Dear Friends,

I opportunely accepted a gracious invitation to visit bigwill during a recent trip to Southern California, and was treated to a truly delightful evening of delicious food, great beverages and joyful conversation.

Unfortunately, my late flight (due to non-union Alaska Airlines baggage handlers) combined with the necessity of procuring provisions on the way made me somewhat tardy. Mark suffered by initial faux pas with good grace, and while his contention differs, I cannot see how the grilled carne asada could have possibly been any better. It was absolutely fantastic Ė tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned. Combined with only-hours-old tortillas, fresh cilantro, onions, avocado salsa and tomato salsa, it was a feast that nailed my culinary sweet-spot. His previous messages had me a little concerned that the salsas might exceed even my healthy appreciation for capsicum, but they were simply fresh, delicious and flavorful. My head remains attached. The accompanying Hoegaarden was a rich and delightful choice for the only sunny afternoon I experienced in five California days.

Markís wife, Stacey, could not have been nicer. She made me feel very welcome while graciously suffering my intrusion into the very tastefully adorned casa de bigwill, and even convincingly feigned interest in the audio and beverages. I would be remiss if I did not share my observation that they have a truly lovely home in all respects. Littlewill is an exceptionally cute and smart 2-year-old; I was delighted to find that he and his Dad are reading many of the same books I shared with my kids during a time that I had thought was not that long ago. I was again reminded of the adage that nice, smart people should have kids so that we continue to have nice, smart people in the world. Great family.

We continued to share some great beverages Ė beer, whiskey and whisky. As I was neither taking notes, nor tasting critically, nor do I possess bigjohnís descriptive powers, I will simply report that the drinks and company were of the highest quality. I will divulge that the Johnnie Walker Green Label was a special treat.

Since the audio hobby is what brings all of us together, I suppose I am obliged to make some report about systems and perceptions and such. I want you all to understand something very important Ė I am an absolute believer in the notion of Room Acoustics being the forgotten component. My experience at bigwillís should not be construed as anything except MY experience in an enjoyably lubricated, non-native environment. Bigwillís listening room and my listening room are extremely different, as are many of our components.

That being said, for what itís worth, Iíll throw out some subjective observations for those of you that have bothered to read this far. Bigwillís Monitor Audio Silver 8ís were similarly good compared to my M60ís; a point I donít think he would dispute based on his previous experience. We did not compare them side-by-side; my observations are based on how I remember hearing familiar music in both houses. The MA finish is considerably nicer. In that room, they seemed to play somewhat deeper and have a somewhat more expansive soundstage. To my ears, they were clearly not as forward as the M60ís. Horns sounded somewhat more vibrant on the MAís, but I did not feel they produced the female voice with quite the effortless airiness that I am used to. The VP150 was a seamless match with the MAís. The QS8ís donít need replacing, either.

Thanks to the Axiom community, Mark and I have been correspondents for several years now, but I still marvel at the personal faith he exhibited that led to our first meeting. I am grateful for his buoyant hospitality, I treasure his friendship, and I eagerly anticipate the next gathering of our families.

Thanks, bigwill!

- Tom

bibere usque ad hilaritatem