2004

Nagra Pma: «the Mystery Of The Pyramids» - Part Two (of Three)




THE GATEWAY TO THE INNER UNIVERSE OF MUSIC


The pyramidal shape is used as a thermal control by installing the electrical components of variable height in such a way that the taller ones are placed in the middle and the smaller ones at the outer edges thus allowing the same relative roof height to all of them.


And yet, I shudder at the mere thought of slipping on the floor and falling on top of the lethal vertex of the pyramid. The little ball-point might be effective in fencing but I don't think it would help much in case of such a misfortune. Why not install a powerful warning laser beam as they did at The Luxor Hotel in Vegas? Instead there are several tiny warning blue, green and red leds, both at the front and at the rear. The green led, or rather, turquoise, indicate power-on, the blue blinks intermittently (and disconcertingly) with the ebb and flow of the musical signal. The reds indicate either the presence of DC at the output terminals or current and voltage saturation. The PMAs only played the «blues» to me. There were no red activists to be seen, not even under the bed. But I only wish the PMAs were black. Seen from the back they look like a «tin man's amp» - hopefully not intended for tin ears…


The Pyramids have both single ended and balanced inputs. The speaker terminals are WBTs of the plastic safety-protection variety, ugh! At Nagra they definitely abide by the European regulations. The fact is these «things» do not accept willingly cables terminated with heavy-duty spades like the ones used by Transparent Audio. So I put the thinner variety of the Nordost Valhalla speaker cables to good use with a vengeance: the Valhallas sounded heavenly in this setup.


HOW DID THEY SOUND TO THESE EARS?


For this audition I used the following equipment:
Sources: Sony XA777es SACD player, Theta Compli Universal player, Reimyo CDP-777 CD player, Chord DAC-64
Preamplifiers: Antipode solid state prototype, Nagra PL-L
Amplifiers: Krell FPB 400cx, Nagra PMA
Speakers: Martin-Logan Odyssey
Cables: Siltech (interconnects), Nordost Valhalla (speaker cable and interconnects)


From the opening note (both musical and mine) the PMAs sounded as dry as a well shaken (not stirred) Martini, driven by the Antipode solid state preamplifier through long Siltech interconnects. Things improved a lot during the proceedings.

Nevertheless their «innermost» character remained unchanged throughout the listening sessions. I hasten to assure you on behalf of truth that by «dry» I don't mean either harsh or thin, just on the dry side of neutral, or else as the antipodean sound (no pun intended) of, say, the oozy and luscious Nagra's own VPA. Bass was tight and articulate, extending deep into the nether octaves while at the same time revealing an uncanny grip over the speakers. But it lacked the poise and wallop of the resident Krell FPB 400cx.

I was particularly impressed by the full-bodied, sharply focused and well delineated mids: soloist instruments and voices were presented with dramatic realism and intelligibility making it easy to follow both the melody and the lyrics with its exquisite wealth of detail that managed always to keep me alert. Every single thread of the musical tessitura is laid bare before one's ears. I could almost swear I heard reminiscences of the Halcro dm58s I have reviewed recently. Although they don't have the same finesse and total absence of grain, this is high praise indeed, considering the difference in price and bulk. What little grain there was, I attributed tentatively either to the extreme sharpness and focus with which the PMAs outlined the various inhabitants of the soundstage, resulting in finely etched images; or to the ordeal of having to drive the ML electrostatic panels which have been known to lower the impedance unduly as frequency rises. The unflappability of the Krell under stress kept this issue at bay and had led me to forget it even existed. But it's still there, and it shows its ugly face whenever given a chance.



Go to Part Three (see Artigos Relacionados below)