Friday, November 22, 2013

Music Night at Blackbird Audio Gallery with PureAudio and Light Harmonic

It's taken me a whole week to post photos of last weekend's Music Night Event at Blackbird Audio Gallery. First of all, I was exhausted by a series of connecting flights from Western Colorado to San Diego that included everything from massive turbulence over the Rockies to sitting on the tarmac for a couple of hours while the pilot and the tower argued about the best flight path. I love to fly, but this trip aged me. I needed a few days to decompress.

Add a busy work week, a laptop virus and snowy weather, and that's why it's taken me so long to post photos. The first photo above was taken a couple of days before the event, just after Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio had everything set up and running. He decided to match the PureAudio Reference monoblock amplifiers (65-70wpc, pure Class A) with the Trenner & Friedl Pharaoh loudspeakers, with Cardas Audio Clear cabling all around. Dan has many excellent speakers in his showroom, but he felt the amazing Pharaohs were the best overall match. Once I arrived in San Diego, I totally agreed.

Here's a close-up of our beautiful PureAudio References. All of PureAudio's current line of amplifiers are pure Class A with true dual-mono construction, non-magnetic and non-resonant chasses as well as a fascinating mix of simple circuits and sophisticated features. For instance, you might think that a pair of 70wpc Class A monoblock amplifiers might run very hot, but two large and completely silent fans just beneath the faceplate keeps these amplifiers relatively cool, with only those slanted heat sinks in front getting warm.

Along with the amps and speakers, Dan chose a system that included a Bel Canto CD transport and DAC, a Basis Signature turntable with matching tonearm and the new flagship cartridge from Transfiguration, the Proteus. We used a Basis/Transfiguration Proteus combo at Rocky Mountain last month, so I'm very familiar with this analog rig's high level of performance. On the right you can see the PureAudio Control preamplifier and Vinyl preamplifer.

The Control and the Vinyl also feature that mix of simplicity and sophistication. You'll notice that the Control has only one knob on the front--for volume. The four line level inputs are selected automatically according to the presence of a signal. If you have two sources running simultaneously, the Control prioritizes them according to number (input 1, input 2, etc.). I've spoken about the Vinyl a number of times, but one feature I love is the gain setting, or lack thereof. The Vinyl offers 62 dB of gain with plenty of headroom, so the amount of gain seems perfect for almost every cartridge. In fact, I've switched between a high-output moving magnet with an output of 3.5mV to a low-output moving coil with an output of 0.4mV and didn't have to change any of the settings, even the loading (both cartridges, amazing enough, loved to be run wide open at 47K ohms). There are plenty of loading options on the Vinyl, however--47 ohms to 47K.

One more feature is the series of 12V triggers that can be used between the Control and the Reference monoblocks. This allows for home theater bypass as well as a synch-ing up the three amps so that you can power everything on with one power button.

Here's a close-up of the Basis and the Transfiguration. The Vinyl is absolutely one of my favorite phono preamps of all time--that's why we decided to carry the PureAudio line. (I know, I've said that before, but I really believe in this gear!) The Basis/Configuration/PureAudio combo is an exquisite match. as I discovered last year when I put a Transfiguration Phoenix on my Unison Research Giro turntable back home.

The event wasn't just about PureAudio and me. Gavin Fish and Steve Holt of Light Harmonic brought their little Geek to the event. The Geek is an interface between your headphones and your laptop (they're also ready to introduce a larger desktop version of the Geek)--it's basically an amp and a DAC in a very small package. Here's Gavin demonstrating the Geek for Dave Clark of Positive Feedback Online.

Here's a photo to give you an idea of how small the Geek is. Listening through a pair of the Cardas Audio EM5813 ear speakers, I found that the Geek provided a huge, powerful sound with plenty of bass and an amazing level of clarity. I also listen to a pair of Ultrasone headphones and found the combination comfortable, relaxing and incredibly open.

Here's host Dan Muzquiz cueing up the Basis. He was incredibly pleased that we had a full house for most of the evening, but there was still plenty of room to sit, relax and listen to this outstanding hi-fi system. The food, by the way, was excellent.

The PureAudio products, with their distinct styling, beg to be touched and fondled. Here's San Diego audiophile Erik Tracy getting a closer look at the Reference monoblocks. I invited members of the Steve Hoffman Forum to stop by, and Erik was the only one who came up and introduced himself. I was far too busy to really spend time with Erik, but he seemed to enjoy the food, the music and the gear.

Finally, I was amazed at how many of my good friends in the industry showed up and supported our event. That's me seated, probably smoking one of the three cigars I had that evening, surrounded by audio reviewer Andre Marc, Dave Clark, cigar buddy/audiophile David Aitken, Audio Strata's David Neilson and audio reviewer Steve Lefkowicz. I look forward to doing many more dealer events in the coming year--they're easily the best part of my job!


  1. Marc - thank you so much for the invite and the opportunity to meet Dan and everyone else. What a great group of audio enthusiasts and professionals. Dan was the gracious host with good food, great music, and a really 'family' vibe going on.

    Erik Tracy

  2. Dan is a great guy. This is fantastic for our industry. You inspire me !

  3. I'm in San Diego and would like to attend the next one.

    1. Just keep an eye on the Blackbird Audio Gallery website at for future events!