With the recent rave reviews reported here, along with accolades from various staff writers (see our Most Wanted Components listing), it comes as no surprise that Acoustic Revive (AR) products are making quite a splash. Never - in close to one decade of publishing - have so many of our writers agreed so favorably and wholeheartedly on a single designer and his products. So much so, I proposed a visit to Japan to personally sit down and break Sushi with Ken Ishiguro, AR's designer. Ishiguro thought the idea of meeting face to face and getting a first-hand look of how his products are designed and manufactured was long over due since no one from the U.S. had  paid much attention in the ten years AR has been in operation. Almost immediately, Ishiguro booked me on a 14-hour direct flight to Tokyo, Japan.

There was one major glitch. My flight was scheduled to take off on Monday Nov 3rd, one day before our highly anticipated presidential election. And as you know, this wasn't just any election but perhaps the most important one in our nations history (and most certainly in African American history).

When I looked at my electronic itinerary, I immediately notified AR's rep and front man Aki Monobe (who's English is quite good) informing him of this huge mishap. In my emails, I explained that I would like to arrive on Tuesday, Nov 4th if possible. Well, that's exactly what Monobe did, considering the time difference. It is 14 hours later in Japan while the flight to Tokyo is an additional 14 hours. According to Monobe's math and flight schedule, if I left on Monday at 10:00 in the morning, I should get there Tuesday by 2:00PM. [Long story short: When I got the news that Barack Obama won the presidential election Tuesday night, it was already Wednesday afternoon and I was situated about 100 miles north of Tokyo, in some secluded mountain-side resort that closer resembled a bungalow, located along the Gunma Prefecture of Isesaki, Japan. To boot, I was being entertained by two Buddhist Monks who just so happened to be true audiophiles and close friends of Ken Ishiguro. For obvious reasons, this was one election I'll never forget!]

Upon my arrival at Narita Airport, I was pleasantly greeted by Aki Monobe (photo right) who then drove me an additional three hours to the home of Ken Ishiguro, down-town Isesaki, Japan. Yep, that's right, 17 hours just to meet with Ken Ishiguro (and to think, I've flown 24 hours to Singapore for an audio show back in 2000). Who said we wouldn't go to the ends of the earth to get you a good story? Weather was a rather balmy 68 degrees once I made it outdoors.


  

Meeting Ishiguro (above right) was certainly a pleasant surprise considering I had no idea how old he was or what type of person I was going to meet. Much to my surprise, Ishiguro's a young and spirited 44 years of age while Aki Monobe is even younger at 26. Very seldom if ever, have I been surrounded by audiophiles and been considered the elder statesman. Trust me, I too was surprised Ishiguro was this young and talented. In fact, more talented than I had already given him credit for...

 

 

Here's why. Ishiguro's listening room is perhaps the most elegant I've been in. The room's strikingly rich maple-wood finishes included the Finite Element Pagode isolation racks which appeared to come from the floor and raise all the way up to the in-wall acoustic paneling located throughout, including the ceiling. Absolutely stunning. Ishiguro designed the room himself. Go figure!

 

 

Of course, you already knew without my having to mention, all cabling, AC cords, AC conditioning and tweaks were made by Ishiguro at his Acoustic Revive facility (see my next article). I did not ask what the little crystal balls did to the sound. I was ashamed to ask fearing Ishiguro would tell me they too impact on sound quality and/or AC noise. [Yes, even I have a limit to some tweaks and still can't fully grasp some of the AR tweaks like the Purity Silk Absorbers and those tiny little QR-8 Quartz Resonators. Tried them and couldn't hear any differences. Sorry.] I've no idea what the brass figures do (above photos), but I'm told they do add notable sonic enhancements by way of lowering EMI/RFI contaminants. This product was not designed by Acoustic Revive or Ishiguro so please accept my apologies for not getting a name.

 

On one end of the listening room featured Avalon Eidolon Diamonds and the super impressive Viola Bravo stereo amplifier (the other chassis is its external power supply!). The first thing I heard was remarkable resolution coupled by ease and spectral balance. While the sound was amazingly open and resolute at this end...

 

 

...it was dynamic and rich on the other, literally speaking. That's because of the Westlake Audio horn loudspeakers and the Nelson Pass famous single-ended solid state amps, the Aleph Zero. We listened to this system second and as soon as Terence Blanchard's Levees started up, from his newest CD "A Tale of God's Will (A requiem for Katrina)," the sound was reminiscent of home! The similarities that both systems (mine and here) are solid-state based driving horns offers a remarkably familiar sonic signature. Guilt by association isn't necessarily a bad thing! Again, an utterly dynamic and rich presentation with real-life soundstage and image palpability. 

One interesting thing about soundstaging that I always took for granted was the physical location of a loudspeaker...

 

notice here, there's little space between the walls and the Westlakes as well as their space from each other. Yet, they threw an image that was as wide as it was deep, making their physical location hard to point out if you closed your eyes. There's a lot of psycho-pseudo claims when it comes to how easily we audiophiles are fooled by what we hear. In the case of listening to this system I would have to concur. With all the acoustic trappings, which includes the AR tweaks and isolation racks, and the insanely anal setup, I'll wager Ishiguro could fool practically anyone as to the location of these loudspeakers, or perhaps the very walls themselves. Interestingly, when asked which system is preferred, Ishiguro stated he likes the Westlakes better on everything except classical. "That's where the Avalons come in" says Ishiguro.

 

 

An impressive front end that featured some elite sources such as Goldmund and Burmeister on one end while Wadia and Levinson paired up on the other end with the Westlake Audio loudspeakers.

 

The longer I sat and listened the more respect and admiration I gained for Ken Ishiguro's talents. I'm told there were three more systems located in his home. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to listen because, honestly,  I had my hands full trying to absorb just the two "back- to-back" systems here. I've very seldom met anyone as meticulous as Ken Ishiguro when it comes to setup and performance. When it comes to aesthetics I've never been in a listening room this elegant. Nope. The fact that this system featured most of Ishiguro's products from his RTP-6 AC conditioners, Power Cords, Speaker Cables, Purity Quartz Insulators and Purity Silk Absorbers just to name but a few and sounded so utterly delightful probably wasn't some mere coincidence.

 

What continues to have me scratching my wig however, is trying to figure how Ishiguro manages to summon such sonic excellence from two really impressive systems AND simultaneously take full responsibility for the ideas, concepts and designs behind all Acoustic Revive products! Sh... I have a hell of time trying to keep one system sonically up to par. Ishiguro jokingly referenced UFOs coming down at night to give him ideas. I didn't find this too funny considering how serious I take the UFO phenomenon and how many products Ishiguro's designed. Coincidence? I think NOT!

 

Album Art: Jazz heroes Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane graced Ishiguro's entrance.