It wasn’t the first time we had seen Germany-based MBL and reel-to-reel renovator United Home Audio exhibiting together, but the pair’s synergistic sound and late night listening sessions are always a welcome add to any audio show. This tour found them in one of the larger rooms located on the 1st floor of the Marriott Spectrum in Irvine, not too far off from the show registration.

While the room was perhaps a bit boomier than usual, the full range 4-way mbl 101 E MKII Radialstrahler ($70.5k/pair) has always been one of our favorites of the reference lineup. Despite its high-end price, its actually not the top-of-the line for the company – but has proven to be a touch more versatile (and appropriately so given the average room size) on the road than the flagship X-treme double decker driver array. The sound was dynamically textured and hit with an almost limitless soundstage via the 360 dispersion radius of the drivers. It is totally unique and a very refreshing room to visit, a most welcome addition to the somewhat small – relatively speaking – The Home Entertainment audio show in Los Angeles.

The big news out of the MBL camp was the west coast debut of N11 Stereo Pre ($14.6k) and N15 Monos ($17.8k each). Both are the newest additions to the mid-tier Noble line of compontents for the company. The new pre sports an analog volume control with “Unity Gain function for improved transparency” and a single stage gain. The monos put out 560 watts into 4 ohms with 36 amp current via a large toroidal transformer. Whatever the spec sheet claims, the MBL room stacked with 101 E MKLII usually puts out some of the most holographic reproduction at any audio party and THE Show was no exception.

Providing the front end for the late night listening sessions was the new Untied Home Audio Ultima4 with all DC motors ($23k, outboard power supply add $6k). The newest model has been on the market for only a month but also utilized a new take up reel ($400) that is also available separately for reel-to-reel enthusiasts. The new reel isn’t stamped metal like a traditional unit, but rather precision cut via CNC. If you want to go even further down the analog rabbit hole than vinyl playback, reel-to-reel is really the only way chase down audio’s metaphoric wonderland.

The overall room was pleasantly controlled, even at lower volumes. Jazz tracks dug deep, allowing the dynamic subs to do their thing reproducing the low end grip of a stand up bass. The setup in the room allowed for each stereo sub to be fed from its own mono with the end result driving an experience that was balanced but firm. One of the show highlights.