Paul Candy, Reviewer, Canada
I came to Mutine and Pascal Ravach initially as a reviewer which is a far different relationship than the usual customer/vendor one. As a rule, reviewers abstain from forming friendships with industry folks for what should be obvious reasons. But over time that relationship morphed into a friendship which is why I no longer formally review any of Pascal’s products.
My contact with Pascal started with spending a lovely afternoon in his living room listening to music and discussing a wide range of topics most of which had little if anything to do with audio and then we met again a year or so later at his terrific demo at Montreal’s Festival Son & Image. All in all it took a good two years to arrange a formal review which usually takes 3-4 weeks with most manufacturers/distributors. Many reviewers would have given up but I stuck with it as the Mutine experience is something I find all too rarely---one that is immersive and captivating in which the boxes and wires disappear as opposed to the typical audiophile hyper detailed barrage to the senses where one can hear all manner of sonic detail but little if any music.
When I sat down in the comfort of my home to assess the Audiomat Opera Reference along with a Tempo 2.5 Dac, CEC TL53Z and Actinote cabling, what struck me most were not the usual audiophile laundry list of sonic attributes i.e. bass, treble, imaging and stuff like that, which are all nice things to have but miss the point of what a true quality hifi product should be about. Instead I zeroed in on texture, density, artistic expression, pitch, momentum and flow and the sense of being immersed in music. It’s aspects like this that indicate a truly wonderful product for me. I’m less interested in hearing creaking chairs and rumbling subways beneath the recording studios as I am on obtaining a closer connection to the artistic intent whether it is Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations or Radiohead’s OK Computer. It seems that this philosophy of providing a more intimate connection to music rather than merely filling a room with sound is consistent throughout Mutine’s product lines, which also seem ideally suited to each other. This is quite rare in audio as many distributors simply offer a bevy of lines to fill certain price points. Whether or not they make magic together appears to be a moot point.
With the rise of the Internet and the near collapse of the traditional bricks and mortar retailer, price has become the prime factor in purchasing hifi. Many today seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Forget that highly touted component A might be a poor fit with component B and C in your system. The fact that you got it on Audiogon or via some grey market hack at half price is all that seems to matter. Mutine is the total antithesis to this approach which is why you don’t see dozens of dealers or reviews or online deals. It’s an old school approach where you sit down and relax in a comfortable environment, maybe enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, spin some tunes, engage in conversation and eventually make an educated choice that’s best for you.
I suspect one of the reasons Pascal and I are friends is because we both realize that the audio industry should really be about selling an experience rather than just moving product. Just as the appreciation of art, film and literature can enrich one’s life, so can music played back in the home. And really isn’t that what we’re all after? Mutine has certainly enriched my life and that of my wife’s too.
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Etienne Darbellay, Professor, Director of the Department of History, Art and Musicology, University of Geneva, Switzerland
I would like to express my gratitude for the great pains that you took when installing my sound system, and particularly for calling my attention to the wonderful system that I now happily own.
I must tell you that I have never before had the opportunity to listen to and benefit from such a high-quality system. Frankly, I did not think it was possible.
This may be an unavoidable consequence of my profession: by being constantly presented with systems considered by specialists to be the 7th wonder of the world, I must confess to you that I no longer believed it possible, and that all systems, although spectacular, still appeared to me to sound a bit artificial and always far from the sonic perfection that their promoters claimed they possessed.
This explains my initial reluctance in following your advice.
I am extremely happy, after all my resistance, to finally discover a universe of such great sonic richness, so much so that I cannot pull myself away from it. The amalgamation between Équation and Audiomat is, without a doubt, a drug that is more seductive for a music lover than the best wine is for a gourmet (from one who knows!).
(...) the choice of cables, equipment stands and ancillary elements of the system have certainly played a role that cannot be overlooked in conjuring up the perfect sonic alchemy.
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Howard and Judi Alexander, Montreal, Quebec
As music lovers, my wife and I spent a long time hunting for a sound system that would recreate the quintessential musical experience. Wow ! Our search is over. We were completely blown away by what we heard. Our "stairway to heaven" started with the Audiomat Prélude, which, in our opinion, transcends all other high-end amplifiers that we listened to. Next, we auditioned the Tango 2, and to sum it up, my wife said "we must have it". Our Équation 7 speakers are equally impressive, and our system is beautifully enhanced by a set of actinote cables. At first, we couldn't believe our ears. The sound is absolutely phenomenal and has given us the "magic" that we had been searching for. We now hear music, that for us, is the epitome of perfect sound. We can't spend enough time with our system !
Howard and Judi Alexander
(Update: since this was written, in the '90s, Howard and Judi have happily upgraded their system; they now have a CEC TL-51X, an Audiomat Maestro, an Audiomat Solfège Référence, and the Équation 25, with the full complimentary actinote set of cables.)
