Swiss & French Magic

Normally I introduce new arrivals one at a time, but in this case, the combination of two June arrivals from neighboring Switzerland and France proved so strongly compelling that I’ll discuss yesterday’s listening session before giving them their well-earned individual attention.

The magicians are the Jadis DA50S—a 30w/ch, Class A, push-pull KT120 tube integrated weighing in at 58lbs and the Merason Fréron (French for little brother), DAC and it’s optional Pow1 linear power supply, weighing in at 2.64lbs combined.

Partnering the two isn’t an obvious choice, doing the typical cocktail napkin math to arrive at a sensible economic balance between source and amplification. The Jadis costs nearly 5x as much as the Merason pair. (The balance improves, of course, once you add in the Innuos ZEN to the source side of the equation.)

And yet, after this combo, (marvelously aided and abetted by Devore Fidelity O/93 speakers and Luna Cables), held me glued to my chair for an entire afternoon, it made all the sense in the world.

A number of recordings showed this system to be capable of retrieving very fine detail, informing texture/timbre, excellent dynamics and an unusually fine sense of rhythm and flow. In a number of cases, very slight leaning into or laying off the beat, (which I’d never noticed before), brought new insight into, and appreciation of, the musician’s interpretation of a particular phrase.

These characteristics, while noteworthy and very much appreciated individually, did not see me back on my heels. What did was their combined impact as I listened to Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’ album. This album has been a personal favorite since it’s release in 2016, just 3 weeks before the singer/songwriter’s death.

I had only intended to play the title cut, but instead listened with rapt attention through its entirety. The pathos, regret and overall bittersweet quality, while always evident across over 4 years and hundreds of platings on scores of systems was never as clear, as stark, as moving as it was on this system.

Leonard’s voice can seem monotonous, thick and opaque through many systems. Here, while still deep and dark, it contained a multitude of fine shifts in tone, pitch and pacing down to the single syllable, turning what could seem a mono tonic recitation into a highly nuanced and deeply emotional.

I experienced the men’s choir, (from his home synagogue in Montreal), as individuals spread behind Leonard, supporting him through his pain, not just a male blur in the background. (As it happens, I’ve heard them in the recording studio, sitting in their space, motionless, afraid to breathe, and yesterday’s rendition was the closest to that experience I’ve had to date.) Even the phrasing of the strings in the background took on new significance, adding to the mood and message.

All in all, a singular listening experience which I’d be happy to replicate for anyone within traveling distance of Stonington, CT.