Is it Live or is it MBL?
I was about to enter the MBL room when I was halted just inches from the entrance, "There's a reviewer in there, Stereophile's Robert Deutsch, listening to the cello" I was told in a hushed voice, so hushed that I may not have heard it right. "Sorry?" I responded. "When we hear clapping, you can go in." How odd, I thought, that people would clap for a reviewer listening to cello music. But I'm game for just about anything at a hi-fi show. So I waited.
Sure enough moments later clapping ensued, the heavy wooden door to the St-Lambert Suite was opened and I darted inside. MBL's North American Distributor par excellence Jeremy Bryan spotted me and I was rapidly ushered into a seat right next to Robert Deutsch. The only downside was the guy who had been sitting in that seat was asked to move to another one to make way for me which always makes me feel awkward. It makes me feel like one of those reviewers I still complain about. But things needed to happen quickly so I sat down, thanked the kind gentleman who moved to make way, and took a deep relaxing breath.
Cellist Vincent Bélanger then asked Robert to come up and take his seat (yes, musical chairs), his cello and his bow and within seconds Robert was playing like a pro. In all seriousness, Robert coaxed a few lovely notes from that cello and there's really nothing like that sound when heard that close up. It feels like something inside of you is singing.
After receiving applause of his own, Robert returned to his seat and sat (yes the music had stopped) and Mr. Bélanger played two more pieces for us accompanied by his own recordings on CD played by the MBL Reference Line System D ($259,700). While I try to avoid commenting on the sound at hi-fi shows because there's simply too much going on the least of which is listening to music in a way that in no way resembles the way I normally do so, I will say that the live versus recording debate was overwhelmed by music. Lovely, moving music.
I spoke to Jeremy Bryan afterward and he explained that this was a spur of the moment idea and I thought it was wonderful and encouraged more of the same in the future. Of course Jeremy was way ahead of me and has much larger plans for the Munich Show which is only weeks away.
The MBL 1611F D/A Converter ($28,700), to get back to our focus, can play up to 24/96 files (higher definition files are downsampled using appropriate software such as JRiver and Pure Music) via all inputs including AES/EBU on XLR, (2) S/PDIF Coax, TosLink, and Asynchronous USB. Outputs include S/PDIF Coax, 2 pair single ended RCAs, and 1 pair XLR Balanced.