Golden Ear Awards 2015: Jacob Heilbrunn

Equipment report
Digital cables
Transparent Cable Reference XL,
Vienna Acoustics Liszt,
Ypsilon Silver VPS-100
Golden Ear Awards 2015: Jacob Heilbrunn

Vienna Acoustics Liszt Loudspeaker
The Liszt loudspeaker, which is the brainchild of well-known Austrian designer Peter Gansterer, features proprietary flat-spider-cone technology and a modified first-order crossover. The dual-vented-cavity bass drivers operate in their own cabinet to minimize vibrations. The result is a marvelous marriage of speed and coherence. Lithe and dynamic, the Liszt always offers a deep, wide soundstage. Best-suited for chamber music and voice, the Liszt seeks out the nuances in the music. On classical and jazz, the timbral fidelity of the Liszt is quite exceptional. It is a purist loudspeaker, not one designed for headbangers or anyone seeking the last word in floor-shuddering bass. Best used in a mid-sized room, the Liszt delivers the elegance and suavity that the imperial city it hails from is renowned for. A standout performer.

Ypsilon Silver VPS-100 Phonostage
Greek designer Demetris Baklavas has a penchant for constantly searching to improve his equipment in ways both large and small. With the substitution of silver for copper transformers, the performance of this unit zooms into the stratosphere. So does the price at $65,000. But at this lofty level, also occupied by other companies like Boulder, the Ypsilon more than holds its own. The Silver does many things that aren’t normally associated with this metal, at least when it comes to audiophiles, many of whom regard silver as abrasive and shrill. Not so here. The silver-transformer version of this phonostage is greatly improved. It isn’t that a wealth of new detail is suddenly unlocked; rather, the overall presentation is far more supple, rich, and vivid. Ypsilon has always excelled at probing into the recesses of the soundstage for the minute scrapings of a bow or the decay of a singer’s voice. All of those properties are enhanced. In short, Baklavas has produced a masterwork.

Transparent Reference XL Digital Link
$3195 RCA, $3595 XLR
Transparent has been on something of a roll lately, releasing an impressive new batch of cables. Prominent among them is its new line of 75-ohm and 110-ohm digital links. When they were coupled to the dCS Vivaldi, the improvement in performance wasn’t just noticeable—it was also stunning. The sound became much smoother and richer. Bass textures exhibited a new suppleness, while the treble region was audibly more extended. As good as the dCS was with standard cables, Transparent’s latest offerings significantly improve the presentation. Build-quality is also exemplary. While the tariff is not insignificant, particularly when coupling XL Digital Links to a four-box rig like the Vivaldi, these Transparent cables are indispensable for extracting the last measure of transparency. Put bluntly, this product is a no-brainer.