Lyra Atlas SL vs Ortofon A95 – Myles B Astor’s System, VPI Avenger, Magico S5 MkII, CJ, Doshi, etc

Magico S5 MkII, Conrad Johnson, Doshi Phono, Myles Bastor

This is a report from a visit to Myles in NY in July 2016, to listen to the VPI Avenger (which had impressed me with Ortofon Cadenze Bronze in Munich (had compared it to the Rossini in the same room)), and to compare the A95 and the Lyra Atlas. 

Myles is a well-known reviewer for Positive Feedback, has a small place in Manhattan, and if you walk in, you will not believe it can house a floorstanding speaker. But Myles has successfully had the Summit X there before, and now has the new Magico S5s (he was not a Magico fan previously, but as mentioned above, the new ones are better.

That is quite something, I always respect it when people can get the system working in a room which instinct would say is challenging.

Myles has an all tubed set-up. The Doshi Alaap latest v3.0 phono, CJ Gat series 2, and CJ Art monos. The CJ is extremely neutral, you cannot hear any valve colour. 

The VPI Avenger I heard at Munich was belt, and Myles has the special DD drive with the new 3D arm. The Lyra was mounted on this, while the Ortofon was mounted on the older 3D arm, so not exactly a perfect match. Myles is planning to have two arms mounted side by side, so future visitors will be able to compare carts more easily. This time we had to take one arm off and put the other one in.

We played some CDs, so that I got a feel of the system. Then we jumped to the Avenger. Wow. Difference was immediate, as expected. We played Bruch Scottish Fantasia (Decca), Scheherazade 4th movement Living Stereo RCA Reiner, Rubinstein RCA Beethoven’s Emperor, Wintereise Melaudia, Argenta Espana.

The resolution of the new magicos is really high, and it does not sound dry and analytical like the old ones at all. The tone and timbre is great, and so is the soundstaging. I had expected that the windows behind the speaker would cause a loss in the soundstage, but no, there was good layering.

Now, as a a background, I have before heard the older S3 with Mark Levinsons, Elberoth’s S5 with his MSB amps, Sonrock’s Q5s with Karan 2000, and heard the Q3 with Constellation at shows. This year I heard the newer S5 in Munich and thought it was much better than the older ones.

Magico is sealed, and it shows in the speed and the slam as compared to rear ported speakers. Also, even as Magico models go up, the size does not get overtly huge. So, you always get this integrated feeling at ear level – huge sizes can cause a disparity unless one has a really large room. I can easily see this as a formula for similar sized rooms, you could change speakers based on your budget – S1, Ubiq, etc.

Of course, the key question is, how did the A95 compare to the Atlas? In some ways, it didn’t. In some ways, it did very well.

Both are cut from a similar cloth. If one of them was a Koetsu, this review would have been more interesting, because there would be chalk and cheese differences. But what we have here are two carts, both of which are fast, detailed, neutral. The Lyra did everything better, but on similar lines. The Lyra soundstage was huge, and with more focus. The dynamics were more (Argenta Espana showed the difference in dynamics easily). The separation was higher. The Lyra might have been slightly warmer.

But I loved the Ortofon as well. For half the price of Myles’ specially done Lyra, the Ortofon was excellent unless you were being picky. I have heard the A95 before on the hORNS Universum MkIII and loved it, heard the A90 on the Apogee Divas and loved it, the Anna was excellent in Mike Lavigne’s system though beaten by the Clearaudio GFS.

I came here to check if I could be satisfied with an Ortofon or would I lust for a Lyra. Answer is, I can be quite content with the Ortofon. It would be interesting to compare it to the similar priced Etna.Now, the interesting thing is, what totally jumped up in performance for me was when Myles put on his Yarlung tape of Janaki String Trio on his Technics R2R. The bass of the cello was now really showing how good the bass of the Magicos was. I mentioned to Myles that the musicians appear hunched up over their instruments playing with great intensity, and he nodded vigorously, for he was probably thinking the same thing at that time. The Bruch Scottish fantasia tape was extremely good too. Myles also played excellent recordings on vinyl which got very close to tape, especially ones by Dean Martin and Elvis.

I then had to leave for JFK, but will drop in again to learn about some new goodies.

Since this system also has Magicos, it should be read in conjunction with a visit to Bob of Rhapsody Audio. This trip I had also covered, apart from Myles and Bob, the Wilson XLFs with Spectral DMA 400 vs VTL s450 at Innovative Audio, and the restored Apogee Duettas with Tube Research Labs and Lampi in Long Island. 

You will get much more views of the Atlas vs A95 compares on Myles’ system on his own forum Audionirvana – start with his system thread, and you can follow