“Importer On a Higher Note, over which presides the genial Philip O’Hanlon, a man with impeccable and seemingly universal taste in music, had two rooms, the larger of which showed off the capabilities of a fine system featuring Luxman’s exceedingly cool, retro PD-171 turntable and integral tonearm ($6400) with a Soundsmith Hyperion moving-iron cartridge ($7500), the Mola-Mola Makua preamplifier ($13,400, optional internal phono stage adding $2,500, internal DAC’s price not determined) and Kaluga mono power amps ($18,000/pair, 400 watts each), Vivid Audio’s Giya G3 speakers ($40,000/pair) and Shunyata cabling and power conditioning/distribution. Digital was sourced from O’Hanlon’s laptop.
When I first stopped by, Philip was playing a marvelous version of Illinois Jacquet’s “Birthday Party Blues” from the Groove Note 45rpm LP. I listened casually for a couple of minutes and was slowly but surely drawn in to giving the music my full and undivided attention. This happened with everything I subsequently heard through this system. Nothing jumped out, but the basic rightness of music through it inevitably took the day. The word captivating comes to mind.
The Mola-Mola gear is loaded with innovative features. For example, the Makua’s optional phono stage includes EQ settings that “cover practically all known cutting curves ever used, including most 78rpm curves” and the phono section can be assigned to any one of the Makua’s five inputs. Furthermore, designer Bruno Putzeys has made class-D amplification sound like no one else has, with the possible exception of Aavik.”
“On a Higher Note’s second room featured another one of those smallish systems that had such a strong presence at the show. Consisting of Luxman’s D-06u CD/SACD player ($9,900, featuring USB input, two DSD inputs and up to 32-bit / 384 kHz resolution), lovely new C-700u line stage ($9,900) and matching M-700u power amp ($9,000, 120Wpc) driving Vivid Audio’s V1.5 two-way, stand-integral speakers ($8,000/pair), all tied together with Shunyata wiring. Playing music, including an air check of Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown,” Springsteen’s “Mansion on the Hill,” Ruth Moody’s cover of The Boss’s “Dancing in the Dark” and a brain-busting Oscar Peterson/Dizzy Gillespie pass-the-hot-potato duet on the classic “Caravan,” I sat happily bobbing my head and tapping my foot in time, thoroughly in tune with the music.”
“On a Higher Note is also the American distributor for Japan’s fascinating Eclipse TD speakers. I was more than a bit nonplussed when I entered the Eclipse room only to be confronted with basketball-sized enclosures — they’re actually egg-shaped when viewed from the side — with a visible driver mounted within, sitting atop integral stands which allow the enclosures to be precisely angled. The eyeball-like objects staring me down were the Eclipse TD712zMk2 speakers ($10,600/pair). The speakers have attracted much attention in the UK, in Japan, and in the pro-audio world, as testimonials from noteworthy recording engineers (including Jim Anderson, best known to audiophiles as the engineer of several superb-sounding Patricia Barber recordings) make clear, so despite the odd appearance, there had to be something worth hearing here, and indeed there was.”
Source: The Audio Beat