By Keijo Tanskanen
Mareksound challenges strongly the other High End dealers in Finland. Nowadays they have very impressive selection of High End products for sale, and they import some of audio brands either. Additionally they have built a separate High End listening room close to their head office in Helsinki. When I heard that Marek Zakowsky, the managing director of Mareksound, was going to arrange several High End events during the last autumn and this winter, I was immediately ready to go for their presentations. Although I was a bit late with my contacts, I managed to start from the very first set-up, just because the acoustic treatment installations were also a bit late in Marek’s listening room!
The listening room deserved a special attention because of its unique solutions. The importance of room acoustics is often underestimated, but absolutely not in Mareksound. The walls were completely equipped by carefully selected diffusers and bass resonators which were made by Svåna Acoustics. Also the roof had a field of diffusers. Only subtle upper range damping was used. The results of the treatment seemed to give very vivid but controlled sound. All this became clear from the beginning of the first listening session. Also a classic hand clap test and listening to speeches proved the room features to be quite near what was expected. Personally I would have liked to try a bit more damping, which could have given even a bit more relaxed listening results.
The first setup had Vienna Acoustics the Musik speakers which were also presented during the Helsinki High End 2008 event. The electronics was Blacknote CDP-300 CD player, Audio Analogue Bellini preamplifier and Audio Analogue Maestro Duecento amplifier. The system had Insight cablings.
I listened to this setup for almost two hours and I was amazed how easily time went by and how easily my thoughts flew away from the sound analysis, why I had anyway come there! The sound was very coherent and rich in manner of tonality. Actually this system was very near for full range easy listening results, which unfortunately meant also that it was a bit too forgiving for my taste. Live-like speed, aggressiveness and accuracy were slightly missing, but still the elements of music were admirably clean. The sound picture was quite big but lacked focus and sharpness. All the reverberations of the music were well reproduced although the last bits of information were smudged. I think these speakers would work better in big rooms and will also benefit from wide placement (also done in Helsinki High End event). In this listening room very wide placement was impossible to do. Anyway, this was a good and enjoyable start!
The second set-up consisted of brand new Martin Logan CLX speakers, Ayre C-5xe universal stereo player, Ayre KX-R preamplifier, Ayre MX-R monoblocks and Crystal Cable cables.
On one hand this set-up delivered very fast, transparent, airy and micro-detailed sound, especially treble was very clean and immaterial. Diana Krall’s finger snaps and piano playing were extremely clean and detailed by help of excellent resolution, dynamics and speed. But, I have heard slightly better coherency when Diana plays through the octaves of her piano. Also the reverberation effects of my test music were reproduced excellently. The sound picture was ok and delivered nice focus, but had nothing extra. On the other hand the system had quite clear colorations and lacks especially in lower register. This was noticed easily when I listened to the tonality of big drums and double basses. Strangely, I really missed a high quality subwoofer this time, not only because of the limited bass extensions, but also because of the lacks in tonality and dynamics in low end. This set-up and session was a slight disappointment, partially because of my huge expectations which were grown up from the quite fresh and praising reviews of ML CLX. The conclusion was that I had heard better sound from the Martin Logan speakers before.
The speakers in third set-up were Tannoy Prestige Kensington. The front end was equipped by Denon electronics: Denon DCD-SA1 CD/SACD player and Denon PMA-SA1 integrated amplifier. The system had Nordost cablings which worked greatly (this is not a self-evident issue).
The sound was very comprehensive and had not serious aberrations. Very high grade coherency and clean tone production were noticed continuously during the listening of my every test CD. The overall presentation was very natural including great amount of warmth and dimensionality in sound staging. Bass was quite well controlled but naturally lacked slightly punch and dimensionality. Treble and midrange were simply excellent. Supposedly a tweeter of Kensington has a lot of acoustical similarities with the B&W diamond tweeter which I have listened to lately. After noticing that dynamics was also ok (definitely not among the best ones) I wondered if there were any further wishes left. Actually there were some. This system got a bit less low level details than what I got for example during the previous visit - the very low level string tones and transients were not as clear as they should be. Also reverberation effects were smoothened and faded clearly a bit earlier than they should. So, the over-all sound seemed to be slightly misty and not quite as transparent as I would like it to be. But, although some lacks were noticed, they still were quite subtle and they did not disturb the listening session. This was a very nice demonstration and so far the most listenable and balanced one!
This time Marek had brought Dali Euphonia MS4s and Electrocompaniet Reference front end to his listening room. The CD player was EMC-1, preamplifier EC 4.8 and naturally the power amplification was done by Nemos. The speakers had vendor recommended straight ahead positioning which seemed to work well. Cabling was a bit problematic and several variations were used, which will be clarified on the following text.
Firstly I listened to this set-up with balanced silver interconnects (Electrocompaniet) and copper bi-cable speaker cables (Analysis Plus Crystal Oval 8 at midrange and highs, and quite standards copper cable at bass). After a half an hour listening session I was very confused. Although the sound was transparent, clear, dynamic and spacious, and delivered natural-like cymbal sounds, the system had distinctive problems. They were in balance, timing, coherency and tonality. We decided to replace interconnects by the high quality copper single ended cables and cross connect the bi-cable speaker cables. The improvement was nothing but remarkable. All the criticized features were bettered, but still the sound had over-sharpness, hardness and colorations which may cause listening tiredness as well, especially in long term listening. The conclusion was that although Dali Euphonia MS4s had several excellent features, they would very likely work better in a more dampened and smaller room which would give more energy in bass and would help achieving more neutrality. Also tube front end could work well with these speakers. But at least this time MS4s couldn’t make me very impressed.
While having good memories of B&W 800D and 802 speakers it was time to get familiar with B&W Signature Diamond speakers. The front end consisted of Marantz Reference line electronics which used Tara Labs cables (very good stuff!). What I expected to hear was another B&W family sound, but this came true only partially!
The first impressions of
the sound were nothing but stunning. I could not believe these speakers were
B&Ws! The sound had many differences to my earlier B&W experiences,
and they were from the positive direction. I listened to several samples of
my every test CD and noticed being faced with the second best two way speakers
I have ever heard. The sound was very fast, controlled, coherent, correct-timing
and transparent. The over-all clarity seemed to be among the best ones I have
heard. Although the speakers did not have separate bass woofers, the low end
was dynamic and controlled, missing only a bit extension and power. I listened
also to 802 D speakers for a while. The 802Ds had more extensive bass but also
slight flaws in resolution, transparency, dynamics and clarity when compared
to the Signature Diamond. I would also bet that the treble of Signature Diamond
model was slightly better than what the 800 series speakers has offered in earlier
listening sessions. I think Wilson Duette set-up which I listened to a half
year ago had more impressive bass and acoustical picture and probably just a
bit better coherency. But this, Marek’s fifth set-up, might have just
a bit more over-all resolution, transparency and more shimmering treble. I can
only guess how much those differences were dependent on the speakers and how
much on the other equipment. What a tremendous listening experience this was!
This was totally an exceptional chain of very high quality open door events in an exceptional listening room. This kind of events will absolutely give a good vision of the High End products delivered by Mareksound. During the five visits there was something interesting almost for every taste. For me, the last set-up (B&W Signature Diamond speakers and Marantz front end) gave most. In my opinion it was simply the most neutral and accurate of these five. I was also quite impressed by the listening ability and benefits of the first and especially third set-up. I think they may be the best choices for more common listening. The second and fourth set-up had also big strengths but also the most significant lacks. For Mareksound the chain of the events was a pure success and wide range of systems was demonstrated. I’ll just wait for the next events at Mareksound!