Man, I’ve been a jet-settin’ fool this year. First I went off to Germany in the spring, to make a quick stop at the high-end show in Munich and to take a factory tour of MBL’s offices in Berlin and its factory in Eberswalde (a picturesque little town just outside of Berlin) in advance of reviewing the fantastic MBL 101 X-Treme loudspeakers. (For pictures taken at the MBL factory, see my review of the 101 X-Tremes in Issue 189).

In October, I traveled to fabled Istanbul, Turkey, to sightsee and to hear the $300k Kharma Grand Exquisites (which happen to be set up in three different homes in Istanbul), then on to beautiful Amsterdam and colorful Breda, where Charles van Oosterum, the CEO and chief engineer of Kharma, has his offices and factories. (For pictures of cabinets being finished at the high-end furniture factory outside of Breda that makes the enclosures for Kharma speakers, see the thread I would like to, I don’t know whether it is physically possible for me to review Kharma’s flagship Grand Exquisites, as each speaker side weighs half-a-ton and doesn’t break down into barely manageable pieces (like the MBL 101 X-Treme does) for hauling upstairs; however, I did get to audition the Grand Exquisites at length in Istanbul and in Breda, in four different rooms, with top-rank electronics and top-rank digital and analog sources and my own records and CDs, and it is (as I noted in my last blog) one of the small few speakers I would nominate for my pantheon.

Now, at the tail end of November, I’m headed to Europe again—this time to England to visit dCS. In Issue 183 I reviewed dCS’s fabulous $67k Scarlatti CD/SACD player—the most lifelike digital source I’ve heard—which was also named one of TAS’s 2008 Product of the Year in Issue 189. Soon after I reviewed the Scarlatti stack, dCS announced a Scarlatti Upconverter that can be used with the hard-drive-based digital sources. At the same time, David Steven of dCS invited me to visit dCS’s facilities in Cambridge. By the time you read this my wife and I will be winging our ways to Old Blimey, to see and hear what dCS hath wrought.

Before this spring I’d never traveled to Europe (or, save for a brief step into Canada when I was a kid, outside the U.S.). While TAS reviewers are often invited abroad to make “factory visits,” I’ve stayed home. Not this year. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I decided that if I didn’t take the opportunity now—with companies whose products I’ve reviewed on several occasions and know well—it might not come around again. I will, of course, take pictures in Cambridge (and in London) and post them or links to them on our site and will write up what I see and hear at dCS’s facilities for my next few blogs. I also hope to review the Scarlatti Upconverter in the near future.

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