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Michel Chalut, Boucherville, Quebec
Having worked a good number of years during my career in professional recording studios, privileged place to develop critical listening skills, my personal rapport to the music is really a quest for life’s meaning which paths lead to celebrate beauty; imperative passage for me to transcend this world turmoil and to touch the essential. In this music universe, I have had the immense pleasure to meet an individual of great sensitivity and highly knowledgeable in this matter; a true music lover with a passion for living music and ultimately of its natural reproduction otherwise known as high fidelity. I am talking about Pascal Ravach, president of Mutine Inc.
I maintain with Pascal a personal friendship since the late 90s. Pascal is one of those rare individuals whose high knowledge and cultural span could easily intimidate. However Pascal knows how to make himself accessible in all simplicity. There is never any doubt about his competence. His integrity is reassuring and his passion for music immense. It’s always a pleasure to be able to rely on his precious advice. He has helped many audiophiles to steer clear of the multiple pitfalls of the high fidelity world. I relied on Pascal in the progressive process of establishing a sound system that can be qualified as high-end. My goal being to build a coherent system in a progressive fashion in order to meet my budget, he recommended I purchase the Audiomat Arpège, an excellent integrated tube amp that I still enjoy today for its superb musicality.
Progressively, the source, which is so vital to the system, was upgraded to better exploit the potential of the Arpège. Pairing the CEC TL-51X to the Audiomat Maestro DAC establishes an unprecedented fusion. It also has the potential of optimization with gear of even higher level. This is very promising.
In conclusion I can only state what pleasure and emotion music brings when so naturally reproduced. To the point where I forget that it is in fact a reproduction. This is where the term high fidelity shows off its real meaning. The mind is appeased, music becomes eloquent, and you enter into a communion state and forget everything. You are in a state of grace and emotions transport you.
This testimonial carries the faith of pure enchantment of its author. I dedicate it most particularly to Pascal Ravach and everyone who, like him, is totally in love with music. I join Pascal in his Art of Listening philosophy and every one that gets inspired by it. This way we can rest assured that artisans and musicians of this world receive a little bit of respect for their creative art, which is so praiseworthy.
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Terry Combs, Sound Mind Audio Dallas, Texas
I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to offer your musical machines to my clients. As I have probably told you, I have been a lifelong analogue proponent, snob if you will, having been so profoundly disappointed in digital reproduction (at any price up to $50K) that I had come to the conclusion that digital would never break into the domain of real music and that it could only sound pretty good at best. Thanks to you, CEC and Audiomat, I am a changed man. The CEC TL-0X is a thing of wonder, matched only by the Audiomat Maestro. This combination is the only digital equipment that has a permanent home in my reference system. At a price less than half of my analogue front end, it provides music that I can listen spellbound too for hours on end. And not just a handful of excellent recordings…it sounds like music with anything I put on. Rhythm, pace, real emotion….everything I consider important.
The Audiomat Maestro is such a marvelous instrument. As you know, most of my offerings are tube. With the Maestro, I never think ‘solid state’ or ‘digital’ I only think of the performance…….I still can’t believe it. Recently I discovered a very good Jazz station on the XM network. Much to my surprise, I connected via quartz glass optic to the Maestro and….Voila! The best sound I have ever heard from radio, and I have a Marantz 10B.
Pascal, thank you again for finding such wonderful pieces.
Sound Mind Audio
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Tom Linker, Austin, Texas
Launch sequence complete – welcome to the MAESTRO.
Every now and then I have an experience that totally rescales my expectations of what is possible. Example: Thirty-some years ago I went to see Miles Davis in a small venue. His backup, led by Keith Jarrett on keyboard, was realllly cooking before Miles started to play. I thought the sound was huge, filling an emotional-aural space one could explore without tiring. THEN Miles played just a few notes, and another few notes. Suddenly the previous definition of huge reframed. Miles, who could hear what few mortals could, found the “holes” in the music, and inflated the sound. It was as if I, a happy denizen of Earth, had suddenly rocketed out to see my small blue planet as just one image in the dance of the solar system, grand and mysterious. (After all, Miles was a cosmic Pisces.)
I’ve just had another one of those experiences. I’ve been sneaking up on “high-end” audio for over two decades, with occasional “Eureka!” type moments when some component or tweak leapfrogged me closer to the original source. But most of the time we audiophiles talk in terms of “lifting a veil”, or “clearing the window into the sound” or “lowering the noise floor”. Or we speak in subjective percentages of improvement: “That’s a good 30 percent improvement.” And if can find a good 30 percent, I’m willing to pay!
This phraseology seems totally inadequate to describe what happened when I hooked up an Audiomat Maestro DAC to my CEC 51XR CD player two nights ago. It was not “lifting a veil”. It was not “a significant increase in presence”. It was like having heard all previous CD playback from outside the building, and finally being allowed to enter the room. It was real goose bumps with real chills going up the spine. It was “Holy $#@*! Anything less than this sound is a lie of monstrous proportions.” It was “If anybody offers you sound this good, pay whatever they ask for it and die happy.”
Then there’s the kicker. On the official document from Mutine, makers of Audiomat DACS, they say that until the unit has been broken in for 1400 hours, you will only get “a fraction” of the potential of the sound. I’m guessing that I have not only left earth behind, but discovered myself booked on a trip to the outer edges of the known universe.
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