I’ve come to expect compelling demos from the KEF team, and was not disappointed here at TAVES 2016. On the same token, I’ve come to deeply respect the quality of the VPI turntables and electronics that serve as sources for these systems, including the VPI Titan ($48,000) that officially debuted here in Toronto.
The VPI Titan turntable. Photo by Mark Henninger
The Titan was shown at Capital Audio Fest in a prototype form, so TAVES represents the official debut of the finalized Titan design. Here, the dual tonearm-equipped turntable used Lyra Atlas ($12,500) and a Lyra Etna ($9000) cartridges to extract tunes from vinyl grooves. Also notable was the use of a VPI Aurora phono preamp ($6000), which directly feeds the dual Hegel H30 amps that powered the Muons.
KEF Muon MKII and VPI Titan and TAVES 2016. Photo by Mark Henninger
For those not familiar with them, the Muons are giant, sculpted, aluminum, 9-driver, 4-way speakers. The speakers shown are specifically the Muon Mark IIs, which are an evolution of KEF’s original Muon design but incorporates an improved Uni-Q 2-way concentric driver, as well as a revised and updated crossover network.
For the curious, Muon Mark II specs are 25Hz to 60kHz (+/-3dB) frequency response, extension to 20 Hz (-6dB), 90 dB sensitivity, and 400W power handling that results in 118 dB of output. Oh, and each tower weighs 253 pounds.
Listening to “Rhapsody in Blue” from Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, an American in Paris, served as a strong reminder of true audiophile priorities, namely that a system should be capable of faithfully reproducing a live performance. Mind you, gigantic speakers that cost as much as a house had better serve up a superior listening experience, and to their credit the Muons do exactly that.
VPI Titan and KEF Muon are big-ticket, high-performance audio incarnate.
The cool thing about the Aurora is does not require a separate line stage. Per VPI founder Harry Weisfeld, the Mike Bettinger-designed preamp has replaced $25,000 in gear in his own system. Notably, the Aurora has a motorized pot volume control, so you can use a remote with it.
Speaking of Hegel, we switched from vinyl to a Mac feeding tunes to the company’s HD30 DAC for some digital listening through the KEFs.
A special treat at the demo was hearing Massive Attack’s “The Spoils” and “Come Near Me.” For one thing, it’s my kind of music, and the production value is truly top-notch. As you’d expect from the Muons, bass was completely effortless and subterranean cavern-deep.
A cover of “Come Together” by Wende from the album Chante! amply demonstrated the system’s jazz chops, the upright bass line pressurized the room and the vocals had diamond-like sparkle to ’em.
Next up, French pop act Christine and the Queens sounded ultra-tight and engaging; I have yet to hear well-produced music that the Muons can’t flatter with their dynamic, effortless delivery.
Finally, Johnny Cash performing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” wrapped up the demo, if only because I ran out of time on the first day of TAVES. Gotta give Johnny credit here, the presence of his voice is easy to appreciate through a system like this.
VPI and KEF have provided yet another reference-quality listening experience that sits at the top of the food chain here in the world of high-end audio.