from Greg, myself and devoted long-time friend and confidant Dennis Parham to pay GTT owner Bill Parish another visit.
Again, the visit included a bevy of outstanding hi-end audio components seen and heard in our last visit that included the Kronos Pro turntable (replete with SCPC power supply), equipped with an Air Tight Opus 1 cartridge and Audionet PAM G2 phonostage. What was different this time around were the four handsomely built, powder-grey, vertically tall amplifiers that were straddled in-between the big, bold and beautiful sounding YG Acoustics Sonja XV loudspeakers ($266k), appeared unrecognizable to these eyes. Huh, who might these be?
At first glance, I thought maybe some new offering from Soulution (since Parish is famously associated with that Swiss-made brand as well). Obviously, these had to be manufactured somewhere far from the USA. No harm intended, but this is just too attractive to have been born here. The closer I got the more uncertain this quartet of behemoths became. I noticed the very unusual zig-zag styled aluminum top chassis that I just had to run my fingers ever-so slowly across. Their softly lit powder-blue LED power-on button, emanated a come hither feeling to Greg, myself and Dennis as we slowly approached in almost perfect stride. Looking closer, I noticed the laser etched wording across the front panel of the each amplifier in italicized lower case font. The words spelled audionet.
AUDIONET??? That's right folks. But not just Audionet as we've come to know it. This new appearance hails from this German manufacturer's uppermost Science Series comprised of their Heisenberg mono amplifiers and partnering Stern preamplifier. Weighing 150 lbs per chassis the Heisenberg packs a punch with a rated output of 530 watts per channel into 8 Ohms (and doubles down to 1050 watts into 4 Ohms). The Stern preamplifier is every bit as eye catching but what separates it from almost every other preamp I've seen on the market is that you can order it either tall (like the amplifiers) or conventional shaped as Parish had on display (above photo). Personally, I prefer the conventional shape of the Stern due to its look and command. Its large LED screen and name-less indicator buttons give it the ultimate minimalist appearance. Designed by legendary Apple computer designer Hartmut Esslinger, the Audionet Science Series' very appearance has upped the ante on what I qualify as simplistic yet seductive. This dear reader is the very definition of eye-candy.
If memory serves me right, the sound was immediately different from my last visit where I auditioned the gigantic Sonja XV two-piece marvels. As good as the system sounded, I thought the bass was a tad over-ripe on certain passages on some LPs Parish dug out for our listening pleasure. We all agreed (Billy Drummond, John Hebert, Greg Voth and myself), that overall, the previous setup was absolutely superb sounding and world-class by any measure. But folks like us enjoy picking nits. Heck, maybe it was just a level of bass we simply weren't accustomed to. Who knows. What I will say is this time - with the YG XV's driven by two pair of Heisenberg monoblocks - proved an entirely different experience. Also of note: all cabling was by way of Kubala-Sosna's newest top-of-the-line Realization series cables - which I am sure improved the bass along with everything else we music lovers crave.
I do not recall every LP Parish pulled out to play for us but I will never, ever forget the sonic impressions left by Duke Ellington's Analogue Reproductions (200 gram LP and 45 RPM reissue!), of the 1950 classic: Masterpieces. Want to talk about being swooned by the music and the magic of this masterpiece? The sweetness, drama, macro and micro dynamic ebb and flow, not to mention the emotional and historical content herein absolutely dazzled each of us in a way that was just remarkable. I'm not talking just Mood Indigo either. Sophisticated Lady, The Tattooed Bride and especially Solitude had us all absolutely spell bound by the dynamic ease, masterful flow and the uncanny sense of spatiality this remastered LP threw into this huge listening space. Nothing was out of place, oversized or over-done.
The bass in particular seemed to put on muscle and lose some fat obviously showing us that if there was a place that drew our attention in the past that was now nothing short of superb. The bass was quick-footed, articulate and most importantly it conveyed a musicality that belied both its size and build (as I usually reserve bass musicality to highly sensitive and efficient type designs). Yes, there were other noteworthy LPs that Parish whipped out for us, but in the end, the only thing I remembered, the one that stuck in my craw was that damn Ellington Masterpieces. All I could say was DAMN!
Cymbals really benefitted from the mega power provided by not one, but two pair of Heisenberg mono amps providing more than 1100 watts per side. Ironically, instead of more powerful, the system appeared more relaxed and resolving - as if the added wattage aided in providing less stress and more realism. This imbued cymbal crashes with a uncanny sense of fidelity that proved very realistic sounding. In a sense, it sounded as though the Heisenberg/Stern combo took full control of the massive YG XV's many individual drivers and made them a single source. I witnessed this combination breath new life into the YG XV loudspeakers lungs.
The hour drive back to my home gave us all time to reflect and think back collectively on what we just experienced. What became immediately apparent is this: the Audionet Science Series Heisenberg mono amps at $105k per pair and the matching $45k Stern preamplifier serves as a serious wakeup call to the best of the best that the high-end audio industry has on offer in the here and now. The very look and feel bespoke "state of the art" throughout while the sound is powerful and taut, yet elegant and ultra-refined. Voices hover above the floor at the right height and size but elicit a sense life that's quite uncanny for a solid-state design. Music just flowed into this huge listening space in way that it had not in the past. It made the room seem smaller and more intimate. Weird. This made it somewhat difficult to concentrate on anything except the music. What higher accolade is there when a system can achieve that?
I don't know what else to say except that listening to the Audionet Heisenberg and Stern combination was truly an adventure!