Whest Audio PS.30R: A Potential Game Ender
I can’t exactly remember if it was Rene Descartes who reasoned that one way to prove that God exists is through man’s (an imperfect being) constant desire to attain perfection (the realm of the divine). The steps of man from the plains of Africa, to the caves of Europe, to the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and China, and to the worldwide prosperity of the modern times are but testaments to this quest. This desire to become better is deeply engrained in our being that we sleep every night carrying with us the promise of a better tomorrow.
Our journey in the audio wonderland surely reflects this evolutionary path. My odyssey, for example, has propelled me to rapid acquisitions and upgrades in the span of two years--- all designed to take me to new heights of musical ecstasy. And in several steps I have taken, the Dynaudio C1s, VPI Aries 3, Zyx R100H, Plinius 9200, Lehmann Black Cube SE and the XLO reference cables, all have added new and exciting dimensions to my audio experience. They have, to a large extent, provided quantum leaps in sound quality which wetted my appetite even more.
But I know that this pursuit is not without limits. That sometime, somewhere and somehow this momentum will come to a screeching halt once the increments in results are already negligible and the sound that I am hearing approximates the ideal sound hovering around my consciousness. In other words, reaching my own musical nirvana. The last thing I want to happen is to go the path of others, who in the same pursuit, have gone berserk and rather than move up, have spiralled down instead.
I recall during the early days when I became serious with this hobby that I was experiencing wild swings in the quality of music that my system was producing at that time. On certain records, I would feel very satisfied but on others become totally irritated. I remember calling Ferdie of Cebu, one of the serious hobbyists in the country, regarding this experience. He tried to calm my anxieties by saying that it took him decades to reach a point where consistency has become the norm rather than the exception. With this information, I immersed myself into a deep research and getting the right gears that will help me achieve my desired sound.
The addition last month of a pair of Castle subwoofers into my system has produced dramatic results. Other than giving me a deep, punchy and tight bass, it has also widened the soundstage that gave the illusion of a much bigger listening room. Both have blended well with my system that they also allowed the mids and the highs, which are the forte of the Dynaudio C1s, to shine even more. But despite these improvements, I still felt that there was some tightness and edginess in its presentation. I still found it lacking in airiness and the more relax presentations of other HIFI rigs I’ve had the pleasure to listen to.
My situation has led me to re-examine my set-up and determine where I can add more refinements. For the longest time, audiophiles who knew my system had mentioned to me that the weakest link was my phonostage. After some resistance due to the countless rave reviews of the Black Cube, I relented and began my search for a new phonostage. I auditioned the tube Cayin Phono 1. Although I liked how it delivered better midrange compared to the Black Cube, I believe the Cube performed better in bass and in the highs, not to mention that I found it a tad slow for Jazz, Pop and Rock music which I usually delve into. In the end, I concluded not to take the tube route and trained my sights on a better solid state preamp.
I remembered that a year ago, I had the pleasure of listening to the Whest Audio PS.30R together with an all-VTL system in ADVI. I was astounded by its warm sonic signature and the rich subtleness by which it presented the piano sound. I have known in my HIFI journey that the sound of the piano is the hardest for a system to be tonally accurate to reproduce. However, I thought that it could also be the $50K system it was attached to that was largely responsible for it, although I took note that it sounded better than the VTL preamp used in the same set-up.
When the time came for me to hunt for a new phonostage, the PS.30R was on top of my mind. But it wasn’t an easy decision from a financial standpoint. In short, it wasn’t cheap for a phono preamp by any means except for those you know who. But my experience with it, and its sonic signature that I truly prefer, made it difficult for me to resist further. So in the end, I took the plunge.
The moment the Zyx R100H hit the vinyl, I realized that I have just acquired a phonostage that was truly special. Immediately, my complaints on tightness of presentation completely dissipated. The music was now very airy and the soundtstage had widened and deepened further. In the album simply titled “DIANA”, by Diana Ross, the vocals were exceptionally clear, the bass was fast and tight and the highs were very sweet. Listening to Dave Cruisen play the piano in his album, “Out of the Shadows,” transported me back to the time when I heard it first together with the very high-end system of Wilfred Lim. The sound I heard then and now was identical. It is as if the piano glistened on every note struck by the artist. I followed it up with the album of Carmen Cavallaro, “Latin Heartbeat,” and have gotten the same effect. The playfulness of the pianist was matched by the musicality of the PS.30R that my listening experienced was elevated to new heights. It was simply awesome. Then I played Mantovani’s “Latin Rendevous” to test it in strings and brass. I am so familiar with this album since I use this as my reference LP in auditions. Oh my God, it delivered the sounds of violin, guitar and cymbals with such sweetness that you can literally imagine shiny sugar coated chocolates while enjoying the music. The transparency and clarity of the sound was outstanding to say the least. It presented a very neutral sound but everything came out like they were polished by a gold tinsmith. With the Black Cube, the music shines like a paint in a brand new car, but with the Whest Audio PS.30R, it glitters like that of a painting job (wet look)done on a car show winner. It is truly amazing.
The inclusion of the PS.30R in my system could truly be a game ender for me for a very long time. With it, every aspect of music reproduction---from the tightness and speed of the bass, to the clarity and neutrality of the midrange, to the sweetness of the highs have been presented to my liking which is the most important aspect in our quest for satisfaction in this field. But more than that, the PS.30R is the most tonally accurate phonostage I have listened to, the most dynamic and musical, not to mention that it is very fast and quiet. In other words, it excels in all departments. I am not in anyway implying that it is the best or that it is perfect, but at the end of the day, it gives out music that I can very well enjoy in the years to come.